Saturday, November 3, 2012

Try a Little Tenderness....

I don't know what it is, darlings, but for the past few days I've got that old song in my head and it just won't fricking go away!  ACH!

Probably worst of all is that I don't remember it exactly as Otis Redding originally sang it; I keep coming up with these ooozey, sexy versions belting out of my lips as I slink up (and back down) the stairs at home, pretending to sing into a mike.  Oh my....

And today I was doing that at the office too.  Oh oh....  Fortunately, it's Saturday, and hardly anyone is there.  Those of us who do work on Saturday are usually mutual nut-cases like moi. 

I made up words, I made up movie scenes over the past couple of days, LOL!  Damn, I should have pursued that world of professional writing years ago.  Alas.  Ain't gonna do it now, darlings.  But I came up with some good stuff.  Really good stuff.  Strangest yet, I'm in fine voice at the moment.  That doesn't always happen.  I've been singing true to pitch and hitting notes I haven't been able to hit in years.  What the hell does it all mean?  Damned if I know.

But tonight I thought I'd bring you this really wonderful version of a part of Otis' classic song, featuring Annie Potts (why was she NOT EVER a SUPERSTAR?  She is fabulous in this part, just as she was in Ghost Busters) and Molly Ringwald -- with Jon Cryer in the role as the seranader... well -- I hope you love it as much as I did:

Friday, November 2, 2012

2012 Women's World Chess Championship

Starts soon -- November 11, 2012 in Kamsky Mansky (where?) -- you know, that place in Siberia I just can't resist poking a little fun at :)

Pairings for the first round of the knock-out are up at FIDE.  There are two games, plus an extra day before the start of the next round for tie-break matches:

I've got my favorite players, of course!  I'll be following Koneru Humpy, Kateryna Lahno, Harika Dronavalli, Alexandra Kosteniuk and the American players Abrahamyan, Zatonskih and Krush. 

The Canadian women's champion (2012 Goddesschess Canadian Women's CC/Zonal), WIM Natalia Khoudgarian, is a sentimental favorite, but she drew an unfortunate pairing against one of the strongest Chinese players, GM Zhou Xue, and she has the black pieces too.  Can a miracle happen?  Nah, probably not.  But I'm glad for her sake she had this opportunity and

It's an impressive female gathering:  19 GMs.  A few years back there were less than a dozen, so I guess this is progress.  Too bad the women's ELOs are not keeping pace with their male counterparts.  Still out-classed and out-gunned in the women's chess ghetto.  Sigh.

But I will be following.  Frankly, most male chessplayers bore me.  The women, on the other hand, present themselves as actual real people.  Amazing!   

This is a premiere event for the ladies.  The total prize purse is $450,000.  I was very surprised to read that FIDE will NOT be taking its normal 20% cut of the ladies' prizes this event.  Wonder why not...  Scruples never stopped FIDE from doing whatever it wanted before.

However, checks for prize money will NOT be handed out at the championship.  Nope -- FIDE requires each player to submit bank account information, presumably so that the prize money can be wired at a later time.  This is just damn downright ridiculous.  Either FIDE has the prize money, in which case there is NO REASON TO PRESENT EACH PLAYER WITH A CERTIFIED CHECK FOR THEIR WINNINGS BEFORE they leave Kamsky Mansky.  And if FIDE does NOT have the prize money in hand, why would a player ever think she would be paid, and turn over her personal banking information to - well, I won't go there...

Here is the prize structure:

3. 9. Prizes for the Women’s World Championship
3. 9. 1. Prize list

1st round 32 losers x 3.750 = 120.000
2nd round 16 losers x 5.500 = 88.000
3rd round 8 losers x 8.000 = 64.000
4th round 4 losers x 12.000 = 48.000
5th round 2 losers x 20.000 = 40.000
6th round 1 loser x 30.000 = 30.000
Women’s World Champion = 60.000
TOTAL: 450.000 USD

Full Regulations.  Let the games begin!!!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Scholarly Study of Ancient Greek Prostitutes

Well, okay.  LOL!  This is also a book review at Minerva online:

Greek Prostitutes in the Ancient Mediterranean 800 BCE–200 CE

Allison Glazebrook and Madeleine M. Henry [eds.]
University of Wisconsin Press, 2011
360pp, 14 black and white photos and
12 drawings
Paperback, £23.50
If, on finishing Jenifer Neils' Women in the Ancient World (reviewed left), you wanted to study in greater depth one of the more taboo aspects of feminine life, what is commonly referred to as 'the oldest profession in the world', then Greek Prostitutes in the Ancient Mediterranean 800 BCE – 200 CE provides the ideal scholarly assessment of the sex workers of Ancient Greece.

Glazebrook and Henry have edited contributions from 11 academics (including themselves) on this subject, and the 10 essays within this book, along with appropriate referencing glossary and indices, are very much aimed at those studying the Classical world at degree or higher level.

This is not to say, though, that the book is unapproachable or unengaging, quite the contrary in fact, as it covers such fascinating subject matter. On the other hand, this is not to say it is a vicarious peepshow into ancient sexual practices.

Much of the book focuses on the importance of Ancient Greek prostitutes to society. Among the ideas discussed are the socio-political power that prostitutes came to wield and how this sat with the lay (for want of a better term) community, the social status of women, civic endorsement of the profession and a philological study of the language associated with sex.

Architectural and archaeological evidence is also examined, with particular reference to the brothels on Delos. Coupled with liberal citations of ancient writings and fragments this makes for a pleasingly multidisciplinary approach to the subject.

Greek vase painting is a great resource for this type of study and Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz's chapter, 'Sex for Sale?', analyses the representations of women seen (predominantly) on drinking vessels. By drawing attention to body language, rendering, attributes, and how these relate to written accounts, Rabinowitz explains that previous interpretations of rites of passage, courtship scenes, companionship and love scenes, may have been erroneous.

        Many of the examples cited throughout this book create small vignettes of life in Ancient Greece and show how prostitution was fundamentally and vitally linked to many aspects of the social and economic position of the city-states.

What can be learnt from the prostitutes of Ancient Greece is evidently far more than might be expected and in many instances quite surprising – one good example of this is the madam who wrote out the rules of her brothel in 237 stanzas of high oratorical language.

Overall this highly engaging book demonstrates the need to use all the available ancient resources to build up an accurate cultural picture of the times.

As Glazebrook and Henry acknowledge, the academic study of the oldest profession is far more acceptable today than it once was.

Geoff Lowsley

Book Review: Women in the Ancient World

From Minerva online:

Women in the Ancient World

Jenifer Neils
British Museum Press, 2011
216pp, 200 colour photographs and one map
Paperback, £18.99
Jenifer Neils has taught Classical Art and Archaeology at Case Western Reserve University since 1980. She has also guest-curated two major international loan exhibitions, Goddess and Polis: The Panathenaic Festival in Ancient Athens and Coming of Age in Greece: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past.

Her latest book, a handsome volume, lavishly illustrated throughout with colour photographs of objects largely drawn from the collections of the British Museum, focuses on both the role and perception of women in the past.

Small details like a map of the ancient world, a list of goddesses across different cultures and a potted history of each in the opening chapter, make this a self-contained primer on the topic for those who incline towards the aesthetic.

Neils does broach the awkward truth that the vast majority of what we know of women in the ancient world is filtered through representations left to us by men, and makes some effort to navigate round this by touching on the clues that can be drawn from biological remains, for example, preserved bodies. This is, however, clearly not the raison d'être of this book, as more space is filled by beautiful images of well photographed objects than by CAT scans.

Having accepted that male-authored accounts concerning the female members of the population are heavily biased, the book unashamedly focuses on a visual celebration of women while at the same time placing them in a socio-historic context.

The cultures under scrutiny are Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Near East. But, by examining the subject thematically, rather than geographically, Neils allows for interesting comparisons to be drawn between the different cultures, for instance views and laws concerning the legal rights of women and approaches to marriage.

This book ambitiously covers a vast period, stretching from 4000 BC to AD 600 and involving a range of religions and cultures – particularly from the Ancient Near East. But the chapter headings: 'Female Stereotypes', 'Mothers and Mourners', 'Working Women', 'The Body Beautiful', 'Women and Religion' and 'Royal Women' allow these introductory studies to be presented in accessible portions.

The chapters are peppered throughout with comparative and supporting accounts, from myths and old textual sources, which add to our understanding of the imagery on the objects (eg. black figure pots). A few surprising examples of biased ancient thought include the fact that Aristotle thought women were no more than mutilated men.

At its close Neils concedes once more that most of what we know about women in the ancient world is seen through male eyes, but as the remit of her book is to show how art celebrates the female form, it succeeds in being an engaging, informative and beautifully presented book.
Sounds like a good read.  I would love to see China and other far-eastern societies added, though, like India.  They are just as old as civilizations around the Mediterranean.  Why do we continue using such a narrow focus when dealing with such important themes -- like no people existed beyond these certain geographic confines?  The ancients certainly knew better!  There was some kind of contact and quite possibly trade going on between east-west from the early pharonic age, and certainly "westerners" were emigrating and settling in the east (in and around the Tarim Basin, for instance) by around 2500 BCE.   

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rising Up the Ranks: Chess Femme Anjana Murali

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online (my hometown newspaper):

Girl Scouts, chess molded Murali into a leader

Author Paul Tough Gives Shout Out to IS 318


Optimism, self-control are keys to child's success, author says

self-control key to child's success
Updated 4:34 p.m., Monday, October 29, 2012
From the focus on standardized testing to the spread of tutoring programs in math and reading for children younger than 5, today's American society places a great deal of emphasis on a child's cognitive ability and purported ways to increase it.

But a new best-selling book, "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27), concludes that there are skills more valuable than IQ in determining a child's long-term success. The book calls into question the way we teach, coach and parent.

Through scientific-research analysis and interviews with pediatricians, economists and educators of children from the wealthiest to the poorest, author Paul Tough determines that skills such as self-control, optimism and the ability to delay gratification can make all the difference.

The San Antonio Express-News sat down with Tough last week when he came to town to speak to a crowd of about 150 at Trinity University, brought here by Trinity, the San Antonio Children's Museum and the education advocacy group Generation TX San Antonio. He also spoke to a roundtable of school superintendents.

Though not familiar with the details of the local Nov. 6 ballot initiative called Pre-K 4 SA - which would provide full-day pre-kindergarten to 22,000 children - Tough noted that for low-income children, studies show a big payoff from early childhood education.
Q: Is what you're arguing counter to the whole self-esteem building trend where every kid gets a trophy?

A: It's an alternative to that. There's this one teacher I profile in the book, a chess teacher, and she is one of the best chess teachers in the country. She teaches at this school called Intermediate School 318, a regular public school in Brooklyn, a Title I school, mostly low-income population, but they are the best middle school chess team in the country. … [Elizabeth Vicary?]

What she's doing that works is she is helping kids manage failure. That's actually a theme that runs through the book, this idea that failure is actually an important part - and learning how to deal with failure is an important part - of developing these character skills, especially for school-aged kids.

Q: What should be the role of schools and policymakers?
A: The way that accountability has happened in Texas and the country as a whole over the past 20 years - there were good reasons for it, there are some good things that have come out of it - but I think the way it has become so narrowly focused on these standardized tests, which only measure these cognitive skills, is a real problem. … Those skills are not as predictive as we thought they were of long-term success.

What we should care about in any education system is kids graduating from college. There are other outcomes we could choose, but in terms of educational outcome, that's a pretty good one. So the fact that eighth-grade test scores don't necessarily correlate with college graduation rates, especially for low-income kids, I think is a real problem.

Q: You say a child needs to have "grit," or the perseverance necessary to pursue a goal. How do I build grit in my child?

A: There's not like a "great grit workbook" that you can take home. We do know two things. … They seem somewhat contradictory. One is that in the first couple of years of life, what kids need more than anything is attachment - close, nurturing support from a parent or another caregiver. It really is good for infants to have someone come every time they cry. That actually doesn't make kids more needy and whiny, the way we used to think. It makes them more secure and independent once they get out of that infancy stage. The problem is that 5- and 10- and 15-year-olds need something very different. They actually don't need someone to come every time they cry. They need parents to pull back a little bit and let them deal with their own problems, fight their own battles, fall down and not get helped back up.

Q: Your book is not a parenting book that's saying "do this" or "do that."

A: I worry there's going to be parents who want to find "failure camps" for their kids. … When I think about character-building experiences I had as an adolescent, it was working as a dishwasher. I don't feel like we need to go out of our way, to send kids on rope courses and these kinds of managed elements of adversity. There are lots of challenges out there in life. I think mostly what we need to do is let kids experience them.

Rising Up the Ranks: Chess Femme Rochelle Ballantyne

Brooklyn teen Rochelle Ballantyne on path to become 1st black female chess master

16th Unive (2012 Hoogeveen)

Final results are in, held October 19 - 27, 2012.  Official site

Final standings in the Invitational:

1Nakamura, HikaruGM27861½1½½14.52858
2Tiviakov, SergeiGM2659½½½1½03.02707
3Giri, AnishGM27300½½½½½2.52626
4Hou, YifanGM2605½½00½½2.02600

In the Open, here are the final standings (top player and chess femmes):

1L'Ami, ErwinGMNED2631111½01½117.053.041.02634
2Nijboer, FrisoGMNED25250111111107.043.532.02550
10Guramishvili, SopikoIMGEO2418½1½110½1½6.046.028.252403
24L'Ami, AlinaWGMROU237611½½½00½15.045.023.02355
51Kazarian, Anna-MajaWFMNED18640½½½0½½½14.034.513.752095
54Padurariu, Ioana-SmarandaWIMROU2236½½10½10003.541.514.02093
60Kasparova, TatianaWIMBLR21260110001½03.537.011.52113
66Slingerland, CarolineWFMNED210300½0½½½½13.531.08.752020
77Van der Lende, NathalieNED196800100000+
78Djuric, OlgicaSRB18800000001001.028.51.51767

I apologize if I've missed any chess femmes in this listing. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

There Be Dragons....

I don't remember how long ago it was that Don McLean of Goddesschess adopted as one of his "names" Pi a/k/a Pimander; he equated it with a dragon (not the Pi from the book "The Book of Pi," who definitely was not a dragon).  Until the Harry Potter movies came out, the only dragon I ever was really familiar with was Puff, the Magic Dragon, from the old song by Peter, Paul and Mary.  Those lyrics are so sad, actually...

From time to time Pimander would make an appearance in our correspondence.  Some years back, perhap 7 years? ago -- I met a friend for lunch at the Tea Room at Watt's in Milwaukee.  Watt's has the most exquisite china, crystal, silverware and all things tableware-related.  I've spent hours at Watt's exploring its displays and oohing and aahing over the beautiful items there.  On the second floor, opposite the small Tea Room, is a gift shop.  That particular day, after lunch, my friend and I wandered into the gift shop and I found the most equisitely crafted silver-colored dragon, cast in pewter.  I instantly thought of Don, and how much he would love it.  His birthday was coming up, I recall, but the cost was more than I could afford, and so I reluctantly put the dragon back down, and slowly walked away.  I always regretted not buying that dragon for Mr. Don.  I remember I visited Watt's a few weeks later and went straight to the table where the pewter dragon had been, but it was gone -- sold, probably.  Watt's gift store often stocks one-of-a-kind items.  From that day on, I had my eye out for another dragon.  Alas, I did not find another one within my price range that held a candle to that Watt's dragon.  I should have bought it for him then.  But I didn't.

This year on the Chinese calendar is the Year of the Dragon.  Turns out no good has come of it for Mr. Don, and little good for moi.  I will be glad to see the Year of the Dragon go away and never show it's face again, bah!  But perhaps it was fitting that Don died during the Year of the Dragon; in many ways, he shared much in common with the character of a dragon.

But when I was cutting up the limbs that came down in my backyard some weeks ago during a fierce wind storm, I ended up with this piece, which I kept, because it reminds me so much of a dragon's head and neck.  I call it, fittingly, Dead Dragon:

Dead Dragon is stationed on the peninsula between my kitchen and dining area, hanging out underneath my Norfolk Pine.  Unfortunately, he lost part of his ear/horn on the left when I tried to "operate" on him one day outside -- I tried to put an angle cut into his neck area instead of the straight-on cut I did when I first cut him off the large limb that crashed down from one of my trees during that storm.  Alas, the ear/horn broke off, and so he doesn't look as much like a dragon as he did before.  I also was not successful in making that angle cut I wanted to create; instead, you can now see a cut mark where I partially sawed through with my hand-held muscle-powered saw, but ran out of steam trying to cut through the raw wood.

Alas, poor dead dragon lost part of his face during the storm, probably why he died.  But one of his eyes is still cleary visible...

Yesterday, when I was cleaning out some old frames for re-use, I came across this ad that I'd clipped years before from a decorating magazine.  It was an ad from a window company and showed this spectacular photographs of storm clouds.  I also saved and clipped the words that accompanied the ad:

Some see dragons.
Some see islands.
What do you see?

Well, of course, I saw two dragons.  A smaller one that reminds me very much of my Dead Dragon of wood, and a much larger one.  I wonder, can you see them?

I have to add that Dead Dragon was found some weeks before Mr. Don's death on October 12, 2012.  So this isn't a morbid fascination.  Or, maybe it is.  Just one of those things?  I've no idea.  But tonight I came acoss this, and got a chuckle out of it.  I'd never heard of Dragon Hill although of course I have featured the Uffington Horse in this blog in the past.  Check it out:

Source.  Supposedly the hill got its name from where St. George slew the dragon and the white chalk showing
through at the top of this cut-off tor is the "blood" left behind by the dragon.

Hmmmm, so maybe I really am crazy after all...  Sure looks like a damn dead dragon to me!
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