John & Poe

October & the City Link
the Walrus & the Raven

Edgar Allan Poe (d. Oct. 7, 1849, Boston) and John Lennon (b. Oct.9, 1940, Liverpool) would’ve likely enjoyed each other’s company. One could even picture them sharing a coffee in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks from where they both lived briefly in New York.
Sharing a certain sensibility, they’ve twisted rules and noses with their talent and non-conformism. While Poe’s genius was acknowledged mostly after death, Lennon’s was still shaping his own times when life was brutally taken away from him. Despite their enormous sway over our era, they’ve both died at 40.
Their status as two of the world’s most recognized pop icons often obscures the depth of their art and endurance of their legacy. And maybe their irresistible appeal owes more to a contemporary deficit of revolutionary artists than to their particular take on human expression.
Or it may be that we’re so desperate to find paradigms upon which to pile our frustration about the world, that a walking wound such as Poe, or a talking head like Lennon, may offer the conduit we seek to connect and placate our own shortcomings. Just like it ever was.
They couldn’t help it but being such tragic heroes, either, with terrible upbringings and disturbing deaths to boot. But that’s when shallow similarities between the two begin to falter, and no longer serve us to rescue their relevance out of the amber it’s been encased.
THE MESMERIC & THE MAUDIT
Poe, who lived in three separate places in Greenwich Village, New York City, before moving to a farmhouse uptown where he wrote The Raven at age 36, is the only American writer routinely mentioned along the French poètes maudits.
The Paul Verlaine-concocted term encapsulated the romantic ideal of the artist as a tragic hero, not suited to this world, who inevitably self-immolates. We won’t get into how flawed and self-indulgent it is such a notion, but the literature the group produced transcended it all.
Perhaps the best known among those poets was Charles Baudelaire, who championed, translated, and wrote essays about Poe, (more)
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Read Also:
* Murder & Unkindness
* Dear John
* Hallowed Ground

Continue reading

First Ladies

Little-Known Great Women
Who Challenged the World

A Brit who wrote the first book in English and an Italian grandmaster; a sailor disguised as a man and a round-the-world biker; a war photographer and the first female in space. Ground-breaking pioneers, these women beat the odds and inspired mankind.
Julian and Artemísia, Hannah and Annie, Dickie and Valentina, forged a new identity for women everywhere, one that’s often been at odds with male-dominated institutions, and that only modern age could fully embrace. These were no tamed spirits.
Along the way, the mastery of intellect and mysticism, of great art and entrepreneurship, became one with what all that came after. Each generation that followed had more of their independence of thought, the courage to report, and dare to reach for the stars.
These were no followers either. What each carved on the fabric of their own age still stands now, be it as a spiritual path or pictorial record, a skill for subversion or example of non-conformity, the capture of the battlefield or a flight into the future.
But only six, you may ask, and why them, instead of, say, the other few billion? Well, shortlists keep things moving: room only for names, times, and the life that defined their accomplishments. Ultimately, though, it’s our choice and we’re running with it.
That won’t settle the argument, but hope for a first female U.S. president got a boost Tuesday, and next week is International Women’s Day. Both fitting brackets for a possible breakthrough year in equality, a battle these women fought and won, so now we know their names.
Great humans create entire epochs around their existence, not always acknowledged in time. Many would enlist their own mothers on this roll. Shortlists help to leave them out, or yours would be certainly here. It also beats having to rewrite so many well-known bios.

THE MYSTIC WRITER & THE PROTO-FEMINIST PAINTER
On its way to world domination, 14th century England struggled to survive the wreckage of the Dark Ages. The pestilence and ravaging left in its wake were the cause of much soul searching and exacerbated religiosity. Times were ripe for Julian of Norwich.
After surviving illness, she walked out of public life to become a religious recluse, an anchorite, living her remaining years in closed quarters to ‘speak with god’ full time. While others like her burned at a stake, Her Revelations of Divine Love is considered the first female-penned, English-language book.
Two hundred years after, Rome was at the center of the art and religious world, and artists were busy carving their reputations through the glorious Baroque style. Most were male, but Artemisia Gentileschi would defy gender conventions, even as she was long gone when she was recognized as a grandmaster.
Raped by her tutor, who her family successfully sued – not without enormous public shaming of Artemisia, during the trial – she became a rare female working artist whose talent, and tumultuous relationships, equaled that of established painters, such a Caravaggio, with whom she’s often linked.

THE CROSS-DRESSED SAILOR & THE WORLD CYCLIST
There were few options for a woman to sail the world in the 18th century, and to become a soldier of the Royal Marines was hardly one of them. Hanna Snell managed to do both, even as she concealed her gender under the alias James Gray; heaven knows how she survived those long stretches at sea.
Remarkably, her bravery granted her full military pension, and her story, The Female Soldier, made her into a minor celebrity, no small feats for a woman at the time. Till the end, despite three (more)
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Read Also:
* Beautiful Bandit
* Women’s Day
* Sunken Ships
Continue reading

John & Poe

October & the City Link
the Walrus & the Raven

Edgar Allan Poe (d. Oct. 7, 1849, Boston) and John Lennon (b. Oct.9, 1940, Liverpool) would’ve likely enjoyed each other’s company. One could even picture them sharing a coffee in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks from where they both lived briefly in New York.
Sharing a certain sensibility, they’ve twisted rules and noses with their talent and non-conformism. While Poe’s genius was acknowledged mostly after death, Lennon was still shaping his own times when life was brutally taken away from him. Despite their enormous sway over our era, they’ve both died at 40.
Their status as two of the world’s most recognized pop icons often obscures the depth of their art and endurance of their legacy. And maybe their irresistible appeal owes more to a contemporary deficit of revolutionary artists than to their particular take on human expression.
Or it may be that we’re so desperate to find paradigms upon which to pile our frustration about the world, that a walking wound such as Poe, or a talking head like Lennon, may offer the conduit we seek to connect and placate our own shortcomings. Just like it ever was.
They couldn’t help it but being such tragic heroes, either, with terrible upbringings and disturbing deaths to boot. But that’s when shallow similarities between the two begin to falter, and no longer serve us to rescue their relevance out of the amber it’s been encased.
THE MESMERIC & THE MAUDIT
Poe, who lived in three separate places in Greenwich Village, New York City, before moving to a farmhouse uptown where he wrote The Raven at age 36, is the only American writer routinely mentioned along the French poètes maudits.
The Paul Verlaine-concocted term encapsulated the romantic ideal of the artist as a tragic hero, not suited to this world, who inevitably self-immolates. We won’t get into how flawed and self-indulgent it is such a notion, but the literature the group produced transcended it all.
Perhaps the best known among those poets was Charles Baudelaire, who championed, translated and wrote essays about Poe, (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Murder & Unkindness
* Hallowed Ground
* Life W/O Lennon
Continue reading

Paper Planes

404 Pages, Old Hoaxers
& Staying Dry in the Rain

This being Summer Solstice time, it seems appropriate to bring you these stories, each with a temporal slant. One would not be possible a few decades ago; another no longer makes much sense; and yet the other one is ageless. So, no sweat, we’ve got you covered.
On the Internet, no one knows you got lost; or that you landed on a ‘Not Found’ page. The Society Against Quackery would not tolerate such nonsense 130 years ago. And yet, since time immemorial, there’s been Virga, a special kind of rain: the type that doesn’t make you wet.
What? Didn’t they use to count paper planes on New York City streets? Or holes in Blackburn Lancashire? Indeed they did, so it shouldn’t shock you if we pick the odd or the unusual for a summer read, rather than the bloody or the bombastic. For there’ll be plenty of that too.
There’s a new Pride Flag with a welcome element of racial tolerance. And, yes, the season‘s proverbial love stories already abound, along those from the 1967 Summer of Love. And the breeze, and that girl from Ipanema, and all cliches about heat and hurricanes.
Since warm days go by faster in the north, they’ll still be filled with talk about ice cream and beaches, parties and drought. Just as Earth will keep on getting warmer, and this sort of conversation feels like sand inside one’s swimming suits. Blame us for wanting you to take it easy.
THIS CALL CANNOT BE COMPLETED
So what’s wrong with searching and not finding? Not acceptable these days. See, even when one lands on uncharted territory, it’s no longer an excuse to avoid making assumptions. Or post your cluelessness on Facebook. No opinion should be spared. Thus the 404 pages.
Which is now as entertaining as if you’d reached a site about scientific curiosities. Museums, institutions, companies, and individuals, all jockey to come up with clever ways to cushion your crushing results. It’s Ok, the image and wording seem to say. Here, it’s funny, see?
As for the code number, like a lot of what still compounds our journeys online, it had a nerdy origin, such as some room number in a building once fully occupied by an electronic brain, as it was known. Or it was by chance, depending on who you find still wondering in the space formerly known as cyber.
THE OLE FLIM-FLAM DEBUNKERS
Way before Tim Berners-Lee was born – the World Wide Web inventor just turned 62 last week – or there was a need for Snopes, a group of Dutch skeptics recognized the potential harm hidden behind human gullibility. And decided to mount a defense against those who’d gladly take advantage of it. Boy, haven’t they got their work cut out for them.
If the Internet metastasized the power of deceivers, in 1881, snake oil salesmen, mystics, end-of-the-world profiteers, and an entire array of their ilk, were already spreading irreparable damage all over. (more)
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Read Also:
* 50 Summers
* Freaky Links
* No Way Vacay
Continue reading

The Last Leaves

The Day When Forests
Won’t Have Any Trees

Climate emergency, – a man-made executioner we fear so much that we’ve sent our own children to do battle with – has always had a fierce opponent, even before it needed one: trees. Living beings that ushered us to the present, they’ve got all it takes to save our future.
As long as they’re standing, that is. But stood have many, for millennia. As we see forests, we miss what makes them one. Trees may be downed, but nothing kills their gift for being reborn. The history of the world is told by thousand rings inside their girth.
They tower and endure. They come as big as cathedrals, and as old as a religion. Life travels from roots to high up branches, as they hang on to Earth as its own giant limbs. Trees have been blowing oxygen down our lungs for ages; time to fight fire and scarcity to pay back our dues.
Through their rings, they tell a story of damage humans have inflicted on climate and natural resources, going back centuries. For 300 million years, they’ve been withstanding every era – and unlike with dinosaurs, not even catastrophic asteroid collisions did they in.
But now, our predatory drive is catching up with trees too. That’s why the young is so mad, and the old is none the wise preventing them from grabbing the helm out of our incapable hands and saving the planet already. They were unfairly pushed into this, and are better off not counting on us.

MATHUS, YOU’RE OLDER THAN JESUS
Compared to trees’ estimated appearance on the planet, Mathuselah, the thick twisty Pinus Longaeva that’s been in living in California for 4,850 years, doesn’t seem that impressive. But it is indeed older than the Egyptian pyramids, and yes, Christianity itself.
It certainly predates the biblical figure it’s named after too; that Mathuselah supposedly lived a mere 969 years, but we know how the good book often plays loose with facts and numbers. In any case, the tree is real, even if its exact location is secret to prevent vandalism.
In some ways, it’s even more real than other popular California residents: Joshua trees. That’s because, they’re not trees at all (more)
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Read Also:
* Amazon Via Acre
* Safe Arbor Clauses
* Passing Trees

Continue reading

Space Lighthouse

ISS@20, Life Amid Stars
Enters Its Third Decade

Here she comes. And there she goes. 16 times a day. The International Space Station, which completed 20 years in orbit last week, is humankind’s friendliest eye in the sky, a silent witness watching over us at every turn of our home planet.
It’s been an amazing ride and view. Just the sheer technological mastery necessary to keep it afloat, and the wealth of scientific data it provides daily, are enough to fulfill its lofty dream of being the space outpost of everyone of us, Earthlings.
Built by 16 nations, it’s been the temporary home to 230 highly trained rocket scientists who could even play some football up there: the ISS is almost as long as the field, or the equivalent of a six-bedroom house. They’re wiser with their time, though.
The station is a scientific research hub, from life to physical sciences, from astronomy to meteorology. For instance, the yearlong study monitoring twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. Mark in Houston, Texas, and Scott, racing overhead at five miles per second.
Above all, the ISS‘ greatest achievement is being a beacon to our best aspirations, of harmony among nations, working together to build a better future. As such a beautiful dream is far from becoming reality down here, it’s crucial that it survives in space.

A BLUE WORLD, ROUND AS PIE
Watching it sliding soundlessly above high mountains of clouds and vast water mirrors, allows us also into a truly surprising realization: all ground noise we make, tall buildings we erect, and border walls we raise, are invisible and meaningless from the air.
The ISS sees no wars, hate, hunger, tragedy. It does, however, observe the terrible ways we treat Earth, and from above it’s easy to see the pollution of the air, the desertification of land, the smoke of wildfires caused by our abandon. And that’s beyond sad.
From up there, lies and climate change denials can’t be heard either, which is probably good. But not seeing rising sea levels or lines dividing people, doesn’t mean that we’re unaffected by them. All it takes is, well, an astronaut, to report their deadly impact.

THE THIRD BRIGHTEST IN THE SKY
Just like the dream behind its conception, the ISS is also vulnerable: a little debris the size of a quarter can disable it and risk the lives of its dwellers. And it’s also susceptible to the whims of near-sighted (more)
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Read Also:
* Space Droppings
* Heavenly Palace
* Meanwhile, Up There

Continue reading

The Turkey Brief

Five Easy Sides
for Thanksgiving

How come America’s most beloved holiday became such a minefield of discord and intra-family carnage? No idea. But there’re still ways to prevent that carved bird from becoming airborne, thrown across the dinner table by a disaffected relative.
Thanksgiving did become synonym to a hard time to be had by all. It now even includes its own set of preppy tips, so to avoid confrontations and visits to the E.R. They vary but have one topic in common: do not talk about politics. Or religion. Or sex. Or Turkey.
Or something else, for often it’s the way the conversation is conducted, never mind its content, what may lead to the breakup of many a relationship. Of course, foul language and inappropriate use of utensils can also be accountable for spilled blood.
Whether on the account of a heated exchange over a swampy-orange stink bomb set off in DC two years ago, particularly pungent today, or for smearing our culinary and/or dietary whims on everybody’s faces, things have a way to heat up like ovens on Thursdays like these.
Tales of communal pilgrims are no longer the adult option; we’ve already ruined this holiday. But fact is, Thanksgiving‘s the utmost family holiday in the U.S., screams and sugar rushes et al. Taken as such, it’s not that we’re navigating unfamiliar territory here. Have a Roving One.

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Read Also:
* No, Thanks
* A Nation of Thanks
* Cold Turkey

Two Thursday Tails


It’s a sudden moment, that when chronology acquires relevance. When it’s evident that there are less days ahead than those already lived. So we said goodbye and I wondered if it was the last time, or just like the summer, there’d be more like it. There will, but will we still be around?
As I dove into the station, to catch the downtown-bound to my life, I wondered if there’d be another train to lead us back to this moment, when we were together and things felt alright. Or like lives already spent, the time we had is the only time we’ll have for keepsake?
If that’s so, did we really took it all in, and got to the bottom of each feeling, and sucked every last juicy drop of our shared experience as much as we possibly could? Or rather, should we feel now fulfilled that we did what anyone probably would?
It’s very likely that I’ll find myself back at that corner of 8th Ave, thinking about that night we promised we’d always be there for each other, no matter what, even if no one should promise that, even if we didn’t actually utter any vow that we’d at least try it.
And it’s also possible that such a sharp as nails moment will no longer have its place. We may embrace again, sooner than even we’d hoped, faster than the feeling of loss had the chance to sink in. Given the time that has already passed, it’s unlikely, though. And yet, one wonders.

I know that this little movie will be playing in a loop for as long as my eyes will be able to open, and even if they won’t. And every time some detail of the moment will be missed, another will be incorporated to flesh out the bone dry part where memory keeps losing its grip.
Just like that perfect line we come up with while falling asleep, a sentence so bright and round and expressive to challenge our will to rest, for after all, it’s almost dawn and we haven’t really bat eyelids for more than a wink and there’s a full work day ahead and all that.
Or when, on the other bank of the night river, we’re waking up and shreds of an engaging dream still linger but inexorably fade, as we fight hard to keep it, as if slumber could be caught like a fish in the ocean. We fight but always lose and forget most of it. And what we commit to paper is a far cry from the relevance the dream seemed to carry.

We run with this mound of fine sand in our hands, trying to protect it so to form whatever vision we’d had at the shore. But it keeps sipping through our fingers, and dissipates like images dawn evokes, till there’s no speck left to build our castle. There’s no turning back for more; the moment, as its memory, no longer makes sense to the awaken mind.
Did we lived through it all as fully and deep as we should’ve? Or we’re bound to grieve over what it’s been wasted and starved from lack of our attention and care? Will we be forever thrown on this loop of flawed recollections, missing yet another link, hour after hour, moment upon moment, at every turn played over and again on our brains?
Will we see each other one more time? Should we wonder – as I do – whether we’re even entitled, by love forsaken right, to demand a recount, and have another shot, and see one last day rise by each other’s side? I sure hope we would, despite all other things that I also hope for, already knowing that I’m just fooling myself once more.
What was, has already been, I know, there are no reruns, for sure. We can’t go back in time beyond memory and remembrance. We may trust we did the best we could, knowing that we actually didn’t. Still, we’ve got to live with it, or forget all about it, but who really does that?
There, I did get up and screwed up my sleep, and will probably pay dearly for it, and for what? It’s not nearly as inspiring as it sounded back when I was ready to fall asleep. It didn’t dissolve my doubts or soothed my sense of loss. It didn’t even make me feel as if it was all worthwhile. Sleep would’ve definitely been more meaningful.
Still, will there be another time?

People who never turn anything off, including themselves, may not get it, but there’s such thing as doing nothing. In fact, if ‘power naps’ reset the brain and reboot entire systems within our body, then dropping it all and just staring at a wall should do wonders for anyone. Not us, though; we haven’t got the time. Maybe tomorrow.
It’d help if we could freeze the city over for one night, and walk the empty streets as if the sole survivors of a cataclysmic event. Precious moments of eerie stillness, with not a soul on sight and the hum of urban machines quieted down. Then again, we’d better watch out, lest not end up as another slaughtered stats in the evening news.
Even those who write best-sellers about the need to periodically drop out, when cameras and mikes are covered up, may not always be so pious on turning off their own phones. It’s the culture, we say, over the sounded-off broadcasts another boorish presidential statement. He’s like a sledge-hammer drill: pure atrocious noise.
Yet, there’s poetry in catching the automated world existing by itself, while its switch can still be turned off. When lights turn to green and there’s no car in a hurry to go anywhere. Being sleepy and bored used to be synonyms to lazy and spoiled, but new research sees them as crucial precondition to genius. Doing anything tonight?
Dreams often source new ideas, and may pop up right after we open up our eyes, from a minutes-long slumber. And the extreme restless from having nothing else to do has proven to be grounds to launching many a revolutionary take on the very concept of creating something out of thin air. Then again, we may always roll over and, well, doze off.

So what’s wrong with that? Ok, a lot, but also nothing too. These two extremes have argued from time immemorial and the likely reason why advocates for a 24/7 moto perpetuo seem to be winning is because most haven’t slept well in centuries. Again, the very idea of having a 24/7 society was probably dreamed by someone who’d just woken up.
I once went back to city I’d lived for years, without telling anyone. I’ve checked in at a lousy motel (another old wish) and wandered around as if it were my first time. It was exhilarating. I walked and walked as if wearing a mask, but looking over my shoulder Continue reading

The Far Out Job Report

Help Wanted: Island Cat Keeper,
Beach Bookseller or Tourist Ninja

You hear about the great gig economy and how ‘robust’ is the job market right now, and wonder what are they talking about. The reality on the ground is far grimmer, and the last call you got was for a go-getter, as in getting lattes for the millionaire 25-year-old star-up boss.
Fear not, you’ve got options. Understandably, you’re now a creature of habits, so change is laborious. But you’re also broke, which is bad regardless of age. So, given all life experiences you’ve accumulated so far, it’d be foolish not to consider the alternatives.
Granted, that’s a cliche of advice-given book writers. But besides doing better than say, elderly dishwashers, their brand of counseling has at least one B.S.-proof factor on their favor: they sell it. So have you already got duped by job listing boards? the Web will see you next.
About those listings: don’t sign up for them. All they want is to collect your info and compile a massive database, so to attract funding from investors, and provide golden parachutes to top executives. Plus, if you check one, you’re checking them all; the market is the same.

OUT THERE BUT NOT MUCH
But you knew that. As you did about asking tips from people who short of picking you apart, just don’t mind saying anything to actually get rid of you. Which, granted, not even you can blame them for. By now, your ‘pitch’ sounds as exciting as going to bed at 7pm.
Speaking of which, you could be a NASA ‘professional sleeper,’ if you weren’t up so many times at night to pee. Or go to China to be a ‘mourner‘ for hire, or a ‘panda fluffer.’ Those bears are notoriously fussy, though, and other people’s grief is not easy to handle either.

BETTER THAN SUMMER READING
No. Instead, such well-honed skills you’ve mastered for so long may be better served for more imaginative tasks. Like selling books in a tropical island. That pricked up your ears, didn’t it? Minimal wages but what perks. Say, do you like summer, sun and sand? You’re hired.
As for the competition, let us let you in on a secret: they want pretty young things, and frankly, that’s a huge mistake. No offense, but the young will take it as easy as vacation time, and wind up neglecting their duties. That’s when a pro like you have the edge. Go for it.

SWORD & MASK, YOU’RE A STAR
Know what happens to ‘pro queuers,’ who stand in line, waiting for somebody else’s newest iPhone to come out? they get beat up. Often. And ‘chief listening officer‘ is another name for customer service rep, that human punching bag that gets it from everyone and everywhere.
May we suggest instead fighting back and becoming a ninja in Japan? We know, it sounds outlandish but if you think about it, it’s not that you’ll need to obliterate deadbeats like a Yakuza and swear allegiance to some shady boss. Believe us, it’s all mostly for show.

THE GREEK GOD OF KITTENS
You’d be working for the City of Tokyo, and your job will be to entertain tourists. No Asian relatives? no problem; just think what an ice breaker for striking a conversation that would be. Which is just as well: your spouse will never tell you to get out again.
But the real cherry on this pie is taking care of 55 cats on an idyllic Greek island. You, walking on a beach like a god, with no one but the demanding, albeit wise, felines to report to is as close to (more)
_________
Read Also:
* Run for Cover
* Small Classes
* Help Unwanted

Continue reading

Stanley Cubic

Kubrick, Who’d Have Been 90 & the   
Odyssey to a Future That Never Was

A New Yorker who spent most of his life in the U.K., Stanley Kubrick had been an accomplished photojournalist before his movie career as a director took off. His 1946 series for Look magazine, Life and Love on the New York City Subway, displays the same keen eye and compositional style that would mark his filmography later on.
In just a few years, the man who would say at one point that ‘the most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent.’ went on to become anything but, with a string of now classics, such as Path of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, to name a few.
Today, when he would’ve become 90, Stanley Kubrick is intrinsically connected with the future that he realized with his movies, more than anything he’s ever envisioned. And that’s no small feat for such an overachiever. Even as he just missed the dawn of the iconographic year that named his sci-fi masterpiece, much of what he and Arthur C. Clarke anticipated is finally rising on the horizon of our times.
Not that we should feel too nostalgic about the future that could’ve been, with its interstellar travel, and dreams of finally understanding our evolutionary connection with the ‘indifferent’ universe surrounding us. We’re actually lucky that another one of his disturbing dystopias of what may lay ahead, A Clockwork Orange, based on an Anthony Burgess book, hasn’t quite materialized. Yet.
Before going back to those pictures of a post-war Manhattan, and to a few interesting audio and visual tchotchkes about Kubrick we’ve found on the Internet, let’s do him some justice. For even at the heart of his enormously challenging techno-futuristic visual parables, there was his deeply humanistic option for a different construct of our own fate.
From his anti-war trilogy of sorts, Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and Full Metal Jacket, to his portraits of individuals at odds with an all too powerful system, either stoically like Spartacus, or as a crook, like Barry Lyndon, or even one succumbing to his own creeping madness, as in Stephen King’s The Shinning, Kubrick remained faithful to his non-religious but highly moral Jewish working class roots.

RIDING THE UNDERGROUND
The Museum of the City of New York has some 40 thousand negatives that the young photographer took of Manhattan in the 1940s. Some of his pictures are so cleared eye they could’ve been taken now. Subway riders fast asleep, hanging from the overhead bars, or with their faces buried in newspapers. Yes, you could make that iPhones, but the underlying content would be the same.
Calling him Stan Kubrick, the Camera Quiz Kid, Mildred Stagg wrote in 1948 about ‘the boy who said that had turned nineteen a week ago, and has been a staff photographer for Look magazines since age seventeen.’ And registered the kid’s own impressions about (more)
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Read Also
* The Shinning
* Polly & Meow
* Checking In
* Strange Love

Continue reading

The Space in Between

Silica, New York Hacks
& How to Sell Your Soul

Here’s for holding more than one thought at the time. It’s easy to overlook the many worlds one goes through, and ignores, in the course of a day. Or curses we allow ourselves to be trapped. But fear not: others have been there and escaped. All it takes is an unbiased focus.
It’s hard to incorporate certain words into conversation, such as silica, let alone to add tips on how to make the best out of it. Or hacks to suggest out-of-towners. And while at it, souls be damned, but why not get the most out of a good, old-fashioned blood pact with the devil?
It’s all in a New York minute, as they used to say when a movie followed news at 11. One would need change to make a phonecall, and a camera to take a picture. In those deceivingly quaint times, time itself seemed to last longer. But if you could get a glimpse of the past as it really happened, you’d catch everybody running.
The years when one has no concept of how things even worked before their era end when they first get fired from a job. Or step onto the spilled contents of someone else’s stomach. When you realize it can happen to you too, but at least, you’re not the only one. Granted, it’s as twisted a consolation as sex before breaking up.
Or when one stops thinking about sex. For life really starts once you get it where it comes from. But it’s all so brief; linger much, and you’re already on the other side, that river has passed you by. But while fools dwell on counting waves, the quick sells a self-help kit. Hence, the quirks, hints, and multiple vices of living in the big city.

MULTI-USES FOR A LITTLE PACKAGE
Sometimes one can’t avoid using one of those detestable buzzwords like iconic, or hacking. But if there’s anything that gets very close to both is those little silica bags that come inside a new shoebox or latest gadget. You’d think they’re poisonous but you’d be dead wrong.
What they are is stuff that clogs our landfills. Good thing then that you can use them for drying you phone, after fishing it out of the toilet bowl. Or stick them into your smelly luggage (please, don’t use the same ones). They’re handy for dissipating fog too, but you’re not crazy of visiting us during winter, are you?
Silica is also good at preserving old photos. Chances are, though, your favorites are already on the cloud, and the old ones got trashed by your ex. In any case, be creative and use those bags (more)
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Read Also:
* Is It Raining Yet?
* Downtime
* Curb Your God

Continue reading

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.
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Read Also:
* A Nation of Thanks
* Cold Turkey
* Meatless Time

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.
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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.

Hallow Talk

Dolls, Dummies & Porcelain Gore: the
Unsinkable Allure of the Talking Dead

Most people would never admit it, but there are no two ways about it: we like Halloween because it’s creepy. We like the gore associated with it, the scary stuff, and the lure of death, breathing coldly upon our neck. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.
What’s curious in American culture, however, is that even talking about death and the departed and what happens to decaying bodies and what we’re supposed to tell our child about their deceased relatives remains taboo for the whole year, except on October 31.
We use the children’s still unguarded approach to the world as a perfect Trojan horse of an excuse for peeking into the depths of our dark corners, where fears reign supreme, and the sun never shines. And tell everyone that it’s all for their own good.
But heaven forbid if they’re to inquiry about the finality of death, or the possibility – fiercely denied by billions but ever and again confirmed by all the evidence anyone can come up with – that this is it, there’s nothing beyond the Big Sleep, and one’d better making it count while it lasts.
We entrust the wee ones with the task of facing the most terrifying recesses of our psyche, while at the same time disenfranchising them from developing a critical mind about, say, coma, or rigor mortis, embalming, or cremation, and all fun things in between. No wonder they place so much currency on material goods these days.
Whether there’s a point in this cheap thrill of vicariously exposing children to dread towards the unknown, which we all share throughout life, just so they get use to feeling frightened, is truly up to discussion.
For what we, grownups, get out of Halloween is so rewarding to that nook within us which enjoys being spooked that all damage it may inflict on tender minds seems negligible. After all, we tell ourselves, soon enough, they’ll have to handle all of that on their own.
We’d have no problem assuming whole heartedly that we love Halloween. Even as memories of spending those hot South American days of our youth at cemeteries, visiting families and friends who went before, are not our particularly favorite recollections.
We still treasure that we did the time, and remember the smells of fresh flowers and sweat, mixed with a faint scent of recently dug up graves still encrusted deep in our brains. Not quite like the Mexicans, who actually party and camp at the gravesite on the Dia de los Muertos, but still a day to honor all souls, specially the finados.
So we could now proceed to tell rehashed tales about ghosts, goblins, strange apparitions and odd Jack O’Lanterns, stories about unexplained occurrences supposedly told to trustworthy people, rumors from the friend of a friend who’s heard an eerie chime echoing somewhere, perhaps even a dead celebrity sighting or two. But we’d rather not.
As usual, we’ll divert, digress, er, depart from that general theme and find our own niche to mark the date. We’ll focus, (more)
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Read Also:
* The Flours of Evil
* All Hallows Eve
* Hallow Ground

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Stay Awake

Top Reasons to Have
Nightmares in October

Despite all fake blood and make-believe spooks, plus the prospect of wholesome fun at movies and parties, the only dread still linked to Halloween is the obscene bite U.S. retailers snack out of it. So, at the intersection of what’s left of a pagan ritual, and the irony of grownups dressed up as bloodsuckers, here’s our own fright list.
True, nothing to bury you alive, or squeeze your sphincter to the point of constipation. Just five anxiety-driving reasons to refill your meds, and toss and turn all night in bed. You know, the usual suspects: fears about the future, or the past, or the future turning into the past, and, of course, crawling creatures and robots.
Now, the ability of some to still be scared means that somehow they care. And not many of us carry the burden of giving anything two flying er schmucks about it. But for those who do, sorry about the cliché but be afraid, be very afraid. Thus, this abridged inventory for the sake of offering anyone a warning shot about what may lie ahead. Consider yourself warned.
It may serve other purposes as well. Feel free to design a costume based on it, shocking enough to impress jaded friends and floor that cute Michael Meyers who struck your fancy at last year’s parade. In the process, you may exorcise that nasty heartburn. Just add spark and pointed teeth and voilá: even bad news take a break, sometimes.

cincoWE’RE IN THIS MATRIX, YOU SEE
Leave it to Wall Street to create new distractions, so while we get busy on social media, banksters subtract yet another dime from our future. But Bank of America Merrill Lynch may have broken new ground, even to seasoned con artists like, well, not us. It’s about the Matrix, you know?
In a note to clients, the bank that was found liable for mortgage fraud and paid in 2013 a $1.27 billion fine (in a government ruling since overturned), pompously warns that ‘It’s conceivable that (…) future civilizations could have decided to run a simulation of their ancestors,’ which means you, Keanu Reeves, and everyone else.
We’ve heard that before, of course, which makes one wonder, hey, where did I leave my wallet? For, while BoA, and every deranged preacher you never heard of, may be flashing their cards for our attention, about a future only they know about, it’s simply common sense to swoosh your cape and walk away, just in case.

quatroTHE EVIL THAT (MADEUP) MAN DO
You know that one: a lot of people are afraid of clowns, so why not start a crazy clown wave, with blurry video and threats to little children, just so we’re all on the same page? It’s on everywhere, and in the minds of publicity hounds, who’re smacking their heads, thinking, why haven’t I come up with such genius idea?
Hold on to your big shoes, Bozos, it’s all a fad. And the backlash is already apace, with mobs chasing down recovery pervs just because they’ve got the wrong shade of orange hair. Oh, sorry, that was a Trump rally. Nevertheless. Let’s keep an eye on those whose appearance is no cause for alarm, instead.
Or get rid of this paranoid mania, disseminated by not so clueless officials, that if you see something, you should tell on them to your local war weaponry-equipped Squad team, even if you have no proof of wrongdoing, or are out to get your poor Uncle Bob. That doesn’t mean your kids should like clowns again. Are you crazy? they’re creepy.

tresIT’S HAIRY, CRAWLS & CAN HEAR YOU
This is arguably the most frequent character in people’s nightmares, so it’s no wonder that every October there are some kind of unbearably frightening news about them. For if cats rule the Internet, spiders reign over everyone’s worst possible scenario. But until now, we were not supposed to shush in their presence too.
A new study found that spiders have an acute sense of hearing, and do hear you talking trash about them from across the room. So much for ears: they don’t have them. Still, you can hardly, if ever, hear them back. Until, of course, it’s too late, you’re covered with them, and… STOP!
They’re actually wonderfully creatures, crawling on this earth for some 380 million years. They nurture their young and occasionally eat their mates, but hey, who’ll miss them anyway? (more)
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Read Also:
* Happy Halloweeners
* Hallow Talk
* All Hallows Eve
Continue reading

Hell Holds No Pets

Meet Some of My
New York Friends

Paraphrasing Mario Puzo, keep your friends close, and the friends of your friends, closer. He may’ve known a thing or two about family sagas, but as far as animals are concerned, not so much. In fact, most of us wouldn’t flinch about harming a pet, even if Hollywood had an offer we couldn’t refuse.
Gentle beasts, they earn from us more than we could ever give friends, lovers, and relatives. So let me introduce you to a few of my acquaintances’ cats, and one tender dog, in the company of whom I satisfy my fix, and sense of loss, since mine left me long ago and I’ve run out of time to outlast new ones.
Life gives us no choice: once time comes, we leave it all behind. Which is fine. But unlike sons and daughters, there’s no telling them, now, go get your own place and pets to tend to. Once you’re together, you’re down for the long, or short, run, or whenever one of you checks out. Try to not to be the first.
For the accidental petsitter like me, it’s always clear which one of us is the needier, and who’s actually providing existential relief. Just like it was when they adopted us. So I tackle my duties like a priest sets up the altar for a mass: everything has to be carefully arranged to assure a safe trip to heaven for all involved.
Things usually follow a natural path, from wearily seizing each other’s out, to lending a tad of trust to the proceedings, to the time when it gets to be all fun and games. Such a progression may seem casual to the untrained eye, but let’s not let looks deceive us. For in the end, we may all feel better for having shared those moments together.

OLD SCHOOL & THE INTERLOPER
Ziggy was once the new kid on the block, but was never as big as his elder brother, who’s left us. When he finally got his shot at the top, KittyKat showed up and won everybody’s heart. Soon, he grew bigger and is now the dominant dude. Ziggy is right to be bitter.
Two beautiful Coons, they’ve got ways to go to get along, if they’ll ever. Most likely, Ziggy will keep on being cranky, despite such a Reggae name, while Kitty gets away with mayhem. And some dare to say that cats have it easy. Life has no patience for fairness. I love these two.

THE MAJESTIC QUEEN GRACIE
There are not enough superlatives to describe this lady, and to keep it simple doesn’t do her justice either. The thing about striking a feline-like balance when writing about a cat proves us how inadequate is our own sense of balance. And how poor. That’s not Gracie at all.
It took me a while to show her I was at her service. For she’d never demand anything. But when she finally vocalized her state of mind, I understood it perfectly. Many a silent sunset we’ve enjoyed together, as I dabbled in her generous name-sake mood. Everything about her speaks of harmony. I look forward to indulge her light again soon.

BIRDIE & SQUIRT, TWIN SHADOWS
These two could be spies, and I swear they like to play doubles. Just when I thought I knew which is which, they’ve proved me wrong. Twice. I’m sure at least one of them flies, when no one is looking. Then again, to wonder what cats do when we’re not around is like trying to build walls of shade. I think they can read my mind too.
Once I dozed off and just before I came to, I had this vivid impression they were staring at my reverie. But when I’ve opened my eyes, neither Birdie nor Squirt were anywhere to be seen. I’m sure they know something about me I don’t dare to imagine what. Next time, I’ll wear a disguise.

LULU TRAPEZIST & PRINCESS FURBALL
Lulu is the girl next door, who flirts with the string I flicker in front of her paws, and then disappears in the back. Princess came after, her beautiful fur covering up her round body. While she hardly moves, Lulu entertains dogs of all sizes. They both live in a pet store, you see.
Lulu‘s the one I seek when I need a quick cat fix. She won’t let (more)
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* Head Tails
* Ailurophile Caturally
* Suddenly, Last Caturday
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New York Bites

One Bridge For Sale, the Train
Savant & the Churchyard Sheep

Self-confidence is the New York currency. That’s why stories about the city and its citizens are borderline hyperbolical, lest no one be accused of being meek. No wonder; with 27,000 people per square mile, one needs all the distinction they can muster. Even if involves tall tales.
At least, eight million of them, as the 1948 classic Naked City claimed. Then as now, all are outstanding. Heard the one about selling the Brooklyn Bridge? Or the guy who went to prison for stealing the subway dozens of times? But fear not, the sheep are coming back to town.
Big Apple; city that never sleeps; top of the heap. New Yorkers are so fed up with slogans, sobriquets, and movies about their town being destroyed. Specially since it’s now far from the lawless wasteland some still expect from it. Just don’t try to sell cat hair, of course.
But urban myths about sewer alligators, or rats the size of cats, die hard. And so does the belief that residents are rude – they’re not, Ok? gotta a problem with that? – or getting rich just by mining the streets. The thing is, the real New York stories are much better than these.
So, yes, you hear this place is the greatest of this and greatest of that, and self aggrandizing is a competitive sport. But you’d better back up what you say or you’ll get your behind kicked before you can say, trump. As for that orange sleazyball, don’t worry: we’re working on it.

ONE BRIDGE IN GOOD CONDITION
Speaking of con men, and dealers who can’t close a deal, there’s a New Yorker who truly may’ve been the greatest of them all, or at least, one of the first of a long line of pretenders and liars: George C. Parker. Yes, he did ‘sell’ the Brooklyn Bridge at the turn of the 19th century.
Not once, but twice a week, for 30 years. He was not the only one to try, but seemed to have beaten the competition. His scheme even inspired the Mae West‘s 1937 vehicle, Every Day’s a Holiday. By then, no fraudsters of that ilk were still alive, only their legacy.
It’s survived to this day in the Nigeria‘s sudden riches Internet hoax, and, somehow, in the U.S. presidency. The set up, and the bill of goods involved, may change, but two core elements are still around: snake oil salesmen, and the gullibility of get-rich-quick believers.

THE SAD TALE OF THE TRAIN MAN
Darius McCollum may be many things: impersonator, trespasser, lawbreaker. He also has Asperger’s syndrome, and his feats flared up New Yorkers’ imagination – hey, his train was always on schedule. But one place he does’t belong to: Rikers Island.
And yet, he’s spent half of his 52 years in prisons like that. His deed: invading the subway system and conducting the train, without working for MTA. Or missing a stop. He did that many times since he was 15, and also tried his able hands on LIRR trains and a Greyhound bus.
Many believed he should’ve gotten the job that’d have saved him. Instead, the agency with an ugly record running NYC (more)
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* Play Dough
* A Tale of Twin Cities
* Sour Apples
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Running on Fumes

The Scent With Power to
Make You Dream Or Run

Some of us like perfumes. Others, stink too much (you know who you are. Maybe). Some use one to cover up the other, to widespread annoyance. And yet, for all we know, the primeval sense of smell may be the scent that has saved our species from extinction. Maybe.
The odor spectrum is radically split into two realms: one transcends us to heaven, if not to sweet remembrances of the past; the other tosses us into the very bowels of hell, all gagging included. But without rot wafts, we wouldn’t know how appreciate so much a whiff of lavender.
Or to breathe into a room full of old books. To some, that’d be the one to bottle and carry around at all times. Humans are partial to jasmine, to myrrh, and to citruses, too, not just to the primeval smell of milk or food in general. Our taste for pleasant smells is its own reward.
A familiar smell can stop people on their tracks, and thrown them into deep reverie. Often, a memory floods the mind even before it can recognize what triggered it. Similar to an old song, a scent can transport anyone to an elusive mix of recollection and comfort feelings.
No wonder the sense of direction has been linked to the nose. It’s where scientists found traces of magnetite, a crystal we share with birds. Of all the places we stick our noses in, or point them to, guessing correctly which is the way back home can be a life saver.

FOR A FEW SCENTS MORE
We should also thank the stars for the nose to point forward and far from what’s better left behind (and unsaid). But either for a matter of survival, as when one smells a fire, or a rat, or for sentimental reasons, it’s hard to imagine organisms depleted from such crucial ability.
But some people are, either by accident or freak of nature. And most are doing just fine, thank you very much. So there you have it, how lucky you’ve been and hardly noticed. And don’t go around saying that nobody told you: you just have. You’re welcome.
Within the vastness of what flares the wings of our nose (beside anger and derangement), two traces are particularly close to us: body odor (you knew it was coming); and city smells. Each or combined, (more)
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* Space Odor
* Aroma Holiday
* Two Scents

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Moon Shadow

Here Comes the Darken Sun,
But Let’s Just Say, It’s Alright

So the great solar eclipse of 2017 is coming to America and we, for ones, are only too glad about it. What, with all that’s going on, the thought of spending time with such a fascinating cosmic event surely beats most of everything one’s been watching on the news lately.
By now, however, every media, the Internet, your close friends, and even your deranged uncle Bob, have already told you all that is to know about it, maybe more. So here’s just a few historical and/or interesting pics to entice and inform you. Call it your personal mini visual tour.
Hover over the photos and click on them and on the links, for data and stories. Eclipses have been teaching us since time immemorial, and while many feared that the sun, or the moon, wouldn’t survive the penumbra, others like Edmond Halley, were open to learn. The one in 1919, for instance, proved Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

The one visible in 1966 at the bottom of South America led NASA to launch 12 rockets from a beach some 30 miles from where a little boy risked losing his eyesight to watch it through a photo negative strip. Luckily, that pair of eyes survived to experience many others since.

All ancient civilizations studied and documented cosmic phenomena. Comets and meteors, supernovas and moon eclipses, all had tremendous impact on our history on this planet. But things heat up considerably whenever the sun is concerned, and when the day turns into night, well, that’s not to be ever taken lightly.

We gaze, therefore we are. To many of us, this may be our very last solar eclipse, so we’d better make it good, just in case. Choose well your eye wear, pick a good spot, and make up a decent excuse to be there. Gee, the way things are going, the sun coming back after just a few hours may be the best news we may be getting for a while.

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Read Also:
* Tomorrow Never Knows

Bad Manor


The Kid, the Maid
& the Phony Blind

The telephone rang and blew my cover.
I was dreaming, oblivious to the final days of my vacation at the turn-of-the-century Inn where I was told George Washington had slept at. Most of the seasonal guests had already left. The maid, whose family had been keeping the place in pristine conditions for decades, had changed the laced sheets of the Victorian bed and was running around tiding things up.
Who knows what made me decided to play blind? My second-rate performance began on a whim and before long I felt liberated for not having to see where I was going (since she was making sure I wouldn’t hit anything).
Halfway through it I was fully committed to fool the tormented soul, as she charitably whispered advice so I wouldn’t break my skull open against the 1900s bookcase. That being a dream, I should be exonerated of any malfeasance, I thought.
Ah, what a joy to pretend I was heading straight to the antique console full of crystal glasses and fine china. I could see her cold sweat running, imagining that at any moment I could smash the priceless artifacts and drive her family out of business. Some daft footwork helped the devilish intent to grow even deeper within me.
As I directed my blank gaze to the window, I basked on the sound of children voices playing on the manicured lawns surrounding the cottages and the manor house. Autumn was at its peek. The sound of unseen birds racked my rapture. I was truly elated.
Then the phone rang and my 8-year old woke up — I’d forgotten all about him. The poor thing had been sick all morning, and had fallen asleep on an exquisite century-old rug. As he sat up crying, he tells me that the sudden ringing had had a perverse effect on his track: he’d soiled his pants profusely. Still weeping, he also threw up, projecting the half-digested Continental Breakfast out of the makeshift bed I’d prepared for him. Even before he told me that, though, my nostrils had already sounded the alarm.
I immediately broke out of character and ushered him towards the bathroom, a long and excruciating way from the living room. We rushed through the bedroom as fast as we could but he still managed to let another copious wave of vomit to land on the fluffy pillows. And another one followed suit, caking a Federal-style trunk.
When he finally sat on the toilet bowl, I turned back to see the thick, smelly track of organic waste that lined the floor from the foyer to the bathroom’s door.
As I feared such a pious old lady could turn into a murderous rage, I was glad to wake up.
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(*) Originally published on Mar. 28, 2011.

Some Girls

When Medieval Badass Ladies Had
to Crossdress to Survive the Times

It’s unlikely that they’ve ever heard of each other. Or imagined they’ll be featured together on an obscure blog post of the future. Yet, these remarkable women left a mark for their sheer independence and fiery personalities. (And for being luckier than doomed heroine Joana D’Arc).
Ching Shih ruled the Chinese waters. Caterina Sforza almost killed a pope. As a man, Catalina de Erauzo was a warrior. But like Chevalier d’Eon, she was actually a lady. These fab four may have had to kill or bed many men. Some did it both. But none owed their outstanding reputation to any of them, or had to take what they didn’t choose.
Gender does say something about the foursome, but not all. Yes, they all led bloody lives, and many perished on their wake. But the odds they’ve faced for not being male, and having to conceal that fact, turned them into formidable characters who rose high above the fray.
Besides the ever present foes of women’s right to independence, such as religious zealotry, class barriers, and society prejudice, they had to survive typical Middle Ages threats, such as the Inquisition and burning at the stake. No wonder they were all sharp fencers (swordswomen?).
They’ve achieved more than most, and their lives did rewrite the rules of was expected from women, then or at any time, regardless the body count. Theirs were partial paybacks for what many of their gender didn’t live long enough to collect, despite earning and deserving it.

THE PIRATE WHO RULED CHINA’S SEAS
History books tell that Ching Shih was a prostitute before reaching command of the Red Flag Fleet. That she only climbed to the top through murdering the powerful pirate Zhèng Yi, who kidnapped her as a whore and made her his wife. Only to be betrayed, etc. History books were probably written by a man.
In fact, she expanded the fleet and redefined how it’d manage its riches, and did so out of a keen business and strategy acumen. And unlike most male pirates we’ve know of, she negotiated a pardon for her and her charges, who all retired with a comfortable keep. She died at the ripe age of 69.

THE HUSBAND & WOULD-BE POPE KILLER
Much briefer, if no less intense, was Caterina Sforza‘s life. Infamous too, thanks to no other but Machiavelli himself. He wrote Cesare Borgia-based ‘The Prince,’ so it’s not hard to guess whose pope she had a rift with, and came out singed by history. Alexander VI, a.k.a. Rodrigo de Borgia, was Cesare’s dad and his own patron.
She did bury a few husbands, but the anecdote that survived Sforza was that she exposed her pregnant belly to the sword of an enemy: Go ahead, she said, slay my baby. I can make more. Whether (more)
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* The Flow
* First Ladies
* The Other Half of the Sky

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Paper Planes

404 Pages, Old Hoaxers
& Staying Dry in the Rain

This being Summer Solstice time, it seems appropriate to bring you these stories, each with a temporal slant. One would not be possible a few decades ago; another no longer makes much sense; and yet the other one is ageless. So, no sweat, we’ve got you covered.
On the Internet, no one knows you got lost; or that you landed on a ‘Not Found’ page. The Society Against Quackery would not tolerate such nonsense 130 years ago. And yet, since time immemorial, there’s been Virga, a special kind of rain: the type that doesn’t make you wet.
What? Didn’t they use to count paper planes on New York City streets? Or holes in Blackburn Lancashire? Indeed they did, so it shouldn’t shock you if we pick the odd or the unusual for a summer read, rather than the bloody or the bombastic. For there’ll be plenty of that too.
There’s a new Pride Flag with a welcome element of racial tolerance. And, yes, the season’s proverbial love stories already abound, along those from the 1967 Summer of Love. And the breeze, and that girl from Ipanema, and all cliches about heat and hurricanes.
Since warm days go by faster in the north, they’ll still be filled with talk about ice cream and beaches, parties and drought. Just as Earth will keep on getting warmer, and this sort of conversation feels like sand inside one’s swimming suits. Blame us for wanting you to take it easy.
THIS CALL CANNOT BE COMPLETED
So what’s wrong with searching and not finding? Not acceptable these days. See, even when one lands on uncharted territory, it’s no longer an excuse to avoid making assumptions. Or post your cluelessness on Facebook. No opinion should be spared. Thus the 404 pages.
Which is now as entertaining as if you’d reached a site about scientific curiosities. Museums, institutions, companies, and individuals, all jockey to come up with clever ways to cushion your crushing results. It’s Ok, the image and wording seem to say. Here, see how funny this is.
As for the code number, like a lot of what still compounds our journeys online, it had a nerdy origin, such as some room number in a building once fully occupied by an electronic brain, as it was know. Or it was by chance, depending of who you find still wondering in the space formerly known as cyber.
THE OLD FLIM-FLAM DEBUNKERS
Way before Tim Berners-Lee was born – the World Wide Web inventor just turned 62 last week – or there was need for Snopes, a group of Dutch skeptics recognized the potential harm hidden behind human gullibility. And decided to mount a defense against those who’d gladly take advantage of it.
If the Internet metastasized the power of deceivers, in 1881, snake oil salesmen, mystics, end-of-the-world profiteers, and an entire array of their ilk, were already doing irreparable damage out of others’ (more)
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Earth Cavities

Worlds Inside, Real & Imagined,
Offer Insights Into Human Psyche

‘Why may we not suppose four ninths of our globe to be cavity?’ Edmond Halley’s 1692 Hollow Earth theory was rightly debunked for its faulty science. But it did lend, at least for a while, credence to a recurrent feature in ancient mythology, folklore, and legends.
No pun intended but underneath it all, he too was drawn to the allure of tunnels, caves, and the underground. The hidden and the obscure are innate to our psyche and beliefs, just as natural or manufactured burrows, are ideal temples for practical and mystical needs.
‘Descend, bold traveller, into the crater of the jökull of Snæfell, (…) to attain the centre of the earth. I did it. Arne Saknussemm.’ Two centuries after the Isaac Newton collaborator made famous by a comet had given up on his idea, Jules Verne concocted his own atemporal version of the enduring myth, in the best-selling novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Halley, an accomplished scientist thought to have been instrumental for the 1687 publishing of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, was ironically betrayed by what’s deemed a flaw of the revolutionary treatise: Newton’s erroneous attribution for the mass of the Moon.
By overweighting that mass in relation to Earth, by a factor of 1 to 26, instead of 1:81, the man responsible to our understanding of gravity laws unwittingly gave room to Halley’s supposition: Earth should be hollow, possibly inhabited. And the source of the Aurora Borealis, too.
None of this is detrimental to the two genius of science, or our debt to them. But Halley’s hypothesis did hit a resonant note, if not for its sacred past, then for a long string of mentally ill visionaries and phony prophets, way back from the Enlightenment to, sadly, our days.
BELOW THE BOTTOM
Even before antiquity, caverns were considered places of power, dwelling of spirits of good and evil, passages to other worlds. Many peoples and tribes, some whose descendants still walk among us, believed that the’d come from the Earth’s insides, and were supposed to return there someday.
All civilizations had some reference to the underworld, the Hades, the place where the dead lived. Dante Alighieri placed the Christian hell under our feet, so the faithful would live in fear and don’t stray. Throughout history, burials may have been so popular presumably for reasons other than just recycling.
Even today, some believe that UFOs actually come from beneath us. And just like vampires, fly out at night from hidden entrances in the poles. But the fact is, even if it were scientifically possible for this rock to have a giant hole inside, without cracking, it wouldn’t be big enough to accommodate all theories about it.
SECLUDED CATHEDRALS
To be sure, nature is not shy of keeping us away from its secrets, and often land or underwater caves are as inaccessible to most humans as the outer space is. Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, has its own jungle, rivers, and climate. And lethal challenges and a roll call of dead people too.
Its exploration is beyond most people’s athleticism and endurance. Just like astronauts are a special breed, so are cave enthusiasts. Also, due to Earth’s volatile geological and seismic configuration, while there may be even bigger caves yet to be discovered, some may suddenly cave in or shape up overnight.
Just as their enclosed universe will remain intimate and challenging, so will one’s connexion with those places. They may serve as a meditation sanctuary or a spot to hide, and the strength of one’s (more)
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Rainforest Rundown

The Amazon’s Ancient Wonders,
Current Misery & Its Worst Foes

When Colltales started, seven years ago this Earth Day week, the environmental disaster du jour was BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve survived that, but many species haven’t. Now the still living, breathing, exuberant Amazon Rainforest may be where our next big screwup will take place, as proof that little has changed.
We’re still as likely to discover a Stonehenge-like monument, or 2,000-year old earthworks, or a 3,600-square-mile coral reef where the Amazon meets the Atlantic, as we’re to find that our taste for burgers is killing the jungle, deforestation rates are again on the rise, or that the Brazilian president is actually out to to cash in the forest.
Did we mention the neck-breaking pace of murders of green activists? Or the river of flowing boiling water? Nothing in the Amazon is mild or accommodating; it’s either an explosion of millions of still unknown species, or the soul-crushing wildlife and climate change indifference, shared by many Brazilians.
That’s why scientists fear the worst: not just that we won’t get to learn all that’s there for millennia to be discovered, but that today’s staggering beauty and power of the Rainforest will be reduced to a vast desert of its sandy soil, unprotected by the canopy and terminally exposed to the elements.
It’s ironic, then, that a deranged Brazilian conspiracy theory, dear to xenophobic and fanatics alike, is about some secret society of wealthy individuals, that’s supposedly been working to yank the forest out Brazil’s control and ownership. Suddenly, that prospect seem better than the current reality.

STONEHENGE, GEOGLYPHS & REEFS
Think about indigenous tribes? think again, for it was a cattle ranch foreman who stumbled upon some rocks piled up on a curious position, in what it’s now known as a thousand-year Stonehenge formation, probably built for the same purpose as the one in the U.K. And just as mysterious.
Just like the even older miles of earthworks, geoglyphs as deep as 16 feet and wide as a mile, proving the forest as home to some busybodies centuries before Europeans came to loot it. The discovery opens a new chapter into the history of the Amazon, one that unfortunately we may not get to finish reading.
Nature kept pace with all this human activity, and in unexpected ways too. Where the mighty Amazon reaches the sea, the crash of two powerful forces is long known as the Pororoca. That’s where lies miles of previously undiscovered coral reefs, coated most of the year by the river’s thick mud. Ready for swim?

BURGERS, MINERS & SLAVES
Not so fast. That juicy staple of American cuisine, now massively popular all over the globe, has something else questionable about it, besides being made of slaughtered cows: its smoky, ashy, scorched-earth rainforest sauce. No other way of putting it: cattle in the Amazon was always a bad idea.
But the meat industry is not the only woe helping clearing the forest: mining projects may deliver another blow to the entire region, if environmental regulations are eased as the Brazilian government plans. Even as is, (more)
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World Snatchers

Relax, There’s a Chance It
Will All End Up With a Blast

The danger of normalizing something so terminally outrageous is that it makes us all numb, complacent, vulnerable. Suddenly, yesterday’s inconceivable is today’s inevitable, and what we’ve been resisting against for millennia finally breaks through and flips us all into ashes.
Take meteorites, for instance – what? you thought we were talking about something else? One just zapped by Earth this week and didn’t even make to the front pages. NASA says there may be a couple more with our street address on them, heading our way. What then?
There’s an underfunded agency tracking so-called near Earth objects, sizable enough to cause harm. But size was relative in the dinosaur demise, 65 million years ago. Bigger rocks have hit the planet before and after, with little notice or damage. Luck us.
Still, if the risk is in the angle and substance, not scope or even speed, so be it. Few remember but in 2013, the world was expecting an asteroid to pass at large, when out of the blue, another, unknown, exploded over the skies of Russia. Luck was indeed in the angle.
Call us paranoid but when the eruption of the Vesuvius finally made it to the headlines of the day, it’s likely that the lava was already eating the town by its borders. And even if it caught some overly worried like us in its wake, most of the cautious had already made out of the joint.

THE HARMLESS FLEET & THE UNDETECTED KILLER
The unsettling thing about 2017 FU102, the near-Earth asteroid that zapped by us Sunday, was not that it passed at 0.6 times the mean distance of the Moon, but that it’d been discovered only four days before. Ok, so it was a 10-meter rock, that at the most, would’ve probably smashed a car, if it’d crashed.
But by the same measure of anticipation, had it been a thousand times bigger, even with over a year of advanced notice, there’d still be little for us to do. What, with our current state of affairs, many would’ve likely spent millions trying to prove that it was all NASA’s invention.
At the end of the day, it is the luck of the draw that we haven’t been hit yet. And, to some extent, spending millions trying to come up with a way to divert these civilization killers may not count on many supporters. But the alternative sucks: what to do in the waiting months till the inexorable?

METEOR SHOWERS & THE NEW FIREBALL SEASON
There are many who appreciate regularly scheduled meteor showers, multiple annual night presentations sponsored by nature, going on since before we came into the picture. On the 22nd this month, for example, we’ll have the Lyrid Showers, and who knows what does heaven have in store for us.
But the er big stars of every year is the Perseid, on August, the November Leonid, and the Geminid in December. There are more, some not big enough to have a name. By all accounts, showers are benign and entertaining, when it doesn’t rain, of course. Kids love them, perhaps because they happen late in the evening.
Another thing altogether is dealing with the term Fireball Season, possibly coined by H.R. MacMillan Space Centre astronomer Derek Kief. One can’t help it but to fear the implicit ominousness of such (more)
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Head & Tails

Who Is the Mad Dog 
Murdering English Cats?

Maybe it’s Internet envy. You know, people who hate you just because you’re all over the Web. And your name is Justin Bieber. The culprit is unlikely to be among cat’s biggest enemies (no, not dogs): bird lovers. But watch out: the U.K. has a serial kitty killer on the prowl.
Nothing cute about it, though. Someone is beheading cats in the South London Croydon neighborhood, and police has no clues, other than the killings are gruesome and ostensible: the psycho leaves mutilated bodies where their human companions can easily come across them.
Again, it may have to do with Internet access and its magnifying effect. For justAtop a Mountain, in Calp, Spain (Aleksandr Osipov:NatGeo)a few decades ago, serial killers were known mostly by law enforcement agents. Now, you need to ask your Uncle Bob to please, shut up already, when he babbles about them as if they were his pub buddies.
Their creepy habits, pathology, and biographies are a constant theme of family dinner conversations, and inspiration to countless movie plots; best seller books and even songs have been written about them, and everybody seems to have heard of that lonely soul who married one in jail.
That’s how most of us know of a particularly haunting trait they all seem to share: an early childhood taste for torturing and murdering small animals. Thus, the British press, not particularly known for nuanced coverage, sobriquet for the newest psychopath: Croydon Cat Ripper.

BLOOD SPREADING OR COPYCATS?
Cats have attracted extreme passion or fear throughout history, and the overstatement needs no emphasis. From ancient Egyptian adoration to Dark Ages‘ obscurantism to redemption through the Black Plague, the domestic feline trajectory with humans has been as vertigo-inducing as a roller coaster.
But once clichés are set aside, a richer picture emerge, of a creature with a rare appeal, both aloof and Zen-like tempered; independent, suffused with mystery, and yet, resolutely loyal to those who (more)
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Thinking With Tentacles

Mad Penguins & Whale Accents
in the Court of the Octopus King

Research into the natural world has been a reliable way of gauging our walk on this planet, and where we’re probably heading to. But a new approach, devoid of any rancid anthropomorphism, has offered fresh insights into animal intelligence. And the results are remarkable.
Heard the one about whales with a Caribbean accent? Or penguins having sex parties wilder than drunken priests? But no one was ready to witness an octopus opening a jar from inside, or sneaking out at night to feed on crabs nearby, before returning to its tank. Or not.
What these and other animals prove is that cognitive ability is not a human monopoly. In fact, whenever the need to compare them with us is subtracted from the equation, crows, cephalopods, and pigeons, to name a few, can outsmart a thinking bloke often in a radical way.
Evolution has proposed alternatives to some species so far from our own, that they could be almost aliens raised in Pluto for we know. Since we no longer equate physiology with identity, it’d be better get acquainted with mental prowess that owes nothing to rationality.
Not that we even apply it to everything, and yes, to us, there is something wrong with that. But elephants have always cried of sadness, and chickens do side up with individuals in danger. We were just too busy trading their tusk for the ivory, or simply eating them, to pay any attention.

ADÉLIES JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
Let’s get this out of the way: penguins are not humans, thus morality is not an issue, even if a colony, in the distance, looks like a black-tie cocktail party. And for belting out loud, the Adélies have nothing on the singing lady Adele. But when it comes to parties, theirs do get wild.
During Capt. Scott‘s second, and doomed, trip to Antarctica, between 1910-13, George Murray Levick wrote of widespread necrophilia, males sexually coercing young chicks, before killing them, and shock, having sex with other males. To him, it was ‘depravity,’ and his notes (in Ancient Greek, to harden access to them) went missing.
Till now: they’ve been uncovered and bad ‘science’ journalism have ensued, of course. But the biggest recent news about the Adélie had nothing to do with sex. In February, it was reported that 150,000 penguins died, after being landlocked by the fracture of a giant iceberg.
But it was a hoax, better researched stories have confirmed. Neither sex fiends nor massacred by climate change, yet, penguins are just, once again, being victims of bad reporting. Why we care has nothing to do with humanity either: they just look like us. We’re already changing their history. Time to tell their stories way better, too.

DEEP SONGS & ACCENTED CLICKS
Since at least the 1970s, news about whales is always surprising, even as their numbers keeping receding towards extinction. The size of their brains, rich social lives, their songs, complex and uniquely identified with their pods. And then there’s the loneliest of them all.
The fact that research into these massive but elusive species has reached such a level of sophistication is, in itself, (more)
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Slippery & Walkable

The Banana Comic Hour
& a Cabbage Walking Tour

Only bananas to elicit such an immediate, jocose reaction from us. From shape to content, it’s not even a fruit, but a berry that comes with its own signature visual gag: someone slipping on a peel. A soul that hasn’t laughed at a butt being splashed on the floor is yet to be born.
The cabbage, on the other, still odorous side, is about foods not fit for dessert. Dieting, intestinal functions, and the sober, stark Irish and Eastern European cuisines are its realm, and it has thrived for centuries as a tool for parental torture of their crying, spoiled-rot tots.
And yet, for all its sensual pleasures, banana was central to colonial wars, even if slaves and marauders wouldn’t recognize it today: we now favor Cavendish, a seedless, sterile clone. But all is forgiven if that cream pie lives up to its billing.
As for the hardy cabbage, it may be bitter like a prescription, but its color palette is unmatched. Sure, it’s resilient, and it’ll remain fibrous after hours of boiling. It won’t apologize when others veggies wilt, and yet, some would take it for a walk, but we’ll get there before soup.
It may seem in bad taste to talk about food in a week like that. At least insensitive, some would say, to write about edibles and not mention Belgium waffles. But both bananas and cabbages beat any coward massacre, as the one we’re unfortunately forced to endure and grieve.
But what’s better than a hearty meal and a succulent shake? Cooking with compassion will always beat terror, let alone hunger. Rather than war, we’d serve bananas and cabbage to those suffering in Brussels. Here’s to your honor; may this meal lift your spirits.

TROPICAL RACE & THE PEEL SPIEL
The world eats more mangoes, but bananas have a more nuanced if brutal history: the rampage of Europeans and Americans to ransack Latin American nations, and the few politically-charged, and blatantly racist expressions to match: monkey business, banana republic, etc. And never forget those excessive plantains.
Its popularity growing, bananas may have climate change as a formidable adversary, and all sorts of fungi remain a constant threat. Some fear extinction, but while that doesn’t happen, we’re surely the big banana here, so don’t ever call us Berry.
Celebrity came with Andy Warhol, public demand brought it to Iceland, but monkeys were always the ones to better peel a banana. By the way, (more)
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First Ladies

Little-Known Great Women
Who Challenged the World

A Brit who wrote the first book in English and an Italian grand master; a sailor disguised as a man and a round-the-world biker; a war photographer and the first female in space. Ground-breaking pioneers, these women beat the odds and inspired mankind.
Julian and Artemísia, Hannah and Annie, Dickie and Valentina, forged a new identity for women everywhere, one that’s often been at odds with male-dominated institutions, and that only modern age could fully embrace. These were no tamed spirits.
Along the way, the mastery of intellect and mysticism, of great art and entrepreneurship, became one with what all that came after. Each generation that followed had more of their independence of thought, courage to report, and dare to reach for the stars.
These were no followers either. What each carved on the fabric of their own age still stands now, be it as a spiritual path or pictorial record, a skill for subversion or example of non-conformity, the capture of the battlefield or a flight into the future.
But only six, you may ask, and why them, instead of, say, the other few billion? Well, short lists keep things moving: room only for names, times, and the life that defined their accomplishments. Ultimately, though, it’s our choice and we’re running with it.
That won’t settle the argument, but hope for a first female U.S. president got a boost Tuesday, and next week is International Women’s Day. Both fitting brackets for a possible breakthrough year in equality, a battle these women fought and won, so now we know their names.
Great humans create entire epochs around their existence, not always acknowledged in time. Many would enlist their own mothers on this roll. Short lists help leaving them out, or yours would be certainly here. It also beats having to rewrite so many well-known bios.

THE MYSTIC WRITER & THE PROTO-FEMINIST PAINTER
On its way to world domination, 14th century England struggled to survive the wreckage of the Dark Ages. The pestilence and ravaging left on its wake was cause for much soul searching and exacerbated religiosity. Times were ripe for Julian of Norwich.
After surviving illness, she walked out of public life to become a religious recluse, an anchorite, living her remaining years in closed quarters to ‘speak with god’ full time. While others like her burned at a stake, Her Revelations of Divine Love is considered the first female-penned, English-language book.
Two hundred years after, Rome was at the center of the art and religious world, and artists were busy carving their reputations through the glorious Baroque style. Most were male, but Artemisia Gentileschi would defy gender conventions, even as she was long gone when she was recognized as a grand master.
Raped by her tutor, who her family successfully sued – not without enormous public shaming of Artemisia, during the trial – she became a rare female working artist whose talent, and tumultuous relationships, equalled that of established painters, such a Caravaggio, with whom she’s often linked.

THE CROSS-DRESSED SAILOR & THE WORLD CYCLIST
There were few options for a woman to sail the world in the 18th century, and to become a soldier of the Royal Marines was hardly one of them. Hanna Snell managed to do both, even as she concealed her gender under the alias James Gray; heaven knows how she survived those long stretches at sea.
Remarkably, her bravery granted her full military pension, and her story, The Female Soldier, made her into a minor celebrity, no small feats for a woman at the time. Till the end, despite three (more)
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Downtime

Seven Treats to Give
Yourself & the World

The year has started with a bang and your head still hurts. So let’s ease ourselves into it, as gently as possible, shall we? Thus our very useful guide of stuff to do – the kind you never find time for – whose rewards you’ll be collecting way beyond December. 
Like, serving meals at a Soup Kitchen. Or taking a bath, in a sensory-deprived tank. You pick the order. In a pickle? The state may owe you cash. Kinda blue? Host a pet this weekend. And more. New York choices are plenty for serving and be served. Just sign on.
For soon enough, there’ll be laundry to do, people to call, and debt collectors to avoid. Holidays are brutal, and their toll usually lasts for months. Here’s your chance to break the mold and get started on something rare, to remember this January like you never done before.
Only a minority is already living in this future we may’ve imagined 2016 would be, this same time last year. Most of us can’t even write the date correctly yet. Gosh, there’s still so much left to do just from a few days ago, let alone 12 months past.
Never mind new resolutions. Nothing ever changes purely on their account, anyway. Start simple, they say, progress wearily, and proceed with caution. We know, our head hurts too. Who can stand strong emotions so soon? Take this guide and calls us in the morning.

PICNIC AT A GRAVEYARD
It may sound morbid but many are still mourning the death of yet another year, without achieving anything near what David Bowie, who’ll be 69 this Friday, already had at a much younger age. So weep, but take some wine and cheese with you. You’ll be in good company.
Green-Wood, in Brooklyn, and Woodlawn, in the Bronx, are both beautiful, full of history, and peaceful enough for some quiet crying. Plus, they’ve both hold periodic activities, some after midnight, of course, that don’t involve your corpse just yet. Good hauntings.

SERVE SOME SOUP
Come holidays and big dates, someone always has this idea of volunteering at rescue missions around town. Problem is, they’re usually fully booked at those times, by others just like you, except a bit more industrious to enlist their names. It’s all good, though.
Now, most places can’t get enough help. With increased homelessness in this frigid city of ours, it’s a golden chance to fulfill one of those rare urges that doesn’t benefit only you. Whether it’ll make you feel good about yourself is irrelevant. Gotta serve somebody.
TAKE A TANK BATH
Neuroscientist John C. Lilly (who’d have been 100 today) is credited with developing sensory deprivation tanks, where one can float for hours on Epson salts. Later, he added LSD to the experience, (more)
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Blood Money

Digging for Gold &
Finding a Rat, Instead

There are two sure ways to change one’s social status, we’re told: win the lotto, or find a lot of cash. What we’re rarely told about, though, is that pesky moral itch that troubles some: where’s this coming from? That’s surely enough to put a chill on that big blast in Vegas.
What if you’d come across a cache of dough? Yay, you’re rich. But wait, you’d say. Was this stolen from natives? Jews? drug fiends? If you’d been in the mountains of Poland, or in the sea and farms of Colombia, in the past few months, you’d certainly wonder. As you should.
So, fine, what if you don’t ask those questions? No sweat, take the money and run. Who knows, you may have people you want to help, will wind up running a charity or something. Good for you. Just be sure not call anyone from that bus station, once you’re done and broke.
The Internet is full of heart-warming stories, about nice chaps finding cash and instead of running, returning it all. Which is great but doesn’t turn anyone into a certified saint. Then again, there’s always the possibility that it’s too good to be true. A con. A hoax.
There are many ways to screw up the few chances one gets in this life. Even if there’s no nobility on starving, or natural enlightenment for being poor, time on Earth goes very fast. That means that, even making a wrong detour may lead you to redemption. Or something. Just don’t call, etc.

A 2-PART, 300-YEAR BATTLE
The Spanish Armada’s 1588 defeat to the British didn’t stop their nations’ centuries-old rivalry (which set today’s dominance of their languages). In May of 1708, one of its ships, the Galleón San José, lost another battle to the Royal Navy and sank off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.
Last week, when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted the wreck’s discovery, staking a claim over its estimated record $17 billion treasure, he immediately set up yet another 3-way battle, this (more)
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Hairy Halloweeners

Zombies Are no Match to
People’s Phobia of Spiders

Halloween is upon us, and the walking dead continue to bury the traditional cast of goblins, ghosts, vampires and werewolves that used to dominate the season, in the hallowed ground of popular imagination. Only one creature packs a bigger fright punch than zombies: spiders.
They’ve been around for millions of years, more species are discovered every day, and unlike all other scary monsters, they’re very much real. And guess what? they’re growing bolder, scarier, and all research done lately has only increased our paralyzing fear of them.
For however beautiful creatures spiders may be, with their intense maternal feelings, their amazing stronger-than-steel silk-making abilities, and their endearing habit of liquefying their prey, they still can’t shake their reputation as overlords of both the crevices of the real world and of our most intimate nightmares.
Science has often come to the rescue of arachnophobes everywhere, who’re helpless to ward off their deep-seated fear of these crawlers. Discoveries in medicine and promising psychological therapies have been developed in order to find ways of soothing such fears, to not much avail, we must say.

For example, the lethal poison of the Brazilian Wandering spider, for which there’s no antidote, may one day replace Viagra-like therapies in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, according to a recent study. Great, right? But then, along comes the Trogloraptor Marchingtoni, or ‘cave robber,’ a recently discovered species with a horrendous set of claws, and we’re back into our fetal position.
CAN’T SHAKE THAT FEELING
Two separate studies about our fear of spiders and snakes, have concluded that, first, it may date back to early mammals, who had to (more)
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John & Poe

October & the City Link
the Walrus & the Raven

Edgar Allan Poe (d. Oct. 7, 1849, Boston) and John Lennon (b. Oct.9, 1940, Liverpool) would’ve likely enjoyed each other’s company. One could even picture them sharing a coffee in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks from where they both lived briefly in New York.
Sharing a certain sensibility, they’ve twisted rules and noses with their talent and non-conformism. While Poe’s genius was acknowledged mostly after death, Lennon’s was still shaping his own times when life was brutally taken away from him. Despite their enormous sway over our era, they’ve both died at 40.
Their status as two of the world’s most recognized pop icons often obscures the depth of their art and endurance of their legacy. And maybe their irresistible appeal owes more to a contemporary deficit of revolutionary artists than to their particular take on human expression.
Or it may be that we’re so desperate to find paradigms upon which to pile our frustration about the world, that a walking wound such as Poe, or a talking head like Lennon, may offer the conduit we seek to connect and placate our own shortcomings. Just like it ever was.
They couldn’t help it but being such tragic heroes, either, with terrible upbringings and disturbing deaths to boot. But that’s when shallow similarities between the two begin to falter, and no longer serve us to rescue their relevance out of the amber it’s been encased.
THE MESMERIC & THE MAUDIT
Poe, who lived in three separate places in Greenwich Village, New York City, before moving to a farmhouse uptown where he wrote The Raven at age 36, is the only American writer routinely mentioned along the French poètes maudits.
The Paul Verlaine-concocted term encapsulated the romantic ideal of the artist as a tragic hero, not suited to this world, who inevitably self-immolates. We won’t get into how flawed and self-indulgent it is such notion, but the literature the group produced transcended it all.
Perhaps the best known among those poets was Charles Baudelaire, who championed, translated and wrote essays about Poe, (more)
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Hallow Talk

Dolls, Dummies & Porcelain Gore: the
Unsinkable Allure of the Talking Dead

Most people would never admit it, but there are no two ways about it: we like Halloween because it’s creepy. We like the gore associated with it, the scary stuff, and the lure of death, breathing coldly upon our neck. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.
What’s curious in American culture, however, is that even talking about death and the departed and what happens to decaying bodies and what we’re supposed to tell our child about their deceased relatives remains taboo for the whole year, except on October 31.
We use the children’s still unguarded approach to the world as a perfect Trojan horse of an excuse for peeking into the depths of our dark corners, where fears reign supreme, and the sun never shines. And tell everyone that it’s all for their own good.
But heaven forbid if they’re to inquiry about the finality of death, or the possibility – fiercely denied by billions but ever and again confirmed by all the evidence anyone can come up with – that this is it, there’s nothing beyond the Big Sleep, and one’d better making it count while it lasts.
We entrust the wee ones with the task of facing the most terrifying recesses of our psyche, while at the same time disenfranchising them from developing a critical mind about, say, coma, or rigor mortis, embalming, or cremation, and all fun things in between. No wonder they place so much currency on material goods these days.
Whether there’s a point in this cheap thrill of vicariously exposing children to dread towards the unknown, which we all share throughout life, just so they get use to feeling frightened, is truly up to discussion.
For what we, grownups, get out of Halloween is so rewarding to that nook within us which enjoys being spooked that all damage it may inflict on tender minds seems negligible. After all, we tell ourselves, soon enough, they’ll have to handle all of that on their own.
We’d have no problem assuming whole heartedly that we love Halloween. Even as memories of spending those hot South American days of our youth at cemeteries, visiting families and friends who went before, are not our particularly favorite recollections.
We still treasure that we did the time, and remember the smells of fresh flowers and sweat, mixed with a faint scent of recently dug up graves still encrusted deep in our brains. Not quite like the Mexicans, who actually party and camp at the gravesite on the Dia de los Muertos, but still a day to honor all souls, specially the finados.
So we could now proceed to tell rehashed tales about ghosts, goblins, strange apparitions and odd Jack O’Lanterns, stories about unexplained occurrences supposedly told to trustworthy people, rumors from the friend of a friend who’s heard an eerie chime echoing somewhere, perhaps even a dead celebrity sighting or two. But we’d rather not.
As usual, we’ll divert, digress, er, depart from that general theme and find our own niche to mark the date. We’ll focus, (more)
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