Even Sopranos Get the Blues


FOR months now, the acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming, her recording company and her public relations agency have been working hard to make one thing clear: “Dark Hope,” her new Decca recording of indie rock songs, is not a crossover project.

Crossover! Heaven forbid! To many classical music critics and tradition-minded artists, the commercial crossover projects in the last two decades are sure signs, in the words of the esteemed British baritone Thomas Allen, that “well-organized hijackers” and “money-grabbing, P.R.-led” marketers are using “wet T-shirted” violinists to — horror or horrors — sell classical records.

Whew. No wonder Ms. Fleming is at pains to distinguish “Dark Hope” from crossover. But what is crossover exactly?

In her liner notes for the album, just released in Europe and due in the United States on June 8, she writes that the “genre referred to as ‘crossover’ usually has performers singing popular music in a classically trained style with amplification and traditional instrumentation.” Her goal, she explains, is “to bypass the middle ground and get to the other side of the divide entirely.” In an interview included with the promotional materials, she is blunter, asserting that “this album is not crossover,” that it occupies the “other extreme of the spectrum,” that making the recording was like visiting “a parallel universe.”

…Ms. Fleming has fared well with her own ventures into jazz, scatting away and shaping phrases with the subdued beauty of Betty Carter. Yet sounding every bit like herself. Not so in “Dark Hope.” Why did she undertake this radical transformation?

As she has explained in interviews, the project was not her idea. Metallica’s managers, Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch, had long wanted to pair a classically trained singer with rock songwriters. After listening to some of the songs, she was intrigued enough to speak with the producer David Kahne. “David is so thoughtful and articulate that I become even more fascinated by the prospect of exploring a completely different use of my voice,” she writes in her liner notes.

They settled on 11 songs, chosen for their suitability for her voice, the meaning of the lyrics and overall qualities of mystery and elusiveness that reminded her of classical works she loves — songs like “Intervention” by Arcade Fire, “With Twilight as My Guide” by the Mars Volta, and a few older pieces, like Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and, in a bold move, the Jefferson Airplane ballad “Today.”

Adapting her voice to rock took hard work. She and Mr. Kahne realized that it was best for her to sing in the range of her speaking voice, which is sometimes two octaves lower. Any idea that she would discard technique and just jam was quashed by Mr. Kahne, who, Ms. Fleming writes, enforced “stringent stylistic rules,” including a softening of diction and rhythm, less overt drama and no dropping of the ends of the phrases…

Related Links:  Renée Fleming (Wiki)

Secrets uncovered at the Sistine Chapel

Catholic Online – By Greg Goodsell

Michelangelo hid anatomical sketches in art, experts say

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – According to Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo, in their paper in the current issue of Neurosurgery, Michelangelo hid his sketches of the human brain, including the spinal column inside his depiction of God.

The theory was first posited by physician Frank Meshberger in 1990, who maintained that the artist’s rendering of the central panel on the ceiling, depicting God creating Adam was a perfect anatomical illustration of the human brain in cross section. Meshberger speculated that Michelangelo surrounded God with a shroud representing the human brain, suggesting God was endowing Adam with supreme human intelligence.

Michelangelo took four years to complete the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Proceeding from east to west, the artist started from the entrance of the Chapel to finish above the altar. The last panel he painted depicts God separating light from darkness. This is where the researchers say that Michelangelo hid the human brain stem, eyes and optic nerve of man inside the figure of God directly above the altar.

Suk and Tamargo say that in the panel, The Separation of Light from Darkness, leading up the center of God’s chest and forming his throat, the researchers have found a precise depiction of the human spinal cord and brain stem.

The researchers note that a roll of fabric extends up the center of God’s robe in a peculiar manner. The clothing is bunched up here as is seen nowhere else, and the fold clashes with what would be the natural drape of fabric over God’s torso. The scholars say it is the human spinal cord, ascending to the brain stem in God’s neck. At God’s waist, the robe twists again in a peculiar crumpled manner, revealing the optic nerves from two eyes, precisely as Leonardo Da Vinci had shown them in his illustration of 1487.

The theory receives credence by the fact that at the age of 17, Michelangelo began dissecting corpses from a church graveyard. To conceal this secret, the artist destroyed almost all of his anatomical sketches and notes.

Rush Limbaugh to marry galpal Kathryn Rogers next week in Palm Beach

The Palm Beach Post – Posted by Jose Lambiet

Palm Beach radio talker Rush Limbaugh swore off marriage after three ill-fated attempts at domestic bliss.

But that was before he met striking West Palm Beach resident Kathryn Rogers, a woman half his age and a direct descendant of founding father John Adams; Before she nursed him through a heart attack; And before she laid some balm on the Conservative firebrand’s bruised ego when the NFL rejected him as potential owner of the St. Louis Rams.

For once, El Rushbo is eating his words.

Limbaugh, 59,  is set to marry the 33-year-old Rogers next week in an intimate ceremony at his beachfront compound.

Limbaugh didn’t confirm any details but asked for privacy in an email to Page2Live.

“We try to live our lives as normal people,” Limbaugh wrote. “We do NOT seek media attention, we do not want it, especially for this. It is very special, obviously, and we just don’t want any media attention.”

Rogers, a VIP liaison on the last two super bowls in South Florida, has been sporting a blinding sparkler on her ring finger for more than a year now.

No word yet on the guest list, menu or dress code but stay tuned.

The couple sent out invitations to family and friends in February. If you haven’t received yours, don’t bother crashing. Security will be tight.

Limbaugh and Rogers first met in 2004 when she ran a golf tournament/fund-raiser for legendary golfer Gary Player’s charity. Limbaugh was a celebrity guest. At the time, Limbaugh was getting divorced from Marta Limbaugh, his third wife and one of his radio “ditto-heads.”

Rush and Marta finalized their split later that year. By the summer of 2007, the GOP’s favorite radio personality and Rogers, the daughter of one of Sen. John McCain’s classmates at the Naval Academy, were an item…

UPDATE:  People:  Rush Limbaugh Weds for 4th Time, and Elton John Sings

Stage invader disrupts Spanish Eurovision Song Contest entry

The Eurovision Song Contest was disrupted by early drama when a stage invader joined in a performance.

Telegraph – By Rebecca Lefort

A man wearing a black T-shirt and red stocking hat jumped on stage just seconds into the Spanish entry.

He knelt before singer Daniel Diges and appeared to try to join in with the song, Algo Pequeñito, waving his arms energetically before he was chased from the stage by security guards.

As a result of the commotion Diges, who was second on stage, was allowed to sing again at the end of the show.

James Dylan from bookmakers Ladbrokes said to website Betting Pro: “We thought it was part of the show but after the security guards chased him off stage we realised it had been the best stage invader since Jarvis.”

Jarvis Cocker, the former Pulp frontman, dropped his trousers during Michael Jackson’s performance at the Brit Awards in 1996.

Following tonight’s stage invasion the odds on a Spain victory were cut.

This year’s UK entry has been written by Pete Waterman, the producer responsible for launching Kylie Minogue’s singing career.

His song That Sounds Good to Me was performed by 19-year-old Josh Dubovie.

The contest was held in Oslo after Norway took home the crown last year.

IBM’s Traffic Lights Can Remotely Halt Your Car Engine

Inhabitat – By Ariel Schwartz

Thinking about zipping through that red light? Well, you won’t physically be able to if IBM has anything to say about it. The technology giant’s recent patent application for  “A System and Method for Controlling Vehicle Engine Running State at Busy Intersections for Increased Fuel Consumption Efficiency” prevents cars from running red lights by–get this–remotely stopping vehicle engines.

The patent describes a system that can receive position data from all vehicles waiting at traffic lights and send a “stop-engine” notification to cars waiting for more than a specified amount of time. The patent explains, “The method may comprise..responding to a proceed status indicated by the traffic signal, further comprising: sending a start-engine notification to a first vehicle in the queue; calculating an optimal time for an engine of a second vehicle in the queue to start when the first vehicle starts moving; and sending the start-engine notification to the second vehicle in the queue at the optimal time.”

This seems at first glance like a simple way to prevent traffic accidents, but we’re not thrilled about the idea of a traffic light having access to car engines. What happens if hackers get a hold of the system? And what if there are glitches? We’ll be watching to see if this patent application brings about any actual products.

Deepwater Oil Spill – The LMRP Attempt Continued

The Oil Drum – Posted by Gail the Actuary

BP and Admiral Landry just held a Press Conference in which they said that, based on a decision 90 minutes ago, by the “best and brightest minds” that it was time to move on the next option, the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP). BP was unable to block sufficient flow out of the well to make the injection of cement possible, and thus to kill the well. They had made, I believe he said, three attempts to inject material (the junk shots) without being able to get that material to block the passages through the Blow-Out Preventer (BOP). (Unfortunately I missed a large part of his opening remarks, and thus have only the question response to go on at present.) The volume of mud used did not appear to have changed from earlier reports at some 30,000 barrels.

Mr Suttles said that they had given the technique every chance, but could not get it to start to provide an effective seal. They had, however, determined that the majority of the pressure restrictions to the flow of oil was coming from some resistance within the well itself, and from the BOP. Since the riser above the BOP was not contributing much to the resistance, and thus to control of the oil flow, the next plan is to remove it, using a band saw device (of which pictures will be available) and then to lower the LMRP onto the existing BOP. They intend to cut the surface flat that the LMRP will sit on, so that it will give a good, but not perfect, seal. Thus there will be some leakage around the joint, and they will monitor that and use dispersant as appropriate.

The new change should take somewhere between 4 and 7 days to implement. The assembly, which has been constructed, is not the Top Hat assembly built earlier, to fit on the bottom of a riser. Flow of oil from the LMRP will rise up a 6 7/8 inch drill pipe within the riser (the same size as the one currently fitted to the RIT). The riser will also carry hot water down to the LMRP to protect against the formation of hydrates.

He noted that their inability to stop the well “scares everybody” but is reasonably confident (no success percentage estimates) that this will collect the majority of the oil and gas. Because they do not know the flow path of the oil below the seabed, it is difficult to estimate what is actually going on in terms of oil path below the BOP. Thus they are, again, trying something that has never been done before, but expect, based on the RIT, that it will work.

On being asked about the cleanup of the dispersed oil – he pointed out that the reason that the dispersant was used was to break the oil into small droplets. These are small enough to be consumed by the microbes in the sea, and thus there is no plan to do other than let nature take its course. For the oil on the surface, they are getting better at spotting oil pools and sending skimmers to deal with them.

The Admiral drew attention to the article on Hurricanes and the Oil Spill which is available at the Unified Command Web site.

The relief well is about half-way through the rock it must drill (about 6,000 ft below sea level) but progress will slow as the well deepens…

Related Link:  Live feeds from remotely operated vehicles (ROV)

Why men use prostitutes

The reasons why many men pay for sex are revealed in the interviews that make up a major new piece of research

Guardian – By Julie Bindel

Seven hundred men were interviewed for the project, which aimed to find out why men buy sex. Photograph: Christina Griffiths/Getty Images/Flickr RM

Only 6% of the men we spoke to had been arrested for soliciting ­prostitutes. “Deterrents would only work if ­enforced,” said one. “Any negative would make you reconsider. The law’s not enforced now, but if any negative thing happened as a consequence it would deter me.” Perhaps the new law will make Albert think twice about paying for sex. He told me, “If I’d get in trouble for doing it, I wouldn’t do it. In this country, the police are fine with men visiting prostitutes.”

Although some of the men said they thought the women they bought ­enjoyed the sex, many others admitted that they thought the women would be feeling “disgusted”, “miserable”, “dirty” and “scared”. Ahmed said he thought the woman might feel “relief that I’m not going to kill her”.

Many men seemed to want a real relationship with a woman and were disappointed when this didn’t develop: “It’s just a sex act, no emotion. Be prepared to accept this or don’t go at all. It’s not a wife or girlfriend.” ­Others were clear that they paid for sex in order to be able to totally control the encounter, including Bob, who said, “Look, men pay for women because he can have whatever and whoever he wants. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with.”

‘I don’t get anything out of sex with prostitutes except for a bad feeling,” says Ben. An apparently average, thirtysomething, middle-class man, Ben had taken an extended lunchbreak from his job in advertising to talk about his experiences of buying sex. Shy and slightly nervous, he told me, “I am hoping that talking about it might help me work out why I do it.”

I, too, was hoping to understand his motives better. Ben was one of 700 men interviewed for a major international research project seeking to uncover the reality about men who buy sex. The project spanned six countries, and of the 103 customers we spoke to in London – where I was one of the researchers – most were surprisingly keen to discuss their experiences.

The men didn’t fall into obvious stereotypes. They were aged between 18 and 70 years old; they were white, black, Asian, eastern European; most were employed and many were ­educated beyond school level. In the main they were presentable, polite, with average-to-good social skills. Many were husbands and boyfriends; just over half were either married or in a relationship with a woman.

Research published in 2005 found that the numbers of men who pay for sex had doubled in a decade. The ­authors attributed this rise to “a greater acceptability of commercial sexual contact”, yet many of our ­interviewees told us that they felt ­intense guilt and shame about paying for sex. “I’m not satisfied in my mind” was how one described his feelings after paying for sex. Another told me that he felt “disappointed – what a waste of money”, “lonely still” and “guilty about my relationship with my wife”. In fact, many of the men were a mass of contradictions. Despite finding their experiences “unfulfilling, empty, terrible”, they continued to visit prostitutes…

Read the research project’s report here (pdf)