Catholic Archbishop Says Alligator is a Fish

It’s so arbitrary. Even when I was little and believed in god I thought the no meat on Fridays was ridiculous. Being restricted to seafood only isn’t much of a sacrifice. Especially when you live near the ocean.

Is it OK to eat alligator on Fridays during Lent? That question isn’t just rhetorical in Louisiana, which has large populations of both Catholics and gators.

“Alligator’s such a natural for New Orleans,” says Jay Nix, owner of Parkway Bakery, which serves a mean alligator sausage po boy sandwich. “Alligator gumbo, jambalaya. I mean, it’s a wonder that alligator isn’t our mascot, you know?”

Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but seafood is allowed. Three years ago, when Jim Piculas was trying to settle a debate among his friends about whether gator qualified as seafood, he wrote a letter to the archbishop of New Orleans to ask.

His letter must have been pretty zealous, because not long after he wrote it, he got a response from Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond saying: “Yes, the alligator’s considered in the fish family, and I agree with you — God has created a magnificent creature that is important to the state of Louisiana, and it is considered seafood.”

Chess is Mandatory in Armenia

From Al Jazeera:

Yerevan, Armenia – Little Susie Hunanyan attended her favourite class in school last week, and it wasn’t drawing, crafts or sport. The seven-year-old sat studiously through an hour of chess lessons.

In Armenia, learning to play the grand game of strategy in school is mandatory for children – the only country in the world that makes chess compulsory – and the initiative has paid dividends. Armenia, a Caucasus country with a population of just three million, is a chess powerhouse.

Susie listened attentively as her teacher explained chess moves on a large board in front of the class at the Yeghishe Charents Basic School in the capital, Yerevan.

“I like chess lessons a lot. They always pass by smoothly,” she said, setting up pieces sequentially on her board.

Armenia has produced more than 30 grandmasters and won the team chess Olympiads in 2006, 2008 and 2012. Armenian champion Levon Aronian is currently the third-best player in the world, according to the World Chess Federation rankings.

(via TYWKIWDBI)

The Dwarves of Auschwitz

From The Guardian:

‘I was saved by the grace of the devil,” Holocaust survivor Perla Ovitz told us. Again and again, she recounted in detail how she and her family were taken to the gas chamber and ordered to strip naked. A heavy door opened and they were pushed inside. “It was almost dark and we stood in what looked like a large washing room, waiting for something to happen. We looked up to the ceiling to see why the water was not coming. Suddenly we smelled gas. We gasped heavily, some of us fainting on the floor. With our last breath we cried out. Minutes passed, or maybe just seconds, then we heard an angry voice from outside – ‘Where is my dwarf family?’ The door opened, and we saw Dr Mengele standing there. He ordered us to be carried out and had cold water poured on us to revive us.”

Dinner in the Haunted Mansion

The dessert is pretty damn cool:

I recently attended what I’d consider the most awesome dining experience of my life – eating dinner inside of one of my very favorite Disneyland attractions.

That’s right folks, I got to eat dinner INSIDE the Haunted Mansion. Dubbed the “Ghostly Retreat,” this special Club 33 event honoring Marc Davis was truly incredible (see details at the end of this post).

Dinner started out with a ride down the stretching elevator to where we’d be eating. As the doors opened, we were awestruck when we saw a long table set for 34 in the portrait corridor of the Haunted Mansion.

I literally squealed with delight. It was the most amazing table setting I’ve ever seen. Fresh flowers, gorgeous vases, elegant table ware, goblets to drink from — it was very overwhelming.

From what I could tell, the table was basically a replica of the table in the Haunted Mansion ballroom. Even the plates, goblets & tablecloth looked the same!

(via Boing Boing)

Raiders of the Lost Ark Brainstorming Sessions

From the New Yorker:

So I was gobsmacked to discover, recently, that over several days in 1978, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and the screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan worked through an idea Lucas had for a film called “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and they recorded the sessions. And there’s a transcript. And it’s online.

After “Star Wars” opened, in 1977, Lucas had sought refuge in Hawaii, and it was on the beach there that he first pitched Spielberg the idea for a film that would recapture the rollicking adventures and Orientalist locales of the matinee serials of Lucas’s youth. Spielberg, who had already enjoyed huge success with “Jaws,” was interested. Having enlisted Kasdan to write the script, they assembled in a little house in Sherman Oaks that belonged to Lucas’s assistant, and, over several days, concocted the film.

Lucas walked into the meeting with an outline of the story, but he wanted to flesh it out with his writer and director. In the transcript, he begins by articulating a recipe for the contemporary blockbuster: the picture will consist of one big set piece after another.

“And each cliffhanger is better than the one before,” Spielberg adds, warming to the idea. “What we’re doing here, really, is designing a ride at Disneyland.”

The hero, Lucas explains, is a globe-trotting archaeologist, “a bounty hunter of antiquities.” He’s a professor, a Ph.D.—“People call him doctor.” But he’s a little “rough and tumble.” As the men hash out the Jones iconography, they refer, incessantly, to other films, invoking Eastwood, Bond, and Mifune. He will dress like Bogart in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” Lucas says: “the khaki pants…the leather jacket. That sort of felt hat.” Oh, and also? “A bullwhip.” He’ll carry it “rolled up,” Lucas continues. “Like a snake that’s coiled up behind him.”

“I like that,” Spielberg says. “The doctor with the bullwhip.”

After establishing his hero, Lucas proceeds to walk through the film’s plot, beat by beat. There’s the opening sequence in South America, which Lucas describes as “misty and primeval, ‘King Kong’-ish.”

The complete 90 page transcript is here (pdf)

And here is a 13 minute supercut of shots from Raiders and their inspirations:

Why Subways Are Important

Krugman:

Here’s an interesting new working paper: Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an ungated version. But here’s the summary: the author argues that mass transit has a significant impact in reducing traffic congestion, even when it carries only a small fraction of commuters. Why? Because commuters who take mass transit are, very disproportionately, people who would otherwise be driving on the most congested routes. So even the small number of people taken off the roads has a surprisingly large effect in reducing travel delays.

(via Poor Mojo)