Morbier is a semi-soft cows’ milk cheese of France named after the small village of Morbier in Franche-Comté. It is ivory colored, soft and slightly elastic, and is immediately recognizable by the black layer of tasteless ash separating it horizontally in the middle. It has a rind that is yellowish, moist, and leathery.
Traditionally, the cheese consists of a layer of morning milk and a layer of evening milk. When making Gruyère de Comté, cheesemakers would end the day with leftover curd that was not enough for an entire cheese. Thus, they would press the remaining evening curd into a mold, and spread ash over it to protect it overnight. The following morning, the cheese would be topped up with morning milk. Nowadays, the cheese is usually made from a single milking with the ash added for tradition.
The aroma of Morbier is found somewhat objectionable by some, though the flavor is rich and creamy, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
The Tower of Babel is a vision of architecture as anthill madness. As the British Museum’s exhibition Babylon: Myth and Reality reveals, Brueghel is not the only artist driven to imagine this fabulous building. Towers of Babel proliferate in this show, be they painted with miniaturist precision or exploding in apocalyptic doom; there’s even one made of shoes, in a 2001 painting by Michael Lassel. Martin van Heemskerk’s, however, is square, in keeping with old sources he studied, but his attempt to visualise what the tower was “really” like does not stop him showing its top smashed apart by divine lightning. In an anonymous Dutch painting—one of a series that riff on Brueghel—the city that surrounds the tower is on fire, the summit of the hubristic edifice menaced by an eerie light coming through the storm clouds. Perhaps the strangest is by Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century scholar whose light, airy spiral looks prophetically modern, like a blueprint for a skyscraper.
But for Zola, Cézanne would have remained an unhappy banker’s son in Provence; but for Pissarro, he would never have learned how to paint; but for Vollard (at the urging of Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, and Monet), his canvases would have rotted away in some attic; and, but for his father, Cézanne’s long apprenticeship would have been a financial impossibility. That is an extraordinary list of patrons. The first three—Zola, Pissarro, and Vollard—would have been famous even if Cézanne never existed, and the fourth was an unusually gifted entrepreneur who left Cézanne four hundred thousand francs when he died. Cézanne didn’t just have help. He had a dream team in his corner.
This is the final lesson of the late bloomer: his or her success is highly contingent on the efforts of others.
Since the first days of the [Telenovela] institute’s research, I began to notice common patterns in the way each country related to telenovelas, and, at the same time, the way in which a country’s relationship to telenovelas revealed something unique about it. A Canadian researcher, Denise Bombardier, described it perfectly with her phrase “Give me a telenovela and I’ll give you a nation.” In general terms, however, telenovelas implement what the critic Tomás Lopez-Pumarejo (my principal theorist at the Institute) described as “the drama of the subconscious”: They are stories that revolve around ontological questions: “Where is my son?” or “Where is my love?”
There is a clear relationship in the way in which the telenovela soap operas explore the social tensions of a country and convert them into collective therapy. This process worked very well in countries that had recently emerged from communism, where people were casting about in a psychological search to deal with the class taboos that had dominated for so long. As a result, a drama centered on the impossibility of love because of social or economic obstacles was extremely powerful. Several studies of the time during which Los Ricos También Lloran was broadcast in Russia indicate that programs simultaneously broadcast from the US (such as Dallas and Dynasty) were popular but never generated the same level of interest, because Russians could not identify with the family problems of an oil millionaire in Texas. The higher production quality of those programs didn’t seem to matter either, and so companies like Televisa did not overly concern themselves with investments in production. It was the drama, the emotions worn on the sleeve, and in part the exotic settings that gave the telenovelas a special attraction.
According to evolutionary musicology, “Musilanguage” is a proto-linguistic form of communication somewhere in between, on the one hand, emotive grunting/cooing/moaning/what-have-you, and then on the other, semantically/ symbolically appropriate but sonically arbitrary sounds that convey meaning (i.e. words). As most things are when it comes down to it, this particular concept is about gettin’ busy.
In “Descent of Man,” Darwin describes “true musical cadences” used by “some early progenitor of man” to woo the opposite sex (or to get totally whack with the same one). This “musilanguage” — a term coined by neurologist Steven Brown — would ostensibly evolve into language and music, respectively.
The Icelandic post-rock four-piece Sigur Rós is well-known for switching up the emotive and the referential. A made-up language Vonlenska (“Hopelandic” in English), which emulates the cadences of Icelandic without actually meaning anything, peppers their songs up to the current album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (“With a Buzz in Our Ears we Play Endlessly”). Now on tour in Europe, Japan, Canada and the US, the band’s bassist confessed in an interview with Pitchfork media, however, that all the hullaballoo about the nature of their lyrics and linguistic hijinks was, and is, rather hype. For example the title of a track on the last album, “Gobbledigook”, was not so much a comment on how they express themselves, but rather a misspelling of the Icelandic “Gobbldigob”, a word for the clippity-clop of horses’ hooves.
Literature | A reviewer says it’s a good thing the archbishop of Canterbury has written a book about Dostoyevsky. To figure out this Russian fellow, “we need a guide who combines the gifts of a literary critic and a trained theologian.” And like Dostoyevsky, the cleric, through his unruly Church of England, knows what it’s like to juggle “incompatible beliefs.” [TLS]
For years, Swiss scientists have blithely created genetically modified rice, corn and apples. But did they ever stop to consider just how humiliating such experiments may be to plants?
That’s a question they must now ask. Last spring, this small Alpine nation began mandating that geneticists conduct their research without trampling on a plant’s dignity.
“Unfortunately, we have to take it seriously,” Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich. “It’s one more constraint on doing genetic research.”
Dr. Keller recently sought government permission to do a field trial of genetically modified wheat that has been bred to resist a fungus. He first had to debate the finer points of plant dignity with university ethicists. Then, in a written application to the government, he tried to explain why the planned trial wouldn’t “disturb the vital functions or lifestyle” of the plants. He eventually got the green light.
The rule, based on a constitutional amendment, came into being after the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish the meaning of flora’s dignity.
“We couldn’t start laughing and tell the government we’re not going to do anything about it,” says Markus Schefer, a member of the ethics panel and a professor of law at the University of Basel. “The constitution requires it.”
In April, the team published a 22-page treatise on “the moral consideration of plants for their own sake.” It stated that vegetation has an inherent value and that it is immoral to arbitrarily harm plants by, say, “decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason.”
On the question of genetic modification, most of the panel argued that the dignity of plants could be safeguarded “as long as their independence, i.e., reproductive ability and adaptive ability, are ensured.” In other words: It’s wrong to genetically alter a plant and render it sterile.
Anyone who has visited the Oktoberfest and seen hundreds of revellers dancing on the wooden tables, holding up their beer glasses and chanting along to DJ Ötzi’s cover version of “Hey! Baby” knows how merry the atmosphere can get.
For those who haven’t, a look at the lost and found register evokes the raucous celebrations.
Members of staff found 680 identity cards and passports, 410 wallets, 360 keys, 265 spectacles, 280 mobile phones and 80 cameras, one set of diving goggles, one set of angel’s wings, a superman costume and four wedding rings. A long-haired Dachshund was also found roaming the festival ground, but was later reclaimed by its owner.
“For the first time, no dentures were found,” the Munich city press department said with a mixture of surprise and disappointment. “Is this a sign of demographic change, good dental hygiene or a higher rate of tooth implants?”
It is seen as the mark of civilised eating, distinguishing well-fed French workers from the English who wolf prawn sandwiches at their desks. But France’s tradition of the three-course restaurant lunch is in danger of being killed off by the economic crisis.
Around 3,000 traditional French restaurants, cafes and bars went bust in the first three months of 2008 and unions predict a further rush of closures as people worry about making ends meet. The number of French restaurants going bankrupt rose by 25 percent from last year, and cafes forced to close were up by 56 percent.
Le Figaro’s renowned restaurant critic François Simon said yesterday that French consumers’ frugality had changed national eating habits and forced restaurant owners to the brink. Diners were now skipping the traditional aperitif, avoiding starters, drinking tap water, passing on wine and coffee and—at most—sharing a pudding.