The word chancellor derives, believe it or not, from the Italian word for wooden latticework, cancelli. In the church architecture of sixth-century Rome, a latticework screen demarcated an area near the altar where deacons or priests would stand, waiting to assist the principal celebrant as needed. In English, this area became known as the chancel. In consequence, a trusted assistant came to be known as a chancellor. In the High Middle Ages, that title was given to the cleric who would correspond on behalf of and maintain the archives for an important churchman, such as a bishop.
The custom of giving presents at Christmastime recalls the Magi, or wise men, of the Nativity story (Matthew 2:1-16), who were most likely not "kings" but astrologers. Paintings usually depict three wise men presenting gifts to a newborn in a stable. However, a persnickety reading of Matthew's text reveals that the precise number of Magi, although it must have been at least two, is not stated. The text specifically mentions a house rather than a stable, and implies that Jesus was a toddler. So much for the great Renaissance painters doing their research, or even reading carefully. The text, however, does specify three gifts, and it is that inventory—of gold, frankincense, and myrrh—which has given rise to the common (but not necessarily commonsense) inference that the number of wise men was three.
The fundamental object of the invention is to provide...the listener a realistic impression that the intelligence is being communicated to him over two acoustic paths in the same manner as he experiences in listening to everyday acoustic intercourse....—Blumlein, et al, British Patent #394,325, issued June 14, 1933
I don't know who originated the idea of "desert island" recordings. I do know that for many years there was a BBC radio program in the UK that asked celebrities to list their choices. While reading quite a few of those lists, I had the sneaking suspicion that the respondents either hadn't entered fully into the spirit of the task, or were tailoring their choices with a view to what the radio or reading audience would think. (Interior monologue: "I am an anorak-wearing viola da gamba player. Hmmm. Birth of the Cool had better be on my list. London Calling, too, just to be safe.")
Ah me. Victoria's Secret underwear (sorry; lingerie) model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos' publicist politely declined my request for an interview with her. An interview with the model, not the publicist. But you already knew that, and you are (best Claude Rains voice) shocked—shocked!
In my January "The Fifth Element" column, I discussed the concept of value in the context of audio component manufacture. This month's "Letters" includes a response to that column from Austrian distributor Hans Hirner. In his letter, Herr Hirner writes about some of his Web-surfing non-customers: "If that weren't enough, they also call me or my dealers to tell them how proud they are, after having taken all from me that is possible in system matching and trial—and even denoising their systems—to have been able to find 'our' products cheaper out there."
Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) is acknowledged as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. She is additionally accorded the rare (especially for a mystic) distinction of recognition as a "Doctor" of the Faith. On a somewhat less exalted level, but perhaps resonating even more clearly with the truth of common human experience, Teresa (who had Jewish ancestry; why is that not surprising?) is credited with coining the phrase "Be careful what you pray for, you might get it."