‘As the author of a new book about a doomed Antarctic expedition explains, something about the southernmost continent really drives people mad…’
— via GQ with thanks to Sean Bonner
‘As the author of a new book about a doomed Antarctic expedition explains, something about the southernmost continent really drives people mad…’
— via GQ with thanks to Sean Bonner
‘The smart QAnoners have already bought their $1200 tickets to “The 2nd Inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States.” The tickets say the grand event is taking place on “August 15, 2021 in front of the Capitol steps,” with “Special Musical Guest Stars: Ted Nugent and Kid Rock.” …’— via Boing Boing
I still miss the Whole Earth Catalog and its offshoot, the Whole Earth Review/CoEvolution Quarterly (I have a complete set of back issues boxed up lovingly in my basement.) Former Merry Prankster and Catalog founder Stewart Brand, now 80, is one of my cultural heroes. No one has more clearly articulated a set of cultural values congruent with mine. His statement above, “We are as gods and might as well get good at it,” from the Whole Earth Catalog statement of purpose in 1968, embodies the personal empowerment, self-reliance, and — countering the hubris — responsibility to which we should aspire. Many other countercultural luminaries graced its pages, including Art Spiegel, Howard Rheingold, Kevin Kelly, Anne Herbert, R Crumb, Jay Kinney, Cliff Figalo, .
As Catalog founder Stewart Brand told Reason‘s Brian Doherty in 2010: “This was in an era when JFK was saying, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ We were saying, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; do it yourself!'”
The WEC was first and foremost an actual catalog, selecting for objects that were useful, promoted self-reliance, easily available (this was before online buying) and of high quality and/or low cost. But it was also a catalog of concepts and conceptual frameworks dedicated to “Understanding Whole Systems” and was my introduction to feedback loops, systems analysis, and cybernetics, which serve me well in my work on human interactions as a mental health professional, as well as psychogeography and an ecological perspective. The WEC was the lineal ancestor of or the inspiration for such countercultural icons as Wired, the WELL, Boing Boing, the Long Now Foundation.
In a way, Brand and his merry Whole Earthers acted as midwives for the birth of cyberculture out of the counterculture and one might argue were the spiritual forebears of Apple. In what was only a slight bit hyperbolic, Steve Jobs famously once called the Whole Earth Catalog “Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google existed.” Certainly, the rise of the internet as a whole embodies, you might say, the vastly increased self-reliance through access to information that the pre-wired Whole Earthers dreamt of. Kevin Kelly wrote in 2008 of his realization that the Catalog was really a proto-blog, and,
This I am sure about: it is no coincidence that the Whole Earth Catalogs disappeared as soon as the web and blogs arrived. Everything the Whole Earth Catalogs did, the web does better.— via Boing Boing
Would that we still upheld its anarchism and communitarian empowerment “that energized the best elements of 1960s counterculture.”
Brand, who turns 80 in December, now splits his time between The Long Now Foundation and Revive & Restore, an effort dedicated to “building the 21st-century genetic rescue toolkit for conservation” to save coral reefs, horseshoe crabs, Asian elephants, and other living things from degradation, depopulation, and worse. Its most visionary ambitions include “de-extincting” animals, such as the passenger pigeon and the wooly mammoth, that long ago went missing. Because he believes in genetic modification of crops and organisms, and in the increased use of nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gases, Brand, who helped to inspire the first Earth Day, has become a pariah among some of his old crowd.
We Are as Gods is a 94-minute documentary about Brand (scored by his friend Brian Eno), with a focus on his current mission to fight species extinction, resurrecting ecosystems and saving the future of the planet.
This piece was inspired by an essay in Reason magazine, which was also founded in 1968, celebrating their shared 50th anniversary.
The Last Whole Earth Catalog, from June 1971, has been scanned in and is available for electronic browsing pleasure. [In fact, the Internet Archive has an awful lot of Whole Earth digitized content. See here.] I was a devotee of the mindset of these folks and a charter subscriber to the quarterly spin-off from the catalogs, known at different times as Whole Earth Review and Coevolutionary Quarterly. I visited them in Sausalito at one point, and had the pleasure of being the next-door neighbor in New Haven of their graphics editor for awhile. (My across-the-street neighbor at the time was the New Haven Zen Center. Nice neighborhood.) In many ways, they were all about hacking the world and your life long before there was electronic hacking. Their closest online literary heir is Kevin Kelly.
‘Common wisdom holds that former president Donald Trump remains the dominant force within the Republican Party. The truth is that his personal influence and standing are not as powerful as many imagine, and his power is as likely to decline as it is to increase…
By April 2021, party backers led Trump supporters among Republicans by a 50-to-44 margin. Trump is still strong, but his standing is falling, not rising. By April 2021, party backers led Trump supporters among Republicans by a 50-to-44 margin. Trump is still strong, but his standing is falling, not rising…
Other signs point to the gradual erosion of Trump’s influence. Candidates may seek his support, but those who fail to get it don’t drop out of the race… Politically sophisticated Republicans believe they can win GOP primaries without Trump’s backing today, something few would have dared to do even a few months ago…
Trump also canceled his online blog after less than a month because so few people were reading it…
The demand for Trump may be a mile wide, but it seems only a few inches deep among a majority of Republican voters. It’s hard to see what Trump can do over the next year to strengthen his standing. Those who say that the GOP is Trump’s fiefdom are wrong. The barons are restless, and many of the peasants want a new king. Don’t be surprised if these factors depose Trump from his metaphorical throne before the next presidential cycle begins…..’
— Henry Olsen via The Washington Post
‘Before the day Donald Trump moved into the White House in 2017, Americans had never had to contend with a president in such deep financial trouble — and with such determination to conceal his true finances from the public. Trump’s business empire — the one he espoused during the campaign as an example of his purported financial acumen — was nothing more than a hollow gold-plated shell. While he was dumping money into his hotels, his golf courses, and his real estate deals, they were netting him almost nothing but significant losses year after year. By the time he was running for reelection, Trump was over $400 million in debt, most of which would have been due during his second term should he have won in 2020.
And yet for nearly four years, there was effectively nothing whatsoever the public could do about it. As was the case for so many of the countless outrageous abuses of his presidency, the former president largely got away with serving a full term in which he bargained with foreign leaders, signed tax legislation, and named financial regulators, without ever coming clean about his own personal debts and the conflicts of interest and opportunities for corruption they created. While there are supposed to be laws and limits on the presidency, Trump was unrestrained, exposing just how toothless those safeguards have become and just how urgently the nation needs to reform the office of the presidency itself.
Presidents in a democratic system of government are not meant to be able to extract personal profits from government service — or hand out pardons to imprisoned buddies, pervert justice, or foment an insurrection. That’s the promise of democracy: that it will be superior to these authoritarian tendencies of tyrants and kings. When these laws and norms are violated, they should be backed up by severe consequences if that democracy is to maintain its integrity. But right now, as it stands after Trump’s four years in office, American presidents can, in fact, commit all those abuses — and suffer little more than losing their Twitter account.
Trump may not have destroyed the American presidency, but he did put the institution on a perilous path. Because while Trump himself has been sitting in Mar-a-Lago brooding over his loss to Joe Biden, all the weaknesses in our legal and constitutional system that he exploited remain, waiting for a future presidential miscreant to take advantage of them — maybe even for Trump himself, if he is reelected in 2024. That’s why Congress and the current president must act fast and impose more durable legal guardrails on the commander in chief. …’
– via The Boston Globe
‘…In 2016, Luke Aikins became the first person to intentionally jump and land without the aid of a parachute or wingsuit — check out the video above to see how he does it…
I recommend you also watch a video of the jump narrated by Aikins as he talks through what’s happening before, during, and after the jump….
FYI: The jump height of 25,000 feet seems impressive (and it’s probably trickier hitting the target from higher up) but in terms of speed, about 1500 feet is sufficient for a freefalling human in the spread-eagle position to reach their maximum (terminal) velocity of ~120 mph. Anything over 1500 feet, about half the height of El Capitan’s granite face, doesn’t add any additional speed.
– via Kottke
Thank heavens for the miracle of internet video so I can experience something you would never ever get me to do in the flesh!
Once, in the cool blue middle of a lake,
up to my neck in that most precious element of all,
I found a pale-gray, curled-upwards pigeon feather
floating on the tension of the water
at the very instant when a dragonfly,
like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin,
hovered over it, then lit, and rested.
I mention this in the same way
that I fold the corner of a page
in certain library books,
so that the next reader will know
where to look for the good parts.
— Tony Hoagland (via McKinley Valentine)
It’s now used to indicate sex and gender beyond the binary. But X has always been powerful.
– via The New York Times
Researchers asked what makes certain words rude, and what happens when you compound profanity with normal words…
Temple University researcher Jamie Reilly et al. examine this question in a new paper called “Building the perfect curse word: A psycholinguistic investigation of the form and meaning of taboo words… ”
— via Discover Magazine
Do not use if you have ever had an allergic reaction to this product or any of its ingredients. Failure to follow all instructions and warnings can result in serious injury. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Please leave as clean on leaving as you would like to find on entering. Nontransferable and is the sole responsibility of the recipient. Place all seat backs and tray tables in fully upright position. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this weblog. Post office will not deliver without proper postage affixed. Caution: Dates on calendar are closer than they appear. No animals were harmed in the production of this page. May be used as flotation device in case of emergency. Please note locations of emergency exits upon arrival. No ideas were harmed in the making of this weblog. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. All questions answered, all answers questioned. Detach and include upper portion with payment. May incur damages arising from use or misuse. Objects on screen are closer than they appear. Satisfaction guaranteed; return for full refund. Nutritional need is not established in humans. Caution: do not swallow. May cause irritation. Please inform author if you cannot read this. Product is sold by weight and not by volume. In emergency, break glass, pull down handle. Contents may have settled during shipment. If condition persists, consult your physician. Provided “as is” and without any warranties. Caution! The edge is closer than you think. Do not use if safety seal is torn or missing. Prices subject to change without notice. Subject to all applicable fees and taxes. Freshest if used before date specified. Do not fold, staple, spindle or mutilate. Do not exceed recommended dosage. If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Take two and call me in the morning. Do not remove under penalty of law. Valid only at participating locations. You have the right to remain silent. Warning, contents are flammable. Subject to change without notice. This page intentionally left blank. Use only in well-ventilated areas. No user-serviceable parts inside. Alarm will sound if door opened. You need not be present to win. Additional parts sold separately. Available for a limited time only. You break it, you’ve bought it. No shirt, no shoes, no service. Keep out of reach of children. Void where prohibited by law. Apply only to affected areas. Other restrictions may apply. Part of a daily balanced diet. You must be present to win. First pull up, then pull down. Close cover before striking. Terms and conditions apply. Do not think of an elephant. Viewer discretion advised. No purchase is necessary. Caution, low-flying ideas. Honk if you can read this. Internet access required. Wash hands after using. Consume in moderation. Limit one (1) per person. Other restrictions apply. Money-back guarantee. Not a low-calorie food. Your mileage may vary. Don’t try this at home. More taste, less filling. Shake well before use. Consume responsibly. For external use only. Mix well before using. Store in a cool place. Use only as directed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Results not typical. Ignore this notice. Slippery when wet. Same-day service. Unplug after use. No preservatives. No trespassing. No exit. No.
— via Follow Me Here…
‘Part of the charm of the aphorism, and mystery, is that it doesn’t really expect its audience to ‘get it fast’, or even get it at all. Its slick form sets out to confound and stymie as much as educate.
One cannot dictate an aphorism to a typist. It would take too long.
– from Karl Kraus (1874-1936)…’
— via Psyche Ideas
… and is the same true of weblog entries like these?
‘Our ability to experience pleasure, as in the fundamental sensation of something being enjoyable or ‘nice’, is a product of what’s known as the ‘reward pathway’, a small but crucial circuit found deep within the brain. As you might suspect, dopamine is the main neurotransmitter involved in the function of the reward pathway. Hence why it’s often called the dopamine reward pathway. So, if the activity of dopamine in the brain makes a vital contribution to the sensation of pleasure, and pleasure is a key aspect of happiness, then it stands to reason that boosting your dopamine levels will make you happier, right?
There’s a superficial logic to this way of looking at things. Unfortunately, the logic doesn’t hold given the daunting complexity and interconnectedness of our brains. There’s a wealth of evidence to demonstrate that simply ‘boosting your dopamine’ doesn’t automatically result in happiness…’
— via Psyche Ideas
As a psychiatrist, this reductionism has been one of my pet peeves. Glad to see it begin to be addressed.
‘The past year and counting was marked by the biggest public health crisis in modern history, and it’s fair to say that healthiness and wellbeing have been at the top of our minds. But in times of anti-vaxxers, covid deniers, and fake news sweeping across the web like a parallel viral storm, we must get our health facts straight. So when someone asked doctors and medical practitioners “What one medical fact do you wish everybody knew?” on r/AskReddit, the thread blew up and it now serves as a perfect source for things we should all know without exceptions…’
— via Bored Panda
My public service announcement: read through these. Don’t stop because they are seeming too obvious and commonsensical to you. You might discover something if you continue.
‘Michael Flynn, former national security adviser in the Trump administration, appeared to call for a Myanmar-like coup to take place in the U.S. during a conference in Texas attended by many supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
MarketWatch reports that Flynn made the remarks while speaking at the conference in Dallas, which was called “For God & and Country Patriot Roundup.” In a video shared online, someone from the audience asks Flynn, “I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?”
This question elicited a round of cheers from the audience.
Once the crowd quieted, Flynn responded, “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.”
Myanmar’s military seized power and overtook the country’s democratically-elected government in February. Since the coup, hundreds have been killed by Myanmar security forces and thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have been detained according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners….’
— via TheHill
‘For well over a year we’ve been living through the devastating consequences of a highly transmissible coronavirus. While the pandemic it caused is unprecedented by many measures, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is just one of many SARS-related coronaviruses lurking among wildlife in some regions of the world, many of which could theoretically jump to human populations under the right conditions.
Figuring out what those conditions are is an urgent priority, and scientists have made a lot of progress on that front. They’ve learned, for example, that when forests get fragmented by deforestation or roads, it increases the likelihood of a virus “spilling over” from animal to human. What’s more of a mystery is where, exactly, those conditions come together to create the highest risk for the next coronavirus emergence.
A new analysis, published Monday in the journal Nature Food, begins to answer that important question — specifically, by pinpointing where another coronavirus could jump to humans from horseshoe bats, which are known to carry SARS-related coronaviruses. By combining data on horseshoe bat habitats, land-use change, human population density, and other factors known to increase the risk of spillover, the researchers produced a map of “hot spots” in Asia and Europe where the risk is highest….’
— via Vox
‘Former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes has travelled the world looking for clues to how the US came to elect Donald Trump and he found parallels everywhere. But is there a way of stopping it from happening again?…’
— Phil Maynard via The Guardian
What put this Wuhan lab leak theory back in the news?
‘There’s been a pretty broad consensus among scientists who study viruses that the one that causes COVID-19 arose naturally and passed from animals to humans sometime in late 2019, in or near Wuhan, China. But an alternate hypothesis—that it escaped from a lab in that city—has been tossed around like a political football since the start of the pandemic, and never treated with more credulity than in recent days.
Is there new evidence that a lab leak may have happened? Not really; nothing has changed scientifically that would change experts’ minds. But scientists and governments have still not been able to pin down the exact source of the coronavirus, despite almost a year and a half of investigations. So it is technically still an open question.
Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported three researchers at the Wuhan lab had been hospitalized in November of 2019 (the virus was officially discovered in December). Their symptoms were consistent with those of COVID-19, but they were also consistent with “seasonal illness”—in other words, they could have just had colds or the flu. This new information is hardly a smoking gun, but it came out just as the World Health Organization was preparing the next phase of its investigation into the virus’s origins…
Could the virus have been created in a lab and deployed as a bioweapon? This scenario is extremely unlikely, according to experts. Genetic analyses have shown that it is very similar to another coronavirus that has existed in the wild, in bats, in another area of China. It doesn’t bear any hallmarks of alteration in a lab; you can read more from a genetic scientist on that theory here.
There’s also a plausibility issue here: The whole idea of a bioweapon—of any weapon—is that you need to be able to use it against your enemy without it taking you out at the same time. Guns shoot at a distance; bombs are strategically placed or dropped. A highly contagious virus would make a bad weapon, since there are no boundaries to contain it to just the intended victims. And the coronavirus has indeed spread globally…’
— via Lifehacker
Via Kottke, this is a magical interactive map of the US that allows you to click anywhere to simulate a raindrop falling there. Using USGS data, the visualization by Sam Learner zooms you in and you follow the river-running path that raindrop takes to the sea.
— via River Runner
‘Having prepared for months to make its mark at this year’s Olympics, coronavirus variant B.1.525—a U.K. native best known for its skillful weakening of antibody responses—confirmed Thursday that it was excited to compete in Tokyo against top mutations from across the globe. “I can’t wait to travel to Japan this July and show the whole world what I’m capable of,” said the highly transmissible permutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, recounting how it had honed its spike proteins and vaccine resistance in anticipation of the international gathering of deadly pathogens. “I know South Africa, Brazil, and India will be bringing the heat, but I’m planning to have a big breakout moment myself. And if I’m not a household name by the closing ceremonies, well, there’s always the 2021 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally later in the summer.” Olympic bookmakers, observing that the United States is overdue to produce a highly lethal mutation, are reported to have the young California variants B.1.427 and B.1.429 favored in the spread….’
— via The Onion
‘If world leaders don’t act now, the end of the Covid pandemic may come with a horrible form of herd immunity, as more transmissible variants that are taking hold around the world kill millions….’
— via The New York Times
‘”A nontrivial 15% of Americans agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that ‘the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” reports PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) in a press release about its survey looking into Americans’ beliefs about QAnon lies….’
— via Boing Boing
‘A mini-game about pop ups, and the deviousness of websites and apps
EVIL CORP wants your data. It will use every trick in the book (and a few more, just for fun).
Your mission is as follows:
Do not accept any terms & conditions
Say no to all notifications
Always opt out of cookies.
EVIL CORP want you to sign up for everything.
You must never accept anything
Answer all 29 questions to find out how well you did. …’
‘The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives the world over for more than a year. Its death toll will soon reach three million people. Yet the origin of pandemic remains uncertain: The political agendas of governments and scientists have generated thick clouds of obfuscation, which the mainstream press seems helpless to dispel.
In what follows I will sort through the available scientific facts, which hold many clues as to what happened, and provide readers with the evidence to make their own judgments. I will then try to assess the complex issue of blame, which starts with, but extends far beyond, the government of China.
By the end of this article, you may have learned a lot about the molecular biology of viruses. I will try to keep this process as painless as possible. But the science cannot be avoided because for now, and probably for a long time hence, it offers the only sure thread through the maze….’
— science writer Nicholas Wade via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Basically, the new thinking is that correcting fake news, disinformation, and horrible tweets at all is bad and makes everything worse. This is a “perverse downstream consequence for debunking,” and is the exact title of MIT research published in the ‘2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.’ The core takeaway is that “being corrected by another user for posting false political news increases subsequent sharing of low quality, partisan, and toxic content.”
Douglas Preston’s New Yorker article (thanks, abby) is a cogent and readable summary of thoughts on the fate of the Russian skiiers who perished in the infamous1959 Dyatlov Pass incident in the Urals. Preston, who has many New York Times bestsellers on his resume, writes about archaeology and anthropology for the New Yorker, often in their “far-flung correspondents” department. I’ve mentioned Dyatlov on FmH before, pointing to an Atlantic article about the Russian public’s obsession with the mystery. I love a good mystery, especially one that is eerie and chilling (no pun intended), and the Dyatlov Pass incident occupies the intersection of many of my fascinations — backcountry pursuits, extreme weather, indigenous societies, cryptozoology, conspiracy theory, and Cold War intrigue, to name a few. These may be Preston’s interests as well, and he considers them in turn. His conclusions are satisfying and, if similar issues tweak your fancy, it is worth your time.
‘LSD flashbacks have been studied for decades, though scientists still aren’t quite sure why some people experience them. A subset of people who take psychedelics and then experience flashbacks develop hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), a rare condition in which people experience regular or near-constant psychedelic symptoms. There’s currently no cure for the disorder, though some studies suggest medications may alleviate symptoms…’— via Big Think
But that’s not all. Some people have a first episode of psychosis (UptoDate article) after a hallucinogen trip or heavy cannabis use and go on to have a persistent or relapsing psychotic disorder (Wikipedia entry on “psychosis”). The verdict is out on whether it is “caused” by the drug use (whatever that means) or if it was an “accident waiting to happen” with any of a number of provocative influences. And, finally, some hallucinogen or stimulant users go on to develop epilepsy, particularly temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE; Wikipedia entry on “temporal lobe epilepsy”), a seizure disorder whose bewildering variety of symptoms can look like psychotic presentations (Google). Just saying…
The most notable fact I gleaned from this article by Andrew Sheldon (via AAA Network ) was mention of a 2008 study correlating having bumper stickers on your car with being a more aggressive driver. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising when you think about it, since a bumper sticker seems usually to be an attempt to be “in the face” of surrounding drivers.
‘Hundreds of people who share the first name Josh gathered on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb., to vie for the “right” to their name. Armed with pool noodles, Joshes from across the country met at Air Park, where they brawled as onlookers with other names cheered from the sidelines….’
— Chloe Weiner via NPR
‘…The plaintiffs in Corlett include a New York state gun rights group and two New York men who applied for a license to carry a handgun in public and were denied that license. They claim that “law-abiding citizens” have a Second Amendment right to carry a gun in public — and the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, could agree with them.
Indeed, Corlett could potentially dismantle more than a decade of judicial decisions interpreting the Second Amendment, imposing prohibitive limits on lawmakers’ ability to reduce gun violence…’
— via Vox
‘Underground peat fires are bedeviling: They refuse to die, even when flooded with water. Could this new weapon put them down for good?… “Smoldering is the most persistent type of combustion on earth, because it’s really easy to start and very difficult to stop,” says Imperial College London engineer Guillermo Rein, co-author of a new paper describing the work in the International Journal of Wildland Fire. “They call them zombie fires, but the equivalent would be like an army of zombies. They are very, very difficult to suppress.”
— via Atlas Obscura
‘Although Americans tend to think of Sasquatch as a North American phenomena, there are legends of hidden giant apes or ape-men all around the word. These legends are fed by unexplained sightings, which are most surprising when they are made by those unfamiliar with the local legends, such as American troops in Vietnam. Gary Linderer of the 101st Airborne reported seeing a five-foot-tall creature with muscular arms when he was on patrol in the Kontum Province near the borders of Laos and Cambodia….’
— via Neatorama
‘The number of so-called breakthrough cases we’re seeing is even lower than expected….’
— via Slate
‘Furthering the growing interest in unidentified flying objects, or what the US government refers to as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), the Department of Defense confirmed on Thursday that recently leaked photos and videos of UFOs were legitimate and taken by navy personnel.
Sue Gough, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, confirmed to CNN that images and footage of a blinking triangular object in the sky, along with other UAPs that were categorized as a “sphere”, “acorn” and “metallic blimp”, were taken by navy personnel in 2019….’
— Via The Guardian
‘A newly discovered coronavirus — but not the one that causes COVID-19 — has made some dogs very sick….’
— Via Big Think
‘How the quest to own the most Instagram-worthy pup has bred a world of problems….’
— Tove K. Danovich via New York mag
A devastating indictment of what humans have done to our entire “best friend” species. #adoptdon’tbuy
‘Over the last year, the scientific community has been reluctant to openly discuss its missteps. But coming clean could help prevent the next pandemic….’
— C. Brandon Ogbunu via WIRED
‘…The zoologist Arik Kershenbaum argues that because some evolutionary challenges are truly universal, life throughout the cosmos may share certain features…’– via Quanta Magazine
‘The Pentagon’s pilots have seen a lot of UFOs, a lot more than they’ve told the public about. That’s according to John Ratcliffe, Trump’s former Director of National Intelligence. Ratcliffe told Fox News that an upcoming Pentagon report about unidentified aerial phenomena will detail more UFO interactions than had been previously reported…’– via Vice
Yeah but… Vice? Fox News?
‘…Unless aliens decide to visit Earth, the most likely answer is by scanning the skies for “technosignatures,” which are observational evidence of technological or industrial activity in the Universe.
In a recent paper published in the journal Acta Astronautica, a team of NASA-funded researchers outlined some of the most promising ways scientists and space agencies could search for technosignatures. The paper included a somewhat surprising proposition: Humanity’s “first contact” with aliens is likely to be with a much more advanced civilization.
In other words, there could be many alien civilizations throughout the Universe, or even in our galaxy, but if they’re similar to us in terms of technological advancement, we probably can’t spot them yet. The same goes for those human-like civilizations spotting us.
That’s because the “cosmic footprints” of our civilization and theirs would be relatively small, compared to highly advanced alien civilizations. The researchers call this concept “contact inequality.” …’– via Big Think
‘More than a century ago, Sigmund Freud published a case study about a young woman he called “Dora.” She was diagnosed with hysteria following allegations of sexual harassment and assault by a family friend (possibly through a deal made by her own father). The teenager was analyzed by the famous neurologist and said to be repressing feelings for not just that one older man but also her father. And, of course, the diagnosis labeled her as being irrationally emotional about something that didn’t happen. Basically, “Dora,” whose real name was Ida, was not just a victim of sexual harassment but also of gaslighting.
The study, titled Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (also published as Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria) has been viewed from a feminine perspective for decades, but perhaps never so visually dynamic and concisely poignant as in the short documentary Hysterical Girl, directed by Kate Novack (The Gospel According to André)
Hysterical Girl revisits, in just 13 minutes, the story of “Dora” by casting actress Tommy Vines as a modern version of the patient. As if being interviewed for the documentary, she tells her side, a confession intercut with a voiceover reading of Freud’s analysis. Also mixed in is the kinetically compiled montage of movie clips, archival films of the doctor, news footage of Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford and other accusers of sexual harassment or assault, as well as shots of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and other rapists and predators, plus other materials that create an effective collage overlapping historical parallels.
As usual with Op-Docs, the director has written an accompanying article. Novack’s is very brief, which is good since her doc (produced with Andrew Rossi) perfectly speaks for itself — expressing through a powerfully overwhelming amount of imagery without the possibility of overstating its point. But just in case you need it more spelled out: “During the 11-week treatment,” she writes, “Freud chipped away at the case: Why would you continue to see the man you say assaulted you? Are you out for revenge? Did you secretly want it? A century later, the questions women face in similar circumstances haven’t changed much.” …’– via Nonfics, with thanks to Barbara
‘More concerning than Kavanaugh’s weirdly emotional take on calendars and defensiveness about blacking out was, of course, the credible allegations against him of sexual assault. While the FBI was said to have conducted a “supplemental investigation” of claims against Kavanaugh made by Christine Blasey Ford, Democrats said at the time that the probe was a “farce,” a “sham,” and a “horrific cover-up” that crucially omitted key witnesses at the White House’s request. Now, that investigation may be getting a second look…’— via Vanity Fair
‘…The Women’s Funding Network…, in connection with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, launched the campaign “Signal for Help” in April of last year. It is a one-handed gesture that anyone who feels threatened can show another person, who could then report the situation to the authorities. These days, people are spreading more awareness about this hand gesture so that those experiencing abuse will know how to discreetly get help and so that others will be able to recognize it and take action.
The hand gesture is simple, but easily recognizable You face the palm towards the other person, tuck your thumb inwards, and then cover it with your other fingers. It’s even better than codewords, because it was designed to be discreet and you can let other people know that you’re in distress without making any sounds or noticeably moving.
The gesture can be shown during a video call, which has become our main means of communication during the pandemic, or when answering the door. It is simple enough to make, but also distinct enough that those who know it will recognize it instantly. That is why it is so important to make more people aware of this hand gesture, because the victims can only be helped when the person they are showing it to knows what they are trying to say.— via Bored Panda
What then are we to take from the distinct and quite public fascination of the two richest men in the world—Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, together worth more than $375 billion—with the sci-fi works of Iain M. Banks, an avowedly socialist author who set his far-future fiction in what might best be described as a post-scarcity, anarcho-communist utopia; a world where your Bezoses and your Musks are not just irrelevant, but actively sought out and disempowered by a society comprised of property-less workers and all-caring, mostly-benevolent A.I.s?— via Blood Knife
‘I’ve deliberated many times about discussing grief in a food column – you’re possibly here to read about new ways with couscous – yet the two topics are more linked than one might imagine’
— via The Guardian (thanks to linkmachinego)
‘Consistently ranked as one of the leading causes of death around the world, malaria doesn’t have an effective vaccine yet. But researchers have invented a promising new blueprint for one — with properties akin to the novel RNA-based vaccine for COVID-19.
Making a vaccine for malaria is challenging because its associated parasite, Plasmodium, contains a protein that inhibits production of memory T-cells, which protect against previously encountered pathogens. If the body can’t generate these cells, a vaccine is ineffective. But scientists recently tried a new approach using an RNA-based platform.
Their design circumvented the sneaky protein, allowed the body to produce the needed T-cells and completely immunized against malaria. The patent application for their novel vaccine, which hasn’t yet been tested on humans, was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Feb. 4….’
‘What if we’re all just trapped in conversations we want to end?’— Inverse
Okay, so you think two methods are useful? Here‘s an article (from scienceofpeople.com) claiming to offer 62 methods.
‘America, we got lucky. On the laundry list of things Donald Trump has been terrible at, transforming our country into a fascist autocracy was only the latest….’
— Via HuffPost
The (American) Tokyo bureau chief of the New York Times writes about the Japanese reverence for, nay obsession with, flowers, and the discovery of reason to hope in the ‘treasure hunt for floral beauty’
— Via The New York Times
‘For two decades, the U.S. government has been engaging with faith leaders in Muslim communities at home and around the world in an attempt to stamp out extremism and prevent believers vulnerable to radicalization from going down a path that leads to violence.
Now, after the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory helped to motivate the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, with many participants touting their Christian faith — and as evangelical pastors throughout the country ache over the spread of the conspiracy theory among their flocks, and its very real human toll — it’s worth asking whether the time has come for a new wave of outreach to religious communities, this time aimed at evangelical Christians.
“I personally feel a great burden, since I came from these communities, to try to figure out how to help the leaders,” says Elizabeth Neumann, a former top official at the Department of Homeland Security who resigned from Trump administration in April 2020. The challenge in part is that, in this “particular case, I don’t know if the government is a credible voice at all,” she says. “You don’t want ‘Big Brother’ calling the local pastor and saying, ‘Hey, here’s your tips for the week.’”
Neumann, who was raised in the evangelical tradition, is a devout Christian. Her knowledge of that world, and her expertise on issues of violent extremism, gives her a unique insight into the ways QAnon is driving some Christians to extremism and violence.
She sees QAnon’s popularity among certain segments of Christendom not as an aberration, but as the troubling-but-natural outgrowth of a strain of American Christianity. In this tradition, one’s belief is based less on scripture than on conservative culture, some political disagreements are seen as having nigh-apocalyptic stakes and “a strong authoritarian streak” runs through the faith. For this type of believer, love of God and love of country are sometimes seen as one and the same….’
— Via POLITICO
I’ve written before about this community grooming adherents to assume power (probably sounding conspiratorial). Pence was the avatar of Christian authoritarianism in the trump administration. Ironic and perhaps fortunate that, on Jan, 6th, he momentarily remembered his oath uphold the Constitution and became confused about which aspects of love of country were consistent with his love of God.
‘…literary icon who opened doors for the Beat Generation has died at 101…’
— via Literary Hub
Ferlinghetti preferred to call himself the last of the Bohemians rather than the first of the Beats. Founder of City Lights Bookstore and City Lights Press, publisher of Ginsberg, friend of them all. I am deeply saddened.
‘Carl Hart is a neuroscientist and Ziff Professor of Psychology at Columbia University—he was the first tenured African-American professor of sciences at Columbia. His research focuses on the “behavioral and neuropharmacological effects of psychoactive drugs in humans.” Hart’s new book, Drug Use For Grown-Ups, is a bold and engaging effort to counter what he sees as generations of misinformation and moral grandstanding about drug use.
…(M)ost drug-use scenarios cause little or no harm and some responsible drug-use scenarios are actually beneficial for human health and functioning….’
— By John Steele via Nautilus
The Frigid Consequences of Global Warming:
Climate scientists have spent years exploring the relationship between extreme winter weather and warming temperatures in the Arctic Circle. Some studies suggest that the warming Arctic disrupts a natural phenomenon known as the polar vortex, which normally contains cold air in the north.
‘America is building a new weapon of mass destruction, a nuclear missile the length of a bowling lane. It will be able to travel some 6,000 miles, carrying a warhead more than 20 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It will be able to kill hundreds of thousands of people in a single shot.
The US Air Force plans to order more than 600 of them.
On September 8, the Air Force gave the defense company Northrop Grumman an initial contract of $13.3 billion to begin engineering and manufacturing the missile, but that will be just a fraction of the total bill. Based on a Pentagon report cited by the Arms Control Association Association and Bloomberg News, the government will spend roughly $100 billion to build the weapon, which will be ready to use around 2029.
To put that price tag in perspective, $100 billion could pay 1.24 million elementary school teacher salaries for a year, provide 2.84 million four-year university scholarships, or cover 3.3 million hospital stays for covid-19 patients. It’s enough to build a massive mechanical wall to protect New York City from sea level rise. It’s enough to get to Mars.
One day soon, the Air Force will christen this new war machine with its “popular” name, likely some word that projects goodness and strength, in keeping with past nuclear missiles like the Atlas, Titan, and Peacekeeper. For now, though, the missile goes by the inglorious acronym GBSD, for “ground-based strategic deterrent.” The GBSD is designed to replace the existing fleet of Minuteman III missiles; both are intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. Like its predecessors, the GBSD fleet will be lodged in underground silos, widely scattered in three groups known as “wings” across five states. The official purpose of American ICBMs goes beyond responding to nuclear assault. They are also intended to deter such attacks, and serve as targets in case there is one….’
— Elizabeth Eaves, via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
David Leonhardt’s op-ed piece in the New York Times captures a lot of my concerns about our absolutist tendency to “cease all behavior that creates additional risk” during an emergency. During the pandemic, this has led not only to the discouragement but in some places the prohibition of behaviors even minutely increasing risk. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic describes the colossal waste of time, effort and in some cases expense of “hygiene theater“, when we are long past any sense that Covid is spread by unclean surfaces (The Lancet) other than human hands. This week, UC Berkeley banned exercise with or without masks and UMass Amherst has banned outdoor walks, although there are no scientifically documented instances of outdoor transmission unless people were, as one journalist puts it, “breathing the air that other people exhale.”
In my work as a psychiatrist, I treat OCD, one of the major categories of which is contamination fears leading to excessive cleaning and hand washing. So what’s wrong with keeping exceptionally clean? After all compulsive behaviors function to assuage fears but, famously, mental illnesses are defined not only by their symptoms but by the criteria of causing distress or interfering with function. People with contamination OCD will abrade the skin off their hands from their hand washing behavior and clean so compulsively that they cannot get to sleep or get out of the house for their appointments.
Much of our ritualistic behavior in response to Covid fears is analogous. The price we pay for minimizing danger at all times, especially with scientifically unreasonable behavior, is far worse than the benefit. Leonhardt observes that “some of the clearest voices against Covid absolutism are researchers, and especially those who devoted their careers to studying HIV.
‘They know the history. The demonization of sex during the AIDS crisis contributed to more unsafe sex. If all sex is bad, why focus on safe sex?.. There is a similar dynamic with Covid. People do not have unlimited energy, so we should ask them to be vigilant where it matters most…’
Enforcing unnecessary mask-wearing may undermine wearing masks where they make a difference. Banning college students from outside walks will arguably increase the chance that they surreptitiously gather indoors (Mercury News). And needless deep-cleaning is an enormous waste of resources.
When I studied cultural anthropology, I thought a lot about the purpose of ritual. It appears that it is not to bring about the desired culturally articulated goal of the ritual. Instead, because rituals are defined so exactingly that we will fail at completing them perfectly as prescribed, they serve to reconcile us to the continued sorrow and distress of life. The Gods cannot be placated. And, similarly, if our Covid rituals as a society are functions of magical thinking, they will not assuage our grief and anxiety but may instead exacerbate it. In short:
‘Rules that are really more about showing that you’re doing something versus doing something that’s actually effective are counterproductive…’
People and security members run away after Kurdish animal-rights activists released a bear into the wild, after rescuing several bears that were held in captivity in people’s homes, in Dohuk, Iraq, on February 11, 2021.— Photos of the Week, The Atlantic
As recipient of this year’s Charles Eliot Norton Professorship in Poetry Laurie Anderson will be offering her six Norton Lectures free (via Eventbrite registration) for a virtual audience. The first lecture airs Wednesday at 5:00 pm EST.
— BY Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite via Harvard Gazette
‘Sotomayor is … poised to take over Ginsburg’s role as the functional minority leader. There are calls for 82-year-old Stephen Breyer to retire while a Democratic president and Senate can replace him, and Joe Biden has promised to nominate the first Black woman to the Court. On a Court that runs on seniority, Breyer’s move would anoint Sotomayor as the most senior justice in what is usually, in the most heated cases, the resistance — the true heir to Ginsburg and, before her, John Paul Stevens and Thurgood Marshall….’
— Via New York Magazine
‘Imbolc, in the Celtic seasonal calendar marks the beginning of the lambing season and signals the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life. It is Feile Brighde, the ‘quickening of the year’. The original word Imbolg means ‘in the belly’. All is pregnant and expectant – and only just visible if at all, like the gentle curve of a ‘just-showing’ pregnancy. It is the promise of renewal, of hidden potential, of earth awakening and life-force stirring. Here is hope. We welcome the growth of the returning light and witness Life’s insatiable appetite for rebirth.
It is time to let go of the past and to look to the future, clearing out the old, making both outer and inner space for new beginnings. This can be done in numerous ways, from spring cleaning your home to clearing the mind and heart to allow inspiration to enter for the new cycle. (‘Spring cleaning was originally a nature ritual’ – Doreen Valiente). It’s a good time for wish-making or making a dedication.
Imbolc is traditionally the great festival and honouring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit), so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget. She is a Goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft. She is a Goddess of Fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. She brings fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies. She is the Triple Goddess, but at Imbolc she is in her Maiden aspect….’
‘The troubling thing is this. America’s not asking the question. It’s not on the lips of pundits. Ezra Klein is still busy pretending fascism didn’t happen, and Chris Hayes is right back to obsessing over political minutiae. American pundits have never been good with either the big picture or the truth. And the average American and politicians take their cues from them. So the whole question of “what does it take to recover from fascism” is going entirely unasked. And in that way, America isn’t learning anything from the Trump Years. So will it? Can it?…’
'A man walks into a bar and says: Take my wife–-please. So you do. You take her out into the rain and you fall in love with her and she leaves you and you’re desolate. You’re on your back in your undershirt, a broken man on an ugly bedspread, staring at the water stains on the ceiling. And you can hear the man in the apartment above you taking off his shoes. You hear the first boot hit the floor and you’re looking up, you’re waiting because you thought it would follow, you thought there would be some logic, perhaps, something to pull it all together but here we are in the weeds again, here we are in the bowels of the thing: your world doesn’t make sense. And then the second boot falls. And then a third, a fourth, a fifth.
A man walks into a bar and says: Take my wife–-please. But you take him instead. You take him home, and you make him a cheese sandwich, and you try to get his shoes off, but he kicks you and he keeps kicking you. You swallow a bottle of sleeping pills but they don’t work. Boots continue to fall to the floor in the apartment above you. You go to work the next day pretending nothing happened. Your co-workers ask if everything’s okay and you tell them you’re just tired. And you’re trying to smile. And they’re trying to smile.
A man walks into a bar, you this time, and says: Make it a double. A man walks into a bar, you this time, and says: Walk a mile in my shoes. A man walks into a convenience store, still you, saying: I only wanted something simple, something generic… But the clerk tells you to buy something or get out. A man takes his sadness down to the river and throws it in the river but then he’s still left with the river. A man takes his sadness and throws it away but then he’s still left with his hands....'
— Via if seeing is believing
‘…[James Cawley, an Elvis impersonator and] Star Trek fan …used the blueprints to the sets of the original Star Trek Enterprise to lovingly re-create those sets in a former supermarket in upstate New York. “Star Trek: Original Series Set Tour” is located in downtown Ticonderoga, New York….’
— Gareth Branwyn via Boing Boing
Wired reported on this in 2016. It just so happens that my family and I were passing through Ticonderoga this past Thanksgiving weekend and discovered this. However, I don’t think Cawley, whom we met during our visit, just recreated the sets from the blueprints. As we were told, he spent what he referred to as an “astronomical” sum buying up original set dressings, props and furnishings from Desilu Studios and shipped them cross-country to set them up in Ticonderoga. We also learned that William Shatner toured the set and had a load of fun. Cawley and friends filmed and released their own versions of the Original Series online as well.
‘Cawley starred as Kirk early on; later, professional actors got involved, including George Takei and Walter Koenig. They made 11 episodes before CBS, the rights holder, instituted new guidelines prohibiting that kind of fan-film. But the company granted Cawley permission to open his set to the public…’
‘The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.
The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.
The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?
The answer was unanimous. They would resign.
Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis….’
— Via New York Times
We were much closer to a full-on coup than we knew.
‘I have two asks of every American: Give Joe Biden a chance to surprise you on the upside and challenge yourself to surprise him.
American businesses need to surprise us by telling Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch that their network fueled the Big Lie that led to the ransacking of the Capitol and that they are no longer going to advertise on any show that spreads conspiracy theories. The best news I heard this week is that My Pillow chief executive Mike Lindell — an avid Trump backer and advertiser on Fox, who has pressed debunked claims that the 2020 election was rigged — said Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wayfair and other retailers were dropping his products. Good for them.
Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have to surprise us by once and for all stopping the elevation — for profit — of news that divides and enrages over more authoritative, evenhanded news sources.
There is no equivalent on the left to the right-wing white supremacists and other extremists who just ransacked the Capitol. Not even remotely. But liberals would surprise a lot of people on the right, and maybe even get a few to support Biden, if they forcefully rejected political correctness when it stifles dissent and called out not only violence by the police — a huge priority — but also the sources of violence in minority neighborhoods that are terrorizing Black, brown and white residents alike. I see it in my hometown, Minneapolis, every day.
And now that the threat of Trump is gone, all of us in the news business need to get back to separating news from opinions. We need more places where Americans of all political stripes can feel that they’re getting their news straight — without being enraged, divided or woke; leave that for the opinion sections.
Finally, as I said, before we tear Biden apart, how about everybody give him a few months to surprise us on the upside? Give him a chance to put country before party and fulfill his oath of office…’
‘Trying to pick the most notable lies from Donald Trump’s presidency is like trying to pick the most notable pieces of junk from the town dump.
There’s just so much ugly garbage to sift through before you can make a decision.
But I’m qualified for the dirty job. I fact checked every word uttered by this President from his inauguration day in January 2017 until September 2020…’
— Analysis by Daniel Dale via CNNPolitics
There’s this anonymous reader, about whom I wrote here in the past, who’s continuing to rate every post even remotely critical or contemptuous of trump with 1 star.
I had considered dispensing with the ratings system. Any cogent reaction to a post ought to result in a comment rather than just a click on a star, since my followers are by and large articulate and intelligent readers. But I thinkI have decided to keep the ratings widget because I am kind of enjoying seeing that I get under at least one person’s skin that much. I personally am a fan of righteous anger (as if that wasn’t already obvious to my readers) even if misguided. So my critic should keep it up! I promise the negative posts about the Twice-Impeached Molester-in-Chief will continue.
So so sorry there is no way to arrange for you to indicate a ‘0’ star rating, since that would probably suit you more.
Someone suggested facetiously that the shitposter might be trump himself. If you’re reading this, now that your social media access has been largely axed, rest assured that you still have access to FmH. Keep ’em comin’!
Or you can even expand your activity here. For instance, the obituary below is about a person of color. That get under your skin too? Why not downrate it as well?
‘Pence’s rise and fall is emblematic of that of so many people who tethered themselves to Trump with disastrous results. When he agreed to become Trump’s running mate, his career was in peril. He was an obscure governor facing a difficult reelection campaign. At the time, his national profile centered on a bill he’d signed that critics feared could be used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community on religious grounds. By putting him on the ticket in 2016, Trump rescued him from a potentially career-ending loss—a point that Trump hasn’t hesitated to make in private discussions with White House aides.
From the first, Pence worried about alienating a thin-skinned president in constant need of validation. He stayed on message even when there was no message. James Melville, a former U.S. ambassador to Estonia, told me about a visit Pence made to that nation in July 2017. When Pence would huddle privately with aides, he’d invariably ask: “Were there any tweets? Did I miss anything?” Melville recalled. “I thought it was shocking and amusing” that Pence would be engaged in so much “hand-wringing over what the boss was saying.” Working under Trump, Melville said, was akin to “living with an alcoholic. You’re always waiting for the next disaster.”…’
— Peter Nicholas via The Atlantic
‘In the menagerie of right-wing populist groups, the boogaloo bois stand out for their fashion, for their great love of memes, and, to put it plainly, for the incoherence of their ideology. Which is saying a lot, considering that the riot at the Capitol last Wednesday featured partisans of the long-gone country of South Vietnam, Falun Gong adherents, end-times Christians, neo-Nazis, QAnon believers, a handful of Orthodox Jews, and Daniel Boone impersonators.
The boogaloos weren’t a huge presence in that mob. But according to federal officials, the attack on the Capitol has galvanized them and could inspire boogaloo violence in D.C. and around the country between now and Inauguration Day. The FBI warned earlier that boogaloos could launch attacks in state capitols this Sunday, January 17.
The boogaloos don’t appear interested in fighting for Donald Trump—they tend to despise him, mostly because they think he panders to the police. But for the past year, boogaloo bois all over the United States have been cheering on the country’s breakdown, waiting for the moment when their nihilistic memes would come to life and the country would devolve into bloody chaos.
It’s hard to know how seriously to take the boogaloo threat. Some are likely just joking when they “shit-post” about shooting cops or “yeeting alphabet boys”—killing government law-enforcement agents. But others seem serious. They’ve already shown up heavily armed (and in their signature Hawaiian shirts) at protests and at state capitols. They’ve allegedly killed law-enforcement officers, talked about throwing Molotov cocktails at cops during the racial-justice protests this summer, and plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. They say they want a total reset of society, even if they haven’t thought very hard about what, exactly, should come next.
Who are the boogaloo bois? And why do they want to start a civil war? I’ve spent the past few months trying to figure that out…’
— Michael J. Mooney via The Atlantic
‘..[W]hen a bizarrely fast, cigar-shaped interstellar object jetted past Earth on its trip through our solar system, Harvard professor Avi Loeb believes scientists weren’t ready to seriously consider that it was of artificial origin. But Loeb is beyond consideration — he says it’s very possible that ‘Oumuamua (pronounced “oh moo ah moo ah”) was an interstellar spacecraft.
Back in October 2017, a postdoctoral researcher named Robert Weryk at the University of Hawaii was sifting through the usual data stream from the Pan-STARRS astronomical survey of the sky when he noticed an unexpected object. It appeared to be highly elongated, like a stick, with a long axis 10 times longer than its short axis — unprecedented for an asteroid. Some hypothesized that ‘Oumuamua swung towards our solar system as a result of a gravitational slingshot of a binary star system; others, that it might be an odd comet, though no tail was evident. Thus the search began to collect and analyze as much data as possible before it left our solar system.
Immediately upon discovering its physical properties, researchers realized its shape — which would minimize abrasions from interstellar gas and dust — would be ideal for an interstellar spacecraft. The idea understandably sent shockwaves through the scientific community and stoked controversy. Ultimately, scientists coalesced behind the idea that it was of natural origin, rather than artificial. But Loeb, who is the former chair of astronomy at Harvard University, remains certain that it was something akin to a light sail — a form of interstellar propulsion — spacecraft created by an extraterrestrial civilization. So much so that he wrote a whole book about it.
That book would be “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” in which Loeb argues that the scientific community’s resistance to discussing the possibility of extraterrestrial life has hindered taking seriously his hypothesis that ‘Oumuamua was an alien light sail. Loeb reflects on how what happened with ‘Oumuamua was a bit of a missed opportunity, and that academia must invest more in the search for life in our universe to better prepare us for another interstellar visitor. But perhaps, most importantly, in a time when Earth faces an urgent global warming crisis, Loeb says that it could be finding extraterrestrial life that saves us from ourselves….’
— Via Salon.com
‘Throughout his presidency, President Donald Trump has remained hugely popular among fellow Republicans. As recently as December, after Trump had lost the 2020 election to President-elect Joe Biden, some polls showed the president with an approval rating in the high 80s among Republicans.
But a new poll by the Pew Research Center suggests that the events of the last few weeks — a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol, and then Trump was impeached for the second time in his presidency — are finally starting to weigh on Republican voters. The poll was conducted from January 8-12, so it was conducted entirely after the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
The poll shows Trump with a disastrous 29 percent approval rating among US adults. Notably, this rating, the lowest of his presidency, appears to be driven in large part by a significant minority of Republicans who have lost faith in the president. Only 60 percent of Republicans approve of Trump, a stark drop from previous Pew polls.
Pew Research Center
The poll potentially bodes bad news for the Republican Party, as it shows that a rift may be forming within the GOP between hardcore Trump loyalists and Republicans who would prefer to see the party leader fade away. Other recent polls have also found a sharp decrease in Trump’s support, as FiveThirtyEight’s tracker shows, though not all to such a low….’
— Via Vox
‘It’s becoming clear that the assault on the Capitol last week was well-planned. Here are a few of the latest findings:
The riot may have been coordinated with the help of at least three far-right U.S. Representatives: Andy Biggs, AZ, Mo Brooks, AL, and Paul Gosar, AZ.
Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill, NJ said she saw GOP “colleagues leading groups on “reconnaissance” tours of the building” a day before the riot.
“One freshman lawmaker, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), is also facing criticism for tweeting about the location of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) while the Capitol was under siege,” reports The Washington Post.
“Several Capitol Police officers have also been suspended and more than a dozen others are being investigated for suspected ties to rioters or for showing inappropriate support for last week’s attempted insurrection,” reports the Post.
“The attack on the Capitol was coordinated and planned. Here are the insurrectionists talking about the plan, including detailed schematics of the Capitol building.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff, Sarah Groh, said the panic buttons in her office had been removed. From the Post:…’
— Via Boing Boing
‘Though Trump has been exceptionally furious with Vice President Pence, his relationship with lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most steadfast defenders, is also fracturing, according to people with knowledge of the dynamics between the men.
Trump has instructed aides not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees, two officials said, and has demanded that he personally approve any reimbursements for the expenses Giuliani incurred while traveling on the president’s behalf to challenge election results in key states. They said Trump has privately expressed concern with some of Giuliani’s moves and did not appreciate a demand from Giuliani for $20,000 a day in fees for his work attempting to overturn the election….’
— Via The Washington Post
‘…Certainly, Trump deserves to be impeached for inciting an insurrection; lawmakers, direct targets of the attack, have ample justification for doing so. If Trump had any integrity, he would resign. If Vice President Pence had integrity, he would invoke the 25th Amendment. If Republican congressional leaders had integrity, they would see to Trump’s removal before he can do more harm. On Tuesday, an unrepentant Trump said his riot-inciting speech was “totally appropriate” — as if any more grounds were needed to justify his ouster.
Even if Trump were removed in his final week, though, the punishment would be inadequate, because it lets his co-conspirators off the hook. The attack on the Capitol was not a protest but a crime. The many people complicit in encouraging, planning, financing or condoning it need to be held to account: Members of Congress, state legislators and attorneys general, and the Internet platforms, businesses, advertisers and political action committees that aid them, must be prosecuted, hit with civil litigation or defunded.
Trump may preemptively pardon himself in the coming days, but he won’t be beyond civil and financial punishments. Let’s hope his enablers will be likewise held accountable for convincing millions that the election was stolen, and moving some to violence…’
‘A loyal lieutenant to President Donald Trump, Pence was criticized by the president over his role counting Electoral College votes in Congress and was one of the people trapped inside the U.S. Capitol when Trump supporters stormed the building as the votes were being tallied.
“While the vice president and his family were in a bunker in the Capitol, the president did not reach out to check on his safety nor did he condemn those who said the VP should be executed,” said sources familiar with the matter. Video shows rioters shouting, “Hang Pence!
“We strongly condemn all calls to violence, including those against any member of this administration,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
Pence and Trump have not spoken since the riots unfolded, according to a source familiar with the matter….’
— Kristen Welker et al via NBC News
I have wondered if trump’s announcement he will not attend the inauguration (what made him expect he was invited anyway??) represented a coded message to his mob that it would be okay to attack that gathering, with Pence and other prominent figures in attendance? Posts on pro-Trump forums continue calls for violence ahead of Inauguration Day. (NPR)
‘Social media platforms have (finally) clamped down on conspiracy theories. But this has simply moved them to ‘alt-tech’ platforms, where there’s no moderation and less critical analysis…’
— Yasmin Green via WIRED UK
‘It’s understandable that his critics on the Hill — who were hunkered down in the belly of the Capitol while Trump’s supporters raided their offices Wednesday — would be tempted to snatch the president’s keys to the “red button.”
But the House speaker does not have the authority to try to keep the nuclear codes from Trump. Like it or not, the president of the United States has sole authority to launch a nuclear weapon.
Pelosi knows this full well — and that’s the point.
The move was political, a way to gin up support for the new Democratic push to impeach Trump over his incitement of the violence that occurred at the US Capitol on Wednesday. (The Washington insider newsletter Punchbowl reported Friday that some Republicans would be “sure to support the move” to impeach.)
Pelosi is a savvy political operator, and painting Trump as not just unhinged but an imminent threat to global security is certainly a way to heighten pressure on members of Congress to support impeachment….’
— Via Vox
‘Hidden amidst the physical cleanup and repairs necessary after a mob of rioters stormed and occupied the US Capitol are significant cybersecurity concerns. At Wired, Lily Hay Newman writes about the cybersecurity implications of the invasion, explaining some of the breaches that happened and discussing others that could have happened if foreign intelligence agents piggybacked on the takeover.
Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, wasn’t surprised, noting, “You have to step back and realize that foreign intelligence could have looked at this and said, ‘Yeah, this is going to be an opportunity.’” Other experts commented on the massive amount of work needed to assess the damage and remediate or monitor any potentially compromised accounts, devices, and networks.
We should all take to heart the words of Kelvin Coleman, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, who said, “Any time there’s a physical breach of a space, I automatically assume it was a digital compromise as well.”…’
— Via TidBITS
‘Whether you’re a longtime astronomy enthusiast or someone embracing a newfound quarantine hobby, here are ten celestial events visible from North America to mark on the calendar….’
— Via Smithsonian Magazine
‘But if the Democrats dare to use their power, a brave new world might be possible…’Roxane Gay in The New York Times
I share Gay’s central point. We do not stand a chance if we give credence to the outpouring of sentiment after the coup attempt that “This is not who we are.” Face it, The Capitol events show us clearly that this is exactly what America has become and we had better face it, or we are whistling in the dark while the monsters descend on us.
‘Sweden’s Göteborg Film Festival will be hosted digitally this year, except for The Isolated Cinema, which allows a single viewer to watch all 60 films alone at an abandoned lighthouse, empty theater, or deserted arena…’
— via AV Club
I agonized awhile ago over whether a coup was happening. I should have realized, as concrete and simpleminded as trump is, that when he tried to pull it off there would be no doubt.
I think four options are worthy of urgent and immediate consideration in dealing with the unfit lying tyrannical dangerous narcissist:
The choice among the four options essentially comes down to whether this was an act of presidential disability (options 2 and 4) or one of presidential culpability (options 1 and 3). I personally have a hard time seeing his actions as those of a fully rational but morally culpable man, but then I have not evaluated him psychiatrically. [Here is an armchair psychoanalytic formulation of trump from Dave Pell at Nextdraft.] There are many arguments extant right now for each of the two poles. Of course, even if he is arrested and charged criminally, he might require a forensic psychiatric evaluation. Certainly, there is more furor in the mainstream press for responding to him as a criminal insurrectionist than as dangerously mentally ill:
However, I do not see that at all as based on clinical assessment as much as political feasibility and expediency. Why can’t we simply wait for Jan. 20th without taking any action? Both for the sake of the Constitution and because the madman still holds the nuclear launch codes and I for one do not trust that there are adequate safeguards in place against his further acting out.
Related: 50 Spot On Reactions People Had To The Events In The US Capitol. (Bored Panda)
‘Meet the Denmark Strait cataract, the largest waterfall in the world. The gigantic waterfall is located between Greenland and Iceland, stretching over 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide and plunging 11,500 feet (3,505 meters) down from the Greenland Sea into the Irminger Sea…
The Denmark Strait cataract is formed by the difference in temperature between the ultra-cold Arctic waters of the Greenland Sea meeting those of the slightly warmer Irminger Sea. Since the molecules in the cold water are less active and take up less space than in warm water, they are packed together more tightly, making colder water denser. That means that when water from the Greenland Sea meets the Irminger Sea water, it slides right down through it to the bottom of the ocean….’
— Via Neatorama
‘The ruling is based not on whether the WikiLeaks founder violated the Espionage Act, but on the implications of subjecting him to the US carceral state….’
— Via WIRED
I am drawing up Articles of Impeachment. Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate. We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.— Twitter
‘Researchers recently used a huge telescope in Hawaii to study primordial black holes.
These black holes might have formed in the early days from baby universes and may be responsible for dark matter.
The study also raises the possibility that our own universe may look like a black hole to outside observers….’
— Via Big Think
‘The coronavirus can cause insomnia and long-term changes in our nervous systems. But sleep could also be a key to ending the pandemic….’
— James Hamblin MD via The Atlantic
Early in the pandemic, a Cleveland researcher examining the structure of the newly identified virus found it could potentially be blocked by melatonin, a physiological hormone that calibrates sleep and the immune response. Subsequent studies have shown that patients taking melatonin, which is available as an over the counter dietary supplement, have reduced rates of Covid infection and better survival. (Trump was given melatonin as well as other more experimental therapies at Walter Reed). Eight clinical trials of melatonin are currently ongoing, making it one of the most studied potential treatments. But is it melatonin per se or the improved sleep it facilitates, and In turn the effect that has on immune function, that improve Covid-19 outcome?
Initially clinicians saw rampant sleep disturbances and attributed them to pandemic anxiety. But long-term neurological sequela after infection, including sleep disturbance, are becoming apparent and appear out of proportion to patients’ level of preoccupation or worry. Post-Covid symptoms were assumed to be autoimmune reactions, similar to those known in the CNS after other viral infections. But autoimmune researchers feel the effects of Covid don’t exactly fit the bill, being more sporadic and widespread. As one put it, it is “haphazard inflammation — less a targeted attack than an indiscriminate brawl,” with symptoms resulting from a number of mechanisms, perhaps similar to myalgic encephalitis or “chronic fatigue syndrome,” which is poorly understood, widely misrepresented, poorly treatment-responsive, and stigmatized. Interestingly, many clinicians and theoreticians believe the sleep disturbance is central in myalgic encephalitis. Impairment of stages of deep (slow wave) sleep dysregulate metabolism and immune response. This reinforces the idea that melatonin treatment should be part of standard practice.
And, with some discipline, routines to regulate sleep are possible during the pandemic, unlike so many other uncontrollable factors in our current lives. Recommendations may sound prosaic but are profound, and include consistent sleep-wake times, even on weekends, scheduled walks, sunlight exposure early in the day, reduction in blue light exposure for at least the last hour before bed, and maintaining meaningful social connections with others. As Hamblin opines, “Sleep like your life depends on it.”
‘…[G]iven the stage in the pandemic we are at, a more transmissible variant is in some ways much more dangerous than a more severe variant. That’s because higher transmissibility subjects us to a more contagious virus spreading with exponential growth, whereas the risk from increased severity would have increased in a linear manner, affecting only those infected….’
— Zeynep Tufekci, associate professor (in information technology, not virology) at UNC, in The Atlantic
‘In a bombshell conversation with Georgia’s secretary of state yesterday, President Donald Trump made monkeys of every Republican official and every conservative talking head who professed to believe Trump’s allegations of voter fraud. The president himself made clear that he had only one end in view: overturning the 2020 election.
…[A] president desperate enough to try to steal an election on a recorded line is desperate enough to try a self-pardon. If a president can pardon himself as well as his or her subordinates, a president can order any crime, or commit it himself, with absolute impunity. The very notion of a self-pardon is radically inconsistent with democratic accountability. If Trump tries to pardon himself, his successors must fight his attempt all the way to the Supreme Court. And given the Raffensperger recording, who doubts that Trump will try it?…’
— Via The Atlantic
‘…[O]ver the past two years, researchers have rewritten nearly every major chapter of the galaxy’s history. What happened? They got better data.
On April 25, 2018, a European spacecraft by the name of Gaia released a staggering quantity of information about the sky. Critically, Gaia’s years-long data set described the detailed motions of roughly 1 billion stars. Previous surveys had mapped the movement of just thousands. The data brought a previously static swath of the galaxy to life. “Gaia started a new revolution,” said Federico Sestito, an astronomer at the Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory in France.
Astronomers raced to download the dynamic star map, and a flurry of discoveries followed. They found that parts of the disk, for example, appeared impossibly ancient. They also found evidence of epic collisions that shaped the Milky Way’s violent youth, as well as new signs that the galaxy continues to churn in an unexpected way.
The Gaia satellite has revolutionized our understanding of the Milky Way since its launch in December 2013. Taken together, these results have spun a new story about our galaxy’s turbulent past and its ever-evolving future. “Our picture of the Milky Way has changed so quickly,” said Michael Petersen, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh. “The theme is that the Milky Way is not a static object. Things are changing rapidly everywhere.”…’
— Via WIRED
‘Someone I follow on Twitter, Erika Chappell, recently encapsulated my feelings about The Simpsons in a tweet: “That a show which was originally about a dysfunctional mess of a family barely clinging to middle class life in the aftermath of the Reagan administration has now become aspirational is frankly the most on the nose [manifestation] of capitalist American decline I can think of.”
For many, a life of constant economic uncertainty—in which some of us are one emergency away from losing everything, no matter how much we work—is normal. Second jobs are no longer for extra cash; they are for survival. It wasn’t always this way. When The Simpsons first aired, few would have predicted that Americans would eventually find the family’s life out of reach. But for too many of us now, it is….’
— Dani Alexis Ryskamp via The Atlantic
I once ran across a January 1st Boston Globe article compiling folkloric beliefs about what to do, what to eat, etc. on New Year’s Day to bring good fortune for the year to come. I’ve regretted since — I usually think of it around once a year (grin) — not clipping out and saving the article. Especially since we’ve had children, I’m interested in enduring traditions that go beyond getting drunk [although some comment that this is a profound enactment of the interdigitation of chaos and order appropriate to the New Year’s celebration — FmH], watching the bowl games and making resolutions.
A web search brought me this, less elaborate than what I recall from the Globe but to the same point. It is weighted toward eating traditions, which is odd because, unlike most other major holidays, the celebration of New Year’s in 21st century America does not seem to be centered at all around thinking about what we eat (except in the sense of the traditional weight-loss resolutions!) and certainly not around a festive meal. But…
Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.
“Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune.
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another ‘good luck’ vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.”
The further north one travels in the British Isles, the more the year-end festivities focus on New Year’s. The Scottish observance of Hogmanay has many elements of warming heart and hearth, welcoming strangers and making a good beginning:
“Three cornered biscuits called hogmanays are eaten. Other special foods are: wine, ginger cordial, cheese, bread, shortbread, oatcake, carol or carl cake, currant loaf, and a pastry called scones. After sunset people collect juniper and water to purify the home. Divining rituals are done according to the directions of the winds, which are assigned their own colors.
First Footing: The first person who comes to the door on midnight New Year’s Eve should be a dark-haired or dark-complected man with gifts for luck. Seeing a cat, dog, woman, red-head or beggar is unlucky. The person brings a gift (handsel) of coal or whiskey to ensure prosperity in the New Year. Mummer’s Plays are also performed. The actors called the White Boys of Yule are all dressed in white, except for one dressed as the devil in black. It is bad luck to engage in marriage proposals, break glass, spin flax, sweep or carry out rubbish on New Year’s Eve.”
Here’s why we clink our glasses when we drink our New Year’s toasts, no matter where we are. Of course, sometimes the midnight cacophony is louder than just clinking glassware, to create a ‘devil-chasing din’.
In Georgia, eat black eyed peas and turnip greens on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity in the year to come, supposedly because they symbolize coppers and currency. Hoppin’ John, a concoction of peas, onion, bacon and rice, is also a southern New Year’s tradition, as is wearing yellow to find true love (in Peru and elsewhere in South America, yellow underwear, apparently!) or carrying silver for prosperity. In some instances, a dollar bill is thrown in with the other ingredients of the New Year’s meal to bring prosperity. In Greece, there is a traditional New Year’s Day sweetbread with a silver coin baked into it. All guests get a slice of the bread and whoever receives the slice with the coin is destined for good fortune for the year. At Italian tables, lentils, oranges and olives are served. The lentils, looking like coins, will bring prosperity; the oranges are for love; and the olives, symbolic of the wealth of the land, represent good fortune for the year to come.
A New Year’s meal in Norway also includes dried cod, “lutefisk.” The Pennsylvania Dutch make sure to include sauerkraut in their holiday meal, also for prosperity.
In Spain, you would cram twelve grapes in your mouth at midnight, one each time the clock chimed, for good luck for the twelve months to come. (If any of the grapes happens to be sour, the corresponding month will not be one of your most fortunate in the coming year.) The U. S. version of this custom, for some reason, involves standing on a chair as you pop the grapes. In Denmark, jumping off a chair at the stroke of midnight signifies leaping into the New Year.
The crescent-shaped Copacabana beach… is the scene of an unusual New Year’s Eve ritual: mass public blessings by the mother-saints of the Macumba and Candomble sects. More than 1 million people gather to watch colorful fireworks displays before plunging into the ocean at midnight after receiving the blessing from the mother-saints, who set up mini-temples on the beach.
When taking the plunge, revelers are supposed to jump over seven waves, one for each day of the week.
This is all meant to honor Lamanjá, known as the “Mother of Waters” or “Goddess of the Sea.” Lamanjá protects fishermen and survivors of shipwrecks. Believers also like to throw rice, jewelry and other gifts into the water, or float them out into the sea in intimately crafted miniature boats, to please Lamanjá in the new year.
In many northern hemisphere cities near bodies of water, people also take a New Year’s Day plunge into the water, although of course it is an icy one! The Coney Island Polar Bears Club in New York is the oldest cold-water swimming club in the United States. They have had groups of people enter the chilly surf since 1903.
Ecuadorian families make scarecrows stuffed with newspaper and firecrackers and place them outside their homes. The dummies represent misfortunes of the prior year, which are then burned in effigy at the stroke of midnight to forget the old year. Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck.
In China, homes are cleaned spotless to appease the Kitchen God, and papercuttings of red paper are hung in the windows to scare away evil spirits who might enter the house and bring misfortune. Large papier mache dragon heads with long fabric bodies are maneuvered through the streets during the Dragon Dance festival, and families open their front doors to let the dragon bring good luck into their homes.
The Indian Diwali, or Dipawali, festival, welcoming in the autumnal season, also involves attracting good fortune with lights. Children make small clay lamps, dipas, thousands of which might adorn a given home. In Thailand, one pours fragrant water over the hands of elders on New Year’s Day to show them respect.
“It’s a bit bizarre when you think about it. A short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s has become a German New Year’s tradition. Yet, although The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One is a famous cult classic in Germany and several other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, including Britain, its birthplace.” (Watch on Youtube, 11 min.)
So if the Germans watch British video, what do you watch in Britain? A number of sources have suggested that it is Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, “even though it’s awful and everyone hates it.“
On a related theme, from earlier in the same week, here are some of the more bizarre Christmas rituals from around the world.
Some history; documentation of observance of the new year dates back at least 4000 years to the Babylonians, who also made the first new year’s resolutions (reportedly voews to return borrowed farm equipment were very popular), although their holiday was observed at the vernal equinox. The Babylonian festivities lasted eleven days, each day with its own particular mode of celebration. The traditional Persian Norouz festival of spring continues to be considered the advent of the new year among Persians, Kurds and other peoples throughout Central Asia, and dates back at least 3000 years, deeply rooted in Zooastrian traditions.Modern Bahá’í’s celebrate Norouz (”Naw Ruz”) as the end of a Nineteen Day Fast. Rosh Hashanah (”head of the year”), the Jewish New Year, the first day of the lunar month of Tishri, falls between September and early October. Muslim New Year is the first day of Muharram, and Chinese New Year falls between Jan. 10th and Feb. 19th of the Gregorian calendar.
The classical Roman New Year’s celebration was also in the spring although the calendar went out of synchrony with the sun. January 1st became the first day of the year by proclamation of the Roman Senate in 153 BC, reinforced even more strongly when Julius Caesar established what came to be known as the Julian calendar in 46 BC. The early Christian Church condemned new year’s festivities as pagan but created parallel festivities concurrently. New Year’s Day is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision in some denominations. Church opposition to a new year’s observance reasserted itself during the Middle Ages, and Western nations have only celebrated January 1 as a holidy for about the last 400 years. The custom of New Year’s gift exchange among Druidic pagans in 7th century Flanders was deplored by Saint Eligius, who warned them, “[Do not] make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” (Wikipedia)
The tradition of the New Year’s Baby signifying the new year began with the Greek tradition of parading a baby in a basket during the Dionysian rites celebrating the annual rebirth of that god as a symbol of fertility. The baby was also a symbol of rebirth among early Egyptians. Again, the Church was forced to modify its denunciation of the practice as pagan because of the popularity of the rebirth symbolism, finally allowing its members to cellebrate the new year with a baby although assimilating it to a celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. The addition of Father Time (the “Old Year”) wearing a sash across his chest with the previous year on it, and the banner carried or worn by the New Year’s Baby, immigrated from Germany. Interestingly, January 1st is not a legal holiday in Israel, officially because of its historic origins as a Christian feast day.
Auld Lang Syne (literally ‘old long ago’ in the Scottish dialect) is sung or played at the stroke of midnight throughout the English-speaking world (and then there is George Harrison’s “Ring Out the Old”). Versions of the song have been part of the New Year’s festivities since the 17th century but Robert Burns was inspired to compose a modern rendition, which was published after his death in 1796. (It took Guy Lombardo, however, to make it popular…)
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne
- Arabic: Kul ‘aam u antum salimoun
- Brazilian: Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo means “Good Parties and Happy New Year”
Chu Shen TanXin Nian Kuai Le (thanks, Jeff)
- Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok
- Dutch: Gullukkig Niuw Jaar
- Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
- French: Bonne Annee
- German: Prosit Neujahr
- Greek: Eftecheezmaenos o Kaenooryos hronos
- Hebrew: L’Shannah Tovah Tikatevu
- Hindi: Niya Saa Moobaarak
- Irish (Gaelic): Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit
- Italian: Buon Capodanno
- Khmer: Sua Sdei tfnam tmei
- Laotian: Sabai dee pee mai
- Polish: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
- Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo
- Russian: S Novim Godom
- Serbo-Croatian: Scecna nova godina
- Spanish: Feliz Ano Nuevo
- Swedish: Ha ett gott nytt år
- Turkish: Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
- Vietnamese: Cung-Chuc Tan-Xuan
[If you are a native speaker, please feel free to offer any corrections or additions!]
Which of these customs appeal to you? Are they done in your family, or will you try to adopt any of them? However you’re going to celebrate, my warmest wishes for the year to come… and eat hearty!
‘Fewer people were executed in 2020 than in any year for nearly three decades, and fewer people were sentenced to die than at any point since the Supreme Court created the modern legal framework governing the death penalty in 1976. Those are two of the striking findings in the Death Penalty Information Center’s (DPIC) annual report, which was released on December 16.
One significant reason so few people were executed in 2020 is the Covid-19 pandemic — which has slowed court proceedings and turned gathering prison officials and witnesses for an execution into a dangerous event for everyone involved. But even if 2020 is an outlier year due to the pandemic, DPIC’s data shows a sharp and consistent trend away from the death penalty since the number of capital sentences peaked in the 1990s.
…The trend away from new death sentences and executions has continued despite two recent significant pro-death penalty opinions from the Supreme Court.
…Why has the number of death sentences and executions declined so sharply?…’
— Via Vox
‘Botanists discover a new species of flower on a remote slope in Hawaii.
The new plant is called Cyanea heluensis and features white, curved flowers.
The plant is so rare, there is only one of its kind found so far….’
— Via Big Think
‘“We’re now approaching the technological threshold where the little guys can do it to the big guys,” one researcher said….’
— Via The New York Times
‘A new paper reveals a persuasive case that an extinct human ancestor tried to hibernate.
The evidence is from nutritional diseases that leave permanent marks on the skeleton.
This group of humanlike primates spent winters sheltered inside dark, but safe caves….’
— Via Popular Mechanics