Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An important fossil discovery: Liaoconodon hui, a Mesozoic mammal with a transitional middle ear.

In the clip above, Jin Meng, curator of fossil mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, describes how the well-preserved fossil of Liaoconodon hui, a mammal that lived in the Mesozoic era -- the age of dinosaurs -- shows the development of middle ear structure that characterizes later mammals, including ourselves.

Heather Quinlan surveys the New York accent.

Here's the trailer for friend and Brooklyn Heights Blog colleague Heather Quinlan's forthcoming (and you can play a part in bringing it to the big screen: see here) documentary If These Knishes Could Talk: the Story of the New York Accent. For those with sensitive ears, caveat: you get hit with an F-bomb at the beginning.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Egyptian Blogger Gets Three Year Sentence for Criticizing Military

Just before Hosni Mubarak's capitulation, I wondered what kind of government might succeed his. This story from today's New York Times (thanks to Andy Bachman for bringing it to my attention) is, to say the least, not an encouraging portent. Maikel Nabil Sanad, a 25 year old blogger, has been given a three year prison sentence by a military tribunal for posting material, often quoting established human rights groups like Amnesty International, exposing abuses by the military against protesters.

I'm glad Mubarak is gone, but I hope the Egyptian people will find the strength to bring their military under civilian control, where it belongs in any decent society.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

East-West IPA Smackdown: Brooklyn "East India" vs. Sierra Nevada "Torpedo"

I've had Brooklyn Brewery's East India Pale Ale before, and published my tasting notes on it here. Seeing it on the shelf at Key Food near the Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA made me want to do a comparison tasting, though -- New York versus California, the storied rivalry, and all that. Here are my notes:

Brooklyn East India Pale Ale:

Color: rich golden amber.

Head: ample and long-lasting.

Aroma: I detected the same herbes de provence as before, but this time also a hint of vanilla along with yeasty undertones.

Flavor: hoppy, as an IPA should be, but the hops don't overpower the malt. My earlier notes had malt dominant at the finish, but this time hops prevailed, though not overwhelmingly. Kind of like a tart rhubarb pie, with malt playing the part of crust.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Color: orange-amber.

Head: medium; collapsed quickly.

Aroma: evergreen and citrus, with malt undertones.

Flavor: citrus and pine rosin, with a strong malt base. Grapefruity finish.

The envelope, please.

And the winner is, for all-around drinkability, Brooklyn's East India. As I noted the last time I tried it, this is a well-balanced IPA with the assertive hoppiness characteristic of the type but with the malt not utterly overpowered by hop bitterness. It could be enjoyed with many kinds of flavorful food (though, as with all IPAs, not with anything with too delicate a flavor that would be overpowered by the hops' bitterness) or by itself.

Sierra Neavada's Torpedo reminded me of wine pooh-bah Robert Parker's description of what he likes: a "hedonistic fruit bomb." On the whole, I prefer the Alice Feiring kind of wine; subtle and complex. Like a Parker-favored wine, the Torpedo packs a punch: 7.2% alcohol by volume compared to Brooklyn East India's 6.9%. All this isn't to say I didn't like drinking it. I think it would make a great companion to very spicy dishes, like vindaloo curries, as well as being enjoyable on its own from time to time.

Sidney Lumet

So, why do I have to keep posting about people who have just died? Easy. I'm at that age where the people who made my world, i.e. those about a decade or two older, are dying. The latest is Sidney Lumet, who fits in the two decade category. Like many show biz veterans of his age cohort, he got his start, through his parents, in the Yiddish theater. From there, he made his way to Hollywood, first as an actor, then as a director, where he had his success. I don't agree with his assertion, in the interview above, that art can't change the world. I do think that it's less likely to be effective the more the artist self-consciously strives to make it so.

I'm ashamed to admit that I've only seen two of his movies: Twelve Angry Men and Network. How I could have missed Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, two classics about my city, is beyond me. I'll have to rectify this soon.