Month: October 2018

Reverence for Hallowe’en: Good for the Soul

Three jack-o'-lanterns illuminated from within...

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.trick-or-treat-nyc

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.

 

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o’-lantern from the early 20th century.

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

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

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.”

Three Halloween jack-o'-lanterns.

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.

Frankenstein

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.

Related:

Chocolate Has a New Origin Story

KjtwutzrgbajyeujgrgbHumans, as a new paper published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution shows, have been consuming chocolate for a very long time.

’New archaeological evidence suggests humans were cultivating and consuming cacao—the crop from which chocolate is produced—as long as 5,300 years ago, which is 1,500 years earlier than previously thought. What’s more, cacao was initially domesticated in the equatorial regions of South America, and not Central America.…’

Via Gizmodo

Jewish leaders to Trump: until you denounce white supremacy, stay out of Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh from Duquesne Incline in the morningJewish leaders to Trump: until you denounce white supremacy, stay out of Pittsburgh / Boing Boing:

’After this weekend’s anti-Semitic mass-shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, President Donald Trump blamed the victims, implying that if they didn’t want to get murdered, they should have paid for armed guards.

What Trump has notably not said is that the white supremacist movement he has legitimized and fueled with his anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-disabled, anti-LBGT statements, is connected to anti-Semitic violence — from the “good people” who marched in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us” to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style demonization of George Soros.

Trump’s omission is not subtle. People have noticed. Among them is a coalition of Pittsburgh’s Jewish leaders who have published an open letter to the President telling him that he is “not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism,” “not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities,” “not welcome in Pittsburgh until you cease your assault on immigrants and refugees” and “not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.”…’

Via Boing Boing

Trump’s America is not a safe place for Jews

G6D2W2W26II6RBO7PJVU2JOPXMDana Milbank in the Washington Post:

’George Washington, in his 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., told Jews they would be safe in the new nation.

“The government of the United States . . . gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” he wrote. “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Though that assurance has been tested, the United States has endured as a safe haven for Jews.

Now President Trump has violated Washington’s compact. He has given sanction to bigotry and assistance to persecution. After the shooting in Pittsburgh, which the Anti-Defamation League believes is the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, there is no longer safety under the vine and fig tree…

Consider some of the many times Trump gave sanction to bigotry before 11 worshipers were shot dead at the Tree of Life…’

The Ghost Story Persists in American Literature. Why?

Parul Sehgal writes:

‘Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition. These ghosts can be nosy and lubricious, as in George Saunders’s “Lincoln in the Bardo,” which followed a group of spectral busybodies in purgatory, observing the arrival of Abraham Lincoln’s newly deceased young son. They can be confused by their fates, as in Martin Riker’s new novel, “Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return,” in which a man is unsettled to discover that his essence has migrated into the body of the man who killed him. Spirits crop up in fiction about migration (Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Refugees”; Wayétu Moore’s “She Would Be King”) and complicate what might have been straightforward portraits of relationships (Ben Dolnick’s “The Ghost Notebooks,” Laura van den Berg’s “The Third Hotel,” Lauren Groff’s “Florida,” Helen Sedgwick’s “The Comet Seekers”). They terrify, instruct and enchant — sometimes all in the same book (Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection, “Her Body and Other Parties,” features a veritable taxonomy of the type). …’

Source: The New York Times

When Communes Don’t Fail

Communes 1050x700’Communes have gotten a reputation for being flaky or cultish. But intentional communities have a long history, and many have been successful.…’

Via JSTOR Daily

Newt Gingrich just revealed what the Kavanaugh fight was really about

860271188 jpg 0’Republicans fought tooth and nail to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in spite of serious allegations of sexual misconduct in his past (which he denies) and questions of his character and truthfulness under oath.

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich just explained why: If Democrats take back control of the House and try to investigate President Donald Trump, they might subpoena Trump’s tax returns, and Gingrich predicts the fight would go all the way to the Supreme Court.

“We’ll see whether or not the Kavanaugh fight was worth it,” Gingrich said in an interview with the Washington Post. With Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the Supreme Court is the most ideologically conservative it has been in a generation.…’

Via Vox

How to help people millions of years from now

GettyImages 469763975 1540506107’Roughly 108 billion people have ever been alive on planet Earth. If humanity survives another 50 million years (a reasonable length of time compared to other species’ tenures), then the total number of people who will ever live is about 3 quadrillion, or 3 million billion.

If you care about improving human lives, you should overwhelmingly care about those quadrillions of lives rather than the comparatively small number of people alive today. The 7.6 billion people now living, after all, amount to less than 0.003 percent of the population that will live in the future. It’s reasonable to suggest that those quadrillions of future people have, accordingly, hundreds of thousands of times more moral weight than those of us living here today do.

That’s the basic argument behind Nick Beckstead’s 2013 Rutgers philosophy dissertation, “On the overwhelming importance of shaping the far future.” It’s a glorious mindfuck of a thesis, not least because Beckstead shows very convincingly that this is a conclusion any plausible moral view would reach.…’

Via Vox

The History of ‘Boris’ Pickett’s Monster

MonstermashMore Than a Graveyard Smash:

’We all know the story—some guy was working in a lab, late one night, when he begins to see several movie monsters doing a fancy dance. Sung with a perfect Boris Karloff impression by the one and only Bobby “Boris” Pickett, “The Monster Mash” really did become the hit of the land. Since its debut in 1962, the seriously goofy novelty song has been a perennial hit, scaring its way onto the airwaves and into the hearts of generation after generation. There’s more to the song and its singer than one might expect.…’

Via Tedium

Democrats need to learn to name villains and not just vaguely decry “division”

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’[T]here is … a very specific thing happening in the current American political environment that is driving the elevated level of concern. And that thing is not just a nameless force of “division.”

It’s a deliberate political strategy enacted by the Republican Party, its allies in partisan media, and its donors to foster a political debate that is centered on divisive questions of personal identity rather than on potentially unifying themes of concrete material interests. It’s a strategy whose downside is that it tends to push American society to the breaking point, but whose upside is that it facilitates the enacting of policies that serve the concrete material interests of a wealthy minority rather than those of the majority.

That’s what’s going on, and it’s time to say so.…’

Via Vox

The ‘Farmosopher’ Creating Language for Our Climate Doom and Rebirth

1540412915472 GESA

’In English, there are no words to describe the existential pain of watching the catastrophic impact of climate change on the world around you. How do we explain how we feel when we hear about rising sea levels, burning forests, tornadoes and tsunamis ravaging coastlines, or animals going extinct?

Fortunately, a retired professor has coined a term for this ecological grief: “solastalgia,” or the feeling of being homesick while still at home and the landscape you love changes, often for the worse.

Glenn A. Albrecht, a self-described “farmosopher” for his love of gardening and philosophy, imagines a post-Anthropocene epoch (Anthropocene is the current geological age of negative human impact on the environment) where human beings live in symbiosis with nature for mutual benefit. In his forthcoming book Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World, Albrecht is creating language not only for the emotional consequences of climate doom, but also for a future world in which we regain harmony with the environment.…’

Via Motherboard

7 brilliant Japanese words English needs to borrow

980x’English is a phenomenal language, but there are circumstances where words seem to fail us. Often, other languages have already found a solution to expressing the complicated ideas that can’t be succinctly conveyed in English. If you’ve ever wanted to describe the anguish of a bad haircut, the pleasure of walking in the woods, or the satisfaction of finding your life’s purpose, read on.…’

Via Big Think

The benefits of owning more books than you can read

1245x700’Many readers buy books with every intention of reading them only to let them linger on the shelf. Statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb believes surrounding ourselves with unread books enriches our lives as they remind us of all we don’t know. The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits.…’

Via Big Think

Dark tourism: A new, morbid kind of travel

Unknown’Writing for The Guardian, Professor John Lennon explains that “Our motivations are murky and difficult to unravel: a mix of reverence, voyeurism and maybe even the thrill of coming into close proximity with death.” Professor Lennon wrote the aptly named book Dark Tourism in an effort to explain what it is about death and tragedy that so many of us find compelling.…’

Via Big Think

Are you a Boltzmann Brain?

Why nothing in the universe may be real:Unknown

’The paradox of the Boltzmann Brain can really pull the rug from under you if you follow it to all of its logical and illogical extents. This mind-churning idea proposes that the world is quite possibly just an effect of your disembodied consciousness and doesn’t really exist. And your sense of self is just a statistical fluctuation. It’s something that is more likely to come into existence by chance than the Universe that would have had to produce it.…’

Via Big Thlnk

“Zombie” Parasites That Mind-Control Their Hosts

85449 adapt 1900 1’Zombies may still be a thing of fiction, but some parasites more or less turn their hosts into the walking dead.

These masters of mind control manipulate their hosts from within, causing them to act in self-destructive ways that ultimately benefit the parasite.…’

Via National Geographic

How the Universe Ends

Uftrqrlnwreobaouoblg’“We can try to understand it, but there’s nothing we can do to affect it in any way,” Katie Mack, North Carolina State University assistant professor currently writing a book on the end of the universe, told Gizmodo. “We have no legacy in the cosmos, eventually. That’s an interesting concept.”…’

Via Gizmodo

The Full Machiavelli

Download’How conceivable is this? Trump loses the 2020 US presidential election. But he refuses to concede, claiming that results in the swing states of Ohio and Florida were invalid due to voter fraud and crooked election officials. Fox News, other right-wing media and the Republican controlled congress go along with this. So Trump remains president until, in the words of Senate leader Mitch McConnell, “we are able to clear up this mess.” Clearing up the mess, it turns out, could take some time–even longer than it takes for Trump to fulfill his promise to release his tax returns. Law suits are brought, but guess what? By a 5 to 4 majority, the supreme court refuses to hear them.

Couldn’t happen, you say. The constitution and all that. To which I would say just two words: Merrick Garland. When the Republican-controlled senate refused to hold confirmation hearings for Garland after he had been nominated by Obama for a vacant seat on the Supreme Court, they effectively suspended–some would say “trampled underfoot”–the constitution. Nothing more clearly exposes the hypocrisy of the Republican call for judges who will “uphold” the constitution than that cynical maneuver.

I’m not saying that the above scenario is likely. But I am saying that is quite conceivable. And for anyone who cherishes conventional democratic values, its mere conceivability has to be alarming.

The key player in bringing things to this pass is not Donald Trump but Mitch McConnell–a name that one hopes will live in infamy. As is well known, the key to many conjuring tricks is to divert the audience’s attention, to have them looking away from where the real action is taking place. And this is how Trump and McConnell operate. Trump attracts all the attention, grabbing the headlines every day with some fresh liberal-baiting vulgarity. Meanwhile, off to the side, McConnell’s senate proceeds to stack the federal courts with relatively young conservative judges; appointed for life. Technically, the judges are nominated by Trump. But it’s fairly clear that he has outsourced this task to right-wing organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

Meanwhile, Republicans around the country use every tactic they can think of to co-opt the infrastructure of American democracy to their cause: erecting obstacles to voter registration; purging the electoral rolls of voters who are more likely to vote democratic; making voting more difficult in certain areas by reducing the number of polling station or the time available for voting; gerrymandering districts; removing restrictions on campaign financing.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

South Carolina Is Lobbying to Allow Discrimination Against Jewish Parents

Unknown’THE Trump Administration is considering whether to grant a South Carolina request that would effectively allow faith-based foster care agencies in the state the ability to deny Jewish parents from fostering children in its network. The argument, from the state and from the agency, is that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act should not force a Protestant group to work with Jewish people if it violates a tenet of their faith.

The case being made by South Carolina is an extension of the debate around RFRA, which is more commonly associated with discrimination against LGBTQ people, but by no means applies exclusively to that group.

If granted, the exemption would allow Miracle Hill Ministries, a Protestant social service agency working in the state’s northwest region, to continue receiving federal dollars while “recruiting Christian foster families,” which it has been doing since 1988, according to its website. That discrimination would apply not just to Jewish parents, but also to parents who are Muslim, Catholic, Unitarian, atheist, agnostic or other some other non-Protestant Christian denomination.…’

Via The Intercept

Proof of life

How would we recognise an alien if we saw one?

Idea sized 171102 octomite full’What would convince you that aliens existed? The question came up recently at a conference on astrobiology, held at Stanford University in California. Several ideas were tossed around – unusual gases in a planet’s atmosphere, strange heat gradients on its surface. But none felt persuasive. Finally, one scientist offered the solution: a photograph. There was some laughter and a murmur of approval from the audience of researchers: yes, a photo of an alien would be convincing evidence, the holy grail of proof that we’re not alone.

But why would a picture be so convincing? What is it that we’d see that would tell us we weren’t just looking at another pile of rocks? An alien on a planet orbiting a distant star would be wildly exotic, perhaps unimaginably so. What, then, would give it away as life? The answer is relevant to our search for extraterrestrials, and what we might expect to find.…’

Via Aeon Ideas

How to Demand Action on Climate Change

Images’In the face of enormous, apparently intractable social problems, individual action can seem puny and inconsequential. (And indeed, just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which can make your rinsing out your tuna cans seem like an absurd bit of private theater.) But collectively we actually can slow climate change: “The first thing that someone can do,” says Michael Brune, the executive director for the Sierra Club, “is to remember that you have power. As a citizen, a consumer, an investor, as a human being, you have the power to effect really great change.” Here’s how to get started.…’

Via Lifehacker

The Biggest Organism on Earth Is Dying

L7v9uvjmafypbdwby59j…and It’s Our Fault:

’The heaviest organism on Earth isn’t a whale or an elephant. It’s a tree—or rather, a system of over 40,000 clonal trees, all connected by their roots. Pando, a 13 million pound organism in central Utah, is believed to have sprouted toward the end of the last Ice Age.

But after thousands of years of thriving, Pando has run into trouble. A study published in PLOS One Wednesday features the first comprehensive examination of the entire 106 acres of clonal aspen forest, and it concludes that Pando isn’t growing. In fact, the forest has been failing to self-reproduce since at least 30 to 40 years ago.

“People are at the center of that failure,” said co-author Paul Rogers, the director of the Western Aspen Alliance at Utah State University who authored a similar study last year on a smaller portion of the Pando.

People have allowed the local deer and cattle population to thrive, Rogers said. Their voracious grazing has resulted in fewer saplings and a whole lot of old, dying trees. During its analysis, the team couldn’t find any sapling-size trees that didn’t have the tops eaten off.…’

Via Gizmodo

Why scientists are so worried about a sudden, huge loss of insects

GettyImages 454207082 0’In Puerto Rico’s rainforest, scientists have observed an astounding loss of life at the very base of the food web. It’s the insects.

As an alarming new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlines, between 1976 and 2013, the number of invertebrates (like insects, spiders, and centipedes) in the Luquillo rainforest caught in survey nets plummeted by a factor of four or eight. When measured by the number caught in sticky traps, invertebrates declined by a factor of 60. These dramatic drops occurred despite the fact that the forest is a protected wildlife area.

The researchers note that this loss of invertebrates — which serve as food for many other forms of life in the ecosystem — has also coincided with losses of birds, lizards, and frogs. “The food web appears to have been obliterated from the bottom,” the Washington Post’s Ben Guarino reported on the study. Guarino’s story quotes one invertebrate expert who called the research “hyper alarming.”…’

Via Vox

Your Covert Racism

Waldman White FragilityA Sociologist Examines the “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans from Confronting Racism

’In more than twenty years of running diversity-training and cultural-competency workshops for American companies, the academic and educator Robin DiAngelo has noticed that white people are sensationally, histrionically bad at discussing racism. Like waves on sand, their reactions form predictable patterns: they will insist that they “were taught to treat everyone the same,” that they are “color-blind,” that they “don’t care if you are pink, purple, or polka-dotted.” They will point to friends and family members of color, a history of civil-rights activism, or a more “salient” issue, such as class or gender. They will shout and bluster. They will cry. In 2011, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” to describe the disbelieving defensiveness that white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged—and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy. Why, she wondered, did her feedback prompt such resistance, as if the mention of racism were more offensive than the fact or practice of it?

In a new book, “White Fragility,” DiAngelo attempts to explicate the phenomenon of white people’s paper-thin skin. She argues that our largely segregated society is set up to insulate whites from racial discomfort, so that they fall to pieces at the first application of stress—such as, for instance, when someone suggests that “flesh-toned” may not be an appropriate name for a beige crayon. Unused to unpleasantness (more than unused to it—racial hierarchies tell white people that they are entitled to peace and deference), they lack the “racial stamina” to engage in difficult conversations. This leads them to respond to “racial triggers”—the show “Dear White People,” the term “wypipo”—with “emotions such as anger, fear and guilt,” DiAngelo writes, “and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation.”…’

Via The New Yorker

Mammals Can’t Evolve Fast Enough to Outrun Human-Caused Mass Extinction

1539718253425 An Indian tiger in the wild Royal Bengal tiger 27466438332‘In just 50 years, we will witness dozens of mammals going extinct unless we make major global changes, says a new study published Tuesday. And it will take up to 5 million years before evolution recovers a similar level of diversity on Earth, according to the study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.…’

Via Motherboard

The Case for Abolishing the Senate

Abolish the Senate GQ 2018 101518’The upper chamber has become far more undemocratic than the Constitution’s framers could ever have imagined. What would American government look like without it?…’

Via GQ

Can a Moon Have a Moon?

Image jpg’The delightful, if theoretical, answer is: Yes—yes, they can.

As Gizmodo reports, this particular scientific inquiry began with a question from Juna Kollmeier’s son. Kollemeier, who works at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, recruited Sean Raymond, of the University of Bordeaux, to help her answer the question.

In a paper posted on arXiv, they lay out their case that moons can have moons. The conditions have to be right—the primary moon has to be big enough and far away enough from the planet it’s orbiting for the smaller, secondary moon to survive. But, even given these caveats, they found that moons in our very own solar system could theoretically have their own smaller moons. Two of Saturn’s moons and one of Jupiter’s are candidates. So is our favorite moon—the Earth’s moon.…’

Via Atlas Obscura

We willingly buy the screens that are used against us

Idea sized quinn dombrowki 8163227075 beddf0757a oHenry Cowles, assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan, currently finishing a book on the scientific method and starting another one on habit:

’As a wise man once put it: ‘Who said “the customer is always right?” The seller – never anyone but the seller.’…’

Via Aeon Ideas

What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

“Dan Rather, a longtime American television news anchor was returning from dinner at a friend’s Manhattan apartment on this day in 1986 when a man demanded, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”

Told he had the wrong person, the man punched and kicked Mr. Rather, still yelling the question. Mr. Rather dashed into a building and was rescued by a doorman and building superintendent.

The police chalked it up to mistaken identity. Some people wondered if Mr. Rather had imagined it. It was unclear if one or two men had attacked.

Meanwhile, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” became a U.S. pop catchphrase. The band R.E.M. wrote a song by that name.

In 1997, it emerged that William Tager, a North Carolina man in prison by then, was Mr. Rather’s assailant. In 1994, Mr. Tager had shot and killed a television stagehand, saying the media was beaming messages into his brain. Shown photographs, Mr. Rather recognized him.

Mr. Tager was released from prison in 2010. His whereabouts is unknown…”