Sunday, July 06, 2008

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” - Jean Cocteau
(Borrowed from Alex in Salem, Oregon at Words of Sashazur)

We have such a cat. She’s taken completely to the new house and has her schedule, her special places and everything else operating just the way she wants.


The other day I finished the new storage shelves for all our CDs. They stand on the east wall of my new Studio at the top of the stairs. I’m told CDs are all obsolete now, but these are going to be played for a long time to come.

I’m still building things using the masses of scrap lumber left behind by the various contractors—a major financial help. I could have designed standard rectangular bookcase-type storage shelves but wanted something more interesting, something more in the Deco style that predominates upstairs


An opera has been written on the classic movie, The Fly. It was a success when premiered in Paris and the production will come to the United States soon. The Fly is a horror story but some elements of the opera are obviously not horrible at all but, in fact, extremely pleasant.

Meanwhile, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich is giving this extremely decorative production of Ferrucio Busoni's Doktor Faust:


Classical Trivia: Greek Fire

The Ancients in the near- and mid-east learned about oil and what could be made from petroleum products very early in the game. They knew where oil oozed up through the ground, pooled on the surface and was ready for the taking. They also had a great deal of chemical knowledge, much of which has been irretrievably lost.

Simple incendiary bombs were an early invention--petroleum in an earthenware pot with a cloth or rope wick that was lit and then hurled at the enemy. But it was left to the Byzantines to refine such crude weapons into one of the most devastating and feared substances ever invented—Greek Fire.

It made its debut in 677 to break a three year long naval blockade of Constantinople by the Arab Caliph Muawiyah. The Caliph was spearheading a northward push of the great first expansion of Islam through the eastern Mediterranean. Unable to break through Constantinople’s walls, he employed the largest fleet ever assembled to blockade the city’s supply routes and starve it into submission.

Charged with finding some device to break the siege of the city, Syrian engineer Callinicus of Heliopolis demonstrated his latest invention to Emperor Constantine IV, an incendiary substance with properties unlike any ever seen before.  The public test was a huge success.

Byzantine warships outfitted with trumpet-like spouts extending from their bows engaged the Arab fleet in the Sea of Marmara. The liquid weapon, which ignited fiercely and spontaneously when exposed to oxygen, was stored in tanks and shot in long, flaming streams through the air at the arab ships which were soon engulfed in flame.  Greek Fire could not be put out with water—in fact, dousing it with water caused it to spread, one of its most feared qualities being its ability to cover the surface of the sea and turn it into a mass of fire. Sailors who abandoned ships sinking in flames were burned to death in the water.  Mauled almost to the point of total destruction, the Arab fleet fled back to the southern Mediterranean.  Greek Fire was used with devastating  effect on the Byzantine Empire's enemies for another 750 years. 

Nobody knows the exact ingredients of Greek Fire (naphtha, saltpeter, sulphur and a variety of other chemicals are suspected of being in the mix), because the recipe was a closely guarded state secret that disappeared when Constantinople finally fell to the Turks in 1453. The modern equivalent is, of course, napalm, invented by chemists purposely trying to develop an incendiary liquid that would replicate the Byzantine original.


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush

I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well.

(Thereby allowing dead presidents the retroactive opportunity to trample on the Constitution and violate the rights of law-abiding American citizens?)

Interesting trivia on the greek fire.
my only concern is that your bottom shelf of the CD unit looks pretty close to that wall heater. (count on me to be that way!)
The CD storage unit you designed is impressive! That's a lot of CD's -- wow!! Do you have an idea how many you have in your collection??

BTW..your cat is beautiful. I also really liked the cat quote.
one of the reasons to love opera is all the amazing things they can do with them.
I think i go to Handel operas more to see the scenery than the music.
I think you did a great job with the CD unit. Looks groovy to me!

And I need not express my love for our fluffy four paws! *winks*
obsolete, schmobsolete. I'm still schlepping around my dad's 78 collection (and the thousand pound telefunken console to play them on), and my moms excellent show tune collection on LPs. Quite a few CDs too; aren't going anywher. Boy am i glad to have those 78s. They are a real treat to play when we have company over.
I don't think CDs will be obsolete any time soon! Besides, everything seems to have a renaissance. My brother, the official family audiophile, has been getting specially pressed vinyl records to play on his top-of-the-line audio toys. Yes, he has CDs, among other things, but even vinyl still has relevance, it would seem!
Richard--glad you got something from it--I'm constantly fascinated by details of the lives of the "ancients."

Lewis--the lowest shelf rides at least three inches above the baseboard unit and the 3/4 inch pine board will be an excellent insulator.

Matt--I have about forty-five feet of CDs. I also have about twenty seven feet of vinyl LPs. And yes, I play the LPs regularly. I got my first one when I was a mere child of seven.

spo--aren't the productions dazzling! I have the greatest fun being a scenic and lighting designer.

Shaney--thanks! I'm having a great time designing many of the finishing details for the house.

Sam--I have LPs (see my reply to Matt, above) and 78s as well. The sound from those shellac 78s is sometimes startlingly realistic. Schlepping around the 78, LP and CD cartons for my move began the eight loss/toning up process for me.

Jess--all the great vinyl stores in Boston have closed except for Orpheus and he told me he's even having trouble selling used CDs now. The downloadable MP3 file is the technology du jour, but I bet something else will supplant that before the fall of 2010.
You know, it's perfectly acceptable to have naked men on stage or suspended from the ceiling without ruining the experience by adding opera.

I love the CD shelves.
Having just spent the past two week forest firefighting, I found your words about Greek fire extremely interesting! Amazing bit of knowledge. I had no idea.
I think I see my book on your bookshelf. (just kidding) Great design. It's clean but functional.
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