No one appears to have noticed. I’ve barely noticed myself — FmH is twenty years old today. At one point, I had been pondering marking the occasion with some observance — should I make some 20th anniversary merchandise available? maybe offer an anthology of posts as a self-published book? I thought about soliciting your opinions about an appropriate commemoration. Or… I thought about using this as the occasion to retire FmH. At some point it felt like it would be a heroic achievement to make it to 20. But FmH just chugs along as a part of the fabric of my life, not an extraordinary effort at all. You’ve probably noticed that I put less effort into this these days, in the sense of excerpting more, commenting less often and more tersely, fewer and fewer expository essays. It’s less and less important to tell you what I think than to suggest what you might think about, I guess. So, unextraordinarily, we can just keep going on as we are, shall we? And maybe I’ll make some kind of fuss when FmH turns 21. After all, it’ll then attain its majority…
Contribute to groundbreaking research studies simply by using your iPhone:
’Until now, conducting large-scale health studies has been time-consuming and expensive. Devices like Apple Watch and iPhone are changing this dynamic. They capture meaningful health information, including signals from your heart, your level of motion and activity, and your sound exposure levels throughout the day. With the Research app, volunteering to help advance medical understanding has been greatly simplified.1 You can sign up for a study (or studies) right from your iPhone. If you meet the criteria for a given study, you’re in. It’s that easy.…’
A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?:
’Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.
“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage,” Trump told the crowd at his reelection kickoff event in Orlando in June. “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.” This is the core of the president’s pitch to his supporters: He is all that stands between them and the abyss.
In October, with the specter of impeachment looming, he fumed on Twitter, “What is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!” For good measure, he also quoted a supporter’s dark prediction that impeachment “will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric matches the tenor of the times. The body politic is more fractious than at any time in recent memory. Over the past 25 years, both red and blue areas have become more deeply hued, with Democrats clustering in cities and suburbs and Republicans filling in rural areas and exurbs. In Congress, where the two caucuses once overlapped ideologically, the dividing aisle has turned into a chasm.
As partisans have drifted apart geographically and ideologically, they’ve become more hostile toward each other. In 1960, less than 5 percent of Democrats and Republicans said they’d be unhappy if their children married someone from the other party; today, 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats would be, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute/Atlantic poll—far higher than the percentages that object to marriages crossing the boundaries of race and religion. As hostility rises, Americans’ trust in political institutions, and in one another, is declining. A study released by the Pew Research Center in July found that only about half of respondents believed their fellow citizens would accept election results no matter who won. At the fringes, distrust has become centrifugal: Right-wing activists in Texas and left-wing activists in California have revived talk of secession.…’
’Extinction Rebellion’s Sinking House is a protest art-installation in the form of a suburban house drowning in the Thames. They launched it early last Sunday.
The artists behind the work are Katey Burak and Rob Higgs.…’
Via Boing Boing
’…Trump can wear out even the notoriously sturdy ability to lie that defines the modern Republican politician. It can’t feel great, constantly debasing themselves for a man who never shows gratitude but only keeps upping the ante, seeing how many more crimes he can commit that they’ll cover up.
The typical answer most pundits look to is this idea that Trump’s wild popularity with the almighty base protects him. Other elected Republicans are afraid that loyalty to Trump exceeds loyalty to the party, and they would lose any conflict between the two.
There’s reason to be skeptical of this view. As the blogger Atrios pointed out, Sarah Palin was once “treated as the most important voice in politics and now she is a trivia question,” and therefore “the GOP could drop their latest messiah and 5 minutes later no one would remember.” Truthfully, the same would happen if the Republicans decided, en masse, to kick Trump to the curb — their base would go along and many of them would probably also be quietly relieved to quit pretending that Trump is a voice worthy of respect.
But there’s a strong alternative explanation: Republicans have good reason to fear that if Trump goes down, he’s taking Vice President Mike Pence with him. If that happens, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is third in line under the Constitution, would become president. Republicans may be genuinely worried that they can’t toss Trump to the curb without losing the White House entirely.…’
’Regulators in Europe have granted the world’s first approval of a vaccine against Ebola—and health officials are wasting no time in rolling it out.
The European Commission announced at the start of the week that it had granted a landmark marketing authorization of Merck’s Ebola vaccine Ervebo. The vaccine has been in the works since the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. It is now being used in the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo based on a “compassionate use” protocol.
The current outbreak in the DRC has killed nearly 2,200 since August 2018, causing nearly 3,300 cases. The outbreak is the second-largest recorded, surpassed only by the 2014 West African outbreak that caused more than 11,000 deaths and 28,000 cases.
Preliminary vaccine data from the current DRC outbreak suggested that Ervebo is 97.5% effective at preventing the devastating viral disease. It protected well over 90,000 people in the outbreak.…’
Via Ars Technica
’I found myself exhilarated by our comparatively ego-free ancestors who went to great lengths, and depths, to create some of the world’s most breathtaking art—and didn’t even bother to sign their names.…’
Via The Baffler
’If you survey American parents about what they want for their kids, more than 90 percent say one of their top priorities is that their children be caring. This makes sense: Kindness and concern for others are held as moral virtues in nearly every society and every major religion. But when you ask children what their parents want for them, 81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring. Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that kindness appears to be in decline.…’
Via 3 Quarks Daily
Mike Mcintire, Karen Yourish And Larry Buchanan write:
‘The New York Times examined Mr. Trump’s interactions with Twitter since he took office, reviewing each of his more than 11,000 tweets and the hundreds of accounts he has retweeted, tracking the ways he is exposed to information and replicating what he is likely to see on the platform. The result, including new data analysis and previously unreported details, offers the most comprehensive view yet of a virtual world in which the president spends significant time mingling with extremists, impostors and spies….’
Via New York Times
Joanna Weiss writes:
‘…It’s no surprise that many find Trump to be no laughing matter, or have trouble finding lighthearted spots in an ongoing stream of hyperbole and bile. One _New York Times _column called his “A Presidency Without Humor.” Comedy writer Nell Scovell, who has written jokes for David Letterman and Barack Obama, once declared that if Trump does have a sense of humor, it’s confined to the instances when he “clearly chuckles at the misfortune of others.”
But Trump’s winking stance, jarring and inconsonant though it may be with the rest of liberals’ conception of him, is one of the essential, even primal ways the president keeps his base on board, laughing along. For Trump and his defenders, a little gentle self-mocking does more than just warm up a room. It can neutralize his opponents’ attacks. And it can let Trump off the hook even when he probably isn’t joking, as when Marco Rubio argued last month that Trump was only kidding when he declared that China should investigate Hunter Biden.
But it’s most powerful when it makes his supporters feel that they’re in on Trump’s jokes in a way the establishment isn’t…’
Molly Roberts writes:
‘It’s glib, it’s short, and it’s not at all sweet, but “OK, boomer” also reveals something about each of today’s generations. So does the response the words have wrought…’
Via Washington Post
’Phocine distemper virus (PDV) has been a known pathogen in certain seal populations for decades, resulting in several mass mortality events involving tens of thousands of animals since 1988. Similarities in the outbreaks lead scientists to question how the virus was circulating in seal species all over the globe.…
In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists have found a link between the disease and melting sea ice due to climate change…’
Via CBS News
‘The ‘Anonymous’ author purporting to be at the top of the Trump administration is soon releasing a book titled “A Warning,” a behind the scenes look into the president of Donald Trump.
The author, identified as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” according to news reports, first came to prominence with an anonymous op-ed published in September 2018 in The New York Times that described efforts by the author and other senior officials to protect the country from Trump….
Here are some of the most explosive claims so far from the book:
…The author’s September 2018 op-ed in the Times claimed there were White House officials standing between Trump and his worst impulses, and that they could keep the president in check. The Post reports the author admitted to being wrong on this point.
“Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” the author wrote last year.
“I was wrong about the ‘quiet resistance’ inside the Trump administration,” the author writes now. “Unelected bureaucrats and cabinet appointees were never going to steer Donald Trump the right direction in the long run, or refine his malignant management style. He is who he is.”
…According to the Post, the author also plans to criticize Trump’s character and whether he’s fit for office.
The author describes Trump as “like a twelve-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport” in an excerpt provided to the outlet.
In another excerpt, the author writes, “I am not qualified to diagnose the president’s mental acuity” but adds:
“All I can tell you is that normal people who spend any time with Donald Trump are uncomfortable by what they witness. He stumbles, slurs, gets confused, is easily irritated, and has trouble synthesizing information, not occasionally but with regularity. Those who would claim otherwise are lying to themselves or to the country.”…’
’Reaching for verbs to describe Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s final moments, President Trump grabbed hold of “crying,” “screaming” and “whimpering.”
Reaching for nouns, he said that al-Baghdadi died “like a dog.”
I wasn’t aware that canines expired in a signature fashion, but Trump knows best, even if he doesn’t know so very many words. About a week later, when he took characteristically nasty note of Beto O’Rourke’s decision to abandon the presidential race, he said that O’Rourke quit “like a dog.”
Some similes demand repetition.
This wasn’t one of them.
But a lack of verbal ingenuity never stopped Trump. And an animus toward a certain animal has long, well, hounded him.
In his boundless unoriginality, he has likened women he dislikes to dogs. In his infinite incoherence, he has repeatedly tweeted of people being fired like dogs. I personally haven’t met all that many gainfully employed pooches, unless digging holes in the backyard is a profession, and when those excavators received orders to desist, none of them got a pink slip and a referral to career counseling.…’
Via New York Times
’There are people who believe that the political polarization now afflicting the United States might finally start to subside if Americans of both parties could somehow become more empathetic. If you’re one of these people, the American Political Science Review has sobering news for you.
Last week APSR—one of the alpha journals in political science—published a study which found that “empathic concern does not reduce partisan animosity in the electorate and in some respects even exacerbates it.”
The study had two parts. In the first part, Americans who scored high on an empathy scale showed higher levels of “affective polarization”—defined as the difference between the favorability rating they gave their political party and the rating they gave the opposing party. In the second part, undergraduates were shown a news story about a controversial speaker from the opposing party visiting a college campus. Students who had scored higher on the empathy scale were more likely to applaud efforts to deny the speaker a platform.
It gets worse. These high-empathy students were also more likely to be amused by reports that students protesting the speech had injured a bystander sympathetic to the speaker. That’s right: according to this study, people prone to empathy are prone to schadenfreude.…’
It’s only a matter of time.
’Donald Trump knows there are potential traitors in his midst. His presidency could depend on keeping them at bay…
The latest impeachment resolution was starkly divided along partisan lines, but whether the Republican caucus will remain steadfast may depend on how some members weigh their support or distaste for the president against their own electoral futures, or lack thereof…
Trump can be impeached in the House with Democratic votes alone. But whether or not he’s convicted in the Senate will be determined by Republican votes.
What if Lamar Alexander, the retiring statesman from Tennessee who has struggled to mask his disillusionment with Trump’s destruction of norms, decides to go out with a bang?
What if Cory Gardner, whose reelection in Colorado seems destined to be doomed by the top of the ticket, thinks his next act in politics depends on establishing distance from Trump?
What if Ben Sasse or Pat Toomey or Rob Portman, all thoughtful conservatives in the Burkean tradition, reach a point where they feel compelled to meet a moment on behalf of their party and their country and perhaps even their constituents, as upset as many of them might be?…’
‘Scientists have tried contacting extraterrestrials with a number of bespoke linguistic systems. But we might be better off using our own languages…’
Via Design You Trust
’Award winning journalist Kurt Eichenwald gave a lot of Twitter readers anxiety and insomnia when he posted a 17-part Twitter thread yesterday afternoon about why it wouldn’t be difficult for Trump to use executive power to effectively make himself dictator for life.…’
Via Boing Boing
’Study reveals as we sleep, cerebrospinal fluid pulses in the brain in rhythmic patterns.…’
…mashed up with actual November 2019 Los Angeles:
’I noticed that it was that time of the century and made a mashup up the film’s legendary intro, complete with Vangelis’s soundtrack, with real contemporary footage of LA. The main difference is, of course, what’s on fire. LA, November 2019: smoking hot, yes, flying cars, no.…’
Via Boing Boing
‘One hundred years ago, 1919 saw the end of one of the worst plagues in human history: the deadly 1918–1919 influenza pandemic. The pandemic was a true horror show, with 50–100 million people dying and millions more infected. The United States alone lost more people in the pandemic than it lost in all the 20th- and 21st-century wars, combined.
This was no ordinary flu virus: It killed young adults in high numbers, and it came with grisly side effects, like massive bleeding from the nose, mouth and ears. It could damage the nervous and respiratory systems and could cause violent derangement, delirium and – in its aftermath – profound lethargy and suicidal depression.
The pandemic turned communities into haunted landscapes. Coffins ran out as bodies piled up everywhere. Stores, theaters and schools were closed, and wagons were pulled through the streets to collect corpses. Funerals were often impossible to organize, and across the country, mass graves were dug to accommodate the many dead.
A literature professor, I have written about the flu’s surprising connection to zombies, spiritualism and poems like T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” in my new book, “Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature.”…’
Via The Conversation
‘This is a list of fictional stories that, when written, were set in the future, but the future they predicted is now present or past….’
— Read on Wikipedia
’It has been a big year for leeches. A new species was discovered near Washington and announced in August by Anna
Phillips, who may have the world’s best job title: curator of parasitic worms at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
…Although insects are very big in the blood-feeding world, leeches occupy a special place in the human imagination — somewhere between vampire bats and that tiny fish that was once reputed to swim up the human urethra.
Via New York Times
’I love this photograph by Peruvian photographer Jheison Huerta. It’s a shot of the Milky Way above the Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia. After it rains, the thin layer of water transforms the flat into the world’s largest mirror, some 80 miles across. Beautiful.…’
Related: A psychologist explains why we love blood-curdling screams
’Screams might seem simple, but they can actually convey a complex set of emotions. The arsenal of human screams has been honed over millions of years of evolution, with subtle nuances in volume, timing and inflection that can signal different things.…’
Via Big Think
The killing of bin Laden only resulted in a brief rating bump for President Obama. Baghdadi was less well-known than bin Laden and, in any case, the fate of the Islamic State is unclear. Trump’s braying news conference probably didn’t help… and almost nothing changes Trump’s polling anyway.
Via Washington Post
’Unlike self-interested humans, ants have a common goal: The colony’s survival.…’
Via Ars Technica
A reprise of my traditional Hallowe’en post of past years:
It is that time of year again. What has become a time of disinhibited hijinx and mayhem, and a growing marketing bonanza for the kitsch-manufacturers and -importers, has primeval origins as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The harvest is over, summer ends and winter begins, the Old God dies and returns to the Land of the Dead to await his rebirth at Yule, and the land is cast into darkness. The veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead becomes frayed and thin, and dispossessed dead mingle with the living, perhaps seeking a body to possess for the next year as their only chance to remain connected with the living, who hope to scare them away with ghoulish costumes and behavior, escape their menace by masquerading as one of them, or placate them with offerings of food, in hopes that they will go away before the new year comes. For those prepared, a journey to the other side could be made at this time.
With Christianity, perhaps because with calendar reform it was no longer the last day of the year, All Hallows’ Eve became decathected, a day for innocent masquerading and fun, taking its name Hallowe’en as a contraction and corruption of All Hallows’ Eve.
All Saints’ Day may have originated in its modern form with the 8th century Pope Gregory III. Hallowe’en customs reputedly came to the New World with the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s. The prominence of trick-or-treating has a slightly different origin, however.
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.
Jack-o’-lanterns were reportedly originally turnips; the Irish began using pumpkins after they immigrated to North America, given how plentiful they were here. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
Nowadays, a reported 99% of cultivated pumpkin sales in the US go for jack-o-lanterns.
Folk traditions that were in the past associated with All Hallows’ Eve took much of their power, as with the New Year’s customs about which I write here every Dec. 31st, from the magic of boundary states, transition, and liminality.
The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune. Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter. A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire. There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune. Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse. One way of looking for omens of death was for peope to visit churchyards
The Witches’ Sabbath aspect of Hallowe’en seems to result from Germanic influence and fusion with the notion of Walpurgisnacht. (You may be familiar with the magnificent musical evocation of this, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.)
Although probably not yet in a position to shape mainstream American Hallowe’en traditions, Mexican Dia de los Muertos observances have started to contribute some delightful and whimsical iconography to our encounter with the eerie and unearthly as well. As this article in The Smithsonian reviews, ‘In the United States, Halloween is mostly about candy, but elsewhere in the world celebrations honoring the departed have a spiritual meaning…’
Reportedly, more than 80% of American families decorate their homes, at least minimally, for Hallowe’en. What was the holiday like forty or fifty years ago in the U.S. when, bastardized as it has now become with respect to its pagan origins, it retained a much more traditional flair? Before the era of the pay-per-view ’spooky-world’ type haunted attractions and its Martha Stewart yuppification with, as this irreverent Salon article from several years ago [via walker] put it, monogrammed jack-o’-lanterns and the like? One issue may be that, as NPR observed,
‘“Adults have hijacked Halloween… Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey. True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons’ game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’
Is that necessarily a bad thing? A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, entitled “Why Bother to Save Hallowe’en?”, argues as I do that reverence for Hallowe’en is good for the soul, young or old.
“Maybe at one time Hallowe’en helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Hallowe’en was the occasion for socially condoned mischief — a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.…(D)on’t just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.”
That would be anathema to certain segments of society, however. Hallowe’en certainly inspires a backlash by fundamentalists who consider it a blasphemous abomination. ‘Amateur scholar’ Isaac Bonewits details academically the Hallowe’en errors and lies he feels contribute to its being reviled. Some of the panic over Hallowe’en is akin to the hysteria, fortunately now debunked, over the supposed epidemic of ‘ritual Satanic abuse’ that swept the Western world in the ’90’s.
The horror film has become inextricably linked to Hallowe’en tradition, although the holiday itself did not figure in the movies until John Carpenter took the slasher genre singlehandedly by storm. Googling “scariest films”, you will, grimly, reap a mother lode of opinions about how to pierce the veil to journey to the netherworld and reconnect with that magical, eerie creepiness in the dark (if not the over-the-top blood and gore that has largely replaced the subtlety of earlier horror films).
The Carfax Abbey Horror Films and Movies Database includes best-ever-horror-films lists from Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Showbiz and Hollywood.com. I’ve seen most of these; some of their choices are not that scary, some are just plain silly, and they give extremely short shrift to my real favorites, the evocative classics of the ’30’s and ’40’s when most eeriness was allusive and not explicit. And here’s what claims to be a compilation of links to the darkest and most gruesome sites on the web. “Hours and hours of fun for morbidity lovers.”
Boing Boing does homage to a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror, two of the tensest, scariest hours of my life repeated every time I watch it:
‘…The Thing starts. It had been 9 years since The Exorcist scared the living shit out of audiences in New York and sent people fleeing into the street. Really … up the aisle and out the door at full gallop. You would think that people had calmed down a bit since then. No…’
Meanwhile, what could be creepier in the movies than the phenomenon of evil children? Gawker knows what shadows lurk in the hearts of the cinematic young:
‘In celebration of Halloween, we took a shallow dive into the horror subgenre of evil-child horror movies. Weird-kid cinema stretches back at least to 1956’s The Bad Seed, and has experienced a resurgence recently via movies like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and Cooties. You could look at this trend as a natural extension of the focus on domesticity seen in horror via the wave of haunted-house movies that 2009’s Paranormal Activity helped usher in. Or maybe we’re just wizening up as a culture and realizing that children are evil and that film is a great way to warn people of this truth. Happy Halloween. Hope you don’t get killed by trick-or-treaters.’
In any case: trick or treat! …And may your Hallowe’en soothe your soul.
- Tricks, Treats and Traditions – Some Useful Tips for Hallowe’en (southeasttourguides.co.uk)
- Weighing In on Hallowe’en (4mothers1blog.wordpress.com)
- Preparing for All Hallow’s Eve (sporeflections.wordpress.com)
- OCTOBER FINALE! Hallowe’en! (pm27.wordpress.com)
- Tricksey Treats (jasperlocalfood.wordpress.com)
- Hallowe’en Night divination game. (jenniferlinton.com)
- Hallowe’en Weekend (sporeflections.wordpress.com)
- All Hallows’ Eve (ramblingratz.wordpress.com)
- About Samhain or ‘All Hallows’ (bethtrissel.wordpress.com)
- Halloween: A Brief History (lakeside.com)
- 13 Facts You Never Knew About Halloween (businessinsider.com)
- A Tarot Circle Game/Encounter for Samhain (jameswells.wordpress.com)
- Hallowe’en; The Do’s And The Don’ts (jackcollier7.com)
- Get ye gone, ye evil spirits (annabelfrage.wordpress.com)
- ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’ – Resources for Hallowe’en (davidbradshawenglish.org)
- Hallowe’en! (thepiepatch.wordpress.com)
Sean McFate, a former paratrooper in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and now professor at the National Defense University and Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.:
’Why are we doing things like buying more Ford-class aircraft carriers, or F35s? That stuff should be slashed. I would cut away the expensive conventional weapons, and beef up the things that are very effective in modern war: political warfare, strategic influence, lawfare, economic might, and deception. Want to blunt Russian encroachment in the Baltics? Forget shows of force—military deterrence is obsolete. Instead, start a “color revolution” on their border. Moscow is paranoid and would shift resources to squashing it. Want China out of the South China Sea? Stop throwing carrier groups into the region. Instead, covertly support the Uighur insurgency. Internal regime security will steal Beijing’s attention away.
Militaries can no longer kill their way out of problems in a global information age, and this is driving war into the shadows. Today, plausible deniability is more potent than firepower: winners and losers are no longer decided on the battlefield, but by those who can discern truth from lies. The best weapons today don’t fire bullets.…’
Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration:
’In Centauri Dreams, Paul Gilster looks at peer-reviewed research on deep space exploration, with an eye toward interstellar possibilities. For the last twelve years, this site coordinated its efforts with the Tau Zero Foundation. It now serves as an independent forum for deep space news and ideas. In the logo above, the leftmost star is Alpha Centauri, a triple system closer than any other star, and a primary target for early interstellar probes.…’
Via Centauri Dreams
10 pieces to guarantee the Halloween shivers:
’Whether depicting supernatural phenomena, acts of earthly terror, or otherworldly states of mind, classical music can provide a perfect soundtrack for the days leading up to Halloween. Here are some sublime pieces that ought to provide plenty of chills.…’
The consequences of our climate-cooking habits will burden all future humans:
’Creating a legacy of a climate-worsened world is like shooting your kids in the foot.
Who are you free to harm? If not any one else, then surely not everyone else? Third-hand carbon counts as an ambient harm that will burden all future humans.…’
Via Big Think
’Animals have rich emotional lives, the ecologist argues. The evidence is “right in front of your eyes.”…’
’Early morning will be the best time to watch, if the weather holds out—the National Weather Service in the bay area recommends 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.
California and the southwest will likely get the best views, since clouds are forecast for much of the rest of the country. But if you can see Orion at all, it’s worth watching to see if meteors show up. This shower tends to produce 20 to 25 meteors per hour at its peak.
If you don’t see much tonight, try again later this week or next week. The moon will be less full, which makes it easier to see stars and meteors, and the clouds are bound to clear up one of these nights. For the best views, find a spot with little light pollution, and look up.…’
It’s sociologically important to document where people believe the supernatural occurs, even if it’s all made up.:
If you’ve had a weird unexplainable experience, two guys in Seattle want to help you log it and track it on a global map. I have a new favorite place on the internet, and it is Liminal Earth.
Liminal Earth is a web based mapping tool designed to track the bizarre. Created by Garrett Kelly, co-founder of Hollow Earth Radio, and Jeremy Puma, a Seattle based author, their project “acts sort of like ‘Google Trends’ (which tracks sudden spikes on google search queries) for the collective unconscious,” states their website’s About page. “This map is an extension of that, because we’re trying to see if there are strange places or experiences that are actually quite common but go unnoticed because everyone is afraid to talk about this weird stuff happening to them.”
The idea is simple. It is like Atlas Obscura, but exclusively for UFOs, the supernatural, cryptids, etc.…’
’Survivors of intimate partner violence suffer traumatic brain injuries at alarming rates. Yet science overlooks us.…’
It’s time to accept the limits of how we think.
’In wondering what can be done to steer civilization away from the abyss, I confess to being increasingly puzzled by the central enigma of contemporary cognitive psychology: To what degree are we consciously capable of changing our minds …about major personal and social issues that should unite but invariably divide us? As a senior neurologist whose career began before CAT and MRI scans, I have come to feel that conscious reasoning, the commonly believed remedy for our social ills, is an illusion, an epiphenomenon supported by age-old mythology rather than convincing scientific evidence.…’
’Jazz, Martin Luther King declared, was the ability to take the “hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.”…’
Via JSTOR Daily
How a classic Tweety Bird cartoon became a mainstay in linguistics research
’Already a cartoon classic, Canary Row became an unlikely fixture of linguistics research. Over the years, linguists have used clips of Canary Row to examine hand gestures in at least a dozen languages—and many aspects of signed languages. There are studies that compare gesticulation across languages; studies on gestures by language-learners and by multilinguals; and studies about gestures that accompany signed language. Experts in these topics say the cartoon is the most frequently used study stimulus in their fields.…’
Via JSTOR Daily
Why I and other doctors are not eager to prescribe benzodiazepines for long-term use:
’…We have a Hippocratic oath to “first do not harm.” I sometimes tell patients who insist on getting benzos: “I am not paid differently based on the medication I prescribe, and my life would be much easier not arguing with you about this medication. I do this because I care about you.”…’
Via The Conversation
I share the concerns raised in this piece and such reasoning has always guided my prescribing practice. Unfortunately, not enough psychiatrists and general practitioners are similarly concerned.
’Virtually every rich country on Earth provides pre-completed tax-returns that you can either ignore (and pay an a
ccountant or do your own taxes), or just sign and return: after all, the government already knows what you’re earning and how much tax you paid, so they can do all the heavy lifting for your annual return.
But when Congress tried to create a similar program in the USA, it faced a blizzard of lobbying from the tax-prep industry, led by Intuit, a tax-prep monopolist that grew to scale by buying or merging with its competitors — growth tactics that are illegal under US antitrust law…’
’In 1936, the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was declared to be extinct. Yet in the last three years, there have been eight reported sightings according to Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.…’
Via Boing Boing
Police databases now contain the faces of nearly half of Americans:
’“Right now, most Americans are in a perpetual police lineup because they got a driver’s license,” says Clare Garvie, a Washington DC privacy expert. In this New York Times video, Garvie says that driver license photos are scanned and translated into a “face print” that face recognition software can use to compare photos and find matches. “Now any police officer can run searches against your face for any reason.”…’
Via Boing Boing
’This summer on remote U.S. Forest Service land in eastern Oregon, cowboys discovered five, young purebred bulls dead, drained of blood, and their tongues and genitals removed with almost surgical precision. Who or what did this and why remains a mystery. (Insert “I’m not saying it’s aliens…” joke here.) Silvies Valley Ranch has offered a $25,000 reward for information that could lead to answers.…’
Via Boing Boing
’On Thursday, amid reports of his involvement in Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s president, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced he would step down by the end of this year; this news comes just one week after acting Homeland Security Secretary, Kevin McAleenan, also resigned—which got us thinking: Just how many other aides and cabinet members have departed while serving under President Trump?
Well, a lot. Trump’s cabinet likely has a higher turnover rate than any other U.S. president in history. In case you need a recap, below you’ll find a timeline of several major departures during the Trump Administration, beginning with the most recent politicians’ exits.…’
With all the agonizing about whether the Enfant Terrible’s actions rise to an impeachable level, let us not forget that he is a common criminal as well. A new ProPublica story documents the extent to which Trump inflated the value of his assets when he was trying to borrow money, and deflated the values when he was paying taxes. Both would constitute criminal fraud.
And this Vanity Fair piece strongly suggests that, since the start of his presidency, Trump has been running a massively profitable larcenous insider trading scheme. The story examines massive pattern of suspicious late-day trades in financial markets that seemed to anticipate public policy pronouncements or events and earned the mysterious traders millions in profits. For example
“In the last 10 minutes of trading on Friday, August 23, as the markets were roiling in the face of more bad trade news, someone bought 386,000 September e-minis. Three days later, Trump lied about getting a call from China to restart the trade talks, and the S&P 500 index shot up nearly 80 points. The potential profit on the trade was more than $1.5 billion…”
“Traders in the Chicago pits have been watching these kinds of wagers with an increasing mixture of shock and awe since the start of the Trump presidency …. Are the people behind these trades incredibly lucky, or do they have access to information that other people don’t have about, say, Trump’s or Beijing’s latest thinking on the trade war or any other of a number of ways that Trump is able to move the markets through his tweeting or slips of the tongue? Essentially, do they have inside information?”
Federal market watchdogs, who are supposed to keep an eye on corrupt market manipulation, are doing nothing despite ongoing concerns about this pattern of activity.
‘…Everything that McConnell decides to do will come down to the political ramifications for the Republican Party, and with each passing day Donald Trump becomes more and more of a liability. A bus is ready in the waiting, and he will be more than ready to throw the President under it if necessary.
The moment that Senator McConnell makes the determination that President Trump could cost Republicans their hold of power in the Senate, or cost them even more seats in the House, he along with other members of Republican leadership will urge him to resign, or vote to impeach if he refuses to do so. The fact that support of impeachment continues to grow, while McConnell’s silence gets louder and louder, leads me to believe that he is carefully considering this option. In the end, it will be McConnell, not Pelosi or Democratic Leadership, who could potentially bring Trump’s presidency to an end….’
— Via Medium
I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small spider
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn't
And she scared me
And I smashed her
I don't think
To kill something
Because I am
― Nikki Giovanni, Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid
‘…Tokarczuk said that humanity needs three inventions: contraception, the internet, and lab-grown meat. While most technofuturism suggests that advancements in machinery and efficiency will automatically solve problems of power, Tokarczuk recognizes that new technologies have to be designed specially to disrupt areas where the powerful have kept a tight grip—whether over the control of women’s reproduction, the free spread of information, or the lives and deaths of animals. (Vegetarianism in Poland is associated with leftist politics; in 2016, the far-right politician Witold Waszczykowski, then the foreign secretary, decried the idea that the world was “destined to evolve only in one direction—towards a new mix of cultures and races, a world of bicyclists and vegetarians.”)
“We live in the midst of a slaughterhouse and manage to ignore that,” Tokarczuk said…’
— Read on New Republic
Twenty-five years ago this month, a software developer sketched a talk bubble for a cute dog and had an epiphany: “Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman!” So he designed Comic Sans, a zanier, more childlike script for which he took inspiration from comic books and graphic novels.
The font attracted eye rolls and cringes from its inception, and has “long been the default punch line in the design community,” one designer said. And yet, it persists.
The font’s creator, Vincent Connare, has this to say: “If you love Comic Sans you don’t know much about typography. And if you hate Comic Sans you need a new hobby.”
Via New York Times
’Trump isn’t an aberration. He’s unusually blatant and gaudily corrupt, but at a basic level he’s the culmination of where his party has been going for decades. And U.S. political life won’t begin to recover until centrists face up to that uncomfortable reality.…’
’Mitch “the World’s Best Artist” O’Connell (Not “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, the sell-out senator) got enough money in his crowdfunding campaign to erect this terrific They Live homage featuring reality TV show host Donald Trump. The VOTE billboard is ready for selfies at 7th Ave and 48th St!
Mitch received enough funds to keep the billboard up for a month, but if he gets more money it’ll stay up longer. Contribute here…’
Via Boing Boing
‘It appears that sculptor Joe Reginella has once again erected a memorial statue marking a fictional occurrence in New York City. This time, it’s a story that purports that former Mayor Ed Koch sent wolves into the subways of the city to ward off graffiti artists during his tenure, and according to the Ed Koch Wolf Foundation (who supposedly put up the memorial), the creatures are still the reason behind missing tourists in the Big Apple…’
Joe Reginella’s Memorial Statues Mark Fictional Disasters in NYC
New York sculptor Joe Reginella has fooled countless tourists with his statues scattered across the city, marking events that never actually happened. From a Staten Island Ferry encounter with an octopus to a New York Harbor UFO encounter, the artist’s scenarios use the convincing device of the memorial statue to relay his narratives.
Each statue has its own website, with a backstory, souvenir shop, and tour offers in tow. From the ferry disaster site: “It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. Eye witness accounts describe “large tentacles” which “pulled” the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.”
It’s a “loaded question — with no obvious answer”, whether we are talking about a response to a conviction in an impeachment proceeding or a 2020 election defeat, says op-ed writer Thomas Edsall in The New York Times
UC Santa Barbara anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon has died. Chagnon did notable work with remote tribes in the Amazonian rainforest, particularly the Yanomamo “fierce people”, but is perhaps best known for the so-called “Darkness” furor that ripped through the American Anthropological Association (AAA), almost destroying its credibility as an intellectual and professional organization. I previously commented on the controversy here, in 2000.
In 2000, anthropological journalist Patrick Tierney made claims that Chagnon and colleague geneticist James Neel had introduced a potentially fatal contraindicated measles vaccine to the tribe, probably inducing a 1968 epidemic, and then had withheld medical treatments might have saved lives, in the interest of testing “fascistic” eugenic theories. The AAA found the claims credible enough to investigate.
The truth appears to be quite the opposite. In prior fieldwork, Neel had determined that the Yanomamo were alarmingly vulnerable to measles and had personally arranged to bring vaccines with him on May 1968 expedition after consulting experts for advice on which vaccines to use, obtaining instructions about administration, and personally arranging fundraising.
Reportedly, measles had already broken out when the team arrived and, under Chagnon’s logistical leadership, they raced to contain the epidemic although supplies began to run out before everyone could be appropriately vaccinated. What is at stake is whether Neel and Chagnon are remembered as genocidal monsters or humanitarians.
interestingly, Chagnon’s work with the Yanomamo had been criticized by anthropologist within the AAA for perhaps a decade before the furor about the measles epidemic broke. He was subject to anonymous defamation probably spread by the Roman Catholic church because Chagnon had been publicly critical of their missionary work with the tribe. Doctrinal dispute about his theoretical approach also fueled the opposition. After Tierney’s claims about the measles epidemic, an AAA task force formally faulting Chagnon on several counts was accepted by the AAA board in 2002 despite the fact that many other professional and academic institutions were alarmed at the scandalous methodology and conclusions of Tierney’s book. These included the National Academy of Sciences, the American Society of Human Genetics, the International Genetics Epidemiology Society, the Society for Visual Anthropology, and the University of Michigan. In contrast to the AAA board, the voting membership of the organization passed two referenda in 2003 and 2005 by overwhelming margins, condemning the misrepresentation of the 1968 epidemic, criticizing Tierney and his academic supporters, and calling for a complete rescission of the acceptance of the task force report.
Defenders of AAA’s action talk in terms of the legitimacy of exploring ethical issues in anthropological fieldwork such as informed consent, the effects of gift giving, and the representation of vulnerable subjects. They speak of the inquiry into Chagnon and Neel’s work as in the defense of the credibility of American anthropology. Detractors blast the group for taking seriously the work of an uncredentialed journalist whose major claims had already been shown at the outset to be false instead of protecting serious investigators’ right to be fairly represented in the public spotlight and failing to give them a formal invitation to defend themselves in the process of wrecking their reputations.
Despite the membership vote in 2005 to withdraw acceptance of the task force report, the AAA left the report on its website until 2009 when legal action on behalf of Chagnon finally forced them to remove it. Chagnon’s work as “the last of the great ethnographers” was celebrated in an Edge special event convened by Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, John Brockman, and other intellectual luminaries.
’Last year, scientists described neuropsychiatric drug development as “in the midst of a crisis” because of all the mouse findings that fail to translate to people. Of every 100 neuropsychiatric drugs tested in clinical trials — usually after they “work” in mice — only nine become approved medications, one of the lowest rates of all disease categories.
…In the most detailed taxonomy of the human brain to date, a team of researchers as large as a symphony orchestra sorted brain cells not by their shape and location, as scientists have done for decades, but by what genes they used. Among the key findings: Mouse and human neurons that have been considered to be the same based on such standard classification schemes can have large (tenfold or greater) differences in the expression of genes for such key brain components as neurotransmitter receptors.
That makes neurons and circuits connecting brain regions, which were long thought to be essentially identical in mice and people, different in a fundamental way. And it could explain the abysmal record of drug development for neuropsychiatric diseases including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and autism.…’
’Researchers believe they have identified specific neurons that are responsible for conscious awareness. Previous studies have implicated both thalamocortical circuits and cortico-cortico circuits in consciousness. The new study reports these networks intersect via L5p neurons. Directly activating L5p neurons made mice react to weaker sensory stimuli. The researchers say if consciousness requires L5p neurons, all brain activity without them must be unconscious…’
’There’s evidence that the brain’s ability to make subtle distinctions between different chords, rhythms and melodies gets worse with age. So to older people, newer, less familiar songs might all “sound the same.”
But I believe there are some simpler reasons for older people’s aversion to newer music. One of the most researched laws of social psychology is something called the “mere exposure effect.” In a nutshell, it means that the more we’re exposed to something, the more we tend to like it.…’
Do we need to worry about a 2020 Backlash? Anthont Dimaggio in Counterpunch:
’There has been quite a bit of prophesizing among pundits in the news media, on the right and elsewhere, and even among some on the left with which I’ve spoken, in which critics confidently maintain that impeachment is a “gift” to Trump, dividing the nation, but mobilizing and energizing Trump’s base, thereby handing the election to Trump. These claims are almost entirely based on fear and conjecture, not on actual evidence. If we look back to the limited history of this country’s use of impeachment against presidents in modern times, there is little evidence to draw from one way or another, and certainly no cases that are equivalent to this one, in terms of telling us how impeachment will impact an election that is so far into the future – an entire year from now.
Conceding the uncertainty associated with the inquiry against Trump, available evidence suggests there is little reason to be engaging in fearmongering on impeachment. Going back to the looming impeachment of Richard Nixon following the emergence of the Watergate scandal, we see no evidence that the removal strategy harmed Democrats. Republicans lost 49 seats in the House in 1974, while losing another 5 in the Senate. Gerald Ford’s reputation – as measured by his job approval rating – quickly nosedived following his pardon of Nixon, and Jimmy Carter won the 1976 election, defeating Ford, while Democrats gained a seat in the House of Representatives, while losing one seat in the Senate. In other words, there were no observable repercussions for the Democrats for forcing Nixon from office.…’
Via 3 Quarks Daily
In the medical desert of rural America, one doctor for 11,000 square miles:
’In the medical desert that has become rural America, nothing is more basic or more essential than access to doctors, but they are increasingly difficult to find. The federal government now designates nearly 80 percent of rural America as “medically underserved.” It is home to 20 percent of the U.S. population but fewer than 10 percent of its doctors, and that ratio is worsening each year because of what health experts refer to as “the gray wave.” Rural doctors are three years older than urban doctors on average, with half over 50 and more than a quarter beyond 60. Health officials predict the number of rural doctors will decline by 23 percent over the next decade as the number of urban doctors remains flat.…’
Lidija Haas reviews The Enigma of Clarence Thomas by Corey Robin:
’Robin suggests that the misreadings of Thomas are themselves based in racism, comparing the justice to Ralph Ellison’s “invisible man,” the one people “refuse to see.” (Invisible Man is, he notes, alongside Richard Wright’s Native Son, Thomas’s favorite novel.) Introducing the common idea of Thomas as “an intellectual nonentity, a dim bulb in a brightly lit room,” Robin rehearses a host of clichés about his supposed incompetence or laziness—qualities that would, some have implied, explain why he doesn’t speak up on the bench, is rarely assigned the majority opinion in important cases, and gets his clerks to write his opinions for him (this last accusation strikes me as odd, since Thomas’s opinions hardly seem the bland, predictable stuff you’d expect to get by paying someone else to do your homework). Robin claims that the only other justice “subject to all of these kinds of insinuations” was, not coincidentally, also the Supreme Court’s only other black justice, Thurgood Marshall, whom Thomas replaced.
Robin’s Thomas is no dimwit but a man of ideas, albeit dark, furious, and terrifying ones. “His beliefs,” Robin announces in an introduction, “are disturbing, even ugly; his style is brutal.” Robin recognizes no essential contradiction or vacillation in this man who by the late ’80s, several years into his career within the Reagan administration, could still lovingly recite Malcolm X by heart. He sees a powerful continuity between Thomas’s black nationalism and his conservatism, extrapolating from his words a coherent worldview that helps explain his approach to a slew of issues, from voting rights to gun ownership, from the Commerce Clause to gender relations. In Robin’s account, Thomas sees American racism as foundational, permanent, and ineradicable, such that African Americans should never hope for justice or advancement to come through either political representation (since they will remain a loathed minority) or any strategy dependent on the generosity of white institutions.…’
’Based on what we know so far, Trump and his top aides could be implicated in four different types of federal crimes.…’
’The case for impeachment, even if it can’t oust Trump.…’
Impeachment is a method of sanction as much as a mechanism for removal. The public disgrace of being one of the four impeached US Presidents forever attaches an asterisk to one’s presidency and acts as a deterrent. Even though the Senate leadership has made it clear that under no circumstances would they ever convict Trump, the revelations from a thorough impeachment in query in the House will inform the choice at the polls in 2020 — both in the president till race and, with any luck, voters’ choices in Senate elections as well. And finally, impeachment would be a message to foreign countries that their intervention in US elections will be exposed.“It may just be theater, but it’s necessary theater to protect American elections.”
Trump’s latest tweets are among his strangest yet:
’Trump’s latest batch of morning tweets do not offer much reassurance that the commander in chief is in a healthy state of mind as he deals with a mounting impeachment crisis of his own creation.
As I’ve detailed previously, there have been other periods of time — such as the late stages of the Mueller investigation — when Trump’s tweets became increasingly unhinged as he felt the pressure of negative news cycles.
But his tweets on Friday, coming as they do at the end of a week in which the rapidly widening Ukraine abuse of power scandal made “impeachment” a buzzword in DC, raise questions about how equipped Trump is for what may be coming next…
Nearly three years into Trump’s presidency, people have generally figured out that his tweets — with some notable exceptions, such as when he announces new policies like banning transgender people from the military — are generally sound and fury signifying very little.
But they do say something about the mental state of the man in control of the most powerful military in the world (and its nuclear arsenal).
That mental state seems to be addled by conspiracy theories and a pervasive victimhood complex — not to mention a recklessness and lack of shame that has prevented the president, at this late date, from figuring out a way to get his tweets proofread before they’re published.…’
Gun control supporters are desperate — and have already taken drastic steps — to get the Supreme Court to dismiss this case:
’Last January, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, the first major Second Amendment case to be heard by the Supreme Court in nearly a decade — and also the first since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement shifted the Court dramatically to the right.
The case centers on an unusual — and recently changed — New York City rule that limited where gun owners with a certain kind of permit were allowed to bring their guns.…’
Blake wasseen by most of his contemporaries as eccentric and mediocre. But for all his technical failings, his inventive approach made him one of the greatest graphic artists of all time.
via New Statesman
Canadian researchers say they may have identified the cause of a mystery illness which plagued diplomatic staff in Cuba in 2016. Some reports in the US suggested an “acoustic attack” caused US staff similar symptoms, sparking speculation about a secret sonic weapon.
But the Canadian team suggests that neurotoxins from mosquito fumigation are the more likely cause. The Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, was a major health concern at the time.
So-called “Havana syndrome” caused symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and tinnitus. It made international headlines when the US announced more than a dozen staff from its Cuban embassy were being treated.
Cuba denied any suggestion of “attacks”, and the reports led to increased tension between the two nations.
In July, a US academic study showed “brain abnormalities” in the diplomats. “It’s not imagined, all I can say is that there is truth to be found,” one of the authors said.
The Canadian team from the Brain Repair Centre in Halifax thinks it now has the answer.
Canadian diplomats were affected by similar reactions to US counterparts – though the study noted that the symptoms of the Canadians were more gradual than the “acute, directional… auditory stimulus” in some of the US cases.
The study notes that tests carried out on 28 participants – seven of whom were tested both before and after being posted to Havana – support a diagnosis of brain injury acquired by diplomats and their families while in Cuba.
The patterns of brain injury “all raise the hypothesis of recurrent, low-dose exposure to neurotoxins”, the report said. Specifically, the results were “highly suggestive” of something called cholinesterase inhibitor intoxication.
via BBC News
No horror film auteur could envision and produce something as creepy as a bunch of turkeys spontaneously circling and marching around a dead cat in the road.
via Boing Boing
‘Armalite created the AR-15, sold the rights to Colt in the fifties, and the design long ago emerged from patent and became widely-copied. The AR-15 itself will no longer be made for consumers by Colt, it says. It says they’re just not that popular among consumers and the company needs to focus on institutional sales…
Missing in a lot of the coverage is the fact lots of companies make AR-15s. Colt not making AR-15s is like Sony not making laptops…’
via Boing Boing
Stage set in Nevada as Earthlings arrive for Area 51 events
‘What probably started as a joke has now attracted visitors from all over the world — from nearby Idaho all the way to Scotland and Australia — with locals worrying about visitors trespassing their property, overwhelming the cell service, or, frankly, arriving unprepared to face the cold nightly temperatures and desert creatures (like snakes and scorpions)…’
Via Associated Press
’If you’re trying to live in a way that helps mitigate the effects of climate change, you might resolve to fly less often or eat less meat. But what about switching banks?
As author and environmentalist Bill McKibben explains in The New Yorker, financial institutions play a larger role in climate change than we realize…’
’Trump’s use, or misuse, of language has also been disturbing to experts of constitutional law. Take Laurence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law professor. He said, according to Osnos, “Trump’s language borders on incapacity.” When the president was asked to explain his reversal on branding China a currency manipulator, Trump said, of President Xi Jinping, “No. 1, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities, it’s not. They have—they’ve actually—their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula.” This response could count as an example of “gross and pathological inattention or indifference to, or failure to understand” the mandatory duties of the president mentioned in the 25th Amendment, Tribe said.
To psycholinguist Julie Sedivy, it’s not Trump’s rambling language that’s worrisome, it’s his regular usage. “I think we have rarely had a president who uses such simple and simplifying language,” she said in an interview with Nautilus.
And why is that concerning? “There’s some interesting research that has looked at the correlation between simple language and the tendency of U.S. presidents to behave in authoritarian ways,” Sedivy said. “There is a predictive relationship that speeches that are expressed using very simple basic language tend to precede very authoritarian acts like the use of executive orders … That certainly plays out in the use of the heavy reliance on simple notions like amazing, sad, bad, unfair. These really strip away a lot of the complexities that are behind them. They reduce information into very gross impressions. The simplification of points of view, the simplification of the good and the bad, and even just the conveyance that, ‘We’re going to make good deals,’ for example. ‘It’s going to be great.’ That this is a simple problem just waiting for someone who has the right instincts to come along and solve this, is absolutely pervasive in Donald Trump’s language.”
And what is the downside of that kind of usage? “Well, I think the big downside is that it’s false. The world is a complex place. It’s not a simple environment. There are many interacting forces simultaneously that really elude simple explanations or simple solutions. One thing that I certainly have become very aware of through a couple of decades now of being a scientist is that for every simple, elegant explanation or theory we have come up with, we have discovered that the truth is actually not simple or elegant. It’s messy, noisy, complex.”…’
Via Google Search
’One of the great environmental crises today — and there are many — is the loss of biodiversity on planet Earth. Human actions have lead to an extinction rate higher than anything seen on Earth in the last 10 million years, as a sweeping UN report recently explained. It’s estimated the average vertebrate (bird, fish, mammal, amphibian) population has lost around 60 percent of its individual members since the 1970s.
Scientists keep telling us that something is going devastatingly wrong in the natural world. Today, a study in Science focuses on the birds of North America, and the results are again eye-opening and grim.
A team of scientists at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, in collaboration with the US Geological Survey and several conservation groups, have estimated North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970. That’s an estimated decline of 30 percent in the total bird population. In other words: More than one in four birds has disappeared from American skies in the last 50 years.…’
Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier’s book The Enigma of Reason:
’…its ideas are subtler and logic more involved than one paragraph glosses (or even most of its newspaper reviews) can give justice to. A running theme throughout the book, is that in experimental settings and in “real life” human capacity for reason is not optimized for the pursuit of abstract truth. Mercier and Sperber suggest that this is because reason did not evolve for that end. Reasoning’s role is essentially a social one—at the level of the individual it is not about deciding what to do, but about justifying what we do.
What we decide to do is for the most part entirely intuitive. As Mercier and Sperber see it, our decisions are the products of mental subsystems as opaque to us as the mysterious mechanisms that classify what we see as “beautiful” or “ugly,” determine what we are doing as “boring” or “fun,” and judge what others are doing as “admirable” or “disgusting.” Although his brain will supply the child with reasons for why he likes to watch Star Wars, the teenager with reasons for why she favors purple eye-liner, and the lover with reasons for doting upon his beloved, these thoughts are not the actual cause of the behavior in question. They are justifications. They are seized upon and articulated by the brain not to make us aware of why we make our decisions, but to make it possible for us to justify and explain our behavior to others.
Sperber and Mercier confirm this general thesis through dozens of experiments and lots of clever thinking.…’
Via 3 Quarks Daily
Dan Nosowitz writes:
The word “jawn” is unlike any other English word. In fact, according to the experts that I spoke to, it’s unlike any other word in any other language. It is an all-purpose noun, a stand-in for inanimate objects, abstract concepts, events, places, individual people, and groups of people. It is a completely acceptable statement in Philadelphia to ask someone to “remember to bring that jawn to the jawn.”
It is a word without boundaries or limits. Growing up in the suburbs just west of the city, I heard it used mostly to refer to objects and events. In the 2015 movie Creed, a character asks a sandwich maker to “put some onions on that jawn.” But it can get much more complex. It can refer to abstract nouns such as theories; a colleague of Jones routinely refers to “Marxist jawn.” It can also refer to people or groups of people. “Side-jawn,” meaning a someone with whom the speaker cheats on his or her significant other, “is a uniquely Philly thing as far as I can tell,” says Jones. “And not something you want to be.” via Pocket
I’ve run across other all-purpose, or almost-all-purpose, nouns in slang usage. Just last week, I was reading Tana French’s The Witch Elm, populated with a number of characters speaking vernacular Irish English. After being puzzled by several characters’ use of the word yoke, I finally figured out that it seems to serve a virtually identical purpose to jawn as a generic all-purpose substitute for anything. [Can any speakers of Irish English reading this confirm?]
But, of course, the word with perhaps the most widespread similar role in the vernacular as a generic, at least here in the US, is shit. I’m sure all of you speaking English in the US (and Canada??) have heard virtually all of the examples in the “Jawn” article with “shit” substituted for them:
- “remember to bring that shit”
- “put some onions on that shit”
- “Marxist shit”
- “Pass me that shit”
- you can call something you like “the shit”
- we refer to “my shit” to refer globally to our possessions, our sensibilities or style, or specifically to our genitalia
Perhaps one difference is that shit stands in only for things. [Again, Irish English speakers, what about yoke?] The assertion, then, that jawn is “unlike any other word in any other language” may relate to its usage for places, persons or groups of persons as well as things. Can readers come up with other examples of generic nouns that also do so?
So where did the common idea of hairless, large headed, black-eyed, grey skinned aliens actually come from in the first place?
In a paper presented at the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction, the researchers describe a method to quantify pain in patients. To do so, they leverage an emerging neuroimaging technique called functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), in which sensors placed around the head measure oxygenated hemoglobin concentrations that indicate neuron activity. For their work, the researchers use only a few fNIRS sensors on a patient’s forehead to measure activity in the prefrontal cortex, which plays a major role in pain processing. Using the measured brain signals, the researchers developed personalized machine-learning models to detect patterns of oxygenated hemoglobin levels associated with pain responses. When the sensors are in place, the models can detect whether a patient is experiencing pain with around 87 percent accuracy.
via Big Think
However, even if two subjects are measured as having the same levels of neuronal activity in response to a nociceptive stimulus, there is still no way to compare their subjective experiences of the stimulus. Many other factors that might bear on differences in the subjective experience of the pain might not be reflected in differences in graphical readouts of neuronal activity levels, e.g.:
- tolerance levels and pain threshold
- cognitive attributions of cause, intensity, and fungibility of the pain
- other concurrent factors in the person’s emotional state, e.g. degree of depression
- factors affecting distraction from or focus on the painful stimulus
So much for rest in peace.
– via Big Think
— Via Reddit
“A big tree has fallen.”
’For 40 years, the magazine was a guide to Britain’s pulsating underground and a champion of thrilling weirdos. Its closure leaves a chasm in the grassroots music scene…
Take a look at its recent 40th-anniversary edition: it’s like a huge fanzine created by a groovy uncle, occasionally gazing at the mainstream but much happier exploring the margins. Its going out guide is staggeringly broad, revealing a fertile UK festival and gig scene rarely covered by the national press. Features include a dig into Kate Bush’s traditional roots, reports on the qawwali ensembles of Pakistan and a free desert festival in Morocco, plus Scottish folk musician Alasdair Roberts celebrating new artist Burd Ellen’s songs about women. The huge reviews section takes in London’s
, Korean experimentalist Park Jiha and Topic Records’ 80th-anniversary CD. Trendy bells and whistles are few, but it’s a rich treasure trove…’
— Read on The Guardian
I’ve subscribed for most of its forty years. I can’t imagine what my music-listening habits would have been without it.
’Black hole physicists have been excitedly discussing reports that the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors recently picked up the signal of an unexpectedly enormous black hole, one with a mass that was thought to be physically impossible.
“The prediction is no black holes, not even a few” in this mass range, wrote Stan Woosley, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in an email. “But of course we know nature often finds a way.”
Seven experts contacted by Quanta said they’d heard that among the 22 flurries of gravitational waves detected by LIGO and Virgo since April, one of the signals came from a collision involving a black hole of unanticipated heft — purportedly as heavy as 100 suns.…’
Via Quanta Magazine
I have long been interested in the relationship between mirror neurons and some behavioral disorders related to person-perception and the capacity for social relationships . I think the evidence is good that mirror neuron dysfunction plays a role in autistic spectrum disorders including Asperger syndrome. But, because of the mirror neuron system, smiles are literally neurologically contagious, and so are the good feelings associated with them. Via Big Think
’Right now, if you search for news about the massive fires burning in the Amazon rainforest, you might mostly find stories about the Amazon Fire line of tablets and streaming devices.
The search results come at a critical time for the rainforest. Smoke from the fires, which as of this afternoon cover huge swaths of the Amazon basin, completely blotted out the midday sun in Sao Paulo this week, darkening the city at 2:00pm on Monday (Aug. 19). According to Brazil’s state satellite agency, the number of fires in the Amazon so far this year is up 85% compared to the same period last year. About half of this year’s blazes have occurred in the last 20 days.
Meanwhile, many of the headlines in Google News highlight “midweek deals” on older models of Amazon’s Fire tablet and reviews of the latest version of the device. Searches for both “amazon fire” and “fire in the amazon” on Aug. 21 turned up news stories about the products rather than the fires; in one search, news stories about the ongoing Amazonian fires didn’t appear until the second page of Google News results.
Amazon Watch, one prominent NGO dedicated to advancing the rights of indigenous people living in the Amazon basin, has called on Jeff Bezos and his company to direct some efforts towards protectingits namesake ecosystem in the past. (Bezos installed a model “rainforest” in Amazon’s Seattle headquarters last year.)…’
The secret of the 1937 disappearance of the famed aviator may lie in the underground haunts of the world’s largest land invertebrate. One theory is that Earhart made an emergency landing on one of the islands of Kiribati, which teems with coconut crabs. These monsters can measure three feet across and weigh more than nine pounds. Their claws exert more force than most animal bites. At night, observed one veteran of multiple expeditions to Kiribati, shining a flashlight can reveal hundreds of crabs clustering outside the shadow ring. One does not sleep on the ground.
One theory says that Earhart was stranded on the island of Nikumaroro after flying off course and making an emergency landing with her navigator Fred Noonan, who soon died. Thirteen bones suspected to have been from Earhart’s body were found by British colonists in 1940 (they were sent to Fiji for analysis but later lost). Observations of the coconut crabs endemic to the area where the remains were found establishes that the eat, among other things, carrion, stripping a body to the bones in less than two weeks and dragging the bones back to their burrows. This may have happened to the rest of Earhart’s remains.Forensic dogs brought to the area two years ago signaled that someone had died there and excavations are proceeding.
David Shariatmadari’s book explodes language myths:
’Each chapter explodes a common myth about language. Shariatmadari begins with the most common myth: that standards of English are declining. This is a centuries-old lament for which, he points out, there has never been any evidence. Older people buy into the myth because young people, who are more mobile and have wider social networks, are innovators in language as in other walks of life. Their habit of saying “aks” instead of “ask”, for instance, is a perfectly respectable example of metathesis, a natural linguistic process where the sounds in words swap round. (The word “wasp” used to be “waps” and “horse” used to be “hros”.) Youth is the driver of linguistic change. This means that older people feel linguistic alienation even as they control the institutions – universities, publishers, newspapers, broadcasters – that define standard English.
Another myth Shariatmadari dismantles is that foreign languages are full of untranslatable words. This misconception serves to exoticise other nationalities and cultures, making them sound quaint or bizarre. It amuses us to think that there are 27 words for eyebrow in Albanian. But we only really think this because of our grammar-blindness about Albanian, which can easily form adjectival compounds by joining two words together…
…He also rescues nonstandard forms, such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE), from the routine condescension meted out to them. AAVE misses out the linking “to be” verb (“you late”) but then so do many other languages. The AAVE construction “he be singing” does not mean “he is singing” but “he sings [as a hobby, professionally]”. It is an efficient means of marking the habitual aspect. “Imma” for “I’m going to” is another standard linguistic move: cutting a word or phrase that is just a grammatical marker. “Imma” doesn’t work with the more literal sense of “going to”, which is why you can say “Imma let you finish” (I’m going to let you finish) but not “Imma the shops” (I’m going to the shops).…’
Via The Guardian
‘The United States is a nation founded on both an ideal and a lie. Our Declaration of Independence, approved on July 4, 1776, proclaims that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” did not apply to fully one-fifth of the country. Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals.…’
Via 3 Quarks Daily
I’ve written here a few times about a condition to which I referred as apotemnophilia, a craving to have a body part amputated. I had never considered the parallels, as this article does, to gender dysphoria and gender transition. Being transabled, or having body integrity identity dysphoria, refers to the feeling that one is a disabled person trapped in an able body, that one is meant to be an amputee. The anthropologist Jenny Davis has written about the variety of ways transabled people express what she has called their “impairment needs”:
The term wannabe refers to those who want/need to have a physical impairment. Pretenders act out their impairment-needs by, for example, folding an appendage, inserting ear plugs, wearing opaque contacts, walking on crutches, wheeling themselves in a chair, or wearing neck/leg/back braces. Devotees experience fetishistic attractions toward the physically impaired bodies of others…
The natural reaction to transablism (which I admit I felt when I wrote about apotemnophilia) is one of incredulity or abhorrence. Exploring that reaction, it seems to be based on the assumption that amputation is a choice, or a learned preference, for the affected person. And the choice of such a “socially devalued bodily state” as disability is stigmatized. But Davis’ investigation suggests that it might rather be thought of as essential. Again, this is in many ways parallel to the experiences of transgendered people as I understand them. Until gender dysphoria was understood and accepted, it seemed to many that the choice to transition was the problem, or the disorder, rather than the solution for the affected person. In both the transgender and the transable situations, wanting to transition is a route toward being one’s true self rather than departing from it. Transable people, observes Davis, often initially resisted a notion of wanting to stable themselves which they found abhorrent, but lost the battle. In the subset of “wannabes” who had sought psychotherapy for their amputation urges, therapy was never successful in changing the desires or relieving the distress. In contrast, it appears that those who have obtained a desired amputation find relief in ways they have been unable to get by other means.
So accepting the concept of body integrity identity dysphoria challenges us to consider the assertion that transabled people seeking amputation ought to be able to get them from reputable surgeons. If denied, many may either patronize disreputable back alley surgeons, injure a limb to compel medical amputation, or attempt to do it to themselves. Other elective surgical procedures are used to make the body conform better to social ideals; why shouldn’t people be allowed to change in ways with which society is less comfortable?
Of course, the parallel to gender transition may break down in at least one way. Satisfying the desire to maim or disable the body may entail enormous financial costs to care for the resultant lifelong disability. Thus, it may not merely be a matter of respecting the right to autonomy.
Via JSTOR Daily
’In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the U.S. can acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance, and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea.
Some of his advisers have supported the concept, saying it was a good economic play, two of the people said, while others dismissed it as a fleeting fascination that will never come to fruition. It is also unclear how the U.S. would go about acquiring Greenland even if the effort were serious.
With a population of about 56,000, Greenland is a self-ruling part of the Kingdom of Denmark, and while its government decides on most domestic matters, foreign and security policy is handled by Copenhagen. Mr. Trump is scheduled to make his first visit to Denmark early next month, although the visit is unrelated, these people said.…’
Via Boing Boing
’Two of four experimental drugs designed to tackle Ebola have proven highly effective during field testing. Up until now, 70% infected of those infected with the Ebola virus have died. With the new drugs in play, 90% of those treated have been completely cured of the disease.…’
Via Boing Boing
’Translation isn’t an easy art at the best of times, but Chris Clarke truly had his work cut out for him when he set out to create an English version of François Caradec’s Dictionary of Gestures.
First published in 2005, it’s a compendium of more than 850 movements involving everything from the lips to the eyelashes to the knees.
Not only are many of those gestures specific to a particular country or culture, they’re also tricky to define — particularly given the fact that they transcend written language to begin with.
As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay spoke with Chris Clarke about the project and about why knowing your gestures just might save your life. Here is part of their conversation.…’
Should I be as irked as I am by the frequent use of ‘compliment’ when one really means ‘complement’? This misuse makes me fume whenever I come across it, but it seems that one of the reasons for the mistake is that, in addition to sounding the same, they used to share some meanings (via Dictionary.com). ‘Complement’ is the older word, in use since the 1300s, and meaning ‘to enhance something’ or ‘make it perfect’. ‘Compliment’ hails from the mid-1600s via the Spanish ‘complimiento’ but originates from the same Latin root. Despite the commonalities, the two words have diverged and using one for the other is, frankly, confusion. To ‘compliment’ someone (yes, a person, not something) means ‘to praise’ them or ‘to express admiration for’ them. And please don’t tell me that a misuse so common changes the language and becomes acceptable — things like this are just plain ignorant mistakes:
While I’m here, I’ll just mention the other frequent case of mistaken word identity that really gets to me — the use of ‘tact’ when one really means ‘tack.’
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had someone tell me they caught a typo I missed: I wrote, “take a different tack” when I must have meant “take a different tact.” I’ll admit I sometimes miss typos, but that’s not one of them. It’s possibly the most widely misused phrase I can think of.
“Tack” — the correct word in this context — is actually derived from sailing terminology. The tack is the lower leading corner of the sail; it points the direction the ship is heading. So when a sailboat changes course, it’s changing from one tack to another, or “taking a different tack.”
Tact, on the other hand, really only has one meaning. It’s a keen perception of what is appropriate or considerate. (Think of tactile–>touch–>the right touch.)
via Get edited.
[You are welcome to use the comments section to blow off steam about confusion between other similar words. ]
You are losing your free will
Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times
Social media is making you into an asshole
social media is undermining truth
social media is making what you say meaningless
social media is destroying your capacity for empathy
social media is making you unhappy
social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity
social media is making politics impossible
and social media hates your soul.
Rep. Nadler confirms:
’House Democrats have begun impeachment proceedings against President Trump. A key Democrat admitted as much Thursday.
“This is formal impeachment proceedings,” the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), told CNN on Thursday, after weeks of dancing around whether his committee would formally consider impeaching Trump.
“We are investigating all the evidence, gathering the evidence,” Nadler added. “And we will [at the] conclusion of this — hopefully by the end of the year — vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won’t. That’s a decision that we’ll have to make. But that’s exactly the process we’re in right now.”
His statement makes clear what a lawsuit filed Wednesday by his committee states: that the “Judiciary Committee is now determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the President based on the obstructive conduct described by the Special Counsel.”…’
’Many cosmopolitan conveniences are connected to Trump donors. What are you going to do?… The nation’s wealthy donor class will continue to fund the president’s racist rallies in exchange for more tax cuts…’
Here are some of the Trump megadonors you can try to deprive of profits:
“Luxury gym” Equinox and spin studio SoulCycle are owned by Stephen Ross, who planned an elite fundraiser for Trump in the Hampton. Ross also owns major stakes in celebrity chef David Chang’s Momofuku, dessert entrepreneur Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar, fast-casual chain &pizza and the online restaurant reservation app Resy.
Then there’s infamous billionaire Peter Thiel. His holdings include WhatsApp, Lyft, Postmates Airbnb, and Spotify. “Lyft doesn’t just run an app-based taxi service, but it also owns almost every bike-share company in the country and a dockless scooter company. Spotify also owns a big part of the podcast industry after purchasing Gimlet Media and Anchor in February.”
“There are a number of sports teams you’ll have to boycott, too. The owners of the Chicago Cubs, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Jets, San Francisco Giants and the football team in Washington, D.C., have all contributed at least six figures to Trump’s reelection.”
Ike Perlmutter, chairman of Marvel Entertainment, is a major Trump donor. Should you avoid the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
In New York, Radio City and Madison Square Garden are properties of billionaire Trump donor James Dolan
The fourteen brands in the Hilton hotel chain, which include DoubleTree, Tru, Embassy Suites as well as Hilton, are holdings of private equity firm Blackstone, headed by major Trump donor Stephen Schwarzman. Cheaper options like Motel 6 are also owned by Blackstone, which also has major stakes in clothing brand Versace, Leica camera, and Vivint.
“If you wear makeup, you’ll have to stay away from Revlon, which is owned by Trump donor Ronald Perelman’s private equity firm MacAndrew & Forbes. Perelman’s company also owns the alternative sweetener brands Equal, Whole Earth and Pure Via.”
’An amateur astronomer caught something spectacular with a backyard telescope Wednesday when he recorded a bright flash on the surface of Jupiter. The biggest planet in the solar system routinely delivers stunning pictures, like those snapped by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, but the unexpected flash has astronomers excited at the possibility of a meteor impact. Ethan Chappel pointed his telescope at the gas giant planet at just the right time, capturing the white spot seen on the lower left side of the planet in the above images on Aug. 7. While it has yet to be confirmed by a second observer, it looks like a large asteroid crashing into the gas giant planet. The flash is brief and quickly fades away, boosting the idea that it was likely caused by an impact.…’