Monday, September 6, 2010

A Sumpling Of Our Horde, Part 1

Golden Horde treasure in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

     Some years ago, when we still lived on East 86th Street in Manhattan, we used to get very good take-out Greek food from a restaurant in Yorkville whose name I can’t remember, but whose mezze, souvlaki and bread I will never forget. On their menu, the “assorted appetizer” dish (the aforementioned mezze), was described as follows: “a sumpling of our horde”.

        We patronized the place for years and they never amended the description to read “a sampling of our hors d’oeuvres”, so “a sumpling of our horde” has a special, fond memory for me.

        There are some people who organize their blogs in advance using schedules and pre-determined themes. I think devising structures like that is generally a good idea, but I work in a more catch-as-catch-can way. Consequently, I snag and collect ideas and images that don’t exactly suit immediate purposes, which I keep around my virtual attic against a day when they might. I mean, you can find a lot of fascinating things – more than you would ever decently imagine – floating around cyberspace.

        I’d like to share just a few of them this Labor Day, and possibly, in future installments: A Sumpling Of Our Horde.

One Time Pad

        In cryptography, the one-time pad (OTP) is a type of encryption , which has been proven to be impossible to crack  if used correctly. Each bit or character from the plaintext is encrypted by a modular addition with a bit or character from a secret random key  (or pad) of the same length as the plaintext, resulting in a ciphertext.  If the key is truly random, as large as or greater than the plaintext, never reused in whole or part, and kept  secret, the ciphertext will be impossible to decrypt or break without knowing the key. It has also been proven that any cipher with the perfect secrecy property must use keys with effectively the same requirements as OTP keys. However, practical problems have prevented one-time pads from being widely used.  While hard to use, it has often been the choice for highly sensitive traffic. Soviet spies used one-time pads in the 1940s and -50s. The Washington-Moscow “hot line” also uses one-time pads.

Pictures show:  The Cambridge Spies (Anthony Blunt, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby and John Cairncross).

     The "Cambridge Spies" all used One Time Pads during the course of their espionage.  Their infamous and epic saga of dedication to a cause coupled with the rankest betrayal of friends, colleagues and country has been recounted in investigative journalism, academic tomes, in theater and on film, in both documentary and fictional versions.  It never ceases to fascinate.  The Mitrokhin Archives provide the most reliable current information about these traitors ("double-patriots" in their own estimation), but even that invaluable trove doesn't answer all of the remaining questions about these men, their work and their intentions.

Carla Olson

     I sometimes think of Carla Olson as the "real Chrissie Hynde".  Why this LA-based, Texas-reared guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer didn't attain Chrissie's level of success is something I'll never understand.  Carla's work with the Textones, her solo albums and her collaborations with Gene Clark (So Rebellious A Lover and Silhouetted in Light) and Mick Taylor (Too Hot For Snakes and various album tracks) are all  endlessly enjoyable.

Joe Brainard's Nancy As Nude Descending A Staircase (after Marcel Duchamp)

        The American artist Joe Brainard (1942-1994) is also endlessly enjoyable for his sophistication, visual humor and heart, and his work is conceptually and stylistically solid, but virtually unclassifiable in the way it straddles the usual and "given" categories.  This adaptation of Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending A Staircase, which I only saw recently, displays his wit and intelligence. While an obvious and very funny joke picture, it can be seen and considered on many levels.  I think Duchamp would have enjoyed it.

Chauffe Saucisses Professionel

     The Chauffe Saucisses Professionel is a French-manufactured commercial hot dog maker similar to the ones found in Les Tuileries in Paris, which is suitable for household countertop use .  As the hot dogs are steamed, the baguette buns are speared on the heated prongs.  Condiments are added to the indented rolls and the hot dog is then inserted.  When this recession finally lifts (and my mood with it), I am going to acquire one of these machines.  My daughter Jane enjoyed her Paris park hot dogs more than almost anything she's ever sampled.

Oil Collector designed by Jane Roberts

        The oil collector Jane designed in response to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill seems to me to be extremely clever in design and humane in conception and approach.  When she showed it to me, I was very proud of her.  You can click on the picture to enlarge it and read the detailed descriptions on the diagram.


  1. Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) on3121

    Grv Namirha

  2. Thank you for sending the link, which I enjoyed on a number of levels.