Happy New Year

This is the annual update of my New Year’s post, a tradition I started early on on FmH:

I once ran across a January 1st Boston Globe article compiling folkloric beliefs about what to do, what to eat, etc. on New Year’s Day to bring good fortune for the year to come. I’ve regretted since — I usually think of it around once a year (grin) — not clipping out and saving the article. Especially since we’ve had children, I’m interested in enduring traditions that go beyond getting drunk [although some comment that this is a profound enactment of the interdigitation of chaos and order appropriate to the New Year’s celebration — FmH], watching the bowl games and making resolutions.

A web search brought me this, less elaborate than what I recall from the Globe but to the same point. It is weighted toward eating traditions, which is odd because, unlike most other major holidays, the celebration of New Year’s in 21st century America does not seem to be centered at all around thinking about what we eat (except in the sense of the traditional weight-loss resolutions!) and certainly not around a festive meal. But…

//tonos.ru/images/articles/dragon/ouroboros.jpg' cannot be displayed]Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

“Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune.

“Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another ‘good luck’ vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.”

The further north one travels in the British Isles, the more the year-end festivities focus on New Year’s. The Scottish observance of Hogmanay has many elements of warming heart and hearth, welcoming strangers and making a good beginning:

“Three cornered biscuits called hogmanays are eaten. Other special foods are: wine, ginger cordial, cheese, bread, shortbread, oatcake, carol or carl cake, currant loaf, and a pastry called scones. After sunset people collect juniper and water to purify the home. Divining rituals are done according to the directions of the winds, which are assigned their own colors. First Footing:The first person who comes to the door on midnight New Year’s Eve should be a dark-haired or dark-complected man with gifts for luck. Seeing a cat, dog, woman, red-head or beggar is unlucky. The person brings a gift (handsel) of coal or whiskey to ensure prosperity in the New Year. Mummer’s Plays are also performed. The actors called the White Boys of Yule are all dressed in white, except for one dressed as the devil in black. It is bad luck to engage in marriage proposals, break glass, spin flax, sweep or carry out rubbish on New Year’s Eve.”

Here’s why we clink our glasses when we drink our New Year’s toasts, no matter where we are. Of course, sometimes the midnight cacophony is louder than just clinking glassware, to create a ‘devil-chasing din’.

In Georgia, eat black eyed peas and turnip greens on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity in the year to come, supposedly because they symbolize coppers and currency. Hoppin’ John, a concoction of peas, onion, bacon and rice, is also a southern New Year’s tradition, as is wearing yellow to find true love (in Peru, yellow underwear, apparently!) or carrying silver for prosperity. In some instances, a dollar bill is thrown in with the other ingredients of the New Year’s meal to bring prosperity. In Greece, there is a traditional New Year’s Day sweetbread with a silver coin baked into it. All guests get a slice of the bread and whoever receives the slice with the coin is destined for good fortune for the year. At Italian tables, lentils, oranges and olives are served. The lentils, looking like coins, will bring prosperity; the oranges are for love; and the olives, symbolic of the wealth of the land, represent good fortune for the year to come.

A New Year’s meal in Norway also includes dried cod, “lutefisk.” The Pennsylvania Dutch make sure to include sauerkraut in their holiday meal, also for prosperity.

In Spain, you would cram twelve grapes in your mouth at midnight, one each time the clock chimed, for good luck for the twelve months to come. (If any of the grapes happens to be sour, the corresponding month will not be one of your most fortunate in the coming year.) The U. S. version of this custom, for some reason, involves standing on a chair as you pop the grapes. In Denmark, jumping off a chair at the stroke of midnight signifies leaping into the New Year. In Rio, you would be plunging into the sea en masse at midnight, wearing white and bearing offerings. In many northern hemisphere cities near bodies of water, they will have a tradition of people plunging into the cold water on New Year’s Day. The Coney Island Polar Bears Club in New York is the oldest cold-water swimming club in the United States. They have had groups of people enter the chilly surf since 1903.

Ecuadorian families make scarecrows stuffed with newspaper and firecrackers and place them outside their homes. The dummies represent misfortunes of the prior year, which are then burned in effigy at the stroke of midnight to forget the old year. Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck.

In China, homes are cleaned spotless to appease the Kitchen God, and papercuttings of red paper are hung in the windows to scare away evil spirits who might enter the house and bring misfortune. Large papier mache dragon heads with long fabric bodies are maneuvered through the streets during the Dragon Dance festival, and families open their front doors to let the dragon bring good luck into their homes.

The Indian Diwali festival, welcoming in the autumnal season, also involves attracting good fortune with lights. Children make small clay lamps, dipas, thousands of which might adorn a given home. In Thailand, one pours fragrant water over the hands of elders on New Year’s Day to show them respect.

//www.elanguages.org/images/16245' cannot be displayed]Elsewhere:

  • a stack of pancakes for the New Year’s breakfast in France.
  • banging on friends’ doors in Denmark to “smash in” the New Year, where it is also a good sign to find your doorstep heaped with broken dishes on New Year’s morning. Old dishes are saved all years to throw at your friends’ homes on New Year’s Eve.
  • going in the front door and out the back door at midnight in Ireland.
  • making sure the First Footer, the first person through your door in the New Year in Scotland, is a tall dark haired visitor.
  • water out the window at midnight in Puerto Rico rids the home of evil spirits.
  • cleanse your soul in Japan at the New Year by listening to a gong tolling 108 times, one for every sin
  • it is Swiss good luck to let a drop of cream fall on the floor on New Year’s Day.
  • Belgian farmers wish their animals a Happy New Year for blessings.
  • In Germany and Austria, lead pouring” (das Bleigießen) is an old divining practice using molten lead like tea leaves. A small amount of lead is melted in a tablespoon (by holding a flame under the spoon) and then poured into a bowl or bucket of water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. For instance, if the lead forms a ball (der Ball), that means luck will roll your way. The shape of an anchor (der Anker) means help in need. But a cross (das Kreuz) signifies death.
  • It’s a bit bizarre when you think about it. A short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s has become a German New Year’s tradition. Yet, although The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One is a famous cult classic in Germany and several other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, including Britain, its birthplace.” (Watch on Youtube, 11 min.)

Some history; documentation of observance of the new year dates back at least 4000 years to the Babylonians, who also made the first new year’s resolutions (reportedly voews to return borrowed farm equipment were very popular), although their holiday was observed at the vernal equinox. The Babylonian festivities lasted eleven days, each day with its own particular mode of celebration. The traditional Persian Norouz festival of spring continues to be considered the advent of the new year among Persians, Kurds and other peoples throughout Central Asia, and dates back at least 3000 years, deeply rooted in Zooastrian traditions.Modern Bahá’í’s celebrate Norouz (”Naw Ruz”) as the end of a Nineteen Day Fast. Rosh Hashanah (”head of the year”), the Jewish New Year, the first day of the lunar month of Tishri, falls between September and early October. Muslim New Year is the first day of Muharram, and Chinese New Year falls between Jan. 10th and Feb. 19th of the Gregorian calendar.

The classical Roman New Year’s celebration was also in the spring although the calendar went out of synchrony with the sun. January 1st became the first day of the year by proclamation of the Roman Senate in 153 BC, reinforced even more strongly when Julius Caesar established what came to be known as the Julian calendar in 46 BC. The early Christian Church condemned new year’s festivities as pagan but created parallel festivities concurrently. New Year’s Day is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision in some denominations. Church opposition to a new year’s observance reasserted itself during the Middle Ages, and Western nations have only celebrated January 1 as a holidy for about the last 400 years. The custom of New Year’s gift exchange among Druidic pagans in 7th century Flanders was deplored by Saint Eligius, who warned them, “[Do not] make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” (Wikipedia)

The tradition of the New Year’s Baby signifying the new year began with the Greek tradition of parading a baby in a basket during the Dionysian rites celebrating the annual rebirth of that god as a symbol of fertility. The baby was also a symbol of rebirth among early Egyptians. Again, the Church was forced to modify its denunciation of the practice as pagan because of the popularity of the rebirth symbolism, finally allowing its members to cellebrate the new year with a baby although assimilating it to a celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. The addition of Father Time (the “Old Year”) wearing a sash across his chest with the previous year on it, and the banner carried or worn by the New Year’s Baby, immigrated from Germany. Interestingly, January 1st is not a legal holiday in Israel, officially because of its historic origins as a Christian feast day.

Auld Lang Syne (literally ‘old long ago’ in the Scottish dialect) is sung or played at the stroke of midnight throughout the English-speaking world (and then there is George Harrison’s “Ring Out the Old”). Versions of the song have been part of the New Year’s festivities since the 17th century but Robert Burns was inspired to compose a modern rendition, which was published after his death in 1796. (It took Guy Lombardo, however, to make it popular…)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

//www.sfgate.com/chronicle/pictures/2005/02/09/ga_lunar01.jpg' cannot be displayed]

Here’s how to wish someone a Happy New Year around the world:

  • Arabic: Kul ‘aam u antum salimoun
  • Brazilian: Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo means “Good Parties and Happy New Year”
  • Chinese: Chu Shen Tan Xin Nian Kuai Le (thanks, Jeff)
  • Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok
  • Dutch: Gullukkig Niuw Jaar
  • Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
  • French: Bonne Annee
  • German: Prosit Neujahr
  • Greek: Eftecheezmaenos o Kaenooryos hronos
  • Hebrew: L’Shannah Tovah Tikatevu
  • Hindi: Niya Saa Moobaarak
  • Irish (Gaelic): Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit
  • Italian: Buon Capodanno
  • Khmer: Sua Sdei tfnam tmei
  • Laotian: Sabai dee pee mai
  • Polish: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
  • Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo
  • Russian: S Novim Godom
  • Serbo-Croatian: Scecna nova godina
  • Spanish: Feliz Ano Nuevo
  • Swedish: Ha ett gott nytt år
  • Turkish: Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
  • Vietnamese: Cung-Chuc Tan-Xuan
  • [If you are a native speaker, please feel free to offer any corrections or additions!]

However you’re going to celebrate, my warmest wishes for the year to come… and eat hearty! [thanks to Bruce Umbaugh for research assistance]

Happy Yule

Yule Fire

“I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.

There is nothing I can give you which you have not already, but there is much, very much, which though I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today.

Take heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this precious little instant.

Take peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and courage in the darkness could we but see; and to see, we have only to look.

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their coverings, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, and wisdom, and power. Welcome it, greet it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it.

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing Presence.

Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

Courage, then, to claim it, that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims wending through unknown country our way home.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greeting, but with profound esteem now and forever.

The day breaks and the shadows flee away.”

— Christmas greeting from a letter written by Italian friar and painter Giovanni da Fiesole (Fra Angelico) 1387-1455

A Warm and Happy Winter Solstice!

And so the Shortest Day came and the Year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of that snow white world
came people
Singing, Dancing
To drive the Dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees
They hung their homes with evergreens
They burned beseeching fires, all night long
To keep the Year alive
And when the new Year’s sunshine blazed awake, they shouted
Through all the frosty ages, you can hear them
Echoing behind us.
All the long echos sing the same delight
this Shortest Day
As promise wakens in the sleeping land
They carol, feast, give thanks, and dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now
This year and every year: Welcome Yule!
All: Welcome Yule!

— Susan Cooper, “The Shortest Day”

Simon Schama on How His Friend Christopher Hitchens Said Goodbye

RIP : Christopher Hitchens : 1949 : 2011

“Christopher Hitchens confronted death with the same furious bravura that he deployed against purveyors of unreasoned pieties…. It was typical that his last essay for Vanity Fair was less a chronicle of his pain than an attack on Nietzsche’s assertion that “whatever does not kill you makes you stronger.” There was much in what he had endured lately, he insisted, that proved Nietzsche’s aphorism demonstrably false…” (via The Daily Beast).

R.I.P. Vaclav Havel


Dissident Playwright Who Led Czechoslovakia Dead at 75: A shy yet resilient, unfailingly polite but dogged man who articulated the power of the powerless, Mr. Havel spent five years in and out of Communist prisons, lived for two decades under close secret-police surveillance and endured the suppression of his plays and essays. He served 14 years as president, wrote 19 plays, inspired a film and a rap song and remained one of his generation’s most seductively nonconformist writers. (via NYTimes.com)

How Short Can A Very Short Story Be?

Krulwich Wonders… : “…Very short stories can get very, very short and still be good. The most famous example (supposedly written by Ernest Hemingway) draws a little sigh with only six words; it’s a sales ad.

‘For sale:

baby shoes,

never worn.’

Nobody has been able to beat that one, at least nobody I’ve read,…

But I’ve seen stories that are way richer, and much, much shorter, if we’re counting words. They use no words at all…” (via NPR).

US Out of Iraq

Nazi propaganda poster addressing the Dutch pu...

After nine years, the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, the near bankruptcy of the US economy, the squandering of the goodwill of most of the world and the fueling of rabid anti-Americanism, Bush-Cheney’s American occupation of the Iranian province that was formerly the nation of Iraq finally ends. Mission accomplished!

For a stroll down memory lane, here is a Google search that should point you to all the posts I wrote about Iraq over the years of the war.

Institute of Medicine: Most Use of Chimps in Biomedical Research is Unnecessary



Use of Chimps Halted in New U.S.-Funded Research: “The National Institutes of Health on Thursday suspended all new grants for biomedical and behavioral research on chimpanzees and accepted the first uniform criteria for assessing the necessity of such research. Those criteria require that the research be necessary for human health, and that there be no other way to accomplish it.

In making the announcement, Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the N.I.H., said the agency was accepting the recommendations released earlier in the day by an expert committee of the Institute of Medicine and would establish a working group to decide how to carry out those recommendations. The decision by the N.I.H. and the recomentions from the Institute of Medicine, a expert advisory group, do not put an end to research on chimps, but were claimed as victories by animal rights groups that have been fighting for ban on such research for decades, arguing that research on chimpanzees was unneeded and cruel to the animal that is human’s closest relative. They said that the move was a step toward eventually ending chimp research, already a tiny segment of federal research.” (via  NYTimes).

Mink Assault

Weasel (Farthing Wood)

A jury has acquitted a Hoquiam, Wash., man accused of breaking into a home in June and throwing a dead mink at another man. Police said Jobie J. Watkins, 33, went to the other man’s apartment looking for his ex-girlfriend. The other man was struck after he asked Watkins why he had a dead weasel and Watkins reportedly insisted that it was a marten.” (via SFGATE).

Thanks to rich, who wonders if this is a problem of “infidelity or taxonomy.”


Vowels Control Your Brain

This, from Robert Krulwich, is so good it deserves to be excerpted in full:

Here’s something you should know about yourself. Vowels control your brain. “I”s make you see things differently than “O”s. Here’s how. Say these words out loud:

  • Bean
  • Mint
  • Slim

These “I” and “E” vowels are formed by putting your tongue forward in the mouth. That’s why they’re called “front” vowels.

Now, say:

  • Large
  • Pod
  • Or
  • Ought

With these words, your tongue depresses and folds back a bit. So “O”, “A” and “U” are called “back” of the throat vowels.

OK, here’s the weird part.When comparing words across language groups, says Stanford linguistics professor Dan Jurafsky, a curious pattern shows up: Words with front vowels (“I” and “E”) tend to represent small, thin, light things.Back vowels (“O” “U” and some “A”s ) show up in fat, heavy things.

It’s not always true, but it’s a tendency that you can see in any of the stressed vowels in words like little, teeny or itsy-bitsy (all front vowels) versus humongous or gargantuan (back vowels). Or the i vowel in Spanish chico (front vowel meaning small) versus gordo (back vowel meaning fat). Or French petit (front vowel) versus grand (back vowel).

Try this yourself. If I make up two words, “Frish” and “Frosh” and tell you each is about to become a new ice cream, which of the two seems richer, heavier?

For me, “Frosh,” (with the back vowel “o”) seems creamier. I don’t know why. Just feels that way. And not just to me. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found most people imagined Frosh creamier than Frish.

Here’s another example. Richard Klink, a marketing professor at Loyola College in Maryland created a test using two sets of names. They were nonsense names, chosen at random:

Nidax vs. Nodax and Detal vs. Dutal

And then, slapping these names on various imaginary products, he asked a group of people:

  • Which brand of laptop seems bigger; Detal or Dutal?
  • Which brand of vacuum cleaner seems heavier, Keffi or Kuffi?
  • Which brand of ketchup seems thicker, Nellen or Nullen?
  • Which brand of beer seems darker, Esab or Usab?

“In each case,” reports Professor Jurasky, “the participants in the study tended to choose the product named by back vowels (dutal, nodax) as the larger, heavier, thicker, darker product. Similar studies have been conducted in various other languages.”

Jurasky then wondered, Do businesses know this about vowels? For example, would an ice cream company (looking to create a rich, creamy and satisfying product,) and a cracker manufacturer, (looking to make something, thin, light and crackily) use different vowels?  He thought they might, so, on his blog, he writes:

To test the hypothesis I downloaded two lists of food names from the web. One was a list of 81 ice cream flavors that I constructed by including every flavor sold by either Haagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s. The second was a list of 592 cracker brands from a dieting website. For each list, I counted the total number of front vowels and the total number of back vowels (details of the study are here). The result, shown in the table [below], is that ice creams names indeed have more back vowels and cracker names have more front vowels. (Language of Food)

Ice cream companies mix in lots of “O”s and “A”s, says Jurasky, like…

Rocky Road, Jamoca Almond Fudge, Chocolate, Caramel, Cookie Dough, Coconut

But the cracker people stick pretty much to “E”s and “I”s.

Cheese Nips, Cheez It, Wheat Thins, Pretzel thins, Ritz, Krispy, Triscuit, Thin Crisps, Cheese Crisps, Chicken in a Biskit, Snack sticks, Toasted chips, Ritz bits

But Why? Why do we associate “front” vowels with small, thin light things and “back” vowels with big, solid, heavy things?

Two linguists, John Ohala and Eugene Morton proposed that over evolutionary time, humans instinctively associate pitch with size. Lions, bears, seals make low sounds, canaries, mice, rabbits higher sounds. Not always, but enough of the time that when we hear a low frequency (even in an “O” or a “U”) we may think big and heavy, whereas higher frequencies (even in “I’s and “E”s) suggest small and light.

The Origin Of The Smile? Dan Jurasky goes even further. Scholars have noticed, he says, that when people say “Boo!”, they form an o-shape with their lips and mouth, and look aggressive and a little dangerous.

But use the “front” vowels, like “I” and “E”, your mouth and lips will widen into a kind of smile. Why do we say “cheese” when it’s time to take the picture? Why does the word smile contain an “I”? These front vowels, he says, are the “smile” vowels. One day they may even explain why we smile, but in the meantime, the big news is that it’s old fashioned to think of vowels as just sounds.

They are more than that: they are little strings that pull on our brains and it turns out, “I”s pull us to different places than “O”s.

Who knew?  (via NPR).

Can Broadened “Counterterrorism” Rules Open Door to Indefinitely Detaining Peaceful Protesters?

Anti-Chen Protest Day 32 - Million Men March

“A lot has been written recently about the recent militarization of US police forces. The impression is inescapable in an atmosphere saturated with imagery of Occupy protesters being bullied by domestic police who wield militarized weaponry, clad in what used to be thought of as riot gear, but is now a de rigueur feature of official responses to things that do not resemble nor threaten to become riots. It appears this militarization comes partly courtesy unprecedented and legally dubious collaboration between civilian police and the CIA…” (via Truthout, with thanks to hal).

Lists of Note

1006CarrieFurnace_hdr“Lists are created, and have been for many centuries, for all manner of reasons. It’s my aim to feature some of the most notable examples right here. Updated as often as possible; usually on weekdays. Edited by me, Shaun Usher. I also run Letters of Note.”  (Lists of Note).

The True Face of Atomic Death

‘…a nuclear explosion from the Tumbler-Snapper tests performed in Nevada during 1952. It looks different from all nuclear explosions you’ve seen because it’s what it looks like one millisecond after detonation. It looks like a skull by Tim Burton.

The face of atomic death just one second away from unleashing its absolute destruction.

Only one millisecond after the bomb explodes, this 65.6-foot (20 meters) ball of fire appears in midair, with spikes that look like rotten teeth or stalactites of fire (called the rope trick effect).

The explosion was captured by a Rapid Action Electronic camera—a high speed device designed to photograph nuclear explosions just milliseconds after ignition. The rapatronic camera, as it is called, was created by Harold Edgerton in the 1940s using two polarizing filters and Kerr cell instead of a shutter, which is too slow for this job. A Kerr cell is a panel that changes its polarization depending on the voltage applied. This acts as a very high speed shutter, which allows the perfect exposition to capture this moment.’ (via Gizmodo).

Rats Exhibit Kindness to Others


Free Trapped Friends, Hint at Universal Empathy: ‘With a few liberating swipes of their paws, a group of research rats freed trapped labmates and raised anew the possibility that empathy isn’t unique to humans and a few extra-smart animals, but is widespread in the animal world.

Though more studies are needed on the rats’ motivations, it’s at least plausible they demonstrated “empathically motivated pro-social behavior.” People would generally call that helpfulness, or even kindness.

“Rats help other rats in distress. That means it’s a biological inheritance,” said neurobiologist Peggy Mason of the University of Chicago. “That’s the biological program we have.” ‘ (via Wired.com).

A Brief History of the Apocalypse


‘Is the idea that the End is near a recent phenomenon? Far from it. Indeed, Chicken Littles have crying doom since ancient times. The aim of this page is to debunk end-time prophecy by listing hundreds of failed doomsday predictions, allay the fears spread by end-time preachers, anddemonstrate that doomcrying is nothing new. I also hope you will derive amusement from some of the more bizarre prophecies.

I have strived for accuracy through careful cross-referencing amongsource materials. I’m constantly adding new information and correcting mistakes, yet there may still be some errors.

Please journey with me through the wild, wacky and wonderful world of failed doomsday prophecy!’ (via Abhota).

SETI resumes at Allen Telescope Array

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA-42), October 11...

‘The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has resumed at the Allen Telescope Array in northern California. The ATA was in hibernation for months due to a lack of funding. But new cash came in from the public (yay, public support of science!) and also the US Air Force “as part of a formal assessment of the instrument’s utility for Space Situational Awareness.” Exoplanet candidates found via NASA’s Kepler space telescope will be one focus of the resumed effort.’ (via Boing Boing).

James Mollison Photographs

“James & Other Apes: While watching a nature program on primates I was struck by their facial similarity to our own. Humans are clearly different to animals, but the great apes inhabit that grey area between man and animal. I thought it would be interesting to try to photograph gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans using the aesthetic of the passport photograph- its ubiquitous style inferring the idea of identity.

I decided against photographing in zoos or using ‘animal actors’ but traveled to Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia to meet orphans of the bush meat trade and live pet trade.” (via Hunch).

On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore


Nicholas Payton

Jazz died in 1959.


There maybe cool individuals who say they play Jazz, but ain’t shit cool about Jazz as a whole.

Jazz died when cool stopped being hip.

Jazz was a limited idea to begin with.

Jazz is a label that was forced upon the musicians.

The musicians should’ve never accepted that idea.

Jazz ain’t shit.

Jazz is incestuous.

Jazz separated itself from American popular music.

Big mistake.

The music never recovered.

Ornette tried to save Jazz from itself by taking the music back to its New Orleanian roots, but his efforts were too esoteric.

Jazz died in 1959, that’s why Ornette tried to “Free Jazz” in 1960.

Jazz is only cool if you don’t actually play it for a living.

Jazz musicians have accepted the idea that it’s OK to be poor.

John Coltrane is a bad cat, but Jazz stopped being cool in 1959.

The very fact that so many people are holding on to this idea of what Jazz is supposed to be is exactly what makes it not cool.

People are holding on to an idea that died long ago.

Jazz, like the Buddha, is dead.

Let it go, people, let it go.

Paul Whiteman was the King of Jazz and someday all kings must fall.

Jazz ain’t cool, it’s cold, like necrophilia.

Stop fucking the dead and embrace the living.

Jazz worries way too much about itself for it to be cool.

Jazz died in 1959.

The number one Jazz record is Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue.

Dave Brubeck’s Time Out was released in 1959.

1959 was the coolest year in Jazz.

Jazz is haunted by its own hungry ghosts.

Let it die.

You can be martyrs for an idea that died over a half a century if y’all want.

Jazz has proven itself to be limited, and therefore, not cool.

Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt from looking back.

Jazz is dead.

Miles ahead.

Some may say that I’m no longer the same dude who recorded the album with Doc Cheatham.

Correct: I’m not the same dude I was 14 years ago.

Isn’t that the point?

Our whole purpose on this planet is to evolve.

The Golden Age of Jazz is gone.

Let it go.

Too many necrophiliacs in Jazz.

You’re making my case for me.

Some people may say we are defined by our limitations.

I don’t believe in limitations, but yes, if you believe you are limited that will define you.

Definitions are retrospective.

And if you find yourself getting mad, it’s probably because you know Jazz is dead.

Why get upset if what I’m saying doesn’t ring true?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t play Jazz.

I play Postmodern New Orleans music.

Louis Armstrong and Danny Barker play Traditional New Orleans Music.

Ellis Marsalis and James Black play Modern New Orleans music.

Kidd Jordan and Clyde Kerr play Avant-garde New Orleans music.

Donald Harrison plays Neoclassical New Orleans music.

I play Postmodern New Orleans music.

I am a part of a lineage.

I am a part of a blood line.

My ancestors didn’t play Jazz, they played Traditional, Modern and Avant-garde New Orleans Music.

I don’t play Jazz.

I don’t let others define who I am.

I am a Postmodern New Orleans musician.

I create music for the heart and the head, for the beauty and the booty.

The man who lets others define him is a dead man.

With all due respect to the masters, they were victims of a colonialist mentality.

Blacks have been conditioned for centuries to be grateful for whatever crumbs thrown to them.

As a postmodern musician, it’s my duty to do better than my predecessors.

To question, reexamine and redefine what it is that we do.

They accepted it because they had to.

Because my ancestors opened the door for me, I don’t have to accept it.

Louis bowed and scraped so Miles could turn his back.

It’s called evolution.

It’s the colonialist mentality that glorifies being treated like a slave.

There is nothing romantic about poor, scuffling Jazz musicians.

Fuck that idea.

It’s not cool.

Jazz is a lie.

America is a lie.

Playing Jazz is like running on a treadmill: you may break a sweat, but ultimately you ain’t going nowhere.

Some people may say we are limited.

I say, we are as limited as we think.

I am not limited.

Jazz is a marketing ploy that serves an elite few.

The elite make all the money while they tell the true artists it’s cool to be broke.

Occupy Jazz!

I am not speaking of so-called Jazz’s improvisational aspects.

Improvisation by its very nature can never be passé, but mindsets are invariably deadly.

Not knowing is the most you can ever know.

It’s only when you don’t know that “everything” is possible.

Jazz has nothing to do with music or being cool.

It’s a marketing idea.

A glaring example of what’s wrong with Jazz is how people fight over it.

People are too afraid to let go of a name that is killing the spirit of the music.

Life is bigger than music, unless you love and/or play Jazz.

The art, or lack thereof, is just a reflection.

Miles Davis personified cool and he hated Jazz.

What is Jazz anyway?

Life isn’t linear, it’s concentric.

When you’re truly creating you don’t have time to think about what to call it.

Who thinks of what they’ll name the baby while they’re fucking?

Playing Jazz is like using the rear-view mirror to drive your car on the freeway.

If you think Jazz is a style of music, you’ll never begin to understand.

It’s ultimately on the musicians.

People are fickle and follow the pack.

Not enough artists willing to soldier for their shit.

People follow trends and brands.

So do musicians, sadly.

Jazz is a brand.

Jazz ain’t music, it’s marketing, and bad marketing at that.

It has never been, nor will it ever be, music.

Here lies Jazz (1916 – 1959).

Too many musicians and not enough artists.

I believe music to be more of a medium than a brand.

Silence is music, too.

You can’t practice art.

In order for it to be true, one must live it.

Existence is not contingent upon thought.

It’s where you choose to put silence that makes sound music.

Sound and silence equals music.

Sometimes when I’m soloing, I don’t play shit.

I just move blocks of silence around.

The notes are an afterthought.

Silence is what makes music sexy.

Silence is cool.

Nicholas Payton

How Doctors Die


“It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.” (via Zócalo Public Square).

NASA confirms another Earth?

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.‘NASA has found a planet outside our solar system that looks to be an awful lot like Earth–or maybe even better, given that its climate is roughly like a balmy day in Key West.

The planet, Kepler-22b, is the first confirmed planet within the “habitable zone,” meaning that liquid water could exist on the surface and support life. It is almost 2.5 times the size of Earth and 600 light years away, so you may want to start saving your frequent flier miles now if you want your great-to-the-29th-power grandchildren to have a shot at vacationing there.’ (via CNET).

Artificial pancreas clinical trials begin in London

SEELOW, BRANDENBURG - AUGUST 08:  Country doct...

“Continuous glucose monitoring using a sensor implanted under the skin has been a recent technological improvement for patients with this illness. But the long-desired diabetes treatment has been an artificial pancreas: an implant that could both sense blood glucose levels and administer the appropriate amount of insulin instantaneously. Prof Toumazou’s innovation is to integrate sensing and treatment in one device, effectively creating a new pancreas outside the body.” (via Elements).

This has been one of the holy grails of medicine. If it works, it will be an incalculable benefit.

The 5 Best Toys of All Time

“I’ve worked really hard to narrow down this list to five items that no kid should be without. All five should fit easily within any budget, and are appropriate for a wide age range so you get the most play out of each one. These are time-tested and kid-approved! And as a bonus, these five can be combined for extra-super-happy-fun-time.” (via GeekDad). 

Rainbows of mourning

English: Advertisement for Victorian mourning ...

“Psychology has a stereotype problem with grief and mourning. Over and over again false assumptions are repeated, not even valid in Western cultures, that there are certain ‘stages’ to grief, that people will reliably react in certain ways with certain key emotions – sadness, anger, resignation and so on.

This leads to both a professional pathologising of grieving people including endless variations on ‘the person hasn’t accepted their loss’, ‘they haven’t elaborated their grief’ and ‘they’re in denial’ applied to anyone who doesn’t mourn within the expected boundaries.

Moreover, it leads to a cultural blindness about how other societies feel and understand the loss of others with the implicit assumption that the experience of grief is somehow universal.” (via Mind Hacks).

China Announces ‘Extraterrestrial Post Office’

Out of This World 163:365

“China’s national post office is hoping to boost business by allowing customers to send letters postmarked from space. Emails will be sent to a computer aboard Tiangong-1 spacecraft currently orbiting the earth, and rerouted to a special China Space Post Office branch on the ground in Beijing, the country’s space program announced on its website.

The emails will be printed, placed in space-themed envelopes, stamped with a new galactic postmark and sent on in the mail. The service, which features China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, as head of the “space post office”, is the latest initiative devised by the postal service to drum up business as more and more Chinese go online.” (via Daily Galaxy).

The Library Phantom Returns!

Robert Krulwich: “…[S]omebody has been dropping glorious little paper sculptures into libraries and museums all over Edinburgh, Scotland, and we’ve just heard… that there are now three more.

And they will be the last.” (via NPR).

Finding and cleaning out your smartphone’s Carrier IQ poison

Audiovox SMT5600 with the new Qtek Smartphone

“Yes, there will be times when to troubleshoot a problem with your smartphone, you’re going to need to let your carrier look deeply into your network traffic. But, as a matter of course to let them snoop on your every click? And, the content of your messages!? I don’t think so!

So what can you do?” (via ZDNet).