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To: Maurice Winn who wrote (125)10/30/2023 11:59:19 AM
From: DWB
1 Recommendation   of 140
Good to see you back Mqurice... been a while.


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From: Jon Koplik11/3/2023 1:17:58 AM
   of 140
WSJ -- Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’ movie / can be heard through walls at movie theaters ..............


Nov. 2, 2023

Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’ Movie Is Interrupting Screenings Around the Country

Moviegoers say the pop star’s concert film can be heard through the walls at showings of ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ ‘The Exorcist: Believer’ and more

By Sara Ashley O’Brien

Taylor Swift is unmissable these days. Fans can find her performing live for crowds of 70,000, cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs from a coveted box, stepping out to dinner in New York City and filling theater seats for her “Eras Tour” film.

Even those who aren’t tuning in are getting an earful.

Moviegoers say they’ve been surprised to hear the musician’s songs through the walls at showings of “The Exorcist: Believer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” as theaters have struggled to contain the sound of her nearly three-hour concert film.

Connor Petrey, editor in chief of movie and television review site Cinefied, heard notes from Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” while attending a screening of Martin Scorsese’s “Killers” at a Cinemark-owned theater near Cleveland, Ohio. An emotional scene when stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone grapple with deaths of Osage people “was kind of spoiled by some serious thumping on the wall from the speakers,” Petrey, 27, said. He compared the booming, invasive sounds of Swift’s stadium tour to explosions in a Michael Bay action film.

Rob Laltrello, a 21-year-old video editor, was sitting in the middle of a theater in Marietta, Ga., for a 7 p.m. showing of “The Exorcist: Believer” when he lost focus. “All I could hear was that one song about Romeo and Juliet on my left,” he said, referring to Swift’s “Love Story,” playing during a relatively quiet scene where Victor, played by Leslie Odom Jr., is speaking to his daughter. At another point, Laltrello briefly became preoccupied by the sound of Swift’s “All Too Well (10-Minute Version).”

He said other people in the theater seemed more amused than irritated. “I think everyone there watching ‘The Exorcist’ grew closer, laughing at, like, ‘Why can we hear Taylor Swift right now?’”

The team behind “The Exorcist: Believer” pushed the horror film’s release date by one week to avoid conflicting with the concert film’s Oct. 13 theatrical debut. Producer Jason Blum tweeted the announcement with a Swiftian lyrical reference: “Look what you made me do.”

That hasn’t prevented “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” from stealing the show.

“That’s kind of the impact of her right now,” said Laltrello, who credits having dated a Swiftie for his knowledge of her songs. “Obviously, huge in the news is what’s happening with the NFL and her. This is one more thing where it’s like -- not in a negative way -- Taylor Swift is kind of being crammed down our throats.”

Swift’s connection to Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has been fodder for countless headlines. She’s become a central character during Sunday Night Football and will be performing at stadiums through next November. Her album re-recordings have given fans even more Swift to devour.

To top it off, Swift’s film production has proven a major boon for Swift and theaters, grossing more than $200 million in its first three weekends, according to box-office data from Comscore. AMC Theatres, the film’s distributor, also confirmed the figure.

Chains including AMC, Regal and Cineplex are encouraging attendees to dance and sing throughout the film. Another company, Cinemark, is offering an option for people to rent auditoriums for up to 40 people to have a “full-on dance party” with the film.

Cara Ogburn is the artistic director of the Milwaukee Film, which operates the historic Oriental Theatre that recently underwent a $6 million restoration and renovation. Part of that sum went to installing “sound-dampening material on pretty much every wall” of the three-screen movie theater and adding soundproof doors. That said, noise is still leaking into the lobby. “You can often hear three things happening at once,” Ogburn said.

“We have a history of showing ‘Stop Making Sense’ for many, many years,” said Ogburn of the 1984 Talking Heads movie. “So we are familiar with the joy, as well as the technical challenge that presenting something loud can create.”

“We have yet to receive noise complaints from other auditoriums resulting from these showings,” said Michelle Saba, vice president of communications at Cineplex in an emailed statement. “Cineplex places a high emphasis on ensuring all our guests have a memorable and positive experience in our theaters and take pride in providing viewing experiences in state-of-the-art auditoriums.”

AMC said complaints about disruptive noises in other auditoriums have been lower for “The Eras Tour” compared with other blockbuster releases. “Based on guest survey response data we collect and on anecdotal reports from our theatres, guest experiences related to this film are overwhelmingly positive,” AMC Theatres spokesperson Ryan Noonan said in an email.

Regal and Cinemark did not respond to requests for comment.

Duane Farley II, a 29-year-old pizza delivery driver, and his mother are both horror-film lovers. The two caught a recent showing of “The Exorcist” in Albemarle, N.C., where “The Eras Tour” was audible during moments of “intense silence.”

Farley II joked about the experience with his mother as it was happening: “I’d elbow her and say, ‘Oh I love this one.’”

Davis MacKinlay, a 22-year-old musician and songwriter in Toronto who has tickets to see Swift on tour in November 2024, said it has been hard to ignore concert footage on social media. The concert was also unavoidable at a recent showing of “The Exorcist” that she and her sister attended at a Cineplex-owned theater.

“You could hear the bass and people singing along in the theater. We heard a couple songs faintly,” she said, adding that one “might’ve been ‘Fearless,’” the title track from Swift’s second studio album. She and her sister lip-synced along.

MacKinlay said that the sounds actually enhanced her viewing experience.

“You got the best of both worlds,” she said. “You watch ‘Exorcist,’ and you can hear Taylor Swift at the same time.”

Write to Sara Ashley O’Brien at

Copyright © 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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From: Jon Koplik12/1/2023 1:30:34 AM
   of 140
WSJ -- Your Thanksgiving Alligator Is Ready for Pickup .........................................


Your Thanksgiving Alligator Is Ready for Pickup

Why be a boar? More hosts opt for exotic meats this holiday; ‘a bear Manwich.’

Nov. 21, 2023

An alligator ‘tastes like alligator,’ says a brand ambassador for Meadow Creek, a manufacturer of smokers and grills.

By Charles Passy

Like countless Americans, Kimberly Darling celebrates Thanksgiving with a bountiful, home-cooked feast. Her take on the holiday has a swampy twist: She forgoes the familiar turkey in favor of an alligator she traps on one of her many hunting expeditions, then she brines, smokes and wraps it in bacon before serving her guests.

Pass the gator, please

"People walk in and they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s a literal alligator. What did we sign up for?’” she says.

But the mild taste and tender texture can’t be beat, adds Darling, a 40-year-old nurse anesthetist who lives near Chicago.

While turkey remains the star of the Thanksgiving holiday table, enterprising hosts are adding a gamy touch to the meal, including antelope, camel, kangaroo, elk, squirrel and bear, along with gator.

Kimberly Darling with an alligator she trapped. She prepares one each year for Thanksgiving.

For those not partial to hunting down their main course, meat providers are selling the alternative fare, and they say holiday orders are brisk. At S. Ottomanelli & Sons, a butcher shop in the New York City borough of Queens that dates back some 60 years, exotic meats account for at least 25% of Thanksgiving orders, with kangaroo, ostrich and elk being among the favorites. One of the biggest challenges: sourcing python and rattlesnake, which are also on the list of holiday choices.

“There’s a big demand,” says proprietor Frank Ottomanelli. Many customers today, “they want something different.”

Ralph Forgione, a retiree who lives in Syosset, a locale on Long Island, says his family does have a turkey on the Thanksgiving table, but they like to complement it with everything from venison to elk. “We want to keep to tradition, but we also want to expand it,” he says. Forgione is a particular fan of elk, which he describes as having a red-meat taste, but with an unexpected sweetness.

Atypical meats don’t come cheap. At S. Ottomanelli & Sons, a pound of python steak runs $49.95 and an “exotic meats assortment package” costs $299.

For Ed Butler, a 58-year-old outdoorsman who calls Wolfeboro, N.H., home and owns a heating company, the Thanksgiving holiday is about serving guests a cornucopia of game meats, all of which he has hunted himself. On this year’s menu: bear, venison and squirrel.

Ed Butler processing a bear's leg. He makes a twist on Sloppy Joes -- with bear meat.

Sure, game meats can be a bit strong, says Butler, who dubs himself the “Working Class Woodsman” and does cooking videos. But it is all about how they’re processed and prepared. He makes his bear more palatable for Thanksgiving by fixing it as what amounts to a sloppy Joe—or a “bear Manwich,” as he likes to call it -- with the ground meat generously seasoned.

“It’s my wife’s favorite meal,” he says.

Antelope is among the Thanksgiving to-go options at Dai Due, an Austin, Texas restaurant with a companion hunting school. One of the dishes featuring it is antelope salami, which is yet another way to make a game meat feel slightly more familiar.

Austin resident Kim Famighetti, who works as a real-estate agent, has placed an order for the item, which she plans to feature as part of her holiday spread. Famighetti, 54, is a fan of antelope—she even served it to her wedding guests 15 years ago. And the salami format puts it on more accessible terrain. “It’s not crazy or anything,” she says.

With alligator, there are some who will deep-fry portions of the meat or feature it in a stew. But on Thanksgiving, it is indeed often about presenting the Cajun-country favorite whole for dramatic effect, with feet and head still attached.

“A whole gator is a jaw-dropper to say the least,” says Johnny Thomas, who handles marketing for the Louisiana-based

The company, an online purveyor of just what its name implies, says it sees a huge uptick in orders for whole alligator tied to the holiday. This year, it has shipped out more than 1,100 of the skinned creatures for Thanksgiving, priced anywhere from $114.99 to $699.

Brothers Mike Ottomanelli, left, and Frank Ottomanelli. Frank sells an assortment of exotic meats in the family’s butcher shop in Queens.

Carlos Washington says he wants to shake things up for the holidays, so he is among those ordering an alligator from for his family’s Thanksgiving gathering in Sacramento, Calif. Washington, 36, whose work involves assisting disabled people, has had alligator many times before and evokes the common refrain that it can taste a bit like chicken.

This will be a first-time alligator experience, however, for some of Washington’s family members.

“My mom and grandmother are scared of it,” he says. “And my daughter called it a swamp monster.”

At the very least, smoking a whole alligator can be easier than smoking a whole pig, says Lavern Gingerich, a brand ambassador for Meadow Creek, a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of smokers and grills. Gingerich says by virtue of the alligator’s leanness, the cooking time can be much quicker.

What’s alligator like? Gingerich makes comparisons to everything from pork loin to chicken and wild turkey, but ultimately offers this description: “It tastes like alligator.”

Those who track sales of exotic meats point to signs of growth on a year-round basis. One trade report, dubbed the Power of Meat, says annual sales of exotics, based on figures from December 2022 supplied by market researcher Circana, are up 21.8% over 2019 figures and have reached $120 million.

Culinary and history experts note that as odd as it might seem to serve alligator, antelope or other exotic meat for the holiday, it actually hews closer to tradition than a commercial-grade supermarket turkey. Pilgrims and Native Americans who marked the harvest celebration we call Thanksgiving today feasted on whatever they could hunt or gather, and wild game was bound to be on the menu.

Meats including alligator, elk and boar at S. Ottomanelli & Sons.

Turkeys still rule contemporary Thanksgiving celebrations, with the National Turkey Federation estimating Americans will consume 40 million big birds on the holiday. Many culinary professionals say they’re doubtful of how far the demand for exotic meats on Thanksgiving will go.

Count Pat LaFrieda, a prominent New Jersey-based meat purveyor, among the skeptics. LaFrieda carries venison and alligator as part of his namesake company’s product lineup, but he says it is risky to serve guests something like that on a day when they’re expecting the comfort of the familiar.

“I wouldn’t gamble my holiday meal on it. You’re going to run out of stuffing, that’s for sure,” he says.

Ironically, the biggest turkey fans out there may be alligators, according to Brandon Fisher, a spokesperson for Gatorland, an alligator-filled theme park in Orlando, Fla. There is a long history at the attraction of feeding whole turkeys to the gators around Thanksgiving. They chomp them up in a few bites, bones and all.

“When we pull out these turkeys, their eyes light up,” Fisher says.

Copyright © 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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From: Jon Koplik12/28/2023 1:03:28 AM
   of 140
BBC News -- Why British chocolate tastes the way it does .............................................................


Dec. 24, 2023

Why British chocolate tastes the way it does

By Veronique Greenwood

For some, there is nothing that beats the sweet, creamy, slightly baked flavour of British chocolate, while others find it an affront to their tastebuds. But why does it taste that way at all?

Imagine a taste test with identical-looking squares of milk chocolate, each from a different country. If you tasted them like a sweets-sommelier, swishing your mouth out with water before each to cleanse your palate, would you be able to tell which was British?

Online forums are littered with people insisting that there is a unique flavor to chocolate made in the UK. There are plenty of click-bait news stories as well. People love to weigh in -- and blanket condemnations of certain other nations' chocolates are hurled with glee.

According to food scientists, it's probably not in people's heads. "There do tend to be differences," says Greg Ziegler, a professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University who specialises in chocolate. But there's nothing all that surprising about that. Geographically, tastes vary quite a bit, and food companies are in the business of satisfying them. "A lot of what you like depends on what you were exposed to growing up," says Ziegler. It would be more unexpected if chocolate was the same everywhere. And anyone who has travelled will know this well -- the same big-brand chocolate bar you can pick up in the UK might taste different in the US, Australia and Asia, even if the packaging remains the same.

The real question Is, what gives British milk chocolate that taste?

An exhaustive search of the scientific literature, for both blind taste tests and details of national chocolate recipes, reveals surprisingly few results. There's a reason for that: the people who care most about this issue and have studied it most -- chocolate manufacturers, particularly those that cater to multiple markets around the world -- are not in the business of making their information public.

But Ziegler is able to shed a bit of light on what different groups of consumers tend to expect. "The Swiss like a fair amount of milk in it, probably a higher proportion of milk to cocoa, and a fresh milk taste," he says. In Belgium, milk chocolate is often darker, with a different ratio of cocoa to milk. American milk chocolate, at least of the Hershey's variety, is more acidic. This is because the milk is intentionally broken down during the manufacturing process, yielding a substance called butyric acid, while making a chocolate that's more shelf-stable. Famously, this acid is also present in vomit and partly responsible for its smell, a fact that has fueled many a headline. (Butyric acid is responsible for the smell of rancid butter, but it is also used to create certain food flavourings.)

If that gives you the shivers, you might wonder why Hershey's chocolate exists at all – much less an entire theme park in the sweet's Pennsylvania hometown and $10bn worth of sales in 2022, along with the largest chunk of the US chocolate market. Ziegler recalls that in the 1980s, when he was first working on chocolate, others had made that assumption. "Cadbury decided to put in a plant in Pennsylvania because they decided once people tasted Cadbury's they would no longer buy Hershey's chocolate," he says. "That didn't work out for them."

Hershey's bought Cadbury's American operations in 1988. People get used to a certain flavor, says Ziegler. After that, they like what they like.

If people are detecting a uniquely British flavour in milk chocolate, it's probably down to the way the crumb is made

The same ingredient, you may have noticed, comes up again and again in these discussions of chocolate taste: milk. Chocolate can be made without milk – mix cocoa butter, sugar, and a puree of fermented, roasted cacao beans, and you have a perfectly respectable dark chocolate. But in confections that use dairy, it contributes strongly to the flavor.

What's more, milk is about the only ingredient in which there is a genuine, consistent difference across borders, according to Stephen Beckett, editor of Beckett's Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use, the go-to tome for food scientists learning about chocolate. Beckett, who worked for the British confectionary brand Rowntree's, was from York, England, and in 2003, in the International Journal of Dairy Technology, he delved into the question of British milk chocolate's elusive flavor. It is almost the only public document tackling the issue, and Beckett begins by defining chocolate as a solid fat speckled with sugar, cocoa, and milk solids.

How quickly that fat melts when placed in the mouth affects the flavour of the chocolate -- but there is no particular difference between British chocolate and European chocolates in that respect, according to Beckett. The same is true of the proportion of milk fat in chocolate, and while adding vegetable fats to chocolate is something that is a unique practice among British manufacturers, these fats are tasteless, so they're unlikely to be contributing. What's more, the cacao used to make milk chocolate in both the UK and Europe come from what's known as "bulk" beans. They all tend to come from West Africa, and they're not a likely candidate for taste differences. Sugar, as well, is used in the same range of proportions in many countries -- the proportions used in the UK are not unique. The same goes for the relative proportions of milk.

But where things get interesting is how that milk is treated. Putting liquid milk straight into chocolate is a bad idea, as the extra water impacts the texture, so chocolate makers dehydrate the stuff to get a paste or powder. Just as Hershey's has a signature method of treating their milk, so do British manufacturers. Specifically, they use something called "chocolate crumb".

Beckett traces the origins of chocolate crumb to the early 19th Century, when milk powders, often made in the summer, went sour quickly. Chocolate makers were hoping to find a way to keep them fresh enough to meet the massive Christmas demand for chocolate. During the process, sugar is added to the milk until it reaches a consistency similar to sweetened condensed milk. Then cocoa liquor is added and the mixture undergoes a rapid dehydration process -- often by heating in a vacuum.

The process removes a great deal of water and that, along with the drying action of the added sugar, help control the growth of microorganisms, preventing the fats in the milk from going rancid. The resulting lumpy brown product resembles breadcrumbs, hence its name.

"When drying chocolate crumb at a high temperature, contact between moisture, proteins and reducing sugars is an ideal situation for promoting the browning, or Maillard, reaction," Beckett writes. "This occurs in an extreme form when milk is burnt in a saucepan, and gives rise to brown colours and cooked flavours that are usually quite distinctive and do not normally occur in milk powder products."

The result is a "unique, fruity, caramelised flavour" in the milk chocolate. Among the compounds that add to these flavours are maltol, which has a sweet caramel toffee flavour, and furfural, bringing a sweet, woody, baked-bread note.

Ziegler confirms that chocolate made with crumb, as British milk chocolates are, tends to have a slightly cooked note. "You can get some caramelisation in the milk," he says. If people are detecting a uniquely British flavour in milk chocolate, it's probably down to the way the crumb is made. Outside the UK, other methods for introducing milk, with their own distinctive flavour contributions, dominate.

The chocolate produced using crumb also tends to be more resistant to melting in hotter weather, as the softer fats in the product are bound together with less easily liquified ingredients. Key to this is ensuring the sugars -- sucrose and lactose -- crystalise as fully as possible. This also means the finished chocolate dissolves more readily in the mouth without feeling sticky, according to former head of Cadbury's UK research laboratories, Martin Wells.

Beckett himself made no claims about the superiority of one taste or another in his handbook on industrial chocolate manufacture, the latest edition of which was published three years before his death in 2020.

"There is no such thing as the ideal flavour, as what is pleasant to one person may be unacceptable to another," Beckett wrote. For those of us who find pleasure in a particular type of chocolate that others find unpalatable, it is something to relish: it means there is more for us to enjoy.

Copyright © 2023 BBC.


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From: Jon Koplik1/9/2024 6:03:02 PM
   of 140
BBC News -- Mouse filmed tidying up man's shed every night ............................

[ there is also a video available at : ]

BBC News

7th January 2024

Mouse filmed tidying up man's shed every night

By Charlie Bucklland

Despite being an avid wildlife photographer, retired postman Rodney Holbrook never expected to capture a Ratatouille-style scene unfolding in his own shed.

After regularly discovering that things from the night before had been mysteriously tidied, he set up a night vision camera on his workbench.

It captured a mouse picking up clothes pegs, corks, nuts and bolts.

He has since nicknamed the well-kept rodent Welsh Tidy Mouse.

The 75-year-old from Builth Wells, Powys, said the tidying ritual had been going on for two months.

"At first I noticed that some food that I was putting out for the birds was ending up in some old shoes I was storing in the shed," he said.

"Ninety nine times out of 100 the mouse will tidy up throughout the night.

"It is incredible really that they put them all back in the box, I think it's possible that they enjoy it."

Mr Holbrook believes the mouse is using the objects to hide away nuts, and so far the arrangement has been working in his favour.

"I don't bother to tidy up now, I leave things out of the box and they put it back in its place by the morning," he said.

"I think he would tidy my wife away if I left her in there."

No object seems to trouble the mouse either, as it has even been caught carrying cable ties to the pot.

"It's been a bit of an experiment really, I've added different things to the desk to see if they can lift it," said Mr Holbrook.

It is not the first time he has come across an organised rodent.

When living in Bristol in 2019, his friend reached out for help fixing up a night camera when another mouse was keeping their shed in order.

"That one video went viral and reached people around the world," he said,

"So I can't believe here in Builth Wells we have had the same thing happen years later."

© Copyright 2024 BBC.


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From: Jon Koplik1/15/2024 4:19:58 PM
   of 140
WSJ -- Professor Wages Epic Battle Against Rats Attacking His Car ..............................

Jan. 12, 2024

A New York Professor Wages Epic Battle Against Rats Attacking His Car

From hot sauce to hiding, desperate auto owners are trying everything to keep critters from chewing expensive wiring. ‘They will find you.’

By Ginger Adams Otis

Tom Marion, a theater professor at the City University of New York, is a survivor of roughly four rodent invasions of his car, which he parks in a city that is home to an estimated two million rats.

It can feel like he’s tried as many tricks to defend his ride.

The 62-year-old Manhattanite has wrapped his ignition wires in minty tape, doused garlic-scented potion on his engine, and he purposely parks in a different spot each night, trying to stay a whisker ahead of the enemy.

It is as if his car is made out of cheese.

“They will find you,” he says, of rats. “And they all know each other and they talk to each other.”

Rodents have long ravaged automobiles, and anecdotal reports of critter-on-car B & Es rose in the pandemic, which reduced driving, a pattern that persisted. But skyrocketing now is the wild world of remedies being touted to confounded drivers, especially in cold weather when your stationary sedan can become a flop house for vagrant varmints.

“Help. I have rats in my car and they are destroying everything,” said a December Reddit post, one of many like it, that drew more than 150 replies, including tips to stick bars of Irish Spring soap in the cabin, center console and trunk; “pee next to the car”; spray ammonia near the wheels; place dryer sheets under the hood and seats, or take the nuclear option: “In a few weeks your best option will likely be to set the car on fire and claim insurance,” said one suggestion.

Arizona photographic artist Steve Love suspects a chipmunk snacked through about $700 of wiring in his dad’s Ford Explorer in November. Before that, a rabbit, he suspects, nearly chomped through battery cables and some blinker wiring on the same car.

Love, 59, investigated purported deterrents, including a motion-sensor strobe light, but found a simpler fix.

He props the vehicle hood open every night and secures it with a bungee cord to keep the wind from closing it. The idea? Deprive critters a getaway.

“That way the rodent won’t feel safe in the engine compartment,” he says.

The insurance industry is estimated to have paid out in more than 91,700 car-damage claims caused by rodents, squirrels, and rabbits nationally between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023, according to a recent analysis by State Farm.

After a recent relaxing night on a Hawaii beach, Davarus Shores jumped into his 2003 gold Infiniti to return home to Honolulu -- ­only to have the car die within minutes.

Shores, who is 31 and works in the medical profession, got it towed roughly 40 miles, and mechanics handed him a $2,000 bill and a dead rat. The rodent had entered his engine and nibbled through wiring.

“Poor little rat was just trying to find somewhere to chill that night,” Shores figures.

To prevent incursions, car owners also slather on hot sauce so thick it drips from car wires, or wrap aluminum foil around the bottom of vehicles, under the theory it’s too slippery for rats to scale.

One can buy shields and pastes that promise to make rodents turn tail and run, or invest in ultrasonic pest alarms. An online car forum mentions witchcraft: “Burn rodent bones and chant Druid expulsion alms.”

Will any of it work? Well, in the classic “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, Jerry the mouse usually outwitted Tom. If rats take a liking to your car, you are Tom.

Spraying engines with peppermint might deter some rodents, at least temporarily. Or it might not faze them, according to Jason Munshi-South, an evolutionary biologist and professor of biology at Fordham University.

Garlic oil? White Pepper? Pine-Sol? Same thing, he says.

The word rodent evolved from the Latin rodere, to gnaw. “And so they’re constantly gnawing on things, and that’s the reason they gnaw car wires,” the professor explains.

In some cases, the idea that certain smells or flavors are turnoffs stems from lab tests.

Given a choice, rats in captivity might avoid scented objects, says Munshi-South, but that doesn’t necessarily mean rodents in the real world will do so.

Love, the Arizona artist, suspects there is some truth to the unproven but popular theory that rodents nosh on cars more as automakers switch to soy-based products to insulate wires.

In legal cases, automakers have argued rodent behavior is essentially an act of God.

AAA has suggested rodents might find modern vehicles appealing because of all the wiring from sensors, computers and increased technology.

In New York, Marion’s first rat attack came in late 2022, when he was parking his 2015 Toyota Prius C in an open-air lot in his East Harlem neighborhood.

After rats chewed through wires, the car had to be towed to a garage. Marion’s insurance footed the roughly $1,000 bill.

He chalked it up to bad luck, but when it happened again soon after, he started dousing the car nightly with garlic-scented rodent repellent and “really smelly” peppermint oil. After each drive, he covered his engine with stainless steel wool, yet another rumored rodent barrier.

A few weeks later, his car died again, and Marion discovered a rat, unharmed and squeaking angrily, under the hood. He had to chase it off.

Next, Marion ditched the parking lot for open spots on the street, sometimes as far as a mile away. He still diligently applied rodent repellents nightly. But two weeks later, his car died as he crossed a bridge into Queens. It cost his insurance company another $1,200.

In a remove-the-cheese strategy, he sold his Prius and bought a hybrid Ford Escape. Coincidence or not, he says he hasn’t had an incident since.

But he can’t relax. He avoids parking near trash cans and never parks in consecutive spots.

A rat might case his car, plotting for a break-in, but “by the time they come back, I’m gone,” he says. “I’m never in the same place. I am all around.”

Write to Ginger Adams Otis at

Copyright © 2024 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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From: Jon Koplik1/27/2024 4:43:40 PM
1 Recommendation   of 140
WSJ -- What Being a Museum Guard Taught Me About Looking at Art .............................


Jan. 27, 2024

What Being a Museum Guard Taught Me About Looking at Art

Working at the Guggenheim showed Bianca Bosker that reading labels makes it harder to see what’s actually in front of us.

A visitor looks at a work by artist Refik Anadol at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, January 2023.

By Bianca Bosker

In 2019 I applied to be a security guard at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. According to the job description, I’d need to tell people that flash photography wasn’t permitted, but I was also expected to make conversation about the art and invite people to share their questions. By this point, I’d spent more than a year immersed in the art world trying to develop my “eye,” after getting fed up with my abject failure to appreciate art. I loved the idea that I’d get to discuss paintings with members of the general public who, like me, might have spent a lot of time wandering through exhibitions feeling befuddled. I also wondered how being around art for hours each day, with no ability to escape, would affect me and my relationship with art.

As a guard, I hovered like a coiled jack-in-the-box ready to spring. I’d seize on the flimsiest excuse to draw you into conversation, which was part of my job description, after all. If you took a photo with flash, I’d be on you faster than the speed of light to say “Please don’t,” then ask you what drew you to that piece. People’s responses moved me more than anything I read in the wall labels. “Looking at art is like looking into the future,” said one visitor who couldn’t tear himself away from an Agnes Martin painting of a gray grid on a white expanse. A man stood in front of a Wojciech Fangor painting of a brilliant olive-green circle surrounded by a halo of sky blue, and I watched as his face broke into a huge smile. “Wow. Wow. Wow…It’s, like, pulling you into another dimension. It’s opening to another world,” he said.

Visitors at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, where the author worked as a guard.

I started to imagine how I’d lead my own tour. You’d meet me in the rotunda, just outside the ticket desk, and we’d begin by settling on some ground rules. One: You don’t have to look at everything. Two: You do have to look at something for at least five minutes. Three: Don’t you dare lay eyes on the wall text -- the paragraph-long explanation pasted on the wall beside many of the artworks. Lots of guards agree with me on this. Artists, too: Looking at a painting while reading the wall text “is like trying to have a conversation with the work and someone keeps interrupting,” an artist friend told me once.

I know it’s hard to resist: I read the wall text too. Occasionally it’s helpful, and for years I thought it was downright rude when museums and galleries didn’t offer an explanation of each work. But now, more often than not, I wanted to tear all the labels down. The wall text hovers just to the side of art, like the answer key at the bottom of a word search, its definitive tone sending the message that there’s only one right answer to the art.

Guarding at the Guggenheim made me see that art historians could be unreliable narrators. The Richard Serra sculpture “Tearing Lead,” which consists of a wrinkled rectangle of lead surrounded by four piles of squiggly lead strips, got confused for trash so often that guards were given a Touch Tally -- a clipboard with a photo of the sculpture and instructions to “Please indicate where the piece was touched with an X,” so a conservator could reposition the little tangles of lead to match the picture.

Richard Serra, ‘Tearing Lead’ (1968).

But a conservator I talked with told me that the sculpture was meant to have the metal pieces arranged haphazardly. When the current show came down those lead ribbons would get tossed into a big box, and whoever installed “Tearing Lead” next time would throw them randomly on the ground. The work looks different every time it’s shown -- not that you’d know it from the wall text.

Paintings are constantly shape-shifting too. The blue splotch that an art critic obsessed over in the 1970s might look green to you, and not only because the light is different in the gallery. Van Gogh painted his famous sunflowers with a yellow paint made from then-brand-new lead chromate pigments, which were later discovered to be “fugitive colors” that caused his bright yellow petals to fade to brown, just like real flowers rotting in a vase. In the 1960s, Frank Stella painted geometric abstract canvases featuring jittery stripes of fluorescent colors, like Day-Glo orange and caution-tape yellow, which are already starting to fade. Left un-restored, one conservator warns, they’ll wind up “milky-colored ruins.”

That’s tragic. And magnificent. It’s another reminder to have faith in your own eyes. These works are not immutable. They spoil, rot and sag. You know the work better than the wall text does, because you’re looking at it right now -- in this moment, in this light, in this day and age, on this tour.

Which isn’t to say your eyes don’t need practice. As you follow me up the ramp and into the gallery, I just want you to keep in mind that we’re less-than-objective judges. Research has found that our fondness for certain Monet, Manet and Degas works can be explained by the exposure effect -- a scientific term for our tendency to like things just because we’ve interacted with them more. We’ve seen these works over and over and thus are convinced they’re good. Research also shows that we like a painting less when it’s hung below eye level, prefer the bigger version of two identical paintings, and have a weird fetish for originals. In one study, 80% of participants said that if the “Mona Lisa” was destroyed in a fire, they would rather see the painting’s ashes than a perfect replica.

Constantin Brancusi, ‘Miracle (Seal )’ (ca. 1930-32).

For all these reasons and more, I’m going to insist that you don’t look at the little label beside each artwork. That label -- officially called a “tombstone“ -- includes the artist’s name, the work’s title, the date it was made, what materials it was made with and who gave it to the museum. When I guarded a Brancusi sculpture, I tried to stand in front of the wall label so people couldn’t see it, and I heard their interpretations go wild. They saw a middle finger, a woman giving birth, a graph, a Kurosawa character, a cannon, a dolphin, a nose, a fish. But when their eyes darted to the wall label and scanned the title -- I’ll come clean: the piece is called “Miracle (Seal )” -- they gave up. “Yes! I KNEW it was a seal!” one visitor said, then walked on.

If I learned one thing as a guard, it’s that sometimes being forced to look at an artwork, even when you don’t want to, is life-changing. I’m going to leave you alone with a piece. Challenge yourself to notice five things. If you get stuck, move: Get closer, walk backward or go around it. Notice the most obvious things, the most surprising things, the things that grab your eyeballs despite yourself. Fight the urge to see what you expect to be there; focus instead on what is there. Maybe ask yourself how you’d describe the piece. Or let yourself wonder what it was made with. I’m not concerned with whether you think it’s good. Just watch the thing in front of you.

This essay is adapted from Bianca Bosker’s new book “Get the Picture: A Mind-Bending Journey Among the Inspired Artists and Obsessive Art Fiends Who Taught Me How to See,” which will be published Feb. 6 by Viking.

Copyright © 2024 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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From: John david2/26/2024 8:21:50 AM
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From: Jon Koplik2/27/2024 12:18:50 AM
   of 140
WSJ -- John Hermida skipped stocks and bonds to buy a 1931 Ford Model A ............................

Feb. 25, 2024

Worried About a Market Crash, He Invested in a Depression-Era Car.

John Hermida skipped stocks and bonds to buy a 1931 Ford Model A

By A.J. Baime

John Hermida, 26, a structural engineer living in Miami, on his 1931 Ford Model A, as told to A.J. Baime.

I have always liked classic cars because they’re so mechanical. I was obsessed with Model Ts even when I was a teenager. I had some assets, but with inflation the way it was, I thought the stock market was going to crash. So, instead of the usual stocks and bonds, I looked at classic cars. If you look at the market, classic cars can be good investments, if you take care of them.

I was on Bring a Trailer all the time, and I started watching “Jay Leno’s Garage” videos, trying to learn as much as I could. Then, I found a guy named Paul Shinn on YouTube. He makes videos about the Ford Model A that make this model so accessible. He talks about finding parts and how to fix the cars when they break. I wanted a prewar Packard, but parts are so hard to find. For a guy my age with my resources, a prewar Packard just wasn’t reasonable. But a Model A was.

Unlike the Model T, the Ford Model A offers a mostly modern manual-transmission driving experience, Hermida says.

I found a listing for a Model A that had air conditioning in Oklahoma. A lot of purists hate any modern modification on a classic, but I have lived my entire life in Miami and it’s super hot. I wanted a car I could actually use. The owner and I agreed on a number -- $23,500 -- and so four years ago, this Model A became the first car I ever bought. I was still a college student, studying engineering at Florida International University.

The day the car arrived on a truck, I was blown away. The first thing the truck driver said to me after we had unloaded it was, “You have to drive this thing.” I had not driven a stick shift in a couple years. I had never driven a manual car that did not have a synchronized transmission. So, off I go driving around the block. I must have stalled three times.

The Model A drives ‘like a tractor,’ says Hermida. ‘The brakes are as hard as rocks.’

One of the things I love about the Model A is that it is a highly important car, historically. When it came out, it revolutionized the industry, just as the Model T did before it.

[ Ford introduced the Model A in December of 1927 and, according to the company, Ford reached a capacity of 9,000 Model As per day in 1929.]

Unlike the Model T, the Model A drives like a modern car. Anyone who knows how to drive a stick shift can get in this car and drive it. Although it does have some archaic idiosyncrasies, such as the aforementioned non-synchronized transmission, which means you double clutch when you shift gears.

I live in the house where I grew up, and I keep the car in an air-conditioned garage. Like all decent engineers, I love to tinker, and I have taken apart the brake assemblies and rebuilt them. I replaced the alternator and I learned how a carburetor works, so I could take mine apart, clean it and put it back together.

The 1931 Model A packs a 201-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine and can cruise over 50 mph.

I drive the car every weekend, doing all the normal weekend activities. I take it to see my brother, who lives in Coconut Grove. I get groceries and take it to restaurants. It drives like a tractor. The brakes are as hard as rocks. The steering is heavy at low speeds and light at higher speeds. The car can be a little intimidating because you’re going 50 mph with very little of the protection you would have in a modern car.

The classic-car community has been amazing. Miami is not the most welcoming place, but if you tell someone you have a classic car, you have instant friends. I have met younger people who know how to work on these cars, and people in their 80s and 90s who grew up driving them.

Hermida calls his 1931 Ford Model A ‘Aggie’ for Agatha. ‘What could be a more 1930s name than Agatha?’ he says.

Every car should have a name, I think. With this car, I needed a name that felt really 1930s and that began with an A. So I call it “Aggie” for Agatha. What could be a more 1930s name than Agatha? So if you see me driving this car, you can say hello on a first-name basis.

Write to A.J. Baime at

Copyright © 2024 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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To: Jon Koplik who wrote (134)2/27/2024 6:53:32 AM
From: SirWalterRalegh
   of 140

In 1953, at age 16, I bought my first car. It was a 1931 Ford Model A roadster. A convertible

with a rumble seat. Purchase price $50.

Sold a year later for $95. in order to buy 1939 Pontiac.

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