Microdoses of LSD and mushrooms as an alternative to Adderall (or coffee!)

Via Boing Boing:

’Self-experimenters, inspired by a 2011 presentation by The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide author James Fadiman, are taking tiny “sub-perceptual” doses of LSD and psilocybin to encourage workplace creativity and give them pep and a positive outcome in life overall…

For best results, Fadiman recommends microdosing every fourth day, taking the drug in the morning and then sticking to your usual daily routine. His correspondents have told him regular microdosing has alleviated a bevy of disorders, including depression, migraines and chronic-fatigue syndrome, while increasing outside-the-box thinking. “Microdosing has helped me come up with some new designs to explore and new ways of thinking,” (one advocate) says. “You would be surprised at how many people are actually doing it. It’s crazy awesome.” …’

Ben Carson’s campaign made a U.S. map and put a bunch of states in the wrong place

Via The Washington Post:

’Happy Geography Awareness Week! Recognizing that “too many young Americans are unable to make effective decisions, understand geo-spatial issues, or even recognize their impacts as global citizens,” National Geographic created this annual observance to “raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education.”

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign inadvertently underscored this point Tuesday night, when it took to social media to share a map of the United States in which five New England states were placed in the wrong location. The campaign deleted the Twitter and Facebook posts Wednesday morning after media outlets and social media users pointed out the error.’

Billy Collins: “This Much I Do Remember”


It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,
and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.
All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders
that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.
Then all the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from the millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.
Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.


Source: barbara

Edison’s Last Breath at the Henry Ford Museum

‘Housed in the Henry Ford museum is a test tube said to hold Thomas Edison’s last breath…

Even great industrialists have heroes. Such was the case of Henry Ford and his idol Thomas Edison…

It’s no surprise that Ford wanted something to remember Edison by after he passed away in 1931. As the legend goes, Ford asked Thomas Edison’s son Charles to sit by the dying inventor’s bedside and hold a test tube next to his father’s mouth to catch his final breath. Ford was a man with many eccentricities (as was Edison) including some interest in reanimation and spiritualism, and some say that he was attempting to capture Edison’s soul as it escaped his body in hopes of later reanimating the inventor…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Coffee Tied to Lower Risk of Dying Prematurely

“More good news on coffee: A large study has found that drinking coffee is associated with a reduced risk of dying from heart disease and certain other causes. Researchers followed more than 200,000 doctors and nurses for up to 30 years. The participants had periodic physical examinations and completed questionnaires on diet and behavior, including their coffee habits. The study is in Circulation….”

Source: NYTimes.com

Follow Me Here… (est. 11/19/98)

“I am the world crier, & this is my dangerous career… I am the one to call your bluff, & this is my climate.” —Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)

… celebrating seventeen years of a dangerous career, today. Thanks for following me.


Cell Phone Location Tracking Laws By State

‘Location records can reveal an enormous of information about a person, especially with the proliferation of smartphones that constantly track our whereabouts. Because privacy laws haven’t kept up with advances in technology, police have long claimed the authority to access this information from cell phone companies without warrants.

That’s changing. While Congress and the Supreme Court haven’t yet weighed in on whether a warrant should be required for location information, little by little, state legislatures and lower courts are expanding privacy protections for more and more Americans.

That does mean, however, that the status of your privacy protections depends on where you are. For example, your location information is protected in Montana, but not in Georgia. In Illinois, police need a warrant to know where you are right now, but not where you were last week. In California, your location information is protected against warrantless search by state and local police, but not by federal authorities. In other states, we’re still waiting for rulings, and in Florida, state and federal courts are at odds on the matter.

The map [above] details the status of cell phone location tracking laws by state. Click on any highlighted state for more information….’

Source: American Civil Liberties Union

Anonymous Has Declared War on ISIS

In a video published on YouTube, a masked Anonymous spokesperson explains in French that ISIS can “expect massive cyber attacks. War is declared. Get prepared. Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down.”

Source: Gizmodo

Behold the Most Extensive Face Transplant in Medical History

‘A firefighter from Mississippi whose face became disfigured during a rescue attempt is the recipient of the world’s most extensive face transplant. The 41-year-old now bears the face of a 26-year-old man who recently died in an extreme cycling accident.As reported in Reuters, the 26-hour surgery was performed by a 150-person medical team (!) from New York University…’

Source: Gizmodo

You Won’t Live to See the Final Star Wars Movie

‘If everything works out for Disney, and if you are (like me) old enough to have been conscious for the first Star Wars film, you will probably not live to see the last one. It’s the forever franchise.Kathleen Kennedy, who oversees the Star Wars franchise for Lucasfilm, has produced 93 films in her career.

These new movies won’t just be sequels. That’s not the way the transnational entertainment business works anymore. Forget finite sequences; now it’s about infinite series. Disney also owns Marvel Comics, and over the next decade you can expect 17 more interrelated movies about Iron Man and his amazing friends, including Captain America: Civil War, two more Avengers movies, another Ant-Man, and a Black Panther (not to mention five new TV shows)…’

Source: WIRED

Here’s a map of every state refusing to accept Syrian refugees

‘In the wake of Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, more than twenty US governors have said they won’t allow Syrian refugees to resettle in their state. As of Monday afternoon, 23 governors had issued statements saying they would bar Syrian refugees from settling in their states, citing fears that violent extremists will masquerade as refugees in order to gain entry to the United States…’

Source: Vox

Did the media ignore the Beirut bombings? Or did readers?

‘If social media is an expression of public sentiment, then it seems significant that perhaps the most widely shared tweet on Friday’s terror attacks in Paris was not about Paris at all but rather was about another terror attack, earlier that week, in Beirut:

No media has covered this, but R.I.P to all the people

that lost their lives in Lebanon yesterday from Isis attacks

— Jackjonestv (@jackjonestv) November 14, 2015

…[What] is most striking to me about this tweet, now shared by well over 50,000 people, is that it’s wrong: The media has, in fact, covered the Beirut bombings extensively.The New York Times covered it. The Washington Post, in addition to running an Associated Press story on it, sent reporter Hugh Naylor to cover the blasts and then write a lengthy piece on their aftermath. The Economist had a thoughtful piece reflecting on the attack’s significance. CNN, which rightly or wrongly has a reputation for least-common-denominator news judgment, aired one segment after another on the Beirut bombings. Even the Daily Mail, a British tabloid most known for its gossipy royals coverage, was on the story. And on and on.

Yet these are stories that, like so many stories of previous bombings and mass acts of violence outside of the West, readers have largely ignored…’

Source: Vox

The surprising reason why ISIS may be lashing out: because it’s losing

‘Some analysts worry that as ISIS suffers battlefield losses, it may shift more of its energy away from the battlefield and into international terror attacks like what happened in Paris. ISIS is losing ground in Syria and IraqOn the ground in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has in fact been stalled and in many places even turned back. According to Will McCants, the head of the Brookings Institution’s Project on US Relations With the Islamic World, ISIS “lost something like 25 percent of their territory” since its peak last summer.By the end of June 2015, ISIS had lost nearly 10 percent of the remaining territory it held at the beginning of the year…’

Source: Vox

Why is English so weirdly different from other languages?

‘English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world’s thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It’s weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels ‘normal’ only until you get a sense of what normal really is.

There is no other language, for example, that is close enough to English that we can get about half of what people are saying without training and the rest with only modest effort. German and Dutch are like that, as are Spanish and Portuguese, or Thai and Lao. The closest an Anglophone can get is with the obscure Northern European language called Frisian: if you know that tsiis is cheese and Frysk is Frisian, then it isn’t hard to figure out what this means: Brea, bûter, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk. But that sentence is a cooked one, and overall, we tend to find that Frisian seems more like German, which it is.

We think it’s a nuisance that so many European languages assign gender to nouns for no reason, with French having female moons and male boats and such. But actually, it’s us who are odd: almost all European languages belong to one family – Indo-European – and of all of them, English is the only one that doesn’t assign genders that way.

More weirdness? OK. There is exactly one language on Earth whose present tense requires a special ending only in the third‑person singular. I’m writing in it. I talk, you talk, he/she talk-s – why just that? The present‑tense verbs of a normal language have either no endings or a bunch of different ones (Spanish: hablo, hablas, habla). And try naming another language where you have to slip do into sentences to negate or question something. Do you find that difficult? Unless you happen to be from Wales, Ireland or the north of France, probably.

Why is our language so eccentric? Just what is this thing we’re speaking, and what happened to make it this way? …’

Source: linguist John McWhorter, in Aeon

The perfect response to people who blame Islam for ISIS – Vox

‘There has been and will continue to be mounds of scholarly research and debate on what role, if any, Islam and Islamism play in ISIS’s actions and its worldview. But, when it comes to the question of blame that will be sadly prevalent in the coming days, I have found that one of the most effective and to-the-point contributions is this 30-second clip from historian Reza Aslan, responding to hostile questions on CNN suggesting that Muslims are inherently violent… Aslan’s point is simple and correct: religions are big and diverse, and people get out of them what they bring into them…’

Source: Vox

This reminds me of the discussion, in a book I recently read about the 13th century Mongol conquests, about the horrific numbers of deaths for which they were responsible. The author considered the historical debate about whether this was a barbarian Mongol thing and concluded, quite rightly I think, that, no, it was a human thing of which they were just, for various reasons, very effective practitioners.

Why are John Kerry and the French president calling ISIS “Daesh”?

‘In his statement describing the Paris attacks as an “act of war” against France, President François Hollande said the war “was waged by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, by Daesh, against France.” John Kerry also referred to Daesh in Vienna at an international conference on Syria. This is not a term most Americans are familiar with, but it’s part of a larger dispute — largely between western governments and western media outlets — over how to refer to the group we call ISIS. One that puts the strategic agenda of governments against the goals of clear communication…’

Source: Vox

Humans are Not Unique in Use of Personal Names

‘While numerous species use signals of one kind or another to communicate—vervet monkeys, for example, make alarm calls to warn about predators, and honey bees use a complicated dance to describe food location and quality—these sorts of messages are innate. Parrotlets, dolphins, and humans on the other hand, actually create their own signature handles—they’re not inborn. “We don’t find this much in other animals,” says Vincent Janik, a biology professor at St. Andrews University. “We have very few examples of learned signals invented for a purpose.”

That purpose, as far as researchers can tell, is to manage animals’ social relationships. Invented, name-like cries occur very rarely in the animal kingdom—yet, remarkably, the creatures that use them are incredibly different from each other. Then again, given that names, and the relationships they help to forge, are the foundation of an individual’s social world, it isn’t surprising that these three unrelated species independently developed them.

For those animals that use them, names play into pretty much every stage of relationship building, from mating to cooperation to higher levels of group dynamics. It starts with an introduction, usually an exchanging of personal labels. Parrotlets offer their signature call when meeting a new peer, dolphins broadcast their signature whistles when passing or joining another group at sea, [just as] humans—typically with a handshake or other gesture—introduce themselves with their respective monikers…’

Source: Nautilus

This Galaxy Cluster Is Home to the Most Powerful Explosion Since the Big Bang

‘Astronomers have compiled a stunning composite image of an extraordinarily large explosion that’s being powered by one of the largest supermassive black holes known to science.

The blast is located in galaxy cluster MS 0735.6+7421, which is located 2.6 billion light-years from Earth. As reported in ABC Science, the explosion, an active galactic nucleus (AGN) eruption that has been ongoing for the last 100 million years, is being fueled by a supermassive black hole that’s over 10 billion times the mass of our Sun…’

Source: Gizmodo

Solving the ‘Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever’

‘Three gods A, B, and C are called, in some order, True, False, and Random. True always speaks truly, False always speaks falsely, but whether Random speaks truly or falsely is a completely random matter. Your task is to determine the identities of A, B, and C by asking three yes-no questions; each question must be put to exactly one god. The gods understand English, but will answer all questions in their own language, in which the words for “yes” and “no” are “da” and “ja,” in some order. You do not know which word means which.

Always up for a challenge, I sat down on my couch, pen and paper in hand, confident I could conquer the puzzle in two hours tops. It seemed to me that all I had to do was start by coming up with three questions at once and then work out their consequences. I asked A, for example, whether B was True; asked B whether A was True; and asked C whether he was True. Hours later, having asked the gods every yes and no question I could think of, I understood how the puzzle got its name. Clearly my questions weren’t compelling the gods to answer the way I wanted them to.

Frustrated, I went in search of enlightenment. The master atop the mountain turned out to be Boolos, who solved the puzzle in 1996. How he did it turns out to be one of the best lessons in logic and truth I have ever received. If you’d like to give the puzzle a try yourself, you can stop reading here. Good luck! If you succeed, you have my congrats. But if you don’t, come on back and you can go over Boolos’ solution with me below…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

Patient’s Brain Colonized by Alien Cancer

‘In a case that doctors are describing as “crazy,” a 41-year-old Colombian man was found to host cancerous tapeworm tumors in his brain and other bodily organs. The man, who recently died of complications arising from HIV, was first diagnosed back in 2013. Doctors struggled to make sense of the tumors disbursed throughout his body, the cells of which were uncharacteristically small, densely packed — and apparently not human. Further analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease control confirmed that the patient had contracted the cancerous cells from the tapeworm, Hymenolepis nana, and that owing to his compromised immune system, the tumors were allowed to flourish. The details of this extraordinary case can now be found in the latest edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.’

Source: Gizmodo

Read the Entire Comic Book Adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

‘Two years ago, we highlighted for you the beginning of a promising project — Julian Peters’ comic book adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s 1910 poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” At the time of our post, Peters had only completed the first nine pages of his adaptation…

Happily… we can now find out where Peters took the rest of the project. The adaptation is now complete. 24 pages in total. All now on display on Peters’ website here.’

Source: Open Culture

Related Content:

T.S. Eliot’s Radical Poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Read by Anthony Hopkins and Eliot Himself

Listen to T.S. Eliot Recite His Late Masterpiece, the Four Quartets

T.S. Eliot Reads Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats & Other Classic Poems (75 Minutes, 1955)

Bob Dylan Reads From T.S. Eliot’s Great Modernist Poem The Waste Land

Which Is Your Favorite Thunderword?

Cover of
‘Joyce described [Finnegans Wake] as a downwards parabola into sleep, or as a tunnel going through a mountain. As HCE moves through the dream, the “thunderwords” track his movement. There are 10 thunderwords, the first 9 of 100 letters each, the last of 101, for a total of 1,001–tales of a thousand and one nights, appropriate for this book of sleep.

As each thunderword leads into another part of the book, it fits into Joyce’s usage of Vico‘s philosophy to tell the story. Each thunderword leads to a new cycle and a deeper part of sleep, and a deeper, more muddled state in HCE’s mind (where the “mudmound” of his body fades from view and even the acrostics for HCE become muddled, as hec, ech, etc.). Thunder itself was important in Vico’s philosophy as a motivating force and a symbolic marker of events in history.

“There are ten thunders in the Wake. Each is a cryptogram or codified explanation of the thundering and reverberating consequences of the major technological changes in all human history. When a tribal man hears thunder, he says, ‘What did he say that time?’, as automatically as we say ‘Gesundheit.’ ” — Marshall McLuhan.’

Source: FinnegansWiki

Here are the ten thunderwords, hyperlinked to their places in the FW text:

“HoodsOff 2015″ in full effect as Anonymous publishes the names of KKK members — including four sitting US senators

‘The ongoing war between the online hacktivist group Anonymous and the Ku Klux Klan took another turn Monday with the release of the identities those infamous hoods are meant to obscure — a list that includes North Carolina Senator Thomas Tillis, Texas Senator John Cornyn, George Senator John Hardy Isakson, and Indiana Senator Dan Coats.

The exact nature of these senators’ affiliations was not revealed, and another “unhooded” politician — Lexington, Kentucky Mayor Jim Gray — took to Twitter to vigorously deny any association with the racist organization. Knoxville, Tennessee Mayor Madeline Rogero also denied having connections, writing on Facebook that “I’m not even sure this is worth responding to, but for the record: There is a list circulating online purporting to ‘out’ elected officials as members of the KKK. For reasons unfathomable to me or anyone who knows me, my name is on the list.” ‘

Source: Salon.com

Watch This Harrowing Account of What It’s Like to Die From a Snakebite

‘In 1957, American herpetologist Karl P. Schmidt was bitten by a poisonous boomslang snake. With no anti-venom available—and mistakenly believing he hadn’t received a fatal dose—he proceeded to do what any diligent scientist would do: he kept a detailed diary chronicling the last agonizing hours of his life.This fascinating video of Schmidt’s “Death Diary” was produced by ScienceFriday. But be warned, the descriptions in the video are quite graphic and disturbing…’

Source: Gizmodo

What Kind of Person Loves Scary Movies? 

‘The question of why people like horror has been well-discussed, and tend to hinge on the idea that some people enjoy the rush of adrenaline in a protected atmosphere or the sharp contrast between terror and then relief. But for every person with a season pass to ScareHouse, there are probably five who couldn’t be dragged, even kicking and screaming, into a horror movie. The more interesting question is, then: what predicts which camp you find yourself in?’

Source: Motherboard

The Science of Being Scared to Death

‘Death by fright is a phenomenon that was first documented by anthropologists in societies that had strong taboos and a belief in hexes. Individuals who had been cursed or broken a taboo would become so distraught that they would drop dead. When physiologist Walter Cannon brought it to the attention of the medical community, he termed it “voodoo death”—a name that has stuck. “It is a fatal power of the imagination working through unmitigated terror,” Cannon wrote. Of course, the real cause of voodoo death (or psychogenic death, the name I’ll stick with) is a bit more scientific than that. To get an expert to explain things, I called Gregory Davis, a forensic pathologist of 22 years and a chief medical examiner in Alabama…’

Source: Motherboard

How Self-Driving Cars Should Be Programmed to Kill

‘How should the car be programmed to act in the event of an unavoidable accident? Should it minimize the loss of life, even if it means sacrificing the occupants, or should it protect the occupants at all costs? Should it choose between these extremes at random? (See also “How to Help Self-Driving Cars Make Ethical Decisions.”) The answers to these ethical questions are important because they could have a big impact on the way self-driving cars are accepted in society. Who would buy a car programmed to sacrifice the owner?’

Source: 3quarksdaily

The Thing is now recognized as a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror

‘…The Thing starts. It had been 9 years since The Exorcist scared the living shit out of audiences in New York and sent people fleeing into the street. Really … up the aisle and out the door at full gallop. You would think that people had calmed down a bit since then. No…’

Source: Boing Boing

Two of the tensest, scariest hours of my life, and repeated every time I watch it.

Watch Out!

More for Halloween: the Carfax Abbey Horror Films and Movies Database includes best-ever-horror-films lists from Entertainment Wekly, Mr. Showbiz and Hollywood.com. I’ve seen most of these; some of their choices are not that scary, some are just plain silly, and they give extremely short shrift to my real favorites, the classics of the ’30’s and ’40’s — when much eeriness was allusive and not explicit. And here’s what claims to be a compilation of links to the darkest and most gruesome sites on the web. “Hours and hours of fun for morbidity lovers.”

A Brief History of Evil Children in Horror Movies

‘In celebration of Halloween, we took a shallow dive into the horror subgenre of evil-child horror movies. Weird-kid cinema stretches back at least to 1956’s The Bad Seed, and has experienced a resurgence recently via movies like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and Cooties. You could look at this trend as a natural extension of the focus on domesticity seen in horror via the wave of haunted-house movies that 2009’s Paranormal Activity helped usher in. Or maybe we’re just wizening up as a culture and realizing that children are evil and that film is a great way to warn people of this truth.

Happy Halloween. Hope you don’t get killed by trick-or-treaters.’

Source: Gawker

Reverence for Hallowe’en: Good for the Soul

Three jack-o'-lanterns illuminated from within...

A reprise of my traditional Hallowe’en post of past years:

It is that time of year again. What has become a time of disinhibited hijinx and mayhem, and a growing marketing bonanza for the kitsch-manufacturers and -importers, has primeval origins as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The harvest is over, summer ends and winter begins, the Old God dies and returns to the Land of the Dead to await his rebirth at Yule, and the land is cast into darkness. The veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead becomes frayed and thin, and dispossessed dead mingle with the living, perhaps seeking a body to possess for the next year as their only chance to remain connected with the living, who hope to scare them away with ghoulish costumes and behavior, escape their menace by masquerading as one of them, or placate them with offerings of food, in hopes that they will go away before the new year comes. For those prepared, a journey to the other side could be made at this time.

With Christianity, perhaps because with calendar reform it was no longer the last day of the year, All Hallows’ Eve became decathected, a day for innocent masquerading and fun, taking its name Hallowe’en as a contraction and corruption of All Hallows’ Eve.

All Saints’ Day may have originated in its modern form with the 8th century Pope Gregory III. Hallowe’en customs reputedly came to the New World with the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s. The prominence of trick-or-treating has a slightly different origin, however.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...
English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o’-lantern from the early 20th century.

Jack-o’-lanterns were reportedly originally turnips; the Irish began using pumpkins after they immigrated to North America, given how plentiful they were here. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

Folk traditions that were in the past associated wtih All Hallows’ Eve took much of their power, as with the New Year’s customs about which I write here every Dec. 31st, from the magic of boundary states, transition and liminality.

The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune. Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter. A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire. There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune. Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse. One way of looking for omens of death was for peope to visit churchyards

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

The Witches’ Sabbath aspect of Hallowe’en seems to result from Germanic influence, and fusion with the notion of Walpurgisnacht. (You my be familiar with the magnificent musical evocation of this, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.)

Although probably not yet in a position to shape mainstream American Hallowe’en traditions, Mexican Dia de los Muertos observances have started to contribute some delightful and whimsical iconography to our encounter with the eerie and unearthly as well. As this article in The Smithsonian reviews, ‘In the United States, Halloween is mostly about candy, but elsewhere in the world celebrations honoring the departed have a spiritual meaning…’

What was Hallowe’en like forty or fifty years ago in the U.S. when, bastardized as it has become with respect to its pagan origins, it retained a much more traditional flair? For my purposes, suffice it to say that it was before the era of the pay-per-view ’spooky-world’ type haunted attractions and its Martha Stewart yuppification with, as this irreverent Salon article from several years ago [via walker] puts it, monogrammed jack-o’-lanterns and the like. One issue may be that, as NPR observed,

“Adults have hijacked Halloween… Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey. True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’

But is that necessarily a bad thing? A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, entitled “Why Bother to Save Hallowe’en?”, argues as I do that reverence for Hallowe’en is good for the soul, young or old.

“Maybe at one time Hallowe’en helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Hallowe’en was the occasion for socially condoned mischief — a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.…(D)on’t just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.”

Three Halloween jack-o'-lanterns.

That would be anathema to certain segments of society, however. Hallowe’en certainly inspires a backlash by fundamentalists who consider it a blasphemous abomination. ‘Amateur scholar’ Isaac Bonewits details academically the Hallowe’en errors and lies he feels contribute to its being reviled. Some of the panic over Hallowe’en is akin to the hysteria, fortunately now debunked, over the supposed epidemic of ‘ritual Satanic abuse’ that swept the Western world in the ’90’s.


The horror film has become inextricably linked to Hallowe’en tradition, although the holiday itself did not figure in the movies until John Carpenter took the slasher genre singlehandedly by storm. Googling “scariest films”, you will, grimly, reap a mother lode of opinions about how to pierce the veil to journey to the netherworld and reconnect with that magical, eerie creepiness in the dark (if not the over-the-top blood and gore that has largely replaced the subtlety of earlier horror films).

In any case: trick or treat! …And may your Hallowe’en be soulful.


How to Watch This Week’s Rare Conjunction of Venus, Mars and Jupiter

‘Over the next several nights, skywatchers will be treated to a cool celestial sight as Venus, Mars, and Jupiter hang out together in the morning sky. Here’s what you need to know about the rare conjunction and how to watch.

From now until the first week of November, the brightest planets in the night sky—Venus, Mars, and Jupiter—will appear as a bright trio of dots in the hours just before dawn. And you don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see it. This rare conjunction won’t happen again until January 2021…’

Source: Gizmodo

Fantastically Nerdy Science Humor Magazine Goes Digital

‘After 21 years, the Annals of Improbable Research — that bastion of uber-nerdy science humor — is switching from a dead tree format to an all-digital PDF format. And it’s holding a special subscription sale to celebrate. From now until October 31, you can get a yearly subscription (six issues) for just $15/year, instead of the usual $25/year….’

Source: Gizmodo

These Are the First Baby Giant Squid Ever Discovered

‘Giant squid are among the most mysterious creatures on the planet; the camera-shy behemoths lurk in murky ocean basins across the world. We’ve only seen adult giant squid a handful of times, and now, you’re looking at the first ever wee baby ones.

The three specimens of Architeuthis dux shown here measure only 5.5 to 13 inches (14 to 33 cm) across, each weighing less than a pound. According to Motherboard, they were caught by fisherman off the coast of Japan in 2013…’

Source: Gizmodo