User Picture

Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday September 18, 2014 8:07 pm

IMPORTANT: MYFDL IS CHANGING TONIGHT! READ JANE’S POST FOR DETAILS! MORE BELOW THE VIDEO!

 

Eva Ybarra plys a blue sparkly accordion against a backdrop of downtown San Antonio.

Eva Ybarra, Queen of the Accordion, performed in San Antonio, Texas at the International Accordion Festival.

Tonight’s music video is Eva Ybarra performing ”El Eco De Mi Voz.” Eva is widely known as La Reyna Del Acordeón — the Queen of the Accordion. Like Dwayne Dopsie, Tsuumi Sound System, and Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, she performed on Saturday at San Antonio’s International Accordion Festival.

I wanted to capture Eva as very few have seen her before- just her and the accordion. As you can see, she is one of the few who utilize the bass section of the accordion and composes her own songs.

Eva Ybarra, the ‘La Reyna Del Acordeón,’ is one of a few women accordionists who have become professionals in a style that has traditionally been dominated by men.

When she was 4, her father presented her with a small accordion. Migrant laborers, but also musicians, her parents were thrilled that Eva took interest in the accordion and now had an alternative to working in the fields. At age 6, she began performing with her parents around town, helping them earn extra money. By her late teens, she had mastered the instrument and was proving many wrong about the capabilities of a woman accordionist.

She recorded two CDs on Rounder Records A Mi San Antonio (1994) and Romance Inolvidable (1996). Most of the songs are written by Eva and demonstrate her virtuosity and creativity.

In 1997 she went to the University of Washington as a visiting artist in the Ethnomusicology Department. Currently, she teaches at Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio and works on various projects with Smithsonian Folklife.

This song is beautiful, but also a little sad — a fitting tribute for tonight, it felt.

With the changes coming to MyFDL, this may very well be the last Watercooler for a while. Tomorrow is also my last day with Firedoglake. Although Jane wanted to keep me on at FDL, I’m moving on to another opportunity. You can read this entry on my personal blog if you’d like to find out where I’m going next and where to find my writing. I’ll still be visiting and crossposting to the ‘Lake frequently, and you will always be able to keep up with me on Twitter and Instagram.

I began editing on Firedoglake in April of 2012. It’s been a pleasure to work with you here almost every single weekday since then, and I’ll miss editing Over Easy every morning, along with checking in with all the rest of you and your important, enlightening, and entertaining words. Thanks for being part of FDL and part of the Watercooler and part of my experiences here.

This is more like “so long” than “goodbye” — I may even host an occasional Book Salon. But I’ll still miss being a part of the Lake from Monday through Friday. You’ve taught me a lot and made me smile!

 

I’ll leave you with one last piece of weird Texas news to discuss around the Watercooler.

A Prada storefront in the middle of the desert, labelled Prada Marfa.

Neither a storefront not an advertisement, after all.

Lonely in the desert of Texas, on the way to Marfa, is an unlikely Prada outlet. Or so it might seem at first glance. It’s actually an art installation.

Prada Marfa is a site-specific, permanent land art project by artists Elmgreen & Dragset constructed in 2005. Modeled after a Prada boutique, the inaccessible interior of the structure includes luxury goods from Prada’s fall collection from that year. The door does not open, ensuring that the sculpture will never function as a place of commerce. Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa co-produced the project.

‘Prada Marfa is an artwork initiated by ourselves and realized in a collaboration with the not-for-profit cultural organizations Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa in 2005. It was not a work commissioned by the fashion brand Prada nor had the fashion brand any involvement in the creation of this work. They kindly gave us the permission to use their logo after we asked them, due to the founder Muccia Prada’s personal interest in contemporary art, and she donated shoes and bags, which have never been renewed but stay the same – as a historic display – inside the sculpture.’

The state threatened to remove Prada Marfa on the grounds that it was an illegal advertisement — only to save it through a bit of a legal loophole. From Adweek:

Prada Marfa, an art installation 26 miles northwest of the West Texas town of Marfa—featuring a fake Prada storefront containing luxury goods—is not an illegal advertisement and can remain on its site off U.S. Highway 90, the state decided this week.

The installation, by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, has been up since 2005. But it came under scrutiny last year, when Playboy built Playboy Marfa—which was deemed to be illegal advertising.

This week, arts organization Ballroom Marfa reached a deal with the Texas Department of Transportation to have Prada Marfa designated as an art museum site and the building as its single art exhibit.

An Adweek colleague who has been to Prada Marfa tells me you can see bullet marks in the bulletproof glass, as the stuff inside is indeed real Prada.

 

May you always find plenty to write about and the words never be blocked! And be sure to look me up if you’re in Austin …

 

Wednesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Wednesday September 17, 2014 8:15 pm

 

A woman in a flowing white skirt stands in the doorway of a stone building.

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino invoke the traditional music and dance of Italy’s Salento region.

Tonight’s music video is “Nu Tu Fermare” by Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino.

Formed by writer Rina Durante in 1975, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino is regarded as Italy’s leading and longest-standing traditional music ensemble, hailing from the Salento, the heel of the Italian boot, in Puglia.

Italy’s fascinating dichotomy of tradition and modernity come together in the music of CGS: the seven piece band and dancer are the leading exponents in a new wave of young performers re-inventing Southern Italy’s Pizzica musical and dance traditions for today’s global audience.

The tens of thousands who often congregate for this Lecce-based band’s concerts in Italy know: Bandleader, fiddler, and drummer Mauro Durante and company can make an audience shimmy with the energy of the ancient ritual of pizzica tarantata, said to cure the taranta spider’s bite with its frenzied trance dances. CGS shows are a life explosion: full of energy, passion, rhythm and mystery, they bring the audience from the past into modernity, and back.

Like Dwayne Dopsie and Tsuumi Sound System, this is another band that played at Satuday’s International Accordion Festival. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino are “traditional” in a way that reminds me of groups like Dead Can Dance — using ancient melodies toward a modern aim. They were the last act at the Festival, closing out the day in the darkness with the lights of San Antonio behind them. Their music emphasizes string instruments and traditional percussion, and as they wailed and hummed into the night I could close my eyes and feel myself carried somewhere very far from Texas, to a place that seemed both timeless and long ago. I don’t know how I would have discovered the haunting music of this ensemble without this event; I really hope the San Antonio City Council continues to fund the Festival for many more years.

Jeff Wilson, a professor at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, has moved into a 36-square-foot dumpster as an experiment in designing simpler livingThe Atlantic profiled his project:

Professor Wilson went to the dumpster not just because he wished to live deliberately, and not just to teach his students about the environmental impacts of day-to-day life, and not just to gradually transform the dumpster into “the most thoughtfully-designed, tiniest home ever constructed.” Wilson’s reasons are a tapestry of these things.

Until this summer, the green dumpster was even less descript than it is now. There was no sliding roof; Wilson kept the rain out with a tarp. He slept on cardboard mats on the floor. It was essentially, as he called it, ‘dumpster camping.’ The goal was to establish a baseline experience of the dumpster without any accoutrements, before adding them incrementally.

[...] Wilson, known around town as Professor Dumpster, recounted in another recent interview that he now owns four pairs of pants, four shirts, three pairs of shoes, three hats, and, in keeping with his hipsteresque aesthetic, “eight or nine” bow ties. (That’s an exceptional bow-tie-to-shirt ownership ratio.) He keeps all of this in cubbies under a recently installed false floor, along with some camping cooking equipment.

Customization of the space really began in July. Wilson asked Twitter what was the first thing he needed, and the response was almost unanimous: air conditioning. In the Austin heat, the dumpster was getting up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. On some nights it did not fall below the high 80s. So on his six-month anniversary of living in a human-sized convection oven, Wilson procured a modest air conditioner.

[...] With the weather station now strapped to the top, Wilson tracks his personal climate in real time. Pulling up data on his computer from inside his centrally cooled office as we spoke, he announced that the dumpster was currently 104 degrees. During the spring, when Austin was a little cooler, he was able to pass some daytime hours in the dumpster. With the arrival of summer, that became unbearable. ‘But some interesting things happened because of that,’ he explained. He spent a lot more time out in the community, just walking around. ‘I almost feel like East Austin is my home and backyard,’ he said.

[...] ‘What does home look like in a world of 10 billion people?’ the project’s site implores, referring to the projected 40 percent increase in the human population by the end of the century. ‘How do we equip current and future generations with the tools they need for sustainable living practices?’

Read the full article for more information and some great photos.

Tuesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Tuesday September 16, 2014 8:05 pm

 

Tonight’s music video is “All Night Long” performed by Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers at Bluesfest in Gaildorf, Germany.

‘America’s Hottest Accordion’ winner, Dwayne (Dopsie) Rubin, plays a unique, high energy style of zydeco. Dwayne hails from one of the most influential Zydeco families in the world. Although inspired by tradition, he has developed his own high energy style that defies existing stereotypes and blazes a refreshingly distinct path for 21st century Zydeco music. This singer/songwriter and accordionist has performed all over the world since debuting his band, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, at age 19.

Dwayne, born March 3, 1979 in Lafayette, Louisiana, was the last of eight children. Dwayne attributes his musical ablilities to his father, Rockin’ Dopise, Sr., a pioneer of Zydeco music. As a small child, Dwayne was interested in the washboard, but quickly realized he had incredible talent with an accordion. He has played the accordion since age seven and states, ‘This is my calling – Zydeco music is in my blood and it is my heart and soul.’ As a tribute to his late father, the most influential person in his life, Dwayne plans to record an album of his Dad’s greatest Zydeco hits.

Dwayne Dopsie holds his accordion in front of an outdoor stage.

Dwayne Dopsie raised Zydeco hell in San Antonio, Texas Saturday at the Arneson River Theater at La Villita.

Like Tsuumi Sound System, Dwayne Dopsie is another artist I saw at International Accordion Festival. The group had an intense energy that got the crowd to their feet. The theater was crowded and the efforts of two police officers to keep a walkway clear turned fruitless when Dopsie and his wickedly talented washboard player Paul Lafleur came into the audience to close out their set with a dance off. Everybody but the police was smiling and enjoyed this little bit of Louisiana hellraising in downtown San Antonio, Texas.

Is writing good for your health? Rachel Grate of Arts.Mic has compiled a collection of science that seems to support this idea.

No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. In a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.

By writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events, participants were significantly more likely to have fewer illnesses and be less affected by trauma. Participants ultimately spent less time in the hospital, enjoyed lower blood pressure and had better liver functionality than their counterparts.

It turns out writing can make physical wounds heal faster as well. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.

Even those who suffer from specific diseases can improve their health through writing. Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.

But does writing about the cancerous corruption in America make us more optimistic about our political prospects, too?

Thanks to Rachel Hurley for this link.

Bonus: Radical Librarians are protecting patrons privacy, via Boing Boing

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Monday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Monday September 15, 2014 8:23 pm

 

Tsuumi Sound System in concert

Finland’s Tsuumi Sound System performed Saturday at the Arneson River Theater at La Villita, San Antonio, Texas.

Tonight’s music video is “Altitude” from Finland’s Tsuumi Sound System, from their album Floating Letters.

Tsuumi Sound System is one of Finland’s internationally most notable modern folk music bands. Rooted in Nordic folk traditions, classical idioms and innovative modern ideas, this eight-piece band draws their strength from a huge mixture of influences. Besides the recording work and the award-winning compositions, their energetic show has enthused a public of all ages from Scandinavia to Sicily.

I went to the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, Texas last Saturday, where I saw an amazing, global selection of talented musicians at a completely free outdoor event. This festival was a gift to everyone that attended and the musicians as well. It’s publicly funded and has suffered from budget cuts in recent years, so if you’re listening San Antonio city council: keep this music going. And if you’re anywhere near San Antonio next September I hope I’ll see you there.

Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and MIT have used light to teach mice to suppress a fearful memory in favor of a more pleasurable one, according to Psypost.

‘There is some evidence from pyschotherapy that positive memory can suppress memories of negative experience,’ [Lead inveatigator Susumu] Tonegawa says, referring to treatments that reduce clinical depression by helping patients recall positive memories. ‘We have shown how the emotional valence of memories can be switched on the cellular level.’ [...] Tonegawa explains that the contextual information about these events – where and when they happened – is recorded in the brain’s hippocampus, whereas the emotional component of the memory is stored separately, in a brain region called the amygdala. “The amygdala can store information with either a positive or negative valence, and associate it with a memory,” Tonegawa explains.

Last year, Tonegawa and his colleagues reported that by artificially activating the small set of cells that stored a specific memory in a mouse, they could create a new, false memory. In that study, the team made the cells that stored a memory of a safe environment sensitive to light, so that they could be manipulated by the researchers. Switching on those cells while subjecting the animal to a mild shock in a new environment caused the mouse to fear the original environment, even though it had had no unpleasant experiences there.

In those experiments, the scientists had caused the mice to associate a neutral setting with fear. Now Tonegawa and his colleagues wanted to see if he could alter a memory that was already associated with emotion. Once an animal had developed fear of a place, could the memory of that place be made pleasurable instead?

To find out, the scientists began by placing male mice in a chamber that delivered a mild shock. As the mouse formed of memory of this dangerous place, Tonegawa’s team used a method it had previously developed to introduce a light-sensitive protein into the cells that stored the information. By linking the production of the light-sensitive protein to the activation of a gene that is switched on as memories are encoded, they targeted light-sensitivity to the cells that stored the newly formed memory.

The mice were removed from the chamber and a few days later, the scientists artificially reactivated the memory by shining a light into the cells holding the memory of the original place. The animals responded by stopping their explorations and freezing in place, indicating they were afraid.

Now the scientists wanted to see if they could overwrite the fear and give the mice positive associations to the chamber, despite their negative experience there. So they placed the mice in a new environment, where instead of a shock they had the opportunity to interact with female mice. As they did so, the researchers activated their fear memory-storing neurons with light. The scientists activated only one subset of memory-storing neurons at a time – either those in the context-storing hippocampus or those in the emotion-storing amygdala. They then tested the emotional association of the memory of the original chamber by giving mice the opportunity to move away from an environment in which the memory was artificially triggered.

[...] ‘So the animal acquired a pleasure memory,’ Tonegawa says. ‘But what happened to the original fear memory? Is it still there or is it gone?’ When they put the animals back in the original chamber, where they had experienced the unpleasant shock, the animals showed less fear and more exploratory and reward-seeking behaviors. ‘The original fear memory is significantly changed,’ Tonegawa concludes.

[...] In an accompanying News & Views article in Nature, Tomonori Takeuchi and Richard G.M. Morris of the University of Edinburgh, state, ‘What is so intriguing about this study is that the memory representations associated with a place are dissected into their network components and, rather than re-exposing the animals to the training situation to achieve a change, light is used to selectively reactivate the representation of the “where” component of a memory and then change its “what” association.’

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Masks

By: Kit OConnell Friday September 12, 2014 8:42 pm

 

It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

Masks is a macabre little film inspired by a musical score.

In 2009, Musician Karl von Kries created a seven minute audio score, Animator Patrick Smith drew what he heard. Masked men exploit an edible smaller species as a renegade scientist perfects a cloning process to satisfy demand, but the clones conceal a destructive secret.

A partial human face mask lays in the grass

Even its creator might not know what lies behind the mask.

Here’s a little more about director Patrick Smith:

Patrick Smith has directed six animated short films in the last decade. Currently Smith is a Professor of Animation in the graduate program at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts in Singapore. He’s also a fellow with the New York Foundation of the Arts, and a curator for multiple international film and animation festivals.

And a few more of his thoughts on Masks:

Began as an audio experiment with recording artist Karl von Kries, Masks illustrates modern exploitation, production and consumption in animated terms. The audio in Masks came first, thus all images exist to tell the musical story, instead of the typical method of scoring music after animation has been completed.

But digging a little more shows that Masks also represents the artistic process takes us unexpected places. Originally, Smith intended the film to be an exploration of the metaphor of masks in daily life:

the idea of a mask fascinates me. as does the concept of an anonymous call. a certain type of truth exists when identity is hidden. And it’s surprisingly easy to spot the real thing, the individual who has something to share, a comment about why they or others hide what’s underneath a metaphorical mask.

Only to abandon the concept when musician von Kries presented Smith with an evocative score that told its own story.

Three months ago Masks was nearing completion, and then COMPLETELY TRASHED, we can thank Karl von Kries for this. Karl wrote a piece of music which was compelling enough for me to ditch the “man on the street” interview-based concept in favor of an abstract, bizarre, symbolic story. So over a year of hard work and a ton of money wasted. thanks Karl.

Karl von Kries music style is a bit like The Shins getting beaten up by the Afghan Whigs while Radiohead and Jeff Buckley sulk in the shadows. Our first collaboration was on my first film Drink, and I think the music got more attention than the animation! [...] What stands out with Karl is his willingness to experiment and record things that nobody else would, creating atmospheres that match.

You can read more about Patrick Smith’s work at Blend Films. Karl von Kries’ website seems to be broken, so here’s a video of a live performance that I found.

 

Seen any good cartoons lately? What are you watching on TV these days?

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your Friday thoughts.

Block #HB2: Austin Banner Drop for Texas Abortion Access

By: Kit OConnell Friday September 12, 2014 8:57 am
Banner on an overpass: Abortions Save Lives. Keep clinics Open. Block #HB2.

During rush hour on September 11, 2014, activists tied this banner to an overpass of Interstate Highway 35.

On Thursday activists in Austin, Texas performed a “banner drop” — tying a painted sheet to a highway overpass — above Interstate Highway 35 during a busy evening’s rush hour. The banner read, “Abortions Save Lives, Keep Clinics Open, Block #HB2.”

House Bill 2, or the Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill, places draconian restrictions on the ability of residents to access abortion. It’s already forced many clinics in the state to shut down through its unreasonable requirements such as hospital admitting privileges for doctors and holding clinics to the standards of surgical operating theaters, even if they only administer abortion with pills.

A lawsuit brought by Whole Women’s health clinics successfully blocked portions of the bill. Federal Court Judge Yeakel blocked the final portions of the bill, set to go into effect on September 1.

From RH Reality Check’s Andrea Grimes:

A federal judge blocked part of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, HB 2, late on Friday, ruling that its restrictions on Texas abortion providers—requiring them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers—are unconstitutional.

Without the court’s injunction, HB 2 could have reduced the number of Texas abortion providers to eight.

‘The act’s ambulatory surgical center requirement places an unconstitutional undue burden on women throughout Texas,’ ruled Judge Lee Yeakel, who also determined that the portion of the law that requires abortion-providing doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges is unconstitutional as it applies to doctors in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley; those doctors also brought claims against the state in a lawsuit filed this summer.

The state’s attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott immediately filed an appeal against Yeakel’s ruling, only to be rebuffed by the Fifth Circuit. One clinic was even able to re-open.

But the bill returns to court on Friday, September 12 where many worry the victory for abortion access could come to an end.

Ian Millhiser, writing for ThinkProgress, calls it a “Disaster for Team Choice:”

The one silver lining facing advocates seeking to halt several provisions of a Texas law limiting access to abortion is that, when the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decides this case, their decision may not be unanimous. Judge Stephen Higginson, an Obama-appointee to the Fifth Circuit, is one of the three judges who will consider this case on Friday. So, when the panel of judges issues their opinion, Higginson might write a dissent arguing that Texas’s law is unconstitutional.

There’s little chance that this position will win over another member of the panel, however, as the other two judges who will hear the case are staunch conservatives.

Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod has twice voted to allow Texas to enforce the law restricting abortions, most recently when she voted to uphold a provision of the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. When Elrod was selected to hear that case, we described the three judges who were selected to hear it as a ‘nightmare federal appeals court panel’ for pro-choice advocates. It is unlikely that her views on abortion have changed much since then.

The worst news for the lawyers challenging Texas’s law, however, may be the fact that Judge Jerry Smith is the third judge who will hear their case. In 2012, just hours after a lower court judge issued an order suspending funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, Smith issued a two sentence decision blocking that order. What made Smith’s action in this case unusual, however, is that he did so in a single-judge order, something the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure only permit in ‘an exceptional case in which time requirements make that procedure impracticable.’ It’s not clear what exceptional time constraints prevented Smith from consulting with two of his colleagues before issuing this order, as is the normal process in a federal appeals court.

HB2 has ties to ALEC and other anti-human corporate interests. The Fifth Circuit case means the courts once again have the opportunity to choose between human rights and inhumane right-wing politics.

Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday September 11, 2014 8:34 pm

 

A tortoiseshell black & white cat, photographed against a stone wall.

Brooke, the current Mouser at Glenturret Distillery, must fill Towser’s legendary shoes.

Tonight we learn about “Corruption, Wealth and Beauty: the History of the Venetian Gondola” from TED-Ed.

It’s hard to imagine Venice without the curious, banana-shaped gondolas that glide down the canals. How did these boats come to be the trademark transportation of Venice? Laura Morelli details the history of the gondola, explaining why these boats were needed, the painstaking process by which they were made and why they have slowly begun to fade from the once-crowded canals.

Lesson by Laura Morelli, animation by Andrew Foerster.

Ari Shapiro, writing for NPR, brought a special class of feline to my attention: the distillery cat!

There’s the common house cat, the scrappy alley cat, the quasi-domesticated barn cat. Less famous, but equally distinguished on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, is the distillery cat.

Scotland may be the best place to investigate this member of the feline tribe. With more than 100 whisky distilleries crammed into an area about the size of Kansas, the only question is where to start.

We chose the oldest distillery in the country. Glenturret has been operating nonstop in central Scotland since 1775. General Manager Stuart Cassells says it still does things old-school.

[...]On the central path between buildings at Glenturret, the scent of leaves and grass mixes with the smells of wood, smoke and caramel from the whisky-making process. Looming over it all is a proud bronze statue. It’s not the company founder, or a bottle of whisky. It’s a cat. The greatest distillery cat of them all.

Towser the Mouser is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records for catching mice. Estimated lifetime kills: 28,899. ‘They say every time Towser caught a mouse, she brought it back to the stillhouse,’ says Neal Cameron, who has been making the whisky here for 19 years. ‘Whether it was the whole mouse or it was a headless mouse, I have no idea. But she brought them back to the stillman.’

Cameron explains that whisky requires grain, which attracts mice and birds. And that is the very short distillery cat origin story.

Vermin are not such a problem today. ‘We might get the odd one, two mice throughout the year, but that’s about it,’ says Cameron.

[...]‘The contemporary distillery cat is becoming more of an ambassador,’ says author and food journalist Brad Thomas Parsons. He wrote a piece in the drinks magazine Punch that first alerted us to the potential of the distillery cat as a subject for serious journalism.

Parsons explains that this is a perfect marketing device. Cats are inherently photogenic. ‘I haven’t seen any one-eyed cats or very curious cats’ in the distilleries, he says. ‘From tortoiseshell to white to black to tuxedo to marmalade to ginger — when you have a cat sleeping on a bourbon barrel or curled up in the rafters, it’s a good picture. It’s a good image all around.’

Everyone taking a tour of your distillery posts a photo of the cat on Facebook or Instagram, and voila! Free advertising.

And remember, Winter is coming …

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Wednesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Wednesday September 10, 2014 6:58 pm

 

A tired looking, fluffy calico cat lays on her side on a bed.

“Is it Friday yet?”

Tonight’s music video is Israel Nash performing “Just Like Water” at Austin’s KUTX.

Originally from Missouri, Nash moved out of the heartland to New York to pursue his musical ambitions. There he released his first record Barn Doors and Concrete Floors to critical praise. Now in the the Texas Hill Country, Israel Nash’s sound has taken a turn reflecting his deep appreciation of the ‘endless Texas skies.’

You can hear three more songs from the performance at the KUTX website.

Etsy, the online crafters’ marketplace, will no longer accept items for sale which include the racist name or logo of the Washington’s NFL team.

The online purveyor of whimsical crafts and repurposed socks announced today that items containing the Washington football team’s and logo will be banned from the site.

‘We understand that fans wish to support their favorite football team, and we do not believe that fans who are attached to the mascot have any racist feeling or intent,’ Bonnie Broeren, Etsy’s policy manager, said in a blog post. ‘We also understand that some fans view the name and mascot as an homage to Native Americans, and we do not doubt their noble intent, but the fact remains that Native Americans themselves find the term unacceptable.’

Broeren cites the decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the team’s trademarks in her reasoning. ‘Like the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, we at Etsy find the opinion of the minority group itself to carry most weight in determining whether the mascot is disparaging,’ she said. ‘In no uncertain terms, Native American groups have consistently advocated and litigated that the term … is disparaging and damaging to Native Americans. Therefore, it will no longer be permitted in our marketplace.’

Bonus: “I Think I’ll Just Stay In Texas (But Bring Me Back A Bagel)” from Rising Tide North America

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.