R.I.P. George Coe

Actor and Director of a Bergman Parody, Dies at 86 (New York Times obituary): ‘George Coe, a film, stage and television actor who earned an Oscar nomination for his single picture as a director — the 1968 short feature De Düva: The Dove, a mock-Swedish-inflected sendup of Ingmar Bergman that has endured as a cult favorite — died on July 18 in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 86.’

I recall seeing De Düva at the late lamented Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge in the early ’70’s. After twenty minutes or so, a member of the audience suddenly stood up in the front row, threw his arms heavenward, and shouted out to the audience, “My God! I’m so stoned I can understand Swedish!”

A De Düva lexicon, via The New York Times:

‘Mooska: Cow

Zooner-or-lätsker: Eventually

Skå she vinska, you godda set her freesk: If she wins, you must set her free.

Me yoost haf dis schmatte waschen: I just had this clothing washed.

H20ska: Water

Phalliken zymbol: Cigar…’

ISIS Transforming Into Functioning State That Uses Terror as Tool

ViaThe New York Times: ‘While no one is predicting that the Islamic State will become the steward of an accountable, functioning state anytime soon, the group is putting in place the kinds of measures associated with governing: issuing identification cards for residents, promulgating fishing guidelines to preserve stocks, requiring that cars carry tool kits for emergencies. That transition may demand that the West rethink its military-first approach to combating the group.

“I think that there is no question that the way to look at it is as a revolutionary state-building organization,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is one of a small but growing group of experts who are challenging the conventional wisdom about the Islamic State: that its evil ensures its eventual destruction….’

Why Does Asking Siri to Charge Your Phone Call the Cops?

Via Gizmodo: ‘Utter the words—and we don’t suggest you do—“charge my phone 100 percent” to Siri, and your iPhone will try and call the emergency services, after a five-second grace period in which you can cancel it. But why?

It might be a bug. Or, as The Verge suggests, it could be a feature that allows you to secretly call the police if you’re in trouble. It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened (like a woman getting in touch with Pizza Hut to save her from a knife attack). So far Apple is yet to confirm why it’s a thing. Any ideas?…’

Incredible Photo of Epic Air Battle Over Valdez, Alaska

This Beetle’s Caffeine Addiction Is Threatening Your Own

Via io9: ‘For its size, the coffee berry borer makes your caffeine consumption look almost laughably manageable, downing an amount that relative to its body mass would be like a person taking 500 shots of espresso in one day—and its habit is becoming a real threat to coffee supplies….’

The LHC Has Discovered a New Sub-Atomic Particle Called a Pentaquark

English: Murray Gell-Mann lecturing in 2007

Murray Gell-Mann lecturing in 2007

Via io9: ‘After restarting to run at higher power than ever, the Large Hadron Collider has made its first proper discovery. Today, a team of scientists announced that they’ve found a new class of sub-atomic particles known as pentaquarks.

Quarks are a series of charged sub-atomic particles that come together to form larger particles—such as protons and neutrons, which are each made of three of the things (a class of particle referred to as baryons). First proposed in 1964 by American physicist Murray Gell-Mann, their existence changed the way people thought about particle physicists.

But quarks can come together to form other entities, too. For a long time, people have speculated that another class of quark ensemble, called the pentaquark, could in theory exist. The pentaquark is, perhaps unsurprisingly, supposed to be made up of five smaller entities—four quarks and an anti-quark. Now, for the first time, researchers working on the LHCb experiment at the Collider have found evidence for their existence….’

Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American history

Hawks hate the Iran nuclear deal and can’t be honest about why

English: Coat of arms of the Islamic Republic ...
Via Vox: ‘Iran hawks displeased with the nuclear deal struck between Iran, Russia, China, the United States, and the European Union have an awful lot of complaints. But if you look closely at what they are saying, you’ll notice something funny. They don’t actually have any arguments about what Obama has done wrong or how a different administration would park the situation in a better place. What they have instead are a lot of talking points, MacGuffins, red herrings, and distractions that aim to divert attention from the core issue — hawks’ desire to avoid diplomacy and have a war….’

The real reason the Iran deal is so controversial

Via Vox: ‘The political battle over the Iran deal is going to be the biggest foreign policy fight of Obama’s presidency. Congress has the power to destroy the deal, and Republicans will do their damnedest to try to use it, however unlikely it is that they’ll succeed.

But this is more than just a policy dispute, and that’s why the fighting is taking place in more than just Congress. Cable news is spinning itself into a froth over whether the Iran deal is a horrifying catastrophe or a golden day in global progress. Odds are good that you’ve already gotten sucked into, or at least worked to avoid, an argument on Facebook over this.

People have strong feelings about this deal — very strong feelings. Maybe that’s partly because they are just that emotionally invested in the details of arms control agreements, or in the triangulations of American Middle East policy. Or maybe there’s something more going on here….’

“I would give it an A”

NASA Releases Stunning Color Images of Pluto and Charon

Alien Hunting Could Go High-Definition With Giant Space Telescope

Study Finds Large Health Benefits To Living Near Trees

The U.S. Military Once Tested Biological Warfare On The Whole Of San Francisco

Via IFLScience: ‘In the wake of World War II, the United Sates military was suddenly worried about and keen to test out the threats posed by biological warfare. They started experiments looking into how bacteria and their harmful toxins might spread, only using harmless stand-in microbes. They tested these on military bases, infecting soldiers and their families who lived with them, but eventually they stepped things up a notch. Disclosed in 1977, it turns out that the U.S. military carried out 239 secret open-air tests on its own citizens….’

Amazing “drone footage” probably just a UFO

Officer suspended after refusing to kill baby bears

Via Boing Boing: ‘A mama bear with two cubs made a habit of sneaking into a mobile home in British Columbia, Canada and raiding the freezer. On one of these visits, conservation officer Bryan Casavant was ordered to kill all three bears. But after putting down the mama bear, he didn’t have the heart to kill the babies.

For his good deed, Casavant is now suspended from his job and under investigation. Fortunately, he’s got a lot of public support for his heroic act….’

Donald Trump joked about dating his own daughter

Trump threatens to “kick El Chapo’s ass,” then calls FBI when El Chapo returns threat

What It’s Like to Be Profoundly Face-Blind

 Via 3quarksdaily: ‘Prosopagnosia is a neuropsychological condition that impairs the sufferer’s ability to recognize faces. It’s also known as face-blindness, and those who are afflicted lack a skill that comes naturally to most humans, forcing them to find ways to work around this deficit….’

The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face)

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

US Coastlines Will Change Dramatically When Earth Warms by 2°C

Via Gizmodo: ‘At a UNESCO climate conference last week, scientists declared (once again) that climate change is already happening. The evidence is our wacky weather—even Paris, where the conference was held, was broiling in a historic heatwave. But the biggest red flag is the rise in peak global mean temperatures: Which means rising sea levels will almost certainly be a reality, too.

As a lead up to the bigger UN climate conference this fall, scientists are now modeling two different warming scenarios to help humans plot a roadmap for how to avoid these futures. Status quo—or even going back to “preindustrial levels”—is no longer an option, even if we ceased all carbon-emitting activity right now. One scenario is if the planet will warm by 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which would be very bad. The other is if the planet will warm by 4 degrees Celsius, which would be very, very bad.

In this month’s Science, a study looked at these warming trends and made some estimates for how these temperature increases would help to accelerate the melting of polar ice sheets. Two or three degrees Celsius would see a rise in sea levels of at least six meters. That’s about 20 feet.

So say we manage to only raise temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius—the best-case scenario. A map made by Climate Central allows you to visit any city to see exactly how much coastlines will change. While there are plenty of usual suspects in this list—Miami would be totally underwater, of course, and we got previews of how rising ocean levels would affect New York City and New Orleans during Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina—there are also some areas that will see a surprising loss of land….’

Of course, I went right to my home city, Boston. The results were quite scary… and that’s only 2 degrees.

This is What We’ve Learned About Pluto in the Past 24 Hours

Via io9: ‘New Horizons is racing to Pluto so quickly, we’re literally learning new things every single day. Exploration is a true planet-wide “Today I learned…” moment: we now know what makes up Pluto’s atmosphere, what makes up its ice cap, and exactly how big it is….’

Follow New Horizons on its journey to Pluto and beyond

What Americans will sound like in 2050

Via The Week: ‘You might think that TV and movies and the general mobility of the population would mean accents are getting more and more similar across the country. This turns out not to be the case. Kids don’t learn their accents from TV; they learn them from the people around them. And different regions are in some ways becoming more different from each other….’

Scientists Predict A Talking Elephant, Szilamandee (who might just save mankind)

Via Neuroskeptic:

‘This is without a doubt the strangest thing I’ve ever read in the pages of a scientific journal. It far outshines the previous record-holder. Otto Rössler is himself a remarkable researcher. A few years ago he was part of an effort that unsuccesfully sued CERN in an attempt to prevent the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) from switching on. Rössler expressed concern that the high-energy physics of the LHC might create a black hole, and thus destroy the world….’

Pope returns to cocaine

The Most Dangerous Game?

There May Be Nowhere Near the Number of Galaxies We Thought There Were

Via io9: ‘Since the Hubble launched, we’ve been seeing stunning image of the crowded universe. Most of the images come accompanied by assurances that what we see in the images is just the start. Astronomers have been excitedly guessing at the amount of faint, distant galaxies that they can’t see. Lurkers surely outnumbered visible galaxies.

New simulations done on Blue Waters, a supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications indicate that that isn’t the case. Researchers at Michigan State University simulated the formation of the early universe. The number of bright, luminous galaxies that the simulations predicted just about synced up with the data we can see from the Hubble. But the simulations indicated that number of faint galaxies, which the Hubble can’t see, wasn’t anywhere near what previous predictions had estimated. Conservative estimates reduce the number of faint galaxies ten times, but it’s just possible that the universe has only one hundredth the faint lurker galaxies we previously thought it did….’

The 6 most hysterical right-wing responses to SCOTUS’ same-sex marriage ruling

We restarted the Cold War

Obama Admits: “There Are Black Helicopters”

Via Gawker: ‘Appearing on Marc Maron’s podcast today, President Obama addressed what is perhaps one of the longest-living conspiracies in America: the existence of black helicopters. They’re real!

“There are black helicopters,” he said, “but we generally don’t deploy them on U.S. soil.”…’

Dylann Roof’s racist manifesto as mainstream?

Via Salon.com: ‘Half of it is nuts, and about half of it could come from a more-or-less mainstream racist politician of the Jesse Helms or Lee Atwater school.

It gives the lie to the ruling conservative meme that Roof was just a loan wacko with no affinities with the white-militia movement that the respectable right has tried to keep offstage. It also shows how the accused killer of nine in a Charleston church has roots in weird ideas that are part of even the think-tank culture of the right: Roof’s manifesto is a kind of distorted, funhouse-mirror reflection of Tea Party-era conservative white America’s core beliefs, and it shares the ahistorical way many conservatives deal with race….’

Sleep Paralysis: In the Style of Demons

Via Motherboard: ‘Your body is capable of simulating suffocation in one highly bizarre and accidental circumstance known usually as sleep paralysis. It’s a sensation-slash-circumstance potent enough to generate enough folklore throughout human history to fill volumes, most of it gravitating towards the victim being tortured by witches or demons. In a human history full of flayings, scaphism, and other wildly creative ways to induce misery in others, sleep paralysis remains even beyond our reach: the realm of demons.

For whatever reason, the witch or demon left me alone for about 10 years. Between 2000 and 2003, they were after me every night, sometimes several times before morning, and I thought for sure that eventually I’d wake up once just in time to die for real. The distance between what sleep paralysis felt like most times and actual death felt to be about three or four heartbeats and one terrifyingly labored breath. Although that’s not totally accurate.

The distance often didn’t feel like anything at all. Sleep paralysis itself feels like just-death or the crux of the dying process, or what you might imagine it to feel like when you’re being afraid of dying….’

Nina Simone’s Time Is Now, Again

Via NYTimes ‘The feminist writer Germaine Greer once declared: “Every generation has to discover Nina Simone. She is evidence that female genius is real.” This year, that just might happen for good.

Nina Simone is striking posthumous gold as the inspiration for three films and a star-studded tribute album, and she was name-dropped in John Legend’s Oscar acceptance speech for best song. This flurry comes on the heels of a decade-long resurgence: two biographies, a poetry collection, several plays, and the sampling of her signature haunting contralto by hip-hop performers including Jay Z, the Roots and, most relentlessly, Kanye West.’

Unarmed man flags down LAPD seeking help. They shoot him in the head.

Via Boing Boing: ‘At 6:35PM last night a man with his hand wrapped in a towel flagged down the police, apparently seeking help. The police thought he had a gun under the towel on his extended arm, and ordered him to drop it. At least one officer fired and hit the victim in the head, leaving him in critical condition. He was unarmed….’

Dog-eating festival in China causes global outrage

Via Boing Boing: ‘In just three days 10,000 dogs will be poisoned, beaten, killed and cooked as part of Yulin, China’s annual dog-eating festival. Many of these dogs are family pets stolen from people’s homes. Although this festival is in its eighth year, protesting has never been as strong as it is this year, with close to a million #StopYulin2015 tweets leading the way. Animal rights groups around the world are working to stop this year’s canine mass murder, including many in China….’

This is a country poised to join the community of ‘civilized’ nations??

All Possible Humanities Dissertations Considered as Single Tweets

Stephen Burt in The NeYorker: ‘This pedestrian term is actually the key to my historical period.

A disputatious panel at last year’s professional conference revealed the surprising state of the field (it’s as bad as you think).

My historical period, properly understood, includes yours.

What looked like a moment of failure, confusion, or ugliness in this well-known work is better seen as directions for reading the whole.

A problem you thought you could solve defines your field; you can’t imagine the field without the problem.

The only people able to understand this work properly cannot communicate that understanding to you.

Those two apparently incompatible versions of a thing are better regarded as parts of the same, larger thing.

Quantitative methods have an unexpected use.

Analytical tools developed for, and strongly associated with, a well-defined set of things in fact apply to a much larger set of things.

A public event simultaneous with, but apparently unrelated to, a famous art work in fact shaped that work’s composition or reception.

This famous thing closely resembles, and therefore responds to, that slightly earlier, less famous thing.

If you teach that old thing in this new way, your students will like it.

If you teach that old thing in this new way, your students will like you.

Before a given date, a now obscure, once omnipresent theory meant that all of culture was somehow different.

After a given date, a new technology meant that all of culture was somehow different.

The name we’ve been using for this stuff is anachronistic. Here’s a better name.

Truth-claims from our discipline cannot be properly judged without expertise that almost no one in our discipline has.

Our discipline should study its own disciplinary formation; that study proves that our discipline shouldn’t exist.

An old, prestigious thing still deserves its prestige, but for a heretofore undiscovered reason.

This feature of modern life began slightly earlier than you thought, and my single text proves it.

Please adopt my buzzword.

This author, normally seen as opposed to certain bad things, in fact supported them without realizing it.

This author, normally seen as naïve or untrained, is in fact very self-aware, and hence more like us.

That obscure, élite thing once had a popular audience.

This short text, seen rightly, reveals the contradictions of a whole culture.

A supposedly fanatical, militant movement that readers have been taught to fear makes perfect sense to those who support it.

The true meaning of a famous work can be recovered only through juxtaposition with this long obscure historical moment or artifact.

I found a very small thing in an archive, but I can relate it to a big thing.

To see what this thing meant to its first readers, you must attend meticulously to the physical contexts in which the thing first appeared.

This is why we can’t have nice things….’

What is life? Is death real?

Nina Simone’s Time Is Now, Again

Via NYTimes: ‘The feminist writer Germaine Greer once declared: “Every generation has to discover Nina Simone. She is evidence that female genius is real.” This year, that just might happen for good.
Nina Simone is striking posthumous gold as the inspiration for three films and a star-studded tribute album, and she was name-dropped in John Legend’s Oscar acceptance speech for best song. This flurry comes on the heels of a decade-long resurgence: two biographies, a poetry collection, several plays, and the sampling of her signature haunting contralto by hip-hop performers including Jay Z, the Roots and, most relentlessly, Kanye West.’

As Stress Drives Off Drone Operators, Air Force Must Cut Flights

Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Coat of arms of Syria

Via New York Times: ‘After a decade of waging long-distance war through their video screens, America’s drone operators are burning out, and the Air Force is being forced to cut back on the flights even as military and intelligence officials are demanding more of them over intensifying combat zones in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

The Air Force plans to trim the flights by the armed surveillance drones to 60 a day by October from a recent peak of 65 as it deals with the first serious exodus of the crew members who helped usher in the era of war by remote control….’

Afghanistan’s Destroyed Buddhas Given New Life As Holograms

Via io9: ‘In March 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, a pair of giant statues dating to the 6th century in the Bamyan valley in central Afghanistan. Now, the statues have been resurrected with 3D light projection technology.

A Chinese couple, Janson Yu and Liyan Hu worked to develop a projector at the cost of $120,000, which they first tested in China before bringing the system to the UNESCO World Heritage Site this past weekend. With the permission of UNESCO and the Afghan Government, they were able to project a 3D image into the slots in the cliffside that housed one of the statues. For the evening, the statues stood once again in a symbolic work of art. While the statues are physically gone, they cannot be easily erased from our collective memory….’


The Attack on Truth

​The Internet of the Game of Thrones

via ​Motherboard: ‘Today, commentary on the happenings in Game of ThronesSeason 5, Episode 10 are the most-read stories on the web’s most-read websites…

At time of writing, four of Vox’s most popular stories were Game of Thrones-related, including the top three. Buzzfeed’s most popular post is a rundown of a GoT fan theory, and three more are comfortably slotted in the top ten. Two out of three of Gawker Media’s “trending stories” are about GoT. A discussion of the GoT finale was the most popular article at The Atlantic, a literary magazine founded in 1857. The show got an entire, dedicated feature spread over at New York Magazine. A straight-up episode recap even slid into the New York Times’ vaunted “Most Viewed” list.’

Mafioso Science: What happens to corpses buried in cement?

Via Seriously Science?: ‘What happens to a body buried in cement? How long does it take to decompose? If the mafia were to do an experiment, it might well be this one! These (Italian) scientists set out to answer these questions using (what else? ) piglet corpses. Don’t worry, the authors assure us that they died of “natural causes”……’

‘Wild Knights’

Woman charged with murder after taking abortion pill

Via Boing Boing: ‘Kenlissia Jones, 23, of Georgia has been charged with murder after a hospital social worker reported her to the police for taking cytotec pills she purchased online to terminate her pregnancy. She is being held on charges of malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug. Leaders in both pro-choice and anti-abortion groups said they were surprised by the charges….

[UPDATE: Murder charges dropped. Jones still faces a misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous drug.]’

The Evidence Points to a Better Way to Fight Insomnia

Via NYTimes.com: ‘When it comes to insomnia, comparative effectiveness studies reveal that sleep medications aren’t the best bet for a cure, despite what the commercials say. Several clinical trials have found that they’re outperformed by cognitive behavioral therapy. C.B.T. for insomnia (or C.B.T.-I.) goes beyond the “sleep hygiene” most people know, though many don’t employ — like avoiding alcohol or caffeine near bedtime and reserving one’s bed for sleep (not reading or watching TV, for example). C.B.T. adds — through therapy visits or via self-guided treatments — sticking to a consistent wake time (even on weekends), relaxation techniques and learning to rid oneself of negative attitudes and thoughts about sleep….’

R.I.P. Ornette

3quarksdaily: Ornette Coleman Dies at 85

via 3quarksdaily: ‘Mr. Coleman widened the options in jazz and helped change its course. Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early ’60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm, and gained more distance from the American songbook repertoire. His own music, then and later, became a new form of highly informed folk song: deceptively simple melodies for small groups with an intuitive, collective language, and a strategy for playing without preconceived chord sequences.’



Memories of Satan

Sacrifice of a Christian Child

Sacrifice of a Christian Child

Via Motherboard: ‘A series of videos recently uploaded on YouTube show two young children divulging disturbing information about a secret society active in north London.

The siblings reveal that they have been the victims of satanic ritual abuse, inflicted upon them at school and church in the affluent suburb of Hampstead. In hours of video footage that has been viewed millions of times, they describe the sacrificing and eating of babies, grotesque sex parties, and rituals of satanic worship.

“The assertions were that babies had been abused, tortured and then sacrificed,” a judge later put it. “Their throats were slit, blood was drunk and cult members would then dance wearing babies’ skulls—sometimes with blood and hair still attached—on their bodies.”

They name dozens of perpetrators, claiming teachers and the parents of other pupils belong to the pedophilic cult lead by their own father.

Naturally the police took these initial accusations seriously.

But after six officers searched the church, they found no reason to suspect any satanic behaviour. Eventually, after two police interviews, the children admitted it was false—citing physical and psychological abuse from their own mother Ella Draper and her partner Abraham Christie, who pressured them to lie.

“That was all made up,” the 9-year-old girl explains to the police. “He told me to say that, and I said ‘Why, Abraham? That’s not true though’ and he said ‘Yes, that is true, so don’t lie and say that to the police. They dance around with baby skulls in the church, don’t they?’ That’s what Abraham told me, and I said ‘no, they don’t’ and he said ‘yes, they do—stop lying, you little brat.’”

Despite the confession, campaigners are adamant that there is more to this case then we are being lead to believe. “Believe the children!” “Satanists!” were some of the cries that could been heard just a few weeks ago at a demonstration outside the school.

How did huge numbers of people become so frenzied over baseless accusations, and how did the line between fact and fiction become so blurred?

Meanwhile, High Court Justice Pauffley determined in March that there had been no satanic cult. “I am able to state with complete conviction that none of the allegations are true,” she said. “I am entirely certain that everything Ms. Draper, her partner Abraham Christie, and the children said about those matters was fabricated. The claims are baseless. The stories came about as the result of relentless emotional and psychological pressure as well as significant physical abuse.”

“Both [children] P and Q have suffered significantly. Their innocence was invaded. Their grip on reality was imperilled.”

“Their minds were scrambled.”


As bizarre as this story seems, it’s far from the first time someone has contrived a story about satanic horrors—and repeated it so many times that they themselves almost began to believe it. In fact, it’s been happening since the early 1980s. In a BBC Radio 4 documentary, journalist David Aaronovitch identifies the controversial book Sybil, published in 1973, as the predominant cause of what came to be known as “the satanic panic.”…’