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
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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

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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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* Space Droppings
* Heavenly Palace
* Meanwhile, Up There

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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)
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Read Also:
* Run for Cover
* Small Classes
* Help Unwanted

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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

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