War is where heroes are made, or so the story goes. In a self-conscious attempt to align his career path with the blazing trajectory of Winslow Homer, Steve Mumford launched his Baghdad Journal project in the summer of 2003. Sponsored by Artnet’s magazine feature, Baghdad Journal consists of sixteen dated and illustrated entries, records of Mumford’s travels in Iraq between August 2003 and December 2004. Each entry contains Mumford’s diary-style writing, illustrated by twenty or so scanned reproductions of his watercolors. Mumford’s scenes are deliberately chosen to challenge our expectations of war – the boundaries of the battleground are unclear, and there is little overt representation of violence. Instead, Mumford depicts the everyday reality of 21st-century war: the tedium of soldiers passing time at base, the efforts of ordinary Iraqis to continue the routines of urban life. But although Mumford’s project may seem anti-heroic, the idea of the lone male hero remains remarkably persistent throughout his sketches and writings, revealing how difficult it is to separate the age-old myth of the hero from an attempt to represent the realities of war.

more from n+1 here.

Male mice signal sex with tears

From Nature:Mice

It may not be considered manly for humans to cry. But when male mice shed a tear, they seem to be trying to prove their masculinity. So say Japanese researchers who have discovered that male mice release pheromones in the fluid that moistens their eyes. “Nobody expected that sex-specific pheromones would exist in tears,” says Kazushige Touhara of the University of Tokyo in Chiba. Pheromones, the chemicals that convey messages about everything from fear to sexual desire, are most common in sweat in humans, and in urine in mice.

More here.

Science gets the last laugh on ethnic jokes

From MSNBC News:

Joke “Heaven is where the police are English, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and everything is organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.”

Obviously the national stereotypes in this old joke are generalizations, but such stereotypes are often said to “exist for a reason.” Is there actually a sliver of truth in them? Not likely, an international research team now says. The study, which compares “typical” personalities in many cultures with the personalities of real individuals from those cultures, appears in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

More here.

Pakistani transvestite eyes local poll triumph

From the Daily Times of Pakistan:

6_10_2005_untitled4Pervez Akhtar Tanoli is a candidate with a difference in Thursday’s local council elections; he’s a transvestite who rails against corruption and vows to help the poor.

Tanoli, or ‘Baby’ as he is known, is running for a seat on a council in a sub-district of Haripur.

“The constituents are my family,” Baby told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. “I have nobody else. My family abandoned me because I am a transvestite.”

The former wedding dancer in his mid-thirties is not new to local politics. He has been councilor for the town of Haripur North since 2002, winning the seat with a record number of votes.

“People have voted for me to work for their benefit, not to dance at weddings,” he says.

“The poor have suffered at the hands of politicians because they put the tax money which is meant for development into their own pockets. I don’t do that and people know this. They know I only work for the poor.”

More here.

herstory – the israeli version


“The series ‘To Be Israeli,’ from Ziva Postak, editor of acclaimed ‘Shoah’ documentary by Claude Lanzman, presents daily domestic rituals of women as alternative to historical narrative of men

Israeli identity examined from a female perspective and the place of women in the context of Zionist history is the focus of a new documentary series, “To be an Israeli Woman,” from director Ziva Postak, who worked as editor for Claude Lanzman’s monumental masterpiece, “Shoah.”

Each episode will highlight the perspective of different women – a Jewish settler, an Ethiopian immigrant, a new immigrant from the former Soviet Union, a Palestinian – as an expression of the multiculturalism from where is drawn the monolithic and obviously fictitious identity of Israeli women.”

more Here

TV for equality


A new television campaign in Arabic will attempt to tackle the issue of racism and prejudice toward Arabs in Israel, and foster dialogue between Arabs and Jews.

The campaign, which will be broadcast during prime time on all major channels, is an initiative of the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel. Launched on the eve of the new year, the campaign’s commercials feature a black screen on which common phrases in Arabic appear. An announcer reads the words out loud.

Mossawa spokeswoman, Abir Kopty explained that the commercials aim at getting the viewers to consider their reactions to anything which represents “Arab,” including daily words and phrases such as “good morning” or “have a nice day.”

Kopty said that the campaign consists of two separate parts. In the first part, which includes the media commercials, the public will be exposed to the issue of inequality toward the Arab population in the country.

The second stage of the campaign that will follow the media one, will concentrate on inviting the Israeli public to attend the “Mossawa (equality) Days” festival in the northern Arab town of Nazareth, scheduled to be held during the month of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “

more here

meat writing

When Walt Whitman began what would ultimately become his masterpiece “Song of Myself,” this was one of the first lines he wrote: “And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue.” The nobility of the grazing cow, changing grass into protein, jolts the poet into an impassioned announcement of his own identity and an instant awareness of himself thatched in the expansive web of the world. Thus Whitman, in some small way, may be America’s first Meat Writer. The recognition and immediate reconciliation of digestive dissonance—the linking of himself to his food and beyond—is a catalyzing moment in his ecstatic celebration of life. No lesser a figure than Mohandas Gandhi drew this same conclusion, claiming “To me, the cow is the embodiment of the whole infra-human world; she enables the believer to grasp his unity with all that lives…. The cow is a poem of compassion.”

Popular Meat Writing is about making connections, tying the ubiquitous to the sensational, restoring a place and face to the rootless and indistinct. It puts our Christmas ham back in a cramped pen at Smithfield and plops the Iraq War squarely on our plates. Horrifying as these connections may be, they’re also reassuring. For the details may foster in us, as they did in Whitman, self-awareness—a greater sensitivity to our responsibilities, whether we can ultimately live up to them or not. After all, Meat Writing ties us to something, and no one likes to dine alone.

more meat writing from The Believer here.

hilton kramer on olitski


It was inevitable, perhaps, that a pictorial style based on transparent veils of color would prove severely limiting. What may also have effected a change in Mr. Olitski’s handling of color was Greenberg’s death in 1994. It’s hardly news that Greenberg’s influence was central to the development of color-field abstraction; without that influence, it’s doubtful that color-field abstraction would have acquired the authority it briefly enjoyed. I don’t say this as a criticism of Greenberg, whose writings I very much admire (though I often disagreed with him). But I do believe that his departure from the New York art scene made it possible for certain artists—Mr. Olitski among them—to expand their pictorial horizons into areas of style and concept alien to his taste. Be that as it may, it’s my view that in the Matter Embraced paintings at Knoedler & Company, Mr. Olitski has created his finest work.

more from Kramer (you can’t keep on old formalist down) at the New York Observer here.

Tate: two cities, tale


In the making of the modern world, Paris and London are related almost as head and body. It was Paris that had the ideas – from the idea of revolution to Charles Baudelaire’s notion of the artist of modern life to Picasso’s concept of cubism. The Marxist cultural theorist Walter Benjamin called Paris “capital of the 19th century” and he was right. Yet this is a paradox, because London was the place where modern life began, capital of the workshop of the world, metropolis of the largest empire the world has ever seen, home of the Crystal Palace that inspired Eiffel’s wondrous iron lattice in the sky. London was the grinding nightmare city of the future, in foreign eyes; the setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling story The Man of the Crowd. When the French illustrator Gustave Doré visited mid-19th-century London he went in the spirit of an explorer visiting Africa and came back with dreadful doom-laden images of a future city where people live under railway arches in unimaginable squalor.

more from The Guardian Unlimited here.

ubiquitous korea

From NY Times

Oconnel583 “IMAGINE public recycling bins that use radio-frequency identification technology to credit recyclers every time they toss in a bottle; pressure-sensitive floors in the homes of older people that can detect the impact of a fall and immediately contact help; cellphones that store health records and can be used to pay for prescriptions…

…A ubiquitous city is where all major information systems (residential, medical, business, governmental and the like) share data, and computers are built into the houses, streets and office buildings. New Songdo, located on a man-made island of nearly 1,500 acres off the Incheon coast about 40 miles from Seoul, is rising from the ground up as a U-city.

…New Songdo sounds like it will be one big Petri dish for understanding how people want to use technology,” said B. J. Fogg, the director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University. “

Storing Halle Berry in a single brain cell

From Scientific American:Barre_1

A recent study indicates that our brains employ far fewer cells to interpret a given image than previously believed, and the findings could help neuroscientists determine how memories are formed and stored. In previous decades, two extreme views have emerged. One says that millions of neurons work in concert, piecing together various bits of information into one coherent picture, whereas the ot her states that the brain contains a separate neuron to recognize each individual object and person. In the 1960s neurobiologist Jerome Lettvin named the latter idea the “grandmother cell” theory, meaning that the brain has a neuron devoted just for recognizing each family member. Lose that neuron, and you no longer recognize grandma. Experts long ago dismissed this latter view as overly simplistic. But Rodrigo Quian Quiroga of the University of Leicester in England and his colleagues decided to investigate just how selective single neurons might be.

More here.

Photo Gallery: Best Science Photographs of 2005 Named

From National Geographic:Cancer_cell

Medical researcher Anne Weston took this photograph of a cancer cell with an electron microscope. She captured the image as the cell crept into a pore on a laboratory filter to illustrate how cancer cells move.

Pan Cambridge University lecturer John Brackenbury combined this series of high-speed photographs to illustrate the concept of panspermia. Panspermia is the theory that seeds of life exist throughout the universe and that life on Earth arose when those seeds landed on our planet eons ago. The image shows eggs shattering as they hit water, releasing smaller eggs within.

More here.

Freeman J. Dyson on Richard P. Feynman

From the New York Review of Books:

Feynman_richard19921217Great scientists come in two varieties, which Isaiah Berlin, quoting the seventh-century-BC poet Archilochus, called foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes know many tricks, hedgehogs only one. Foxes are interested in everything, and move easily from one problem to another. Hedgehogs are interested only in a few problems which they consider fundamental, and stick with the same problems for years or decades. Most of the great discoveries are made by hedgehogs, most of the little discoveries by foxes. Science needs both hedgehogs and foxes for its healthy growth, hedgehogs to dig deep into the nature of things, foxes to explore the complicated details of our marvelous universe. Albert Einstein was a hedgehog; Richard Feynman was a fox.

Many readers of The New York Review of Books are more likely to have encountered Feynman as a story-teller, for example in his book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, than as a scientist. Not many are likely to have read his great textbook The Feynman Lectures on Physics, which was a best seller among physicists but was not intended for the general public. Now we have a collection of his letters, selected and edited by his daughter, Michelle.

More here.

Chronic disease is biggest global killer

Shaoni Bhattacharya in New Scientist:

By the end of 2005, twice as many people will have died from chronic diseases as from all infectious diseases, starvation and pregnancy and birth complications combined, international experts have warned.

The “neglected epidemic” of chronic disease will take 35 million lives in 2005, out of the total 58 million who will die globally. And contrary to popular belief, most of the deaths – 80% – from chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer will be in low to middle-income countries.

The two factors behind this epidemic are smoking and obesity, says Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, in a commentary accompanying four studies published on Wednesday. “These risks and the diseases they engender are not the exclusive preserve of rich nations.”

If action is taken now, 36 million lives could be saved by 2015, says a major World Health Organization (WHO) report on chronic diseases also published on Wednesday.

While the world focuses on tackling the major infectious diseases – HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis – chronic diseases are largely overlooked, warns Horton. “Without concerted and coordinated political action, the gains achieved in reducing the burden of infectious disease will be washed away as a new wave of preventable illness engulfs those least able to protect themselves.”

More here.

The Republican War on Science

Eric Kancler interviews Chris Mooney in Mother Jones:

Mooney_265x365Though no previous U.S. government can match the current one for sheer brazenness, other Republican administrations have proved willing, on occasion, to subordinate science to politics. As Chris Mooney argues in his book, The Republican War on Science, disregard for scientists and the scientific method has grown and ripened with the modern conservative movement. From Barry Goldwater’s anti-intellectualism, through Ronald Reagan’s sympathy for creationism and Newt Gingrich’s passion for science “skeptics,” on through the present day, Republicans have shown a marked preference for politically inspired fringe theories over the findings of long-established and world-renowned scientific bodies.

In his conversation with Mother Jones, Mooney discusses the impact this approach to science has on public policy and the public good, and on the very health of American democracy.

More here.

Diplomat ‘was real Shakespeare’

Also from the BBC:

_39105771_shakespeare203An Elizabethan diplomat named Sir Henry Neville was the real author of William Shakespeare’s plays, a new book claims.

The Truth Will Out: Unmasking the Real Shakespeare says the courtier, nicknamed “Falstaff” by close friends, used Shakespeare as a “front man”.

The book by Brenda James and Professor William Rubinstein contains a foreword by Mark Rylance, artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

Many experts remain sceptical at claims to have found the “real” Shakespeare.

More here.

Arthur C Clarke still looking forward

Martin Redfern at the BBC:

_40873646_clarke_bbc_203_1It was 60 years ago this month that the popular magazine Wireless World published an article entitled Extra-terrestrial Relays: Can rocket stations give worldwide radio coverage?

The author was a young writer by the name of Arthur C Clarke.

His “rocket stations” are today known as communications satellites.

Eighty-seven years and the after-effects of polio have left Sir Arthur in a wheelchair and somewhat forgetful of past events; but as a science visionary, he is as sharp as ever, looking forward to the time when other predictions he has made come true.

More here.

Self-help gurus might be fakes – but why do so many people fall for them?

Josie Appleton in Spiked:

DrphilbooksIn SHAM: How the gurus of the self-help movement make us helpless, Steve Salerno exposes the pretensions of the Self-Help and Actualisation Movement. Gurus’ degrees are often fake, their personal lives a disaster, their advice wacky.

John Gray, of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus fame, offers instruction on the hidden meaning of women’s underwear: ‘[when] she wears silky pink or lace, she is ready to surrender to sex as a romantic expression of loving vulnerability’, while a ‘cotton t-shirt with matching panties…may mean she doesn’t need a lot of foreplay’. One ‘life coach’, Hale Dwoskin, instructs his clients to drop pens and throw chairs as ‘”symbolic” ways of letting go of impediments to happiness and power’.

Self-help gurus become famous by hitting on a catchphrase and running with it. Richard Carlson started with Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff, and graduated to Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff For Women, …At Work, …For Teens, The Don’t Sweat Guide for Couples. Once a guru makes it, they can diversify into pretty much anything: weight-loss products, relationship counselling, business start-ups, moon landings….

More here.

use of magnets to levitate frogs, and the effect of beer, garlic and soured cream on the appetite of leeches

From the AFP:

It is difficult to judge exactly where the scientific world would be without Professor Bernard Vonnegut’s seminal 1975 study on “Chicken Plucking as a Measure of Tornado Wind Speed.”

What is clear is that Vonnegut’s groundbreaking research may have languished in undeserved obscurity but for Marc Abrahams, founder of the annual Ig Nobel Prizes for scientific achievement that “cannot or should not be reproduced.”

A prestigious gathering of genuine Nobel laureates will help present the awards at the 15th Ig Nobel ceremony to be held Thursday amid pomp, mayhem and paper planes at Harvard University.

Along with Vonnegut, previous winners of the increasingly-prized Igs include authors of landmark reports on the impact of country music on suicide, the use of magnets to levitate frogs, and the effect of beer, garlic and soured cream on the appetite of leeches.

The keynote address on Thursday will be given by the 2003 Ig Nobel Biology laureate Kees Moeliker, who won for documenting the first — and so far only — recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.

More here.

Nobel Literature Prize Date in Limbo

Matt Moore of the AP:

Nobel watchers hoping to find out who will win the 2005 literature prize will have to wait at least a week.

With the other Nobel Prize announcements already in full swing, many expected the Swedish Academy to confirm the date on Tuesday. Instead, it kept silent, suggesting the coveted award will be announced Oct. 13.

By tradition, the 18-member group that makes up the 219-year-old institution, announces on a Tuesday that it will name the winner the following Thursday at 7 a.m. EDT.

It’s also led to speculation that academy members may be locked in fierce debate as to who should take home this year’s prize, which includes a $1.3 million prize, a gold medal and a diploma, along with a guaranteed boost in sales.

More here.