Split Ends

A Brush of Fresh Hair or How
Pubic Curls May Save Your Life

Few things resemble more our evolutionary pedigree than body hair. Culturally, having a ‘full head’ of it means being young, beautiful, healthy, even powerful. Until it departs on its own, we spent years combing it, cutting it, shaving it, dying it, and splitting it with aplomb.
It’s another story, though, with hair elsewhere but on top of the head. A reminder of how fast we went from furry animal to naked ape, we’ve set strict, and clearly gender-biased, social codes to dealing with its appearance. For ear and nose strays, though, antipathy is genderless.
The inconvenient truth about hair is that it’s easily matted with sexism, racial intolerance, and political and religious oppression. It can get greasy with prejudice, scorched dry with the dust of old traditions, and offensively malodorous, reeking of staled rites and bad blood.
In other cases, the way we look at hair or lack thereof reveals the huge gap between our general perception of what each gender is supposed to look like, and what evolution has determined was the best way to cope with changing climate and environmental conditions. We adapted and changed to survive, but often still carry the phantom of an obsolete, long discarded psychological association.
Chest hair, for example, long thought to be a symbol of manhood and testosterone dominance, has recently been found to actually be a deterrent for potential female mates. Scientists long knew that women’s preference for hairlessness may have been a way to avoid lice and other tiny mites that would enjoy the comfort of chest hair in unkempt males of yore (read, all males born some 10,000 years ago).
Even though that’s hopefully no longer the case (as hygiene habits have evolved), the pattern is still present: a paper, published on the Archives of Sexual Behavior journal, shows that women still prefer ‘relatively hair-free guys,’ over hirsute types, even in areas where that kind of parasite is not a realistic threat to humans. Would skinny Williamsburg hipsters chuckle at this notion too?

THE BRAZILIAN RAPUNZEL
For a while, Natasha Moraes de Andrade had one of the longest hairs in the world, which caught the skittish eye of international tabloids. But when the shantytown girl from Rio sold her most marketable asset at 12, she felt relieved. Easy to see why: some things can make anyone drunk with big dreams. Like her, there are many whose dreams haven’t yet been crushed, bless her souls.
China’s Xie Qiuping, for instance, whose hair measured at one point 18ft 5in – still far from Guinness Record material –  also sold it. With the proceeds, she got to do things many 12-year-olds take it for granted, like riding a bike, or not having to spend hours (more)
__________
Read Also:
* Neverlands
* Show it, Grow it

Continue reading

Relief Express

Pastafarians, a Racing Jew, Some
Nice Kids & the Extinction Volunteers

It’s been one of those weeks. Time to switch gears, if only for a few minutes, and check what else is on the news. Often, behind the main, bleeding, headlines, precious morsels are quirk and instructive enough to help us all carry on. For indeed, carry on we must.
Some may pick a religion like Pastafarianism. Others may give a horse the ‘2015 Forward Jew’ award. Or send out potatoes by mail. And just so you know, children raised agnostic are more generous, a new study found, and you too can be a Human Extinction Volunteer.
Before diving in today’s selections, a last look at the aftermath of the Paris attacks show things not looking any better yet, so you’re excused for simply not taking any more of it. A predictable script is on and it doesn’t take much to see where it’s leading us to.
More than what happened after Madrid in 2004, or London the year after, just to name two big European cities, Paris is once again ground zero to a major rumor mill that’s helping feed a resurgent ‘need’ to bomb the hell of everyone. And bombing they’ve been, ceaselessly.
We won’t get too deep into this deranged rationale, but important clues, pointing to a possible circular, and ineffective, result are once again being brushed off, just as it’s been since 911. You know, terror, ISIL, er, Daesh, refugees, patriots, Those People, you get the drift.
So let’s give this 24/7 prep-news vigil, eating up our sleep, a rest, ignore a supposed ‘clatter’ some intel agency has detected, and while doubting the ‘certainty’ of a link individual freedom-extremism, and the ‘imminence’ of another nightmare, take a moment to breathe. You know, suck the air in and out.

A PASTAFARIAN & A JEWISH HORSE WALK INTO A BAR
Now, may humor snap you out of it, and trigger some real social change before you can say, wait a minute. That’s what some Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster members are aiming at, as a Massachusetts agency now allows them to wear a Pasta Strainer for their state Driver’s License photo. Say (Parmesan) cheese!
More than a joke or quirky fashion mores are involved, though, as many consider U.S. religion laws unfairly biased. Taking a page of the Messianic faiths playbook, FSM folk are determined to (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Helping Themselves
* Curb Your God
* Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Bees
Continue reading

Tomorrow Never Knows

The World As We Know it &
Those That Aren’t Meant to Be

‘The future ain’t what it used to be.’ When Yogi Berra uttered his now often repeated axiom years ago, he was uncannily signaling the age of under-achievement and malaise that followed the great promises of the Atomic Era. Sadly, for a generation geared up to dream big, there would be no flying cars floating around anytime soon.
Nevertheless, many ventured into the risky business of divining what’s coming, some with insight, some spectacularly off, and others with a bit of both. Fortunately Berra, whose outstanding performance at his day job has eclipsed his talent to turn a simple interjection into a treatise of wit and charm, never did anything of the sort.
Back in 1900, when John Elfreth Watkins Jr. imagined ‘rays of invisible light’ allowing us to peek inside the body without having to cut it open, he was making an educated assumption. After all, science had just developed tools that did uncover a miniature world, previously invisible to the naked eye.
In comparison, George Hoyle‘s prediction, made some 70 years later, that everybody would be wearing jumpsuits by 2010, was almost embarrassingly wrong. But in all fairness, he did get lots of things right. And so did Bill Gates in 1995, when he envisioned people carrying computers in their pockets a mere 20 years ahead.

I IMAGINE, THEREFORE, I’M NOT BORED
What these no doubt visionaries were doing, though, was engaging in futurology, a rather guessing game, when one’s chances of catching lucky breaks are as likely as piling on a bunch of misses. Not without some irony, science fiction writers by far have always been the group with the better accuracy record than anybody else.
But even though Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and so many others got so much stuff right, many of which being already part of our daily lives, they’ve spoiled us all rot. That’s where our startlingly misguided resentment (more)
_______
Read Also:
* The Illustrated Man
* The Long Good Friday
* Not Human
Continue reading

Undeciphered

Treatise or New Language,
Voynich Enigma Is No Hoax

In the age of massive data collection, of inflated intelligence budgets, and of mastery of secrecy and surveillance, it’s a sobering realization to see how a 15th century manuscript continues to humble ciphers and code experts, as the Voynich has been doing for ages.
Since its rediscovery in 1912, some progress has been made, but overall, all efforts to understand it have been thoroughly defeated. Despite several theories, and a few words deciphered, the content of this exquisite document remains elusive and mysterious.
Named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish-born book antiquarian, who acquired it in Italy, and owned it until his death in New York in 1930, the Voynich Manuscript has been handed by some of the most brilliant minds of what became later known as the global intel community.
Alan Turing, the British computer wiz who later broke the secrets of the German Enigma machine, took a crack at the Voynich, and failed. So did William Frederic Friedman, one half of the so-called America’s First Cryptographic Couple (with wife Elizebeth Smith), who worked for decades for the U.S. military.

WHEN CODE BREAKERS GET BROKEN
Having decoded hundreds of papers (and previously obsessed with a theory, later abandoned, that works by William Shakespeare were actually written by Sir Francis Bacon), he spent decades on the Voynich, but came up with only a well-crafted but ultimately vague anagram, whose key was revealed after his death in 1969.
‘An early attempt to construct an artificial or universal language of the a priori type,’ was all he could gather of the manuscript. Many others tried their hand, or at least worked theories around its origins. Among the most durable, two out of four are still standing and show promise.
An interesting take was advanced by Lawrence and Nancy Gladstone, pointing the book’s authorship to Roger Bacon. But for all its elegance, the theory lost steam after Continue reading

The Body of Choice

When Women Empowerment
Was Written Into the U.S. Law

Forty years ago today, abortion became legal in the U.S. through the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade. It was the culmination of years of struggle to strip the issue of religious undertones and move it to the realm of women’s health.
Although abortion may serve as springboard for deranged arguments against a woman’s right to preside over her own body, most Americans wouldn’t support turning back the clock on the law of the land.
That’s because there are two undeniable facts about abortion: one is that it’s still one of the hardest decisions any person would have to make. Secondly, its legality has saved thousands of lives, and is potentially a deterrent factor in preventing pregnancy.
At the end of the day, when all the hypocritical and moralist rhetoric about ‘right to life’ and other fabrications have died out, what’s left is only the health and social implications the decision to end an undesirable and unprepared pregnancy ensues. And that affects everyone.
It’s enough that in many parts of the world, what’s erroneously considered a ‘woman’s mistake’ will cost her health, social standing, and often her own life. She will meet the utmost punishment, regardless if she was raped by one of her community’s patriarchs or by a gang of drunken youth: if she survives, she’ll still be an outcast.
In the U.S., despite a spat of state-level rulings, in some instances, even seeking criminal prosecution, we’re not about to return to such tribalistic reality. Although such rulings aim, ultimately, at preventing women from exercising their self determination, we’ve already too far Continue reading

Sleigh of News

The Pope’s Hate Message, a Misnamed
Disease, & Other Christmas Oddities

It’s a season of joy, of much tra-la-la and all that. But it’s also a time prone to burst into disconcerting news, and we’re not talking about thousands of armed conflicts around the world that don’t even bother celebrating it and taking a break from killing people.
Just like many a regular business, war doesn’t close its doors during Christmas. Neither hate goes on holiday, judging by the pope’s annual message, rallying troops against gay marriage. In other news, though, science has finally diagnosed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Deer, oh dear.
Not to play a heavy hand here, but religion is often a factor at the trigger-happy start of any conflict, but retreats to irrelevance when it comes to demanding it to stop. No wonder a recent survey found out that nonbelievers now form the world’s ‘third-largest religion,’ which is startling oxymoron to begin with.
Somehow, though, people still care, at least enough to steal baby jesuses from nativity scenes all across America. Apparently, there’s an odd increase in reported robberies in 2012, compared to previous years. Religious fervor? Pranksters at play? We can’t say, or pretend, that we care one way or another.
But, as we said before, it is a time for reprieve, which is evidenced in the increase in charity donations, widespread acts of goodwill and a general feeling that yes, ’tis the season. And the Christmas Disease alluded to above, a rare type of hemophilia, is not even named after it, but by Stephen Christmas, a U.K. AIDS activist who died in 1993.

NO ALTAR BOY
That’s why it’s so baffling that the spiritual leader of 2.2 billion people in the world has chosen exactly this time to reach out to other religious chiefs in what can only be called a crusade against homosexuals. According to Benedict XVI, there’s a threat to the family every time a same-sex couple pledges each other eternal love.
Don’t blame us to bring this up, but when Pope John XXIII, for Continue reading

Split Ends

A Brush of Fresh Hair or How
Pubic Curls May Save Your Life

Few things resemble more our evolutionary pedigree than body hair. Culturally, having a ‘full head’ of it means being young, beautiful, healthy, even powerful. Until it departs on its own, we spent years combing it, cutting it, shaving it, dying it, and parting it with aplomb.
It’s another story with hair growing elsewhere but on top of our head. A reminder of how fast we went from furry animal to naked ape, we’ve set strict social codes to dealing with ‘excess’ in certain parts of the body. We’ve only got contempt, though, for ear and nose strays.
The inconvenient truth about hair is that it’s easily matted with sexism, racial intolerance, and political and religious oppression. It can get greasy with prejudice, scorched dry with the dust of old traditions, and offensively malodorous, reeking of staled rites and bad blood.
In other cases, the way we look at hair or lack thereof reveals the huge gap between our general perception of what each gender is supposed to be about, and what evolution has determined was the best way to cope with changing climate and environmental conditions. We adapted and changed to survive, but we often still carry the phantom of an obsolete, long discarded psychological association.
Chest hair, for example, long thought to be a symbol of manhood and testosterone dominance, has recently been found to actually be a deterrent for potential female mates. Scientists long knew that women’s preference for hairlessness may have been a way to avoid lice and other tiny mites that would enjoy the comfort of chest hair in unkempt males of yore (read, all males born some 10,000 years ago).
Even though that’s hopefully no longer the case (as hygiene habits have Continue reading