Whole Shebang


Black Holes & the Metaphysics
of Perforating Internal Cavities

Planets have craters, caves, volcanoes. Our bodies have cavities, orifices, crevices. Thoughts have depths, flaws, gaps. In the 1960s, there were four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, as John Lennon reported on a song. Right now, there’re billions of massive ones, swallowing whole galaxies across the universe.
For such a geographic or anatomic accident, we do give holes a huge amount of attention, and scientific studies to back it all up. Let’s update our space files and see what’s out there, in the vastness of outer space, from the rarified atmosphere of improbable research to that ground hole that may already have our name on it.
10 BILLION SUNS
A noble thing about Albert Einstein is that he never let his religious beliefs interfere with his science. When he theorized that there must be something like a black hole, a force so powerful that not even light could escape it, he also said there should be a law forbidding it to exist.
There wasn’t, and his rigorous calculations prevailed despite himself. As Stephen Hawking and others proved and studied black holes, Einstein’s moral integrity also received a boost. What even now few are capable of conceiving is the size of these monsters.
The biggest one discovered so far, just the other day, is bigger than 10 billion suns. Before you ask it, though, if you absolutely have to, how astronomers come up with these figures, we must say, it’s complicated. But we’ll wait while you go on the Internet to check that out.

BREAKFAST OF STARS
Welcome back. As we were saying, someone’s discovered second-biggest ever, sitting pretty over 330 million light-years away from us, in the Coma Cluster of all places. Again, if you need to ask what’s a light year, etc, etc. And what an appetite. These fatties can devour millions of stars faster than you can finish reading this word.
The late great Muhammad Ali used to say he was so fast, he could turn off the light switch and get in bed before the room was dark. That’s the kind of fast we’re talking about here. Powerful too as you probably know. Black holes can warp space-time around them, so strong is their gravitational pull. But relax, no one is near us, so let’s move on.

ALMOST NOTHINGS
As it turns out, holes are traps that may have tricked, and tickled, some of the brightest philosophers of our time. And it all started in the 1970s, with some Gruyère cheese (yup, 10 years after Lennon sang about holes). Lore has it that two scientists named Lewis invented an imaginary duo of thinkers, Argle and Bargle, who’d get intrigued with what the holes in the cheese actually meant.
If we’re insulting your attention span, feel free to take a break. We’ll be as brief as our philosophical illiteracy will allow it. (more)
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Read Also:
* Tomorrow Never Knows
* Singing Suns
* Worlds Away

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Beautiful Bandit

Maria Bonita, Better Half of
Brazil’s Riskiest Love Story

It’s easy to romanticize about outlaws who fall in love, lead a trailblazing life, and burn out like shooting stars, leaving the holes in their story to be filled with awe by future generations. As legends recede, it’s ever harder to match them with reality.
But the life of Maria Déia and Capt. Virgulino Ferreira da Silva sure packs all the heat those landmarks evoke, placing them at the rarefied pantheon of anti-hero couples whose feats and memory still transfix the living, no matter how much time has passed.
As infamous leaders of a ragtag bunch, who terrorized the hinterlands of Brazil’s Northeast and entranced the nation in the 1930s, Maria Bonita and Lampião are at par with contemporaries Bonnie and Clyde, and after them, Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate.
They all rose quickly from the anonymity of underprivileged classes to news headlines by the way of the gun, leaving a trail littered with crime and death in their wake, but also, a surprising tenderness, represented by their mutual affection.
But while Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not lovers, and Charles may have manipulated Caril Ann to follow him, Maria Bonita (Beautiful Maria) and Virgulino (lampião means oil lamp, but his nickname is a reference to his lethal firepower) did it all together.
They were equals and in synch in both love and killing skills, although she may’ve been demonized by the Brazilian press at the time, because she was a woman. How fitting then that today, March 8th, the International Women’s Day, also marks her 107th birthday.

QUEEN AND KING OF CANGAÇO
Lampião, 14 years her senior, was already a wanted bandit when he met and literally swept Maria off her feet, around 1930, in the arid Sertão of Brazil, in 1930. A kind of local Robin Hood, he’d avowed to avenge his parents’ deaths in the hands of government soldiers.
When she joined in, Maria became a de-facto co-leader of his gang, which certainly benefited from her charisma. They became folk heroes and it’s not hard to picture how the impoverished populace embraced their fight against enforcers of big landowners and corrupt politicians.
Lampião’s campaign lasted some 16 years, and even as Maria could have played Marian to his Robin exploits, the cangaceiros, as they were known, were closer, (more)
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* Women’s Day
* The Body of Choice
* Phony Outrage

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Black & White


The Flip Side of a Chase
Is a Man Leading the Crowd

Many pictures dispense interpretation. Most tragedies could do without another opinion. The nation is transfixed with the unforgivable string of killings of unarmed black youth by those assigned to protect them. Grief has boiled over, calls for justice are once again being heard.
Will the death of Freddie Gray Jr. suffice for us to go from indignation to effective legislative action? Or is Baltimore only the last stop in this tragic journey of blood through the streets of America? Are we really ready to forget this one too? Are we really ready to go on?
It’s too much sorrow, too many mothers and relatives mourning the violence that seems directed at one particularly underprivileged, and often ignored, segment of the population. Thus, this picture and how we may choose to interpret it, so we can get some sleep tonight.
Not another young black man being chased by a platoon of armed, and armored, policemen, but an unsuspected leader of a new charge for change, and a new day for racial equality in the U.S. (more)
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* Curtain Raiser
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40 Years Ago Today

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* Elvis Karaoke
* Long Live
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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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* 50 Summers
* Freaky Links
* No Way Vacay
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Twas 50 Years Ago Today


Sgt Pepper Made the
World Incredibly High

It’s just a date, it’s just an album, it’s just music. But boy how important it all seemed then, and how badly the world misses that feeling today, that hope and joy The Beatles put out on Jun 1, 1967, smacked in the middle of the so-called Summer of Love, no less.
Now it all may sound tame, irrelevant, outdated. As if the world has no longer a few generations of the young and the glad still alive, still capable of bringing it again to a moment of pure enlightenment. And indeed they are, while what it’s now a minority reminisces.
And yet, we can all drink from that ageless well of songs because they were never written to be crystalized at one point in amber time. In fact, the universe they were drawn from couldn’t even be called rock and roll, even as none of them would be possible without it.
For they were for the twenty-somethings of the day, yes, but also to the over 60, and the under 10 too. They rocked and they waltzed, they twisted and meditated. And in the end, they won the day, one in everyone’s life, and more. A morning, afternoon, and night where some of the best in us exists.
The Beatles did it, and as far as myths go, they made a mark as deep, healing, and hopeful, as any religion still promises to do. But without the toll of division or the need to prove loyalty to an invisible concept. For at the end of that very special day, there was the music.
Not John, Paul, George, or Ringo. Not a band that rode the crest of counterculture even when it was not aware that it was happening. Not a fake combo, led by a mustachioed band leader. The only thing that was real then as it is now is the music, lyrics and melodies.
And really, that was really all that those four working class boys ever wanted. So much so that when it was not fun anymore, they got rid of everything else that grew attached to their image, and threatened to suck the spontaneity they’d worked so hard to preserve.
They were the rarest example, that of the champion who does walk away from everything. And remains champion forever. Evidently because they could. But so could every other star, even as most of them have faded long ago and refuse to acknowledge they’re no longer needed.
So don’t feel coy today if you play this album one more time. And if you are part of that surprisingly small group who never gave it a try, today’s the day. No need to ‘Like’ it or send links to friends you hardly know. Make it as an intimate experience as others only you have had.
The rest of you may just shake your now proverbial gadgets. For alone or with others, the vow that The Beatles have committed to, half a century ago, remains as truthful as always: a splendid time is indeed guaranteed for all.
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* Newspaper Taxis
* Would You?
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Crappy Holidays

To Those Who’ll Get Coal
& Little Else to Cheer About

Many are piling up about how bad 2016 was. We agree. Almost nothing has gone our way, the world became considerably worst, even if some disagree, and unless our brains are fooling us, we’ve lost too many great humans, who used to make this place more bearable.
These are all good but arguable points, though. To millions, this wasn’t just a bad year, but their worse. Our kind thoughts to those broken hearts, to whom a cheerful season tastes like a bitter joke. For they survived not to feel any better but to endure even more of the same.
It’s our condition to mourn and grieve; to lose what we love most, and hold on to what murders our soul. We let go when we’d love to hang on to, and look after what will finally stab us. But there’s payback due even to the afflicted: when we pass away, our troubles are over.
We leave lovers and children behind; a legacy of shattered dreams and failed hopes. But as they cry, we settle; we no longer care even as they may despair. To ashes, as they say, our bodies, clothes, and deeds. But to the left over, misery is the keeper of another day.
There are many whose absence will make us scream. But to others, tomorrow comes out of screams. We may dutifully memorialize our dead, while they have the living wounded to care about. While we lay to rest and say goodbye to dear ones, to those still standing, we may offer are our deepest sentiments.

TO ALEPPO CIVILIANS & DUMPSTER FAMILIES
As we make plans and shop and get happily drunk for the holidays, civilians in Aleppo, Syria, face carnage, ethnic cleansing, random sniper fire, and air raids by government forces, many countries and assorted  militias, plus mercenaries, out waging war to make a buck or two.
Think 2016 was bad? Over 12,000 have already been killed in the country this year, and the survivors wonder whether they’ll be next, just as your sweet niece wonders if she’ll get a brand new phone, or you’ll finally get something decent this time around.
Of course, your family could be one of thousands making a living, and actually residing, in urban garbage heaps around the world. From Cambodia to India, from Brazil to the Philippines, they breathe and, often die, picking through our dejects. Merry, merry, merry.

TO REFUGEE KIDS & VICTIMS OF HATRED
Last year, it was the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, face down on a Turkish beach, that went viral. Now it was the bloodied but alive 5-year-old Mahmoud Raslan. Both Syrian boys unwittingly became symbols of our era’s biggest wound: the fate of millions of refugees.
They could’ve come from anywhere, as the state of permanent war keeps spreading to ever wider swaths of the world. While hawks and weapon makers profit, boys, girls, their families, relatives, friends and neighbors, flee or perish in the crossfire. Once in a while, an image floods our screens. But mostly, they shout but no one hears.
Meanwhile, hate is a booming business in the U.S., and like the Aleppo kids, the 49 shot dead at the Orlando nightclub in June didn’t deserve to stand in from all others still victimized for following their lot in life. To the ones they’ve left behind, this is a season in hell.

TO DEAD WHILE BLACK & FUTURE UNDER ATTACK
The police won’t keep track but over 200 black people were shot dead by cops in 2016. Most were unarmed, whose deaths won’t be vindicated in the court of law. Perhaps in a few years we’ll know how many more could’ve been killed too, if President Obama wasn’t in charge.
It may not seem so but the needle did move forward, and awareness has increased; not even a white supremacist-supported president will prevent the march to justice. We may suffer (more)
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* Holiday Fare
* Mad Beverages
* Nary a Christmas

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