Something Silent But Deadly Is Killing Galaxies

‘Across the universe, unsuspecting galaxies are literally getting the life sucked out of them. Though the culprit is still at large, a team of researchers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Western Australia is working tirelessly to crack the case—and to restore law and order.After examining 11,000 galaxies using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA survey, the team concluded that a process called ram-pressure stripping—which forces gas out of galaxies—is more common than previously imagined. It’s a quick

After examining 11,000 galaxies using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA survey, the team concluded that a process called ram-pressure stripping—which forces gas out of galaxies—is more common than previously imagined. It’s a quick death, because without gas, galaxies are unable to produce more stars. The group’s findings were published on January 17th in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.So, who’s the prime suspect in this crime? It’s none other than dark matter: the mysterious, invisible material thought to make up 27 percent of the universe.

So, who’s the prime suspect in this crime? It’s none other than dark matter: the mysterious, invisible material thought to make up 27 percent of the universe…’

Source: Gizmodo

How to organize a volunteer-based, radical new form of American politics

Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything is a book by Bernie Sanders advisor Becky Bond and netroots pioneer Zack Exley.

In an excerpt on Alternet, the authors lay out their plan for using a volunteer army to elect allegedly unelectable radical candidates like Sanders, building on the lessons learned from the 2016 election. …’

Source: Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

Charlie Watts and Mick Jagger listen to Hells Angel Sony Barger defend Altamont murder

‘In 1969 The Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels to help out at a free concert at the Altamont Speedway near Oakland, California. The Stones paid the Angels by giving the $500 worth of beer. One of the Hells Angels ended up killing an 18-year-old man. …’

Source: Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing

‘Bikers for Trump’ will form ‘wall of meat’ to protect inauguration from protestors

‘One of president-elect Donald Trump’s biggest supporters is taking it upon himself and his group of bikers to make sure the inauguration event goes smoothly, promising to form a “wall of meat” to guard against any protestors.

Chris Cox is founder of the pro-Trump organization “Bikers for Trump,” and is expecting more than 5,000 bikers from his group to be in attendance at the inauguration. …’

Source: SFGate

Scottish TV Guide’s Description Of Trump’s Inauguration Is Painfully Hilarious

‘With President-elect Trump’s January 20 inauguration fast approaching, you’re probably well aware of what other Americans think about him.

But thanks to a hilariously satirical TV guide entry in the Scottish Sunday Herald, we get a little window into how Trump is viewed around the world. It’s both wonderful and horrible at the same time. …’

Source: Billy Bragg via Digg

Running over protesters on roadways could soon be legal in North Dakota

‘Protesters may want to think twice about blocking roads in North Dakota.

Republican lawmakers in the state introduced a bill last week in the legislature that would not hold motorists liable for negligently running over someone obstructing a roadway. The bill was introduced in response to a year of protests over a proposed pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

“A driver of a motor vehicle who negligently causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway may not be held liable for any damages,” the bill reads. “A driver of a motor vehicle who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway is not guilty of an offense.” …’

Source: Justin Boggs, wptv.com

A hellscape awaits journalists covering Trump

‘So, we can expect President Trump to lie to the media, manipulate reality and go after those who upset the notion that adulation is his birthright.

After last week’s news conference, Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev wrote “A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media .” He warned: “This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice.” …

Journalists are in for the fight of their lives. And they are going to have to be better than ever before, just to do their jobs…’

Source: Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

Why Spicy Food Makes You Feel High

‘Helix, a magazine and blog at Northwestern University explains that spiciness is actually not a taste but a sensation caused by capsaicinoids. In really simple terms, these compounds send a message to your brain that make it think it’s in pain. As a response, your brain releases endorphins and dopamine…’

Source: Lifehacker

A New Type Of Food Pantry Is Sprouting In Yards Across America

‘There’s a small-scale charity movement starting to take hold in neighborhoods across the country. Think of those “little free library” boxes, but with a twist: These are small pantries stocked with free food and personal care items like toothbrushes and diapers for people in need.

They’re found near churches, outside businesses and in front of homes. Maggie Ballard, who lives in Wichita, Kan., calls hers a “blessing box.” …’

Source: Deborah Shaar, NPR

John Carpenter clashes with Internet Nazis over ‘They Live’ 

‘On Wednesday, Hollywood legend John Carpenter hit back at neo-Nazis and white supremacists online who had been idolizing his 1988 cult classic, They Live, as an allegory for fighting against Jewish supremacy.

…Carpenter, rather than counting his millions and resting on his legacy, decided to strike back against the trolls and racists by taking to Twitter to call the myth “slander and a lie.”

They Live is probably one of the most enduring and iconic films to emerge from the Reagan era. It’s a sharp sci-fi satire loaded with ridiculous Double Dragon-style 80’s sheen. The film features the instantly recognizable scene of protagonist John Nada putting on a pair of huge-ass sunglasses and realizing the world has been colonized by aliens, who have already enslaved humans into a system of unchecked capitalism and consumption—but no one noticed.

In the surrealist shit show that life post-2016 has become, however, Carpenter had to step in almost 30 years later to clarify that the film is not, in fact, an allegory for Jewish supremacy…’

Source: Gizmodo

Are the Marx Brothers Still Funny?

‘A recent Blu-Ray package of the legendary comic troupe’s first five films contains some answers…’

Source: The Daily Beast

Still funny?? To my way of thinking, they have never been surpassed! I hadn’t been aware of this eye-popping restoration job on these five cherished favorites, but I’ll be looking for it as soon as I post this.

This desolate English path has killed more than 100 people

‘If you consult a large-scale map of the Essex coastline between the River Crouch and the River Thames, you will see a footpath – its route marked with a stitch-line of crosses and dashes – leaving the land at a place called Wakering Stairs and then heading due east, straight out to sea. Several hundred yards offshore, it curls northeast and runs in this direction for around three miles, still offshore, before cutting back to make landfall at Fisherman’s Head, the uppermost tip of a large, low-lying and little-known marshy island called Foulness.

This is the Broomway, allegedly “the deadliest” path in Britain, and certainly the unearthliest path I have ever walked. The Broomway is thought to have killed more than 100 people over the centuries; it seems likely that there were other victims whose fates went unrecorded. Sixty-six of its dead are buried in the little Foulness churchyard; the other bodies were not recovered…

…The Broomway traverses vast sand flats and mud flats that stretch almost unsloped for miles. When the tide goes out at Foulness, it goes out a great distance, revealing shires of sand packed hard enough to support the weight of a walker. When the tide comes back in, though, it comes fast – galloping over the sands quicker than a human can run.

Disorientation is a danger as well as inundation: in mist, rain or fog, it is easy to lose direction in such self-similar terrain, with shining sand extending in all directions. Nor are all of the surfaces that you encounter reliable: there is mud that can trap you and quicksand that can swallow you…

The Broomway takes its name from the 400 or so brooms that were formerly placed at intervals of between 30 and 60 yards on either side of the track, thereby indicating the safe passage on the hard sand that lay between them. Until 1932, the Broomway was the only means of getting to and from Foulness save by boat, for the island was isolated from the mainland by uncrossable creeks and stretches of mud known as the Black Grounds. The island is currently controlled by the Ministry of Defence, which purchased it during the First World War for “research purposes” and continues to conduct artillery-firing tests out over the sands…’

Source: BBC

Micro-dosing: The Drug Habit Your Boss Is Gonna Love


‘What started as a body-tinkering, mind-hacking, supplement-taking productivity craze in Silicon Valley is now spreading to more respectable workplaces, maybe even to your office, where the guy down the hall might already be popping a new breed of brain-boosting pills or micro-dosing LSD—all in the name of self-improvement. Can you afford not to keep up? …’

Source: GQ

Beyond wild allegations, what’s clearly true about Trump and Russia is disturbing

‘Allegations now floating around range from the salacious (Russia has Trump sex tapes made at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow) to the serious (using intermediaries, Trump and Russia agreed to an explicit quid pro quo in which Russia would give him electoral help and in exchange he would shift US foreign policy). None of this is proven, and much of it is unprovable (if the FSB has a secret sex tape, how are we going to find it?) but the truth is that these kind of allegations, though difficult to resist, simply shouldn’t matter much compared to what’s in the public record…’

Source: Vox

SEAL Team Six War Crimes Inspired by Admiration for Fictional Nazi: Report

‘Yesterday, The Intercept published the results of a two-year investigation on alleged war crimes and war profiteering of SEAL Team Six in its rapid expansion of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among the most disturbing details was that SEAL operatives reportedly started taking inspiration from a book lionizing a fictional Nazi…’

Source: Jalopnik

Would You Enter the Perfect Matrix? 

Why One Philosopher Says You Wouldn’t.

‘The idea of the experience machine makes us ask ourselves what we value. If we only value pleasure, then we should agree to go in. If don’t want to get in, then we must value something else. Even the most devoted hedonists might pause to wonder if they value their pleasure being “real” before entering the machine. Those who suppose there are other valuable parts of a good life other then pleasure would have less trouble deciding…’

Source: Big Think

Intelligence Analysts: Trump Report Merits Caution

‘IN THE HOURS since a private firm’s intelligence document leaked to the web, alleging 35 pages of President-elect Donald Trump’s dirty laundry—complete with corrupt ties to Russian officials, blackmail, and bodily fluids—Twitter, Facebook, and cable news have become a feeding frenzy. Taken on its face, the report contains potentially devastating revelations. But former intelligence agents see it differently: To borrow the phrase often applied to Trump himself, they’re taking it seriously, not literally.

On Tuesday evening, Buzzfeed News published what it described as a dossier on Trump compiled by a former British intelligence official. The document includes reports from unnamed sources claiming that the Kremlin has cultivated Trump as a Putin-friendly politician for the last half decade, recorded him in blackmail-worthy “perverted sexual acts,” and made secret deals with his campaign to exchange information. Other news organizations chimed in to say they had also obtained the file, but decided not to publish it because they could not confirm its claims. While Buzzfeed acknowledges that the document is unverified, it says it decided to publish it so that “Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.” …’

Source: Andy Greenberg, WIRED

The Bumble Bee is now officially an endangered species

‘A once common bee that inhabited 28 states, the rusty-patched bumble has become the first bee from the continental United States to be added to the endangered species list. Its population has declined 90% since the early 1990s—some can still be found in 13 states and Ontario—due to a mix of factors including climate change, pesticides, and habitat loss, a federal official told the New York Times…’

Source: Gizmodo

Is Mass Murder Now Part of the Repertoire of Contention?

‘If there’s one thing Americans can agree upon, it might be that people shouldn’t be indiscriminately firing guns into crowds, no matter how angry they are. The shooting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport is just the latest example. Mass shootings are on the rise and I’m fearful that what we are seeing isn’t just an increase in violence, but the rise of a new habit, a behavior that is widely recognized as a way to express an objection to the way things are…’

Source: Pacific Standard

Bombshell Trump “Golden Shower” report

‘According to an anonymously-sourced dossier, Donald Trump paid to watch hookers piss on a Russian hotel bed where he knew President Obama and his wife had once slept. The report (read it!) was supposedly compiled by a former British intelligence official who researched the candidate for his Republican rivals and, later, Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It alleges that Russia has compromising information on Trump. The report is unverified, and was in the hands of D.C. insiders, the FBI and CIA leadership and some journalists long before election day…’

Source: Boing Boing

#notmypresident

A Drug Meant for Alzheimer’s Treatment Regrows Human Teeth

‘Researchers at King’s College released a study today stating they’ve discovered a medicine that can prompt teeth to regrow over cavities or injuries. The study was published this week in Scientific Reports.

Researchers realized that an experimental Alzheimer’s drug called Tideglusib had the side effect of encouraging dentin growth, which is the bony part of the tooth made of calcified tissue. It makes up most of the tooth, just above the pulp but under the hard enamel…’

Source: Motherboard

A Red Nova Could Be Visible In the Night Sky In 2022

‘It’s not often that a new body appears in the night sky—aside from meteors and the [occasional] comet, things tend to look pretty much the same. Now, astronomers predict that a pair of stars so close they’re basically touching will collide and create a so-called red nova, resulting in a bright explosion visible to the naked eye.

The Calvin College team, lead by professor Larry Molnar, has been observing the KIC 9832227 binary system since they first heard about it at a conference in 2013. After determining that the system truly was binary, the astronomers looked at data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope and noticed that the orbital period, or amount of time it took the stars to orbit each other once, had decreased. Continued observations revealed that the spinning stars are speeding up, which allowed the astronomers to estimate that the pair will collide in 2022 (plus or minus a year)…’

Source: Gizmodo

Donald Trump Nicknames

A compendium from public media sources:

70-Year-Old Toddler — Charles M. Blow and Samantha Bee
Agent Orange — Anonymous
Agent of Deranged Change
Alpha Molester
America’s Black Mole — John Oliver
America’s Burst Appendix — Samantha Bee
Amnesty Don — Joe Scarborough (after Trump said that he was “softening” his stance on illegal immigrants)
The Angry Cheeto
Angry Creamsicle — Stephen Colbert
Antichrist — (see Is Donald Trump the Antichrist?)
Art Deal and Mr. “Art of the Deal” — Donald Trump (taken from the title of his 1987 book, which he considers second only to the Bible)
A$$aulter-in-Chief — (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
A$$hole
Baby Fingers Trump — Michael R. Burch
Bag of Toxic Sludge
Baldfaced Crier
Barbecued Brutus
Barbarian at the Debate — Charles M. Blow
John Baron — Donald Trump (a pseudonym he used to brag about his exploits in the third person)
Barrel-Shouting Meatball Donald Trump — Chris Hardwick
The Big Cheeto
Big Donald — Marco Rubio (revised to Pig Donald by feminists)
The Bigoted Billionaire
The Bilious Billionaire
Birther Maniac
Blitzkrieg Bozo
Blowhard
Boiled Ham in a Wig — Jon Stewart
Boldfinger — Michael R. Burch
The Boychurian Candidate  — Michael R. Burch (a pun on “The Manchurian Candidate”)
Bratman
Bribe of Chucky
The Bouffant Buffoon
Bully Boy — Mike Rubio
Bumbledore
Bush Baby and Bush Baby Fingers — (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
The Bush Basher
The Bush Beater
Bushman — Michael R. Burch, after Trump bragged about groping bush to Billy Bush of Access Hollywood
Bushmaster
Butternut Squash — Trevor Noah
Cancer in a Wig — Trevor Noah
Captain Bluster
Captain Chaos — NBC News
Captain Crunch
Captain Outrageous — Michael R. Burch (a pun on Captain Courageous)
Captain Tantastic
The Chaos Candidate — Jeb Bush
Cheddar Boy
Cheez Doodle — Maureen Dowd
Cheez Whiz — John Oliver
Cheeto-Dusted Bloviator — jezebel.com
Cheeto Jesus — Rick Wilson
Chicken Donald — Martin O’Malley
Chimp-PAN-Zee
Cinnamon Hitler — Trevor Noah
Chickenhawk — Because Trump evaded serving in the Vietnam War, but portrays himself as a war hawk (“the most militaristic person on the planet”)
Clown Prince of Politics
Comedy Entrapment — Jon Stewart
Commander-in-Grief
Conspiracy Commander-in-Chief
Con-Dike Gold Rush
Corn Husk Doll Cursed by a Witch Donald Trump — Chris Hardwick
The Cowardly Lyin’
Crybaby Prima Donald
Crybaby Trump — Jeff Kanew
Creep Throat — Seth Meyers
Daddy Warbucks
The Daft Draft Dodger
Dainty Donald
Damien Trump
Damn Turd Pol — anagram
Dangerous Donald — Hillary Clinton
Darth Hater
Darth taxeVader
DDT
The Debate Hater
Decomposing Jack O’Lantern — Jon Stewart
Deeply Disturbed Fuzzy Orange Goofball
The Definer — because according to The Donald, he defines other candidates, after which they quickly become political trivia questions
Dehydrated Orange Peel — Libby Inman
Demander-in-Chief — Michael R. Burch
Der Groepenfuehrer
Der Trumpkopf
Diaper Donald — Kevin Cavanaugh
Dickhead
Dickhead Dongle
Dingbat Donald
Dire Abby — Michael R. Burch (a pun on “Dear Abby” because Trump frequently tweets relationship advice to other people, but it’s usually dire)
Dishonest Don
The Disruptor
The Dick Tater
DJT
Dodgy Donald — CrumblingSlowly
The Don
Don the Con
Don Dementia
The Donald — Ivana Trump (she first used the term in a 1989 Spy Magazine cover story)
Donald deGonad 
Donald the Deadbeat — Dan Rather
Donald Dingbat
Donald Dipshit
Donald Dodo — as in the famously stupid dodo bird
The Donaldmeister
Donald Doom
The Donimator
Donald Douche and the Bags
Donald Drumpf — John Oliver
Donald Duck
Donald Duck Doo-Doo
Donald Ducknuke
Donald Dump
Donald Gonad
Donald the Menace
Donald Tax-Duck — John Joseph Ribovich
Don Goner
Donnie Darko
Donny — SNL’s Church Lady (Dana Carvey); also his boyhood nickname
Donnybaby
Donnyboy
Donnybrook
Don of Orange
Draft Dodger — Don C. Reed
Dr. Strangelove
Duke Nuke ‘Em
Dumbelldore
Dumbo — Grace Taylor
The Dumpster — Pun on Trumpster and the “Dump Trump” slogan)
Dump Tump — Grace Taylor
Ego Maniac
The Emperor with no Balls — Graffiti found on naked statues of Trump
The Emperor with no Clothes
Evil — Gloria Reed
Itty Bitty Ball Trump
Failed Mail-Order Meat Salesman — Ashley Feinberg, sticking a satiric fork in Trump Steaks
Fascist Carnival Barker — Martin O’Malley
Feral Shouting Meatball Donald Trump — Chris Hardwick
Field Marshall Trump
Fifth Avenue Freeze-Out (for trying to deny disabled vets the right to street vend on Fifth Avenue)
Financially Embattled Thousandaire — Gail Collins
Flat Top — Trump’s boyhood nickname
Flipper
Flip Flopper
The Fomentor — Trevor Noah
The Fomentalist
Forrest Trump
Fragile Soul — Ted Cruz
Frisker-in-Chief
Frisky Frisker — (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
The Frontrunner
Fruit of the Loom — for oddly looming over Hillary Clinton at the second presidential debate
Fuckface von Clownstick — Jon Stewart
The Germinator (Trump hates to shake hands, fearing germs)
Genghis Cant — Michael R. Burch (because unlike Genghis Khan, the Donald can’t rule the world, making his promises mere cant)
Gentle Donald — Ted Cruz
The Greatest Charlatan (of them all) — Brent Bozell
Golden Calf of Doom
God — Jay Leno
God-Emperor Trump
Godzilla, with Less Foreign Policy Experience — Stephen Colbert
Golden Wrecking Ball — Sarah Palin
The GOP’s Unhinged Front-Runner — Robert Schlesinger, managing editor for opinion at U.S. News & World Report
Government Expander — Glen Beck
Gossamer-Skinned Bully — Graydon Carter
Grandpa Fucko — Kyle Bunch
The Grand Wizard of Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory — Murfster35 on DailyKos
Great Orange Hairball of Fear
The Great White Dope
The Great White Dope on a Self-Hanging Rope
Grope Dope
Groper-in-Chief — Nicholas Kristof (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
Halfwit Tweet Twit
Hair Apparent — pun on Heir Apparent
Hair Furor — pun on Herr Führer
Hair Hitler — pun on Herr Hitler
Head Twit
Herr Führer Trump
Herr Lugenpresse ― Dan Rather
Herr Trump
The Human Amplifier
The Human Combover
The Human Corncob — Erin L. Cody
The Human Bullhorn — Jim Newell, in Slate
Human-Toupee Hybrid — Stephen Colbert
Humble — Donald Trump’s ironic choice when asked to provide a Secret Service codename
Humble Trump — a nickname given to Donald Trump by his son Eric Trump aka “Eric the Red”
Humble Cow Pie — because he’s full of shit about being “humble”
Hurricane Donald ― Jeff Singer
The im-POTUS
The Inane Interjector
Immigrant-Bashing Carnival Barker — TIME Magazine, quoting presidential candidate Martin O’Malley
In-Vet-Irate Liar (for claiming to “support” vets while trying to sweep them off the streets)
The ISIS Candidate
Jack the Gripper — (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
John Baron and John Barron — Donald Trump pseudonyms
John Boehner’s Tanning Partner in Crime — Michael R. Burch
John Miller — Donald Trump (a pseudonym he used to brag about his exploits in the third person)
Job Security (for Comedians) ― Jimmy Kimmel
Kelly’s Zero (pun on [Megyn] Kelly’s Heroes)
Killer Klown from Outer Space (the title of a “b” movie)
King of Debt
King Leer
King of the Oompa Loompas ― Justin Baragona
King of Sleaze
King of Spin
King of the Whoppers — USA Today, Christmas Day, 2015
King Trump
King Tut — Because his insults make billions of people go “Tut, tut, tut!”
King Twit
K-Mart Caesar
Lady Fingers Trump — Don C. Reed (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
Liberals’ Best Friend (since the Trump administration will undoubtedly convert some conservatives into liberals)
Liberal Lip
Liberal Wannabe Strongman — David McIntosh
Little Donnie Sissypants
Little Dutch Boy
Long Dong Trump
Loosin’ Donald — Ted Cruz
Lord Dampnut — anagram
Lord Voldemort — Rosie O’Donnell
Lurch
Machado Meltdown — Hillary Clinton
The Mad Shambler
Maladroit Savage Spiraling Out of Control — Charles M. Blow
Man-Baby — Jon Stewart
Mango Mussolini
Master Debater
Meathead — John Joseph Ribovich
MEGA-low-maniac
Mein Furor — Murfster35 on DailyKos
The Michelangelo of Ballyhoo — TIME by David Von Drehle in his cover article on Trump
Mogul — his Secret Service code name
Moneydiaper McStupid — Nick Musgrave
Mr. “Art of the Deal” — Donald Trump (taken from the title of his 1987 book)
Mr. Brexit — Donald Trump (perhaps because his political currency is about to be devalued?)
Mr. Chickenhawk — Because he’s a coward who portrays himself as a war hawk
Mr. Firepants
Mr. Inappropriate
Mr. Boinker Oinker
Mr. Macho — Bernie Sanders (who perhaps gave the lily-livered draft dodger too much credit)
The Man of Steal (made in China) — after Hillary Clinton pointed out that Trump hotels have been built with illegally-imported Chinese steel
Mr. Meticulous — Trump’s military academy nickname, given because he folded his underwear into neat squares
Mr. Wiggy Piggy — Because he’s such a male chauvinist pig, and that hair!
Mussolini’s Taint — Kyle Bunch
Narcissistic Human Airhorn — Chris Hardwick
The New Furor — Pun on Führer)
New York Dork
New York Pork Dork — Michael R. Burch (because Trump’s companies have feasted on government subsidies and tax breaks)
No More Donald — Elizabeth Warren, in a tweet
The Only Plausible GOP Nominee — Bustle
Orange Anus — Rosie O’Donnell
Orangeback Gorilla — After trying to physically intimidate Hillary Clinton in the second presidential debate
Orange Bozo
Orange Caligula — Victoria
Orange Clown
Orange-Hued Self-Immolator
Orange Julius — A pun on the fruit drink chain (emphasis on fruit) and Julius Caesar
Orange Man
Orange Manatee — Stephen Colbert
The Orange Messiah
Orange Moron
Orange Omen of Doom
Orange Slug — Rosie O’Donnell
Orange Toilet Bowl Crud Brought to Life as a Genital-Grabbing Golem
Orange-Tufted Imbecile Intent on Armageddon
Orange-Tufted A$$hole
OranguTAN
Panda Hair — Elizabeth Harris Burch
Pander Hair — Elizabeth Harris Burch
Party Pooper
Peripatetic Political Showman — The Fiscal Times
Pile of Old Garbage Covered in Vodka Sauce — Trevor Noah
The Puerile Sophomoric Sniveler — Charles M. Blow
Pig Donald — a variation of Big Donald, coined by Marco Rubio then adapted by feminists
Political Gutterball — Michael R. Burch
Poor Donald — Hillary Clinton
Poster Child of American Decline — Robert Spencer
POTUS WRECKS — Michael R. Burch
The Predictable Endpoint of Republicanism — Charles M. Blow
Prima Donald
Puffed Up Daddy
Pussy Posse — (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
Putin’s Gambit — Michael R. Burch
Putin’s Pet
Queens’ Reich — Trump hails from Queens NY, and sounds like the second coming of the Third Reich
Queer Orangutan
Rabble-Rousing Demagogue — John Cassidy in The New Yorker
Republican Rapture Inducer
Riptide of Regression ― Dan Rather
Rome Burning in Man Form — John Oliver
Ronald McDonald Trump-Bozo — Michael R. Burch
Ryan’s Nope
Sack of Gilded Lunchmeat — Kyle Bunch
Screaming Carrot Demon — Samantha Bee
Scrooge Grinch McGrump — Michael R. Burch (first used Christmas Eve, 2015)
Scrooge McTrump
Serial Feeler — pun on “serial killer” (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
Sexual-Predator-in-Chief
The Shambling Sasquatch — (after Trump shambled and lurched around the stage in the second presidential debate, as lampooned by SNL)
Shitler
Silver Spoon Donald — Don C. Reed
The Silver Spoon Scion — Charles M. Blow
Snake Oil Salesman — Rosie O’Donnell
Sniffles — After the Donald sniffled like a cocaine addict during the second presidential debate
Sociopathic 70-Year-Old Toddler — Samantha Bee
The Sophomoric Sniveler — Charles M. Blow
The Spin King
The Spinster and The Sinister Spinster — Michael R. Burch
Stubby Baby Fingers Trump — Michael R. Burch
Stuporman — Since Trump’s superpower is putting people to sleep and making them dream that he has magical superpowers
The Suicide Bummer
The Swamp Draining Lizard-Man-Toddler
The Talking Yam
Tan Dump Lord — anagram
The Tanning Bed Warning Label
Tangello Fruit Roll-Up Stretched Over Cat Litter Donald Trump — Chris Hardwick
Tangerine Jesus
Tangerine-Tinted Trash-Can Fire — Samantha Bee
Tangerine Tornado — SNL’s Church Lady (Dana Carvey)
The Teflon Don — Michael R. Burch
Tepid Trumpeter
TelePrompTer Trump — Mark Sumner
Thin Skinned Orange Peel
Terroristic Man-Toddler — Charles M. Blow
Tic-Tac-Dough — Michael R. Burch
Tic-Tacky Trump
Tie-Coon (because his menswear line includes ties)
Timid Trumpster
The Tiny Fisted Emperor — Murfster35 on DailyKos
Tiny Hands Trump
Tricky Trump
Tricky Don Trump — After Tricky Dick Nixon
T-Rump
Trumpalump
Trumpamaniac
Trumparius — Nate Silver, from “The Age of Trumparius”
Trump Card
The Trumpet — Trump’s boyhood nickname
Trump of Doom — Michael R. Burch (first used in a Facebook post on September 11, 2015)
Trumpdozer — TIME Magazine
Trumpelthinskin — Murfster35 on DailyKos
Trumplestiltskin
Trumpenstein — Murfster35 on DailyKos
Trumpinator — Soopermexican
Trumple-Doodle-Doo-Doo
Trumpledore
Trumpletoes
Trumpling Dildo
Trumpmeister
Trumpocalypse — Markos Moulitsas on Daily Kos
Trumpster
Trumptastrophe — Chris McKay
Trumpthechumps
Trump the Grump
The Tufted Taliban
Twat Twit — (see Donald Trump’s War on Women)
Twitter-Drunk Donald — a Bush aide
Twitter Flitter
Twitter Spitter
The Twitter Terror — Michael R. Burch
Two-Bit Caesar — Bill Kristol
Two Pump Trump — Troy Ramos
UNA (Unrepentant Narcissistic Asshole) — Jon Stewart
The UNA Bomber
“The uniquely underqualified and overblown king of bragging and whining” — The New York Times
Unreality King
Vanilla Isis — Pun on Vanilla Ice
Venom-Drenched Regurgitated Slimy Orange Hairball
Vet Evictor —  For staging a benefit for veterans after trying to sweep disabled vets from New York City streets for more than a decade
Voldemort ― Rosie O’Donnell
Walking Punchline
Walking Talking Human Combover — Michael R. Burch
Weak Donald — Trevor Noah
The Wedgie from West Palm — Kyle Bunch
Whiny Don
Whiny Donald
The White Kanye ― Bill Maher
The Winning Whiner — Donald J. Trump explained how he “wins” by whining in an interview
World’s Greatest Troll — FiveThirtyEight Politics
Xenophobic Sweet Potato Donald Trump — Chris Hardwick
YUGE Asshole
YUGE Liar
Zen Master of Hate

Source: thehypertexts.com

Erasing Obama

‘On his first day in office, Trump will “repeal every single Obama executive order.” That’s the promise of Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Obama issued just under 270 executive orders, well below the number proclaimed by Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt and even that conservative paragon, Silent Cal Coolidge.

A significant Obama order protected gays in the government contracting system from discrimination. Another prohibited federal employees from texting while driving. There were sanctions against criminals, mobsters and other international monsters, and upgrades in pay for federal employees who earned less than their private sector counterparts…

Obama leaves office with his highest job approval ratings in four years. Most Americans like him and his policies. Trump will enter office with the lowest transition approval ratings of any president-elect in nearly a quarter-century. About half of all American don’t like him, and of course, he got nearly three million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton.

Most of the Trump agenda — building a wall, cutting taxes on the rich, ramping up oil and gas drilling at the expense of alternative fuels, taking away people’s health care — is opposed by clear majorities. Trump will erase Obama’s policy legacy at his peril.

What he cannot do is erase the mark of the man — a measured and rational president, a committed father and husband, who is leaving his country much better off, and the office without a trace of personal scandal…’

Via Tim Egan, New York Times op-ed

2017: the year we become ungovernable

‘Kali Akuno, an organizer with Cooperation Jackson and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement talks to Alternet about the first stirrings of the mass-scale civil disobedience we must practice to resist trumpism.

I find great inspiration in Akuno’s ideas, and find them an excellent counterpoint to the idea of “not normalizing” Trump. The reality is that we always normalize everything — read the accounts of survivors of the Nazi concentration camps or Americans tortured for years in the country’s solitary confinement wings and you’ll find that, to a one, their terrible situations become normal. All constant stimulus fades to a background refrigerator hum that we can only notice when it ceases.

But Akuno is talking about normalizing resistance, becoming habitual monkeywrenchers and refuseniks, people whose first response to any trumpist outrage is “no way,” and whose fallback position is “hell no.” ‘…’

Source: Boing Boing

You’re more likely to get struck by lightning here than anywhere else on Earth

‘If you don’t want to get struck by lightning, avoid open areas and tall objects, as the experts suggest. But if you want to be extra safe, stay the heck away from the middle of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo. Satellite data suggest that one particular square kilometer there—on the northern tip of South America—gets zapped more than 200 times per year. “Lake Maracaibo is one of the largest lightning generators on the globe,” says Robert Holzworth, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved in the new study…’

Source: Science

New Year’s Customs and Rituals

New Year Sunrise

New Year Sunrise

This is the annual update of my New Year post, a longstanding FmH tradition. Please let me know if you find any dead links:

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.

Marteniza-ball

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…

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.

blackeye_peas_bowl_text
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.”

English: Fireworks over Edinburgh on New Year'...

Fireworks over Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve

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 and elsewhere in South America, 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,

The crescent-shaped Copacabana beach… is the scene of an unusual New Year’s Eve ritual: mass public blessings by the mother-saints of the Macumba and Candomble sects. More than 1 million people gather to watch colorful fireworks displays before plunging into the ocean at midnight after receiving the blessing from the mother-saints, who set up mini-temples on the beach.

When taking the plunge, revelers are supposed to jump over seven waves, one for each day of the week.

This is all meant to honor Lamanjá, known as the “Mother of Waters” or “Goddess of the Sea.” Lamanjá protects fishermen and survivors of shipwrecks. Believers also like to throw rice, jewelry and other gifts into the water, or float them out into the sea in intimately crafted miniature boats, to please Lamanjá in the new year.

In many northern hemisphere cities near bodies of water, people also take a New Year’s Day plunge into the water, although of course it is an icy one! 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.

1cdd196c97bc4886c7d0b3a9c1b3dd97In 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, or Dipawali, 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. The more broken pieces you have, the greater the number of new friends you will have in the forthcoming twelve months.
  • 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. This is also a practice in parts of Finland, apparently.
  • El Salvadoreans crack an egg in a glass at midnight and leave it on the windowsill overnight; whatever figure it has made in the morning is indicative of one’s fortune for the year.
  • Some Italians like to take part in throwing pots, pans, and old furniture from their windows when the clock strikes midnight. This is done as a way for residents to rid of the old and welcome in the new. It also allows them to let go of negativity. This custom is also practiced in parts of South Africa, the Houston Press adds.
  • In Colombia, walk around with an empty suitcase on New Year’s Day for a year full of travel.
  • In the Philippines, all the lights in the house are turned on at midnight, and previously opened windows, doors and cabinets throughout the house are suddenly slammed shut, to ward off evil spirits for the new year.
  • In Russia a wish is written down on a piece of paper. It is burned and the ash dissolved in a glass of champagne, which should be downed before 12:01 am if the wish is to come true.
  • aptopix-romania-bear-ritual-89ecd02b044cc9131Romanians celebrate the new year by wearing bear costumes and dancing around to ward off evil
  • In Turkey, pomegranates are thrown down from the balconies at midnight for good luck.

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.)

So if the Germans watch British video, what do you watch in Britain? A number of sources have suggested that it is Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, “even though it’s awful and everyone hates it.

On a related theme, from earlier in the same week, here are some of the more bizarre Christmas rituals from around the world. 

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

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!]

Which of these customs appeal to you? Are they done in your family, or will you try to adopt any of them? However you’re going to celebrate, my warmest wishes for the year to come… and eat hearty!

[thanks to Bruce Umbaugh for research assistance]

Sorry, This Nearby Comet Will Not Strike the Earth and End Our Collective Nightmare

‘A glowing green ball of ice and rock is zipping past the Earth and on December 31st, it can be spotted near the crescent moon—in a dark sky, with the aid of some good binoculars. But for those hoping this comet will veer off course and take aim straight at our sorry planet? Sorry, 2016 isn’t that merciful…’

Source: Gizmodo

Researchers Warn: Giraffes and Cheetahs Are Going Extinct

Why Should Humans Save Them?

‘Experts are warning that two iconic animals are nearing extinction. Giraffes, world’s tallest animals, suffered a grave decline in their population, losing 40% of it in the last 30 years. There are about 97,500 giraffes in the world today, plummeting from 157,000.Giraffes were added to the so-called “red list” of threatened species, compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They were given a ‘vulnerable’ status. Cheetahs, world’s fastest land animals, are faring even worse. There are about 7,100 of them remaining in the wild, with their numbers decimated in places like Zimbabwe by 85%, according to a new study from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Calls are out to change its status on the “red list” from “vulnerable” to “endangered”…’

Source: Big Think

How to Appease Household Spirits Across the World

‘If you’re lucky, you can live in a home where a hairy little household imp will help keep your kitchen clean, or a domestic god will grant you everlasting good fortune. So long as you keep them happy.

…But most such mythical creatures double as gods of fire and agents of chaos, so failing to tend to their needs can lead to missing items, broken dishes, and calamitous fortune.

As you prepare your home for the holidays this year, here are some tips on how to keep particular household spirits in good standing….’

Source: Eric Grundhauser, Atlas Obscura

If you want to understand the age of Trump, you need to read the Frankfurt School

‘In 1923, a motley collection of philosophers, cultural critics, and sociologists formed the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany. Known popularly as the Frankfurt School, it was an all-star crew of lefty theorists, including Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse.

The Frankfurt School consisted mostly of neo-Marxists who hoped for a socialist revolution in Germany but instead got fascism in the form of the Nazi Party. Addled by their misreading of history and their failure to foresee Hitler’s rise, they developed a form of social critique known as critical theory.

A guiding belief of the Frankfurt School, notably among Adorno and Horkheimer, was that mass culture, in all its forms, was a prop for totalitarian capitalism. The idea was that art, in late-capitalist society, had been reduced to a cultural commodity. Critical theory sought to expose this by rigorously examining the products of popular culture. In particular, they tried to show how culture became a stealth vehicle for the inculcation of capitalist values.

These ideas took shape when several of the critical theorists fled Nazism, landed in the US, and turned their gaze on American culture. Their conclusions were gloomy. They saw the yoke of capitalist ideology wherever they looked — in films, in radio, in popular music, in literature.

What they saw in America was a dictatorship of ideas, a consumerist ethos that propelled the machinery of capitalism through the instrumentalization of popular culture.

In Germany, the propaganda was naked and pervasive; in America, it was pervasive but insidious. Adorno warned of an American “culture industry” that stunted critical inquiry and, over time, blurred the distinction between truth and fiction, between the commercial and the political.

The Frankfurt School lost its luster when it became clear that America wasn’t devolving into the fascist hellscape they feared. Arcane and often overwrought, their work faded from public view.

Given the rise of Donald Trump, however, there’s a renewed interest in their ideas. The New Yorker’s Alex Ross even penned a piece last week arguing that the Frankfurt School “knew Trump was coming.” “Trump is as much a pop-culture phenomenon as he is a political one,” Ross writes, and that’s precisely what you’d expect in an age in which “traffic trumps ethics.” …’

Source: Vox

Meet the Three Most Absurd Creatures of 2016

‘I don’t know how your year went, but somewhere out in the world, a bird called a kingfisher jumped off a branch, pierced into a river, and stabbed a fish. Pretty solid if you ask me. A peanut head bug grew a peanut for a head. Also good. And male rhinoceros beetles jousted with their faces. I can think of worse ways to spend a year…’

Source: WIRED

Report: 98 Percent Of Americans Afraid Of 98 Percent Of Americans

‘An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday revealed that 98 percent of Americans live in fear of a full 98 percent of other Americans. “Between the criminal element, salesmen, religious zealots, alcoholics, minorities, immigrants, fast-driving teens, employers and panhandlers, a total of 49 in 50 Americans present a fearsome image to the vast majority of their fellow citizens,” the report read. Newborn babies, the elderly and the infirm are believed to comprise the non-feared 2 percent…’

Source: The Onion

How long before the white working class realizes Trump was just scamming them?

‘If you have any sense, you’re coming to the realization that it was all a scam. You got played. While you were chanting “Lock her up!” he was laughing at you for being so gullible. While you were dreaming about how you’d have an advocate in the Oval Office, he was dreaming about how he could use it to make himself richer. He hasn’t even taken office yet and everything he told you is already being revealed as a lie…’

Source: Paul Waldman, The Washington Post

Don’t Trust Trump’s Tweets About Nuclear Weapons (or anything else)

‘Don’t trust Trump’s tweets about nuclear weapons. Watch his actions, instead.’

Someone said this on Medium recently. But I post it not so much for the point at hand, no matter how well-taken, but the broader wisdom. Don’t trust Trump’s tweets at all. In my quest for effective mass resistance actions we can begin to take, I know that we should largely focus on social action to support the less fortunate who will suffer disproportionately from the devastation he and his minions will wreak, but I am not above striking out to diminish and undercut his egotistical preening more directly. I would propose that all reasonable people, and news agencies in particular, completely unfollow him on Twitter right now. (Me, I never followed him in the first place.) 

His feed exists for several reasons, none of them worthy of our cooperation or participation. I know it seems counterintuitive, since he is the POTUS, but he needs to be ignored as much as possible for our sanity. Ignoring his tweets deprives him of the egotistical joy of the gaze he so craves and by which he is sustained. Unfollowing him en masse would undercut his self-serving legitimization. This is a man who exists in the delusional certainty that we cannot but be impressed by and admiring of him. Imagine the impotence of endlessly bloviating into the void with no impact. Consider the part his Twitter presence — he calls it “the real Donald Trump” — may be playing in stopping him from feeling unreal, and stop colluding in this manipulation. Trying to feel as if he exists is why this pitiful contemptible man sought the Presidency at all.

Of course, we tried something similar by denying him the popular vote in the election, but this might be a step in recovering from that failure.  Since the election, some incredible proportion of his supporters apparently believe that he won the vote, facts, numbers and statistics to the contrary.  Will they similarly assert that ‘everyone’ follows the Donald on Twitter, in the face of plummeting numbers to the contrary? I don’t know; I doubt many of them are on Twitter at all.

You already know there is no reasoning with the man or his followers. He, and they, do not live in consensus reality. So give up on the misbegotten notion that discourse on social media can be a rationalizing, civilizing, democratizing influence in this case. You can’t talk across this gulf, so don’t let him operate on the insulting and dangerous assumption that he is doing so. 

For that matter, do what you can to be sure that the ratings of his reality TV shows nosedive, in case that should matter. And if there is any way that a consumer boycott of Trump-related businesses could have an impact on the P & L figures, we must go for that as well. 

Perhaps most important, as the Medium post suggests, his Twitter feed exists solely to obfuscate, diverting attention from his actions, the only standard by which he should be judged. The great and wonderful Oz, when unmasked, told us to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” The Donald, similarly, thinks his public pronouncements will effectively conceal the machinations behind the curtain. Don’t allow that. Everyone who follows him should unfollow him now. 

[By the way, should anyone even go to his press conferences?]

One of World’s Most Dangerous Supervolcanoes Is Rumbling

‘A long-quiet yet huge supervolcano that lies under 500,000 people in Italy may be waking up and approaching a “critical state,” scientists report this week in the journal Nature Communications.

Based on physical measurements and computer modeling, “we propose that magma could be approaching the CDP [critical degassing pressure] at Campi Flegrei, a volcano in the metropolitan area of Naples, one of the most densely inhabited areas in the world, and where accelerating deformation and heating are currently being observed,” wrote the scientists—who are led by Giovanni Chiodini of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics in Rome…’

Source: National Geograpic

Ebola Vaccine Gives 100 Percent Protection Against Common Strain of Virus

‘A new Ebola vaccine provides 100 percent protection against one of the two most common strains of the Ebola virus. The results of this trial were released in The Lancet on Thursday. Although the vaccine—known as rVSV-ZEBOV—has yet to be approved by regulators, the New York Times reports that scientists have already created an emergency supply of 300,000 doses, should another Ebola outbreak occur.’

Source: Gizmodo

Can a Nuclear War Really Be Launched in Haste? And By Who?

‘With the transition from the exceptionally restrained Barack Obama to the mercurial Donald Trump, a lot of people have been thinking about the big red button at a president’s disposal. Is launching a nuclear war is as easy to do on impulse as sending out a 3 am tweet? No. And there is no big red button. It’s a matter of entering codes identifying the Commander in Chief — hey, that is kinda the 140 characters of a tweet — found in the nuclear “football,” a briefcase kept near the president at all times. But a president absolutely can make the decision all by himself, with no checks and balances, to launch a nuclear attack. And so—we think—can a handful of other people in the U.S. government…’

Source: Big Think

Why Is the United States So Divided? Simple, It Was Never United at All.

‘North America is really comprised of 11 distinct cultural regions which battle for political and social supremacy constantly…’

Source: Why Is the United States So Divided? Simple, It Was Never United at All. | Big Think

While some might say that our strength has been in our diversity, I have been concerned for a long time that the size and heterogeneity of the US makes it ungovernable, suggesting that it was an accident waiting to happen. And the accident may now have happened.

Intelligence on the wing

‘A few months ago, I might have called [Trump] voters bird brains, but lately I’ve been reading Jennifer Ackerman’s wonderful new book, The Genius of Birds, so I now understand that such an epithet would be an insult to birds. Birds may not be smart enough enough to run a cynical and disingenuous presidential campaign, but birds would never be so stupid as to act so recklessly against their own self-interest…’

Source: Boing Boing

It’s Time for the Nobel Committee to Honor Climate Research

‘Climate science in the United States is in an existential crisis. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to cut funding for Earth science, and the Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives will probably make good on those promises. The broader scientific community has mostly stood in solidarity with climate researchers assaulted by denialism.

They are right to do so. An attack on one branch of science hurts all science in the eyes of the public. Besides, no discipline is safe from politics forever—just ask an evolutionary biologist, or maybe just read some Galileo. But, in one major way, the scientific institutions has failed to support those who study climate. And it is probably the best institution to send a clear, unambiguous message of solidarity: Nominate climate scientists for the Nobel Prize…’

Source: Wired

The Future of ‘Classical’ Music

‘As things stand now, there is absolutely no guarantee that a new work of music will be recognized as such by the educated musical ear, or that it will be possible to hear it as an addition to the great tradition of symphonic sound. A radical break seems to have occurred, with two consequences that the listening public find difficult to absorb: first, modern works of music tend to be self-consciously part of an avant-garde, never content to belong to the tradition but always overtly and ostentatiously defying it; second, these works seem to be melodically impoverished, and even without melody entirely, relying on sound effects and acoustical experiments to fill the void where melody should be. I don’t say the emphasis on acoustics is necessarily a fault from the artistic point of view, [but until sound effects] are used in melodic and harmonic structures, the result will remain at a distance from the audience, outside the reach of our musical affections. 

It is only the loved and repeated repertoire that will ensure the survival of music, and to be loved and repeated music requires a dedicated audience. Music exists in the ear of the listener, not on the page of the score, nor in the world of pure sound effects. And listeners, deterred by the avant-garde, are in ever-shorter supply…

I identify four developments that have led to the place where we now are. Thanks to these developments a new kind of music has emerged which is less music than a reflection upon music, or perhaps even a reflection on the lack of music, or on the impossibility of music in the age in which we live.’

Source: Sir Roger Scruton, Future Symphony Institute

Watching a Man Sting Himself With the Most Painful Insect on Earth Will Give You Nightmares

‘The feeling of getting bitten by a bullet ant, which sits at the top of the Schmidt sting pain index, has been compared to the feeling of being shot, with burning, throbbing, and intense pain that can last for a full 24 hours. That’s how it got the name ‘bullet’ ant, and why Brave Wilderness’ host Coyote Peterson must be completely out of his mind.’

Source: Gizmodo

Argentina On Two Steaks A Day

The classic beginner’s mistake in Argentina is to neglect the first steak of the day. You will be tempted to just peck at it or even skip it altogether, rationalizing that you need to save yourself for the much larger steak later that night. But this is a false economy, like refusing to drink water in the early parts of a marathon. That first steak has to get you through the afternoon and half the night, until the restaurants begin to open at ten; the first steak is what primes your system to digest large quantities of animal protein, and it’s the first steak that buffers the sudden sugar rush of your afternoon ice cream cone. The midnight second steak might be more the glamorous one, standing as it does a good three inches off the plate, but all it has to do is get you up and out of the restaurant and into bed (for the love of God, don’t forget to drink water).

Source: Medium

Nine Ways to Oppose Donald Trump

Over the past few weeks, a number of anguished friends and acquaintances, and even some strangers, have got in touch with me to ask what they might do to oppose Donald Trump. Being a fellow sufferer from oats—Obsessing About Trump Syndrome—my first instinct has been to tell people to get off social media and take a long walk. It won’t do anybody much good, except possibly Trump, if large numbers of people who voted against him send themselves mad by constantly reading about him, cursing him, and recirculating his latest outrages.

But, of course, taking a mental-health break is only a first step toward preserving the Republic. As a daily columnist, I see my role as trying to analyze and critique the Trump program, while also trying to understand some of the phenomena that allowed him to blag his way to the verge of the White House. But for those who want to take a more direct approach, here are some suggestions, starting with something you can do immediately:

Source: John Cassidy, The New Yorker

Oxford University: students must refer to each other with gender-neutral pronoun ‘ze’

‘Oxford University students must refer to each other with the gender-neutral pronoun “ze” instead of “he” or “she,” according to a new handout from the college’s student union officers. The decision is intended to diminish discrimination and prevent transgender students from being offended by the use of incorrect pronouns, according to the Independent. Deliberately choosing to use the undesired pronoun for a transgender person is an offense in the new code. “This issue isn’t about being [politically correct],” Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner and LGBT activist, told the U.K.’s Times. “It’s about respecting people’s right to define themselves as neither male nor female.” The plan at Oxford is to see the gender-neutral pronoun “ze” not only used socially, but also adopted in college lectures and seminars.’

Source: The Blaze

However, if I were to be pedantic I would point out that The Blaze has a different grammar problem. I think they want to say “refer to one another” rather than “…each other”. 

Discover Lincos, the Language a Dutch Mathematician Invented in 1960 Just to Talk to Extraterrestrials

“Freudenthal announced that his primary purpose ‘is to design a language that can be understood by a person not acquainted with any of our natural languages, or even their syntactic structures … The messages communicated by means of this language [contain] not only mathematics, but in principle the whole bulk of our knowledge.’”

Source: Open Culture

“No President”: the despair, fear, and resolve of the next four years

A realistic, but firm and inspiring, call for resistance in the years to come:

‘The old rule of thumb for a republic is that all points of view and methods of politics can be endured except the one that denies rule of law in the republic. This alone can and should be treated as a threat, as if coming from outside. During the presidential campaign, Trump went on record, repeatedly, steadily, and memorably in front of us all — in the debates, in the press, in his campaign communications — to register that he would not obey the norms of the republic. He would not submit to the rule of law, and he would not act in the interests of the republic as a citizen. He would not submit to the result of the election, or a smooth succession, if he lost the vote. He did not acknowledge the independence of the judiciary. He had not paid his share of taxes to the state. He would not separate his policies from personal enrichment. In this sense, he was like many of his class. Trump served a salutary function as long as he was not elected, in showing the compromises and corruptions of American society in his own person. He could say, and show, that the “system was rigged” and corrupt because he had done his best to make it so.“I alone can fix our nation because I have contributed at the highest level

I alone can fix our nation because I have contributed at the highest level to its destruction and corruption” is not an admission that can command loyalty or legitimacy. It is a whistle-blowing admission that forfeits standing. Trump can only be understood, paradoxically, as an enemy of the republic, who, through a series of adventures and surprises, has been awarded its highest office. His insinuation during the campaign that critics and genuine whistle-blowers would be subject to retribution once he was elected makes this recognition urgent. His selection of the fascist Stephen Bannon as chief strategist further underscores his seriousness about these issues. This is what differentiates Trump, an illegitimate individual gaining the coercive powers of the chief executive. He is not an ordinary, merely “Republican” President.The thing before our eyes, in other words, is the installation of an extralegal and extrajudicial personality into the presidency — an office that has been expanded, through Republican and Democratic administrations, decade after decade, to dangerous excesses of power. This includes the proliferation of executive orders that have the force of law. Executive orders make the President not merely someone presiding over a tripartite government but a premodern monarch or führer. But it is the more ordinary coercive powers of the executive that add urgency to the situation: The Department of Justice. The Attorney General. Federal prosecutors and the FBI. The Department of Homeland Security. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the TSA. The Department of the Treasury and the IRS. The Department of Defense and the military. Having witnessed the Republican Party fail to eject Trump as a candidate and nearly half of the voting citizenry elect him through the Electoral College, does the system itself have any capacity to restrain such an extralegal personality from reaching the inauguration?

The thing before our eyes, in other words, is the installation of an extralegal and extrajudicial personality into the presidency — an office that has been expanded, through Republican and Democratic administrations, decade after decade, to dangerous excesses of power. This includes the proliferation of executive orders that have the force of law. Executive orders make the President not merely someone presiding over a tripartite government but a premodern monarch or führer. But it is the more ordinary coercive powers of the executive that add urgency to the situation: The Department of Justice. The Attorney General. Federal prosecutors and the FBI. The Department of Homeland Security. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the TSA. The Department of the Treasury and the IRS. The Department of Defense and the military. Having witnessed the Republican Party fail to eject Trump as a candidate and nearly half of the voting citizenry elect him through the Electoral College, does the system itself have any capacity to restrain such an extralegal personality from reaching the inauguration?’

Source: Boing Boing

Researchers: Monkey Vocal Tracts Are ‘Speech-Ready’

‘No one has ever heard a non-human primate speak, at least not a human language. No one has been able to teach one to do so, either. Back in 1969, a team of researchers from Yale, using technology available to them at the time, concluded that most primates, rhesus monkeys specifically, “lack the output mechanism necessary for the production of human speech.” A study just released in Science Advances comes to a very different conclusion: ““A monkey’s vocal tract would be perfectly adequate to produce hundreds, thousands of words,” says cognitive scientist W. Tecumseh Fitch, one of the study’s co-authors, speaking with the New York Times in their article on the study. Or as the new study’s title succinctly puts it, “Monkey Vocal Tracts Are Speech-Ready.” …’

Source: Big Think

Bob Dylan: Nobel Prize Banquet Speech

Banquet speech by Bob Dylan given by the United States Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji, at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2016:

BD_Claxton_1.jpg‘Good evening, everyone. I extend my warmest greetings to the members of the Swedish Academy and to all of the other distinguished guests in attendance tonight.I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize. Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I never could have imagined or seen coming. From an early age, I’ve been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.

I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize. Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I never could have imagined or seen coming. From an early age, I’ve been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.

I don’t know if these men and women ever thought of the Nobel honor for themselves, but I suppose that anyone writing a book, or a poem, or a play anywhere in the world might harbor that secret dream deep down inside. It’s probably buried so deep that they don’t even know it’s there.

If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I’d have about the same odds as standing on the moon. In fact, during the year I was born and for a few years after, there wasn’t anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.

I was out on the road when I received this surprising news, and it took me more than a few minutes to properly process it. I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn’t have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I’m sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: “Who’re the right actors for these roles?” “How should this be staged?” “Do I really want to set this in Denmark?” His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. “Is the financing in place?” “Are there enough good seats for my patrons?” “Where am I going to get a human skull?” I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question “Is this literature?”

When I started writing songs as a teenager, and even as I started to achieve some renown for my abilities, my aspirations for these songs only went so far. I thought they could be heard in coffee houses or bars, maybe later in places like Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium. If I was really dreaming big, maybe I could imagine getting to make a record and then hearing my songs on the radio. That was really the big prize in my mind. Making records and hearing your songs on the radio meant that you were reaching a big audience and that you might get to keep doing what you had set out to do.

Well, I’ve been doing what I set out to do for a long time, now. I’ve made dozens of records and played thousands of concerts all around the world. But it’s my songs that are at the vital center of almost everything I do. They seemed to have found a place in the lives of many people throughout many different cultures and I’m grateful for that.

But there’s one thing I must say. As a performer I’ve played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.

But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life’s mundane matters. “Who are the best musicians for these songs?” “Am I recording in the right studio?” “Is this song in the right key?” Some things never change, even in 400 years.Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, “Are my songs literature?”

So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.

My best wishes to you all,

Bob Dylan’

 

© The Nobel Foundation 2016

Discoveries Give New Clues To Possible Neanderthal Religious Practices

‘Neanderthals built complex structures, captured birds to ornament themselves with feathers, and successfully hunted mammoth and other formidable megafauna with tools.

But does any of the evidence suggest that they were religious? It’s notably tricky to infer religious behavior from material culture… We do see hints of ceremonial responses to the dead at Neanderthal sites… At Teshik-Tash in Uzbekistan, a Neanderthal child was buried and encircled by goat horns. At Regourdou in France, bear bones, plus a slab of rock topped by tools and another bear bone, were placed at a Neanderthal body positioned at the bottom of a depression. Bear bones in an adjacent room at Regourdou suggest to some archaeologists that bear meat might have been consumed there as a funeral rite…

Looking at the evidence collectively, though, I think at least this conservative conclusion is warranted: Some Neanderthals buried their dead with purpose and care.Next comes our central question: Did Neanderthals engage in some way with the supernatural or the sacred? …’

Source: NPR

CIA: Russia hacked U.S. election for Trump

‘The CIA shared its secret assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, the report goes on to explain. In the meeting, CIA officials referenced a growing body of intel from multiple sources, and told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal.’

Source: Boing Boing

And the US is doing exactly what about this? In particular, exactly what before the electoral college ratifies this election?

The Gadget Apocalypse Is Upon Us

What happened to gadgets? It’s a fascinating story about tech progress, international manufacturing and shifting consumer preferences, and it all ends in a sad punch line: Great gadget companies are now having a harder time than ever getting off the ground. The gadget age is over — and even if that’s a kind of progress, because software now fills many of our needs, the great gadgetapocalypse is bound to make the tech world, and your life, a little less fun.

Source: NYTimes

This protein is mutated in half of all cancers. New drugs aim to fix it before it’s too late

‘It has been nearly impossible to get a good look at Rommie Amaro’s favorite protein in action. Called p53, the protein sounds the alarm to kill cells with DNA damage and prevent them from becoming cancerous—one reason why it has been called the “guardian of the genome.” But it is big and floppy, a molecular shapeshifter that is hard to follow with standard imaging tools. So Amaro, a computational biologist at the University of California (UC), San Diego, turned to supercomputers. She plugged in new x-ray snapshots of p53 fragments and beefed up her program to make a movie of the quivering activity of each of the protein’s 1.6 million atoms over a full microsecond, an eternity on the atomic scale that required about a month of supercomputer time. She watched as four copies of p53 linked up and wrapped themselves around a DNA strand, an essential dance the protein performs before it sends off messages for cellular self-destruction.

Amaro wasn’t just interested in the behavior of healthy p53: She wanted to understand the effects of mutations that the gene for p53 is prone to. In dozens of simulations, she and her colleagues tracked how common p53 mutations further destabilize the already floppy protein, distorting it and preventing it from binding to DNA. Some simulations also revealed something else: a fingerhold for a potential drug. Once in a while, a small cleft forms in the mutated protein’s core. When Amaro added virtual drug molecules into her models, the compounds lodged in that cleft, stabilizing p53 just enough to allow it to resume its normal functions…’

Source: Science

 

Searching for ‘Gelwans’

Eliot-GelwanThose of you with more common family names, or with appreciable extended families, may have a hard time seeing the point of this post. But, as I’ve noted before, there are very very few Gelwans. I have always wondered, or you might even say obsessed about, how/if those people with the Gelwan surname I do find are related to me. I have very little in the way of extended family; I envy those who do and thirst for deeper family connection, especially so that my children might come to feel embedded in a broader web. It becomes poignant each year around the holidays, which I imagine you all celebrate with enormous extended family gatherings while we have the four of us around the dinner table.

I subscribe to a Google alert for new ‘Gelwan’ references on the web, and once received a link to this page  (gendrevo.ru). Alas, the page is now gone from the web. It appeared to me to be from a Russian genealogy site in which survivors post remembrance pages for their relatives who died in the Holocaust. On my paternal side, the generation of immigrants were my grandparents, in the early 20th century; my father’s older siblings and he were born in the U.S. between 1910-1915. I have always assumed that Gelwan was an Ellis Island anglicization of something else and thus that researching my family’s roots would become squirrelly because the family name of anyone related to me might not have precisely the same pronunciation or spelling. As the part of the world from which my ancestors emigrated shifted back and forth between Slavic and Germanic dominance, between Cyrillic and Roman alphabets, so too did the rendering of family names. I would have to pursue the Gelvans, the Gelmans, and even the Hellmans and who knows what else for relatives. [I may have made this up, but I think I learned somewhere along the way that we are actually distantly related to the Hellman’s mayonnaise family…]

gelwan_surnameThe flip side of that coin is of course that literal ‘Gelwans’ might not be related to me. For example, I found through Googling traces of a Deborah Gelwan who was in the public relations industry in Sao Paulo, Brazil who is referred to on the web. Deborah now lives in Orlando FL and runs a couple of businesses. Maybe I’ll get to see her someday.

When I was a child, a Brazilian tourist with the last name Gelwan, possibly from the same family as Deborah, arrived on our doorstep, having looked up Gelwan in the phonebooks on arriving in New York City. It appears that my parents and the visitor determined that it was unlikely we were related (although I cannot imagine how they did this, as my parents spoke no Portugese and rumor has it this visitor spoke no English). Deborah and I are now Facebook friends but we have not established a family relationship. And there are traces of other Gelwans in Brazil as well. I would at least love to figure out if these South American Gelwans descended from Eastern European immigrants. I am aware that eastern European Jews did go to South America in the diasporas, but I am not sure about Brazil per se.

Similarly, I have reached out to Gelwans in Lebanon — a Claude Gelwan was there but apparently now lives in France —  and Iraq but I doubt we are related. It appears to me that Gelwan is a transliteration of a first name, not a family name, in Iraq.

I have discovered several other Gelwans in the New York area where I grew up. Interestingly enough I have long been aware of two brothers, physicians as I am: Jeffrey, a gastroenterologist and Mark, an ophthalmologist. In years past we spoke by phone but cannot establish a common background. I assumed that it might merely be an accident that we share our name, that Gelwan might be a final common pathway of anglicization from diverse unrelated family names in eastern Europe.

Similarly, there is a pharmacist in Brooklyn named Steven Gelwan, who never answered an email from me. Maya Gambarin-Gelwan, I think Steven’s spouse, is yet another New York area physician, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, with a number of scholarly publications. Never heard from her either. There is a Rebecca Gelwan (my late mother’s name by marriage) who studies, or studied, law in Pennsylvania and posts alot of photos and videos of her new baby (congratulations on the newest Gelwan!) but, again, I can’t figure that we are direct relatives. Along with my brother, that’s two Gelwan attorneys. Elise Gelwan, I learn, graduated from medical school at the University of Connecticut. Yet another physician Gelwan! There is a Sam or Sami Gelwan (I think they are the same person) in the New York area as well. If I mention all these names in this post, they may get hits when people vanity-search themselves, and they may get in touch, I hope.

LinkedIn, from which I resigned long ago, has thirteen ‘Gelwan’ profiles, including some of the aforementioned but also a Brazilian photographer Jacob Gelwan, and a Miriam Gelwan in Argentina. A Samantha Gelwan is/was a student at Indiana University in Bloomington. A Mohammed Gelwan is an engineer in Egypt.

From time to time I see passenger manifests listing Gelwans who disembarked at Ellis Island in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. I have found the arrival records of my grandfather’s two sisters and alot of other mysterious Gelwans. But where do I go from there? Some 19th century records show Gelwans emigrating from Ireland to Manitoba, but I cannot find Canadian Gelwans today.

I was told that my family originated in Riga, Latvia. Given that, I’ve written to Vladimir, or Wladimir, Gelwan, who I learned was the principal dancer in the Latvian National Ballet and who now runs a ballet school in Berlin, suggesting that we may be related, but have never gotten a reply back. I have seen a picture of Vladimir Gelwan on the web and can even imagine a certain family resemblance, although he’s certainly got the dancer’s grace that I do not. I’m determined to try and drop in on him when next in Berlin. [Do I have any readers in or near Berlin?]

What is it, by the way, with these nonresponses? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but a message from afar suggesting the writer might be my relative, with such a rare name, would immediately pique my interest and would surely get a response. Do you think recipients might have worried that my messages represented some kind of con? I don’t want anything from them except connectedness. Is that the problem right there?

Given the waves of upheaval that repeatedly washed over eastern Europe in the 20th century, with ever-changing political hegemony over various regions, large scale displacement of populations, the Holocaust, the destruction of records, the changing of names, etc., conventional genealogical research is not possible. It is not as if there is an established family tree, with records waiting around for the taking, as is the case for many families with western European origins. My father’s older brother, now deceased, once returned to eastern Europe to try to find some of our roots. Despite a reputation for being extremely resourceful, he apparently had no success at all. Lamentably, I cannot find any notes from his research; otherwise I (acknowledged as someone with no lack of resourcefulness myself!) might pick up the trail where he left off, despite the passage of time having added fifty further years of obfuscation.

It has been a little (not much) easier to find information about my mother’s ancestors. She herself, as a young child, emigrated with her family in the 1920’s from Eastern Europe. Several years ago, my son and I visited the small out-of-the-way town of her origin looking for indications of her family, armed with notes from a maternal uncle of mine who had made a similar trip decades before and retracing his steps. Unfortunately (probably because they were a Jewish family), the town hall and the burial grounds held no traces; the Nazis had razed the Jewish cemetery. I discovered when I visited the site that my uncle had funded the reassembly of the smashed fragments of gravestones into a monument there. there were no Jews left but a non-Jew who lived adjacent to teh site of the burial ground kept the key, tended the grounds and let Jewish visitors into the site to see the monument.

My son and I did see the house where my mother had been born; eerily, we had by coincidence parked our rental car right in front of it when we had entered the town center.

We learned that, because of their persecution, the entire family hid from the authorities behind a falsified family name for several generations. Interestingly, that was the same name as a boss of mine, whose family I knew originated in the same region. Instead of being intrigued when I mentioned my discovery to him when I returned from my Eastern European trip, he scoffed. I think he was appalled at the possibility that we were related.

If you have a complicated heritage that will not be easy to trace on ancestry.com or some such geneology research site, my advice is to embark on a project of tracking down and documenting what you can, as soon as you can. It only disappears over time. Your children and their children may appreciate it if information about their mysterious family origins might one day help them find their place in the world in the face of the increasing rootlessness of modern life.

Perhaps one day someone googling their family name will be linked to this post and wonder how they might be related to Eliot Gelwan. Hurry up, Google, crawl this post and index it!

Hillary Clinton’s Inaugural Address

Since the election, many have been yearning for a grassroots umbrella to coalesce the uniformly outraged but splintered opposition. Bill Moyers et al ghostwrite a theoretical counter-inaugural address for Hillary Clinton to give, proposing people band behind her for a sort of shadow government. Doesn’t strike me as reasonable or desirable. Big Donny won because so many found the Clintonocracy so unpalatable. We can do better. I would like it if we could unite behind a woman, though. How about Sen. Warren?

Source: 3quarksdaily

Orwell on the Role of Language in Prettying Up the Ugly Truths of Totalitarialism

‘Two neologisms, “Post-truth” and “Alt-right,” have entered political discourse in this year of turmoil and upheaval, words so notorious they were chosen as the winner and runner-up, respectively, for Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year. These “Orwellian euphemisms,” argues Noah Berlatsky “conceal old evils” and “whitewash fascism,” recalling “in form and content… Orwell’s old words—specifically some of the newspeak from 1984. ‘Crimethink,’ ‘thoughtcrime,’ and ‘unperson’…. They even sound the same, with their simple, thunk-thunk construction of single syllables mashed together.”

“The sheer ugly clumsiness is supposed to make the language seem futuristic and cutting edge,” Berlatsky writes, “The world to come will be utilitarian, slangy, and up-to-the-minute in its inelegance. So the future was in Orwell’s day; so it is in 2016.” As in Orwell’s day, our current jargon gets mobilized in “defense of the indefensible”—as the novelist, journalist, and revolutionary fighter wrote in his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language.” And just as in his day, the euphemisms pretty up constant, blatant lying and racist ideologies. We can also draw another linguistic comparison to Orwell’s time: the widespread use of the word “fascism.” …’

Source: Open Culture

We Survive Because Reality May Be Nothing Like We Think It Is

‘Professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine Donald H. Hoffman has doubts that reality is much like what we think it is. We live in a mental construction, he says, a sort of utilitarian fantasy, of our own devising. And it’s not a problem that it may not be a true representation of reality — in fact, it may be evolutionarily necessary. His study, “Natural selection and verdical perceptions” concludes, among other things, that “perceptual information is shaped by natural selection to reflect utility, not to depict reality.”  …’

Source: Big Think

Police: This Is How a Dog Wears Pants

Last year, the internet wondered how a dog might wear pants. We now have the answer, as per a tweet by the Bellevue, Washington police dept about a dog they found. The pup sported a green baseball sweater and pants on his hind legs and looked “very angry”. Wouldn’t you?

Source: Gizmodo

The Army Corps of Engineers Has Blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline!

‘The Army Corps of Engineers will not grant the Dakota Access Pipeline the right to drill under the Missouri River, amounting to a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

In a statement, assistant secretary for civil works Jo-Ellen Darcy said that her decision is based on the need to explore alternate routes from the pipeline’s crossing. Her office had announced in November that it was delaying plans to move forward on the easement in order to allow for further discussion with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies just half a mile south of the proposed crossing site…’

Source: Gizmodo

In this day and age, I’ll take good news wherever I can get it, thus the exclamation point in my headline. We’ll see how long this lasts…

Tumblr of tweets from Trump supporters who regret voting for Trump

‘Here’s a Tumblr of tweets from Trump voters who are surprised that their President Elect is already breaking the promises he made to them. Some are angry that he is not prosecuting Hillary. Others are mad that he is going to take away their Medicare and Social Security. Still others are mad that he wants to hire someone from Goldman Sachs…’

Source: Boing Boing

Too bad it doesn’t mean a hill of beans about whether he actually ends up taking the job on Jan. 20.

14-foot python caught with 3 deer in its gut. Bad sign.

‘The Burmese python is a massive snake native to Southeast Asia that arrived in South Florida in the 1980s, possibly released into the wild by careless pet owners. There are now as many as 300,000 of these invasive creatures slithering through the state, and they’ve been known to eat alligators, bobcats, rabbits, and birds.

Now scientists have discovered that Burmese pythons — which can reach 18 feet in length and swallow a bobcat whole — are even more ravenous than they realized. In a new paper in Bioinvasions Records, a team of researchers describe slitting open the intestine of a dead 14-foot python and finding the remains of three different white-tailed deer. The snake appears to have gobbled them up, an adult and two fawns, in just 90 days.

The implications are disturbing. “If this was just one snake that ate three deer in isolation, that’d be one thing” says Scott Boback, a biologist at Dickinson College and lead author of the study. But the incident comes alongside growing evidence that the Burmese pythons are ravaging native wildlife in South Florida’s Everglades. “When you put that all together, you’ve got to say, okay, something serious is going on here.” …’

Source: Vox

Your Periodic Table Is Officially Out of Date

‘Scientists with the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) have officially approved the names of four new elements, completing the seventh row of the periodic table.

The four elements, discovered between 2002 and 2010, aren’t new per se, but the names are. IUPAC officially recognized the discovery of the super-heavy, highly reactive elements in December of 2015, and announced the suggested names back in June of this year. After a five-month chill-out period for the world to digest the new monikers, the bureau made the names official this week.

  • Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113

  • Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115

  • Tennessine

    and symbol Ts, for the element 117

  • Oganesson and symbol Og, for the element 118…’

Source: Gizmodo

What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient

‘What do you think is the most commonly asked question of a person who has, or has had, cancer? If you guessed, “How are you?” you got it right.

But as caring as those words may seem, they are often not helpful and may even be harmful. At a celebratory family gathering a year after my own cancer treatment, a distant relative asked me just that. I answered, “I’m fine.” She then pressed, “How are you really?”“Really” I was fine, I told her.

But what if I hadn’t been? Would I have wanted to launch into a description of bad medical news at what was supposed to be a fun event? Would I have wanted even to be reminded of a bout with cancer? Although my relative undoubtedly meant well, the way her concern was expressed struck me as intrusive…’

Source: Jane Brody, New York Times

Why there is no PTSD in Afghanistan

‘…Nearly four decades of conflict have bankrupted Afghanistan’s infrastructure, if not also the resilience of its people. Its rudimentary healthcare system — once the poster-child of NATO’s development agenda — is scarcely able to cope with the physically ill, let alone those with mental illness and others left psychologically wounded by a cruel epidemic of violence. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and drug-induced psychosis are common fare here; more commonplace yet are major depressive disorder (MDD) and anxiety. What is surprising is that PTSD, or the trauma that follows exposure to violence, is barely diagnosed at all. The question is why…’

Source: Medium

Boycott Trump Supporters

[To my fellow Bostonians: note that your hometown favorites New Balance and the New England Patriots are on the list.]

‘Each of these companies have founders, owners, or CEOs who are prominent supporters of Donald Trump. Here’s the thing – that’s their choice. They chose to help put him into office, knowing full well what it meant to tens of millions of Americans. However, it is also OUR CHOICE, and a choice that we must make, to withdraw our support from any person or corporation which supports this man and what he stands for.Now, in the days ahead, many of these companies will say, “But our company does not actually endorse political candidates.” When your CEO or Chairman or primary investor makes a public endorsement, or gives millions of dollars to fund Donald Trump, they deserve to be held accountable for that public position…’

Source: The Donald J. Trump Resistance

 

Could Use of 25th Amendment Keep Trump From Becoming President?

‘Amid widespread protests and worrying signs of dysfunction in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, millions across the United States are likely wondering how, or if, it’s possible to oust the billionaire from the White House before the 2020 presidential election. While there have long been talks of impeachment hearings, a favorite theory this week for removing Trump from power involves the 25th amendment to the Constitution…’

Source: IBTimes

hysterical literature

‘Hysterical Literature is a video art series by NYC-based photographer and filmmaker Clayton Cubitt. It explores feminism, mind/body dualism, distraction portraiture, and the contrast between culture and sexuality. (It’s also just really fun to watch.)…’

Source: hysterical literature