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Saturday, 31 December 2011

"I said don't tear me up." — Mick Jagger

Photo: Man Ray

" [...] One kind of 'holy tear' defined by Church analysts is 'the tear of compassion.' This is Clinton’s tear. Humbly, he weeps not for himself but for the suffering voter. A second kind of 'holy tear' is the 'tear of love.' This is Dole’s you-feel-my-pain tear. Dole mists up when he thinks not about his wounds as such but about the people of the little provincial town who, when the wounds left him helpless, helped him. Clinton weeps when he listens, Dole when he speaks…."
— Nicholas Jenkins, quoted by Erin Overby (The New Yorker)

"John Boehner's emotions nearly got the best of him late Tuesday night, as he addressed news that the GOP had taken majority control of the House of Representatives with a quivered lip, a quavering voice and perhaps a few tears. [...]
     Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the emotional moment gave the man who is likely to become the next Speaker of the House the sniffles, especially considering his propensity for crying."
The Huffington Post

"Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is not known for emotional displays, but started to cry Friday morning when he was asked to talk about his mother during a town hall forum here with an audience mostly of moms.
     'Well, first of all you'll get me all teary-eyed. Callista will tell you, I get teary-eyed every time we sing Christmas carols,' Gingrich said, beginning to lose his composure when asked by GOP pollster Frank Luntz about his mom, Kit Gingrich, who died in 2003 at age 77."
The Huffington Post

"Oscar Wilde, revolting against the sappiness of Victorian sentimental culture, wrote that 'one would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.' Aldous Huxley, too, was one of many who, from Dickens's heyday to the present, complained that his sentimentality was caused by a refusal to think, by 'overflow, nothing else.' Tears of truth, tears of tribute, tears of empathy, tears of devotion, tears as the ultimate mark of a sincere and truthful heart: these are not foreign to us; the basic ideas are still part of our culture of crying. But we also know that emotional life is more complex and less innocent than these eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts would have us believe. And we also know about tears of humiliation, frustration, and manipulation—tears that have nothing to do with sincerity. [...]
     Given the source of the metaphor, the fact that crocodile tears mask other motives should not be surprising. When crocodiles fully extend their jaws to swallow a victim, the crocodile's lacrimal ducts are squeezed, and excess lubricating tears are produced. Real crocodiles' tears are in fact meaningless in emotional terms. Metaphorical crocodiles' tears are an emotional diversionary tactic, a kind of camouflage for metaphorical teeth."
— Tom Lutz, (Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears) The New York Times

Friday, 30 December 2011

if it tastes good it must be bad

Lamps by Julia Lowman (sheep stomachs) — Limn

"When I was a child growing up in suburban England, my family had to travel some distance to find a cheeseburger, steak or succulent barbecued chicken. There were plenty of restaurants close by, but none served exactly what we were looking for. Halal meat is what we needed, stamped and certified for Muslim consumption. [...]
     Last month, pork was made available to residents of Qatar for the first time. You need a licence to buy it, confirming you're not a Muslim, and it's on the shelves of the only shop in Doha where alcohol is sold.
     The shop, known as QDC (Qatar Distribution Center), sent an email to everyone in Doha who has a licence when the meat arrived. 'Please note that we sold the first 10 per cent of the first container in four hours yesterday,' it read. 'As you will discover we do not really have space for this new venture, so please bear with us if the crowd in the new room is too much and the queues too long.'
     One of my friends who bought some proudly posted a picture of sizzling bacon on his Facebook page, adding that he felt liberated. But the development wasn't popular across many other sections of society."
— Anealla Safdar, The National (UAE)

"The rise of pork in Israel is a direct result of the Russian aliyah of the 1990s. David Marom, owner of Marsel Five Brothers Plus pork processing factory, gleefully remembers the pork boom of the mid-'90s. As hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union entered Israel, a somewhat stagnant industry was reinvigorated. Demand has since plateaued, according to Marom, but he does not deny that 'business is still good.'
     In fact, due to a law that bans the import of non-kosher meat, all of the pork sold in Israel is raised and processed in the Holy Land. Of the 30 operational pig-breeding farms in Israel which, according to the ministry of agriculture, breed around 150,000 new pigs each year, almost all are located in the Arab region of Iblin. These farms produce and sell pork to supermarkets and independent shops catering to non-kosher tastes."
— Jeff Yoskowitz, The Jewish Chronicle Online

"(CBS/AP) JERUSALEM - 'Kosher pork' may now be on the menu for observant Jews. The office of Israel's chief rabbi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said that imports of an organic goose grown in Spain that tastes like pork have been approved.
     Metzger said three non-Jewish chefs confirm its swinish flavor. Jewish dietary law strictly forbids eating pork. Metzger's office said there is no Jewish injunction against eating goose, no matter what it tastes like, as long as it is slaughtered according to Jewish ritual.
     Secular Israelis have long enjoyed pork at non-kosher restaurants, and can purchase it at non-kosher stores, but some communities ban its sale. There have also been protests at some stores that sell pork. (In 2007 a deli in Netanya was set on fire.)
     'Kosher pork' would open new culinary opportunities for the observant.
     Spokesman Avi Blumenthal said Metzger is eager to begin imports as soon as the geese reach slaughtering weight. He said the rabbi would see that it passes 'all the rabbinical kosher authorities to make sure it gets to Israel.'"
CBS News

left behind

From: Abandonalia

"So, being Catholic and all, I don’t expect to be Raptured tomorrow. Instead, I’m staking out Fundamentalist houses so, in case they do get raptured, I can loot their stuff.
     And maybe rescue some of their poor children who got left behind because they just weren’t faithful enough. ;-)"
— Dean Esmay, Dean's World

"Ever wonder what happens to the loose change that harried travelers leave behind at airport checkpoints?
     One lawmaker has his sights on the unclaimed money, which added up to $376,480.39 in the 2010 fiscal year.
     At Los Angeles International Airport alone, $19,110.83 was left at checkpoints, according to a Transportation Security Administration spokesman. That’s in addition to $500 in poker chips left behind at LAX a few years ago and later converted by TSA to cash.
     Congress allows TSA to use the unclaimed money to help fund its operations."
Los Angeles Times

"Each year, millions of suitcases don't arrive where they should. And that count seems to be rising. According to the Air Transport Users Council, more than 40 million bags were misplaced by airlines in 2007, compared with 30 million bags just two years earlier.
     Most lost suitcases find their way to their proper destination within 24 hours. But of the bags lost in 2007, more than one million — or one bag per 2,000 passengers — were never recovered, the council said.
     Some of these lost bags sit at airports for months waiting to be claimed, before their contents are finally sold, donated or dumped. What happens to travellers' new cameras and dirty underwear depends on which airline carried the suitcase, and where in the world the plane landed.
     Bags abandoned at Heathrow Airport are auctioned off at Greasby's in southern London. In the United States, thousands of unclaimed suitcases are unpacked each year and their contents sold at the 40,000-square-foot Unclaimed Baggage Centre in Scottsboro, Ala."

"[...] Gold, silver, jewelry, collectible currency and high-end wristwatches are among the dozens of items pulled from abandoned safe deposit boxes that the state is going to start auctioning off if the rightful owners don't come forward to claim them. [...]
     All of the contents have gone unclaimed for a period of at least nine years and the state is legally permitted to liquidate these items at auction, although it tries to find the rightful owners first.
This is the seventh time that the Commonwealth has used eBay to liquidate its unclaimed tangible property holdings. Before that, the treasury held a live auction for such items, a process that was far less profitable because of its limited reach to potential bidders.
     Last year’s eBay auction raised nearly $480,000 for the state’s General Fund through the sale of 2,418 separate bid lots, nearly three times the amount of money generated from comparable live auctions of the past, the treasurer's office said."
WCVB TV Boston

"I have been preoccupied with trying to imagine what must be going through christians' [sic] minds as they contemplate this momentous occasion (for them). Which brings me to the subject of clothes. What do you wear for The Rapture, or to a Rapture Party, for that matter? Are you clothed when Raptured or -- heaven forbid! -- might you leave all your clothes behind and be Raptured in the nude? If so, this leaves room for some weighty erm ... challenges ... and for some mighty entertaining pranks, some of which also provide a great way to get rid of all those clothes lurking in your drawers and closets that you no longer wear.
     But maybe christians will be Raptured whilst clothed? If that's the case, then I am sure they are confronted with a different dilemma: what to wear for this most auspicious of all the days in their lifetimes? Will christians wear their 'Sunday Best?' What exactly is their 'Sunday Best?' Perhaps their wedding clothes? Or ... dare I suggest this? ... Funeral clothes?"

Thursday, 29 December 2011

bootstrap; 引导程序

"The idea that we can run out of time is peculiar. It’s a product of how we organize our memories.
     Human consciousness is a kind of romance with the idea that time is finite and consumable. This assumption of finitude means that time can also become digested and metabolized urge, energizing the desire to imagine what is coming next. Being able to organize the past into a semicoherent system, we extrapolate forward and read ourselves into a specific future. We make predictions: Moore’s Law tells us the size and cost of microprocessors diminish every 18 months. Polling reminds us the United States prefer to re-elect their presidents during wartime. The Super Bowl favorite wins three out of four times. It has been written, and so it shall come to pass.
     In the opening keynote of the Singularity Summit, Ray Kurzweil, inventor, writer, and immortalist, spoke about the looming end of prognostication. By his best estimate, the Singularity — the moment when our predictive mechanisms are overwhelmed by superintelligent computers that surpass the understanding of any one person — will happen in 2029. This will wipe clean all the fantasies and modeled futures we made for ourselves. Our ability to predict our personal destiny will vanish; in its place we will have the strange sensation of falling through the floor of our own life. [...]
     The brain is also easy to trick. Surround one color with certain other colors, and we’ll see it as brown. Remove the surrounding colors and it becomes red. Should we commemorate this semantic vulnerability in our computers, reminding them of how easily and often we got things wrong?"
— Mike Thomsen, The New Inquiry

"The Chinese Room argument, devised by John Searle, is an argument against the possibility of true artificial intelligence. The argument centers on a thought experiment in which someone who knows only English sits alone in a room following English instructions for manipulating strings of Chinese characters, such that to those outside the room it appears as if someone in the room understands Chinese.
     The argument is intended to show that while suitably programmed computers may appear to converse in natural language, they are not capable of understanding language, even in principle. Searle argues that the thought experiment underscores the fact that computers merely use syntactic rules to manipulate symbol strings, but have no understanding of meaning or semantics. Searle's argument is a direct challenge to proponents of Artificial Intelligence, and the argument also has broad implications for functionalist and computational theories of meaning and of mind. As a result, there have been many critical replies to the argument."
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

precious. little

"By now, dystopian fiction has been served up just about every way possible. To my knowledge, one of the few ways it hasn’t been attempted — or, at least, well executed — is in the realm of minimalism. That brings us to The Curfew, the third novel by Jesse Ball, a writer who in the past few years has carved out a quite visible and enviable place for himself as an experimental fiction writer, and as a poet and artist. [...]
     Ball has a certain rep: an author who writes his books in two to three weeks and hangs manuscript pages around him during the writing process. The publisher of his novels, Vintage, plays this up, including in press materials claims such as that Ball meditates in silence for weeks before beginning a book. To his credit, when asked about these things in interviews, Ball tends to downplay them, although he does admit to writing his books in a matter of weeks and occasional novellas in one sitting, and he claims that what is published is essentially a first draft. This may make for a pleasing visual image of a young, successful author, but it does not often make for good literature. The only writers that I’ve found who have done any good with a strict 'no revisions' method of composition — César Aira and Javier Marías — are lucky to write a page in a day. Even with Aira’s notably sleek, hundred-page books, that would be months of writing. [...]
     In a climate where bookstores are leaning more on past sales as indicators and granting books less and less shelf time, an author with a marketable persona and quick, easy books is bound to appeal. Ball would seem to be ideal: his books are short and easy to produce, they sell well, and he tends to get lots of media attention and friendly reviews. In interviews Ball has repeatedly claimed to have a suitcase full of manuscripts just waiting to be published. I have no doubt that The Curfew will do well enough for Vintage and that Ball will open his suitcase for them again, and perhaps other publishers as well."
— Scott Esposito, Los Angeles Review of Books

Monday, 26 December 2011

meaning is its own reward

Grassy Knoll, live (from: The History Addict)

I find it intriguing that John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis all died on the same day — Huxley high on LSD, Kennedy shot, and C. S. Lewis of renal failure. A mere coincidence, of course; but it's hard not to mine some meta-truth from this surreal juxtaposition.

 "It is perhaps impossible to say how far apart the different universes may be, or whether they exist simultaneously in time. Some may have stars and galaxies like ours. Some may not. Some may be finite in size. Some may be infinite. Physicists call the totality of universes the 'multiverse.' Alan Guth, a pioneer in cosmological thought, says that 'the multiple-universe idea severely limits our hopes to understand the world from fundamental principles.' And the philosophical ethos of science is torn from its roots. As put to me recently by Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Weinberg, a man as careful in his words as in his mathematical calculations, 'We now find ourselves at a historic fork in the road we travel to understand the laws of nature. If the multiverse idea is correct, the style of fundamental physics will be radically changed.' [...]
     The multiverse offers an explanation to the fine-tuning conundrum that does not require the presence of a Designer. As Steven Weinberg says: 'Over many centuries science has weakened the hold of religion, not by disproving the existence of God but by invalidating arguments for God based on what we observe in the natural world. The multiverse idea offers an explanation of why we find ourselves in a universe favorable to life that does not rely on the benevolence of a creator, and so if correct will leave still less support for religion.' ”
— Alan P. Lightman, Harper's Magazine

"[...] Perhaps its most startling lesson is that there is a significant probability that you are living in computer simulation. I mean this literally: if the simulation hypothesis is true, you exist in a virtual reality simulated in a computer built by some advanced civilisation. Your brain, too, is merely a part of that simulation. What grounds could we have for taking this hypothesis seriously? Before getting to the gist of the simulation argument, let us consider some of its preliminaries. One of these is the assumption of 'substrate independence.' This is the idea that conscious minds could in principle be implemented not only on carbon-based biological neurons (such as those inside your head) but also on some other computational substrate such as silicon-based processors.
     Of course, the computers we have today are not powerful enough to run the computational processes that take place in your brain. Even if they were, we wouldn’t know how to program them to do it. But ultimately, what allows you to have conscious experiences is not the fact that your brain is made of squishy, biological matter but rather that it implements a certain computational architecture. This assumption is quite widely (although not universally) accepted among cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind. For the purposes of this article, we shall take it for granted.
     Given substrate independence, it is in principle possible to implement a human mind on a sufficiently fast computer. Doing so would require very powerful hardware that we do not yet have. It would also require advanced programming abilities, or sophisticated ways of making a very detailed scan of a human brain that could then be uploaded to the computer. Although we will not be able to do this in the near future, the difficulty appears to be merely technical. There is no known physical law or material constraint that would prevent a sufficiently technologically advanced civilisation from implementing human minds in computers."
— Nick Bostrom, The Simulation Argument

Saturday, 24 December 2011

how to kill off the 99% — part one: garlic, milk... and honey

"We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to see if Dr. [Ron] Voss could help us get to the bottom of the controversy over Chinese produce and garlic: [...]
Q: Certain produce commodities are more prone to food safety problems than others. How does garlic weigh on the food safety risk scale?
A: There are three safety issues to consider: Microbial — like we have occasionally here from E. coli and other pathogens. The spinach E. coli outbreak would be an example of this. The second food safety area is pesticide residue; and the third issue is with heavy metals. And I know some garlic grown in that part of the world has heavy metals.
     The way garlic is handled, the risk of microbial residue would be pretty slim, not impossible, but it’s not a fleshy kind of product as some more perishable ones. [...] However, it could be high for pesticide residues or metals.
     These are the three general areas where we can test if food is safe. One of things we can do for consumer protection is to do more checking on food to make sure it is safe. I don’t know what this will involve. But from a consumer standpoint, one way to build trust is to increase testing programs."
— Jim Prevor, Perishable Pundit

"A third or more of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. A Food Safety News investigation has documented that millions of pounds of honey banned as unsafe in dozens of countries are being imported and sold here in record quantities.
     And the flow of Chinese honey continues despite assurances from the Food and Drug Administration and other federal officials that the hundreds of millions of pounds reaching store shelves were authentic and safe following the widespread arrests and convictions of major smugglers over the last two years.
     Experts interviewed by Food Safety News say some of the largest and most long-established U.S. honey packers are knowingly buying mislabeled, transshipped or possibly altered honey so they can sell it cheaper than those companies who demand safety, quality and rigorously inspected honey. [...]
     The Chinese have many state-of-the-art processing plants but their beekeepers don't have the sophistication to match. There are tens of thousands of tiny operators spread from the Yangtze River and coastal Guangdong and Changbai to deep inland Qinghai province. The lead contamination in some honey has been attributed to these mom-and-pop vendors who use small, unlined, lead-soldered drums to collect and store the honey before it is collected by the brokers for processing. [...]
     The discovery of lead in the honey presents a more serious health threat. 'The presence of heavy metals is a totally different story, because heavy metals are accumulative, they are absorbed by organs and are retained. This is especially hazardous for children [...]"
— Andrew Schneider, Food Safety News

"The link between cancer and dietary hormones - estrogen in particular - has been a source of great concern among scientists, said Ganmaa [Davaasambuu], but it has not been widely studied or discussed.
     The potential for risk is large. Natural estrogens are up to 100,000 times more potent than their environmental counterparts, such as the estrogen-like compounds in pesticides.
     'Among the routes of human exposure to estrogens, we are mostly concerned about cow's milk, which contains considerable amounts of female sex hormones,' Ganmaa told her audience. Dairy, she added, accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of estrogens consumed.
     Part of the problem seems to be milk from modern dairy farms, where cows are milked about 300 days a year. For much of that time, the cows are pregnant. The later in pregnancy a cow is, the more hormones appear in her milk." — Coryndon Ireland, Harvard University Gazette

"With no notice other than a holiday-eve posting in the Federal Register, the US Food and Drug Administration has reneged on its long-stated intention to compel large-scale agriculture to curb over-use of agricultural antibiotics, which it had planned to do by reversing its approval for putting penicillin and tetracyclines in feed.
     How long-stated? The FDA first announced its intention to withdraw those approvals in 1977."
— Maryn McKenna, Wired

Friday, 23 December 2011

pain, genteel and otherwise

From: Jokers' Masquerade

"In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at Wake Forest University explored the impact of mindfulness meditation on pain after only a few days of meditation training.
     A group of 15 healthy volunteers took part in four 20-minute sessions of mindfulness meditation instruction where they were trained to maintain awareness on their own breathing while acknowledging and letting go of distraction.
     The study evaluated the effect of mindfulness meditation in two dimensions: 1) how the volunteers reported pain intensity and unpleasantness, and 2) how brain activation patterns changed as measured by functional MRI. To assess the volunteer’s pain response, a small thermal simulator heated to around 120°F was applied to the back of the leg.
     Comparing responses to the heat before and after meditation training, volunteers reported a 40% reduction in pain intensity and a 57% reduction in unpleasantness associated with the heat stimulus. Brain imaging indicated increased activation in areas associated with awareness of the pain sensation and a reduced activation in areas associated with the emotional response to pain perception.
     Interestingly, a decoupling of two brain areas, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and cingulate cortex, was observed. The prefrontal cortex is thought to control attention and other executive functions, whereas the cingulate cortex is associated with the emotional salience of a stimulus. The authors suggest that the beneficial effect of meditation may be due to a dissociation of the awareness of pain with the emotional evaluation of the pain attached to it. Accordingly, the meditators are aware of the pain sensation, but are not judging or focusing on the disturbing quality normally associated with the pain."
— Stephen Doughery, BrainBlogger

"Naqibullah, age 13, 'a local imam's son, said he stumbled into the raid while cycling from a friend's house,' and was interrogated daily about his knowledge of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
     'I told them, "I don't know these people and I am too young to give anything to anyone without my father's authority."' After two weeks, Naqibullah said, he was asked whether he had any objection to being taken to 'another place.'
     'I said, "What can I do? You will take me wherever you want to."' That night, bound, blindfolded and fitted into orange overalls, he was loaded on to a cargo plane and flown non-stop to Cuba. Naqibullah's first 10 days in Guantanamo were the worst of his life, he said."
     According to a March 2004 story by The New York Times, another child prisoner, Asadullah, age 12 or 13, believed to be the youngest of the prisoners, said he was interrogated daily for several months while held in Afghanistan. The beatings he endured in the first five days of his captivity still bothered him when he arrived in Guantanamo. [...]
     Other reports of abuse or torture by underage children held at Guantanamo also exist. Most recently, the youngest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay at the time of his release in June 2009, Chadian citizen Mohammed el Gharani, who was 14 years old when grabbed by the Americans, told a Miami Herald reporter that beatings and tear gassing occurred as late as 2009. Prior to that time, according to the British charity organization Reprieve, he had been subjected to sleep deprivation, freezing cold, strobe lights, blasting music, being burned by a cigarette and more beatings. As a result, the boy who entered Guantanamo at age 14 or 15 attempted suicide more than once, 'including slashing his wrists, trying to hang himself and running head-first into the wall as hard as he could.'"
— Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout

"Pain is a sensation that may vary depending on the condition. Pain may be felt as sharp or dull, piercing or stabbing, electrical or shooting, throbbing or stinging, etc. It may be constant or it may come and go.     You may sense pain only during a specific activity or only at a certain time of day.
     In any event, pain is a message transmitted by your nerves to tell you something is wrong."
— Dr. B. Marks, Enzine Articles

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

"Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it." — Michel de Montaigne

Dork Phrenology Helmet (from: Type Desk)

"[...] New research out of the U.S. holds out the hope of a superhuman assist for failing memories — and a badly-needed new therapy for Alzheimer's patients.
     The study by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston — led by neuroscientist and former McGill University postdoctoral fellow Mauro Costa-Mattioli with contributions from a couple of Canadians — found suppressing a molecule called PKR in the brains of mice improved the rodents' memory function and learning abilities. [...]
     In one type of test, the mice used visual cues to find a hidden platform in a pool. It took days of repetition for the regular mice to remember where to find the platform, while the mice without PKR learned after one try."
— Hilary Roberts, PostMedia News

"'When you look back at painful memories, is it just as raw?' [Lesley] Stahl asked.
'Sometimes it'll be as though it happened yesterday. Sometimes, it's as though it happened last week,' [Louise] Owen said.
     Just the mention of a sad day, like the one in 1986 when Owen learned she'd have to change schools, and she relives it emotionally. 'I felt like my whole world was collapsing. And you say that and it's like all of a sudden I feel like this really heartbroken little 13-year-old all over again,' she explained.
     She said the feeling was vivid and awful, even after all these years. 'I mean, my heart is actually pounding right now in telling you this,' she told Stahl.
     She says her memory is a gift, but there are definitely downsides.
     'Sometimes, having this sort of extreme memory can be a very isolating sort of thing. There are times when I feel like I'm fluent in a language that nobody else speaks. Or that I'm walking around and everybody else has amnesia,' Owen explained."
CBS News

"Researchers at Harvard and McGill University (in Montreal) are working on an amnesia drug that blocks or deletes bad memories. The technique seems to allow psychiatrists to disrupt the biochemical pathways that allow a memory to be recalled.
     In a new study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, the drug propranolol is used along with therapy to 'dampen' memories of trauma victims. They treated 19 accident or rape victims for ten days, during which the patients were asked to describe their memories of the traumatic event that had happened 10 years earlier. Some patients were given the drug, which is also used to treat amnesia, while others were given a placebo."
See a related article here...

here comes the sun

From: NASA

"The winter solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet's polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits. Earth's maximum axial tilt to our star, the Sun, during a solstice is 23° 26'. More evidently from high latitudes, a hemisphere's winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest.
     Since the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as midwinter, the longest night or the first day of winter.
     The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the winter solstice usually occurs on December 21 to 23 each year in the Northern Hemisphere, and June 20 to 23 in the Southern Hemisphere."
— Wikipedia

"The earliest evidence of the celebration on December 25 of a Christian liturgical feast of the birth of Jesus is from the Chronography of 354 AD. This was in Rome, while in Eastern Christianity the birth of Jesus was already celebrated in connection with the Epiphany on January 6. The December 25 celebration was imported into the East later: in Antioch by John Chrysostom towards the end of the 4th century, probably in 388, and in Alexandria only in the following century. Even in the West, the January 6 celebration of the nativity of Jesus seems to have continued until after 380.
     Many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Jesus' birth, with certain elements having origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated around the winter solstice by pagan populations who were later converted to Christianity. These elements, including the Yule log from Yule and gift giving from Saturnalia, became syncretized into Christmas over the centuries. The prevailing atmosphere of Christmas has also continually evolved since the holiday's inception, ranging from a sometimes raucous, drunken, carnival-like state in the Middle Ages, to a tamer family-oriented and children-centered theme introduced in a 19th-century reformation.
     Additionally, the celebration of Christmas was banned on more than one occasion within Protestant Christendom due to concerns that it was too pagan or unbiblical."

"The Jewish rabbinical holiday of Hanukkah is another Winter Solstice celebration. Hanukkah commemorates the rebuilding of the Temple after Judah Maccabee defeated King Antiochus. A menorah was found, but there was only enough oil to keep the lamp lit for one day—miraculously, it lasted eight days! The Hanukkah 'festival of lights' is clearly a metaphor for the Solstice’s lengthening of the light [...]"
The Pukish Pagan

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

boundary quandaries

From: Hanataiyouame

"Cul-de-sac" is an interesting phrase, both poetic and ugly at the same time (it literally means "butt of the bag"); a dead end; the terminus that brings us up short, in a quandary, in a state of gridlockwhere do we go from here?
     To our sensibilities movement is allstasis is death. Apart from stopping to smell the coffee, or the roses, (most of us see this "stopping" as a pause, a hiatus; by its very nature a "pause" is temporary) we all know that when we reach the "butt of the bag" it's game-over.
     The end.
     But the very notion of "end" suggests a boundary of some kind. And the understanding that there's a transition from one condition to another; that there's something beyond the boundaryand the acknowledgment of this distinction is, in itself, a continuation of what supposedly ended. A boundary paradox. If the journey is a personal one, and the end is reached (truly the end, and not a passing over into another reality), the boundary should cease to exist as well. And the cul-de-sac is something else altogether: a through street that goes nowhere.

Maybe this article will help... or not.

"Physical reality is not absolute. This can be shown experimentally. Two colliding protons pass right through each other in total violation of all physical rules, if their spins are exactly parallel. [In vector equilibrium, waves pass through waves without interference]. Protons are the central building blocks of all matter, the fundamental constituents of everything solid and concrete. Yet, they go right through one another, without any effect whatsoever when their spins are aligned properly, simply cancelling physical reality.
     There is no independent existence to mental phenomena; there is a perception operation involved when we think. There is no independent existence to physical phenomena; there is a perception operation involved when we observe physical phenomena. Furthermore, it takes a finite piece of time for boundary of exact opposites, all that is necessary to identify opposites is to lose all perceptual distinction between them. And that is accomplished by multi-ocular perception--perceiving the presence of both at once unseparated, hence the absence of either exclusively present." — Iona Miller, Scalers

the new minimum wage: 25 cents an hour

"Dollar Cuff" from: John Bushy Collection

"By age 23, almost a third of Americans have been arrested for a crime, according to a new study that researchers say is a measure of growing exposure to the criminal justice system in everyday life.
     The study, the first since the 1960s to look at the arrest histories of a national sample of adolescents and young adults over time, found that 30.2 percent of the 23-year-olds who participated reported having been arrested for an offense other than a minor traffic violation.
     That figure is significantly higher than the 22 percent found in a 1965 study that examined the same issue using different methods. The increase may be a reflection of the justice system becoming more punitive and more aggressive in its reach during the last half-century, the researchers said. Arrests for drug-related offenses, for example, have become far more common, as have zero-tolerance policies in schools."
— Erica Goode, The New York Times

"In 2008 approximately one in every 31 adults (7.3 million) in the United States was behind bars, or being monitored (probation and parole). In 2008 the breakdown for adults under correctional control was as follows: one out of 18 men, one in 89 women, one in 11 African-Americans (9.2 percent), one in 27 Latinos (3.7 percent), and one in 45 whites (2.2 percent).
     Crime rates have declined by about 25 percent from 1988-2008. 70% of prisoners in the United States are non-whites. In recent decades the U.S. has experienced a surge in its prison population, quadrupling since 1980, partially as a result of mandatory sentencing that came about during the 'war on drugs.' Violent crime and property crime have declined since the early 1990s."

From: Wikimedia Commons

"Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million - mostly Black and Hispanic - are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don't have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don't like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.
     There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, 'no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.' The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world's prison population, but only 5% of the world's people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

From: Wikimedia Commons

     What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?
     [...] The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. "This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors." [...]
Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country's 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness."
— Vicky Pelaez, Global Research

Monday, 19 December 2011

the old rings in the new

Click on the link below (not the photo)  to see Cliff Richard performing with the Shadows at the New Music Express Poll Winners Awards Concert (Wembley/Empire Pool) in 1964.


The focus of this clip is on Cliff Richard and the Shadows, but if you look at other accounts and documentary footage of the NME concert that year it's clear that by 1964 his position in the Pop Firmament had been eclipsed by The Beatles.

     Witness the paradigm shift in 1964. It took mere months for the songwriter/performer to emerge as the driving force in Pop Musicit's the stuff that revolutions are made of.

     "Every Little Thing" The Beatles (December 1964):

Sunday, 18 December 2011

"a pressure of the foot was instantly felt by each."

From: Wikipedia

"Millie and Christine were born on July 11, 1851, to parents who were slaves on the plantation of Mr. Alexander McCoy. The plantation was near the town of Whiteville, North Carolina, which resulted in the girls also being referred to as The Carolina Twins. Prior to the sisters' birth, their mother had borne seven other children, five boys and two girls, all of ordinary size and form.
     They were sold to a showman named Joseph Pearson Smith at birth, but were soon kidnapped by a rival showman. The kidnapper fled to the United Kingdom but was thwarted, since the United Kingdom had outlawed slavery in the 1830s.
      Smith traveled to Britain to collect the girls and brought with him their mother, Monimia, from whom they had been separated. He and his wife provided the twins with an education and taught them to speak five languages, dance, play music, and sing. For the rest of the century, the twins enjoyed a successful career as 'The Two-Headed Nightingale,' and appeared with the Barnum circus. In 1869, a biography on the twins, titled History and Medical Description of the Two-Headed Girl, was sold during their public appearances. On October 8, 1912, Millie and Christine died of tuberculosis."

"Since the days when the Siamese twins arrived in this country and occasioned so much excitement in medical circles, no illustration of the freaks of nature has been found at all approaching in its remarkable character to that given in the person of Christine Millie, a native of North Carolina, who arrived at this port on Tuesday, per City of Brussels, from New York.
     The young person who is about to proceed to London for exhibition, is the child of parents formerly slaves in North Carolina, still living, and having several other children, and was herself born a slave. It is scarcely possible by a written description to convey anything like an adequate idea of the marvelous physical organization of this extraordinary being. In figure, Christine Millie, who is 19 years of age, is rather short, and possesses two heads upon one body, with two well-developed chests and four arms.
     This portion of the frame is as perfectly distinct in each figure as if the upper part were the heads of two persons; but at the lateral posterior portion of the pelvis there is but one body, with one spine, the lower parts of which gradually incline outwards from each side, and terminate with four legs.

Front Cover
     The faces are of the African type, with thick lips and large mouth, denoting the race from which the girl has descended; but [this small word reveals so much] in conversation the countenances brighten with intelligence, and those who have had the opportunity of seeing the girl could not fail to be pleased with the geniality of her manner and with the store of information which she has at her command. The question which naturally arises, and which it seems difficult to solve, is, whether this is one being, or whether, in some extraordinary manner, two persons have thus marvelously joined together.
     A very careful anatomical examination, made by the professors at Jefferson Medical College, America, has led to the discovery that the lungs, heart, and functions of digestion are those of two persons, apparently perfect and healthy in each, but that the whole of the lower organization of the body is that of one female, with the exception of the four legs.
     Each head is said to possess separate intellectual faculties, as entirely distinct as the brain power of two different individuals, and the volitions of the will are independent, but very much in harmony with each other. In proof of this the two mouths will at the same time converse with different persons upon topics of a widely different character, and will join in singing a duet, one taking the soprano and the other the contralto part. Experiments have been tried with a view to demonstrate the nervous system, which showed that whilst above the junction the sense of feeling was separate and distinct in each, below the point of union it was common. Thus, a hand placed upon the shoulder of either was noticed only by the one touched, but a pressure of the foot was instantly felt by each."
— from: Biographical Sketch of Millie Christine, the Carolina Twin. Surnamed the Two-Headed Nightingale and the Eighth Wonder of the World: Electronic Edition (Documenting the American South)

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"make us more human, so we can kill ourselves too"

From: rlect.com

"A human girl can cheat on you or betray you sometimes, but these dolls never do those things. They belong to me 100 percent [...] Sometimes it takes too much time before I can have sex with the person I meet. But with these dolls, it's just a matter of a click of the mouse. With one click, they are delivered to you." [...]
— First International Guide

"[...] Robotics has also been a traditionally male-dominated clubhouse. But in the past two decades, a shift toward 'socially aware machines' (social robotics) has drawn women to the field. As technology has enabled more sophisticated programmed behaviors, machines have evolved to interact with us by communicating through spoken words, gestures, and other social cues.
     These robots blend hard-core computer science with an understanding of psychology and social sciencefields that have generally appealed more to women. It’s therefore not surprising that many of the leaders in this field, like Cynthia Breazeal, Andrea Thomaz, and Jodi Forlizzi, are women. In this specialty, being able to empathize and express emotion is just as important as knowing mechanics and computer programming, and like the LilyPad, these female-centric skill sets have opened the door for women to succeed in an area where they were previously underrepresented.
     My very first project at Smart Design happened to be for a company called Neato Robotics, a client that understood the importance of building an emotional connection between people and products. With many groundbreaking features that would be new to consumers, the team focused on how it could best communicate what the product was doing in human terms by using words, iconography, and even facial expressions. Though the Simon project was driven by academic research, I have been able to draw a great deal of learning from the field of social robotics and apply it to products that we use in our everyday lives by thinking about ways that products can have expressive behaviors and then building an abstracted version of those animated responses into the design."
— Carla Diana, FastCompany

"[...] Foxconn's move highlights an increasing trend toward automation among Chinese companies as labor issues such as high-profile strikes and workers' suicides plague firms in sectors from autos to technology.
     Contract manufacturers such as Foxconn, which also counts Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia among its clients, are moving parts of their manufacturing to inland Chinese cities or other emerging markets.
They are also boosting research and development investments to lift their thin margins.
     'Workers' wages are increasing so quickly that some companies can't take it longer,' said Dan Bin, a fund manager at Shenzhen-based Eastern Bay Investment Management, which invests in technology and consumer-related shares in China and Hong Kong. 'Automation is a general trend in many sectors in China, such as electronics. Of course some companies will consider moving their manufacturing overseas, but it's easier said than done when the supply chain is here.'
     The China Business News on Monday quoted Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou as saying the company planned to use 1 million robots within three years, up from about 10,000 robots in use now and an expected 300,000 next year."
— Lee Chyen Yee and Clare Jim, Reuters

"[..] Artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands recently completed (Oct 12, 2007) his Ph.D. work on the subject of human-robot relationships. His work reminds me of The Caves of Steel, from Asimov, where Elijah Baley, the human detective, and R. Daneel Olivaw his number 2 robot detective, preludes in 1954 the story of an human-robot relationship bearing a great likelihood to what Levy to day proposes: In his thesis, Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners, [he] conjectures that robots will become so human-like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them and even marry them [...] 'It may sound a little weird, but it isn’t,' Levy said. 'Love and sex with robots are inevitable.'
     Dr. Levy argues that psychologists have identified roughly a dozen basic reasons why people fall in love, 'and almost all of them could apply to human-robot relationships. For instance, one thing that prompts people to fall in love are similarities in personality and knowledge, and all of this is programmable. Another reason people are more likely to fall in love is if they know the other person likes them, and that’s programmable too.' "
First International Guide
See a related article here...

war on drugs

From: Reanimation Lbrary

"The Pentagon hasn’t come close to solving the PTSD [Post-traumatic stress disorder] crisis plaguing the current generation of troops. And the top brass looks like it’s ready to try anything — like a major push into a cutting-edge, controversial realm of treatment. One that’d see military personnel popping a pill to wipe away the fear they associate with traumatic memories. [...]
     Of course, the idea of using drugs to tweak memories isn’t without controversy: An online debate flared last year among two camps of neurologists and neuroethicists, arguing over whether the existence of such drugs would 'alter something that makes us all human,' or open a Pandora’s Box of illicit use 'by people doing things they’d like to forget themselves, or that they would like others to forget.'”
— Katie Drummond, Wired
Read more..

"The field of memory-altering drugs has been marching forward for years, and we’ve seen several recent developments that can change our recollection of fear or trauma. In one example, rats given a brain injection had their fears extinguished; in another, researchers recently learned that a drug that suppresses stress hormones can interfere with the formation of negative memories.
     These types of drugs would have several uses, like helping military personnel overcome post-traumatic stress syndrome and return home to lead healthy lives; helping crime victims rehabilitate; and treating psychological disorders that might stem from some type of childhood trauma.
     But many ethicists argue these kinds of drugs should not be developed. People have memories for a reason, and changing or erasing them alters something that makes us all human. Not to mention that a tool that can erase memories could easily be abused by people doing things they’d like to forget themselves, or that they would like others to forget."
— Rebecca Boyle, Popsci

"It would be hard to imagine improving on the intelligence of computer engineer Bjoern Stenger, a doctoral candidate at Cambridge University. Yet for several hours, a pill seemed to make him even brainier.
     Participating in a research project, Stenger downed a green gelatin cap containing a drug called modafinil. Within an hour, his attention sharpened. So did his memory. He aced a series of mental-agility tests. If his brainpower would normally rate a 10, the drug raised it to 15, he said.
     'I was quite focused,' said Stenger. 'It was also kind of fun.'
     The age of smart drugs is dawning. Modafinil is just one in an array of brain-boosting medications — some already on pharmacy shelves and others in development — that promise an era of sharper thinking through chemistry.
     These drugs may change the way we think. And by doing so, they may change who we are."
— Melissa Healy. LA Times

Friday, 16 December 2011

passing wind

From: Wikipedia

"In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.
     'Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing,' Dr Semiletov said. 'I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them.'
     Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.
— Steve Connor, The Independent

"I'm not going to kiss his ring, and I'm not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy." — John Huntsman

"Donald Trump is famous here in Scotland. Famous for his cruel treatment of the ordinary people he has tried hard to oust from their homes so he can get control of their land, which adjoins the golf resort he is trying to build north of Aberdeen. (There is an excellent documentary on his unpleasant dealings: You've Been Trumped. The capacity crowd in Edinburgh the night I saw it broke into applause, and it was not for the Donald.) To see Trump trying to play a decisive role in choosing the next Republican presidential candidate even as he threatens to split their vote by running against them as an independent really interests us over here. It should be even more interesting to those of you who are on the left hand side of the Atlantic. [...]
     The thought of Trump having political power and influence convinces me that assholocracy is going to get my vote at the American Dialect Society's voting session. [...]
     The whole Arab Spring has been a process of bringing down assholocracies. Italy suffered under one until recently. Russia and Syria are now protesting against their own crooked assholocracies, and the only reason North Korea and Zimbabwe don't do the same is that they daren't, they could be killed. We in the West are going to need a term for being ruled by assholocrats, because they continue to threaten to exercise power over huge parts of the earth's population even if not (yet) over us."
— Geoffrey K. Pullum, Language Log

Thursday, 15 December 2011

"Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, [...]" — Wikipedia

Source images: Hey Look, Animals!; CainGram.com

"Democrats initially insisted on paying for the payroll tax cut extension with a surcharge on millionaires, but gave it up because they knew Republicans wouldn't go along with it--even though every poll shows strong support among an overwhelming supermajority of Americans for raising taxes on the super rich to pay for popular programs. And in this case, not even a popular program, but a tax cut. Democrats gave that up, and are hoping to pass the popular middle-class tax cut extensions with a continuing resolution. In other words, Democrats wanted to do something popular, and pay for it by doing something even more popular. When Republicans denied them the opportunity to do the super-popular thing, they settled for just the popular thing--the tax cut that Republicans refuse to pass on its own. That sounds pretty much like compromise to me. So what is the Republican plan passed by the House?
     Mr. Reid wants to quickly vote the bill down because while it would extend a cut in Social Security payroll taxes for 160 million workers, it also eases the way for an oil pipeline opposed by environmental groups, blocks certain air pollution rules, freezes the pay of many federal employees through 2013, increases some Medicare premiums, and greatly reduces unemployment benefits and adds a host of new rules for receiving them.
     Perfect. Republicans want to roll back air quality rules (deeply unpopular), build a tar sands pipeline (middlingly popular but apocalyptic for the climate), freeze the pay of federal employees through 2013 (popular but arbitrary, punitive, near useless for deficit reduction, and harmful during a recession), increase Medicare premiums (insanely unpopular), stiff unemployment benefits (unpopular, heartless and again stupid during a recession) and force the unemployed to jump through more hoops (degrading and pointless. Wait, no. Degrading the unemployed as subhuman is the whole point.) [...]
     Which particular insane poison pills in the Republican House bill should Democrats vote for in order to avert a government shutdown?
     What more proof would you have that Republicans don't care if the government shuts down, because they hate government anyway, and because the economic tailspin caused by a shutdown would, in their calculations, sabotage the economy thereby hurting the President's re-election chances? What would it take for you to finally tell your readers the truth: that Republicans, like the evil mother in the Judgment of Solomon, are willing to kill the baby to get what they want over and over again, while Democrats continue to play the role of the good mother, giving up everything they own to save it?"
— David Atkins, Hullabaloo

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

do it with e-feeling

From: Cover Browser

"Teledildonics (also known as 'cyberdildonics') are electronic sex toys that can be controlled by a computer to reach orgasm. Promoters of these devices have claimed since the 1980s they are the 'next big thing' in cybersex technology. 'Teledildonics' can also refer to the integration of telepresence with sex that these toys make possible — the term was coined in 1975 by Ted Nelson in his Computer Lib/Dream Machines.
     In its original conception, this technology was to have been used for remote sex (or, at least, remote mutual masturbation), where the physical sensations of touch could be transmitted over a data link between the participants. A report in the Chicago Tribune in 1993 suggested that teledildonics was 'the virtual-reality technology that may one day allow people wearing special bodysuits, headgear and gloves to engage in tactile sexual relations from separate, remote locations via computers connected to phone lines.'
     Sex toys that can be manipulated remotely by another party are currently coming onto the market. These toys sometimes come with prerecorded movies to which the toys' actions are synchronized by means of a previously-written script. Other products being released fit a new category called bluedildonics, which allow a sex toy to be controlled remotely via a Bluetooth connection. A report in 2008 suggested that teledildonics, along with text and email and webcams, can be used to 'wind each other up to fever pitch during the working day' as a prelude to sex with a human during the evening hours. New technologies can help people establish 'emotional connections' via the web. A book reviewer of David Levy's Love and Sex with Robots in the Guardian in 2008 suggested that teledildonics was 'but one stage in a technological and social revolution in which robots will play increasingly attend to our needs with magic fingers'; Levy argued that by 2050 'sex with robots will be commonplace.'"

"Imprinting electronic circuitry on backplanes that are both flexible and stretchable promises to revolutionize a number of industries and make 'smart devices' nearly ubiquitous. Among the applications that have been envisioned are electronic pads that could be folded away like paper, coatings that could monitor surfaces for cracks and other structural failures, medical bandages that could treat infections and food packaging that could detect spoilage. From solar cells to pacemakers to clothing, the list of smart applications for so-called 'plastic electronics' is both flexible and stretchable. First, however, suitable backplanes must be mass-produced in a cost-effective way. [...]
     To demonstrate the utility of their carbon nanotube backplanes, the researchers constructed an artificial electronic skin (e-skin) capable of detecting and responding to touch."
Science Daily
See a related article here...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

"you can't hide your lyin' eyes" —the eagles

"Note how the 8.6 percent unemployment rate in November looks higher than March's 8.8 percent rate, and about the same as the 9 percent unemployment rate in October [and January]."

Images and text from: Media Matters

hot spot

"The poster is for an LNER train, which is the London North Eastern Railway service, so trains going from Kings Cross to places like Edinburgh. We can just picture the classy and demure travellers as they relaxed in the 'Pathé L.N.E.R. Saloon,' the countryside silently sliding past them as they tucked into a feast of the latest British Pathé reels.
     The films shown on the train were actually issued only 7 days before the scheduled event, so it was pretty hot off the press. It’s interesting to see that Ireland is quite well covered, and also that boxing appears to be the most highly-sought sport.
     The train’s cinema carriage wasn’t free – it cost 1 shilling – so it would have been a bit of a treat, but think about it – people didn’t have televisions in the 1930s and they had to go to a cinema house to see moving footage.  We love that the poster tells customers that the Pathé saloon is non-inflammable too! Of course earlier newsreels were made out of nitrate, and almost everybody smoked, so you can understand the concern." — The British Pathé Blog

Monday, 12 December 2011

parrots are always right

From: Reanimation Library

"People rate statements that have been repeated just once as more valid or true than things they've heard for the first time. They even rate statements as truer when the person saying them has been repeatedly lying.
     And when we think something is more true, we also tend to be more persuaded by it. Several studies have shown that people are more swayed when they hear statements of opinion and persuasive messages more than once.
     Easy to understand = true
     This is what psychologists call the illusion of truth effect and it arises at least partly because familiarity breeds liking. As we are exposed to a message again and again, it becomes more familiar. Because of the way our minds work, what is familiar is also true. Familiar things require less effort to process and that feeling of ease unconsciously signals truth (this is called cognitive fluency).
     As every politician knows, there's not much difference between actual truth and the illusion of truth. Since illusions are often easier to produce, why bother with the truth?
The exact opposite is also true. If something is hard to think about then people tend to believe it less. Naturally this is very bad news for people trying to persuade others of complicated ideas in what is a very complicated world. [...]
     It's a depressing enough finding about the human ability to process rational arguments but recent research has shown an even more worrying effect. We can effectively persuade ourselves through repetition. A study has shown that when an idea is retrieved from memory, this has just as powerful a persuasive effect on us as if it had been repeated twice.
     The aspiring sceptic, therefore, should be especially alert to thoughts that come quickly and easily to mind—we can easily persuade ourselves with a single recall of a half-remembered thought."

"Targeted interruption: This is an amazing ability to know exactly when to interrupt the other party so they will not effectively get their points across. After years of watching this, I finally saw someone confronted on this behavior. But Noam Chomsky, a famous intellectual and linguist no less, was effectively undermined at the hands of an expert interrupter, William F. Buckley. Buckley was so talented, he almost made apartheid sound like it was a boon to civilization."
— Robert A. Yourell, BrainBlogger

Sunday, 11 December 2011

white... hope

From: FightingBlog

"This fantasy ran wild four years ago. Obama is 'probably the smartest guy ever to become president,' the presidential historian Michael Beschloss announced shortly after the November election. The then-candidate’s Philadelphia address on race and Jeremiah Wright was 'as great a speech as ever given by a presidential candidate,' a group of progressive luminaries declared in The Nation. Obama’s Dreams From My Father is quite possibly 'the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician,' Time Magazine’s Joe Klein declared. 'He is not the Word made flesh,' Ezra Klein wrote of Obama’s rhetoric in The American Prospect, 'but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair.'
     It’s easy to see why this kind of myth-making would infuriate Obama’s opponents. And so ever since the 2008 election, the right has embraced a sweeping counternarrative, in which the president’s eloquence is a myth and his brilliance a pure invention. Take away his campaign razzle-dazzle and his media cheering section, this argument goes, and what remains is a droning pedant, out of his depth and tongue-tied without a teleprompter.
     This is where [Newt] Gingrich comes in. Just as [John] Kerry’s candidacy represented an attempt to effectively out-patriot George W. Bush ('You have a war president? We have a war hero!'), the former speaker has skillfully played to the Republican desire for a candidate who can finally outsmart and out-orate Obama."
— Ross Douthat, The New York Times

serfing the net

From: Reanimation Library

"The cluster of ideas, meanings, and implications associated with Web 2.0 has been amalgamating for the better part of a decade, steadily consolidating to the point where few would deny its cultural significance. The development of more sophisticated search engines and the promulgation of social media have combined to turn casual computer users into simultaneous producer-consumers with an ever-intensifying incentive to weave digital interfaces into all facets of their everyday life. The ubiquity of broadband access and the onslaught of gadgetry has allowed the internet to take on the characteristics of what autonomist Marxists like Paolo Virno and Toni Negri call the social factory, in which the effort we put into our social lives becomes a kind of covert work that can be co-opted by the tech companies that help us 'share' and 'connect.'
     Those nice-sounding words mask the potentially exploitative aspects of the process. In Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy, Tiziana Terranova argues that 'the internet is about the extraction of value out of continuous, updateable work, and it is extremely labor-intensive.' Nicholas Carr has described Web 2.0 as 'digital sharecropping,' a way of putting 'the means of production into the hands of the masses but withholding from those same masses any ownership over the product of their work.' The internet thereby becomes 'an incredibly efficient mechanism to harvest the economic value of the free labor provided by the very many and concentrate it into the hands of the very few.'
     But if it is so exploitative, why do we bother with all the 'sharing?' It may be because we don’t experience this effort as work but instead as simply being ourselves, which Web 2.0 seeks to make synonymous with digital participation. [...]"
— Rob Horning, The New Inquiry

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