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Check out Part I of this Article.

As promised, I am going to explain the Indian Chain Trick, the magical illusion that is most like the Indian Rope Trick, but which probably had nothing to do with the creation of the myth because John Elbert Wilkie probably knew nothing about it.

The Mogul Emperor Jahangir reported on the Chain Trick some time around 1600. What he wrote was not translated into English until 1829, and what I quote here is Peter Lamont quoting from this English translation. It seems that the conjurers


produced a chain of 50 cubits in length [roughly 23 meters], and in my presence threw one end of it towards the sky, where it remained as if fastened to something in the air. A dog was then brought forward, and being placed at the lower end of the chain, immediately ran up, and reaching the outer end, immediately disappeared in the air. In the same manner a hog, a panther, a lion, and a tiger were successively sent up the chain and all equally disappeared at the upper end of the chain. At last they took down the chain and put it into a bag, no one ever discovering in what way the different animals were made to vanish into the air in the mysterious manner described.


This sounds amazing, but actually, Jahangir was not that impressed with this particular effect; the conjurers did much more amazing things like make fruit trees grow and produce ripe mangoes. But let's forget the mango trick; it is well-know (to those in the know) and it's secret can be learned from a variety of books. As far as I know, no one has explained the Chain Trick. (And most likely, no one has cared.)

The biggest problem with explaining this trick is the hog. Regardless of how you look at it, hogs can't climb up chains. The other animals—well, I could imagine they could be trained. But given that hogs can't climb, I assume that none of the animals actually climbed up the chain. And yet, Jahangir claims they did. Leaving aside the fact that he was almost certainly wasted out of his mind on booze and opium, there are reasons to doubt his description of the effect.

The Problem with Eye-Witnesses

In my experience, when people see magic tricks they have seen (without the help of booze and opium), they are not very accurate. For example, when someone sees the color changing deck, he will say, "He had me select a card from a blue deck of cards; then he fans out the deck and all the cards are red, except for the one I picked that is blue." I don't want to go into details here but the trick started where it ended: with a red deck of cards and two blue cards.

What's even more important is that magicians are liars. They talk and are generally entertaining and then they start their act. But... They already started it; during all that chitchat, they were doing the "trick"; in fact, in most cases, by the time the audience thinks the effect is starting, it is over from the magician's standpoint. Ricki Jay's Four Queen Routine is a good example of this, even though it may not be clear to the uninitiated—which is the whole point, after all. This isn't always the case, of course; as an example, I would refer you to Daryl's Rope Routine where he is doing straight sleight-of-hand throughout a six minute effect. But this is the exception, not the rule.

The Method

I can think of a few ways that the Chain Effect could have been done. First the chain: most likely it was simply held up with thread—either from a single strand directly overhead, or two strands running off to each side (the way a tennis net is held up). Obviously, this would likely not even be strong enough to allow a rat to climb up the chain, so we move on to part two: the animal climb.

My guess is that the conjurers had a box that they performed on. It is from this box that the chain rose. On the top of this box was a trap door that allowed the hog (etc.) to disappear into. But how would it do this without being seen? How would Jahangir (other than the drug effects) see the hog climb the chain? The answer is simpler than you would think: he didn't.

Instead, one of the conjurers would put the hog on top of the box. He would then surround it with something like a cardboard box with its top and bottom cut off and one of the sides cut. This would allow him to place it around the hog and chain. At this point, the hog would fall through the trap door, without Jahangir noticing; he would think the hog was still there.

Now the conjurer would raise this "screen" up to the top of the chain at the same time he said something along the lines of, "See how the hog climbs the chain!" And then, when he gets to the top of the chain, he opens the screen and the hog has vanished!

The emperor goes wild! And forgets that he didn't actually see the hog climb; he just thought he did.

Ditto for the dog, panther, lion, and tiger. There are other possible methods of doing it, but I bet it was something very similar to this. My only question is how did they keep the animals from eating one another? (Just kidding; that's an easy one.)


Peter Lamont has written a fun little book called The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick. If you know this magic trick, you will get the punning title; if you are like me, you won't know quite how you feel about that. If you don't know the trick, let me explain.

A magician—but one with a turban, not a top hat—takes a length of rope and causes it to (magically) rise into the air. Then, his assistant climbs up the rope and (magically) disappears. The rope falls back to the ground. The crowd goes wild! You can imagine, just look at this:


Indian Rope Trick Photo - Fake


Now, admittedly, you don't see the boy disappear in the photo. In fact, he never does disappear (unless you want to imagine it in your mind). This picture is of The Great Karachi. Karachi was one of the great Indian magician—except that he was actually from Plymouth in the Southwest corner of the United Kingdom. And his name was Arthur Derbyh. But he looks pretty Indian, don't you think?


The problem with the Indian Rope Trick is that it was invented by an American. His name was John Elbert Wilkie. A great magician? No. A so-so journalist? Yes.
John Elbert Wilkie
He just made it up for an article he was writing. I understand this. I've been a journalist, and I know that you normally get paid by the article: poorly; the more you pump out, the more money you make. It's not like anyone's going to check, unless your name is Jayson Blair, or, as in the case of Mr. Wilkie, you are dead.

What is interesting about all of this is that the article took off. People believed it and the story spread to (God help us all) Victorian England. And in Victorian England, the people knew they were the best; and yet, no one could actually do this trick. Okay, sure: Karachi/Derbyh: Rope rises, kid climbs up, kid climbs down. No big deal. Even Howard Thurston (who was a total hack) could do that. It's the disappearing that was the key (and outside; don't forget that—you can do anything in a theater).

Of course, after Wilkie first "reported" on the effect, it ran wild. Numerous variations appeared. Here's my favorite: rope up, boy climbs, magician climbs after him with sword, and cuts him up: arms, legs, torso, and head fall to the ground; magician climbs down; he assembles the parts again, and the boy gets up and dances a gig—or the Indian equivalent of it. Gruesome, yes; but surprisingly easy to do; a lot easier than that disappearing thing.

Anyway, we get a lot of Victorians hunting around India looking for the trick (that doesn't exist because it only ever existed in Wilkie's mind, and by now, he is with the United State Secret Service—I kid you not). And there is lots of waving of hands and all that, mostly because the British magicians cannot accept that there is anything that Indian conjurers can do that they cannot (and they're right). There is, as with just about anything having to do with Victorians, much hilarity. Truly, the only thing that isn't ridiculous about this period is Oscar Wilde—who was also hilarious but for completely different reasons.

It turns out that there was a magic trick that Indian conjurers did that was similar to the Indian Rope Trick. In it, a chain was thrown in the air where it stuck. Then, a pig, and a dog, and other assorted beasts climbed up the chain and disappeared. I'm pretty sure I know how this was done and in part 2 of this article I am going to explain it. (And it is almost certainly not what you are thinking.)

But don't pass up on Peter Lamont's book. It is a lot of fun—excellent summer reading.

Check out Part II of this Article.



15 November 2013: I removed the CCNA Chennai video embed (see comment below) because it has been removed and I can't locate it now.


22 Feb 2010: Easy Refried Beans

Category: Socializing
Posted by: Frank Moraes
This recipe creates tasty, very slightly sweet refried beans. It is a bachelor's recipe; the kind of thing that a man who knows nothing of cooking can make. All you need is:

Two Tbs Vegetable Oil
One Onion: coarsely chopped
Two 15 oz cans of pinto beans
Some pepper

Put the oil in a skillet and turn the flame up to medium. When the pan is hot, add the onions. Cook them for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally; don't let them burn. When they are done, transfer them to a separate container. Leave the skillet where it is and hot.

Pour the contents of the two cans of beans into the pan: juice and all. Be careful! Pour a little of the juice in the side of the pan; if it is too hot, reduce the heat and wait or just pour the beans in very slowly. Use a potato masher to crush and stir the beans. Make sure the heat is not too high; you should never have the beans boiling beyond the occasional release of a steam bubble. Keep crushing and mixing until most of the obvious liquid has evaporated.

Add the onions to the beans, mix, add pepper to taste and eat.


Category: Language
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Gentle reader: you already know that this article on Don Quixote—the product of my eccentric intellect—is intended to be the greatest article I could possibly write. Unfortunately, it will probably suck; but I urge you onward nonetheless. The problem is not me, you see, but Miguel de Cervantes, and the fact that he was born in Spain and thus spoke Spanish. This is a problem, for just as you know the worthiness of my intent, you surely know that I am fluent in the Spanish language, in the sense that I can neither read nor write it. Not surprisingly, I am also unable to speak it.

The Need for Translators

Perhaps I am being too hard on Cervantes; had he been born in, say, England, he would have written in that transitional early modern English—which really means, "not modern English". In fact, at least Miguel (if only he had been born 420 years later in California, I'm sure we would have been on a first name basis) is translated. These days, Shakespeare's plays are set everywhere other than where and how they were intended, but we're still left with the same damn language. I often wonder why we can't get over this. Let's just acknowledge that we all know all the common Shakespeare misquotes (like "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" which is way more pithy than what that bard actually wrote anyway) and let the translators have at those plays. And by "have at", I don't mean in that Tom Stoppard "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" way; I mean in the way that translators of de (if only he had been born 420 years later in California, I'm sure we would have been on a second name basis, too) try to recreate the experience the original readers had for modern readers. (Or translators of Goethe or Rabelais—writers who, strangely, I like a lot more than that bard.)

But this does present a problem. You see, being as I am a poorly educated physics PhD ("fud"), I have been working for years trying to read all the books that my humanities studying friends always seemed like they had read. (I later found out that they had not read most of those books—they had simply read about them; but that has not quelled my urge.) I have only two books left that I must read: Moby Dick and Don Quixote. So recently, I decided to buy a copy of DQ (I already own a copy of MD), and I went into a bookstore: one of those big ones with the coffee and multiple floors (no, not Powell's Books—I would have noticed if I had been there; it was Borders or Barns and Noble or something like that; not a bad bookstore, but certainly not a good one, and certainly not one with any used books; but I digress). And I go to the Literature section and after much difficulty (I have real trouble alphabetizing), I find Don Quixotes. That's right: plural. There were six different translations. Imagine if I had been in Powell's?!

Which Don Quixote will I read?! There is no one around to help, or rather, the help I am offered is like that from my sister, who tells me, after reading Moby Dick in high school, "You don't need to read it." I have two options: go to a used bookstore and read the cheapest version I can find, or determine for myself which translation to read. I settle on the latter, so I can write this article. If you are starting to imagine the snowball effect, I assure you, it is more like Sisyphus.

The Test

Obviously, I can't read all the translations in order to determine which transition to read. I needed a test. I decided to take a single sentence from Don Quixote and compare how the different translators handled it. In this way, I figured that I could find the one with the most modern punch—the one that would thrill me like "A Confederacy of Dunces". I chose the first sentence of the Prologue of Part One. Here it is in Spanish:

Descoupado lector: sin juramento me podras creer que quisiera que este libro, como hijo del entendimiento, fuera el mas hermosa, el mas gallardo y mas discreto que pudiera imaginarse

Google translates this as follows:

Idle reader: I swear you can not believe that I would this book as a child's understanding, was the most beautiful, the most gallant and more discreet than one might imagine.

Are computers good at translating or what? Based on this, you would think Cervantes was a nut-job: he's talking gibberish here! But you can glean a few things from this "translation". First: Miguel was a nut-job, but in a good way; he is directly addressing the reader, but he's being sarcastic—I think. Second: he seems to be promising something, and that something seems to be that this book is, while not exactly good, a lot better than you would expect from him. Third: I can't think of anything. And this is after reading six human translations of this sentence. Google Translate has me completely confused. "I would this book as a child's understanding"?! And these guys are billionaires!

Samuel Putnam

The Modern Library translation uses the not so modern translation of the great Samuel Putnam. For years, this seems to have been the translation, because it is the one I find in many different forms most often in used bookstores. It is the only copy I currently own, but this should not be taken to mean I believe it the best. Putnam translates our sentence thusly:

Idling reader, you may believe me when I tell you that I should have liked this book, which is the child of my brain, to be the fairest, the sprightliest, and the cleverest that could be imagined.

Actually, Putnam goes on to the next sentence by use one of my favorite punctuation symbols: the semicolon. And this makes sense, but I cannot go into it here, we have many other translations to get to. Let me just say about this translation that it isn't bad. Sure, "the child of my brain" is kind of Google-like. Just the same, it is clear that Putnam "gets" the humor. I particularly like the phrase, "should have" that no other translator uses; I think it makes a great deal of difference.

Also, one cannot avoid a few facts about this translation. First, it is considered to be the first truly modern translation. Of course, we are in the post-modern period, which is why we have so many different translations now: who is to say which is the best? (Harold Bloom, of course.) Second, Putnam has pretty much been in print ever since it was published—over sixty years. That must say something, but don't ask me what.

Burton Raffel

The Norton Critical Editions version of Don Quixote was translated by a live guy—in 1999: Professor Burton Raffel. Here's his shot:

Leisurely reader: you don't need me to swear that I longed for this book, born out of my own brain, to be the handsomest child imaginable, the most elegant, the most sensible.

Okay, the prose is better than Putnam, but Raffel had 50 years to out-do him. And here, I really like the phrase, "I longed for." This edition does include a very helpful map of "Spain at the End of the Sixteenth Century." But I am not one to be swayed by such editorial tricks.

Charles Jarvis

Now we must go way back to the 1742 publication of the painter Charles Jarvis (or Jervis, depending upon whom you ask). Note that this was when the translation was first published; Jarvis must have done the translation some time before then, because he was dead at that time. It is now used as the basis for the Oxford World Classics version. Here's Jarvis' crack:

You may believe me without an oath, gentle reader, that I wish this book, as the child of my brain, were the most beautiful, the most sprightly, and the most ingenious, that can be imagined.

Again with the brain! The main thing to notice with the last two translations is that they aren't hooking into the humor. Cervantes is playful, and while you hear this with Putnam, you just don't with Raffel and Jarvis. In Raffel's defense, he gets going after this sentence and his translation is far better than Jarvis' and in some ways better than Putnam.

A Most Vexing Trip

I originally thought that Peter Motteux's translation dated from the Victorian period, because of its pomposity. In fact, it is the earliest translation that I looked at—dating back to 1712. Predating Jarvis by only three decades (When a decade meant something!), this translation seems like it comes from another world. I still find its writing style "sticky." Are you ready to get gooey? Motteux will now hit us with his best shot:

You may depend upon my bare Word, Reader, without any farther Security, that I cou'd wish this Offspring of my Brain were as ingenious, sprightly, and accomplish'd as your self could desire.


This translation actually does sound humorous, but it does not capture the irony and self-deprecation of the original. In fact, it reads as parody. This is the stuff of Monty Python lampoon; you can imagine the "great" Shakespearean actor reciting these lines with much bombast. And in this way, the translation only gets better. But for my purposes, it gets worse.

There is at least one nice thing to be said about the Motteux translation: It was used as the basis for a "young adult" condensation of the story in 1939, The Adventures of Don Quixote De La Mancha by Leighton Barret and illustrated (beautifully) by Warren Chappell. It is perhaps a day's read for a very slow reader, and worth the effort if you do not feel up to the full text.

Walter Starkie

Moving on to 1964 and Walter Starkie's unabridged translation (yes, he did it more than once), which is found in the Signet Classic Don Quixote. Let's just get to it, shall we:

Idle reader, you need no oath of mine to convince you that I wish this book, the child of my brain, were the handsomest, the liveliest, and the wisest that could be conceived.

A little dry, I think. Like Raffel, however, he does get a bit of a groove going after this. Unfortunately, also like Raffel, it isn't that good a groove. It definitely seems readable, and at $7.95 for a new copy, it is the cheapest, I have found.

The Blue Whale: Edith Grossman

But now all of the Sperm and Humpbacks must scatter, because the Blue Whale has arrived: Edith Grossman's 2003 translation of Don Quixote. I must admit to starting out with a bit of a prejudice against this version because of its stamp of approval by the ranting—western civilization is going to hell because of post-modern scholarship, even though I am a post-modern scholar—Harold Bloom. But let us leave this for now; I can rant about Bloom's ranting some other time. Let's see what Dr. Grossman has to offer:

Idle reader: Without my swearing to it, you can believe that I would like this book, the child of my understanding, to be the most beautiful, the most brilliant, and the most discreet that anyone could imagine.

It does have a certain self-deprecating charm that is not found in any of the other translations. And it doesn't use the word "brain"! (Although I think this is academic; to me, the word is "mind"; what Cervantes goes on to talk about is what we would now call the workings of his "mind" or his "creativity"—not his "understanding".) But after it, the humor becomes more muddled than that of most of the other translations. Perhaps this is due to age, she is about to turn 74; maybe she just isn't feeling that funny. Plus, she's probably had to spend some time with Bloom.

But there are other problems. You will notice that this translation has the most words of the lot, except for Putnam, who has the same number: 37. And it has bigger words; her translation has far more characters than any other. She probably does capture aspects of Don Quixote that no other translator has (Bloom makes this claim, and as much as I may dislike his popular writing, he is a very intelligent and erudite man). But I am not looking for a Don Quixote that makes me feel "the spiritual atmosphere of a Spain already in steep decline"; I want a fun read.

My Decision

Where does this leave me? (Probably without readers as of the appearance of Putnam several screens back.) There are many more translations; what I have presented is quite incomplete. But from what I've seen, from Putnam onward, there isn't much difference between the translations. This is based upon very little evidence, of course—but more than just the sentence I have been discussing.

My decision is to read Putnam. It helps that I already own it, but this is not why I am choosing it. Raffel's translation is quite good. I think it is a close second to Putnam, but it is second. After him would probably come Starkie.

If I were looking for something other than a good read, I might well go with what looks like the most scholarly of the translations: Edith Grossman's. If it came down to it, Jarvis' almost 300-year-old translation seems quite readable. As for Motteux, I don't think I would read it at all if I had to put up with such prose.



More Don Quixote

Want to know more about Don Quixote and other 16th and 17th century literature? Check out my Don Quixote Page!




Category: Music
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Many years ago, while I was in the process of flunking out of college, John Stewart gave a lecture about nothing in particular and everything in general: his life, songwriting, cars, women, performing. This was only a few years after his hit song Gold, so it was surprising that not many more than a hundred people were in attendance. I had something else that I had to get to, so I knew that I was going to have to slip out of the lecture half-way through. Stewart did not allow me to do this unnoticed, however. He was very friendly throughout; cheerfully chiding me for missing his pearls of wisdom.

After I was done with my thing and he was done with his thing, we happened to run into each other. He remembered me: it had only been two hours and I was, after all, the guy who walked out on him. We walked to his car, which, if I remember correctly was some piece of junk. I don't remember what we talked about, but I do remember two things he told me. First, he said, never listen to what your friends and family tell you about your work. He said, everyone told him that he sucked—until he sold his first hit and made $50,000 on it (in the early 1960s, I think); people who don't know you are the only ones who can really see your talent. The second thing he told me was that art was whatever the hell you make it. He had an example: Happiness is a Warm Gun. Now here is a song that is just four song fragments pasted together. By traditional standards, it's a piece of shit; but as we all know, it is great.

Not long after that, I was playing in band whose name I would prefer to forget because it was pathetic. It consisted of me (who could kind of play and wrote all the songs), Will (who could scream really well), and Roger (who was a very good keyboard player). Roger was about ten years older than Will and me, and he thought he knew music much better than we did (and in a way he did). One day I brought in a song called "Do You Like Life?" I was very pleased with how we did the song, but Roger had a real problem with it. You see, the song had no chorus; it had a bridge kind of thing, but it was really just a chant. Roger said, as he often did, "You can't do that!"

A couple of weeks later, Will and I meet up with Roger and he is very excited: he wants to play a song for us. It was Lovers By Rote off the first Jules and the Polar Bears album Got No Breeding. In the song, Jules Shear does something similar to what I was doing (admittedly, what I was doing was more extreme). His "bridge" went:

All you really gotta do is tug a little leash to find yourself constricted
All you really gotta do is think about the crime to find yourself convicted

And Roger relented, "I guess you can do that!" I know that people said the same thing about Beethoven's First Symphony. "You can't start a symphony with a dominant seventh chord!" Who do these people think they are? How do they think any field of art progresses?

Or maybe it is all about me. Beethoven was established. John Lennon was established. I was not. But in general, innovation comes from those who are not established. I think that John Stewart was keenly aware of that. And as for Jules Shear and me: I don't think either of us care.


09 Feb 2010: Hand Sanitizers

Category: Science
Posted by: Frank Moraes
These days, it seems that hand sanitizers are getting a bad rap: kids eat the stuff and get sick. This is not surprising, given that they are about 60% ethyl alcohol. Just the same, as far as I know, none of these children were badly harmed—much less killed—and I'm sure they learned valuable lessons, like don't eat cleaning products. The fact is that the benefits of hand sanitizers far out-weigh the potential risks—just like flu shots.

Recently a research paper was published by Van Camp and Ortega in Aviat Space Environment Med, 2007; 78:140-142. It is called Hand sanitizer and rates of acute illness in military aviation personnel. They found that when hand sanitizers are readily available, the level of acute illness goes down by almost 300%, with a similar decrease in the number of sick days experienced by the pilots. Many other papers find similar results.

So don't believe any of the fears about the dangers of hand sanitizers. Aproximately 5000 children die each year in the United States in car accidents. No child has died from hand sanitizers, and I assume that some children have died because of diseases that they would not have got if they had used hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is a good thing.

But please: watch your kids after you give it to them. Maybe even let them have a tiny taste so they know that it tastes really bad. The main thing is to take care your your kinds and keep your hands off my sanitizer.



08 Feb 2010: Francois Rabelais

Category: Language
Posted by: Frank Moraes
I have three translations of Gargantua & Pantagruel, and the best by far is the one in Complete Works of Rabelais, translated by Jacques Le Clercq. If you are up for it, it is worth a read; it pre-dates Don Quixote by roughly 70 years.


Category: Science
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Today, I need to discuss the defecation and urination processes. I stress the word "need" because I really don't want to. These days, I always carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer for general uses, but particularly so that I can get out of public restrooms; there is the old question about how one gets out of such a place; after washing your hands, you still have to open the door; answer: wash hands, open door, sanitize. Am I starting to sound a little crazy? Read on.

Close the Lid

Public restrooms are particularly bad places, regardless of how clean they appear. In the United States, over the past year, I recall seeing only one toilet that had a lid. Many people have studied the resulting spray from flushed toilets. The first study I heard about was over twenty years ago, but I can't remember it now, but thankfully Sarah Tan has written a nice online article (probably for a class), Think Before You Flush or Brush; it is a disgusting subject, but she deals with it tastefully (mostly).

For me, this is personal. I don't like being covered in fecal matter. Even more: I don't like brushing my teeth with fecal matter. Even the idea of urine on my toothbrush makes me sick. So unless you are into that kind of thing (and I know some of you are), close the lid! And if you are in a public restroom, get fully dressed and flush and run.

Sit Down

An old joke...

Q: Why do dogs lick their balls?
A: Because they can.

Why do men urinate standing up? Because they're pigs. Even assuming that a man lifts the toilet seat, some fraction of his urine stream will end up on the toilet and the ground around it. Krok7 has done a few calculations on his blog in an article, The Physics Behind Toilet Seat Splatter (in truth, he doesn't do too good a job--I think he greatly understates the problem, but you get the idea). Yes, I know that urine is not so very disgusting, but it does have an unpleasant oder—especially as time goes on.

One of the comments to this article states that it is not practical to ask guys to sit down while urinating. Why is this? Don't we sit down when we defecate? Are we so much more busy than woman that we can't spare that extra 30 seconds in the bathroom. For God's sake men, just sit down and shut up.

Gargantua

I am not alone in thinking about such matters. The 16th Century French writer Francois Rabelais thought about it a lot too. There is no doubt that he was the Joseph Heller of his day. I'm sure people couldn't stop laughing while reading any of his five books Gargantua and Pantagruel. And I even find him funny sometimes. But the basis of most of his comedy is repetition. Case in point: Chapter 13 of Book 1.

In this chapter, Gargantua tells his father, Grangousier of the many things he used to clean his anus: 57 all told (really: all told). The satire is not lost on me; Rabelais makes it very clear when Gargantua uses a lawyer's briefcase to clean his behind; or all the live animals he uses; or women's clothing: "Once I mopped my scut with the velvet scarf of a damozel. It was pleasurable: the soft material proved voluptuous and gratifying to my hindsight." [Caveat]

Despite all this hilarity, I do believe Rabelais was serious about the question of how one goes about keeping one's anus clean. He does not provide a very good answer: the neck of a (I assume live) goose. But then, he did not have the luxury of a bidet. Then again, neither do I.

Howard Stern's autobiography lists his approach (not surprising): three swipes with toilet paper and you are done. He does not go into details, but I believe he does this because he has learned from experience that making too many swipes will result in skin irritation if not bleeding. Despite the fact that all of this makes me very uncomfortable, I will propose my own solution.

A Clean Wipe

I suggest getting a small Tupperware container filled water as well as a hand sanitizer dispenser. Place them near your toilet. Remove the Tupperware lid. Make a couple of swipes with dry toilet paper. Wet a wad of toilet paper and make another swipe. Finish with one last dry wipe. Sanitize your hands and replace the lid on the Tupperware container. Sans a bidet, this is about the best you can do.

I am sorry about all this, but I do think that Francois would approve.



More Rabelais

Too bad! I haven't written any more about him. But you can find a lot more about Don Quixote and other 16th and 17th century literature. Check out my Don Quixote Page!




03 Feb 2010: Pandora's Box

Category: Music
Posted by: Frank Moraes
Okay, let's get this out of the way. My first experience with Internet radio was with Last.fm. And I know there are many others: Deezer.com, Mee Mix, Musicovery, Play It, Slacker, as well as many other similar kinds of services. I really liked the way that Last.fm worked, but it stopped working for me, so I switched to the Music Genome Project and Pandora.

It is nothing new, but if you aren't using it, you should be. I've found so many great artists this way. Just tonight, I discovered Pink Anderson (the Pink of Pink Floyd) and the Red House Painters. I feel a little ashamed that I only discovered them tonight, but I can't be smart all the time. Red House Painters came up right after I entered American Music Club as a new station. I discovered Anderson on my Old Blues stations that I have been tinkering with for a good six months now.

The great thing about Pandora is that I use it while cooking and sometimes (every night) someone comes on who causes me to stop everything and find out more. And, of course, it is good for commerce, because I just bought three new CDs (sorry folks, I still like CDs—and albums; I bought Presenting... Julie Andrews and the first John Prine album last night) because of what I heard on Pandora tonight.

The bad side is that I heard The Kid With the Replaceable Head by Richard Hell and the Voidoids. This made me think, "I should really get Destiny Street again—more because of the liner notes than anything (it isn't as good as Blank Generation) because Hell makes it clear whose guitar solos are whose (not that I really need to be told; Ivan Julian is a better guitarist than Robert Quine—I just think Quine is more creative, which is not a slam against Julian; he's great and enormously under-rated). But the only copy available is almost $100. I suppose that isn't so bad when you consider that you can't find my second book (now out of print) for less than $100—usually around $150). I don't even own a copy!

Update: 25 July 2010

Destiny Street has dropped to $30, while by book has gone up to $200 used or $400 new. One good bit of news: I found out that the book was not dropped; the publisher just went out of business.