First Timers

Ah, to Be Young, Able
& Never Been Kissed

Many people have about only a few things in mind while living. There’s an entire multicultural, multilingual literature about at least two of them; we’re not getting into that, though. But most do think about their first kiss ever so often. As it turns out, they’re a dying breed.
Never Been Kissed, a study published on the Archives of Sexual Behavior, reveals that almost a hundred out of 700 college students, never touched the lips of another human with their own, which would startle any card-carrying Baby Boomer, other studies being considered.
Reportedly, the Sex Revolution old devils seem to be still pretty much at it, and what comes before and after it, even as they push their 70s. Not so for 14.2% of an already hyper-battered Millennials demographics, focus of the small sample. Is there something on their WiFi reception?
From time immemorial, the thrill of the first time at various initiation rites was a form of incentive for growing up. Generations born on the 20 century simply couldn’t wait to have their first driver’s license, for instance, or spending their first night away from their parents’ home.
Many a first baby born out of a Saturday’s night fever, regrettably or not, was also a result of a first, intense, passionate kiss. Does it mean that, without such tricky but irresistible first step, future population volumes are at risk? They seem to be concerned about that in Japan.
A few things about the Never Been Kissed, the study, not the movie: they are all excellent students, maybe because they drink less than others; have overbearing moms; are neurotic; and with lower self esteem. Truly a small sample of a very boring group of people, indeed.
Bias aside, to most people, memories from their first kiss, if it happened before maturity, tend to be sweet or, if not traumatic, served well to everything that came after. To us, it brought up that time at a certain front porch, and the story we wrote about it. Below, our humble contribution to such an endearing theme.

Laura & the
Many Kisses

At 12, he fell in love with Laura. She had braids and freckles, and he’d trace her soft step across the school. He’d follow her closely but without being noticed. Or so he thought. One day, he turned a corner and came face to face with her. He thought she’d never noticed him, but she was very aware of his existence.
He looked into those deep eyes, intensely black, and awkwardly, their faces blushed. A few Saturdays later, they met at the veranda of his house, as planned. Not knowing what to do of this magnet that had brought them together, at the sunset of their childhood, they talked a little. After a silent pause, they went down to the narrow hallway, between the house and the ivy-covered wall, and kissed.
Once. Twice. A few more times, then back to the porch, flushed and slightly moist. They tried to talk a bit, but had to go again, hands in hands and racing hearts. They kissed dozens of times. A record. He’d never kissed anyone in the mouth before. Still, those were innocent kisses, sweet, the kind you’d plant on a baby’s cheeks. Or that nannies place on the forehead of their zany grand kids.
Back at the porch, people passed by, workers headed home. Night was falling and a miracle was privy only to them. Everything was so new, hearts coming out of their mouths. Again and again, lip tastings below the ivy, but tongues asleep, resting quietly on their beds. Not yet time to open up curtains to the vertigo of lust. Little kisses. That was all.
They smiled goodbyes, each knowing that they’d found a precious gem, but unsure whether to tell the world about it or to keep it (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Jig’s Up For the Gig Economy, Colltalers

‘The ideal system to work when and how much you want.’ ‘An exciting way for applying your skills and getting paid for assignments either done at home or on the go.’ ‘Choose flexibility and earn extra income without having to wear a suit or follow somebody’s else schedule.’
Over 20 million Americans are slowly waking up for what this cheery fluff really is: a new packaging for an over a century-old bag of rotten goods. Stripped of its bells and whistles, the gig economy stands by the same cliches it used to evoke: haves and have-nots forever and a day.
There are some who trace the start of this new opulence to the 1970s global oil crisis. Even as it marked the end of the cycle of cheap fossil fuel, it was also the moment banks and finance corporations went from being normative institutions to outsized tools for enrichment. As their autonomy and power matched if not topped that of the government, there was no wasting time to pay for some nice deregulation to go with it.
With what money, you ask? Easy: branding social programs and the welfare system, pillars and guarantors of the American Dream for over four decades, wasteful ‘entitlements’ of a ‘nanny state,’ while outlawing organized labor’s bargaining power as a rancid ‘communist’ leftover.
The relentless drive to dismantle unions, helped by an actor-poster boy for private interests sitting in the White House, ushered the new era of low-paid contractors: hired to disarm strikes, they wore the badge of a New (bad) Deal. For them, no wage or salaries; earn when work only.
Not everyone enjoyed the greatest era of American prosperity, though. The services and the food industry, in particular, were kept on the same regime they were at the beginning of the 20th century. And with it, the bizarre system of paying restaurant servers with customer tips.
The custom of tipping for tasks performed comes, apparently, from feudal times in Europe, which nowadays pay normal wages to its food workers. Even more curious, tipping had fierce opposition from Americans when it was introduced. The NY Times reports that there was an Anti-Tipping Society of America, in 1904, with over 100,000 members. And that most labor unions were against tipping. But that didn’t last.
To this day, U.S. restaurant owners pay servers minimum wage or so, and it’s up to workers to make up in tips what may amount to a less-than-decent salary. Now some employers are vouching Continue reading

The 23rd

When 2 + 3 Is Not 5,
Some Call it an Enigma

Numbers and the Internet. Man-made to gauge and track the world, they’re now endless and will go on long after we’re gone. As matter can always be reduced to its numeric essence, so all manner of human expression may one day reside on the digital realm.
Take 23, for instance, the number assigned by fate to my first breath. Like with other numerals, there are hundreds of Websites about it, on math and numerology to cults and strange coincidences, with everything in between, besides, of course, celebrity birthdays.
Age-wise, few are like 23, and most of anyone would consider it among life’s best years. Perhaps. We tend to appreciated this sort of thing when we’re either heading towards it, or receding from it. But it is a time when choices are wide open and self-fulfillment is still a priority.
A mind-boggling assortment of arcana is related to 23 as a prime number, but even as its complexities keep planets spinning, and the Space Station aloft, few are wise to them. We all have 23 pairs of chromosomes, though, even if they no longer dictate one’s gender.
A curious statistical theory, the Birthday Paradox, says that within a group of 23 people, chances are, two share the same day of birth. That’s the least amount of people to whom such a likelihood is higher than 50 percent. But please, don’t go asking strangers for their day.

Yes, there are at least two weird groups that attribute 23 a special meaning. Discordianism associates it with chaos, with some mumbo-jumbo about inverting the pyramids (you read it right), and the goddess Eris. By the way, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built with 2.300 stones, so there you have it.
As for 23rdians, they see the number as an enigma permeating all spheres of existence, claiming author Robert Anton Wilson as a spiritual mentor of sorts. Wilson, in turn, may have caught the 23 fever from William Burroughs, who once told him about his own obsession with it.
Add to these, well, peculiar people, Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash. Despite his work on economics, he was almost better known for having a strange, and tragic, thing about the number (and Pope John XXIII, but if you have to ask, don’t). And of course, (more)
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Good Morning to All

Happy Birthday to Ya. Would
That Be Cash or Credit Card?

Minds of the practical kind know it all too well; birthdays can be expensive. And tricky too, specially if it’s your own mate’s, who happens to be picky about that sort of thing. Something else is increasing the overall price of celebrating you being around: the song everybody sings. (Don’t you dare, if you know what’s good for you.)
Good Morning to All, the tune American sisters Patty and Mildred Hill wrote in 1893 for school children to sing, somehow became Happy Birthday to You in the early 1900s, through a very serendipitous journey. Along the way, it changed copyright owners, got thrown into a corporate balance sheet and became very expensive indeed. 
Technically, every time someone sings it, which probably happens worldwide thousands of times a day, someone, or rather, some institution collects some dough. It used to be the estate of Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman, who were given credit for the new lyrics in 1935. Now, rather than pay up, some want this tradition changed.
Which means, there’s a new Happy Birthday song around the block, after a radio station in New Jersey set up a contest and chose a winner to replace the old tune. But it’s unlike that you’ll be hearing it sang by a group of underpaid waiters at your local diner anytime soon. These things take time.
Which is just as well. Nothing to remind you of its passage than that over familiar melody, and those repetitive chorus, which by the way, get different lyrics in different countries, not necessarily only its translation. But in English, it may only underline how old you really are. And that’s almost unbearable.
That could be also what’s behind WFMU‘s idea, when it teamed with the Free Music Archive to replace the copyrighted song. But the main point was to send the new one straight to public domain, so no one would (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Land of Fire & End of Water, Colltalers

Words lose currency. For instance, fatality, as in ‘something determined by fate,’ an accident. It certainly can’t be used for the slaughter of school children in Parkland, Florida. Or for the water about to run out in Cape Town, South Africa. Someone, quick, go tell it to the media.
Because both last week’s carnage, caused by a disturbed kid with an assault rifle, or the ecological disaster expected to hit a major world city in May, were expected and thoroughly predicted. Not by seers or mystics, but by the logical progression of facts. Both could’ve been avoided.
That may sound callous if it wasn’t for the bottomless callousness displayed once again by the president and congressmen. Predictably, while many were AWOL, they all rehashed old misleading National Rifle Association boilerplates, which is fitting since they’re all sponsored by it.
Something’s different this time around, though; the surviving children themselves. Eloquent and articulated, many quickly seized the moment to rebuff Trump on national TV, and indict elected politicians for profiteering from their tragedy. Suddenly, they were the adults in the room.
To expect that the normalization of school shooting can be reversed is a political matter, and the ascendancy of a new segment, that of high school students engaged in resetting the conversation about guns in this country, is more than merely welcome, it’s crucially overdue.
This is, after all, the demographics closest to affect change in a very short run. As they approach the age of voting, Continue reading

Seen From Above

Pictures of Earth at Night From
Space: Stunning Beauty & Concern

Watching Earth from 199 miles up has changed how we see ourselves, our cities and the planet, thanks in part to photos taken from satellite and by the astronauts at the International Space Station. As they’re staying ever longer up there, aerial photography has greatly improved.
All that these recent photos have in common is that they’re all night pictures, but boy, aren’t they striking. They’re also surprisingly revealing and instructive about what’s going on down here. Hopefully, they’ll become valuable tools for raising awareness and change.
Credit should be given to NASA which, despite its current shoestring budget, still manages to wow us with some of their ongoing projects. One such program is the Earth Observatory, which is a comprehensive six-month study, using high-resolution night images of Earth, to ‘gain insight on human activity and poorly understood natural events.’
The now little government agency that still can often works in conjunction with other scientific research teams, such the National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, as well as the European Space Agency. The ISS is also an integral part of such programs, as it orbits through different patches from satellites.
Whereas the Earth Observatory is a set study, the astronauts are free to photograph Earth following their own instincts. And photograph away they do, to stunning and quite meaningful results. Whether they direct (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Teaching the Kids Well, Colltalers

Explaining the Great Swindle of 2016, and how Americans fell so easy to the Con of Trump, is now a full-time job for those in the business of the ‘yes, but.’ Sure, there were the Russians, the hackers, money in the campaign, a corporate-serving media and an uninformed electorate.
But adding it all up and more hasn’t been enough to provide a definitive set of actionable answers many seek. A few psychiatrists threw the mental card on the table – is the president really fit? Yet others brought up an intriguing theory that offers fresh insights: bad parenting.
Pointing to flaws in the way kids are raised in this country, it traces a correlation between political apathy and either overprotective parental interference, or full neglect. All helped by a mostly uncritical educational system, and demands of a gadget-driven social media culture.
Before going further on this venue, though, it’s worth mentioning that this is no theory. Not yet, anyway. Like the punditry of the Trump administration by prominent psychiatrists, invoking parenting to explain matters of government is no serious academic research, and books and studies in the matter are yet to be published. Apart from several articles, there hasn’t been any scientific endorsement of this approach.
Neither there are sociological papers on the matter and, as far as it’s known, no academic institution has promoted research on such subject. Which doesn’t mean it’s not worth delving into it or that one day, it won’t branch out as a scientific theory. Let’s hear it from the moms, then.
Several books about raising kids, written by Americans living in mostly contemporary European countries, focus on their radically different approach to parenting. The works often sound like indictments to values we hold high, and end on a similar note: we’re spoiling our children, preventing them from experiencing life as it happens, and imbuing them with false notions of safety and ultra-rigid moralistic attitudes.
To jump to the conclusion that all this ‘helicoptering,’ and puzzlingly almost irresponsible, culture of raising insulated kids is what has eroded our collective common sense, or that it boosted racism, class struggle, and political alienation, is a stretch. But when the president himself is accused of sex misconduct by 20 women, and Continue reading