Happy New Weird

If the World Gets Upside
Down, Learn How to Float

Much has been lost in 2017, or is under threat. Our dignity as a nation, shared respect for facts, telling the truth without a subpoena involved. But we’re not giving up our ownership over what’s weird just yet.
See, since we’re ruled by someone with no regard for clarity, the very concept of what’s bizarre has become twisted. Well, no longer. Weird belongs to reality itself, has its own shine, and we’re its keepers.
But before highlighting some of the brightest spots, where the nonsensical and the truly odd reign supreme, and where no orange human has been before, here’s where the quirk and the surreal are actually enlightening. The Improbable Research, for instance, with its gloriously instructive Annals magazine and annual Ig Noble Awards.
Yes, it may never occurred to you that how long a cow stands may determine how long it will lie down (a 2013 award), or the effects of music on angry drivers (a recent paper), but boy, what a delight to learn. For these are accomplished scientists, fulfilling the ‘first laugh, then think’ motto. Yes, now you know.
On another end, there’s I Fought the Law, a book about some American laws, which may or may not be real. It all could’ve come from the same warped realm where the 45th seems to belong to, including suspicions that its author is pulling our collective legs. But what if somebody does want to ban the Stripes and Stars from being planted on a bar of soap?
In between, Pareidolia and your garden variety abnormalities of all suits, from time travelers, their blurry pictures and eerily-looking guns, to kinky children’s plays and traditional, but no less unsettling, national habits. Some quite unsavory indeed, but hey, haven’t you heard about the working, golden-platted toilet boil they’re shipping to the White House? So there you have it.

The East Village Continental used to be a dive where $5 would get you good drunk to go. Now, $20 buys you only a literally washed-down Appletini. Just don’t dare saying ‘literally’ to the bartender; it’ll get you banned. That and mentioning the bankruptcy that will close it in July.
Or maybe it’s the clientele of NYU bros, who came with the onslaught of school dorms in the area. In any case, this dive is doomed and yes, the only good thing still good about the place is that it’s still a dive. Or maybe it’s now something else. Literally. Whatever.

One of the most enduring cartoon characters ever created is Linus and his blanket, which he uses for emotional support. Charles M. Schulz knew a thing or two about Freud, and therapy, and how sometimes we all reach out for something to provide us relief from a troubled world.
But United Airlines sees it as a stunt, apparently. Even as animal companions are as common in air travel as, well, lack of leg room, the company has recently refused to let a woman board the plane with her pet peacock. And mentioning Freud or Schulz didn’t help her either.

Evidence of climate change has been overwhelming. Hurricanes, wild fires, and that’s just talking about last year in the U.S. (more)
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Net Bandits

Here Are the Republicans Who Sold 
Your Internet Rights to Their Patrons

Smiling while preaching against the ‘heavy hand of government,’ Chairman Ajit Pai’s just fulfilled exactly what he’d been put in charge to do: to kick the teeth of the Federal Communications Commission, and yank the Internet from everybody but those who can pay to access it.
By a vote of 3 to 2, the FCC all but allowed big broadband providers to create Web lanes. It’s the Rule of the Mighty: to corporate ou social media giants, access online remains the same. To billions of small, independent sites, though, it’ll take forever. Unless you pay extra.
By betraying the its own mission, to protect everyone’s rights to a free Internet, Pai did a huge favor to both the Trump administration, and to his pals at Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and other big providers that stand to profit from his decision. While, of course, ignoring the people’s will.
For the majority – who know what Net Neutrality is – the Web is a utility, as vital as your water service, and should be left alone by those that had no part nurturing it to become what it is today. Ironically, some of them wouldn’t even exist if Pai headed the FCC, circa 2000.
Thousands expressed support to keep the Internet as it were, through the commission’s public hearing phase. But the game was rigged, and many saw it coming on Pai’s public statements. They sounded a lot like Scott Pruitt’s words and actions running the EPA (into the ground).
But it won’t happen without a fight. Activist groups and individuals, including N.Y. Eric Schnedierman and other Attorneys General, filed suit to prevent the FCC from destroying what’s not up to it to destroy. Eventually, one hopes, even those who still have no idea what they’ve just lost will join in too. Trump supporters, are you listening?
Meanwhile, here are the Republicans who voted to end a free and democratic Internet, and how much they’ve got from telecoms since 1989, according to The Center for Responsive Politics and The Verge. Keep it in a safe place and be sure to remember their names next time you’re in the voting booth. As for Colltales, we’re taking it down either.
Mo Brooks, AL ($26,000), Ron Estes, KS ($13,807), Thomas Massie, KY ($25,000), Ralph Norman, SC ($15,050), John Moolenaar, MI ($25,000), Neal Dunn, FL ($18,500), Mike Bishop, MI ($68,250), Alex Mooney, WV ($17,750), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, PA ($70,500), Blaine Luetkemeyer, MO ($105,000), Paul Gosar, AZ ($12,250), Richard W. Allen, GA ($24,250), Kevin Cramer, ND ($168,500), Greg Walden, OR ($1,605,986), Marsha Blackburn, TN ($600,999), Billy Long, MO ($221,500), Gregg Harper, MS ($245,200), (more)
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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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The Flow

Irrational Fears and Myths
About Women’s Body & Blood

The female body has been scaring the bejesus of bigots and zealots since time immemorial. Whole institutions were founded on the losing premise of controlling it, faiths built around the idea that it’s possessed with powers to destroy mankind, when in fact, it actually created it.
Take menses, the monthly cycle that readies a woman to become a mother, and its default switch off mode. Brave men have lost sleep over that river of blood that comes out pouring when pregnancy doesn’t happen. Death, dismemberment? fine, but menstruation? run for cover.
Much of it is a result of centuries of oppression and hostility against the female gender. Women were kept under lock and key, tending to housing and motherhood, while man were out conquering the world, which almost always involved raping other woman.
Ignorance about them was actually a cause for many a celebrated Alpha male to feel proud about himself. Even Casanova, ultimate male predator, skilled in the arts of seduction and shrewd with his charms, reportedly admitted on his deathbead to never really having understood any of the 122 women he bedded during his lifetime.
We’ve came a long way since terrible myths villainized women, even as many places in Asia and Africa are still to join the 21 century. We shouldn’t pat ourselves in the back just yet for some of the most basic reproductive rights are being called into question again.
Suddenly, it’s night in America, and if it’s up to this regime, hangers and back-alley gynecological care would be all that’s available to the poor. But we won’t allow it, and that’s what this International Women’s Day reminds us of: there are no rights without women’s rights.

From a science standpoint, things are actually looking up, and many myths about a woman’s menstrual cycle are finally being debunked. Starting with the moon’s supposedly pull over female periods. The 28-day lunar cycle around Earth does seem to go along with the time it takes for a woman’s uterus to shed its lining.
Well, that’s as far as it goes, really. For if one believes that heavenly bodies care – or we’re oh so precious to attract their grace – enough to rule our lives and bodily functions, then they have to offer proof that at least one of them actually came forward to apologize for shining their light on some quite appalling humans.
Go with facts, for $247, instead. Genetics, stress and environmental conditions, dramatically alter menses. Knowledge may get your tires slashed at the Bible Belt, but will also spare you from having to pray for rain. Or outrun a bear, for that matter. For let’s not ever forget, once and for all: there’s no evidence that they are attracted by the smell of menstrual blood.

And since we’re at it, let’s be clear that women spending time together do not synch their periods. Period. (Sorry, we couldn’t help it.) Skeptics have always mistrusted this notion, that seems to date from the post Industrial Revolution time, as there’s no evolutionary justification for it in nature. And two separate studies, with mandrills and macaques, put the whole fake concept to eternal rest.
It’s the kind of pernicious idea, popularized by 1950s lady magazines, that helped solidify prejudice against working women. Employers would use such unproven code to perpetuate unfair labor practices, (more)
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Out to Get You

In a Mad World, There Are
Jobs Only Psychopaths Can Do

They mesmerize you just like a spider would. And just as well, haunt your nightmares. There may be one among your dearest friends. The thought of you knowing a predator who may consider you no more than prey, is as scary as wondering whether you may be one.
But now we know more than ever about psychopaths, through books, movies, and real stories. There’s a new understanding about their evolutionary role and they, gasp, may not be as fearful as society thinks they are. Or at least, not without purpose.
Whole sections of bookstores, or rather, on your favorite online seller, are about their pathology, traits, even theories as to why some of us have no empathy to peoples’ feelings, or pain, while others are just glad to marry them out of sheer awe of their personal power.
Of course, every one of these treatises starts by defining what a psychopath is, what it is not, and most important, what the hell is the difference between them and sociopaths. By now, we’re all cognizant to such variances and mostly have a pretty good idea about what kind of compulsion drives them to do what they do best.
And what’s that, again? If you’ve said that it’s murder, you may not know as much about them as you thought you did. For, according to modern psychology, psychopaths come in a myriad of varieties and, even if you’re not particularly inclined to know the gory details of their mindset, you may at least educate yourself, just enough to, you know, get out of their way.
For despite all contemporary reassessment about what a predator is and what it does, there’s not much change in one basic reality: no one should get on their bad side. Just like sharks, you don’t want them to be extinct, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to jump in the water and swim alongside them.

There are now studies purporting to justify the valuable role psychopaths may play in society, what we can learn observing one, how successful some have become as captains of industry, about how some online games make you act just like one, and, yes, whether you are a closet murderer, but that you already knew about it.
Other research supposes what a psychopath would do – you see, just like Jesus – in any number of situations. Or how badly the movies have portrayed them, even though you may kind of miss them when, and if, they finally meet their comeuppance in your favorite series. In fact, they’re ever present in popular culture.
And in real life too, of course, although it’s relatively rare when someone like Bernie Madoff gets caught. Behind the much patting in the back, there’s the shame of realizing that none of his victims anticipated what he was up to. And some of them genuinely thought they were best friends, up to the very, bankrupted end.
After all, remorse is not something that’s usually part of the palette of positive attributions behavior psychologists believe psychopaths could teach us. But (more)
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Everything Must Go

Houdini, Who Was Not a Believer,
Died on the Day of the Living Dead

Harry Houdini once made a promise that he was sure not to honor: if there’s life after death, he said, I’ll let you know. If he could pull that trick, it’d be a treat. But since that Halloween, 90 years ago, he’s sent no message, denying validation to many a believer.
The irony is that the great illusionist was a debunker of mediums, and left a coded message with his wife to unmask fraudsters. He knew the Big Sleep pulls no bluffs. Just don’t tell that to pilgrims who every year flock to his grave at New York Machpelah Cemetery, in Queens.
It must have taken guts. And those he had, until they literally burst out by blows, administered with his consent, by an admirer. When he died of acute Peritonitis, hundreds of new cults had flooded the world to claim ownership over the ‘supernatural’ phenomena and challenge organized religion.
The dominant figure of the so called Occult Movement, Helena Blavatsky, had died less than 30 years before, but not before inspiring a lot of deranged minds into believing that they too, had something different about them. And they did, alright, although not exactly what they believe they had.

At the turn of the 19th century, backwater America was festering too with the roots of these messianic cults, led by an assortment of lunatics, snake oil salesmen, and plain mentally ill visionaries, many of which turned later into some of the tax-exempted religious faiths we have today.
A crucial difference between those who time forgot and say, a Joseph Smith, who went on to ‘invent’ Mormonism, was arguably sheer survival skill. And maybe an absurdly non-sensical ‘origins’ story, to rival any of the astonishingly fantastic tales upon which all three major religions of our time stake their claims.
In many ways, Hungarian-born Erik Weisz, whose ‘Harry Houdini‘ stage name topped a string of less known aliases, was ahead of his time in two main ways: he worked really hard to perfect (more)
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Worst Than Thou

How We Gloat When
the Evil Clown Is Not Us

Careful, now, for we’re about to point fingers at people caught doing the despicable. So, let’s get this out of the way, first: we don’t like it one bit. But oh it feels so good that here’s hoping we’ll all come out of the experience better human beings. Kidding, of course.
When someone pays a fortune to shoot a wounded lion, we delude ourselves say we could never do that. Or kick refugee kids. Raise money for a cancer we never had? Shoot a puppy? We. Would. Never. Right? Oh but it must have felt so good to them. Despicable.
To be sure, we hate Internet mongering, and trolling, and public shaming, exactly because it lends everyone but the accused that phony, sanctimonious feeling they’re somehow above the rest. Which no one is, period. Besides such bullying is often on the account of someone’s hidden agenda.
That being said, the devil always reminds us of callous traders of human gullibility, ever eager to profit handsomely from our empathy juices, by sucking them dry. And who’d mostly walk free and sleep well if not caught on the randomness of the Internet. You know who you are.
We’re supposed to learn and grow from those experiences, nourishing ourselves with their cleansing powers, all along singing the praises of this imperfect world’s innate ability to provide opportunities for us to fulfill our highest aspirations. Not a fat chance in hell.

So, just as if on cue, comes news about that monument to good personhood, Petra Laszlo, a TV camerawoman who was caught on video kicking refugees fleeing the police in Hungary. Among ‘beneficiaries’ of her kicks, there were children and a father carrying his kids.
But what’s less in evidence is her employer, which has just fired her, a channel known for right wing ideas and intolerance. Among its latest tactics, is the deployment of crews to record clashes between migrants and the police, which it then broadcasts to instigate hatred against foreigners.
Not letting his 15-minute disperse into oblivion just yet, beloved lion Cecil’s killer, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, went back (more)
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