Neverlands

When Snow White, Rapunzel & Oz
Meant Much More Than Fairy Tales

Video games may be the modern equivalent of fairy tales. But if child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim was right, those ancient stories about damsels in distress and their rescuing knights are far from having exhausted their appeal. The good old doc should know it.
He survived the Nazis only to fall in disgrace for enhancing his resume and being nasty to his pupils. Alas, the man who taught us about warding off life’s demons, could not handle his own. He suffocated himself to death with a plastic bag wrapped around his head in 1990.
After such a florid intro, though, we’re switching gears to focus on some hardly known facts behind two classics of children’s literature, Rapunzel and Snow White, and a book written a century ago that became a breakthrough movie, the Wizard of Oz.
They all share an underlying common trait: the confusion and hardship typical of impoverished children going through puberty. While predating even the concept of childhood and adolescence, there’s never doubt about what demographics they were catering to.
Behind a veneer of an idealized world to which the young protagonists long to belong and conquer, and a patina of virtue and redemption righting all wrongs, deep down, the stories are suffused with intrigue and betrayal, brutal competition and carnage.

TALES FROM THE DARK AGES
For all the high-def graphics and sensory numbness-inducing FX of video games, and all modern entertainment for that matter, they’re no match to the emotional intensity and masterly manipulation of deep-rooted fears, which are the currency of fairy tales.
All are about lonely children transitioning to adulthood, trapped by conspiring circumstances and on the verge of defeat until the very end, often when their rivals perish. Strife and miserable family bonds are never far from center stage, and neither is the threat of annihilation.
For Bettelheim, beyond their imagery, these tales are loved for offering kids happy outcomes, which they can come up with on their own. Behind the Dark Ages’ ambiance and archaic social settings, (more)
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The 23rd

When 2 + 3 Is Not 5,
Some Call it an Enigma

Numbers and the Internet. Man-made to gauge and track the world, they’re now endless and will go on long after we’re gone. As matter can always be reduced to its numeric essence, so all manner of human expression may one day reside on the digital realm.
Take 23, for instance, the number assigned by fate to my first breath. Like with other numerals, there are hundreds of Websites about it, on math and numerology to cults and strange coincidences, with everything in between, besides, of course, celebrity birthdays.
Age-wise, few are like 23, and most of anyone would consider it among life’s best years. Perhaps. We tend to appreciated this sort of thing when we’re either heading towards it, or receding from it. But it is a time when choices are wide open and self-fulfillment is still a priority.
A mind-boggling assortment of arcana is related to 23 as a prime number, but even as its complexities keep planets spinning, and the Space Station aloft, few are wise to them. We all have 23 pairs of chromosomes, though, even if they no longer dictate one’s gender.
A curious statistical theory, the Birthday Paradox, says that within a group of 23 people, chances are, two share the same day of birth. That’s the least amount of people to whom such a likelihood is higher than 50 percent. But please, don’t go asking strangers for their day.

THE CHAOS & MYSTERY OF NOT MUCH
Yes, there are at least two weird groups that attribute 23 a special meaning. Discordianism associates it with chaos, with some mumbo-jumbo about inverting the pyramids (you read it right), and the goddess Eris. By the way, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built with 2.300 stones, so there you have it.
As for 23rdians, they see the number as an enigma permeating all spheres of existence, claiming author Robert Anton Wilson as a spiritual mentor of sorts. Wilson, in turn, may have caught the 23 fever from William Burroughs, who once told him about his own obsession with it.
Add to these, well, peculiar people, Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash. Despite his work on economics, he was almost better known for having a strange, and tragic, thing about the number (and Pope John XXIII, but if you have to ask, don’t). And of course, (more)
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On This Day

When a Supernova
Sent Us Its Lights

The most recent collapse, visible by the naked eye, of a blue supergiant star into the SN 1987A Supernova happened 29 years ago today. Or rather, the light of its explosion reached us in 1987; the event took place 168,000 light years from Earth.
It didn’t change anything, except advancing our knowledge of the universe, just as Kepler’s Supernova had done, back in 1604. Galileo Galilei observed that explosion using an instrument that became known as a telescope only a few years after that.
Neither George Frederic Handel, W.E.B.DuBois, Peter Fonda, or Johnny Winter, all born on this day, were particularly affected by the 1987A. In fact, even including those left out of this list, mankind remains mostly oblivious to what’s going on above us.
How could it be any different? Heaven is so vast that, even considering our herculean efforts to populated it with myths and legends, paradise and hell, it remains so utterly powerful as to be touched only by our flawed, ever so dimmed, eyes.
And yet we try, century after labored century, to uncover the veil of ancient secrets, only to be challenged by new mysteries, to forge personal connections, even if they’re one-sided, self-attributed fantasies, bound to be unmasked.
The year of that supernova also marked a personal ephemeris of my own, as I picked New York as my coordinates on this world. And today’s date, as it’s been for decades, signals that I’m one year older and none the wiser. So it is in our mostly small existence.
The stardust that we all share with galaxies and clusters, with nebulae and quasars, will in time turn into ashes too. Except that we mostly wilt and pass away, while they explode into spectacular cosmic energy, seen across the millennia.
Supernovae will keep on popping up, even if we can’t see or record them. But our footprints will fade and be washed away by the elements. It doesn’t matter; what really counts is what happens between our first and last step. I’m closer now, I’ll get there.
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Good Morning to All

Happy Birthday to Ya. Would
That Be Cash or Credit Card?

Minds of the practical kind know it all too well; birthdays can be expensive. And tricky too, specially if it’s your own mate’s, who happens to be picky about that sort of thing. There’s something else increasing the overall price of celebrating you being around: the song everyone sings.
Good Morning to All, the tune American sisters Patty and Mildred Hill wrote in 1893 for school children to sing, somehow became Happy Birthday to You in the early 1900s, through a very serendipitous journey. Along the way, it changed copyright owners, and became very expensive indeed.
Technically, every time someone sings it, which probably happens worldwide thousands of times a day, someone, or rather, some institution collects some dough. It used to be the estate of Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman, who were given credit for the new lyrics in 1935. Now, rather than pay up, some want this tradition changed.
Which means, there’s a new Happy Birthday song around the block, after a radio station in New Jersey set up a contest and chose a winner to replace the old tune. But it’s unlike that you’ll be hearing it sang by a group of underpaid waiters at your local diner anytime soon. These things take time.
Which is just as well. Nothing to remind you of its passage than that over familiar melody, and those repetitive chorus, which by the way, get different lyrics in different countries, not necessarily only its translation. But in English, it may only underline how old you really are. And that’s almost unbearable.
That could be also what’s behind WFMU’s idea, when it teamed with the Free Music Archive to replace the copyrighted song. But the main point was to send the new one straight to public domain, so no one would Continue reading