Corn smut is a disease of maize caused by the pathogenic plant fungus Ustilago maydis. U. maydis causes smut disease on maize (Zea mays) and teosinte (Euchlena mexicana). Although it can infect any part of the plant it usually enters the ovaries and replaces the normal kernels of the cobs with large distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms. These tumors, or “galls”, are made up of much-enlarged cells of the infected plant, fungal threads, and blue-black spores. The spores give the cob a burned, scorched appearance. In fact, the name Ustilago comes from the Latin word ustilare (to burn).
Considered a pest in most of the United States, smut feeds off the corn plant and decreases the yield. Usually smut-infected crops are destroyed. However, in Mexico corn smut is called huitlacoche (IPA /wi.t͡ɬa.ko.t͡ɕe/, sometimes spelled cuitlacoche), an Aztec word reportedly meaning raven’s excrement . It is considered a delicacy, even being preserved and sold for a higher price than corn.
Huitlacoche is the fungal, culinary delicacy Ustilago maydis that grows on ears of corn. Inhabitants of Mexico and indigenous people from the Southwestern United States enjoy this rich, smoky ingredient in foods like tamales, soups, quesadillas, appetizers, and ice cream. While farmers treat huitlacoche as an infectious affliction that ruins corn crops, it has a long history in the cuisine of Aztecs, Hopi, and Zuni.
“Its use is attended with shedding of the hair, both of man and beast, and sometimes even of teeth. Mules fed on it lose their hoofs, and fowls lay eggs without any shells” (Rowlin). “It is doubtless by its abortifacient power that it causes the eggs of fowls to be extruded before there has been time for a shell to be formed. By what power does it cause the shedding of the hair of man and brute animals, and the casting off of the hoofs of mules long fed upon it?” (Prof. Tully). “In a cowhouse, where cows were fed on Indian corn infested with this parasite, 11 of their number aborted in 8 days. After their food was changed none of the others aborted” (Annal. Med. Netr. Belge, and Rép. de Ph.). The better to be convinced of the poisonous nature of this fungus, the author, after having dried and pulverized the drug, administered 6 drachms to two bitch dogs with young, which soon caused them to abort” (Dr. H. W. Burt, Amer. Homoeop. Obs., 1868, p. 305).
Every time I get a nicely layered Laika coffee, and watch the beauty of that first stir, I think to myself: If I ever make a movie, this will be the opening shot. Today I realized that with my little macbook pro isight camera, I could film it, and get that first shot I’ve always wanted. Now to make the rest of the film…Hmm there’s a nice gimmick boing boing would like: a full-length feature film, made entirely with a built-in MBP isight camera. Who’s in?
Michael Geist on HMV’s decision to drop the price on back-catalog CDs:
This week, HMV announced that it was reducing the price on hundreds of back-catalog CDs generating a surprising amount of news coverage (Post, CBC). The move is good for everyone – the recording industry gets an important retail outlet to reduce prices on increasingly hard-to-find CDs (their largest retail outlets such as Wal-Mart do not carry many older titles), HMV gives a boost to music sales at a time when digital downloads, DVDs and video games command a growing share of the market, and consumers may find that the $20 sticker shock on some older CDs disappears. Yet leave it to CRIA to use the opportunity to spin this as a copyright reform story. HMV said absolutely nothing about the issue, because high-priced, older CDs have little to do with P2P file sharing or copyright law. CRIA’s Graham Henderson claims, however, that “it’s an effort to stem the tide of illegal downloading that threatens retailers and everyone else in the recording industry” and argues that other countries have reduced P2P through copyright reform while “a succession of Canadian governments have sat on their hands and done nothing.”
So from a Canadian perspective in all this music biz debate about P2P/copyright/downloading, the real question ought to be not: how much money are record companies making/losing? but rather: how many active “professional” music artists are there in Canada now? Is that number increasing or decreasing? If it’s increasing (which I think it must be) then we should ask why? As in: does rampant P2P have a positive or negative impact on the number of professional musicians in Canada? And if it’s positive, then you’d have to conclude that there is an overall benefit to P2P, regardless of what the CRIA and others on the business end have to say, since really copyrights are theoretically about creating incentives to make art. Negative, and you’d have the opposite conclusion. (Assuming you could get the “right” conclusions out of your data).
I have no idea what the stats are on professional musicians (do any of you?). And how would you define that? The number of musicians who make money from their work (many)? Or the number who live off their work (fewer)? Or the number of millionaires (very few)? It would be interesting to see these stats.