April 30, 2007

do you speak viagra?

I came across this article in the business section of The New York Times today.

How much sexual innuendo can an advertiser pack into 15 seconds? Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, offers an answer in a new campaign for Viagra, so far shown only in Canada. The ads feature middle-aged men and women talking in a made-up language, save for one word.

“Viagra spanglecheff?” says a man to a friend at a bowling alley.

“Spanglecheff?” his friend asks.

“Minky Viagra noni noni boo-boo plats!” the first man replies, with a grin that suggests he is not talking about the drug’s side effects. The ads end with the slogan, “The International Language of Viagra.”

But wait, aren't we talking about a prescription drug here? Shouldn't you state what it does and what its side effects are? Apparently not:

In the United States and Canada, drug companies can advertise medicines without discussing side effects, as long as they do not mention the condition the drug is supposed to treat. Such spots are called “reminder ads.”

What a minky boo-boo.

handle with fashion

Dog handlers in big competitions are ususally sartorially* challenged. Think mother-of-the-mother-of-the-bride, only with sensible shoes. The Manolo gives advice on his shoeblog.


The small print: Sartorially is derived from the Latin word sartor, referring to a person who patches and mends (essentially, a tailor).

April 28, 2007

blue-eyed marble

There's something about Australian Shepherd (note that the breed was developed in the USA) puppies that makes them superadorable. Is it the spotted coat? Are the blue eyes to blame? (They may go darker later in life.) This little guy was a major attraction at a local 5m-run today (and, considering that there were 15,000 runners and walkers, that was quite a feat).


According to the AKC, the Aussie's colors are "blue merle, black, red merle, red-all with or without white markings and/or tan (copper) points, with no order of preference". Merle is related to marly ("spotted, streaked, or marbled"), an adjective based on the noun marble.

April 24, 2007

love - a great conundrum

  1. google
  2. effect
  3. affect
  4. awkward
  5. integrity
  6. eclectic
  7. love
  8. ubiquitous
  9. conundrum
  10. metaphor
These were the 10 most frequently looked-up words at the Merriam-Webster Online website in March. Some of them are looked up for their spelling (affect/effect), some for their meaning (ecletic, conundrum), but why would one look up love?

the science of tail-wagging

[Picture: The Center for Neuroscience, University of Trieste]

Animals' brains may be organized as asymmetrically as humans'. The left brain - which controls the right side of the body - specializes in behaviors involving positive feelings, while the right brain - which controls the left side of the body - specializes in "behaviors involving withdrawal and energy expenditure". Being located in the middle of the body, a dog's tail may be controlled by both hemispheres. The New York Times reports a study that looked at directional wagging patterns:
To find out, Dr. Vallortigara and his colleagues recruited 30 family pets of mixed breed that were enrolled in an agility training program. The dogs were placed in a cage equipped with cameras that precisely tracked the angles of their tail wags. Then they were shown four stimuli through a slat in the front of the cage: their owner; an unfamiliar human; a cat; and an unfamiliar, dominant dog.

In each instance the test dog saw a person or animal for one minute, rested for 90 seconds and saw another view. Testing lasted 25 days with 10 sessions per day.

When the dogs saw their owners, their tails all wagged vigorously with a bias to the right side of their bodies, Dr. Vallortigara said. Their tails wagged moderately, again more to the right, when faced with an unfamiliar human. [...]

When the dogs looked at an aggressive, unfamiliar dog — a large Belgian shepherd Malinois — their tails all wagged with a bias to the left side of their bodies.

Thus when dogs were attracted to something, including a benign, approachable cat, their tails wagged right, and when they were fearful, their tails went left, Dr. Vallortigara said. It suggests that the muscles in the right side of the tail reflect positive emotions while the muscles in the left side express negative ones.
If your dog wags to the left if he sees you, there's still hope. Perhaps he is a leftie and his hemispheres are wired conversely.

April 09, 2007

dogs in art

As you would expect, the Milwaukee Art Museum has an impressive collection of 19th-century German art (not my period, but they also have some German expressionists). What I didn't know was how many of these "genre paintings" involved dogs. It seems that there is no Gemütlichkeit without a dog.

The Card Players, by Eduard Gruetzner

The Friendly Game, by Franz von Defregger

St. Nicholas Day, by Ferdinand Waldmueller

Far from Home, by Ernst Bosch

However, the most striking dog painting is not by a German painter.

Edwin Landseer, "Portrait of a Terrier"

And he doesn't look very gemütlich either.

April 07, 2007

happy easter!

Two Easter-related impressions from the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Quadracci Pavilion, by Santiago Calatrava

Miss Frances Lee, by Francis Cotes

April 06, 2007

cool biology

Chihuahuas have it, Newfies don't

Scientists have just discovered which gene fragment controls the size of dogs, the mammal with the greatest range in size: no other species produces adults with 100-fold differences, like that between a 2-pound Chihuahua and a 200-pound Newfoundland.

In a study to be published today in the journal Science, researchers analyzed 3,241 purebreds from 143 breeds. Genetically, the yapper arguing with your ankle is almost identical to the drooling behemoth bred to hunt bears, except for a tiny bit of DNA — universally present in small breeds and largely absent in big ones — that suppresses the “insulin-like growth factor 1” gene. [...]

The study’s lead author, Elaine A. Ostrander, chief of cancer genetics at the National Human Genome Research Institute, said she had visited a lot of dog shows, asking for blood. [...] Making it “cool biology,” she said, is that the same gene suppressor is found in both mice and men, creating mini-mice and suspected in human dwarfism. And because it controls growth gone awry, Dr. Ostrander said, it will help cancer research, and is to be manipulated in mice. But carefully. A mouse the size of a Great Dane, she said, “would be a little scary, wouldn’t it?”

I guess I have a dog that doesn't know that she doesn't have the big dog gene. She thinks she's a big lab and regards small dogs with contempt. Not sure how she'd respond to a giant mouse.

April 04, 2007

ms. metallica tomaro

Baby’s Name Rocks Swedish Tax Board

Metallica may be a swell name for a heavy-metal band. But for a 6-month-old Swedish girl? The decision by Michael and Karolina Tomaro to give the name to their child has led to a clash between them and the Swedish tax agency, The Associated Press reported. Ms. Tomaro, 27, said yesterday: “It suits her. She’s decisive and knows what she wants.” Although Metallica has been baptized, the Swedish Tax Board, which approves names, maintains the population registry and issues personal identification numbers, has refused permission, saying Metallica was associated with the rock group and the word “metal.” The Tomaros appealed to the County Administrative Court in Goteborg, which ruled in their favor on March 13 and also noted that a woman in Sweden already has Metallica as her middle name. The tax agency has appealed, frustrating the family’s travel plans. “We’ve had to cancel trips and can’t get anywhere because we can’t get her a passport without an approved name,” Ms. Tomaro said.

Perhaps one should get the thoughts of another famous Swedish girl with a slightly unusual name on this. What would Ms. Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump have to say about this?

April 01, 2007

"bringing home the bacon"

There's a must-see exhibition at the (stunning!) Milwaukee Art Museum:

Unfortunately, the painter's name (yes, that's his real name -- he is related to that other Francis Bacon) seems to trigger all sorts of bad puns. Not only does the Museum Cafe put specials like "Bacon Onion Pizza" and "Bacon and Goat Cheese Terrine Salad" on its menu, Timeout Chicago cannot resist the phrase "MAM Brings Home the Bacon", which is rotten on so many levels. (According to the OED, it first occurred 1924 in a book by P.G. Wodehouse, which is about as non-Midwestern as it gets.)

ETA: Exhibit A

Exhibit B