In Search of Moon Trees:

‘Scattered around our planet are hundreds of creatures that have been to the Moon and back again. None of them are human. They outnumber active astronauts 3:1. And most are missing.

They’re trees. “Moon Trees.”

NASA scientist Dave Williams has found 40 of them and he’s looking for more. “They were just seeds when they left Earth in 1971 onboard Apollo 14,” explains Williams. “Now they’re fully grown. They look like ordinary trees–but they’re special because they’ve been to the Moon.” ‘ NASA

Reproductive ‘Extortion’

Reproductive Freedom:

“In June 2001, The Nation reported on the case of Dr. James Scott Pendergraft, an African-American abortion provider in Florida who had been convicted on federal charges of attempted extortion. A hero of reproductive rights advocates, who ran five clinics in the state, Pendergraft felt his case had clearly been about abortion, not extortion. The Nation fully agreed.

To recap: After Pendergraft threatened to sue the city of Ocala for inadequate protection of his clinic during a meeting with local officials, the feds accused him of trying to squeeze money out of the county commission, and stuck him with the extortion charge. Facing a predominately white, conservative jury and tricky prosecution, Pendergraft was found guilty and sentenced to forty-six months in a federal penitentiary in January 2001.” [thanks to David Walker]

"..a cross between Sir Edmund Hilary and Ansel Adams…"

[Galen and Barbara Rowell]R.I.P. Galen Rowell, 62, the renowned climber and wilderness photographer whose pictures have been an important source of inspiration and solace to me for many years. He and his wife were kiled in a private plane crash in California as they returned from the Bering Sea where he had just taught a workshop. “The view of those places is the same to all of us, but the picture will never be the same as the ones he took.” Boston Globe

A Comic Book Gets Serious on Gay Issues

‘For all the violence, the story will not end on a low note. “Our first inclination was that he die,” Mr. Winick said. “Then within 24 hours Bob and I both came back and said: I don’t think we can kill him off. That’s the cliché in all mediums. Who dies in movies? Gay people, people of color. Killing him seemed like too much. We wanted a little bit of hope.” ‘ NY Times

"…more like part of the problem than the solution…"

The Cheney Factor: “Mr. Cheney says his service as vice president is the most rewarding experience of his professional life and he would be happy to run for a second term if Mr. Bush wishes. But Mr. Cheney does not serve Mr. Bush well by dodging questions about Halliburton, or repeatedly declining to identify the people who were consulted by his energy task force last year. At a moment when Americans are looking to the government to help remedy the nation’s economic ills, Mr. Cheney looks more like part of the problem than the solution.” NY Times editorial

The Hobohemians

‘ “We need to have a country all our own,” Rocco decides. “It would be like this, all the time.” ‘ On the rails with the new freedom riders:

We’re heading to Dunsmuir to explore this curiously American phenomenon, which, despite rumors of its death dating back at least a half-century, seems to be catching on again. Men (and until recently, it has been largely men) began riding freight trains after the Civil War, when enough track had been laid to make it worthwhile, and enough dislocated veterans had become averse to staying still. Since then every major war and economic downturn has seen a return to the rails, providing a sort of shadow history of America, a constantly mobile underground of migrant workers, radicals, dreamers and thieves, misfits of all kinds who didn’t mesh with the societal weave. During the depressions of the 1890s and 1930s, it was a common if not entirely acceptable way for working-class men to get around in search of wages. In the ’30s, Frank Czerwanka, one of Studs Terkel’s sources in Hard Times, recalled, “When a train would stop in a small town and the bums got off, the population tripled.”

… The world looks different from a freight train. There’s no heat and no a/c. No meals are served. The restroom is wherever you find it. There are no buttons to push or cords to pull when you want off. The train goes where it wants when it wants to, and sometimes doesn’t go at all. It doesn’t care about your wishes. It doesn’t like or want you, doesn’t even know you’re there. It can kill you without a thought, can leave you behind, maimed and bleeding, without a moment of remorse. There’s no getting around it — it’s ridiculously romantic.LA Weekly

Related: Here is an online gallery by Virginia Lee Hunter, a trainhopping photographer.

How to make a friend

How to make a friend:
Go into any bar and get stinking drunk.
Loudly announce you are
A sailor on leave.
Mutter that the end of the world
Is coming soon::::but you don't
Know exactly when.
Say out loud to no one
In particular that
'Citizen Kane' is the greatest
movie ever made::::
'Anna Karenina' the greatest
novel ever written::::
Duchamp's broken glass
Was illuminating::::
Say 'Rocky and Bullwinkle'
Vomits all over
'Beavis and Butthead.'
Once again loudly announce
You are a sailor on leave.
Pay your bill::::leave a tip,
And leave.
Everyone in the joint
Will be very happy.

On your swaying journey
Bump into at least
Three lamp-posts::::
Excusing yourself profusely.
Think of jumping into
The river::::but there is
No river::::so forget about it.

Find a payphone and call
A random number and tell
Them they've been specially
Chosen::::that you are the president
Of Lithuania, and need advice.
Ask the first stray dog
You see for a dance,
Then wait patiently
Together for the music
To begin. Sit at a bus-stop
Wait for someone to sit
Beside you and strike up
A pleasant conversation,
And when they finally ask
You what you do for a living,
Say you're a phenomenologist::::
But right now you're
In between jobs.
Go into a convenience
Store and ask the cashier
What they think the time is,
And when they point
To the clock on the wall
Say, yes, but what do you
Think the time is.
Chase a few birds.
Pick up a feather or two.
Go into McDonald's
And request a job
Application. Go to the
Library, challenge the
Librarian to a game of
'hide.and-seek': You are it::::
and when she runs
to hide::::quietly slip out
the front door. Return
to the street::::enter a
restaurant::::sit down::::
order an egg sandwich.
After it arrives, place
A feather or two in it,
Take a bite::::open the
Sandwich, hail the waitress
Over and point to the
Feather(s)::::"There are
Feathers in my egg"
Become indignant, get up::::
Mumble about not paying::::
Go out. If you are bitten
By a snake, catch
the snake (recommended)
to take to the emergency room::::
otherwise you must
make a drawing of the
snake, or grab a camera and take
its picture, or rush headlong
to the library to find
a book to check out
with a picture of the
snake in it (Where is she!)::::
or, you can simply describe
the snake to the doctor
in hopes that your description
is accurate enough::::otherwise
you just might receive
the wrong anti-venom.
When in the emergency room
Be sure to whine.
Walking down the street again
Smile to everyone who is the
Exact same height as you,
Snarl to those who are
Taller, and stick your tongue
Out to those who are
Shorter. Return to the
Stray dog, who is of course
Still sitting there waiting
Patiently for the music to begin.
Take his forepaws in your
Hands, and begin humming
A melody, then begin dancing
With the dog. This is your friend.

What Aerosols!

Graffiti is metastasizing again throughout New York City. “The guys out here now are destroying us,” says Bruce Pienkny, who makes a living removing graffiti from factories and retail stores from Riverdale to the Rockaways. “Every other day, new tags are popping up. The cops got no chance against it.”

But if the New York Times’s culture editors are to be believed, New Yorkers should be thrilled. Every few months, the paper of record disgorges itself of an article breathlessly celebrating graffiti vandalism as a vital urban art form. Among the bad ideas that the New York Times has floated over the years, few compare to the newspaper’s glorification of graffiti for sheer destructive stupidity. City Journal

The Ad Council : Campaign for Freedom:

‘Developed following the tragedies of September 11th, the Ad Council’s Campaign for Freedom is an unprecedented volunteer effort from the advertising industry. The initiative is designed to assist Americans during the war on terrorism through the development and distribution of timely and relevant public service messages. This first round of PSAs for the campaign has been created to celebrate our nation’s freedom and remind Americans about the importance of freedom and the need to protect it for future generations.

According to research, Americans are looking for messages that will inform, involve and inspire them during the war on terrorism. This inspirational campaign is advertising’s gift to America on the occasion of its birthday, Independence Day. All of the ads conclude with the powerful tagline, “Freedom. Appreciate it. Cherish it. Protect it.” ‘

‘Main Street USA’, the weakest of the bunch, is pure flag-waving (literally…). ‘Church’, ‘Library’, and ‘Diner’ revolve around a “What if America weren’t America?” theme, wryly acknowledging that the threat to the country since 9-11 comes not just from the terrorists but the Justice Dept. as well. [Requires a broadband connection].

Poll Analysis: Nader not responsible for Gore’s loss

Sam Smith writes:

A study by the Progressive Review of national and Florida polls during the 2000 election indicates that Ralph Nader’s influence on the final results was minimal to non-existent.

The Review tested the widely held Democratic assumption that Nader caused Gore’s loss by checking changes in poll results. Presumably, if Nader was actually responsible for Gore’s troubles, his tallies would change inversely to those of Gore: if Gore did better, Nader would do worse and vice versa.

In fact, the only time any correlation could be found was when the changes were so small – 1 or 2 percentage points – that they were statistically insignificant…

Democrats tend to think of Greens as wayward members of their party, which is why they try to browbeat them rather than convincing them. In fact, the Greens have less and less in common with the Democratic Party – especially since the latter refuses to stand up against the Bush war, greedy globalization, and the disintegration of constitutional government. Progressive Review

Where are the noninterventionists?

Brendan O’Neill: “If there was a strong opposition to Western intervention, then it might well be discussed in terms of competing rights – the right of the West to do as they please versus the sovereign rights of smaller nations. Instead, at a time when pretty much everyone accepts that Western powers should ‘do something, anything!’ about corrupt, victimised and poor states, all we hear is the word ‘responsibility’. “

Journeys into the abyss

Can hallucinogenic drugs lead to profound spiritual experiences? In an article published for the first time in the UK, the Nobel prizewinner Octavio Paz reflects on experiments with mescaline undertaken in the 1950s by the French poet and artist Henri Michaux


Miserable Miracle opens with this phrase: “This book is an exploration. By means of words, signs, drawings. Mescaline, the subject explored.” When I had read the last page, I asked myself whether the result of the experiment had not been precisely the opposite: the poet Michaux explored by mescaline. An exploration or an encounter? An encounter with mescaline: an encounter with our own selves, with the known-unknown. A great gift of the gods, mescaline is a window through which we look out upon endless distances where nothing ever meets our eye but our own gaze. There is no I: there is space, vibration, perpetual animation. Battles, terrors, elation, panic, delight: is it Michaux or mescaline? It was all already there in Michaux, in his previous books. Mescaline was a confirmation. Michaux can say: I left my life behind to catch a glimpse of life. Guardian UK

excerpts from i am writing to you from a far-off country


We have here, she said, only one sun in the month, and for only a little while. We rub our eyes days ahead. But to no purpose. Inexorable weather. Sunlight arrives only at its proper hour.

Then we have a world of things to do, so long as there is light, in fact we hardly have time to look at one another a bit.

The trouble is that nighttime is when we must work, and we really must: dwarfs are born constantly.


When you walk in the country, she further confided to him, you may chance to meet with substantial mases on your road. These are mountains and sooner or later you must bend the knee to them. resisting will do no good, you could go no farther, even by hurting yourself.

I do not say this in order to wound. I could say other things if i really wanted to wound.


I add one further word to you, a question rather. Does water flow in your country too? (I do not remember whether you have told me so) and it gives chills too, if it is the real thing.

Do I love it? I do not know. One feels so alone when it is cold. But quite otherwise when it is warm. Well then? How can I decide? How do you others decide, tell me, when you speak of it without disguise, with open heart?


I am writing to you from the end of the world. You must realize this. The trees often tremble. We collect the leaves. They have a ridiculous number of veins. But what for? There is nothing between them and the tree any more, and we go off troubled.

Could not life continue on earth without wind? Or must everything tremble, always, always?

There are subterranean disturbances, too, in the house as well, like angers which might come to face you, like stern beings who would like to wrest confessions.

We see nothing, except what is so unimportant to see. Nothing, and yet we tremble. why?

Nothing, and yet we tremble. Why?


She writes to him again:

You cannot imagine all that there is in the sky, you would have to see it to believe it. So now, the… but I am not going to tell you their name at once.

In spite of their air of weighing a great deal and of occupying almost all the sky, they do not weigh, huge though they are, as much as a newborn baby.

We call them clouds.

It is true that water comes out of them, but not by compressing them, or by pounding them. It would be useless, they have so little.

But, by reason of their occupying lengths and lengthsm widths and widths, deeps also and deeps, and of puffing themselves up, they succeed in the long run in making a few droplets of water fall, yes, of water. And we are good and wet. We run off furious at having been trapped; for nobody knows the moment when they are going to release their drops; sometimes they rest for days without releasing them. And one would stay home waiting for them in vain.

— Henri Michaux (5/24/1899 — 10/17/1984)

The Hygiene Hypothesis:

Is It Good to be Clean? “Although these results have no immediate clinical applicability, the hygiene hypothesis has emerged as a possible explanation for the increase in allergic disease. Increasingly, parents are becoming aware of this hypothesis and are asking pediatricians about it. If this provocative hypothesis is proven to be true, the implications for hygiene practices in developed countries are enormous.” Journal Watch: Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

Le Nombril du Monde:

French Village Declares Itself Hub of the Universe: “Pougne-Hérisson, which last made history, briefly, in the 13th century when the English besieged the chateau in Hérisson (or maybe it was Pougne), declared itself 12 years ago to be a magical site on a footing with the Pyramids and Stonehenge. All the stories in the world, all the literature, all the jokes, all the fairy-tales, originated in Pougne-Hérisson, the village announced. What justification did it have for such a claim? None whatsoever.Independent UK [via New World Disorder]

Adopt kids, not roads:

‘In the universe of marketing tools for charitable causes, the ”adoption” concept has seen wild success. Since excess litter sparked the first Adopt-A-Highway program along a stretch of Texas highway 18 years ago, ”adopted” roads have sprung up in nearly every state, and people have adopted everything from killer whales to greyhounds to sewer pipes.

But a group of Massachusetts adoptees and their parents say the word adoption should be reserved for humans. Joining what some say is a growing national movement against the language of ”adopt-a-cause,” they have launched a drive to change the signs planted at frequent intervals along many roads.

”Adoption means something very different than what you do with a highway. It’s not about temporarily fixing something up…” ‘ Boston Globe

Protecting raptors from electrocution

Raptor electrocution is a particularly tenacious problem in the West and Southwest, where open landscapes make powerlines the most dominant and attractive feature on which birds choose to alight. It is tough to quantify the exact number of birds killed this way every year; many are scavenged immediately by other predators, and while U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents are able to investigate some of the cases that occur, they can’t possibly count them all due to the sheer magnitude….

The good news is that cost-effective technology is now available to make electrical equipment bird-friendly. Beginning in the mid 1970s, law enforcement agents in the Mountain-Prairie Region began an effort to work in partnership with power companies to identify and repair equipment that killed raptors.

There is no boilerplate solution. Increasing the distance between lines, installing insulation on wires and transponders, and providing perches away from wires are only three in an options cornucopia developed by private-sector engineers.”

Iraq ’em Up

Mark Fiore explains Why we should invade — right now! Salon; on the other hand, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorializes that there is No way for Bush to justify unprovoked war with Iraq:

…President Bush has yet to offer a concrete, convincing explanation why the United States should launch a major war against Iraq without any clear provocation, without any significant international support, and over the objections and even pleadings of those in the Arab world who have otherwise been our allies.

Nor has the president accepted the reality that he needs congressional approval before launching such a war…

We have …an administration trying to sell a pre-emptive war on the basis of weapons that Iraq might have, and whether it might give those weapons to terrorists. There is no evidence that Hussein has even contemplated such a step, and considerable history to the contrary. For at least 20 years, Hussein has had access to chemical weapons and has never once let them out of his control.

Furthermore, endorsing the concept of pre-emptive war as a legitimate use of power is extremely risky. It is essentially the rationale imperial Japan used to justify its attack on Pearl Harbor more than 60 years ago.

Meanwhile, The Washington Times (not exactly your most reliable source, however), reports the Administration as saying

that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are, finally, all behind the invasion of Iraq concept. Next, For Bush, a New Vulnerability:

Late last week, the Republican National Committee distributed a memo that unintentionally spoke volumes about how the political ground has shifted for President Bush. The memo’s headline trumpeted four areas of accomplishment for the president, but it did not include the war on terrorism or homeland security.

Washington Post


Joshua Micah Marshall expounds on “Why the myth of Republican competence persists,

despite all the evidence to the contrary
Washington Monthly

Bush drops protection on medical filesThe Bush administration on Friday officially eliminated many protections for the privacy of medical records by issuing final rules that allow doctors and hospitals to distribute patients’ health information without the patients’ written approval.Chicago Tribune

A reader asked me to comment on this move. I started getting incensed, and wrote about it, when these changes were first proposed several months ago. This is, simply, a travesty and a giveaway to Bush’s friends in the healthcare and insurance industries. Just as they did with the estate tax reform, Administration arguments about the benefits to the little guy (under the restrictive Clinton regulations, what would a pharmacist do for written consent for a prescription that had been phoned in and was being picked up by a relative?) serve to obscure the corporate giveaway at the heart of this plan. Don’t listen to any arguments about making clinical communication more efficient; this is all about making fiscal communication about a patient’s history more efficient and less controlled by the true owner of your health information, you. Patients with fewer safeguards will probably be less willing to speak in candor to their physicians and physicians less likely to record sensitive facts.

Adopt kids, not roads:

‘In the universe of marketing tools for charitable causes, the ”adoption” concept has seen wild success. Since excess litter sparked the first Adopt-A-Highway program along a stretch of Texas highway 18 years ago, ”adopted” roads have sprung up in nearly every state, and people have adopted everything from killer whales to greyhounds to sewer pipes.

But a group of Massachusetts adoptees and their parents say the word adoption should be reserved for humans. Joining what some say is a growing national movement against the language of ”adopt-a-cause,” they have launched a drive to change the signs planted at frequent intervals along many roads.

”Adoption means something very different than what you do with a highway. It’s not about temporarily fixing something up…” ‘ Boston Globe

Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

Ex-Army Scientist Denies Role in Anthrax Attacks: “(Steven) Hatfill was once a highly respected researcher and teacher of biological warfare. Now he is doing neither. Since February, he has lost one job and been suspended from another. He had seemingly dedicated his life to combating biological terrorism, but his has become the leading name in the investigation into the most dramatic act of bioterrorism that America has ever seen.” This Washington Post story catalogues alot of suspicious circumstantial evidence against Hatfield, including the fact that the fictitious return address on the anthrax letters is in Zimbabwe where he went to medical school, that he lied about his credentials; that he removed several cabinets suitable for working on anthrax from the lab he worked in at Fort Detrick. Yet it is all circumstantial; the FBI’s tosses of his home have revealed nothing incriminating. Looks like we’re starting to see a pattern at The New FBI® of leaking suspicions about high-profile suspects, regardless of what it does to their lives if they ultimately are exonerated, to deflect criticism about lack of progress in their investigations.


Brainwaves Differ in Troubled Youngsters; Researchers Pinpoint Frontal Brain:

Parts of the brain involved in judgment, planning and decision-making are different among teenagers with conduct problems, according to researchers Lance Bauer, Ph.D., and Victor Hesselbrock, Ph.D., professors in the Department of Psychiatry at the UConn Health Center.

Earlier research has shown that most people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder begin to display significant behavioral problems in childhood, which often leads to substance abuse and dependence, and may led to criminal behavior. According to the researchers, this study attempted to identify differences in brain activity that might explain this risk factor.

Their study involved 158 youngsters aged 14 to 20 years, half of whom had demonstrated conduct disorder and half had not…. After comparing the responses in the two groups, Drs. Bauer and Hesselbrock found a significant difference. “The brainwaves from the prefrontal cortex of the youngsters with conduct problems showed reduced activity,” said Dr. Bauer. “There was no significant difference between the groups in other areas of the brain. It appears that conduct problems are associated with a specific dysfunction of the frontal brain,” he said.

“Identifying these troubled youths is a step toward helping these youngsters avoid a future of substance abuse and criminal behavior,” said Dr. Hesselbrock.

I’m hardpressed to see the import of this study. I think it was in Moliere’s Le Malade Imaginaire that the doctor, asked to explain why opium poppies put users to sleep, replied with a self-important fluorish that it was (paraphrasing) “of course, my esteemed colleagues, that they contain a dormative principle“, as if that explained anything.[Oops; I used that one already

last year. — FmH]
Bauer and Hesselbrock are hardly less tautologous, once one accepts that behavior is brain-based. It has long been known, particularly from time-honored studies of the behavioral changes caused by brain lesions and injuries in various regions, that the prefrontal cortex mediates inhibition of impulses, planful activity, and (see below*; it is only a small stretch to say) appreciation of social norms and the ability to conform one’s behavior to them. So it is a trivial finding that conduct-disordered youths differ from controls in prefrontal activity.

Perhaps what troubles me is the ‘granularity’ of the study, if you will. Using EEG, rather than PET scanning, SPECT scanning, functional MRI, or some newer imaging technologies, allows nothing better than the large-scale regional conclusions (“It’s the prefrontal area”) that we already recognize. Further quibbles: this press release from AScribe does not indicate, but let us hope that the journal article makes it clear, whether the study was blind, i.e. whether the the EEG readers knew whether the tracing they were interpreting came from a conduct-disordered subject or a control before they rated its prefrontal activity. Finally, the neuropsychology of impulse control, aggression and antisociality is quite poorly understood and there are few resources to treat disorders in this sphere, so I wonder, from a practical standpoint as well as a social policy one, exactly how Dr Hesselbrock, in the final quotation above, would plan to “identify” or “help” these youths. [Perhaps he’s just seen Minority Report?]

*Coincidentally, the latest issue of the journal Brain has this very pertinent editorial by Antoine Bechara from Iowa, making my *above point — The Neurology of Social Cognition:

“Impairments of emotion and social behaviour are often observed after damage to the ventromedial (VM) region of the prefrontal cortex Previously well-adapted individuals become unable to observe social conventions and decide advantageously on personal matters. Their ability to express emotion and to experience feelings in appropriate social situations becomes compromised. Studies aimed at understanding the nature of these deficits revealed that impaired ‘judgement and decision-making’ is at the heart of the problem…’ “

"…the mundane as a paradox…"

Severyn T. Bruyn: Studies of the Mundane by Participant Observation:

Participant observation is a method that can be used to study the mundane as a paradox. A paradox is created in the tension of human differences and in the pressure of opposing beliefs. We shall see shortly how the mundane is a paradox and studied in the midst of conflicting views, but let me first note how the method of observation is a paradox. This method stands with two opposite standpoints, both of which are true. The question is how that opposition gets resolved in a study of the mundane.

The method is based on the idea that truth is found inside one’s self and outside at the same time. It is a tension between two very different sources of truth.

We are personally involved inside a mundane world and simultaneously outside it. We are participants in the mundane, but equally separated from it as observers. We live in this tension of difference between involvement and detachment, constantly. We are between our identity with the world and our non-identity with it. The answer to what is mundane stands in the tension of such opposite standpoints. The question is how we can get to the truth about our subject. Journal of Mundane Behavior

Is this paper self-referential?

Daniel P. Mears: The Ubiquity, Functions, And Contexts Of BullshittingAbstract: Bullshitting is an essentially social phenomenon worthy of investigation. In support of this view, I provide a definition that provides the basis for suggesting the ubiquity and diverse functions of bullshitting, and how it occurs in and is structured by a wide range of interpersonal and social contexts. Drawing upon illustrations from research, everyday life, and classical and contemporary theories, I argue that the study of bullshitting can inform and be informed by social theory. In so doing, an illustration is provided of (Robert) Merton’s (The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations, 1973) observation that investigation of seemingly trivial social phenomena can yield insight not only into these phenomena but also into basic dynamics of social behavior.”

Journal of Mundane Behavior

Revolting Truths

Emotional Selection in Memes: The Case of Urban Legends: “This article explores how much memes like urban legends succeed on the basis of informational selection (i.e., truth or a moral lesson) and emotional selection (i.e., the ability to evoke emotions like anger, fear, or disgust). The article focuses on disgust because its elicitors have been precisely described….(L)egends that contained more disgust motifs were distributed more widely on urban legend Web sites…” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Personality Dynamics of Intimate Abusiveness

Donald Dutton PhD: “A new theory is proposed to account for individual differences in the tendency to be abusive, assaultive, or homicidal in intimate relationships. The focus of this theory is on men whose abuse is specific to intimate relationships and is manifested through cyclical mood swings. This group, which appears to comprise about 40% of all men who present for treatment for wife assault, appears to have a borderline personality structure. For these men, abusiveness is triggered by internal mood states rather than by external events. Several studies are cited indicating that intimate attachment generates rage in wife assaulters. The origins of this attachment-rage are traced to early development. This template generates a complex of perceptions (attributions and projections) and behaviors (abusiveness) specific to intimate relationships.” Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2002 July;8(4):216-228.

Political Heat:

Malcolm Gladwell reviews Eric Klinenberg’s Heat Wave: The great Chicago heat wave, and other unnatural disasters

The United States has cities that are often humid—like Houston and New Orleans—without being tremendously hot. And it has very hot cities—like Las Vegas and Phoenix—that are almost never humid. But for one long week, beginning on Thursday, July 13, 1995, Chicago was both. Meteorologists measure humidity with what is called the dew point—the point at which the air is so saturated with moisture that it cannot cool without forming dew. On a typical Chicago summer day, the dew point is in the low sixties, and on a very warm, humid day it is in the low seventies. At Chicago’s Midway Airport, during the heat wave of 1995, the dew point hit the low eighties—a figure reached regularly only in places like the coastal regions of the Middle East. In July of 1995, Chicago effectively turned into Dubai. The New Yorker [thanks, Adam; thanks, David]

Rambo’s ride rolls out

Suburban assault vehicle not coming to a dealer near you…

The sport utility vehicle that rolls out of the Ibis Tek shop looks just like those driven by millions of soccer moms.

But with a flip of the switch, out of the sunroof pops weaponry ranging from a .50-caliber M2 machine gun to an MK-19 40 mm grenade launcher…” CNN

arf arf…

[Freaks Crossing]Zappa Fest Descends on German Town: “…(T)he little town of Bad Doberan, in an economically depressed area near the Baltic Sea, has become the unlikely site of an annual Zappa festival. This week, the town also dedicated a bronze bust of the late American musician in its central square.” Yahoo! News

First Canadian dies of human mad cow strain

Has Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD, or BSE) entered the Canadian food supply? Authorities insist the man must have contracted the disease in Britain, where he lived and worked in the ’90’s. The cattle industry fears that a North American case will impact beef sales as has been the European and Japanese case after BSE scares. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a spongiform encephalopathy (or prion disease) similar to BSE that affects ungulants, has been known in Canadian elk and deer populations since 1996, and three deer near where the victim lived in Saskatchewan have recently died of CWD, but he apparently did not eat venison or elk. Although CJD was suspected in the man’s case since April, the definitive CJD diagnosis was not made until a brain biopsy after he died, and now fears have arisen of “possible transmission to 71 other patients at a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, hospital who came into contact with medical equipment previously used on the vCJD victim.” Reuters AlertNet Shares of McDonald’s and Wendy’s stock fell sharply on the news; Taco Bell and Outback Steakhouse as well…. Reuters

Of Prime Importance:

New Method Said to Solve Key Problem in Math:

“Three Indian computer scientists have solved a longstanding mathematics problem by devising a way for a computer to tell quickly and definitively whether a number is prime…

Prime numbers play a crucial role in cryptography, so devising fast ways to identify them is important. Current computer recipes, or algorithms, are fast, but have a small chance of giving either a wrong answer or no answer at all.

The new algorithm — by Manindra Agrawal, Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur — guarantees a correct and timely answer. Though their paper has not been published yet, they have distributed it to leading mathematicians, who expressed excitement at the finding.” NY Times

You can download a .pdf file of the paper itself from here

Joe Conason:

Tom Ridge’s school daze: ‘Rarely is there any good news for the benighted czar of the “homeland,” Tom Ridge. His difficult job is made no easier by widespread doubts about his competence in the Capitol. Lately , however, the worst news for Ridge is emanating from his own homeland of Pennsylvania. The national press hasn’t caught onto this story yet, but the Philadelphia papers are strongly suggesting that the former governor left behind a festering scandal when he departed for Washington last fall.’ Salon

Start-up creates futuristic 3D display

“Actuality Systems has gazed into the future, and what it has seen looks more like a crystal ball…, a type of 3D display with a basketball-size glass dome that connects to an ordinary workstation to display 3D models and animations.

On Tuesday the company announced its first customer, the Adelphi, Md.-based U.S. Army Research Laboratory, which carries out research for the Army, the Department of Defense, NASA and other government bodies.” ZDNet

WHO alert on Africa

Amidst the dramatic and spectacular examples of people’s inhumanity, the quiet but insistent plight of Southern Africaattracts little of the attention such a massive human emergency should.

“The World Health Organisation has issued a warning that the situation in southern Africa is deteriorating, with a severe shortage of food, drought and a dramatic decrease in the standard of sanitary conditions, affecting between 12 and 14 million people.

Degraded public services, AIDS, drought and flood cycles have all wreaked havoc with the social tissue of southern African countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. Gro Brudtland, the Director-General of the WHO, has issued figures which indicate that the maternal mortality rate in child-birth has deteriorated by 50%, while tuberculosis, acute respiratory infections and malaria are expected to provoke 300,000 deaths over the next six months.

Apart from the well-known scourge of AIDS, which has seen life expectancy figures plummeting to the thirties in many regions, there is also a pandemic of cholera, which sweeping through Mozambique and Malawi, where it has claimed hundreds of lives.” Pravda

The Women Suicide Bombers

Andrea Dworkin:

“There are good reasons for women suicide bombers, and anyone who knows what’s happening to women in the Middle East can’t be surprised…

The female suicide bombers are idealists who crave committing a pure act, one that will wipe away the stigma of being female. The Palestinian community is not sacrificing low women, women of no accomplishment, women with no future. Instead, the women suicide bombers are the society’s best in terms of human resources, a perverted example of the best and the brightest. ” Feminista!

What a relief!

Bob builds a lead over Barney: “Bob the Builder has stolen Barney’s spotlight.

The English construction worker, armed with his signature tool belt and hard hat, has hammered his way past the purple dinosaur and into the hearts of children around the world.” But, uh oh: “While Barney’s popularity has declined, he’s not giving up without a fight.” Boston Globe

Annals of Sheer Stupidity:

Soldier toy disarmed at airport:

‘A doll caused a security alert at an American airport because its two-inch plastic gun was considered a dangerous weapon.

Judy Powell, 55, from Walton on the Hill, Surrey, bought the GI Joe toy in Las Vegas and packed it in her hand luggage.

But security staff at Los Angeles International Airport refused to let Mrs Powell on board the plane with the replica rifle.

Mrs Powell had to put the gift – minus the rifle – in her suitcase so it could go in the aircraft’s hold.

Mrs Powell said: “I was simply stunned when I realised they were serious.

“Security examined the toy as if it was going to shoot them and looked at the rifle…’ BBC

Gone Today, Hair Tomorrow:

“A drug normally used to treat an adult form of leukemia may be able to restore color to gray hair, a team of puzzled French doctors reported on Wednesday.

Of the 133 people they treated with the drug, sold under the brand name Gleevec by Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG, five men and four women who started out with gray hair ended up with their old color back.” Reuters

The secret history of Donna Tartt’s new novel

Fans plot to be the first readers of a reclusive writer’s long-awaited new blockbuster:

“On Mother’s Day in 1964 a boy of nine is found hanging from a tree. This mysterious killing changes everything for his family. It is also the mysterious killing at the heart of the most jealously guarded second novel in publishing history: Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend.

Tartt’s first book, published 10 years ago when she was 28, was a literary sensation. The Secret History told the suspenseful story of a privileged band of classics scholars who attended an elite American college. A potent mix of murder, adolescent sexual tension and ancient Greek ritual, it sold more than a million copies in the United States alone, and has been translated into 23 languages.

Now the long wait for Tartt’s next book is almost over. Simultaneous publication of The Little Friend in the United States and in Britain is set for the end of October. For the enigmatic author’s devoted fans, however, a few more weeks of patience is proving hard to muster. Some are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to be first to buy a copy.” Guardian UK

Justice Defiant:

U.S. Defies Judge on Enemy Combatant:

“The Justice Department yesterday defied a federal judge’s order to provide him with documents that would have supported the government’s classification of a man captured in Afghanistan and being held in a Navy brig in Norfolk as an ‘enemy combatant.'”

Washington Post

As the WoT® widens, does the definition of ‘enemy combatant’ become more and more arbitrary and privileged? Am I an ‘enemy combatant’ ?

Mysterious greasy blobs materialize in Camden

Something strange has a grip on the sidewalks of Camden and it’s not letting go.

Scores of half dollar-sized globs of a dark, tar-like substance have been popping up on sidewalks in a South Camden neighborhood near the Delaware River, worrying neighbors and puzzling state and county officials.

Like a scene from a low-budget horror movie, they have invaded a sidewalk in front of a Chinese take-out restaurant, turning it into a polka-dotted maze of mystery goo.

The Camden blobs are smeared evenly into some sidewalks, making it tough to scoop up, even with a spatula. Stranger still, the waxy stuff does not stick to cars and residents say it seems only to materialize during the wee hours of the morning…” Newark Star-Ledger [via Obscure Store]

The ‘Death of the Subject’

Review by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick: The Death of the Subject Explained, by James Heartfield, Sheffield Hallam University Press, 2002: ” ‘While this book is philosophical in its basic tenor, it is first and foremost an engaged political intervention, addressing the burning question of how we are to reformulate a leftist, anti-capitalist political project in our era of globalised capitalism and its ideological supplement, liberal-democratic multiculturalism.’

Though this is how the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek describes his own book, The Ticklish Subject, it serves even better as a characterisation of James Heartfield’s work.” sp!ked

Travel Free on 9-11:

“Spirit Airlines is offering Free airline tickets on all flights that originate on September 11, 2002. Spirit provides service to tlantic City, N.J., Chicago/O’Hare, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Myrtle Beach, S.C., New York/LaGuardia, Oakland, Calif., San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach. Flights must be booked online by 9/8/02. As you can imagine, the Spirit Website is operating extremely slow as of this post.” DealsOnTheWeb [via boing boing]

Body Parts Are Recalled

“A medical center whose handling of cadavers is being investigated by the F.B.I. said today that it was recalling body parts sent to research institutions around the country because they might carry the AIDS virus or other infections.

The center, the University of Texas Medical Branch, ordered the recall because the unpreserved remains might not have been properly tested for hepatitis and H.I.V. before they were shipped.” NY Times

The Friend of My Enemy Is…

Briefing Depicted Saudis as Enemies:

A briefing given last month to a top Pentagon advisory board described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and recommended that U.S. officials give it an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States.

“The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader,” stated the explosive briefing. It was presented on July 10 to the Defense Policy Board, a group of prominent intellectuals and former senior officials that advises the Pentagon on defense policy.

“Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies,” said the briefing prepared by Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corp. analyst. A talking point attached to the last of 24 briefing slides went even further, describing Saudi Arabia as “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent” in the Middle East. Washington Post

The conclusions about Saudi Arabia’s role are not surprising. What is astounding, however, is that this view “… has growing currency within the Bush administration — especially on the staff of Vice President Cheney and in the Pentagon’s civilian leadership — and among neoconservative writers and thinkers closely allied with administration policymakers.” Apparently, the feeling in these circles is that toppling Saddam Hussein is more urgent because a friendly successor regime in oil-rich Iraq will reduce US dependence on Saudi oil and permit the US to confront the Saudis for their support of terrorism. Hard to see how this perspective will take hold — Administration comments are derisive — since the implication is that, as long as Bush’s handlers don’t have the oil supply problem licked yet, we’re shown for the moral relativists we are in the WoT®.

A mistake and a crime

The bombing of Hiroshima was a great crime. That the United States of America has yet to confront it as such not only leaves the past with unfinished business, but undercuts the possibility of present moral clarity about the exercise of American power and leaves the earth’s future tied to a fuse that we set burning 57 years ago today.” — James Carroll, Boston Globe op-ed Carroll’s argument is essentially that the debate about the strategic necessity of the atomic bombings to the war effort is far from settled; many consider Japan’s back to have been broken already and the argument about how many American lives were saved by unleashing the Holy Fire to be fatuous and self-serving. Although of course such momentous decisions are not based on a single factor, positioning the US in the postwar struggle with the Soviet Union may have been the more important reason to incinerate two Japanese cities. Having unleashed such a quantum leap in the potential for mass destruction on the world — and relying on terror every day since to prop up our superpower status — what moral standing do we have to make war on Iraq on the basis of its similar attempts to use WMD to jockey for geopolitical power? Unless you deny that there is a thread of moral continuity to US responsibility extending back as far as WWII (which continuity those claiming US moral superiority as the saviors of the free world, the “greatest generation” etc., rely upon), it is a compelling argument…

"Internet Philosophy and Psychology"

Alan Sondheim:

INTERNET TEXT is a meditation on the philosophy, psychology, political economy,

and psychoanalytics of Internet (computer) communication. It focuses on virtual subjectivity,

sexuality, community, and all aspects of computer interfacing…

The text consists of hundreds of sections written over a period of ten years,

a continuous meditation on cyberspace, emphasizing issues of interiority, subjectivity,

body, and language. The extended range of topics includes Net applications, as well as occasional

reference to the underlying architecture and protocols of telecommunications; this is the

materialist “gristle” that can’t be discarded in analysis.

The subject matter is in the form of “short-waves, long-waves.” The former are

the individual sections, written in a variety of styles. These texts are completely interrelated; on occasion

“characters” appear – these are _actants_ possessing philosophical or psychological

import. They also create and problematize narrative sub-structures within the work as

a whole…

The long-waves are fuzzy topoi on such issues as death, love, virtual embodiment,

the granularity of the real, and physical reality, which criss-cross the texts.

The resulting fragments and coagulations emerge from code and codework, surface and substrate.

The writing encompasses, past and present, but wagers the future as well;

the emphasis is on extended virtuality.

Read in any order, any direction. The text is resonant.

Teamsters reportedly prepared to endorse TIPS informant plan

A reporting source sent this to Declan McCullagh’s Politech mailing list. TIPS, you will recall, is the administration plan to have us become informants on one another’s suspicious activities to assist the WoT®, Eastern-European style:

Teamsters President James Hoffa, Jr. is preparing to endorse the Bush administration’s TIPS plan, according to Washington sources close to the labor union. Teamsters is the largest union in the U.S. and its members include United Parcel Service (UPS) workers. The decision of the Teamsters to back TIPS is solely Hoffa’s, and no union vote was taken, or is planned, the source said. Many Teamsters are more left-of-center and are unhappy with Hoffa’s close relationship with Republicans and the Bush White House and view his pending endorsement of TIPS as an attempt to win favor with Bush, the source said.

Related: The Societal Costs of Surveillance


So the recent brainstorm by the Justice Department to enlist couriers, meter readers, cable installers and telephone repairmen to snoop on people’s private lives for anything “suspicious” dredged a cold and until now forgotten feeling from the pit of my stomach. Many have objected that such a program would violate civil liberties and basic American principles. But stoking people’s fear to set neighbor upon neighbor, service worker upon client, those who belong against those who don’t, does something more: it erodes the soul of the watcher and the watched, replacing healthy national pride with mute suspicion, breeding insular individuals more concerned with self-preservation than with society at large. Ultimately it creates a climate that is inherently antithetical to security. NY Times

Hiroshima Day, August 6th:

“Every year, in Hiroshima, Japan, people float lanterns with prayers, thoughts, and messages of peace down the rivers in commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Until this year, the only way to join this celebration was to go to Hiroshima personally, but now a group of volunteers have started a website that will allow people from around the world to join in. The site, the A-Bomb WWW Museum, allows visitors to both write in messages and view messages that others have left from across the planet. On August 6th, during the Lantern Floating Festival, the messages will be printed out and assembled into a series of lanterns that will be floated down the rivers. This will be shown live on the same website.”

[The atomic shadow]

“The shadows of the parapets were imprinted on the road surface of the Yorozuyo Bridge, 1/2 a mile south-south-west of the hypocenter. It is one of the important clues for establishing the location of the epicenter. October.

Photo: the U.S. Army.”

Behind the Veil.

Thanks to Walker, I’m fed a steady diet of the virulent Dr. Dalrymple. Here’s the latest:

I had dinner with a medical school dean last week. A virologist of distinction, he told me that there recently had been an outbreak of Muslim fundamentalism in his medical school.

Female Muslim medical students had suddenly started to appear at classes clad in a full veil, with only a narrow slit for the eyes. Alarmed, the medical school authorities consulted the General Medical Council, the official body that supervises medical education in Britain. Fortunately, a pre-existing rule that the whole of a student’s or doctor’s face must be visible to patients undergoing examination allowed the school authorities to tell the veiled students that they must remove their veils or cease to study medicine.

They complied; and it subsequently emerged that they had never wanted to veil themselves in the first place but were pressured—or blackmailed—into adopting the custom by male Muslim medical students, among whom was a cleric. They were susceptible to blackmail because, just as intellectuals were once afraid to appear insufficiently left-wing (pas d’ennemis sur la gauche), so Muslims now fear appearing insufficiently rigorous and orthodox in their observance… [more] City Journal

Eat it, I dare ya!

I discovered this after a chance comment from a co-worker about some of the ingredients in pet food led me to some online research, and it floored me. Pay particular attention to the explanation of “digest of chicken by-products” in the first paragraph, and the explanation of why in the world you find the barbiturate sedative sodium pentabarbital in measurable amounts in cat food, in the third paragraph. The article is only for those with a strong stomach and an expansive capacity for outrage and revulsion. Then, if you’re a pet owner, find out how your chosen brand of pet food rates here


[Rover returns his owner because he DISOBEYS!]

Downloading Magazine Replicas

Technology Review magazine plans to announce a new service today that enables users to download an exact replica of the magazine to read at their leisure, placing the magazine among a fast-growing crowd of publications using this form of online distribution.

Compared with typical Web publishing, which uses formats designed specifically for reading on a computer screen, Technology Review and other publishers are transmitting electronic copies of their printed pages. Publishers see this service — variously called digital delivery, digital replicas or electronic editions — as a way to build both advertising and circulation revenue when few companies have been performing well in either category. And since digital delivery incurs negligible additional costs beyond the print version, publishers are greeting this new technology with an attitude of “why not?” ‘ NY Times

Not in our name?

Hip Hop Confronts War:

Since Sept. 11 corporate media have regurgitated the government’s mindless pro-war propaganda. It’s not just CNN and NBC, though: big money rappers have fallen in line to rally ’round the flag, from Mystikal to R. Kelly to Wu-Tang Clan to MC Hammer.

…But luckily, underground hip hop is speaking out against the “war on terrorism,” operating, as Africa says, as town criers. WarTimes

Bush’s Shame

Thomas Friedman:

‘Watching the pathetic, mealy-mouthed response of President Bush and his State Department to Egypt’s decision to sentence the leading Egyptian democracy advocate to seven years in prison leaves one wondering whether the whole Bush foreign policy team isn’t just a big bunch of phonies. Shame on all of them.

… This ties in with a larger concern that human rights activists share toward America today — a concern that post-9/11 America is not interested anymore in law and order, just order, and it’s not interested in peace and quiet, but just quiet. I am struck by how many Sri Lankans, who are as pro-American as they come, have made some version of this observation to me: America as an idea, as a source of optimism and as a beacon of liberty is critical to the world — but you Americans seem to have forgotten that since 9/11. You’ve stopped talking about who you are, and are only talking now about who you’re going to invade, oust or sanction.

These days, said Mrs. Coomaraswamy, “none of us in the human rights community would think of appealing to the U.S. for support for upholding a human rights case — maybe to Canada, to Norway or to Sweden — but not to the U.S. Before there were always three faces of America out in the world — the face of the Peace Corps, the America that helps others, the face of multinationals and the face of American military power.” ‘ NY Times op-ed [thanks to Richard Homonoff]

Why We Don’t Need This War

Scott Ritter, the former head of the UN weapons inspectorate in Iraq, insists that the British and American people are being frog-marched towards an unnecessary war. He spoke to Mark Seddon.”

Ritter was head of the United Nations weapons inspectorate in Iraq from 1991 until 1998.

That makes this former American marine and CIA agent uniquely placed to assess the extent of the threat Iraq currently poses as George Bush continues to wage his “war on terrorism”.

I met the straight-talking Ritter when he was in London recently and he insisted that Saddam Hussein is largely a busted flush.

So Ritter represents a problem for the hawks in the Pentagon because American sabre-rattling indicates that another war against Iraq is likely.

However, the best that the US dirty tricks department can pin on Ritter – a veteran of the first Gulf War – is that he received funds for a documentary on Iraq from an American of Iraqi extraction. The Tribune

And: The writing on the wall:

“Civilisation began 8,000 years ago in what we now call Iraq. Since then have come glorious cultures, cruel tyrants, invasions. How do Iraqis regard the latest threat of war? Jonathan Glancey finds fatalism, a fearful loyalty to their warrior king, Saddam – and a sense of betrayal by Britain.” Guardian UK

I Scream, You Scream…

The Wacky World of Japanese Ice Cream: “Having succeeded globally with cars, electronics and even fashion, it was only natural the Japanese turned their hand to trying to surpass the West with one of its favorite culinary delights – ice cream.” Mainichi Daily News [via Red Rock Eaters]

Has to be mostly for export, as Westerners who have lived there assure me ice cream is not big in Japan, possibly because of the high prevalence of lactose-intolerance among the Japanese people. Several people independently have described to me their addiction to the exquisite shaved ice concoctions the Japanese appear to prefer.

Anemone of the Smart People

“In their explorations of artificial life, … Media Lab researchers have created what they call ‘Public Anemone,’ a sea creature that responds to stimuli like touch, motion and light. Near the tentacle creature are clumps of fiber optic wires that pull in if you touch them, just like an ordinary sea anemone.

Is this good artificial intelligence or good programming? ‘Is there a difference?’ responds Scott Senften, chair of Siggraph’s Emerging Technologies Exhibition.

This year’s exhibition was a meditation on human-machine interaction, as researchers from around the world demonstrated three kinds of projects: robots, machines that enhanced one or more of the five senses, and explorations of virtual reality.” Wired

Toying With Musical Instruments

“If traditional concert performances leave you sighing for more, you can look forward to an opera where musicians squeeze squishy embroidered balls, play soundless violins and bang on glowing bugs with antennae.

These hyper-instruments were developed by Tod Machover of MIT’s Media Lab in an attempt to break free of conventional musical instrument design. Building on technologies developed for Machover’s groundbreaking Brain Opera, these music toys enable children to engage in sophisticated listening, performing and composing activities normally accessible only after years of study.” Wired