Rock On

Immigrants to the Solar System
& a Stone That Predates Humans

No one knows how many of them are out there. They travel light, fast, and come from lifetimes of distance. Surveillance may catch a few, but this is too vast a place to easily spot them. Some fear them like the end of times. Others call them refugees, or vagrants, or immigrants.
They’re asteroids, meteorites, shooting stars. They may come to visit: one zipped by Earth’s orbit last year, on its way out of the Milk Way. But long ago, Jupiter captured another; it’s now a permanent resident. Like those that come crashing to die among us, they’ll keep on coming.
The fear, of course, is that they do have the potential to end our civilization. Just like that, and there’s damn little, or pretty much nothing, we can do about it. Geological data, i.e., extracted from rocks, plus statistical probability, prove that such a literally earthshaking possibility does exist.
Twice in the past an incoming high-speed ball wiped nearly all life on the planet, changing evolutionary history in the process. So we try to keep track of them, but even if we could see them all at a safe distance, we’ll probably would’t have time for anything but to go mad, and then die.
Not Oumuamua, though, the object that crossed incognito our zenith last September. When it reached the sun, we knew that it couldn’t possibly be from within our system, like all the others, race-ending or not. When it left it, it’d become the very first interstellar little world to came and say hi. Or rather, a Hello, Goodbye. I must be going.

THE THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN
Of course, Shakespeare was right. So was Carmichael, and so was Sagan. After being given such a noble provenance, linking us straight to the most distant heavenly body we will never get to see, who wants to have anything to do with an errant piece of rock? But it’s been said, they’re inevitable.
In fact, without denying we’re shinning stars and all that, life may have been brought down to this Pale Blue Dot, which once thought of itself as the center of the universe, by a lowly slice of outwordly dust, teeming with what would blow air through our nostrils. Hey, cheer up. We’re all rock stars.
Or whatever. The hominids who act as if they own the place they know nothing about, and are just about to put it on fire, couldn’t bear thinking that they don’t count. But in reality, they don’t. (more)
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Read Also:
* The Undreamed World
* World Snatchers
* It’s Fly By Us

Continue reading

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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Read Also:
* Women’s Day
* The Body of Choice
* Phony Outrage

Continue reading

The Spanglish Twins

Shakespeare & Cervantes
Who Improved Our DNA

They never knew it, but when William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes left this earth, 400 hundred years ago this Saturday, their work were destined to become part of humanity’s greatest treasuries. And English and Spanish, two of the world’s most spoken languages.
Their art not just redefined their mothers’ tongues, but helped England and Spain conquest most of the world, way beyond what their powerful armies were capable of. Four centuries later, over a billion people speak an accented form of what they once put on writing.
Language has always been, arguably, a weapon of global domination. In 1616, with Europe deeply involved in wars of subjugation, Portugal and the Netherlands, for instance, were also militarily capable and actively jockeying for control of resources and trade.
But either for lacking of geographical advantage, strategical wherewithal, or visionary drive, by the time Cervantes published the first part of Don Quixote, or Shakespeare, what was to become the First Folio, none of them were matches to Spaniards and Britons.
That’s of course a simplification. To many, Portuguese Luis de Camões was their equal, and his The Lusiads, the definitive account of the Discovery Era. But neither he nor Portugal’s mighty at sea survived the new century. And today, considerably less people speak his tongue.

A GENTILHOMBRE & THE WINDMILLS
Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra was pretty much the fruit of Spain’s Siglo de Oro, the period between the first decades of the 1500s and the end of the 16th century. Having reconquered their country from the Muslims, Spain was at the center of the world and expanding.
Unprecedented stability and trade, along a vigorous art tradition, forged the nation and inspired Cervantes to embrace the age, but not without struggle. From a humble family, he became a soldier and a crown’s servant, in order to support a career as a writer in his later years.
His tale of a delusional nobleman, chasing a doomed dream of love and peace, with a witty sidekick to counterpoint his reveries, still resonates. The poignancy of his adventures can be traced to Cervantes’ own quest for redemption, which included having been captured and enslaved.
It was all worthy, apparently. After his tomb was discovered last year in Madrid, and as his bones go through forensic analysis, there’s no question about whose history is being exhumed. More than the Inquisition, or the Armada, Spain’s now best represented by Cervantes.

THE BARD WHO MAY NOT HAVE LIVED
Some scholars have grown exasperated about the still lingering questions about Shakespeare authorship. For them, those who believe his works were penned by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, thus the Oxfordians, had their shot and it missed the point. It’s understandable.
There was never any question about the quality, or depth and breadth, of the multiple sonnets, poems, comedies, tragedies, stories, and romances attributed to that person who, despite thought of (more)
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Read Also:
* Author, Author
* Bones of Contention

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Tell a Story in One Sentence

Say it All
in Six Words

‘For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.’ This Ernest Hemingway-credited ‘novel’ is arguably the best known example of how entire lives can be distilled into only six words. If ‘brevity is the soul of wit,’ to quote Bill Shakespeare, then this is probably how it’s done.
The concept’s also a suitable match to our age’s short-span attention, managing to beat Twitter at its own game, fit easily in a tiny phone screen, all the while delivering a potential knockout. Papa was on to something, and his story is as moving now as it was then.
The current revival that the concept enjoys nowadays can be attributed to Larry Smith, who launched the Six-Word Memoir Project in 2006. Few would’ve expected that the Website would be now home to over a million six-word sentences, by thousands of people, celebrities or not.
The latter includes yours truly, whose literary concoctions found their way into Six Words About Work, published in 2009, and Best Advice in Six Words, coming out this week (yes, it’s a plug). Both books are part of a growing collection edited by the Smith mag team. Hooray.
Thus we decided to show you some of our own contributions, gathered here in a sort of chaotic way, for your enjoyment. It’s also our humble way of thanking the good people of the Six-Word Memoir community, who obviously could’ve done just fine without our input. Still, we’re proud.
There’s something about the format. Not as complex as a Haiku, or functional as the 5-word limit Ig Nobel Award recipients are bound to keep on their thank you speeches, six words are perfect to strike a balance of just enough info and emotion, convey background, and leave much to be guessed.
None of these is at par with Papa‘s, mind you. Or Bill, for goodness sake. But they’re fun to compose and, honestly, addictive. You should try it sometime. Thousands have. What if you have just the perfect idea about what happened to those shoes? Cheers.

PROXIMITY MADE MY HEART GROW NASTIER

SIX PILLS REPLACED SEX & THRILLS

Texting George Kaplan


Highly Successful Habits
of Purely Made Up People

Most of us spend a lifetime struggling to be successful in at least one thing. The writer of this post, for example, after failing in almost everything he’s tried his clumsy hand at, has settled his sights on the promising world of accomplishments only a few dare to pursue.
The last we heard, he’s not doing too well. Apparently, turning off the light switch and landing on a bed before the room goes completely dark has its hazards. It seemed so simple, he told us, when Muhammad Ali revealed to a reporter that it was one of his nightly rituals.
As we talk, our humble scrivener still has at least a few hundred nights to get it done, before every bone of his body is fractured. We’ll keep you posted on that one. Now, where were we? Oh, that’s right, about lifetime achievements, or the lack of them. 
There are those who seem perfectly suited at imprinting their legacy on history books. Others go beyond that, and do it more than once. But none beats the kind of person that, besides all that, also manages to not exist at all. In fact, history records several of these characters.
Take George P. Burdell, for example, after whom the Georgia Institute of Technology named its Student Center after. According to the record, Burdell not just graduated from Georgia Tech, but flew 12 missions over Europe during World War II, served on MAD magazine’s Board of Directors for a dozen years, and in 2001 was almost named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year after garnering 57 percent of online votes. Not even Mozart worked this hard.
Despite his expected old age, he’s kept up with the new world and in touch with his over 4,000 Facebook “friends.” The only thing is, he doesn’t exist. Much less distinctive-named Ed Smith created him in 1927 by enrolling them both for a laugh at Georgia Tech. With Smith’s behind the scenes help, Burdell’s life took off on its own and thrived, as he become one of the institute’s most distinguished legends.

FAKE ARTISTS & SKITTISH CELEBRITIES
There’s also Nat Tate, a fictional artist whose life existed only in the imagination of Scottish novelist William Boyd. All it took him was to publish a book on Tate in 1998 as a biography and keep a straight face. His hoax got some mileage from friends Gore Vidal and David Bowie, all in the joke.
The gullible art intelligentsia of the time adopted and praised the unknown “artist,” until Boyd got tired of it Continue reading

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 Sunday, March 8th, the International Women’s Day, also marks her 104th 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)
_______
Read Also:
* Women’s Day
* The Body of Choice
* Phony Outrage

Continue reading

You Say It’s Your Birthday

The Day You Were Born:
Good to Party, Good to Go

It didn’t take too long for this one to get spoiled too. As much as one looks forward to it, according to a recent study, your own birthday may be a health hazard to you. But as you simply can’t stay clear from it, as you’ve wished pretty much since your 30th came and went like a night thief, there’s not much point in such a research, now is there?
And here’s another finding making people wonder, wasn’t anything else worthier finding? When it comes to births, not all days are equal and some produce more Americans than others. Now just imagine that, in old times, anyone armed with these two sets of data could become a king, an oracle, or at least, save themselves from a nice bonfire put up to send them off, birthdays be damned.
Both researches, as rigorously scientific and statistically sound they may be, may cater only to the kind of data-consuming lonely heart, who spends days uncovering hidden clues in newspaper articles and revels in writing passionate letters to the editor. We know it well, because we could be as well just like them. But this being another zany post, we’re running with it.
A word to the weary, though. Our brain is trained to see coincidences, even when statistically, what’s coinciding may be just an inevitability. Also, with help from computers to crunch and cross reference astronomical amounts of data, even the science of statistics can be misleading, by predisposing the researcher to see trends where there aren’t any. For more on that, read again the second sentence of this graph.
It’s never too much to add too that this kind of study may have a built-in self-fulfilling predicament in it. Impressionable minds are prone to seek clues for the ‘right time‘ to act upon deep-seated resolutions. Then again, their breaking point may come at much less Continue reading