‘…Put together, the charges against the three men illustrate a clear pattern of using whatever charge you can stand up — even if it doesn’t directly relate to the Russian collusion — to build a case against anyone who was involved, with the ultimate goal of getting the lower-level people to testify against the bigger fish.You’ve probably heard of this kind of approach in mob movies, but it’s also what real prosecutors do. Experts say that Mueller is adapting this playbook for the Russia investigation…’
A reprise of my traditional Hallowe’en post of past years:
It is that time of year again. What has become a time of disinhibited hijinx and mayhem, and a growing marketing bonanza for the kitsch-manufacturers and -importers, has primeval origins as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The harvest is over, summer ends and winter begins, the Old God dies and returns to the Land of the Dead to await his rebirth at Yule, and the land is cast into darkness. The veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead becomes frayed and thin, and dispossessed dead mingle with the living, perhaps seeking a body to possess for the next year as their only chance to remain connected with the living, who hope to scare them away with ghoulish costumes and behavior, escape their menace by masquerading as one of them, or placate them with offerings of food, in hopes that they will go away before the new year comes. For those prepared, a journey to the other side could be made at this time.
With Christianity, perhaps because with calendar reform it was no longer the last day of the year, All Hallows’ Eve became decathected, a day for innocent masquerading and fun, taking its name Hallowe’en as a contraction and corruption of All Hallows’ Eve.
All Saints’ Day may have originated in its modern form with the 8th century Pope Gregory III. Hallowe’en customs reputedly came to the New World with the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s. The prominence of trick-or-treating has a slightly different origin, however.
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.
Jack-o’-lanterns were reportedly originally turnips; the Irish began using pumpkins after they immigrated to North America, given how plentiful they were here. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
Nowadays, a reported 99% of cultivated pumpkin sales in the US go for jack-o-lanterns.
Folk traditions that were in the past associated with All Hallows’ Eve took much of their power, as with the New Year’s customs about which I write here every Dec. 31st, from the magic of boundary states, transition, and liminality.
The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune. Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter. A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire. There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune. Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse. One way of looking for omens of death was for peope to visit churchyards
The Witches’ Sabbath aspect of Hallowe’en seems to result from Germanic influence and fusion with the notion of Walpurgisnacht. (You may be familiar with the magnificent musical evocation of this, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.)
Although probably not yet in a position to shape mainstream American Hallowe’en traditions, Mexican Dia de los Muertos observances have started to contribute some delightful and whimsical iconography to our encounter with the eerie and unearthly as well. As this article in The Smithsonian reviews, ‘In the United States, Halloween is mostly about candy, but elsewhere in the world celebrations honoring the departed have a spiritual meaning…’
Reportedly, more than 80% of American families decorate their homes, at least minimally, for Hallowe’en. What was the holiday like forty or fifty years ago in the U.S. when, bastardized as it has now become with respect to its pagan origins, it retained a much more traditional flair? Before the era of the pay-per-view ’spooky-world’ type haunted attractions and its Martha Stewart yuppification with, as this irreverent Salon article from several years ago [via walker] put it, monogrammed jack-o’-lanterns and the like? One issue may be that, as NPR observed,
‘“Adults have hijacked Halloween… Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey. True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons’ game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’
Is that necessarily a bad thing? A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, entitled “Why Bother to Save Hallowe’en?”, argues as I do that reverence for Hallowe’en is good for the soul, young or old.
“Maybe at one time Hallowe’en helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Hallowe’en was the occasion for socially condoned mischief — a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.…(D)on’t just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.”
That would be anathema to certain segments of society, however. Hallowe’en certainly inspires a backlash by fundamentalists who consider it a blasphemous abomination. ‘Amateur scholar’ Isaac Bonewits details academically the Hallowe’en errors and lies he feels contribute to its being reviled. Some of the panic over Hallowe’en is akin to the hysteria, fortunately now debunked, over the supposed epidemic of ‘ritual Satanic abuse’ that swept the Western world in the ’90’s.
The horror film has become inextricably linked to Hallowe’en tradition, although the holiday itself did not figure in the movies until John Carpenter took the slasher genre singlehandedly by storm. Googling “scariest films”, you will, grimly, reap a mother lode of opinions about how to pierce the veil to journey to the netherworld and reconnect with that magical, eerie creepiness in the dark (if not the over-the-top blood and gore that has largely replaced the subtlety of earlier horror films).
The Carfax Abbey Horror Films and Movies Database includes best-ever-horror-films lists from Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Showbiz and Hollywood.com. I’ve seen most of these; some of their choices are not that scary, some are just plain silly, and they give extremely short shrift to my real favorites, the evocative classics of the ’30’s and ’40’s when most eeriness was allusive and not explicit. And here’s what claims to be a compilation of links to the darkest and most gruesome sites on the web. “Hours and hours of fun for morbidity lovers.”
Boing Boing does homage to a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror, two of the tensest, scariest hours of my life repeated every time I watch it:
‘…The Thing starts. It had been 9 years since The Exorcist scared the living shit out of audiences in New York and sent people fleeing into the street. Really … up the aisle and out the door at full gallop. You would think that people had calmed down a bit since then. No…’
Meanwhile, what could be creepier in the movies than the phenomenon of evil children? Gawker knows what shadows lurk in the hearts of the cinematic young:
‘In celebration of Halloween, we took a shallow dive into the horror subgenre of evil-child horror movies. Weird-kid cinema stretches back at least to 1956’s The Bad Seed, and has experienced a resurgence recently via movies like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and Cooties. You could look at this trend as a natural extension of the focus on domesticity seen in horror via the wave of haunted-house movies that 2009’s Paranormal Activity helped usher in. Or maybe we’re just wizening up as a culture and realizing that children are evil and that film is a great way to warn people of this truth. Happy Halloween. Hope you don’t get killed by trick-or-treaters.’
In any case: trick or treat! …And may your Hallowe’en soothe your soul.
Source: The New Yorker
Source: National Geographic
Indigenous community works to end hunting of some of the most magnificent creatures in North America, promoting bear-watching in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest instead.
‘The American Hospital Association is warning its members about Vox’s emergency room billing project. The memo, reported by trade publication Becker’s Hospital Review, came a week after we launched a new effort to bring more transparency to medical pricing by collecting readers’ emergency room bills…’
‘While there are exciting possibilities of multiple dimensions offered by string theory, the world we inhabit appears to have three dimensions of space. But why not more? A team of scientists proposed an unexpected theory about why we seem to have only three dimensions and why the universe inflated after the Big Bang…’
Source: Big Think
Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in? Some scientists have studied near death experiences (NDEs) to try to gain insights into how death overcomes the brain. What they’ve found is remarkable, a surge of electricity enters the brain moments before brain death. One 2013 study out of the University of Michigan, which examined electrical signals inside the heads of rats, found they entered a hyper-alert state just before death…’
Source: Big Think
‘…New research reports a two-week mindfulness meditation program delivered via a smartphone app effectively reduced tense participants’ physical reactivity to stress. Importantly, this effect was only found when the program emphasized acceptance of the present moment, and whatever uncomfortable emotions it may be bringing up…’
Source: Pacific Standard
‘… “Properties of Expanding Universes” has proven so popular that it crashed the library web site, with more than 60,000 views yesterday. By contrast, “other popular theses might have 100 views per month,” says Stuart Roberts, deputy head of research communications at Cambridge…’
Source: Open Culture
‘…[Rachel Maddow] linked President Donald Trump’s travel ban with the deaths of four soldiers.Maddow’s report, delivered Thursday and reiterated Friday, strongly suggested that Trump’s addition of Chad to his travel ban prompted the country to withdraw its U.S.-partnered counterterrorism troops in Niger, thus causing an increase in attacks by the self-described Islamic State in the area. …’
‘[Poachers are] targeting lions at sanctuaries, private nature reserves, and breeding farms for their body parts. Lion bones are sought after in Asia for use in traditional medicine—as health tonics and wines—and increasingly as a substitute for remedies made from the bones of tigers, whose numbers in the wild are somewhere around 3,900. Lion teeth and claws are also in high demand in China and elsewhere in Asia as necklaces and other adornments and trinkets. In some African countries the heads, tails, and paws are favored for use in traditional medicine, known as muti.
Source: National Geographic
Source: National Geographic
‘The skull of Richard III, discovered under a parking lot, was analyzed by forensic scientists at the University of Leicester. In Shakespeare’s play about the infamous monarch, Richard is accused of murder when he nears a corpse and it begins to bleed.
For centuries, oozing wounds were seen as proof of guilt in court—but even in death, women’s testimony was considered less credible than men’s…’
Source: National Geographic
Philosopher Stephen T. Asma of Columbia College Chicago and author of On Monsters and the Evolution of Imagination, argues that the encounter with the monstrous is useful. The term monster is from the Latin word, monstrare, to warn. Monsters activate our sense of repulsion or disgust (about which I have written here), which is why we demonize or monsterize our enemies, casting them as uncivilized or disgusting. Similarly with mass murderers such as Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas.
Calling others monsters is deeply adaptive from an evolutionary perspective, operating to contribute to group survival by getting us to be nervous about both non-human and human predators. Asma gives as an example the fact that the traditional werewolf story was strong in Europe, since wolves were a predator for Europeans, whereas there is a werebear tradition in the Americas because Native Americans were worried about bear predation.
But there is a “xenocurious” as well as a xenophobic piece to considering monsters. For instance, St. Augustine stressed the “wondrous” aspects of the monstrous creatures thought to be living in Africa and the East.
He says, “These guys are scary, but if we can talk to them, and they demonstrate some kind of rationality, they might be capable of being saved, they could be part of redemption.”
This is the project of Western liberalism — to expand the circle of tolerance to those who are different from you. From the liberal point of view, disgust for strangers is terrible. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for instance, can be read as a way to show that you create aggression and violence by not welcoming difference into your group.
Liberal humanism may also factor into the fact that monster has come to be a term for persons as well, now that we are able to see members of the out-group as humans as well. Simultaneously, we began to understand that we have hidden incomprehensible parts within ourselves that could make us do monstrous or revolting things. Although it is a much older notion (why Medea killed her children, for instance) it comes to fruition in Freud’s notion of the id.
There’s a part of us all that has to be carefully managed. Otherwise it does psychopathological actions. You see this now with the Las Vegas shooter. We want to know why he did it. Is there some part of ourselves that if we don’t manage it correctly, it could, in fact, lead us to some kinds of behaviors like this?
There is an impulse to understand the monstrous. The first question we ask about someone like Stephen Paddock is what his motives were, the second whether there is something wrong with his brain. But sometimes it will remain inexplicable and we must be content with the fact that humans beings can be monsters, although it is probably quite rare.
Our literature and culture creates icons of immorality, and they help shape our behavior and our thinking. A lot of people enjoy horror like The Walking Dead because it’s a form of rehearsal. I’m not expecting a zombie apocalypse, but I do wonder what would happen if the grid went down and we had no electricity and suddenly there’s a food shortage. What would happen if modern society came to some screeching halt? Many of the monster scenarios would be a surrogate training for what could happen between human beings.
‘The genetic and ecological history of the Lyme disease bacterium make it clear: Neither ticks nor the bacterium are invaders onto our pristine landscapes. They are the beneficiaries of an artificial and fragmented ecology created by the real invaders, us. Having sectioned and sliced the continent into a patchwork, we are confronted with the consequences…’
‘Have you ever been walking in a dark alley and seen something that you thought was a crouching person, but it turned out to be a garbage bag or something similarly innocuous? Me too. Have you ever seen a person crouching in a dark alley and mistaken it for a garbage bag? Me neither. Why does the error go one way and not the other?
Human beings are intensely social animals. We live in hierarchical social environments in which our comfort, reproduction, and very survival depend on our relationships with other people. As a result, we are very good at thinking about things in social ways. In fact, some scientists have argued that the evolutionary arms race for strategic social thinking—either for competition, for cooperation, or both—was a large part of why we became so intelligent as a species. Back then, if you saw something that looked like a person, by golly it was a person.
This affinity for social reasoning, however, has resulted in systematic quirks in human reasoning about the non-human. This happens in two ways. First, we tend to see humanlike agency where there isn’t any, a common form of pareidolia.
…Why would we evolve to have a systematic error like this? Like most biases, it takes advantage of patterns in our environment to help us (or, more accurately, paleolithic people) reproduce and survive. In the environment where humans first evolved, mistaking a log for a lion is much safer than mistaking a lion for a log, favoring the survival of those who err on the side of seeing agency in many places. And for a hunter-gatherer at greater risk from wild animals and interpersonal violence than we face today, living things tend to be more dangerous than non-living things. We tend to see agency in everything, and children have it more than adults, suggesting that it has an inborn element.
…The other interesting effect of this is that we treat virtual people as real people. …[W]hen we interact with “friends” on social-networking sites or through texting, it can feel like we’re getting quality social contact, but we are not. It turns out that face-to-face interaction with other people—real people, right in front of us, not characters on TV or friends we communicate via text messages—is absolutely vital for longevity and happiness. In fact, it is a larger contributor than exercise or diet! …’
‘The rapid growth in digital processing means that far larger swaths of the radio dial can be examined at one go and—in the case of the Allen array—many star systems can be checked out simultaneously. The array now examines three stars at once, but additional computer power could boost that to more than 100. Within two decades, SETI experiments will be able to complete a reconnaissance of 1 million star systems, which is hundreds of times more than have been carefully examined so far. SETI practitioners from Frank Drake to Carl Sagan have estimated that the galaxy currently houses somewhere between 10,000 and a few million broadcasting societies. If these estimates are right, then examining 1 million star systems could well lead to a discovery. So, if the premise of SETI has merit, we should find a broadcast from E.T. within a generation.
…Furthermore, scientists have been diversifying. For two decades, some SETI researchers have used conventional optical telescopes to look for extremely brief laser flashes coming from the stars. In many ways, aliens might be more likely to communicate by pulsed light than radio signals, for the same reason that people are turning to fiber optics for Internet access: It can, at least in principle, send 100,000 times as many bits per second as radio can.
…Physicists have also proposed wholly new modes of communications, such as neutrinos and gravitational waves. Some of my SETI colleagues have mulled these options, but we don’t see much merit in them at the moment. Both neutrinos and gravitational waves are inherently hard to create and detect. In nature, it takes the collapse of a star or the merger of black holes to produce them in any quantity. The total energy required to send “Hello, Earth” would be daunting, even for a civilization that could command the resources of a galaxy. …It is hard to imagine that aliens would go to the trouble of smashing together two huge black holes for a second’s worth of signal.
But there is a completely different approach that has yet to be explored in much detail: to look for artifacts—engineering projects of an advanced society. Some astronomers have suggested an alien megastructure, possibly an energy-collecting Dyson sphere, as the explanation for the mysterious dimming of Tabby’s star (officially known as KIC 8462852). It is a serious possibility, but no evidence has yet been found to support it.
…It’s also conceivable that extraterrestrials could have left time capsules in our own solar system, perhaps millions or billions of years ago, on the assumption that our planet might eventually evolve a species able to find them. The Lagrange points in the Earth-moon system—locations where the gravity of Earth, moon, and sun are balanced, so that an object placed there will stay there—have been suggested as good hunting grounds for alien artifacts, as has the moon itself.
Another idea is that we should search for the high-energy exhausts of interstellar rockets. The fastest spacecraft would presumably use the most efficient fuel: matter combining with antimatter. Their destructive “combustion” would not only shoot the craft through space at a fair fraction of the speed of light, but would produce a gamma-ray exhaust, which we might detect…’
‘Night owls, rejoice: From midnight to dawn in the coming days, stargazers with clear skies will be able to see the peak of the 2017 Orionid meteor shower. And thanks to a mostly moonless sky, the Orionids promise to be one of the most beautiful celestial shows of the year…’
Source: National Geographic
‘Indian Sikh devotees light candles to mark Bandi Chhor Divas, or Diwali, at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on October 19th, 2017. Also known as the festival of lights, Diwali is the biggest festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists around the world.’
Source: Pacific Standard
Source: Pacific Standard
‘The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress..’
We may be dangerously close to a Constitutional convention, if endorsed by two-thirds of the states (by a simple majority in each state), that might advance any of the many reactionary and cockamamie notions for amendments that Republicans have been unable to push through with the other method, a two-thirds vote in Congress, as provided for in Article V of the Constitution.
‘…That species of such incredible abundance can decline as quickly as the white-rumped vulture did points to a counterintuitive idea in conservation: that common species may need protection just as much as rare ones do…’
Source: Pacific Standard
The clock time of sunrise varies across a time zone, thus inhabitants near the western end of a zone are exposed to more electric light during the day. Here is a fascinating and disturbing possible epidemiological correlate of that fact.
Source: The Conversation
Source: Neuroscience News
‘Researchers report up to 80% of people diagnosed with adult onset ADHD likely do not have the condition. For the 20% of adults who may have ADHD, doctors may have missed the condition during childhood, the researchers conclude…’
Source: Neuroscience News
In my psychiatric practice, I began treating adult ADHD in the ’80’s, soon after it was recognized that the disorder, heretofore thought to affect children and adolescents only, could persist into childhood, albeit with a slightly modified picture as one aged. It was a necessary criterion for diagnosing it in an adult that it had begun in childhood, even if not recognized at the time. As the disorder was popularized, I turned away many people seeking to have their underperformance in life validated by an ADHD diagnosis — and usually seeking to be prescribed stimulants — because a careful look back revealed that they had shown no signs of having had the disorder as children. Unfortunately, this distinction has been lost in the decades since, resulting in an epidemic of overdiagnosis and unjustified treatment in adults. (The reprehensible epidemic of overdiagnosis of ADHD in children is a different matter.) It warms my heart to see some credible research bearing on the issue. However, I might quibble on the basis of my clinical experience with the inflated assertion that “20% of adults may have ADHD.”
Massimo Pigliucci, professor of philosophy at City College, writes:
‘…[H]ere is my modern Stoic guide to anger management, inspired by Seneca’s advice:
– Engage in preemptive meditation: think about what situations trigger your anger, and decide ahead of time how to deal with them.
– Check anger as soon as you feel its symptoms. Don’t wait, or it will get out of control.
– Associate with serene people, as much as possible; avoid irritable or angry ones. Moods are infective.
– Play a musical instrument, or purposefully engage in whatever activity relaxes your mind. A relaxed mind does not get angry.
– Seek environments with pleasing, not irritating, colours. Manipulating external circumstances actually has an effect on our moods.
– Don’t engage in discussions when you are tired, you will be more prone to irritation, which can then escalate into anger.
– Don’t start discussions when you are thirsty or hungry, for the same reason.
-Deploy self-deprecating humour, our main weapon against the unpredictability of the Universe, and the predictable nastiness of some of our fellow human beings.
-Practise cognitive distancing – what Seneca calls ‘delaying’ your response – by going for a walk, or retire to the bathroom, anything that will allow you a breather from a tense situation.
– Change your body to change your mind: deliberately slow down your steps, lower the tone of your voice, impose on your body the demeanour of a calm person.
– Above all, be charitable toward others as a path to good living.
Seneca’s advice on anger has stood the test of time, and we would all do well to heed it. …’
Source: Aeon Ideas
JAMES GORMAN writes:
‘Wolf pups bond adorably with humans. They’re so close to dogs genetically that some consider them the same species. But there’s something very different about their puppyhoods that means you should never try to keep them as a pet. …’
Source: The New York Times
Peter Overby writes:
‘On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.
Here is what is at stake: The Founding Fathers wrote a clause into the Constitution saying U.S. officials cannot accept “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title” from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Trump’s critics say that by refusing to sell off his global businesses, the president is failing to uphold the Constitution.
But before that issue can be debated, the court first has to decide whether the plaintiffs even have standing to bring their Emoluments Clause case. And that first step is what is happening in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. …’
Camila Domonoske writes:
‘American author George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a polyphonous meditation on death, grief and American history.
Saunders, widely lauded for his short stories, was considered the favorite to win the award. His novel centers on the death of Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son Willie and the night that Lincoln reportedly spent in the graveyard, devastated by his grief and lingering by his son’s body.
In the book, Saunders weaves fragments of historical documents (both authentic and imagined) with the voices of ghosts trapped in the graveyard with young Willie, watching in wonder at the strength of his father’s love. The devastating toll of the Civil War is the backdrop for the scene of very particular loss …’
DENNIS OVERBYE writes:
‘After two months of underground and social media rumblings, the first wave of news is being reported Monday about one of the least studied of cosmic phenomena: the merger of dense remnants known as neutron stars, the shrunken cores of stars that have collapsed and burst. …’
First gravitational wave catastrophe that astronomers saw as well as heard, and the most observed astronomical event to date. The video accompanying the article is a lovely explanatory simulation (thanks, Abby).
Michael A Cohen writes in the Boston Globe. Trump is not going away, he’s destroying our country and our psyches, and we’re forgetting how to be outraged enough.
‘In the Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, skeletons escort living humans to their graves in a lively waltz. Kings, knights, and commoners alike join in, conveying that regardless of status, wealth, or accomplishments in life, death comes for everyone. At a time when outbreaks of the Black Death and seemingly endless battles between France and England in the Hundred Years’ War left thousands of people dead, macabre images like the Dance of Death were a way to confront the ever-present prospect of mortality.
Though a few earlier examples exist in literature, the first known visual Dance of Death comes from around 1424. It was a large fresco painted in the open arcade of the charnel house in Paris’s Cemetery of the Holy Innocents. Stretched across a long section of wall and visible from the open courtyard of the cemetery, the fresco depicted human figures (all male) accompanied by cavorting skeletons in a long procession. A verse inscribed on the wall below each of the living figures explained the person’s station in life, arranged in order of social status from pope and emperor to shepherd and farmer. Clothing and accessories, like the pope’s cross-shaped staff and robes, or the farmer’s hoe and simple tunic, also helped identify each person. …’
Source: Atlas Obscura
‘The cycles of chaos and rhetorical attacks that have been a hallmark of Donald Trump’s presidency reached another peak this week, forcing a rare public appearance Thursday by chief of staff John Kelly, who appeared before the White House press corps in a bid to smooth the waters. …’
Source: The Boston Globe
A growing number of people both inside and outside the government are coming on board voicing the accumulating evidence, at least since election day if not long before, that the president is unhinged. In the Senate, Bob Corker says the White House is “an adult day care center” (insult as that that might be to most of the geriatric daycare patients I have known!) and Ben Sass suggest that Trump’s actions indicate his inability to uphold his vow in his oath of office to protect the constitution. Increasingly, apologists for the president, such as the skunk Paul Ryan, hold their nose while repeating the desperately outlandish assertion that this is just how a man acts when he is being unfairly criticized. (I hope, and think, that this puts the final nail in the coffin of Joseph Goebbels oft- quoted assertion that any lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.)
Routinely, members of his administration go on the record needing to contradict the assertions and intentions he has expressed in his deranged late-night tweets, and there’s no telling how many have decided in private not to follow his orders, should they cross some privately drawn line in the sand, such as launching a nuclear attack on North Korea. One can only hope for a mutiny by the relevant military personnel in such a case.
More than two dozen mental health clinicians of national stature, a number of them friends and colleagues of mine, have contributed to the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which argues that Trump’s mental state is a clear and present danger to the welfare of the United States and its people and indeed makes him the “most dangerous man in the world”.
Preeminent psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, who studied the psychology of obedience to Nazi terror, warns of the “malignant normality” that can transform our everyday life if others do not join those who have already spoken up, as I try to do here in this weblog.
In the final chapter of the book, psychiatrists Dee Mosbacher and Nanette Gartrell summarize the stipulation that many of us have been making that Trump’s inability to distinguish fact from fiction, rageful responses to criticism, lack of impulse control, and wanton disregard for the rule of law indicate emotional impairment rather than deliberate choice. They conclude with the argument, which I find compelling, that we invoke the process embodied in the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which addresses presidential disability and succession, to evaluate whether Trump is fit to serve. This is an increasingly more viable alternative to the impeachment process to get Trump out of office.
The process can be initiated by a request from Trump’s Cabinet members or self-started by Congress. An impartial panel of medical and psychiatric experts would be convened to evaluate Trump’s capacity to discharge his duties, conclusions remaining confidential unless they indicated that he should be removed from office. Let us hope that it is a race between the Cabinet and the Congress to reach such a conclusion. Call it fortunate or unfortunate as you may, Trump can be counted upon to provide a growing impetus for such a process with his continuing erratic, bizarre, irrational, and outrageous behavior.
Marie Solis writes:
Women Are Attacked By Men in Nearly All Workplaces:
“The Harvey Weinsteins of the world aren’t confined to Hollywood studio executive suites—men sexually harass women in the workplace in nearly every industry, threatening women’s safety and career prospects.
In its most recent report, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it received 28,000 sexual harassment complaints from employees working for private or government employers in 2015—nearly one-third of the 90,000 charges of workplace discrimination.
And roughly three out of four people who experience sexual harassment fail to report it, largely due to fear of victim-blaming or retaliation, the agency added. …”
Shaun King writes:
‘The story didn’t go viral and Trump didn’t tweet about it because the bomb was not placed by an immigrant, or a Muslim, or a Mexican. It was placed there by a good ol’ white man, Michael Christopher Estes. Unlike the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, whose motive is still hard to discern, Estes wanted to be very clear that his ultimate goal was to accelerate a war on American soil.
Sorry if it sounds like you’ve heard this story before. I’m as tired of writing it as you are reading it, but you know good and well that if Estes was a young Muslim — hell, if he had ever even visited a mosque in the past 25 years — that Trump would be tweeting about him right this very moment to tout how essential a Muslim ban is for American safety. …’
Source: The Intercept
‘One of the objectives of the criminal justice system is to protect the innocent and discourage would-be perpetrators from harming them. Whether it does this in reality or not is another matter. But who among us is more innocent or vulnerable than our pets? They rely on us for so much. Most of us consider our pet a member of the family. The question is, how far should the law go to protect them?
This debate has blossomed recently, due to the number of US jurisdictions passing laws creating animal abuse abuser registries. This is much like a sex offender registry. Tennessee passed a statewide law, the first, in 2016. Connecticut, Washington, and Texas may be next. Some other states are considering such a registry as well….
Some supporters of these laws have pointed out that there’s a relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence. Serial killers often start out by abusing animals, before they move up to humans. This is in the most extreme cases, however. According to the Humane Society, the most widespread type of animal abuse is neglect. Neglectful pet owners don’t often harm humans or animals in any other way….
Humane Society Spokeswoman Jennifer Fearing said that rather than public shaming, targeted educational programs and mental health efforts would be more effective and less inflammatory. “We should be very careful to strike a balance between preventing future animal cruelty, protecting civil liberties, and promoting redemption and rehabilitation,” she said.
Lots of animal rights organizations and shelters keep their own lists. But these don’t often get into the hands of authorities. Animal abuse is considered a misdemeanor in most states and the most heinous acts are considered a felony, in all 50. Animal cruelty has also made it to the FBI’s list of Class A felonies. It monitors for such incidence just as it does for major crimes such as murder….
But whether we should go a step farther and have a federal animal abuser registry is still hotly debated. According to polling site Debate.com, 64% of respondents believe we should. Want to weigh in yourself? Click here. If you believe someone is abusing animals, be sure and contact The Humane Society or dial 911. ‘
Source: Big Think
‘A CDC report finds that sleep deprivation has gotten so bad, it’s now a public health problem. The report states that nearly 30% of adults get six hours sleep or less sleep per night, on average. Most adults require 7-8 hours nightly.
Another finding, around 30-40% of adults (depending on age) fall asleep inadvertently at least once over the course of a day. Imagine if this person is a bus driver or simply falls asleep at the wheel? A book out last year by Arianna Huffington also argues we’re engrossed in a sleep-deprivation crisis on a societal and perhaps global scale.
While this latest report by a sleep and dreaming expert heralds a similar message, it’s in some ways stranger and more worrisome. We don’t think of dreams as something associated with health. But they are. And a lack of them is concerning.
“We are at least as dream-deprived as we are sleep-deprived.” said Rubin Naiman, PhD author of the report. He’s a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Naiman writes that REM sleep is crucial to proper health. In the report, he called our current situation a “silent epidemic of REM sleep deprivation.”
His findings, published in the journal, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, was a comprehensive review of all available data. In it, he talks about what causes REM sleep and dream loss and the reasons for it. “Many of our health concerns attributed to sleep loss actually result from REM sleep deprivation,” he said…’
Source: Big Think
Source: Big Think
Source: Big Think
Source: Pacific Standard
Where are the drones that could pick up the slack? We’re now decades into the age of unmanned aviation. Military drones whisk across oceans to spy on enemies and launch missiles. Amazon, FedEx, and their ilk are clamoring for the right to deliver running shoes and pizza to your front lawn via quadcopters….
If the technology is clearly here, it’s the cash and the government motivation that are lacking…
To a large extent, progress has been stymied by the FAA’s reluctance to permit drone flights in commercial airspace…
Yes, drones have a military association that can belie their humanitarian potential. But if the industry and regulators could work together to launch fleets of drones delivering piles of desperately needed supplies to stricken communities, it’s hard to imagine anyone would care who had sent them.
‘…I ordered a kit from 23andMe, a genetic-testing company, and spat into a little plastic tube. I was duly informed that I had several variants—none of them particularly rare—in TAS2R38 and TAS2R13, two of the genes that encode for the taste receptors that perceive bitterness. One set of variants intensifies the perception of bitter flavors in general, including prop; the other specifically intensifies the perception of bitterness in alcohol. All the variants were heterozygous, which meant that I had inherited them from only one parent (I feel pretty sure it was my mother, who loved milkshakes) and not from the other (the one who loved wine)….’
Source: New Yorker