Skeletal Systems

Michael Paulus at his website (via The Daily Doubter):

Animation was the format of choice for children’s television in the 1960s, a decade in which children’s programming became almost entirely animated. Growing up in that period, I tended to take for granted the distortions and strange bodies of these entities.

These Icons are usually grotesquely distorted from the human form from which they derive. Being that they are so commonplace and accepted as existing I thought I would dissect them like science does to all living objects – trying to come to an understanding as to their origins and true physiological make up. Possibly to better understand them and see them in a new light for what they are in the most basic of terms.

I decided to take a select few of these popular characters and render their skeletal systems as I imagine they might resemble if one truly had eye sockets half the size of its head, or fingerless-hands, or feet comprising 60% of its body mass.

Charlie Brown:




Many more here.

How are young Muslims radicalized on domestic soil?

Steve Coll in The New Yorker:

In a world amply populated with angry young Muslims, it is a question of some interest why a small number choose to become suicide bombers. President Bush addresses the matter in starkly religious language, consigning it to an eternal contest between good and evil. American scholars have begun to attack the problem with scientific method; Robert Pape, of the University of Chicago, for example, recently mustered data to argue that suicide attacks are a rational means by which the weak can humble the strong. To this potpourri of hypotheses can now be added a compelling work by anonymous bureaucrats in Great Britain, under the oddly redundant title “Report of the Official Account of the Bombings in London on 7th July 2005.”

On that summer morning, three young Muslim men blew themselves up on Underground cars, and a fourth immolated himself on a double-decker bus; fifty-two people died, and several hundred suffered injuries. The most striking aspect of the inquiry into the attacks, which was published earlier this month, is the extent to which it plumbs the suicide bombers’ motivations.

The four men depicted in the report are in some respects unfathomable. When Shehzad Tanweer, a talented athlete who was twenty-two years old, bought snacks at a highway convenience store four hours before his death, he haggled over the change. Hasib Hussain, who was eighteen, strode into a McDonald’s just half an hour before he killed himself and thirteen others.

More here.

Beauty and her beasts

Chris Petit in The Guardian:

Ava_gardner_11Her three marriages were essays in fame. Her first in 1942, at 19, to pint-sized star Mickey Rooney, then one of MGM’s biggest assets and an experienced skirt-chaser despite his wholesome screen image, happened when she was barely a signed-up starlet. Rooney was forced to marry because she wouldn’t come across otherwise. Her second husband, jazz star Artie Shaw, gave the uneducated Gardner a reading syllabus, sent her to therapy and, for reasons he never explained, moved them into a modest rented house in suburban Burbank, which they shared for a time with its owners and their teenage sons. The third husband was Sinatra. By then she was the bigger star, a perpetual cover girl and tabloid sensation, epitome of an emerging jet set (which can equally be taken for a life on the run), her movie career almost incidental to her celebrity, and indistinguishable from her often exaggerated notoriety. Asked by a reporter what she saw in Sinatra – a 119lb has-been – she replied demurely that 19lb of it was cock.

More here.

DIGITAL MAOISM: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism

Jaron Lanier at

Jaron201The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?

The problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it’s been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it’s now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn’t make it any less dangerous.

More here.

It’s time to stop killing meat and start growing it

William Saletan in Slate:

060530_hn_eatmeatexWhere were you when Barbaro broke his leg? I was at a steakhouse, watching the race on a big screen. I saw a horse pulling up, a jockey clutching him, a woman weeping. Thus began a worldwide vigil over the fate of the great horse. Would he be euthanized? Could doctors save him? In the restaurant, people watched and wondered. Then we went back to eating our steaks.

Shrinks call this “cognitive dissonance.” You munch a strip of bacon then pet your dog. You wince at the sight of a crippled horse but continue chewing your burger. Three weeks ago, I took my kids to a sheep and wool festival. They petted lambs; I nibbled a lamb sausage. That’s the thing about humans: We’re half-evolved beasts. We love animals, but we love meat, too. We don’t want to have to choose. And maybe we don’t have to. Maybe, thanks to biotechnology, we can now grow meat instead of butchering it.

More here.

Genetic Comparison Traces Origins of HIV to African Chimpanzees

Lauran Neergaard of the AP in the Chicago Tribune:

Solving the mystery of HIV’s ancestry was dirty work. But researchers now have confirmed that the virus that causes AIDS in humans really did originate in wild chimpanzees–in a corner of Cameroon.

Scientists have long known that captive chimps carry their own version of the AIDS virus, SIV or simian immunodeficiency virus. But it was extraordinarily hard to find in wild chimpanzees, complicating efforts to pin down just how the virus could have made the jump from animal to man.

Fitting that final piece of the puzzle required seven years of research just to develop tests to genetically trace the virus in living wild chimps without hurting the endangered species. Then trackers had to plunge through the dense forests of West Africa and scrape up fresh ape feces, more than 1,300 samples in all.

Until now, “no one was able to look. No one had the tools,” said Dr. Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She led the team of international researchers that reported the success in Thursday’s online edition of the journal Science.

“We’re 25 years into this pandemic,” Hahn said. “We don’t have a cure. We don’t have a vaccine. But we know where it came from.”

More here.

on simple human decency

Ben Metcalf in Harper’s Magazine:

Some time has passed since I last raise my voice to the multitude, and whereas literary taste does not seem to have advanced much in the interim, and I assume is still arrayed so as to engage only the weak-minded and dull, I find that I am no longer able to discern with any accuracy where the bounds of simple human decency lie. This would bother me even less than does the taste issue were it not for the fact that ground gained or lost in the theater of decency tends now and then to affect the law, and it has long been a personal goal of mine to avoid capture and imprisonment.

I am therefore led to wonder what the common citizen is allowed to “say” anymore, in print or otherwise, and still feel reasonably sure that some indignant team of G-men, or else a pair of gung-ho local screws, will not drag him away to a detention center, there to act out, with the detainee as a prop, that familiar scene in which one hero cop or another is patriotically unable to resist certain outbursts against the detainee and what were once imagined to be the detainee’s constitutional rights. Because I am loath to violate whatever fresh new mores the people have agreed upon, or have been told they agree upon, and because I do not care to have my ass kicked repeatedly in a holding cell while I beg to see a lawyer, I almost hesitate to ask the following question.

More here.  [Thanks to Asad Raza.]


Eric Reeves in The New Republic:

Actually, far from suggesting that the United Nations can save Darfur, the developments of the last few weeks provide an excellent illustration of why the international body will never be able to stop the genocide. Indeed, the most recent Security Council resolution does more to highlight Darfur’s exceedingly grim future than to suggest that security for civilians or humanitarian operations will improve anytime in the near term. We might recall that there have been seven previous U.N. Security Council resolutions on Darfur, none of which has halted the genocide. These previous resolutions, which together constitute a shameful record of impotence, are recounted in the most recent resolution–unwittingly drawing attention to just how useless Turtle Bay’s steady stream of diplomatic activity on Darfur has been. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that this time will be any different.

First, it’s worth understanding just how bad the situation on the ground in Darfur has become–despite the recent peace agreement signed in Abuja that many believe could open the way for U.N. troops.

More here.

Intelligent Beings in Space!


From The New York Times:

A future space mission to Titan, Saturn’s intriguing moon enveloped in clouds, might deploy a blimp to float around the thick atmosphere and survey the sand dunes and carved valleys below.

But the blimp’s ability to communicate would be limited. A message would take about an hour and a half to travel more than 800 million miles to Earth, and any response would take another hour and a half to get to Titan.

Three hours would be a long time to wait if the message were: “Help! I’m caught in a downdraft. What do I do?” Or if the blimp were to spot something unusual — an eruption of an ice volcano — it might have drifted away before it received the command to take a closer look. The eruption may also have ended by then.

Until recently, interplanetary robotic explorers have largely been marionettes of mission controllers back on Earth. The controllers sent instructions, and the spacecraft diligently executed them.

But as missions go farther and become more ambitious, long-distance puppetry becomes less and less practical. If dumb spacecraft will not work, the answer is to make them smarter. Artificial intelligence will increasingly give spacecraft the ability to think for themselves.

More here.

Scientists reveal how frogs grip

From BBC News:

Frog_1 The mystery of how frogs cling to surfaces – even if their feet are wet – may have been solved by scientists. A study of tree frogs has revealed their toe pads are covered in tiny bumps that can directly touch a surface to create friction. The scientists found this direct contact occurs even though the pads are covered with a film of watery mucus. The findings, published in the journal Interface, may aid the development of anti-slip devices.

“The toe pads are patterned with a fine structure of hexagonal cells with channels running between them,” explained Dr Jon Barnes, an author on the paper and a zoologist from Glasgow University. “One imagines if you are sticking to a leaf, that each cell, even if it is separate from the other cells, can form its own closest orientation.”

More here.

The life and work of Oriana Fallaci

Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker:

060605mast_2_r15155_p198“Yesterday, I was hysterical,” the Italian journalist and novelist Oriana Fallaci said. She was telling me a story about a local dog owner and the liberties he’d allowed his animal to take in front of Fallaci’s town house, on the Upper East Side. Big mistake. “I no longer have the energy to get really angry, like I used to,” she added. It called to mind what the journalist Robert Scheer said about Fallaci after interviewing her for Playboy, in 1981: “For the first time in my life, I found myself feeling sorry for the likes of Khomeini, Qaddafi, the Shah of Iran, and Kissinger—all of whom had been the objects of her wrath—the people she described as interviewing ‘with a thousand feelings of rage.’ ”

For two decades, from the mid-nineteen-sixties to the mid-nineteen-eighties, Fallaci was one of the sharpest political interviewers in the world. Her subjects were among the world’s most powerful figures: Yasir Arafat, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Haile Selassie, Deng Xiaoping. Henry Kissinger, who later wrote that his 1972 interview with her was “the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press,” said that he had been flattered into granting it by the company he’d be keeping as part of Fallaci’s “journalistic pantheon.” It was more like a collection of pelts: Fallaci never left her subjects unskinned.

More here.

Celebrating the commonplace: Starlight

Chet Raymo in Science Musings:

Sometimes it’s fun to think about things that no one has thought about before.

Some things are thought about for the first time because to do so requires genius. For example: Darwin thinking about evolution by natural selection, Einstein thinking about relativity, or Watson and Crick thinking about the DNA double helix. Being the first to think about those sorts of things can win you a Nobel prize.

Other things are thought about for the first time because they are so utterly commonplace that no one has bothered to think about them before. These are the kind of things I like to think about.

Consider starlight. What could be more commonplace than starlight?

More here.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Daren Waters at the BBC:

Ken Loach speaking at the Cannes film festival said The Wind That Shakes The Barley was a story he had to tell.

_41699478_barley203Set in Ireland in the 1920s it recounts events that led to the formation of an independent Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland.

Loach’s aim is to cast his political eye on events that are rarely discussed in the UK and beyond and remain open wounds for many Irish citizens.

Cillian Murphy plays Damien, a young man set to leave Ireland and become a doctor in London.

But events overtake him.

At the start of the film, Ireland remains an effective colony of the UK; with British soldiers stationed in the country.

Damien witnesses the murder of a young friend, killed at the hands of brutal British soldiers because he would only give his name in Gaelic, and not in English.

More here.

On Seeing the Wind at Hope Mansell

Whether or not shadows are of the substance
such is the expectation I can
wait to surprise my vision as a wind
enters the valley: sudden and silent
in its arrival, drawing to full cry
the whorled invisibilities, glassen towers
freighted with sky-chaff; that, as barnstorming
powers, rammack the small
orchard; that well-steaded oaks
ride stolidly, that rake the light-leafed ash,
that glowing yew trees, cumbrous, heave aside.
Amidst and abroad tumultuous lumina,
regents, reagents, cloud-fêted, sun-ordained,
fly tally over hedgerows, across fields.

a new poem from Geoffrey Hill at Poetry Magazine here.

boomer bust


On the afternoon of January 31, 1998, two hundred professors and graduate students gathered at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to discuss a disturbing new movement. “A specter is haunting U.S. intellectual life,” a flier announced, “the specter of Left Conservatism.” With participants including Judith Butler, Wendy Brown, Jonathan Arac, and Paul A. Bové, the conference was designed to address the perceived split in the mid- to late ’90s between members of the so-called cultural and real Lefts.

What was the difference between the two? The conventional wisdom of the time had it that the cultural Left was composed of theory-obsessed, anti-American academic relativists who wrote obscure treatises and preferred ethnic- and gender-oriented identity politics to activism. Members of the real Left, on the other hand, were pragmatic humanists, earnest ’60s types who favored coalition building (with the labor movement, for one), abhorred class inequality, and pressed for political change via elections.

more from Bookforum here.

dieter roth


It is difficult, if not impossible, to tell where the art begins and ends in Dieter Roth’s exhibition at Coppermill, Hauser & Wirth’s new gallery in a gigantic warehouse in London’s East End. Entering the space is like walking into a begrimed indoor city, whose every filthy crevice is crammed with disconcerting detail: heaps of rubbish, hardened paint brushes, broken video cameras. This is the largest exhibition of Roth’s work to be held in this country for more than 30 years, yet it provides little more than an inkling of the artist’s complicated, divergent career, and his no less complicated life.

more from the Guardian Unlimited here.