A Shot of Quarantine

What Are We All Doing
Behind Those Windows?

We’ve seen them all: the outstanding online performances, the eerily empty cities, the constant wailing of sirens. We saw the long food lines and the vigil of families outside hospitals. We didn’t have to but we watched it anyway when a couple broke social distancing and had outdoor sex on a dirty rooftop.
But let’s imagine some of the other things people do mostly behind windows and balconies. But not everything, for St. Fauci’s sake. Just simple queries, like, are they cleaning or having wild dreams? stuffing themselves or Pilate-ing? Gardening naked anyone? Feeling envious of people with nicer, safer masks?
To quarantine and be under lockdown may have now similar meaning but they used to be separate things. Yes, one could be always quarantined for virus exposure, but usually in a medical facility. Astronauts go through an isolated time upon returning from space. And animals still go through a hell of cold cages when plane traveling.
The lockdown is the prison-like part of that compounded meaning. But don’t compare it with the real thing, especially in the U.S., with its largest incarcerated population in the world. If anybody should be let out is them. Now, if someone still doesn’t get it, tell them about prison toilet etiquette. Or how to talk through one.
But either way, we’re in this predicament for an imperative: to stop the spreading that’s killing thousands every day. Humans, we want to get out and away from it all. Beaches? picnics in public parks? public performances? We love them. But to have them reopened now, would reset the high rates of contagion back to January.

TIME MEANT TO WASTE
There are now hundreds of sites with tips about what to do with your time. Play games, they say. Binge on movies and series (but not the news, apparently). Read. Meditate. Do Yoga. Cut your own hair. Mend a sock or ‘try yodeling through an open window’ as the Swiss Embassy in the U.K. just recommended in a list.
People are having wild dreams too and for that, there are already many articles explaining why. We can’t say anything bad about catching up on sleep, so it’s all good. Others are finding lost mementos while cleaning. And there are those who, of course, don’t want and don’t plan to do a damned thing right now. Or ever.
That’s good too. To hell with overachievers who only enjoy breaks if they can squeeze yet another hundred-page long accounting report. Then again, that should be a bother to no one but their mates. Which is another thing being reported often: who are these monsters living here and what did they do with my family?

LOCKING UP MR. HYDE
People do crack up and suddenly turn into beasts. Domestic violence is no fiction and it’s spreading out too. Compared to the evil that humans do to each other, some, er, peculiar habits, or little character flaws, which seem to fester in these times, can be mostly managed. Smoking for instance. Just don’t do it here.
Naturism can’t be considered disturbing anymore. Kudos to a kind of society that doesn’t place a premium on physical beauty even if it doesn’t attract any either. And let’s face, picturing the president naked in the White House is way more offensive. So if you have a garden, by all means, tend to it. Clothing optional.
As for masks, they’re now an essential accessory to go out. Some are even making their own, and it’s all peachy. Even if there’s a little, tiny, itsy bit of envy directed at those who can flaunt (more)
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Earth Cavities

Worlds Inside, Real & Imagined,
Offer Insights Into Human Psyche

‘Why may we not suppose four ninths of our globe to be cavity?’ Edmond Halley’s 1692 Hollow Earth theory was rightly debunked for its faulty science. But it did lend, at least for a while, credence to a recurrent feature in ancient mythology, folklore, and legends.
No pun intended but underneath it all, he too was drawn to the allure of tunnels, caves, and the underground. The hidden and the obscure are innate to our psyche and beliefs, just as natural or manufactured burrows, are ideal temples for practical and mystical needs.
‘Descend, bold traveller, into the crater of the jökull of Snæfell, (…) to attain the centre of the earth. I did it. Arne Saknussemm.’ Two centuries after the Isaac Newton collaborator made famous by a comet had given up on his idea, Jules Verne concocted his own atemporal version of the enduring myth, in the best-selling novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Halley, an accomplished scientist thought to have been instrumental for the 1687 publishing of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, was ironically betrayed by what’s deemed a flaw of the revolutionary treatise: Newton’s erroneous attribution for the mass of the Moon.
By overweighting that mass in relation to Earth, by a factor of 1 to 26, instead of 1:81, the man responsible to our understanding of gravity laws unwittingly gave room to Halley’s supposition: Earth should be hollow, possibly inhabited. And the source of the Aurora Borealis, too.
None of this is detrimental to the two genius of science, or our debt to them. But Halley’s hypothesis did hit a resonant note, if not for its sacred past, then for a long string of mentally ill visionaries and phony prophets, way back from the Enlightenment to, sadly, our days.
BELOW THE BOTTOM
Even before antiquity, caverns were considered places of power, dwelling of spirits of good and evil, passages to other worlds. Many peoples and tribes, some whose descendants still walk among us, believed that the’d come from the Earth’s insides, and were supposed to return there someday.
All civilizations had some reference to the underworld, the Hades, the place where the dead lived. Dante Alighieri placed the Christian hell under our feet, so the faithful would live in fear and don’t stray. Throughout history, burials may have been so popular presumably for reasons other than just recycling.
Even today, some believe that UFOs actually come from beneath us. And just like vampires, fly out at night from hidden entrances in the poles. But the fact is, even if it were scientifically possible for this rock to have a giant hole inside, without cracking, it wouldn’t be big enough to accommodate all theories about it.
SECLUDED CATHEDRALS
To be sure, nature is not shy of keeping us away from its secrets, and often land or underwater caves are as inaccessible to most humans as the outer space is. Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, has its own jungle, rivers, and climate. And lethal challenges and a roll call of dead people too.
Its exploration is beyond most people’s athleticism and endurance. Just like astronauts are a special breed, so are cave enthusiasts. Also, due to Earth’s volatile geological and seismic configuration, while there may be even bigger caves yet to be discovered, some may suddenly cave in or shape up overnight.
Just as their enclosed universe will remain intimate and challenging, so will one’s connexion with those places. They may serve as a meditation sanctuary or a spot to hide, and the strength of one’s (more)
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Wacky Dates

Pick a Day & Give It a Spin,
So Life Won’t Grow Too Stale

Calendars would be a boring way of marking time if we didn’t assign each day with a different meaning. In fact, some days no longer fit within a regular sequence of numbers and need to be movable, so to fulfill their main function: making us forget the inexorability of time.
Then again, holidays, specially those named after people and events, are also boring. Thus the wacky dates we pick to honor an odd occurrence, or a rare fetish, even an artifact made memorable by a work of fiction.
Tomorrow is Hug Your Cat Day, for instance. In the U.S., pretty much every day of the calendar has been appropriated, often unduly, by a war battle, a religious imperative, or perhaps worst, an industry seeking exposure. Boring, boring, boring. And let’s not get started with those for which many make a wise point in skipping altogether.
But finding a way to make a day feel different – apart from the reality that, indeed, no two are alike even though it all feels the same to most – is not an American monopoly. Around the world, people memorialize the weird, the bizarre, and the quirky, as if their hold on life depends on it.
It’s also human to name things, moments, even parts of one’s anatomy. It all fits within the confines of that other inexorability: sameness, or our fear of succumbing to it, and disappearing without trace. Which winds up happening any way, in one way or another.
But some of these out of the ordinary dates extrapolate not just that sameness, but also the 24-hour expiration time of each day, either spilling into a festival, or taking place at different places, so to make sure everyone gets in that opportunity to stand out.
Curiously, festivals such La Tomatina, which is a late August movable feast that looks like a pagan orgy in red, have the exact opposite effect: who can be singled out in a sea of bodies digging in the mud of smashed tomatoes? So much for a collective longing to be unique.

A DAY TO NOT STAND STILL
But mostly, whacky holidays are created in the spirit of fun, including the Indian Cow Procession Day (Nov.8) or the Thai Monkey Buffet Festival (Nov. 28), despite their sanctimonious pseudo-homage to animals. In the end, they could as well dive into the mud just for the sake of it.
Others, if not spectacularly dull like Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day (Jan.17), are at least kind of sophomoric such as Pillow Fight Day (April 4). And then there are those loaded with political correctness, such as the Buy Nothing Day, a nemesis for the ignominious Black Friday. No fun.
Of course they don’t come close to the ominousness of Meteor Day (Nov.6, and you know what it means). Instead, the rest of us would rather side up with the jocose, semi-fictitious Festivus (Dec.23) and, just for good measure, be totally, unwaveringly biased towards Global Orgasm Day (Dec.22).

IF IT QUACKS LIKE A DUCK
A favorite of quirky minds, and perhaps one with the best subtext among our mundane ephemeris, is the upcoming Dead Duck Day (June 5), which marks a scientific breakthrough: the ‘first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.’ The back story is funnier than that, though.
It all started in 1995, when a male duck crashed against the glass wall of the Rotterdam Natural History Museum and died on the spot. Then, to the astonishment of everyone, another male mounted the corpse of the bird and proceed to copulate with it for 75 minutes straight!
The unusual event, and origin of the quacky, er, Continue reading

Falty Science

Cave Paintings, Betty & Barney,
and an Old Titan Lost to Fiction

Among several pseudo-scientific arguments Ridley Scott used to anchor his latest sci-fi flick, Prometheus, were ancient cave paintings and distant binary-star systems. Thus the event that triggers the action itself is the discovery of such hidden paintings, which according to the main characters, could not have been done by humans, and their depiction of a faraway planetary system.
Of many very old cave paintings found throughout Earth, there’s one that does seem to have been done by a non-human species. But by Neanderthals, not aliens, though. And the depiction of a star alignment on a wall may have been based on the Zeta Reticuli incident, when the binary system located 39-light years away, became part of the controversial first reported case of humans abducted by aliens, in 1961.
Apart from these two near misses, the movie got pretty much everything else wrong, which is disappointing in so many levels to not being worth discussing here. Then again, it’s just a movie. To cut the British director some slack, even if he never makes another film, he’s still Continue reading

Urge & Mystery

To Pee or Not to Spend &
a Whale Far From the Sea

Sometimes it’s fun to pick and choose and put together far out news stories, even when they have nothing to do with each other. It’s all in the interest of our readers, of course, and also because we have absolutely run out of related news to report.
In fact, Colltales does have a soft spot for the odd, the weird and the crazily abnormal, which often go unnoticed in our daily grind. So grab a cup of coffee and jump-start your day with another smart conversation piece to impress your friends over the weekend.
INHIBITED RESEARCH
One of the winning entries of this year’s Ig Nobel Prize Awards was a study on the relationship between the urge to urinate and the ability to make sound financial decisions. Come again?
You heard it right: a multi-disciplinary team of scientists actually drank an excessive amount of liquids to gauge issues of self-control in relation to cognitive activities. What’s surprising is that what they concluded most likely was not what you’d expect.
The paper, Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains, was the result of obviously-arduous efforts by Drs. Mirjam Tuk, Peter Snyder and Paul Maruff, among many others, to prove the, Continue reading

Overnight Sensation

Meaning of Crop Circles
May Lay Beyond Our Wits

If this mystery is ever solved, years from now, will we hit our foreheads and say, “how come I didn’t see this coming?”
Since the 1970s, crop circles, those gigantic, increasingly elaborated drawings better visualized from above that have been appearing overnight on corn, wheat, barley and rapeseed fields all over the world, have puzzled, mystified and challenged everyone and their loony uncles.
Attempts to debunk them failed miserably. From the pure naive, such as the two Britons who claimed authorship in the 1990s, and couldn’t reproduce their attempt under scrutiny, to the cutting edge, as the MIT grads who tried to recreate one and barely managed to draw a Continue reading

UFOs Over NYC

About Those Fuzzy, Shiny Blobs
You Saw Flying Over Your Head

Party balloons? Allien exploratory spaceships? Carl Paladino’s porn emails? Does anyone even care? A seemingly metallic object, or a group of them, depending on who you ask, floating on the skies above Chelsea Wednesday morning stopped New Yorkers on their tracks.
As usual, no clear, steady, HD picture has ever come up from the apparition, which makes one wonder: While there’s always plenty of high quality shots of celebrity underwears, no matter how many bodyguards they place between you and the tabloid-drawing starlet, when you need a single, straight pic of a civilization-changing moment, there’s never any available.
But being as it may, whatever it was that attracted all those raised pointing fingers, one thing it was not: the first one to astound the city for just about a minute or so, before it resumed its much fuzzier, equally uncertain but way more determined trajectory to wherever it was that it was heading to. As to us, as usual, we’re as clueless as we were before. So move on and thanks for all the fish.