Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little something for the weekend

In Japan, if you’re sad and lonely you can hire a pet to cheer you up. Perhaps a cat, or perhaps a beetle:
There are more than 150 companies in Tokyo which are licensed to hire out animals of various kinds and although beetles may be cheap, dogs are much more popular.
First you pay a deposit and a hire fee. Then you are issued with a leash, some tissues and a plastic bag and given some advice on how to handle your new friend.
Kaori is a pretty waitress who regularly spends her Sunday afternoons with a Labrador. They go for a walk in the park if the weather is fine, or if it is wet they just snuggle up in front of the TV in her apartment.
“When I look into his eyes, I think he’s my dog,” Kaori told me. “But when I take him back to the shop, he runs away from me and starts wagging his tail when he sees the next customer. That’s when I know he’s only a rental dog.”
Being Japan, it gets even weirder – you can hire a (this is not about sex) temporary girlfriend or temporary dad for your children. You can even hire a mother.

English historian Andrew Roberts sticks up for George W. Bush and his probable legacy in a piece provocatively titled “History will show that George W Bush was right”. Money shot:
When Abu Ghraib is mentioned, history will remind us that it was the Bush Administration that imprisoned those responsible for the horrors. When water-boarding is brought up, we will see that it was only used on three suspects, one of whom was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qaeda's chief of operational planning, who divulged vast amounts of information that saved hundreds of innocent lives. When extraordinary renditions are queried, historians will ask how else the world's most dangerous terrorists should have been transported. On scheduled flights?
There’s a robustly sceptical view of homeopathy here, and of relativism here.

The English classical music magazine Gramophone has put its entire archive online, so you can read interviews, articles and reviews going back to 1923. It’s astonishingly useful, and astonishingly generous. Look up any performer, any LP, any CD, and if they were worthy of note they’ll be there. There are 35 search results for Frank Zappa, 5507 for Handel. Speaking of whom, it’s 250 years ago that he died, so there will be a flood of CDs and guff this year. Here is Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing “Bane of Virtue” in the 1996 Glyndebourne production of his opera Theodora. And yes, that is Dawn Upshaw in the white frock in the close-ups.

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