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)
______
Read Also:
* 50 Summers
* Freaky Links
* No Way Vacay
Continue reading

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.

TIME TO LET MOONLIGHT OFF THE HOOK
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.

THE SINKING SYNCHING-CYCLES LORE
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)
_______
Read Also:
* Woman’s Day
* Body of Choice
* First Ladies

Continue reading

Call Upon You

Casting Gentle Spells
On a Cursing President

In strange times, people think about strange things. And see them anew. Take human sacrifice: it was about social control, new research shows, not pleasing gods. And witchcraft couldn’t be about Satanism, for that’s a clearly Christian-derived concept. Who knew?
That brings us to Donald Trump. No, he’s not considering reviving ritualistic killings. Or the Colosseum, for that matter. Not yet, anyway. But casting spells are indeed back, and against him. Since that’s at least linked to medieval witchcraft, what now: the Earth’s flat?
Actually, this is pernicious idiocy with surprising adopters. Along your usual conspiracy nuts, it now includes people who travel by plane or boat, and still deny the planet’s curvature they see from above, or the fact that no one ever fell off the ‘edge’ of the ocean.
They’re obviously creating their own facts and should be stopped, immediately. In fact, those who find rationality still reliable, and reality a common experience, fear we’re entering the pre-dawn of a retrograde age, a stop short of murdering the educated by decree.
While they discredit empirical science and equate lies to observable fact, others forget that the Khmer Rouge sent children to patrol the Killing Fields and hunt down those who could read and write. In one generation, they’ve exterminated teachers, doctors and nurses.

IMMORTALITY TICKETS & CARNIVAL FLOATS
There’s more to throwing virgins off a cliff than folklore would allow, of course. Even before blood sacrifices spread out, there was already a sanctioned form of killing human beings, with little legal consequence, and the possible bonus of becoming a hero in the process: war.
Kings and queens, royalty and clergy have all been the target (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Freaky Friday News
* The Weekly Weird

Continue reading

The Gifter’s Referral

A Few Choice Picks For
Those Who Have Something

Every year we come up empty; as hard as we try, we can’t say bad things about gifts. Thus our humble tradition, a list of the kooky and the odd, regardless of purpose, source, or price. Among this heap of out-there conversation starters, we’re sure you’ll find that special something to make it your own. Share it. Keep it. Give it all away.
Timing is everything so ’tis the season to call them presents. But even if Van Gogh had something else in mind on Christmas eve, 1888, there’s no need to lose an ear, or sleep, over what to give. From blood vials, to wine, to floatation tanks, there’s something for everyone on your list, including you. Except us; we take cash only, please.
It’s all a matter of perspective, of course, and reception, as that man who married his TV set used to say. To retailers, the best holiday season would start in July. And the best way to celebrate it is to compile a list of business that ‘do not honor Jesus’ enough, according to a Christian group.
While Christmas sales will likely start on the 7th month of 2100, based on the Quartz’s Oxford Street Creep Calculator, 2016 marks the 14th annual Naughty & Nice List, prepared by the ultra-right religious group Liberty Counsel. In other words, repent or we send you to hell.
It’s all in the spirit of the season, no doubt, one about forgiving and loving thy neighbor. Except when they’re not devout enough, or something. Complain as you may about even having to shop for other people’s gifts, but you may feel better considering that, at least, you’re not on their list. Not yet, anyway.
The following is not a list, by the way. In fact, it’s more like a selection of mind-twisting things to distract you away from what’s going on, or seriously, to inspire you to be nice and get that special sponge your Uncle Bob mentioned he wanted. Hey, he may cut you some slack and not grill you about Trump. Remember, has has four full years to do it.

THE CLEANSE & WASTE PACKAGE
Speaking of the season, let’s face it: it finds us all in a particularly sour mood. So why not put together a kit of toiletries to comfort body and mind, and getting a bit wasted on the side too? Ideal for the bathroom-geared: bandages, underwear, and toilet paper. And, yes, wine too.
Get ready to be complimented on your thoughtfulness, or just better fit to the after party. With Shakespeare-insults printed on the bandages, a pack of emergency underpants, and some rolls of the president-elect specialty paper, you, and the object of your gifting, are now ready to drink on a bottle-size wine glass. Salut.

THE USEFUL VICES SELECTION
Granted: this is not for the healthcare-cost busted budget, but once you clear that financial hump, the rewards are healing. Star with the Pavlok wristband, to reduce cheap cravings, then add two vials, to store a few ounces of blood, yours and of that lucky one you’ll invite to share a floatation tank bath, and you’re all set. Dream on, baby.
It’s simply luxurious. Don’t argue, you deserve it. Get extra points by going for broke and placing the whole bundle under somebody’s tree. Good for you. You may even top it with Sick Rose, a collection of Victorian illustrations of diseases nobody has anymore. Happy therapy.

THE ULTIMATE GENIUS TOKEN
Now, one the most bizarre links that come up when you Google ‘Hurricane Sandy,’ is a video of someone running in the rain, wearing a horse-head mask. People do those things, as you know. It was all over the news. The mask is also a hit in parties and, as we said, we won’t say anything negative about giving. If that’s your thing, by all means.
But that’s nothing compared to what Vincent did on that Christmas, upon learning of his brother’s engagement: he chopped up his right ear. Or at least that’s what new research seems to indicate as for why he did it. Vincent, of course, is Van Gogh, the Dutch grand master painter, and a certified tortured soul.
He appears here because for years, many believe that his crazy act was a gift to a lover, due to his er intense personality. Which (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Downtime
* Present Time
* Tis the Season

Continue reading

Double Intuition

On Their Minds, 9-11
Happened Before 2001

After fifteen years, the tragic imagery of Sept. 11, 2001, has taken deep roots into the collective psyche of our era. It became a visual metaphor to every nightmare bred out of fear of terrorism, even as countless acts of extreme violence have followed that crispy, blue-sky Tuesday in America.
Even more intriguing are depictions of exploding planes and buildings that art and pop culture have produced before 911. Two works are particularly impressive: a sculpture by New York artist Michael Richards, who was killed that day, and a painting by British Willie Gardner.
Wisely ignoring conspiracy buffs, who like to dwell in a made-up reality with even more odds staked against us, it’s still possible to appreciate the intuition that led these two black artists to conceive works of such haunting, and premonitory, quality, while sharing not much else in common.
To be sure, anticipation, and the ability to eerily foresee a world not quite here, are integral to creative expression, even when that’s not exactly the author’s intention. Also, it’s not unusual for life to emulate what art, and public sensibility, had already made possible to conceive.
After all, we breathe the same toxic, over-saturated environment, suffused through ages by human interference. And our brains are specially biased to see a connected world that does not exist outside our skulls; life happens independently of our will or whims.
The fact that the two works are not in the same level of artistic sophistication is irrelevant too. Richards was a rising talent, who perished when his studio was crushed by the destruction of the Twin Towers, while Gardner, who died in 2010 and only dabbled in art as an amateur, was thousands of miles away.
_______
Read Also:
* No Pics
* Flight, Interrupted
* Quantum Leaks

There’s no record that either one was imbued of any anticipatory penchant. They simply created something out of a vision whose meaning they’ve taken with them. But that something inevitably tickles our minds, still eager to find significance, and sense, in that despicable tragedy.
Yes, there were many others for we are particularly good at inflicting progressively horrifying terrors onto each other. And we could be talking here about the victims, or the evildoers, or any number of the cliches that have piled up about that day. But we’re glad we have Richards and Gardner to memorialize instead.
Every year, we promise not to add anything to the meaningless cacophony of 911’s moaning and complaints. And every time we break our vows. It’s just as well. Art and reality are often unexplainable. We’re doomed to face terror over and over in our lifetimes. So at least, let’s try to do it with fresh eyes.

The 29

The Day I’ve Landed & the One
Question I’ve Been Always Asked

People like round numbers and big ‘Os’ are all the rage. Birthdays and anniversaries seem much louder if the date ends with a zero. But not me, I like fractured numbers. Evens are fine, but the odd ones hold a special slot on my book. Like 29, for instance.
It’s been that many years since I’ve arrived in Manhattan, in what was supposed to be a short season at the center of the world, and turned into the skin of a lifetime. 29 was also my roll call in grade school, before a classmate whose initial was ‘Y’. 
Just don’t ask about primes. For this special relationship with digits may be also why two major areas of the human experience have always been hostile to me: Math and lotto. Neither did me any favors, despite the fact that it’d love to be their pets. Numbers are cold that way.
While that’ll likely to remain the same, the New York where I’ve landed has changed many times over, though. And so have I, who lived, died, and reincarnated into so many different lives, none of which I’ve ever thought I’d pick, inherit, own. There may be some stats for those odds.
Here I’ve fell out of love, and fell right back in again; had a few changes of heart, and had it broken many times too, twice over losing my cats, all the while switching my tongue and aging into a cranky old man.
Departed parents, and a brother, and a few friends, could not inform the transformation taking place outside my sore eyes. But all it takes is a glance of that shrinking face staring back at me to see I was not spared: soon enough, my number too will be up.
I got to say, all these pretty pics of Rio and its games, being shown nightly, have made me jealous. A life can be crammed into a few strokes; any body can be stuffed into a piece of luggage. It’s what seeps through and stains the pavement that attracts notice.
I’ve always thought that my footprints were going to lead me all the way back to the Marvelous City. But now it’s another place oblivious to my run. In the end, 29 may number the things I did good while calculating the odds. I can’t think of a single one right now, though.
Why did I leave? I was asked over and over. When I was done dismissing it, I tried to settle the matter. At some point, I wrote a short essay about it. That’s what I’m sharing with you today. Hey, happy anniversary of my trip across the ocean. I have no regrets.

WHY LEAVE?

I left Brazil because I used to feel like a foreigner. Born in Rio but raised in the South, my accent sounds alien. A friend defined it for me, ‘you speak like someone who’s on the go.’ Years of living abroad have certainly not improved my situation. Most likely, I’m forgotten to all but a few, and to most, I never even existed. I left Brazil because we did not speak the same language.

I left Brazil, in part, because my name triggered jokes and personal grief. It’s not Brazilian enough, and people looked funny at me pronouncing it. Spelling mistakes plagued me whenever it there was a form to fill. Worse, some would size me up, suspicious that it was a ploy. As if Dad — an Episcopalian Reverend in a mostly Catholic country — had committed an act of sedition by calling us Norton, Norris, Wesley, and Joyce Mag. And I had to pay for his treason. I had to leave Brazil before someone accused me of unbrazilian activities.

I also left my country because, while most Brazilians are of mixed race, no one likes to admit it. Hot-iron treatment remains a staple of inner city beauty parlors. Living in the South didn’t help it either. Down there, the majority is of European heritage — have you heard of someone named Giselle something? For my blond, blue-eyed class, I was neither white nor black. ‘With a foot in Africa’, they would add, heavy on the innuendo. That I’ve been proud of my black blood was never the case. I had to leave Brazil after one too many, ‘Go back to Africa!’

I had to leave Brazil because Brazilian music is seldom heard on the radio. The country’s exquisite music tradition is today unfashionable. This may sound like whining. Whether contemporary music in Brazil is in a regressive mode or I am the one getting older and cranky, is irrelevant. As an experiment, round up a group of jazz players and question them about their favorite music. I assure you, four out of five will pick Brazilian. Do the same in Brazil and chances are, Justin and Eminem or Kanye will top the list. Not offense but I forced myself to leave Brazil so to enjoy and play Brazilian music.

Finally, I had to leave Brazil because I was unhappy. Simply put, I had a good job but had no money. I was close to family and friends but getting farther and farther from my dreams, which I sill have plenty, thanks for asking. Traveling and living abroad was in one of my first to-do lists, compiled while still in school. I had acquaintances telling me, ‘you lucky bastard, got a good job and a good woman; you’re set for life. Why leave?’ I’ve given myself the right to disagree. I left the job but kept the woman. Most come to America to find themselves. I had to leave Brazil to get lost.

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)
_______
Read Also:
* Ailurophile, Caturally
* Suddenly, Last Caturday
* A Farewell to Furs

Continue reading