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  • feedwordpress 09:01:18 on 2019/02/23 Permalink
    Tags: Brazil, , Crusades, Diocletian, Far Right, Hagia Sofia, , , , ,   

    “History repeats itself, “the first as tragedy, then as farce”*… 


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    Brazil

    The First Mass in Brazil, by Victor Meirelles, oil on canvas, 1860

     

    On the day of Jair Bolsonaro‘s inauguration as president of Brazil, Felipe Martins, a political blogger close to the Bolsonaro family, tweeted his personal celebration of Bolsonaro’s victory: “The New Order is here. Everything is ours! Deus vult!

    Observers would be forgiven for wondering why “Deus vult”—Latin for “God wills it,” a medieval battle cry associated with the First Crusade—is reappearing in 21st-century Brazil. In recent years, the “Deus vult” line has been appropriated by the far right in Europe and the United States, and has now become a slogan for the far right in Brazil. Indeed, Martins had already explicitly linked this battle cry to the Crusades when he tweeted on the day of the second round of elections, “The new Crusade is decreed. Deus vult!” On January 3rd, Bolsonaro named Martins as presidential special adviser for international affairs.

    In Bolsonaro’s Brazil, the new government and far-right groups are propagandizing a fictional version of the European Middle Ages, insisting that the period was uniformly white, patriarchal, and Christian. This reactionary revisionism presents Brazil as Portugal’s highest achievement, emphasizing a historical continuity that casts white Brazilians as the true heirs to Europe. In this way, through a genetic view of history, the far right frames Brazilian history as essentially linked to Portugal’s own imaginarily pure medieval past…

    In Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, the new government and far-right groups are propagandizing a fictional version of the European Middle Ages to legitimize their reactionary agenda: “Why the Brazilian Far Right Loves the European Middle Ages.”

    * Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

    ###

    As we resist (opportunistic) revisionism, we might recall that it was on this date in 303 that Roman emperor Diocletian orders the destruction of the Christian church in Nicomedia, beginning eight years of Diocletianic Persecution, the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.

    800px-Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Christian_Martyrs'_Last_Prayer_-_Walters_37113

    “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer,” by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883)

    source

    230 years later, on this date in 532, Byzantine emperor Justinian I ordered the building of a new Orthodox Christian basilica in Constantinople – the temple that became the  Hagia Sophia.

    220px-Hagia_Sophia_Mars_2013 source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:31 on 2019/02/22 Permalink
    Tags: beverages, Cocktails, , drinks, , , , Margarita,   

    “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”*… 


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    Coffee

     

    Cream, milk, skim milk, sugar, sweetener; more recently, soy milk, almond milk…  there’s not a lot of variation in the things one adds to coffee.  Phronk has devoted himself to blazing alternative paths…

    This is a blog about putting weird things in coffee. I drink coffee every day, but get bored with the same old cream and sugar. I figured I might as well document my experiments for the benefit of all humankind…

    From “Maple Bacon Latte” through “Tumeric and Matcha in Coffee” to “The Peanut Butter Solution: PB2 in Coffee.” he guides one through preparation, then assesses the results of dozens of adventurous brews.

    Take a sip at “Putting Weird Things in Coffee.”

    [TotH to Eureka!]

    * Abraham Lincoln

    ###

    As we broaden our horizons, we might recall that today is National Margarita Day.  While its origin is uncertain (there are several competing creation stories), it is indisputably the most-ordered cocktail in the U.S., accounting for almost 20% of all mixed drink sales in the U.S.

    20150323-cocktails-vicky-wasik-margarita source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:45 on 2019/02/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , dead bodies, , Ellen Stroud, , , Leonard Woolley, , Ur   

    “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future”*… 


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    P-prairie-creek-burial

    Wrapped in a cotton shroud, Joseph Fitzgerald is laid to rest in 2013 at the Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery in Gainesville, Florida. “Green” burials like this are becoming increasingly popular.

     

    Death has always been a fact of life. But somehow, even after endless repetitions of the cycle, we still haven’t figured out how we feel about dead bodies. Are they vessels of loved ones that should be preserved for as long as possible? Bundles of organic material that should be reunited with the earth? Harsh reminders of our own mortality that should be disposed of quickly and thoroughly?

    Ellen Stroud, an environmental historian at Penn State University, explored the macabre history and legal ambiguities of American bodies in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science. From the one-footed 87-year-old man sold to a medical school for $10 in 1902 to the plasticized people put on display in traveling exhibits today, bodies continue to challenge our ideas of justice and humanity…

    An environmental historian looks at how Americans treat corpses and what it means: “She Sees Dead Bodies.”

    Pair with this (unsentimental, illuminating) account of the last words of the dying: “What People Actually Say Before They Die.”

    * Robert Penn Warren

    ###

    As we muse on on the morals of mortality, we might spare a thought for Sir Charles Leonard Woolley; he died on this date in 1960.  Recognized as one of the first “modern” archaeologists– which is to say, one who excavated in a methodical way, kept careful records, and used them to reconstruct ancient life and history– his excavation (1922-34) of the ancient Sumerian city of Ur (in modern Iraq), the royal burial site of many Mesopotamian royals, greatly advanced knowledge of ancient Mesopotamian civilization, enabling scholars to trace the history of the city from its final days during the 4th century BC back to its prehistoric beginnings (c. 4000 BC).

    His finds revealed much about everyday life, art, architecture, literature, government, and religion in this “cradle of civilization. ”  In royal tombs dating from about 2700 BC, he uncovered the practice of the sacrificial burial of a deceased king’s personal retinue. He discovered tombs of great material wealth, gold and silver jewelry, large paintings of ancient Mesopotamian culture at its zenith, and other furnishings.  His widely read Ur of the Chaldees: A record of seven years of excavation (1929), described his findings in a manner both informative to specialists and accessible by lay-people.

    220px-Woolley_holding_the_hardened_plaster_mold_of_a_lyre

    Woolley holding the excavated Sumerian Queen’s Lyre in 1922

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:08 on 2019/02/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    “Poetry is emotion put into measure”*… 


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    concretepoem

    Concrete poem

     

    From Petrarchian through Cinquain to Sestina, Adam Bertocci offers 22 variations on Shakespeare’s most famous poem: “Alternate Forms for Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.”

    * Thomas Hardy

    ###

    As we match content to form, we might send craftily-constructed birthday greetings to Ross Thomas; he was born on this date in 1928.  A thriller writer considered by many to be America’s answer to Len Deighton or John Le Carre– only funnier– he wrote The Cold War Swap, his first novel, in six weeks– and won the 1967 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  He went on to write 19 other novels under his own name and 5 as “Oliver Bleeck.”  His 1984 novel, Briarpatch, won the Edgar for Best Novel.  In 2002, he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award— with Ed McBain, one of only two posthumous recipients.

    ross thomas source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:08 on 2019/02/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    “Poetry is emotion put into measure”*… 


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    concretepoem

    Concrete poem

     

    From Petrarchian through Cinquain to Sestina, Adam Bertocci offers 22 variations on Shakespeare’s most famous poem: “Alternate Forms for Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.”

    * Thomas Hardy

    ###

    As we match content to form, we might send craftily-constructed birthday greetings to Ross Thomas; he was born on this date in 1928.  A thriller writer considered by many to be America’s answer to Len Deighton or John Le Carre– only funnier– he wrote The Cold War Swap, his first novel, in six weeks– and won the 1967 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  He went on to write 19 other novels under his own name and 5 as “Oliver Bleeck.”  His 1984 novel, Briarpatch, won the Edgar for Best Novel.  In 2002, he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award— with Ed McBain, one of only two posthumous recipients.

    ross thomas source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:31 on 2019/02/18 Permalink
    Tags: , Gordon Lightfoot, Hard Rock Park, , , , rumor, ,   

    “Rock and roll is here to stay”*… 


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    HardRockPark

     

    Hard Rock Park, a 50-acre rock music-themed amusement park just outside Myrtle Beach in South Carolina… billed as the world’s first rock and roll theme park, opened its gates to the public in the spring of 2008. One of the first things visitors saw when they walked through the gates was a giant electric guitar—rising 90 feet over the park’s central lagoon, the statue loomed into view as park-goers strolled past the bell towers of the entry plaza, modeled after the buildings in the cover art of Hotel California. If they looked down as they approached the water, they would realize they were standing on the frets of another guitar, set into the pavement.

    The Gibson statue was iconic, but it wasn’t the park’s largest structure. That was Led Zeppelin The Ride: a roughly 150-foot tall rollercoaster designed in partnership with the band and synced to its 1969 hit, “Whole Lotta Love.” Riders boarded inside a life-sized airship, and speakers blasted the song’s breakdown as they were cranked up the lift hill; the iconic guitar riff kicked in as the train hurtled out of the first loop.

    Across the water, a huge mural beckoned visitors into a Moody Blues-themed dark ride called Nights in White Satin: The Trip, designed to evoke a multisensory psychedelic experience. The adjacent concert arenas hosted artists like the Eagles, Kid Rock, and Charlie Daniels; after sunset, the lagoon erupted into a nightly fountain and firework extravaganza choreographed to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Lasers shot from the head of the guitar statue during Brian May’s solo, before a sparkler-covered kite was towed around the water during the song’s final bars…

    Hard Rock Park closed after just five months, amid the 2008 financial crisis.  Learn its (fascinating) story and take a stroll through what remains at “The Spectacular Failure of the World’s Only Hard Rock Theme Park.”

    * Neil Young

    ###

    As we wave our lighters, we might recall that it was on this date in 2010 that Gordon Lightfoot (one of the fathers of folk-pop and “Canada’s greatest songwriter”), driving himself home from a visit to his dentist, heard on the radio that he had died.  “It seems like a bit of a hoax or something,” the then-71-year-old singer said at the time. “I was quite surprised to hear it myself.”

    (As it happened, then-CTV journalist David Akin had posted on Twitter and Facebook a rumor that he’d heard that Lightfoot had died… without qualifying that it was a rumor.)

    220px-GordonLightfoot_Interlochen source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 18:30:54 on 2019/02/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , Engles, GDP, , , , , ,   

    “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined by the GDP”*… 


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    GDP

     

    Is the world becoming increasingly prosperous? It would be hard to answer “yes” right now, at least so far as the leading high-income economies are concerned. Yet the longstanding bellwether of economic progress – inflation-adjusted GDP – has been growing across most of the OECD since 2010, suggesting that everything is fine.

    Some 80 years after GDP was introduced, nearly everyone (apart from the indicator’s stewards) has concluded that it is  of economic progress. But there is no consensus yet on a possible replacement. Reaching agreement on an alternative will require a new concept of prosperity and a new way to measure whether living standards are improving…

    Over eight decades after its introduction, there is a widespread consensus that GDP is no longer a useful measure of economic progress.  Its successor will need to be compelling and tell a persuasive story, consistent with experience, of what is happening in our economies.  Diane Coyle offers some leads on possible successors: “What Will Succeed GDP?

    * Simon Kuznets

    ###

    As we grope for good gauges, we might recall that it was on this date in 1848 that a political pamphlet by the German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, was published.  Commissioned by the Communist League and written in German, it appeared as the Revolutions of 1848 began to erupt.  Subsequently, of course, Marx elaborated on his argument (with Engel’s help, after Marx’s death) in Das Kapital.

    150px-Communist-manifesto

    Cover of the first edition

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:03 on 2019/02/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , Blondie, Chic Young, , , Dear Abby, , marriage, scoiology,   

    “A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety”*… 


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    advice

     

    What should a woman do when her husband chooses to spend time with his new pet monkey, rather than sleep with her? How does one counsel the mother who is so concerned about her daughter’s girlfriend that she’s considering casting a spell as a last resort? What about the wife who walks in on her husband of 23 years having sex with her brother? And what of the more mundane issues? Say, family squabbles over coarse behavior, or an ambivalent heart?

    For more than half a century, Dear Abby—America’s longest-running advice column, first penned by Pauline Phillips under the pseudonym Abigail van Buren, and today by her daughter, Jeanne—has offered counsel to thousands of worried and conflicted readers. Syndicated in more than 1,200 newspapers at the height of its popularity, it offers an unprecedented look at the landscape of worries that dominate US life. The column has been continuously in print since 1956. No other source in popular culture has elicited so many Americans to convey their earnest concerns for so long…

    The good folks at The Pudding have pored through 20,000 letters to the advice columnist tell us about what—and who—concerns us most: “30 Years of American Anxieties.”

    For another fascinating example of the work at The Pudding, see “A brief history of the past 100 years as told through the New York Times archives.”

    * Aesop

    ###

    As we agonize over anguish, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that Blondie Boopapdoop (her surname derived from the 1928 song “I Wanna Be Loved by You”) and Dagwood Bumstead were married in Chic Young’s comic strip, Blondie.

    The strip had started in 1930 as a chronicle of the adventures of Blondie, a carefree flapper who spent her days in dance halls along with her boyfriend Dagwood, heir to a railroad fortune.  Dagwood’s parents strongly disapproved of the match, and disinherited him, leaving him only with a check to pay for their honeymoon.  Thus, the Bumsteads were forced to become a middle-class suburban family.  As the catalog for a University of Florida 2005 exhibition, “75 Years of Blondie, 1930–2005,” notes:

    Blondie’s marriage marked the beginning of a change in her personality. From that point forward, she gradually assumed her position as the sensible head of the Bumstead household. And Dagwood, who previously had been cast in the role of straight man to Blondie’s comic antics, took over as the comic strip’s clown.

    Blondie source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:00 on 2019/02/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , John Mauchly, , library of the future, Presper Eckert,   

    “It is likely that libraries will carry on and survive, as long as we persist in lending words to the world that surrounds us, and storing them for future readers”*… 


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    library

     

    Many visions of the future lie buried in the past. One such future was outlined by the American librarian Charles Ammi Cutter in his essay “The Buffalo Public Library in 1983”, written a century before in 1883.

    Cutter’s fantasy, at times dry and descriptive, is also wonderfully precise:

    The [library], when complete, was to consist of two parts, the first a central store, 150 feet square, a compact mass of shelves and passageways, lighted from the ends, but neither from sides nor top; the second an outer rim of rooms 20 feet wide, lighted from the four streets. In front and rear the rim was to contain special libraries, reading-rooms, and work-rooms; on the sides, the art-galleries. The central portion was a gridiron of stacks, running from front to rear, each stack 2 feet wide, and separated from its neighbor by a passage of 3 feet. Horizontally, the stack was divided by floors into 8 stories, each 8 feet high, giving a little over 7 feet of shelf-room, the highest shelf being so low that no book was beyond the reach of the hand. Each reading-room, 16 feet high, corresponded to two stories of the stack, from which it was separated in winter by glass doors.

    The imagined structure allows for a vast accumulation of books:

    We have now room for over 500,000 volumes in connection with each of the four reading-rooms, or 4,000,000 for the whole building when completed.

    If his vision for Buffalo Public Library might be considered fairly modest from a technological point of view, when casting his net a little wider to consider a future National Library, one which “can afford any luxury”, things get a little more inventive.

    [T]hey have an arrangement that brings your book from the shelf to your desk. You have only to touch the keys that correspond to the letters of the book-mark, adding the number of your desk, and the book is taken off the shelf by a pair of nippers and laid in a little car, which immediately finds its way to you. The whole thing is automatic and very ingenious…

    But for Buffalo book delivery is a cheaper, simpler, and perhaps less noisy, affair.

    …for my part I much prefer our pages with their smart uniforms and noiseless steps. They wear slippers, the passages are all covered with a noiseless and dustless covering, they go the length of the hall in a passage-way screened off from the desk-room so that they are seen only when they leave the stack to cross the hall towards any desk. As that is only 20 feet wide, the interruption to study is nothing.

    Cutter’s fantasy might appear fairly mundane, born out of the fairly (stereo)typical neuroses of a librarian: in the prevention of all noise (through the wearing of slippers), the halting of the spread of illness (through good ventilation), and the disorder of the collection (through technological innovations)…

    Far from a wild utopian dream, today Cutter’s library of the future appears basic: there will be books and there will be clean air and there will be good lighting. One wonders what Cutter might make of the library today, in which the most basic dream remains perhaps the most radical: for them to remain in our lives, free and open, clean and bright.

    More at the original, in Public Domain Review: “The Library of the Future: A Vision of 1983 from 1883.”  Read Cutter’s essay in its original at the Internet Archive.

    Pair with “Libraries of the future are going to change in some unexpected ways,” in which IFTF Research Director (and Boing Boing co-founder) David Pescovitz describes a very different future from Cutter’s, and from which the image above was sourced.

    * Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

    ###

    As we browse in bliss, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 that the most famous early computer– the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer)– was dedicated.  The first general-purpose computer (Turing-complete, digital, and capable of being programmed and re-programmed to solve different problems), ENIAC was begun in 1943, as part of the U.S’s war effort (as a classified military project known as “Project PX”); it was conceived and designed by John Mauchly and Presper Eckert of the University of Pennsylvania, where it was built.  The finished machine, composed of 17,468 electronic vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-soldered joints, weighed more than 27 tons and occupied a 30 x 50 foot room– in its time the largest single electronic apparatus in the world.  ENIAC’s basic clock speed was 100,000 cycles per second. Today’s home computers have clock speeds of 1,000,000,000 cycles per second.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:54 on 2019/02/15 Permalink
    Tags: , cognitive diversity, , , , , , , , ,   

    “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”*… 


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    idea_sized-aymara-chile-35407509066_24c283c244_o

    With the appearance of the first rays of the sun from Cerro Huantajaya in Alto Hospicio, northern Chile, people celebrate the arrival of the Aymara New Year, Machaq Mara, and the arrival of new energies.

     

    For centuries, Inuit hunters navigated the Arctic by consulting wind, snow and sky. Now they use GPS. Speakers of the aboriginal language Gurindji, in northern Australia, used to command 28 variants of each cardinal direction. Children there now use the four basic terms, and they don’t use them very well. In the arid heights of the Andes, the Aymara developed an unusual way of understanding time, imagining the past as in front of them, and the future at their backs. But for the youngest generation of Aymara speakers – increasingly influenced by Spanish – the future lies ahead.

    These are not just isolated changes. On all continents, even in the world’s remotest regions, indigenous people are swapping their distinctive ways of parsing the world for Western, globalised ones. As a result, human cognitive diversity is dwindling – and, sadly, those of us who study the mind had only just begun to appreciate it.

    In 2010, a paper titled ‘The Weirdest People in the World?’ gave the field of cognitive science a seismic shock. Its authors, led by the psychologist Joe Henrich at the University of British Columbia, made two fundamental points. The first was that researchers in the behavioural sciences had almost exclusively focused on a small sliver of humanity: people from Western, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic societies. The second was that this sliver is not representative of the larger whole, but that people in London, Buenos Aires and Seattle were, in an acronym, WEIRD.

    But there is a third fundamental point, and it was the psychologist Paul Rozin at the University of Pennsylvania who made it. In his commentary on the 2010 article, Rozin noted that this same WEIRD slice of humanity was ‘a harbinger of the future of the world’. He had seen this trend in his own research. Where he found cross-cultural differences, they were more pronounced in older generations. The world’s young people, in other words, are converging. The signs are unmistakable: the age of global WEIRDing is upon us….

    Are we breeding a global cultural and cognitive monoculture?  More at: “What happens to cognitive diversity when everyone is more WEIRD?.”

    * Stephen R. Covey

    ###

    As we delight in difference, we might send utilitarian birthday greetings to Jeremy Bentham; the author, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer was born on this date in 1748.  Bentham is considered a founder of modern Utilitarianism (via his own work, and that of his students, including James Mill and his son, John Stuart Mill); he actively advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He argued for the abolition of slavery and the death penalty, and for the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children.

    Bentham was involved in the founding of University College (then, the University of London), the first in England to admit all, regardless of race, creed, or political belief.  On his death, he was dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture– as he specified in his will.  Afterward– again, as Bentham’s will specified– the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton stuffed out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.  Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, preserved to resemble its appearance in life.  But experimental efforts at mummification, though technically successful, left the head looking alarmingly macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.  So the Auto-icon was given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair.

    It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of University College.  The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks, so is now locked away.

     see a virtual, 360-degree rotatable version here

     

     
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