The Ungiven

A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No

I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my dutifully celebrated goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them like spam, and as requests intensified by the end of the year, December being the apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched their insistence by shredding it all without even opening.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes loaded with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PROFIT?
I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.

WOULD THAT BE CASH OR CARD?
Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs,(more)
_______
Read Also:
* Trick or Truce
* Sleight of News

Continue reading

Advertisements

Nocturne


If the Night + Number
Eight Equals Infinity

A completely unscientific survey shows that, in some languages, the word night is made up by the letter ‘N’ and the number eight. Thus, eight night, in English, ocho noche, in Spanish, huit nuit, French, acht nacht, German, otto notte, Italian, oito noite, Portuguese.
Given that N is the mathematical symbol of infinite, and eight also means the same, those who pay attention to that sort of thing (conspiracists?) believe that night must have something to do with the void, the end, the dark. Which seems obvious. Or not. Whatever.
It’s all coincidence, say those who need a bit more of scientific basis before jumping into Philology assumptions. That list of languages, they say, which also should include Hindi (aat raath), are all derived from the Indo-European branch, so they are all related. Bummer.
And then, of course, they proceed to demolish the argument by mentioning all the hundreds of other languages in which the words night and eight have no way of knowing anything about each other, so to speak. Linguists of all accents were ecstatic, and so were everyone who simply can’t stand another pseudo Synchronicity.
No wonder so many tongues are disappearing. By the way, the fact that many false theories percolating the Internet these days would be easily dismissed if more of us would’ve paid a bit more attention in school is just a small consolation. In this case, however, is also a bit sad.
That’s because the theory was so elegant, we’d have loved if it’d make any sense. Even as it doesn’t, the implicit imagery of the flawed link between the word, which rules when the sun is away, and the number that’s essentially two stacked up zeroes, soothes our jaded minds.

THE NIGHT HAS EYES
Is it the fact that, squeezed in there somewhere, there’s also the concept of slumber, dreaming, and even the Big Sleep itself, with its closing of the eyes and cessation of all possible senses? Or is just our own grey matter, again playing the tricks it learned once it no longer relied on its Reptilian past?
We’d add two other, completely unrelated and also as unscientific as they come, arguments to justify if not the illusory link, then our own volition to go along with it: one, we’re lazy. Secondly, we’ve been searching for a (noble?) excuse to publish these three amazing pictures. Yes, there you have it.
_______
Read Also:
* The Aitch-Old File
* Forty Seven
* Wide Asleep, Short Awaken

The Earth at Night (top), a cloud-free composite picture that NASA has put together out of over 400 satellite images of nighttime lights, has become one of the space agency’s most downloaded images, and that’s saying a lot. It was originally compiled to ‘study weather around urban areas.’
Greg GibbsCapturing the Night (middle) shows the Milk Way rising over the Australian horizon, next to the Magellanic Clouds. It’s part of a collection of stunning pics of the night sky, whose inspiration dates back to the Comet Halley’s second visit to the 20th century, in 1986.

Jason Hatfield‘s Exploring the Night depicts our home galaxy rising above a hiker, him, and the Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, as sole witnesses. The proportion between observers and the observed is almost accurate. The shot was a Smithsonian‘s annual contest finalist.
We could’ve called this post Below the Horizon, or Why Not Talk About Nine, or even Why Six Is So Afraid of Seven. But they all would skim over what the night does to every living being, and the tides, and nature itself. Also, they all ignore something else entirely: the Moon.
But as for the infinite, we really know nothing about it.

(*) Originally published on March 3, 2013.

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

Kids, These Days

Things Teenagers May Excel at,
Despite What Their Parents Say

It’s a brand new, wild world out there. But some things have hardly changed. Parent complaints, for instance, about how their teens are wasting their lives and may wind up in the gutter.
Not so fast, though. Yes, the air is lethal out there, and happy campers will be crushed. But it’s all so new that jobs that weren’t even around in the 1990s, are already minting millionaires.
For millions of baby boomers, who did waste their youths telling their elders that they could outsell The Beatles, or live off the land, or become a yoga master, the end result was not so pretty.
But it’s not fair for them to now bitterly preach platitudes they never believed in the first place, and that may actually wind up breaking the hell out of their kids’ spirit.
Time to stop barking lessons, and focus on what’s at stake here: how to dislodge that gym-trained body holding a dream-soaked mind, from the cocoon of their room out to the real world.
No, we’re not about to dispense advice, but we did do the ‘finger’ work for you, to uncover some of those things that actually occupy their hearts and minds, when you think they’re doing their homework.
It’s a short list, because we too have boring jobs and unfulfilling lives, and no longer get excited about the latest and the shiniest to capture the attention of immature minds. Just something to get you going.

HACKING INTERNET STARDOM
It’s clear what you’re thinking, but no, we’re not about to digress in the wonders of those utterly annoying Web kids, who command audiences of millions, and have hardly anything to say.
But if your teen spends a lot of time on the Web, messaging friends and, well let’s not go there, he or she may be ready to dole out videos about any kind of expertise he may have.
It’s a good gig but let them try on their own; you would never understand any of that anyway. But it may offer him a path, a window? to their destiny. Or not. Just don’t waste money on it.

COOK SOME ACTIVIST BUG
Let’s face it: there’s just one Malala Yousafzai. Or Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. But all over the world, there’s a huge demand for compassion and helping hands. And the causes in need are vast.
Your kid may show a penchant to help out others, if at the end of the stick there’s a possibility of travel a million miles away from you. Your masterful skills will be required to put it all together.
But, heaven forbid, always make it look as if it’s their own idea. (more)
______
Read Also:
* Dime a Dozen
* Half-Past Child
* Feral Children
Continue reading

Rain (Forest) Check

The Amazon’s Skydiving
Spiders & Other Updates

Wonder what’s up with that other, more vital Amazon? Turns out, not nearly as grand as with its namesake commercial enterprise. In fact, weak regulations and public apathy have made its country host Brazil far from a safe harbor to the world’s largest rainforest.
Illegal logging continues rampant all over. Then there’s a just-established, and disturbing, link between its wildfires and Atlantic hurricanes; plus an expected ‘Godzilla’ El Niño season. But never mind climate change: worst of all are those pesky skydiving spiders falling all over the place.
Wonders are never in short supply, though. Take the research showing that the Amazon is way more diverse than originally thought, for instance. A recent study found a ‘hidden tapestry‘ of plant-based chemicals that determines growth and direction of its luscious species.
Or the Matsés, a tribe based in Brazil and Peru, that’s just compiled a 500-page encyclopedia summarizing its traditional medicine. Put together by five shamans, it’s likely the first treatise of its kind, with entries for therapies indicated to a massive variety of illnesses.
And then there are the efforts of forest activists who, despite mortal danger represented by armed gangs who roam the place on big landowners’ account, have been able to sustain an unsung but absolutely heroic battle to preserve what used to be called the ‘lungs of the world.’
To be fair, Brazil’s slowed down deforestation in the Amazon, albeit not nearly enough. Still its vastness, potential, and significance can’t be overstated. If we could only match its ability to wonder with a few miracles of our own, we’ll be in better shape now.

TIMBER TRACKING & NOT MUCH ELSE
In the past decade, Brazil has cut down greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country, which is commendable. But a recent visit by embattled President Dilma Rousseff to Washington failed to (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Amazing Zone
* Damned Project
* Rainforest at Risk

Continue reading

The Far Out Report

For These Gut-Churning News,
Laugh Only When You Breathe

So busy digressing about things too serious to skip, those worries and concerns transfixing our age, we often forget that life finds a way all around, and mostly despite, us. One more disgraceful news and we risk losing the ability of flexing the muscles of our smile.
So let’s pretend summer is really easy, fish are a-jumping, and if not cotton, then someone is high. Anyone would, coming across F.W. Murnau’s head, or a performance corpse, or an one-line obituary. In fact, reality often threatens to drive even comedians out of business.
Heard the one about Zimbabwean money? The currency is so devalued that someone can have, say, Z$35 quadrillion in his or her banking account, and still starve. A hot dog may cost a little beyond that. In the U.S., it does: all this money is worth only one dollar.
What about ‘dick pics?’ Even NSA whistleblower Eduard Snowden was surprised when told that what really scares Americans was not the fear of an all too powerful government, but having their nude pictures watched over by spies, who should be busy with something else, anyway.
But that sort of iconography is indeed dear to our fellow citizens. Take 1934 public enemy No.1, for instance. A photo of a dead John Dillinger may have created the biggest hoax about him: it looks as if he’s having a post-mortis erection right under the blanket.
Unlikely, of course. It was probably a fluke. But does it matter? His notoriety is now forever melded to his supposedly endowment, regardless if it has anything to do with guns or not. Go figure. And don’t forget to check the Skip Showers for Beef‘ campaign. You may thank me later.

GRAVE ROBBERTS & THE VAMPIRE
On to the main course. For fans of gore (and low-standards real life puns), the theft of F.W. Murnau‘s head is a full dish, to be savored with cheap wordplay and poorly concocted theories. But it really happened: the grave of the Nosferatu‘s director in Berlin has been desecrated.
Worse: news reports about it wound up adding further grievances to his family and fans of one of the greatest masters Continue reading

Murder & Unkindness

Nevermore, or When the Corvus
Talked Through Poe & His Poem

Emissaries of rebirth from the great beyond, or omens of bad things to come in ancient traditions, crows have soared over our imaginations for ages. Scientists are baffled by their social skills, cognitive abilities, and use of tools. Old Aesop may have been onto something after all.
As January 19th marks Edgar Allan Poe’s 206th birthday, and The Raven’s first print 170 years ago this month, we review research being done about the black bird that feasts on carrion and whose collective nouns convey the finality of sudden death and sorrow of lost souls.
Before Claude Lévi-Strauss called the raven a mediator, antiquity took care of inscribing the winged creature into an assortment of narratives and roles, including it in all holy books, from the Talmud to the Bible to the Qur’an, Greek-Roman mythologies and Hindu cosmology.
Old Germanic and English texts also assigned the species a prominent role, and so did Pacific tribes and Native Americans. Which may confer oversized meaning to their annual winter arrival at Waterloo, England, for example, or instances of mass deaths, as it just happened in India.
But before going any further, let’s get the distinction between crows and ravens out of the way. Crows are smaller and live only eight years, to raven’s average 30-year lifespan. Crows, which caw-caw, also live closer to humans; ravens’ croaks are heard mostly in the wild.
A crow’s wing is blunt, and its tail, fan-shaped, while ravens have pointed wings and wedge-shaped tails. All else may not be easily noted because the birds are commonly sighted in parks and cemeteries, where people go to fulfill a function or when they’re, well, dead.

WHO IS BIRD-BRAINED NOW?
We should all be weary of studies comparing the intelligence of radically different species, say primates vs. cetacean, for instance. Mainly because for a long time, we’ve considered cognitive intelligence and social skills to be our monopoly and of a few other animals only.
Also, we still don’t know enough Continue reading