Curtain Raiser

No Time to Call it a Day, Colltalers

Gun massacres and wild fires have taken over the headlines, with another batch of dozens of preventable deaths to their account. As these tragedies turn into daily events, they may have already become normalized. Have we lost the will to produce change?
For haven’t we just had a major election? Weren’t these and other issues supposed to have been addressed last Tuesday? Let’s check on the priorities listed here last week, and see whether voters’ choices reflected how concerned we really are about them.
Starting by last Newsletter’s title, we did get an almost great turnout. The best of midterm elections since 1966, with 47% of able to vote electors casting a ballot. Wow, some would say. As for us, though, let’s face it: we’ve got to climb over that 50% hump.
We know, there’s been rampant voter suppression, extreme GOP gerrymandering, hate speech, raw lies, unbound spending and spineless sycophancy, by a party whose members’ top priority is to please the leader. Or be publicly scorned by him, if they lose.
Down the Florida way, it’s 2000 all over again, and Republican bigwigs are landing in droves so recounts of hanging chads may drag long enough for the Supreme Court to be called on and close shop. With few revisions, that old script will be applied again.
Now the issues. We picked climate change, immigration and asylum rights, healthcare, women’s choice, racial and sexual rights, gun control, wage and labor reform, voting rights, plus whatever pet projects you may have, as this nation’s most obvious woes.
Along their enthusiasm, most Democratic and independent new comers have won on commitment to fight climate change and support wind and solar power projects. Pity we still can’t get a majority in such an obvious bad-for-everyone-but-big-oil issue.
The retaking of the House by the Democrats means more than a mere hard-fought comeback, for it’s a game we’re still losing: 1×2. But it was a score all the same and we’ve still got some time. Continue reading

Reaction Wheels

Satellites Die, Visitors Speed Up
& Black Holes Rule the Milky Way

Paraphrasing Lady Michelle Obama, when reality goes low, lift up your eyesight at the universe. (It wasn’t really like that but we’ll stick with her wisdom anytime anyway.) Things are rough on the ground, but out there, they’re still stunning.
Was Uoumuamua, the rare interstellar object that’s just visited us, an alien ship? What about those two satellites that signed off almost simultaneously? Or the black hole at the center of the Milky Way? Will it ever bring back my silk socks?
We allow ourselves to be intrigued by the puzzling and the silly in equal matters. It may become impossible to hold on to our grip on an ever evolving set of circumstances. Life keeps tricking us but we always manage to keeping on coming back for more.
The unpredictable world of lately, what with changing climate conditions and unprepared leaders making stupid decisions, tempts the wisest among us, and it’s OK to seek refuge by just looking at the sky. Never mind most of what we see took place ages ago.
Except when it doesn’t. We count on predictability, even as we complain we’re bored. Thus our light take on the possibility we’ve just met a messenger from another world, the surprising synchronicity of two man-made machines, and, well black holes.

When Dawn (2007) and Kepler (2009) started ‘running on fumes’ last week, within two days but far, far away from each other, it wasn’t a galactic sendoff for love-stricken robots. Their expiration dates had already been stretched by many years; it was time.
They were but exhausted; something to do with reaction wheels, as NASA would have it. Both Dawn, sent to probe the asteroid belt, and Kepler, hunter of exoplanets, ran out of fuel. Too much of it went to fire up thrusters and prevent them from spinning.

They’ve outlived retirement and outdone their missions, though. While Dawn became first to orbit multiple extraterrestrial bodies, Kepler‘s found 2,600 planets, a tiny sliver of them loosely resembling Earth. Now, who do you know that did at least one of those things?
Lying on the wet grass of my backyard, I used to check the stars, track satellites, trace trajectories into the big beyond of our home galaxy. But I’ve never pictured a black hole staring right back at me. They eat everything. That kid wouldn’t be here had he known.
In fact, neither none of us would, if the hole that dares not having a name (Sagitarius A, NASA, really? Why not Black Hole Alley, then?) would exercise the same gluttony towards us as it’s doing to that poor star hanging off its mouth.
A thing about space, or what we think we’re seeing of it, is that its vastness is never bland, and permanent rebirth (more)
Read Also:
* Gatekeeper of Outerspace
* Space Droppings
* Space Out

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Curtain Raiser

We Need a Record Turnout, Colltalers

Climate change, immigration and asylum rights, healthcare, women’s choice, racial and sexual rights, gun control, wage and labor reform, voting rights, plus your own picks. By now, most Americans should have this down. Now let’s go voting them on Tuesday.
Before anything, billions around the world believe we’ll do the right thing. Sharing values of solidarity, independence of mind, and compassion, they’ll stand with us when we say no. And the suddenly global-relevant U.S. midterm elections can deliver just that.
The diminished importance implied on the title has nothing on the reality of these massive election, though. All 435 House seats are technically up for grabs, along 35 of the 100 Senate seats, 39 governorships, and an onslaught of measures and initiatives – pot expanding legalization, freedom of religion, and animal rights, among them – to be decided by federal, state or local communities.
Not everyone will agree with the above list of ‘issues for distracted voters,’ but they’re still among the most immediate. And unlike other times, let’s vote on ideas and on individuals, too; words count, but only people can be held accountable for invoking them.
Also, it’s no wonder that a record-breaking election in the U.S., of any kind, could have a global impact. In fact, people are already holding their breath in some places: for the results, and also for the toxic air. They need us to recommit to the Paris Agreement.
The world expects us to re-embrace universal principles of immigration and the inalienable rights for asylum from hardship. Which is largely caused by our own attacking forces, and sent by those who, make no mistake, will vote too on Nov. 6. Not on anything remotely related to our list, though. As in the past, they’ll show up, because they’re minority. And us, the majority, usually don’t.
The universality of these American elections is that it can point to a new direction to improve the world. They may disable the gears leading us to intolerance, and put on focus billions of people. Most of whom will never even have a path to such a change.
The old saying, those who send us to war for profit are not fit to lead, may not even exist. But it’s certainly been quoted in as many tongues as the soldiers killed by serving them. The military mind only invokes History when it has survived it. No aggrandizing combat rhyme, though, has the resonance, heard from time immemorial and always uttered by the majority of, we want peace.
We could go down on that list, finding commonality with each cause pulsating within different cultures and places. Continue reading

The 105th

Feliz Aniversário, Pai
Happy Birthday, Dad

Heitor Coll de Oliveira (1913-1989)


This Halloween, Let Every
Witch Take Over the World

Read Also:
* Hairy Halloweeners
* Witches’ Crew
* Hallow Talk

Curtain Raiser

Hate Won’t Tear Us Apart, Colltalers

A series of deadly nightmares has visited Americans once again in the past days. And some have progressed exactly as the script of racial violence and hate President Trump has been reciting at his rallies. Will he honorably own them? Don’t hold your breath.
Meanwhile, surprising no one, Brazil’s bid farewell to its young democracy yesterday. A sound majority put Jair Bolsonaro, an ex-army captain, in charge of leading it back to the past, with carte blanche to turn this vibrant nation into a gun-happy backwater.
The cold-blooded execution of two black people in Kentucky, and the horrific mass murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue: the two sinister bookends to the arrest in Florida of yet another home-grown terrorist, who’d sent explosive packages to top Democrats.
Three perpetrators, all anti-Semites and ardent president supporters, with devilish intent: to silence his critics, intimidate the press, and target a racial minority. Whether these tragedies will impact the Nov. 6 elections is unclear. But progressive forces can’t wait for the Democratic Party to lead: Americans must call them for what they really are: hate rhetoric turned into action.
These loyal fools with a lot in common felt empowered to do the president’s bidding. They may have acted alone but rather than isolated, they’ve responded to a call, repeated by Trump on Twitter and at his public speeches. They felt encouraged to wage holy war against fellow Americans, who dare to disagree with the moral downward spiral the U.S. has taken since 2016.
The man and woman shot to death while being black at a grocery store, the 11 members of the Tree of Life Congregation, killed while being Jewish, and the 14 prominent leaders and politicians who could have been assassinated along an unknown number of circumstantial victims, compose a terrifying portrait of life in America, circa 2018. Race and social liberalism are in mortal risk.
It’s also stomach churning to see once again guns, including an assault rifle, used for racial violence. They were present at the temple massacre and at the store shooting, while the bomb-maker fanatic has demonstrated another level of rage and obsession.
Failing to link White House’s hate speech and the violence of the supremacist movement it has inspired all but equals condoning the barbarism of our current state of affairs. It also misjudges the potential for even more horror and loss of political autonomy.
Naturally, republicans and conservatives have jumped to the administration’s aid. They will shamefully attempt to minimize the attacks, and quickly switch to their hypocritical ‘thoughts and prayers’ default mode for dealing with national grief at crisis time.
As for those who can’t quite believe the disturbingly warped reality hateful words often lead to, a check on history books is most advisable. For rage and death get easily loosened up when the national discourse is polarized into the ‘us versus them’ quagmire. Tyrants often take advantage of ancient ethnic and tribal conflicts to seize and consolidate power, and we’re way passed the time to be shocked, shocked by how come this is actually happening in America. Such mode of domination, prone to displays of bloody ‘loyalty’ by deranged bottom feeders and sycophants, has happened many times before. It’s also a exports-ready model.
Which brings us once more to Brazil, before we too close the book and subscribe to the lowest form of self-sabotaging Continue reading

Heard That?

New Reasons to Have
Nightmares in October

Times have been so scary that not even Halloween spooks kids anymore. Which is fine and won’t spoil the fun out of it. Fake blood? Phony zombies? Made-up vampires? Bring them all on, for who isn’t in badly need of a break these days?
And yet, unlike the ‘horrors’ summoned on Oct. 31, nightmares do exist to torment us. Having one at sleep is haunting, but it’s worst when it keeps vigil and frightens the daylights out of us when we’re wide awaken. Nicely, we prepared a short list of them.
Let’s let the former lie quietly for now, as no one can foresee what a tired mind may conjure when the body finally finds comfort under blankets. Some dreams rattle on, while others slip by unnoticed. But there’s no telling what they’re really about.
The other kind is all around, though. Disturbing visions that palpable reality urges us to bear from dawn to dusk have the added weight of shared experience. How some react to them has often been the stuff wars are fought for, and children are beheaded.
Here are five of the most petrifying, or almost. Not for the feeble of spirit, if there’s even anyone left with such a luxurious prerogative, the bullets of this season’s list are saturated with the fear that a rabid future biting its own tail lies ahead.
It’s not that All Hallows Eve ceased to be a playful way for kids to get acquainted with their ‘dark side.’ Or that there’s no longer sense in make-believe terror. It’s just that the whole world now has gone well beyond what Halloween used to suggest.

Oct. 31 has also been turned into a celebration of the unseen. So-called Dark Matter, that is. 85% of the total mass of the universe remains invisible and undetected, so what you think you know wouldn’t explain the size of the cosmos. Or yours.
It’s out there, though, and one day, yup, it may get you good. For if for an unforeseen event, you’d come into contact with a field full of Wimps, nuclear forces holding your nuclei and protons together would simply vanish, leaving you looking like, well, nothing.
Without something to hold your cells, organs, and body together, needless to say, you’d lose your you-know-what for the very last time. So keep pretending that what you can’t see can’t hurt you at your own risk; the universe doesn’t give a flying… shooting star.

That’s a classic, the creature that shares with bats and black cats the iconographic triad of horror. Except that they’re paralyzingly frightening to over 30% of humans. Now imagine the phobic landing on Aitoliko lagoon, in Greece.
Recently, its lakeside got fully covered by Tetragnatha spider webs. The tiny species, which is not the only one periodically taking over acres of land, does like to spook distracted travelers such as yourself.
Picture yourself sinking your feet into the sticky trends and watching thousands of spiderlings crawling up your legs and calling you daddy. Now, now, they’re not poisonous. And consider it your personal experience of the true spirit of Halloween.

Speaking of weakly particles, as T.S. Eliot once said, the world ends not with a bang but a whimper. For most of us, the prospects for a mass bug extinction may sound more like a relief, and good riddance at that, and not something to care about.
That is, if you’re not into food. Or wouldn’t mind coming across dead bodies laying all over, unable to decay. Animals starving to death and a global collapse of agriculture. And the end for our last food source in case of a climate change-triggered famine. Apart from that, you’d be fine
So, insects may multiply with global warming, but in the end, just like us, may perish exactly because of it. So be careful (more)
Read Also:
* Stay Awake
* Everything Must Go

Continue reading