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Story Sunday: Ig Nobel Prize Goes For Alligator On Helium

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Alligator On Helium Image
Image Credit: Lund University
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MSN & CNN

“Alligator sucking on helium wins parody Ig Nobel Prize”

Scientists are answering a question no one is asking. What would it sound like if an alligator sucked up helium? When a team of international researchers wanted to find out whether a gator’s vocalizations relate to its body size, they devised an experiment that would earn them the 2020 Ig Nobel (a wordplay on “Nobel” and “ignoble”) Prize for acoustics. Researchers captured footage of the snorting alligator in a helium-filled tank. In perhaps one of the biggest letdowns in the history of scientific study, it sounded nothing like a cartoon chipmunk. Now in its 30th year, the annual Ig Nobel Prize awards ceremony, usually presented at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, was conducted remotely due to pandemic restrictions.

Among this year’s other elite competitors, a study which demonstrated that meticulously groomed eyebrows are a reliable indicator of grandiose narcissism took home the prize in psychology. The prize in economics went to an international team of creeps (presumably) who wanted to know whether the rate of French kissing correlated with national income inequality. Based on data from 13 countries across six continents, they found that where kissing was more frequent, income inequality was also more likely to occur. Go figure. American Richard Vetter took home the prize in entomology for his brave study on spiders (which aren’t technically insects) that revealed most of his peers are, allegedly, arachnophobic. And, the award for materials science went deservedly (because it’s gross) to a collaboration between the US and the UK to study whether frozen human feces could be made into usable knives. Spoiler alert: It certainly cannot.

But, who could forget the most Ig Nobel moment in recent history? The medical education prize went to a roundup of sometimes ill-advised world leaders for showing that “politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can” during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Hannah Sparks
New York Post
September 18, 2020

Tune Tuesday: Heart Of Glas 1979

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Blondie Image One
Frank Infante, Chris Stein, Jimmy Destri, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke & Nigel Harrison
Photo Credit: recort.nl

Forty years ago, today, the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart was Heart of Glass by Blondie. Written by Harry and Stein in 1974-75, its working title was Once I Had A Love. The inspiration for its writing came from The Hues Corporation‘s song Rock the Boat.

From The Guardian:

Heart of Glass was one of the first songs Blondie wrote but, it was years before we recorded it properly. We’d tried it as a ballad, as reggae but, it never quite worked. At that point, it had no title. We just called it “the disco song”. Back then, it was very unusual for a guitar band to be using computerised sound. People got nervous and angry about us bringing different influences into rock. Although we’d covered Lady Marmalade and I Feel Love at gigs, lots of people were mad at us for “going disco” with Heart of Glass. There was the Disco Sucks! movement, and there had even been a riot in Chicago, with people burning disco records. Clem Burke, our drummer, refused to play the song live at first. When it became a hit, he said: “I guess I’ll have to.” The lyrics weren’t about anyone. They were just a plaintive moan about lost love. At first, the song kept saying: “Once I had a love, it was a gas. Soon turned out, it was a pain in the ass.” We couldn’t keep saying that, so we came up with: “Soon turned out, had a heart of glass.” We kept one “pain in the ass” in – and the BBC bleeped it out for radio. ~Debbie Harry

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As far as I was concerned, disco was part of R&B, which I’d always liked. The Ramones went on about us “going disco” but, it was tongue-in-cheek. They were our friends. In the video, there’s a shot of the legendary Studio 54, so everyone thought we shot the video there but, it was actually in a short-lived club called the Copa or something. I came up with the phrase “heart of glass” without knowing anything about Werner Herzog or his movie of the same name, which is a great, weird film. It’s nice people now use the song to identify the period in films and documentaries. I never had an inkling it would be such a big hit, or become the song we’d be most remembered for. It’s very gratifying. ~Chris Stein

Blondie Image Two
Photo Credit: nypost.com
An Oral History of Blondie

From CityBeat:

In season one, DJ Johnny Fever not only plays Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” on his broadcast but, home audiences actually hear him announce the band’s, and the song’s, names. It was fantastic promotion for the up-and-coming Blondie, whose huge breakthrough album, Parallel Lines (with other seminal singles like Hanging on the Telephone and One Way or Another), came out the same month WKRP in Cincinnati debuted. The band reportedly gave the show a Gold record plaque celebrating the album’s major sales numbers as a “Thank You” card. It can be seen in the background as set design on several episodes in later seasons.

From NPR:

Unlike many DJs from that era, Fever played punk as well as rock and soul. The range of music on the show gave this fictional radio station a better playlist than most of the era’s real ones. […] although the show helped break Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” big, the exception, in Fever’s case, was disco. “I asked him to play one disco record and he threatened to throw himself in front of Donna Summer‘s tour bus,” Travis complains in “Baby, If You’ve Ever Wondered,” from season two.

As of April 20, 2011, Heart of Glass is #259 of Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Awards & Nominations
Best Selling International Single (Juno 1980)
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (2006)
Grammy Hall of Fame (2016)

Lyrics