Curtain Raiser

A River Died in Brazil, Colltalers

The Amazon usually follows any mention of the words Brazil and environment, but not this time. On Nov. 5, an iron ore dam in Minas Gerais suffered a catastrophic failure, spilling 60 million cubic meters of mine waste and killing 13 people so far.
The disaster flushed tons of heavy metal-saturated mud into the Doce river basin, and has now spread out into the Atlantic. Sadly, despite its timing, it’s unlikely that the U.N. Paris Climate Conference that starts today will focus too much on it.
Brazil’s government is filing a lawsuit against the giant multinational miners Vale S.A. and BHP Billiton, whose joint venture Samarco operates the wastewater dam, to create a 20-billion reais fund to pay for the environmental disaster.
Pardon our skepticism but that won’t be enough, of course, even if it ever comes to fruition. The scale of the preventable accident, along with the many ways big companies can weasel their way out of responsibility, and Brazil’s not so stellar record protecting its natural resources, conspire against any optimism about a solution. So let’s keep our expectations low for now.
Despite the ‘20,000 Olympic pools of toxic mud’ estimated to have spilled into the river, according to U.N. special rapporteurs John Knox and Baskut Tuncak, Vale for one has already denied that a major catastrophic event even took place. The company did Continue reading

Cold Turkey

A Bird With Multiple Names, Two
Countries & Some Holiday Mash

This was supposed to be the definitive post on why turkeys are called turkeys, what they have to do with Turkey and Peru, and why would anyone care about it.
Instead, it turned out to be just another holiday stupor, a tipsy search on the Internet and a million half-funny comments on why no one seems to have a clear idea.
So, risking making the article almost shorter than its headline, let’s just cover the highlights, while we check the oven and get properly loaded before the guests have parked at the curb.
Americans (including William Burroughs) have held Thanksgiving very dear to their hearts because the holiday is based on a historical folktale and, to this day, it’s still a family gathering by excellence in ways religious dates could never be.
Granted, at this point in time, it’s no longer all about the turkey. Aunts have various dietary needs. Some care only for the sweet potatoes and cranberry jam. And children became vegan and will have their own Tofurkey.
The cooking frenzy that used to animate families of yore have since lost much of its luster with the advent of live football and the Macy’s Parade on TV.
Besides, arguments usually ensue even before all relatives have arrived (more)
Read Also:
* Meatless Time
* It’s Your Bird’s Day

Continue reading

In a Relative Way

100 Years of the Einstein Theory
That Jump-Started the Modern World

Most of the technological wonder mankind grew accustomed during the 20th century, and is still the basis of contemporary life, was not yet in place when a 36-year-old Albert Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity, after a decade of feverish research.
Despite its far reaching concepts and complexities of its precepts, the theory became both popular and enduring, dismantling old assumptions and challenging scientific thought. Its astonishing accuracy has also proven resilient and still ahead of our time.
In fact, along Max Planck’s Quantum Mechanics formulations, Relativity is arguably one of the most comprehensive – despite its gaps – explanations of natural phenomena since Isaac Newton published his Law of Universal Gravitation, over 220 years before.
It guaranteed Einstein immortality and, even if indirectly, the 1921 Nobel of Physics. While only a few could elaborate on its implications, the theory‘s appeal lies on the simplicity of its outline, and almost direct impact and correlation to our world.
Although most of us couldn’t explain gravity to save our lives, many have at least heard about how massive objects, such as (more)

Read Also:
* Whole Shebang
* Time Out of Joint

Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Right to ‘Disagree,’ Colltalers

No one knows why President Obama seems to believe that the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement will be approved by Congress before the end of the year. Or his term, for that matter. He should review what happened to the Obamacare for measure.
If his signature bill took most of his two terms and it’s still periodically challenged, despite having some significant public support, why would it be any different with the unpopular and, in certain instances, downright wrong approach to free trade, the TPP?
Even though it involves a record 12 nations, in the largest regional trade agreement in history, secrecy covering its 5-year negotiation period seemed to indicate that a lot that was being discussed would not exactly favor the interests of citizens around the world.
When a draft of its content was finally released, a few weeks ago, and some of those fears were confirmed, general suspicion over the rush to give it only 60 days for debating it, sending it for approval in Congress, and turning it into law, made even more sense.
For since early drafts were leaked this year, it became clear that this was a far-reaching accord requiring closed-door deliberations, in order to be ironed down according to the specifications of some of the world’s biggest multinational corporations.
That was never a recipe for guaranteeing rights and safeguards to the interests of the public. Now that much of those early suspicions have been confirmed, opposition to its approval will most likely Continue reading

Relief Express

Pastafarians, a Racing Jew, Some
Nice Kids & the Extinction Volunteers

It’s been one of those weeks. Time to switch gears, if only for a few minutes, and check what else is on the news. Often, behind the main, bleeding, headlines, precious morsels are quirk and instructive enough to help us all carry on. For indeed, carry on we must.
Some may pick a religion like Pastafarianism. Others may give a horse the ‘2015 Forward Jew’ award. Or send out potatoes by mail. And just so you know, children raised agnostic are more generous, a new study found, and you too can be a Human Extinction Volunteer.
Before diving in today’s selections, a last look at the aftermath of the Paris attacks show things not looking any better yet, so you’re excused for simply not taking any more of it. A predictable script is on and it doesn’t take much to see where it’s leading us to.
More than what happened after Madrid in 2004, or London the year after, just to name two big European cities, Paris is once again ground zero to a major rumor mill that’s helping feed a resurgent ‘need’ to bomb the hell of everyone. And bombing they’ve been, ceaselessly.
We won’t get too deep into this deranged rationale, but important clues, pointing to a possible circular, and ineffective, result are once again being brushed off, just as it’s been since 911. You know, terror, ISIL, er, Daesh, refugees, patriots, Those People, you get the drift.
So let’s give this 24/7 prep-news vigil, eating up our sleep, a rest, ignore a supposed ‘clatter’ some intel agency has detected, and while doubting the ‘certainty’ of a link individual freedom-extremism, and the ‘imminence’ of another nightmare, take a moment to breathe. You know, suck the air in and out.

Now, may humor snap you out of it, and trigger some real social change before you can say, wait a minute. That’s what some Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster members are aiming at, as a Massachusetts agency now allows them to wear a Pasta Strainer for their state Driver’s License photo. Say (Parmesan) cheese!
More than a joke or quirky fashion mores are involved, though, as many consider U.S. religion laws unfairly biased. Taking a page of the Messianic faiths playbook, FSM folk are determined to (more)
Read Also:
* Helping Themselves
* Curb Your God
* Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Bees
Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Our Insane Heart of Darkness, Colltalers

129 death. 532 hurt. The grim tally of last Friday’s bloodshed in Paris keeps rising just as grief and indignation overcomes the world. Once again, we’re frightened by an invisible monster who seems to erupt at random and violently rips out the lives of innocents at will.
But if there are many realizations about yet another act of brutal terrorism, its apparent open-ended expansion and choice of settings to strike, there’s also one that we’ve known all along about this sort of massacre, however horrific it may be: it teaches us nothing.
If anything, it only reinforces everything that’s wrong about our world, our mutual hatred towards people who don’t look like us, our misplaced sense of entitlement and patriotism, our abhorrent ways to seek total, and ultimately impossible, submission of our enemies.
Even to pontificate on the sins of our age is also a by-product of going through again this unrealistic exercise of searching causes that we already know for conflicts that we keep on making possible. In the end, it’s hard to distinguish which is more unbearable: to experience deep sorrow for the victims, or witness the callousness of political leaders, ready for anything that’ll boost their profile.
The only thing that this new massacre may have accomplished is also not new: it’s just moved the needle a bit closer to Continue reading

Tomorrow Never Knows

The World As We Know it &
Those That Aren’t Meant to Be

‘The future ain’t what it used to be.’ When Yogi Berra uttered his now often repeated axiom years ago, he was uncannily signaling the age of under-achievement and malaise that followed the great promises of the Atomic Era. Sadly, for a generation geared up to dream big, there would be no flying cars floating around anytime soon.
Nevertheless, many ventured into the risky business of divining what’s coming, some with insight, some spectacularly off, and others with a bit of both. Fortunately Berra, whose outstanding performance at his day job has eclipsed his talent to turn a simple interjection into a treatise of wit and charm, never did anything of the sort.
Back in 1900, when John Elfreth Watkins Jr. imagined ‘rays of invisible light’ allowing us to peek inside the body without having to cut it open, he was making an educated assumption. After all, science had just developed tools that did uncover a miniature world, previously invisible to the naked eye.
In comparison, George Hoyle‘s prediction, made some 70 years later, that everybody would be wearing jumpsuits by 2010, was almost embarrassingly wrong. But in all fairness, he did get lots of things right. And so did Bill Gates in 1995, when he envisioned people carrying computers in their pockets a mere 20 years ahead.

What these no doubt visionaries were doing, though, was engaging in futurology, a rather guessing game, when one’s chances of catching lucky breaks are as likely as piling on a bunch of misses. Not without some irony, science fiction writers by far have always been the group with the better accuracy record than anybody else.
But even though Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and so many others got so much stuff right, many of which being already part of our daily lives, they’ve spoiled us all rot. That’s where our startlingly misguided resentment (more)
Read Also:
* The Illustrated Man
* The Long Good Friday
* Not Human
Continue reading