Monday, September 22, 2014

a third breast

Snopes, the site most likely to investigate and debunk unusual human claims, has yet to debunk the tale of a Florida massage thereapist who had a third breast added to her body as a means of getting her own "reality" TV show.
“I got it because I wanted to make myself unattractive to men. Because I don’t want to date anymore,” she said.
“Most guys would think [the extra breast is] weird and gross. But I can still feel pretty because if I wore makeup and cute clothes, I can still, you know... feel pretty.”
I don't know what to think when this was passed along in email, though I wonder why anyone would bother with fiction and a world full of so many facts.
Third eye, third breast, third ...

How different is this from a U.S. Congressman wearing an American flag lapel pin?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

the atmosphere is collapsing

If anyone wanted to depict a ranging catastrophe, would there be better words than those attributed to Omar Jose Gonzalez, the 42-year-old veteran who scaled a White House fence on Friday and got to a door before being barred.

Authorities described him as "armed" because he had a pocket knife, but would a skilled soldier with 13 years of combat experience show up at an assassination with a pocket knife? It doesn't scan in my book.
Gonzales, of Copperas Cove, Texas, allegedly jumped the White House fence along Pennsylvania Avenue at 7:20 p.m. Friday, then crossed the North Lawn and opened the mansion’s front door before being apprehended by a Secret Service police officer standing guard....
According to court documents, Gonzales told Secret Service agents after being apprehended that the “atmosphere was collapsing” and that he had to tell the president so he could warn the public.
Crazy or sane, deluded or clear-eyed ... that's a hell of a description.

student debt dissolved

I don't have any way of verifying the assertions of this article, but it certainly is interesting in its ways of addressing the usury of student loans.

the Ig Nobel awards

[Sept 18, 2014] The 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony introduced ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners - Each has done something that makes people laugh then think.
Winners travelled to the ceremony, at their own expense, from around the world to receive their prize from a group of genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel Laureates, in Harvard's historic and largest theater. 1100 improbable persons filled the theatre, and the whole affair was broadcast live.

The full list of winners this year:
PHYSICS: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, of Kitasato University, Japan, and colleagues, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that's on the floor.
NEUROSCIENCE: Kang Lee, of the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.
PSYCHOLOGY: Peter Jonason, of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, and colleagues for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.
PUBLIC HEALTH: Jaroslav Flegr, of Charles University, Czech Republic, and colleagues for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.
BIOLOGY: Vlastimil Hart, of the Czech University of Life Sciences, and colleagues for carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth's north-south geomagnetic field lines.
ART: Marina de Tommaso, of the University of Bari, Italy, and colleagues for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.
ECONOMICS: The Italian government's National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.
MEDICINE: Ian Humphreys, of Michigan State University, US, and colleagues, for treating "uncontrollable" nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.
ARCTIC SCIENCE: Eigil Reimers, of the University of Oslo, Norway, and colleagues, for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.
NUTRITION: Raquel Rubio, of IRTA, Spain, and colleagues, for their study titled "Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

lease on life and death (pix)

Anti-war protesters hold up signs as U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel takes his seat to testify at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 16, 2014.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A grave cleaner holds the mummified body of a woman during exhumation works at the Verbena cemetery in Guatemala City, April 17, 2013. If a lease on a grave has expired or not been paid, grave cleaners will break open the crypts to remove and rebury the bodies. Any remains that have not been claimed are packed into plastic bags, labelled and stored in mass graves. Bodies that have been stored in the upper crypt are exposed to dry and sunny conditions which means they do not decompose and instead become mummified.
REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez
Children are pictured on the hills on the outskirts of Kathmandu, September 16, 2014.
REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
A Syrian refugee child eats inside his family's tent at an informal settlement in Deir al-Ahmar, Bekaa valley, Lebanon, September 16, 2014.

gay-friendly mosque

A Muslim academic has opened a gay-friendly mosque in South Africa, despite receiving death threats and fierce criticism from parts of the local Muslim community.
Women will also be allowed to lead prayers at Taj Hargey's "Open Mosque" in Cape Town.
Whatever other difficulties the story may suggest, it makes me wonder:

If equality were the goal of any religious persuasion, and if that goal were somehow attained, would/could the religious persuasion any longer exist?

I have a hunch that's one of those questions you're not supposed to ask.

outfoxing a crocodile

Being attacked by an crocodile may not be everyone's idea of a nightmare, but for those afflicted, there is this consoling story of the "slightly tipsy" 20-year-old Australian who was dragged under by an crocodile and had the presence of mind to poke the reptile in the eye.

writing departs

Recent physical difficulties that demanded attention seem to have broken the back of what once was a through-and-through habit of writing ... and crediting it. In a literal sense, words and juxtapositions and frictions that might have formed the basis for one thought oasis or another have lost their pop and defeat the capacities that are left. I can opine and think about, but the writing part -- once convincing and occasionally beautiful and full of sass -- is limp as a used condom.

I kind of miss that verve and attention and excitement and verbiage, but, given circumstances of the present, I am forced into the widespread habit du jour -- too many people telling others what to do and how to do it and not enough people to heed or care about such 'sage' or 'amusing' counsel.

For example, a news story this morning asserts that the CIA has decided to stop spying on its America's allies. The story suggests the CIA was somehow embarrassed or felt that its effectiveness had been dented by the CIA's privacy intrusions. The source of this story is kept secret, but the Associated Press seems to see nothing collusive about printing it as if it were true. My reaction was, "Who makes this shit up and what media outlet is not ashamed to spread it around?!"

In earlier times, I can imagine writing a whole lot about the personal or political Joseph Goebbels program of lying repeatedly until someone believes it. And there always is someone to create the lies and someone willing to ingest them. Religion, politics, war, love, wondrous good and heinous evil. There is no imperative to tell them or deconstruct the scenario ... being alive means deconstructing various kinds of shit ... and/or believing it ... and one (wo)man cannot tell another.  Writing about it is .... what? ... sort of eh or needlessly intrusive, however 'caring' the tone of voice.

The writing has gone away. Maybe, like a $20 bill or a dog turd, someone will find it in the gutter and make use of it. But I sort of wish I were once again more convinced -- or anyway less unconvinced -- by the melodies and arabesques of writing.

Oh well, you can't unthink a purple cow.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"The Roosevelts..." sort of

Watching segments of documentarian Ken Burns' 14-hour "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," I am drawn in inconsequential ways into the past ... imagining things about other times and I might be right or I might be another inattentive fool.

Am I wrong, or did Burns forget to footnote the fact that the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919 killed 50-100 million people worldwide. News outlets in Germany, France and the United States were kept on a short leash when reporting a disease that affected one-fifth  of the world's 1.8 billion. World War I killed 16 million. Spain was allowed to report on the epidemic, which meant there was a sense that Spain was disproportionately affected and hence the name "Spanish flu" got traction.

It's not that the illness occurred on Teddy Roosevelt's watch and he might have done something, but as an historical fact that must have been affecting, I wonder why no notice (unless I missed it) was made of it. But as I say, my reactions were more associative and thin than focused and fair.

More inconsequential still was the effect the still photos of a time span from the late 1800's to the middle of the 1900's seemed to have:

Was I wrong or were those photographed in an earlier time skinnier on average than today's well-flabbed population? I really don't know, but they seemed to be leaner and tougher even in moments of great incapacity. No breasty, botoxed, chatter-box 'housewives.' Fat people were "fat" instead of somehow "challenged."

Perhaps people were skinnier because Sigmund Freud had yet to gain ascendancy. Dissimulation was as popular as ever, no doubt, but its popularity and the wealth required to display it were not so prevalent ... or am I making that up? Does a hungry man have time or energy for pretense? His hungry eyes are hungry, aren't they?

People wrote to the president (FDR) in the reasonable expectation that he might write back or lend a hand where he could.

But columnist George Will, one of the narrators, gets off a good one in Burns' documentary:
"Building on the work of the first Roosevelt, the second Roosevelt gave us the idea, the shimmering, glittering idea of the heroic presidency. And with it the hope that complex problems would yield to charisma. This," Will declares during one episode, "sets the country up for perpetual disappointment."
I can feel the liberals squirming under that lash, but I can also feel the appropriate aspects of the remark: The appropriateness touches the latter-day conservative as well ... no shits and giggles and wool pulled over the eyes, perhaps, but a grand and wafting display of pusillanimous that is stunning in its selfishness.

news snippets

Bits of news --

--  Scotland voted  Thursday not to secede from its union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. By a comparison I am probably not equipped to make, the Scots seemed both enthusiastic and civil in their electoral proceedings, as if they could honestly honor the disagreement of others. Maybe Americans who had political opinions could take a lesson from the Scots.

-- The police-state fervor seemed to gain ground Thursday when the Australians sicced 800 officers on  residents based on a rumor that there was a Islamic State plot afoot to behead Australians and put it on the Internet for propaganda purposes:

800 officers employed.
15 people detained: 
Two of the 15 people whom police had detained Thursday have been charged. Nine were freed before the day was over, and the rest released on Friday.... 
Hundreds of Muslims in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba protested the raids on Thursday night, with speakers accusing the government of exploiting public fear in a bid to get contentious counterterrorism laws through Parliament. (emphasis added).
Prime minister Tony Abbott described the raids as "a show of strength," not overkill.  The Aussies "thwarted a plot" that might occur. For some reason, I thought the Aussies might not fall for that politically efficacious ploy. Silly me.

Samier Dandan said police need to reveal
their evidence that led to counter-terrorism
raids. (ABC-TV)

The Muslim community said that the police should reveal the evidence that it used as the basis for its raids.

Silly Muslims.

800 officers; untold man-hours of work; 'thwarting' the terrorist that is part and parcel of every mind; and two suspects who might -- just might -- be guilty of something, if only thinking. The bang for the judicial buck seems dubious at best. The bang for the political buck is more compelling, however corrupt.

Perhaps as a means of proving that governmental action were crucial,
Security is being upgraded at the Australian parliament following "chatter" suggesting extremists could target it for attack.
PM Tony Abbot said Australian Federal Police would assume responsibility for security at the site in Canberra.
The move came a day after major anti-terrorism raids took place in Sydney.
"Chatter" suggests "extremists" "could" be plotting ... so beef up security and trim the rights package.

And isn't it nice to hear that France has joined the United States in its air strikes against IS in Iraq? It's dicey, of course, pretending that "boots on the ground" aren't in the offing, but the U.S. is manfully employed trying to thread that needle.

-- The p.r. has been pretty unrelenting and today, the Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba finally goes on sale at the New York Stock Exchange. I read the other day that Chinese investors looking to protect/enhance their money were not buying Chinese real estate. They preferred Manhattan, which is largely for sale.

It's a good rule of thumb, I think: Any time there is a sense of wealth and entitlement (stock market, economy, next-door neighbor), it pays to look around and see who's getting screwed and whether it's worth it to be party to that screwing.