No, Thanks

Uh-Oh. I Think I’ve Burned
the Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

Too late to start a new one now. I thought I’d followed the directions of the recipe. Taste is what matters, right? Not really. It looks good in the picture but the real thing is considerably darker. What a fiasco. I should’ve known better but not even a Beatles song will help me now.
I’ll tell them it fell on the floor. No, gas power was shut off on my block. Maybe I’ll Trump them: ‘I never said I was bringing a pie.’ I could pick one up at the corner deli but what if they’re all gone? No, I’ll say I gave it away to a Soup Kitchen. That’ll make me look real good.
Read Also:
* A Nation of Thanks
* Cold Turkey
* Meatless Time


Curtain Raiser

Twin Stealth Mass Killers, Colltalers

If a Jeopardy contestant would pick Law Enforcement for $100, and get, What kills as many people as car crashes, diabetes and AIDS combined every year?, the answer could be larceny, auto theft, or perhaps, robbery. But few would pick, What’s opioid prescriptions?
Similarly, to ask most people whether they know of any fatalities directly linked to climate change, is likely to draw a blank stare, an upfront denial that any has already occurred, or the admission that, if they did, they’d still be very few. But there’s been 4.6 million deaths each year.
There’s no shame in not knowing this sort of data, whether someone has chosen to follow only what’s covered by their favorite news outlet – even if they’re not on Facebook or a Fox News subscriber – or have decided to skip the (depressing) news altogether. It’s understandable.
Then again, not to sound grim (and depressing), but they may stand for a rude awakening when casualties start to creep up among family and friends. The jury may have gone out for a long time, as to whether is better to know or not, but all bets have been off for some time now. And many have simply lost the luxury of even having a choice. Knowledge may be a better medicine than to be left behind. Who likes surprises?
What triggered the opioid addiction epidemic in the U.S. was a lethal combo: pharma companies pushed painkillers like drug dealers, – you know, the first sample is free, but after that, we take your home in lieu of payment – as a cure-for-all solution, not as a last dangerous resource. And healthcare insurance became an enterprise to mostly enrich shareholders, not exactly to provide coverage at affordable rates.
Former insured but not yet cured, the afflicted with chronic or terminal pain diseases had no choice: hit the streets for alternatives. A black market for prescription pills developed and, when that also failed to meet the demand, a catastrophic revival of the ‘dark horse’ itself: heroine.
As for air pollution, it was one of the first signs that the Industrial Revolution, while radically changing for the best mankind’s quality of life, it also had a sinister side: it could sicken to death the very people to whom it was envisioned to be an agent of progress. Continue reading

Renaissance Faire

Mike & Leo’s Excellent
New York City Adventure

Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are having a moment at the Big Apple: a massive Met show of drawings of the former is enchanting crowds, and a work attributed to the latter just broke records at an auction yesterday. Not bad for the two Renaissance superstars who’ve been dead for five centuries.
Michelangelo’s Divine Draftsman and Designer brings to the city the largest number of drafts ever assembled for a show. And suspicions about Salvator Mundi, a newly-discovered 1500 painting of da Vinci, didn’t prevent it from reaching a staggering $450 million at an equally crowded Christie’s session.
New Yorkers have it good and don’t even know it. Don’t quote us on that, but an unscientific survey could show that museum attendance by residents is declining, as ‘voluntary’ entry fees went up. But we can always count on our lovely tourists to gladly pick up the slack.
And until they ban cellphones at these places, they’ll keep on increasingly becoming madhouses, with selfie-takers colliding with each other in the rush to impress their social media followers. Sadly, despite ever so eager to be seen as hip, many miss out on the very experience of being in the presence of a work of art, glaring at their faces.
No wonder curators bend backwards to fashion and the culture of celebrities, hoping they’ll attract a fresh crowd of art-seekers, despite having centuries of appreciation to prove the worth of their wares. In the end, the famous also take their own annoying selfies, strictly to post them on Web accounts. And walk away, ushered by handlers.

The reinvigorating quality of a master such as Michelangelo, born 543 years ago next March, is that every new sighting of his works turns out another revelation. These Metropolitan Museum of Art drawings trace back the pictorial genius at the core of his innate creative verve.
Every small draft, whether it found or not its way to the splendor at the ceiling of the Vatican’s Capela Sistina, started as a subtle dialog, a tenuous answer to whatever turmoil he already had in mind, about fulfilling his task. To completely realize them, he’d need a few lifetimes.
But mankind is grateful of what he managed to accomplish in just one. Despite having to hide at times from the politics of his age, or persevere even when the other gargantuan contemporary of his had but contempt about his art, he’d live to almost 90, as if in a mission to give us all an eternal name.

Leonardo took 67 years to explore and leave his imprint on almost as many disciplines of human knowledge, some that he discovered, others, that he redefined. Considering all his accomplishments as an inventor and artist, is astonishing that, among all, he’s known as (more)
Read Also:
* Museums of Something Else
* Marbled Heavenly Bodies
* Eye of the Beholder
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Curtain Raiser

Ban Weapons of Sex Oppression, Colltalers

The explosion of sexual abuse and rape cases against women, perpetrated by Hollywood men, was not Tinseltown’s first consequential global hit in a long time. But the factory of broken dreams did play a role delivering this sick issue its first unambiguous worldwide breakthrough.
Violence and weaponization of sex by men against women has been around since before biblical times. Society’s acknowledgment as the cancer that it is, though, didn’t keep pace with it. Although far from a resolution, this open secret is now finally part of a global conversation.
Whether such discussion must get to the ‘why now’ or ‘who’ll be outed next’ questions, is besides the point. More important is to proceed to a cure, a new bounding social contract not unlike the one that finally outlawed slavery and child labor. And get everyone involved. Rigorous punishment and a healing process must be included into the solution, as safeguards against power and influence, and victims’ protection.
From ‘gazillionaires’ to self-appointed masters of the universe, to morally corrupt priests, unfit educators, and perverted coaches, plus anyone in a position to impose their rot onto those entrusted to them, we must be diligent and thorough, to top the poor job we’ve done for millennia.
Almost all ancient holy books, from any of the known religions, have backed the staggeringly cruel license that prophets and patriarchs took to quench their thirst for power on the backs of women and children. And history’s men’s way to etch and glorify on word their wretched deeds.
After transcending the pampered confines of the famous LA district, charges of sexual assault have now reached all corners of organized society, as it should since it’s so prevalent. Pain and extreme despair such an event may inflict on a person’s life is not just permanent. It too causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, among other afflictions, just like witnessing death and dismemberment of comrades in battle does.
It’s now repeated almost meaninglessly, that rape is not about sex, but power, which it is, based on what we know about human interrelations. But sex, and women’s unique position as sole guarantors of our species survival, can’t be compartmentalized, for that’s the goal of the rapist: to subjugate, steal and devalue the one unquestionable power females have over them. As is ripping their ability to experience pleasure.
Rape has nothing to do with pleasure, for sure, and when it’s about children, it can also be life-impairing. Some were not Continue reading

Petty Crimes

t seems like it was just yesterday. 2012, as a matter of fact, when all our concerns were about a bullying culture taking over the Internet. Hardly we knew that four years later, we’d elect a major offender to the White House too. Or should we have expected that to happen?
Not to engage in self-flagellation any more that’s already due, at least to some of us, here’s an old post to evoke a bygone era when it was still possible to believe we were going to get better, and trolls and conspiracy nuts would hit their expiration date soon enough.
For it’s actually a hopeful article, and brief too, let us add, lest not let any dragging feelings of defeat cloud our already sore horizon. But we did get to a dangerous point when it seems impossible to get any worse and, at the same time, perfectly natural if it really does.
For on the first anniversary of Trumpism, things look so bleak that many of us will do the only thing that still brings relief to the overall doom proceedings: we’ll be screaming out loud tonight, at the nearest public place and along a crowd of dissatisfied customers like us. We do hope someday you won’t need to join us but for now, all are invited.

When the Rude, the Offensive & the
Inconsiderate Get to Pay Their Dues

Now for something completely different. For many a poor old devil, there’s been a thousand times plus one, when happiness has stood farther apart than ever, just because some idiot was blocking the way. More often than not, help was not forthcoming, and the troll won.
That’s not what’s these stories are about. Have you been annoyed lately by talkers at the movies? people who curse right in front of your little niece? neighbors worshiping loudly on the front yard? Good news: people in England, Belgium and the U.S. have just had about enough.
Even if these effective techniques involve a measure of confrontation, or the ever so slow work of the legislator, none is violent or unreasonable. They’re all solidly based on the democratic tenet that my freedom to act like a douche ends when your own stupid stunt starts.
Obviously, we shouldn’t have to be getting to this to placate our torments. On the same token, no one needs to place anonymous rants in some comment stream to vent their frustration. Or worse, getting so self-righteous about it, as to justify blood and dismemberment.
In most cases, we shouldn’t be bothered. When Brazilian bestseller author Paulo Coelho said that ‘if you dissect ‘Ulysses,’ it gives you a tweet,’ he was expressing his opinion, even if most who read James Joyce’s masterpiece couldn’t disagree more. Ultimately, though, his own admission of ignorance may’ve set in motion the erosion of any credibility towards his own self-aggrandizing work.
In others, you may be annoyed, it may be inconvenient, but it’s not hurting you, and it’s bound not to last more than a brief moment in your long, fruitful life. That’s the case of a New Yorker, so thrilled by his own singing abilities, to the point of having an entire subway (more)
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* When Beast Attack
* Teach Your Children Well

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Curtain Raiser

Press On for Real Press, Colltalers

In these strange times, even meaningful expressions ring a bit hollow. Like, a free press is essential to democracy. Or a nation is measured by its well informed citizens. Or lies become trusted if repeated often enough. All genuine memes but, now we know, easily manipulated.
On the surface, the U.S., Norway, Italy, and Japan have all dynamic, independent media institutions. And Costa Rica, Jamaica, Estonia, and Russia likely sit on the other end of the spectrum. That’s not quite true, though, according to the annual Press Freedom Index. Surprised yet?
Granted, Norway indeed tops the list, put together by the independent Reporters Without Borders group. And you probably knew at least something about Russia’ fierce control of its media. But the U.S. is stuck at number 43, way below sixth place Costa Rica and Jamaica, 8.
More, some of the most stable regimes in the world, such as Italy (52), Japan (72) and Israel (91), are not even expected to crack the top 50 any time soon. How come? They all have autonomous paper and broadcast companies, often critical of their governments. But even though the index doesn’t track the quality of reporting or human rights violations, none can be considered havens for independent journalism.
Two points could be argued about this sort of index and the overall function of media within any society: the whole of its democratic structure can’t be reduced by whether it is freedom of expression-compliant. And governments can still serve and represent their citizens’ needs and aspirations without being accountable or transparent. After all, many a dictatorship provides bread and circus to most people’s contentment.
So what’s the beef? For starters, what looks like freedom of expression may be just a simulacrum of conditions that mimic such freedom, without really allowing channels for questioning and effectively operating change into any given government. Or rather, people may vote in the ‘lesser of evils’ candidates, while those representing radical opposition are prevented from running by bureaucracy or phony technicalities.
The U.S. is by now a textbook example of what it means for a country to have a powerful Fourth Estate, which nevertheless, fails to account to, prioritize, or provide critical information to the American people. And, by managing a steady, overwhelming stream of inconsequential news, it actually turns people into a commodity that only needs to be fed a certain range of entertainment news in order to maintain patronage.
Although all media organizations manage a concession theoretically granted by taxpayers, they act as de facto owners Continue reading

Witch’s Crew

When People Dress Up to Party,
They Won’t Waste Time Fighting

There’s a funny reason why we can’t avoid posting something about Halloween, today: clearinghouse. After a year-worth of subjects revolving around death, cemeteries, you know, weird stuff, voilá, when Oct. 31 dawns, we’ve got ourselves a sparkling dripping, new bloody-soaked post.
So, since it’s already late, here’s a quick review, via links, of what’s been accumulating dust and spider webs in our files. Morticians, burials, new ways to dispose the deceased, endearing stories that attract us like zombies to fresh brains, or bad teeth to sugar.
It’s our way to mark a moment on the life of kids of all ages when they get to play up themes that scare the bejesus out of grown-ups. These mini Frankensteins soldier on to trick-or-treating and we wonder when they switch from daring night visitors to frightened candy pushers.
For sure, the quirky nature of this holiday is never lost. Halloween’s pagan origins and connection to the demonic and the sinister, while a source of wholesome fun, also prompts raging displays of ghoulish hate and sucking disgust, by clergy members and assorted zealots.
Read Also:
* Getting There
* Everything Must Go
* Kicking Ash

It’s likely the same class of vampires preying on witches and warlocks from way before the Dark Ages. Plenty of ways to enlighten ourselves here, to never repeat what happened to Joana D’Arc, the poor souls of Salem, and countless other victims of intolerance.
Myth, astronomy, recipes and costume tips, even a queer Halloween gallery, which granted, makes a lot of sense. We can think of no other feast where attire is that important, other than religious processions, of course. Except no one is doing it for fear, hence the anonymous deadline quote. Get set for the parade & Happy Halloween.