Friday, December 31, 2004
A New Taipei (101) Personality 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Taipei 101, the world's new tallest building.  Photo courtesy BBC News OnlineAs last week's Asian tsunami disaster continues to dominate headlines across the planet, it would be easy to miss this positive bit of news from the Eastern hemisphere: today marks the official opening of the skyscraper known as Taipei 101, at 580m* tall the official new Tallest Building in the World - surpassing Kuala Lumpur's twin Petronas Towers, now ranked #2.

With distinctive jade-green windows and a profile designed to suggest the resilient, versatile bamboo stalk, Taipei 101 (the tower has 101 floors) dwarfs neighboring structures in a startling fashion (see image at left, from BBC News online) - notice the number of floors in the next-largest building, and the massive scale of the giant tower becomes quite clear. But, after 9/11 (and now, "12/26") Taipei 101's status and geographic location have given many cause for concern: will the tower become a new terrorist target, or be at risk of collapsing in a major earthquake?

NPR's Melissa Block spoke with structural engineering consultant Dennis Poon of the Thornton-Tomasetti Group about Taipei 101's unusual architectural features, like its massive sphere-shaped internal tuned mass damper:
Taipei 101's tuned mass damper, photo courtesy NPRBlock: "[I]t's a 650-ton sphere, pretty high up in the tower; describe what it looks like and what it's meant to do.

Poon: The tuned mass damper is located one meter above the 88th floor, which is the restaurant and sky observation tower. It consists of steel plates, stacked together to form a spherical shape, and it behaves like a pendulum hung from the 92nd floor. If the building is swinging, say to the left, this damper will be activated to swing to the opposite direction, to counteract the sway of the building.

Block: Mr. Poon, given the attacks of 9/11, and fears that towers are now a target for airplanes, leasing office space in Taipei 101 has been a bit problematic. Did you do simulations to see how the building would stand up if it were hit by a plane?

Poon: We did a lot of analysis together with local engineers to make sure the building has a lot of redundancy and robustness. This building has been designed in a very thoughtful way, to take into consideration many scenarios.

Block: I wonder, when you stand at the base of this building, in Taipei, you look up, as a structural engineer; what do you see?

Poon: I feel very proud of humankind, [that] we can still pull out resources and power together to overcome all sorts of obstacles and psychological fear about...accepting these challenges. I think many people, after 9/11, they are afraid of high-rise buildings. Actually, nowadays, I feel that high-rise buildings are much safer than low-rise buildings..."

Designing the 101-story building in the earthquake- and typhoon-prone region presented quite a challenge. Engineers had to account for the fact that the tower stands about 650 feet from a major fault line, and that it will face winds of 100 mph.

Still, Taipei 101 won't hold the title of world's tallest skyscraper for long. Buildings in Shanghai and Dubai are expected to surpass it, as will the Freedom Tower in New York -- on the World Trade Center site -- which is scheduled for completion in 2009.
Which may not matter in the long run; according to the Taipei 101 official site, building size bears somewhat different meaning in the East and West:
In the West, a tall building demands respect and attention from the spectators. To the Asians, it symbolizes a broader understanding and anticipation of things to come: we "climb" in order to "see further".
MORE: Taipei 101 (Taipei Financial Center) Official Website
NEW: There's a beautiful photo of the buidling on the cover of this PDF article at TechnologyReview.com, "The World's Tallest Building - For Now" [PDF]
NEW: With a speed of over 1 kilometer/minute, Taipei 101 also boasts the World's Fastest Elevator [Elevator World.com]
NEW: Some more Taipei 101 facts and drawings on SkyscraperPage.com
The World Federation of Great Towers
How the Taipei 101 tower was constructed [KTRT.com]
Listen: NPR interview with Taipei 101 structural engineer Dennis Poon [Realplayer or Windows Media Player required]
* NPR lists the tower's height as 1,666 feet, Infoplease cites the height as 509 meters or 1,670 feet.

Before We Say Goodbye to 2004... 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I simply can't resist passing on some of the odd search strings that brought people to farkleberries this year. By far the most popular - *sigh* - are various permutations of "Febreze Scent Stories." This is what bloggers like me get for writing one random rant about a pointless consumer gadget; if you came here looking to buy one of those stink-phonographs, or to gawk at photos of Shania Twain, then I'm sorry - you'll be sadly disappointed, because neither are mine to offer you. On the other hand, if you came looking for (ahem):...then baby, this is the blog for you. Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 42 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, December 29, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 41 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 40 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Monday, December 27, 2004
"Dude, Where's My Opium?" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Talk about "what was he thinking?" - the 24-year old "Dude, Where's My Car?" actor was released early from a Pakistani jail where her was serving a seven-year sentence for drug smuggling:
[LA Daily News Santa Clarita] Erik Aude, a former football star at Lancaster's Bethel Christian High School who appeared in "Dude, Where's My Car?" among other small roles, was sentenced in January 2003 to seven years in an Islamabad prison, where he had been held since his arrest in February 2002 at the airport in Islamabad.

State Department officials said Monday that a Pakistani judge last week ordered a sentence of time already served and upheld a previously imposed fine of 50,000 rupees -- about $860.

Erik Aude had been hired to pick up leather samples from a manufacturer in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital city, his mother said. But after Aude picked up a suitcase containing the samples and got to the Islamabad airport, Pakistani customs officials found eight pounds of opium hidden in the sample suitcase's lining.
Three years in a Pakistani jail. Poor guy probably never saw Midnight Express.

Friday, December 17, 2004
Are You A True Chicagoan? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I guess I am. [via Gapers Block]

True Chicagoan

Are You a True Chicagoan?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, December 16, 2004
May The Glögg Be With You  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
How could I not make a tradition of sharing our traditional Glögg recipe from My God, It's Full of Squirrels! at least once a year?

Swedish Andersonville Glogg
. Pronounced Gloog, the recipe posted on Squirrels is the high-test, Aquavit-bolstered version fit for Vikings and Uptown boozers. Personally, I like to make mine with wine only - here's the official house recipe.
Farkleberries' Glogg

1 gallon of decent quality, full-bodied red wine. Concha y Toro™, Gallo™, or Turning Leaf™ are good inexpensive brands, or try one that comes in a glass jug (which you can re-use as a stylish retro terrarium). For heaven's sake, don't use the kind in a box - boxes are for gifts and dead bodies, not wine.

2 clean ripe oranges cut in halves, studded with a few whole cloves. Don't cheap out and toss a couple of unsmoked Djarums into the pot - use actual cloves. You don't have to turn them into pomanders or little Hellraiser-head Cenobites, just stick about a dozen into each orange for that spicy good flavor.

1 clean lemon cut in half, no cloves. It'll do the job adequately by itself. Why clean?
What, you want germs from a hundred holiday shoppers' fingers cooked into your glogg?

3-4 cinnamon sticks

1" chunk fresh or dried gingerroot

1 cup dark brown sugar, adjust more or less to taste

5 bruised cardamom pods

Place all of the above in a clean glass or enameled pot with a close-fitting cover - or try a Crock Pot™ if you have a few hours before your party. Slowly bring the mixture to a low simmer (it should never boil) and hold for 20-30 minutes to blend flavors. Adjust sugar, and serve in mugs.
There you have it - Glogg at home! You don't even have to travel to Sweden or Andersonville - just think of us when you quaff some. Let me know how you like the recipe, and feel free to provide suggestions.

And remember, don't glogg and drive. Take the "L," but watch out for those service cuts...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Bye, Bye Bird: "Atlantic Weatherman" Bird Berdan, 1920-2004 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Plattsburgh-Burlington-Montreal broadcast area yesterday lost one of its legendary figures:
Local legend lost
‘Atlantic Weatherman’ Bird Berdan dies at 84

By STEPHEN BARTLETT, [Press-Republican] Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH — Bird Berdan quickly discovered live television could be risky.

He was on air with his "Hot Dog Hound" puppet back in the 1950s when a co-worker lit a firecracker behind him, sending a frightened Berdan into the plywood set as viewers watched their program switch to a cartoon. "He had a great sense of humor," said Jim Gratton, production manager at WPTZ NewsChannel 5, where Berdan worked for 31 years.

The 84-year-old "Atlantic Weatherman" died at his home Monday afternoon. The cause of death has not been determined. Friends and family remembered the longtime Plattsburgh Lions Club member and local celebrity as a prankster, legend and gentleman. Born in 1920, Berdan grew up in a Depression-era suburb in New Jersey where his father worked odd jobs to support a wife, five daughters and three sons.

He planned to pursue an acting career while working part time at WRGB in Schenectady until he met and fell in love with an audio engineer named Dorothy Martin, who had been working there since 1943. The couple married on Sept. 9, 1947, settling in the North Country in 1948 at the home on Bailey Avenue that Dorothy grew up in.

Berdan spent seven years in radio, starting as an announcer and landing a job with WIRY in 1952 before moving over to television at WIRI, which became WPTZ. That station recently celebrated 50 years of broadcasting, and according to a timeline on its Web site, Berdan once reported using Polaroid snapshots in 1955. The "Weatherbird" made his television debut in 1961 and would become known around the North Country and as far north as Montreal where a radio DJ recorded a song about him. Berdan tried his hand in sports, news and weather.

Gratton, who started his career in radio, met Berdan at WPTZ in 1977. "He was famous back in the day when television was young and Channel 5 was one of the first stations on air in northern New York," said Gratton Monday evening. He remembered Berdan’s live afternoon shows, especially one in which a cow visited the station. After the animal’s exit, the "Atlantic Weatherman" joked that it had left its calling card on the studio floor.

"He became a cult figure," Gratton said. "When I think of Channel 5, it’s Bird Berdan and Tom Messner." Berdan retired in 1985, continuing to participate in church plays before returning to the tube as Rolla Parker’s sidekick in commercials for the Champlain car dealership. "He had a very dry sense of humor and was probably better playing the straight guy than the guy with the punchline," said Gratton, who sang Christmas Carols on Berdan’s porch Sunday.

In 2000, Berdan was inducted into the Vermont Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame. Dorothy, his wife of 56 years, died this past July at the age of 81. He never got over the loss, though he tried to look to the future and most recently kept busy filling out Christmas cards and decorating his home with his granddaughter, Anna Jolly.

He swam at the YMCA Monday around 1 p.m., as he did every weekday, stopping at the post office and store before returning home around 3 p.m. It was at that Bailey Avenue home, where pictures of his grandchildren adorned the walls, that Berdan passed away while hanging up his swimming trunks. His family of three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, received calls much of the day Monday. They had forgotten just how many people cared about Berdan. "People who didn’t know him felt like they did," said Jolly. "He was wonderful on camera and had the same personality off camera.
I just heard the news when I clicked onto my Plattsburgh-area friend Cindy's blog (EclecticEveryday) this morning.

I remember working with Bird for a few years in the late 90's at WPTZ (that was the television station I was at back in Plattsburgh, NY as a commercial producer), with auto dealer/prankster Rolla Parker. We wrote, shot and edited a new zany "Bird and Rolla" TV spot each month, usually holiday- or current-event themed, and during the scheduled studio or location shoots, Bird was always the consummate, patient gentleman no matter how off-the-wall the action became.

(P.S.) Jim Gratton was my boss when I worked at Channel 5 - he's a true, unique creative and television talent as well.

Monday, December 13, 2004
Beauty in the Eye of Its Beholders 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Somehow, this pair of stories struck me - Atlanta, Georgia police officials shut down the city's performances of off-Broadway hit Naked Boys Singing, and China held its first beauty pageant for women who are "man-made beauties", including some that were born male. From Georgia:
ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- Police shut down a bar that was showing a successful musical revue featuring nudity because the business didn't have an adult entertainment license.

The manager of The Armory bar in midtown Atlanta, Doug Youngblood, said police overreacted Saturday night. He said the show had been running since August and is theater -- not adult entertainment. The revue, "Naked Boys Singing," has spent six years off-Broadway in New York and road show versions are playing in several cities. The gay-themed show, billed as celebrating "the splendors of male nudity in comedy, song and dance," features six male actors who are in the buff for much of the performance.

The show received generally good reviews in New York City, where it ranks as the 10th longest-running off-Broadway show. In August, the city's tourist bureau pulled it from a list of discounted offerings for visiting Republican delegates after the Republican National Committee complained it wasn't suitable.
From Beijing:
Liu is one of 19 finalists in China's first beauty pageant for women who have undergone plastic surgery, part of the country's increasingly fevered pursuit of beauty as the economy soars and people spend more money and time on their looks. The government says the country's fast-growing cosmetic surgery industry rakes in $2.4 billion a year as patients rush to go under the knife to widen eyes, narrow faces and fill out lips and breasts, emerging as "renzao meinu" -- manmade beauties.

"Before, I couldn't imagine that it was possible to have places where the old could become young and the ugly could become beautiful," said Liu, who attributes her youthful looks to facelifts and surgery on her eyelids.
The finalists, aged 18 to 62, will vie for the top prize next Saturday after a week of rehearsals. Other individual prizes will also be awarded for best figure, biggest change and best stage demeanor. "This contest shows women's strong pursuit of beauty," said Han Wei, an organizer. "We would like to use it to unveil the mystery of manmade beauty and let society have a complete understanding of every aspect."
The quest for beauty has been part of Chinese culture for centuries. But after the 1949 Communist takeover, and especially during Mao's 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, the norm changed. Women were recruited for all jobs. Clothes became unisex as most donned army uniforms or shapeless blue or gray Mao suits and cotton shoes. In the 1980s, as China engaged the international community, Hong Kong and Japan -- and, later, the United States -- provided inspiration for women's body images.
Liu Xiaojing, a 21-year-old from the northeastern city of Harbin, was a man three years ago but does not feel that undermines her chances in the contest. "Becoming beautiful is everyone's wish," said Liu, who was wearing a strapless turquoise dress. "I am now legally a woman, and this contest is my first formal step toward womanhood."

Liu didn't tell organizers she was a transsexual, and they didn't ask. On Sunday, she revealed in front of reporters that she used to be a man. Han said no decision had been made on whether she still qualified as a contestant. "If they disqualify me, I will use legal means to seek fairness," said Liu, who has also had work done on her eyebrows, nose, chin and facial shape. "This is a turning point in my life."
There's a wealth of cultural subtexts juxtaposed here, a mass of contradictions and countersurging trends: East versus West, NYC versus the Bible belt, natural versus surgically-altered beauty, public display of male bodies and sexuality versus female bodies and sexuality, our increasing capability of erasing the surface signs of age, gender and racial identity versus "baring it all" - and, neoprudishness butting up against neotechnocapitalism and what Sandra Lee Bartky in 1990 called the "fashion-beauty complex." I suspect a dissertation lurks within.

Thursday, December 09, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 39 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 38 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Bend It Like Beckham, Blair, Bush... 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
So saucy, it's sacrilicious.

Beckham nativity UK
LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Church leaders united on Wednesday to condemn a Christmas Nativity tableau depicting soccer star David Beckham as Joseph and his pop singer wife Victoria as the Virgin Mary. Anglicans, Catholics and Presbyterians called the exhibit at Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum in London a new low in the cult of celebrity worship.

In the tableau, Australian pop star Kylie Minogue hovers above the crib as an angel while "Posh Spice" Victoria lays her shawled head tenderly on Beckham's shoulder. Tony Blair, George W. Bush and the Duke of Edinburgh star as The Three Wise Men. The shepherds are played by Hollywood star Samuel L. Jackson, British actor Hugh Grant and camp Irish comedian Graham Norton.

The Vatican was not amused. "This is worse than bad taste. It is cheap," an official Vatican source told Reuters in Rome. "You cannot use contemporary personalities as the central figures of the Nativity ... And it becomes worse, if that were possible, in that the people may be of questionable moral standing," he added.

Paul Handley, editor of the Anglican Church Times, thought the tableau was "just pathetic," he told Reuters. "It is yet another sign that people feel they can play around with sacred things. [But] God is not going to worry. He is going to cope -- but it is a bit depressing."
Ahem..pray tell, who is portrayed as the baby Jesus? And is it at all significant that Hugh Grant has a port-a-ewe tucked handily under his arm?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Blogging Code: Yellow 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
In other words, blogging will be light for next few weeks - due to finals week at work and school, the holidays, and the fact that my workplace is moving down the road to a neighboring building (less that 50 yards away, but dammit, packing takes just as long). However, I will try to pop in occasionally with something short and sweet piquant.

Monday, December 06, 2004
It's Earworm Time! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Pop on over to 3hive today if you get a chance, and listen to "Whistler's Delight (full version)" by DJ Riko, a clever remix of nearly two dozen songs that have incorporated whistling, whether intro, outro, or somewhere in between. Lest you think it a sheer exercise in twee, DJ Riko's piece starts out with a thumping remix of Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" whistle-break (which is strikingly similar to the the guitar solo break in Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "French Song" from 1983, but that's another story) and segues into the Bangles' piping from "Walk Like and Egyptian."

Hey, any song that manages to meld Bernard Herrmann's "Twisted Nerve" (from Kill Bill Vol. 1) with the Theme from the Andy Griffith Show has got to be worth the download. If you think one catchy tune is hard enough to get out of your head, try 22.

Friday, December 03, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 37  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, December 02, 2004
farkleberries Links du Jour 36 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

"You Can Blog If You Want To, You Can Leave Your Friends Behind..." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Eugene Volokh in today's New York Times on the consequences of extending "journalistic privilege" to bloggers:
Because of the Internet, anyone can be a journalist. Some so-called Weblogs - Internet-based opinion columns published by ordinary people - have hundreds of thousands of readers. I run a blog with more than 10,000 daily readers. We often publish news tips from friends or readers, some of which come with a condition of confidentiality.

The First Amendment can't give special rights to the established news media and not to upstart outlets like ours. Freedom of the press should apply to people equally, regardless of who they are, why they write or how popular they are.

Yet when everyone is a journalist, a broad journalist's privilege becomes especially costly.
On the one hand, tips from confidential sources often help journalists (print or electronic) uncover crime and misconduct. If journalists had to reveal such sources, many of these sources would stop talking. On the other hand, some tips are rightly made illegal.

The best solution may be to borrow a principle from other privileges, like those for confidential communications to lawyers, psychotherapists and spouses. The law has generally recognized that protecting the confidentiality of such communications is more important than forcing a person's testimony.

But it has also limited the privilege. Communications that facilitate crime or fraud, for example, are not protected. I may confess my crimes to a lawyer, but if I try to hire him to help me commit my crime, he may be obligated to testify against me.

Maybe a journalist's privilege should likewise be limited. Lawmakers could pass legislation that protects leakers who lawfully reveal information, like those who blow the whistle on governmental or corporate misconduct. But if a leaker tries to use a journalist as part of an illegal act - for example, by disclosing a tax return or the name of a C.I.A. agent so that it can be published - then the journalist may be ordered to testify.

Such a rule may well deter some sources from coming forward. But they will be the very sources that society should want to deter, to protect privacy and safety. In any event, the rules should be the same for old media and new, professional and amateur. Any journalist's privilege should extend to every journalist. [read full article]
100 extra points if you know which song inspired this post's title. Think silly, think Euro Canadian...think 80's.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
CBS and NBC "Just Say No" to Gay Church Spot 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Yet another reason I'd love to boycott network television:
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - CBS has refused to run an ad by a liberal church promoting the acceptance of people regardless of sexual orientation because the network believes the ad is advocacy advertising.

The church also says the ad was banned on NBC.

The 30-second spot, run by the United Church of Christ, features two muscle-bound bouncers standing outside a church, selecting people who could attend service and those who could not. Among those kept out are two males who appear to be a couple. Written text then appears saying, in part, "Jesus didn't turn people away, neither do we."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast," the church quoted CBS as saying.

A CBS spokesman confirmed that the ad was banned, but would not comment directly about the above statement. "It was against our policy of accepting advocacy advertising," said the spokesman. NBC did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

"It's ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial," said Rev. John Thomas in the statement. "We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church's loving welcome of committed gay couples, that's where they draw the line."

The commercial can be viewed at www.stillspeaking.com. The church says the ad has been accepted on a number of other networks, including ABC Family, BET Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, TBS and TNT.
Interesting that the network considers the scenario portrayed in this ad as "advocacy" - advocating what, exactly? If the ad is advocating anything, it wouldn't be homosexuality, but tolerance - is tolerance considred too 'hot' a topic these days as well? I agree with Rev. Thomas - the "Will & Grace is okay, but heaven forbid..." stance of these two networks is nothing less than hypocritical.

Perhaps there are some nuances I'm unaware of, but there are countless examples of "advocacy advertising" on network TV...military recruiting ads especially come to mind, not to mention ideological public service announcements of all flavors. Does anyone out there know if an ad's "acceptability" hinges on whether the advertisement is paid or aired gratis?

farkleberries Links du Jour 35 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Actually, I can imagine a lot of things besides burning my crotch, but none of them include a storage locker on the lower East Side. Come to think of it, most of those Village writer's garrets barely have room for a table anyway; wasn't that the reason they invented the Murphy bed? [Actually, I think the Murphy bed is a California invention, but I always associate them with New Yawk.] Yep, there's nothing quite like a Village Voice ad.