The Teen Brain: A Work in Progress

From Harvard Magazine:

Teen_brain Your teenage daughter gets top marks in school, captains the debate team, and volunteers at a shelter for homeless people. But while driving the family car, she text-messages her best friend and rear-ends another vehicle. How can teens be so clever, accomplished, and responsible—and reckless at the same time? Easily, according to two physicians at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School (HMS) who have been exploring the unique structure and chemistry of the adolescent brain. “The teenage brain is not just an adult brain with fewer miles on it,” says Frances E. Jensen, a professor of neurology. “It’s a paradoxical time of development. These are people with very sharp brains, but they’re not quite sure what to do with them.”

Research during the past 10 years, powered by technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, has revealed that young brains have both fast-growing synapses and sections that remain unconnected. This leaves teens easily influenced by their environment and more prone to impulsive behavior, even without the impact of souped-up hormones and any genetic or family predispositions. Most teenagers don’t understand their mental hardwiring, so Jensen, whose laboratory research focuses on newborn-brain injury, and David K. Urion, an associate professor of neurology who treats children with cognitive impairments like autism and attention deficit disorder, are giving lectures at secondary schools and other likely places. They hope to inform students, parents, educators, and even fellow scientists about these new data, which have wide-ranging implications for how we teach, punish, and medically treat this age group. As Jensen told some 50 workshop attendees at Boston’s Museum of Science in April, “This is the first generation of teenagers that has access to this information, and they need to understand some of their vulnerabilities.”

More here.

Gut Reactions

Lisa Margonelli in The Atlantic:

Screenhunter_02_aug_27_1052For more than a hundred million years, termites have lived in obscurity, noticed only by the occasional hungry anteater or, more recently, by dismayed home­owners. Other social insects, such as bees and ants, are celebrated for their industriousness and engineering feats, but popular culture has not gotten around to cheering on termites for theirs—even though they build mounds as tall as 20 feet, which may be oriented north-south as accurately as if plotted with a compass, in order to maximize heat from the sun. The extraordinary powers evolution has bestowed on termites—some protect the mound by spraying chemicals from nozzles on their heads at intruders, while others have snapping mandibles that can decapitate invading ants—have similarly failed to elevate their status. On the contrary: last year, scientists at the London Natural History Museum called termites “social cockroaches” and proposed reclassifying them, in a paper brusquely titled “Death of an Order.”

The more closely one examines the termite, the more mysteries one finds. In some species, if a termite discovers a contamination in the mound, it alerts everyone else, and a hygiene frenzy begins. As a disease passes through a mound, the survivors vaccinate the young with their antennae. When a mound’s queen is no longer capable of reproduction, the workers may gather around her distended body and lick her to death.

More here.

A Man or a Girl’s Blouse?

Jeremy Harding in the London Review of Books:

3008eu2At the time of the parliamentary elections in Serbia earlier this summer, the possibility that Radovan Karadzic, once the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, might be handed over to stand trial at The Hague seemed remote. The acquittal of the former KLA leader Ramush Haradinaj in April had stunned opinion in Serbia and added to the sense that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was a Serb-grinding machine which spat out Bosnians, Kosovo Albanians and Croats intact. The idea of any more Serbs going on trial was not popular: even someone like Karadzic, born in Montenegro, long resident in Sarajevo and regarded by many as a ludicrous figure. His arrest late last month illustrates how rapidly things are changing in Serbia, and how keen the new pro-European leadership is to drive its policies forward. The process of EU accession has long been conditional on the delivery of the big three: Karadzic, Goran Hadzic, a Croatian Serb wanted for the massacre of Croats in Vukovar in 1991, and Ratko Mladic, the hands-on commander at Srebrenica. But the capture of Dr Karadzic – psychiatrist, poet, New Age healer, telegenic bigot and mass murderer – is the greater public relations coup.

More here.

Seyla Benhabib on the public sphere


SB: For me, Habermas’ s most important contribution has been his reformulation of the concept of rationality, in terms of communicative rationality. He sees communicative rationality as reason-giving; as concrete practices of answering, response and interrogation. For me as well this concept of rationality is a foundation and a premise. I would say that all my work presupposes the validity of that transition to communicative rationality. I have been most interested in the connection of communicative rationality to ethics and deliberative democracy and in this sense the public sphere concept has been crucial. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere was so significant because it also contained his exchange with, or distancing from, Hannah Arendt. For Arendt, the public sphere is dominated by a visual metaphor. It is a metaphor of those we can see, who are united in a public square; it is the metaphor of citizens being present to one another. Habermas disembodies the public sphere from the Greek model by saying that the public evolves into the reading public with the advent of Enlightenment and modernity. This is more a virtual community of authors, readers and writers, and one does not need to be present to one another physically. But this reading public is at the same time also the embodiment of critical public opinion. The book, however, is about the structural transformation of the public sphere of the 18th century into the 20th and towards the end he describes a further transformation where there is s shift from the ‘reading public’ to the ‘culture consuming public’ with the rise of the mass journalisms and radio. Because the book was published in 1962 the electronic media is not discussed, but already the emergence of mass journalism with daily circulation, radio and to a lesser extent, television, are commented upon. In a mode quite typical of Theodor Adorno’s thesis on mass culture, Habermas presents this transformation as a kind of decline. We often forget the really negative evaluation of this transformation in the second half of the book.

more from Reset here.

empson on wit


I have been trying to build a theory about the way complex meanings are fitted together in a single word, especially the “key word” of a long poem, in which one would expect to find some­thing worth examining. I thus approached the Essay on Criticism rather coolly, as a specimen likely to provide crude examples; but I now think that the analysis improves the poem a great deal, and lets us recover the way it was meant to be read. Critics may naturally object that the Augustans did not deal in profound complexities, and tried to make the words as clear-cut as possible. This is so, but it did not stop them from using double meanings intended as clear-cut jokes. The performance inside the word wit, I should maintain, was intended to be quite obvious and in the sunlight, and was so for the contemporary reader; that was why he thought the poem so brilliant; but most modern readers do not notice it at all, and that is why they think the poem so dull.

more from Empson’s 1950 essay at Hudson review here.

Double first for Large Hadron Collider

From Nature:

Control_room Champagne corks popped at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) this weekend after one of the facility’s four giant particle detectors tasted its first authentic data. Crammed into a stuffy control room on the afternoon of Friday 22 August, physicists tracked the debris produced by protons that had struck a block of concrete during a test of the €3 billion (£2.1 billion) collider’s beam-injection system.

Some 15 years in construction, the LHC is based at the European particle facility CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, and is due to fully switch on its proton beams on 10 September. But the LHC’s particle detectors have been recording hits from cosmic rays for several months — and Friday’s test now marks the first time particle tracks have been reconstructed from a man-made event generated by the collider. “It’s amazing to have seen the first LHC tracks,” Themis Bowcock of University of Liverpool, UK, who led the team, told Nature. “It’s quite overwhelming actually.”

The first useful physics data is expected to come in October, when the two counter-rotating beams of protons racing through the LHC’s 27-kilometre-long tunnels are made to collide, packing sufficient energy into a small enough space to produce fundamental particles from thin air. Full high-energy collisions at a combined energy of 14 trillion electron volts will begin next spring, exceeding the energies accessible to the current world record holder — the Tevatron at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois — by a factor of seven. The LHC’s high-energy collisions will allow physicists to search for new particles such as the fabled Higgs boson, which is thought to be responsible for conferring the property of mass on other particles.

More here.

painting and what’s important


Why would 21st century bird-watchers – to say nothing of doctors or architects – still consult watercolors and gouaches for information? It seems odd that painting would have anything to contribute to our accumulated trove of megapixels, much less that it would be a preferred medium among fact-seeking insiders. But painting offers something the mechanical methods don’t – a sophisticated technology of its own for showing us what we really need to see. And although Audubon himself (a fierce innovator) would probably be surprised to find his technique still going strong, his drawings provide an excellent example of just what makes painting so irreplaceable.

Looking at the many handsome examples in the new “Audubon: Early Drawings” – due to be published this fall by Harvard, this is the first book to collect and reproduce the pastel, ink, and watercolor studies from early in his career – it’s not hard to glean the first principle that makes his illustrations so effective: spareness. Although Audubon usually sketches in some contextual clues – a tree stump, some sand, three or four leaves – his pages are remarkably blank. What he is really studying is the bird, so Audubon surrounds the specimen – the osprey, the bullfinch, or the linnet – in white, letting his notes take care of the habitat, migration patterns, and the rest. Audubon preemptively limits the context, isolating and foregrounding the more salient details so we know at a glance what’s important and what isn’t.

more from Boston Globe Ideas here.

The novel is changing. James Wood, not so much.

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

Morgan_in_hatHow Fiction Works isn’t actually about how fiction works. To be obsessed with the mechanics of words and sentences, to see literature as essentially an enclosed system with internal rules, is to be a formalist, and James Wood, for all his formality, isn’t a formalist. He admits as much. In the Preface to How Fiction Works Wood writes, “when I talk about free indirect style I am really talking about point of view, and when I am talking about point of view I am really talking about character, and when I am talking about character I am really talking about the real, which is at the bottom of my inquiries.” For James Wood, fiction is about the world, not about itself.

Wood calls his book How Fiction Works for two reasons. The first is that he’s a cocky son-of-a-bitch at the top of his game and he’s ready to make serious claims. He is in full confidence and he should be. Nobody else is writing about literature with anything like his pop and verve. The second reason is that he’s really using the word “works” in a secondary sense of the term. He isn’t using the word in the sense of “operates” or “functions.” He isn’t meaningfully interested in technique. Instead, he’s using “works” in the sense of: “Darling, that dress really works on you,” or, “I wouldn’t know what to do with that chair but it really works on this veranda.” “Works” here means something more like “comes together” or “does what it is generally meant to do.” The biggest clue — other than what Wood actually says in the book — that this is what he means by “works” is the title on the front cover. It isn’t How Fiction Works, but How Fiction Works. Already right there, in that emphasis, Wood is telling us that he’s after something bigger than mere technique. He is out for metaphysics, for an argument about the nature of reality and what it means to be a human “self.” That’s what Wood really cares about, and it just so happens that literature is in a special place to deliver the goods. Literature, to put it bluntly, has a special relationship to truth.

More here.

Sex and the Olympic city

Matthew Syed in the Times of London:

Cook385_386791aI am often asked if the Olympic village – the vast restaurant and housing conglomeration that hosts the world’s top athletes for the duration of the Games – is the sex-fest it is cracked up to be. My answer is always the same: too right it is. I played my first Games in Barcelona in 1992 and got laid more often in those two and a half weeks than in the rest of my life up to that point. That is to say twice, which may not sound a lot, but for a 21-year-old undergraduate with crooked teeth, it was a minor miracle.

Barcelona was, for many of us Olympic virgins, as much about sex as it was about sport. There were the gorgeous hostesses – there to assist the athletes – in their bright yellow shirts and black skirts; there were the indigenous lovelies who came to watch the competitions. And then there were the female athletes – literally thousands of them – strutting, shimmying, sashaying and jogging around the village, clad in Lycra and exposing yard upon yard of shiny, toned, rippling and unimaginably exotic flesh. Women from all the countries of the world: muscular, virile, athletic and oozing oestrogen. I spent so much time in a state of lust that I could have passed out. Indeed, for all I knew I did pass out – in a place like that how was one to tell the difference between dreamland and reality?

It was not just the guys. The women, too, seemed in thrall to their hormones, throwing around daring glances and dynamite smiles like confetti. No meal or coffee break was complete without a breathless conversation with a lithe long jumper from Cuba or an Amazonian badminton player from Sweden, the mutual longing so evident it was almost comical.

More here.  [Thanks to Asad Raza.]

Tuesday Poem


A Blade of Grass
Brian Patten

You ask for a poem.Image_blade_of_grass

I offer you a blade of grass.

You say it is not good enough.

You ask for a poem.


I say this blade of grass will do.

It has dressed itself in frost,

It is more immediate

Than any image of my making.


You say it is not a poem,

It is a blade of grass and grass

Is not quite good enough.

I offer you a blade of grass.


You are indignant.

You say it is too easy to offer grass.

It is absurd.

Anyone can offer a blade of grass.


You ask for a poem.

And so I write you a tragedy about

How a blade of grass

Becomes more and more difficult to offer,


And about how as you grow older

A blade of grass

Becomes more difficult to accept.


Ahmed Faraz dies: poetry loses a voice, people a friend

From Dawn:

Faraz Islamabad, Pakistan: A famed and eminent career in Urdu poetry and a life lived richly in the pursuit of progressive ideals has come to an end. Acclaimed, admired and widely sung, his poetry was rich in romance and progressive ideas on the side of the great unwashed and the downtrodden of the earth. His voice was unwelcome in the halls of power. He opposed usurpers and dictators alike. His reward was exile during the regime of Gen Ziaul Haq, who could not tolerate his association with the PPP government when he became the head of the Pakistan Academy of letters. Upon return of democratic rule, he was appointed head of the National Book Foundation. He earned recognition as a poet early with the publication of his first collection of verses. Successive books of poetry added to his stature as a leading poet of the country and the Urdu language.

His name is reckoned with among the great of his contemporaries — Faiz, Rashed, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi. He had a strong bass and a plaintive Sing-song style of his own in which he recited his verse to adulating audiences at mushaeras that made him a household name among lovers of poetry. In the last decade of his life largely during general Musharraf’s regime he had a hard time keeping his job as head of the national book foundation that he ultimately lost. His subdued disclaimers had then no holds left and he came out openly against military dictatorship and returned the national award that had been conferred on him. Since then in all of his public appearances he was strong in his opposition to the unlawful regime. He gave his full support to the lawyers movement for the restoration of judiciary.

Although he will live in the romance and passion of his lyrical poetry, his death will e widely mourned, because in him the weak and the poor of the land have lost a friend.

(Note: Dedicated to my sister Dr. Atiya Khan and brother in law, Dr. Tariq Khan who were Faraz Sahib’s dearest friends. The entire Raza clans deeply mourns the loss of this beloved and great personality from our lives).

More here.

Obama’s Convention Acceptance Speech: An Advance Copy

Michael Blim

I am printing here an advance copy of one half of Barak Obama’s upcoming convention acceptance speech.

For the record, I obtained it through a family friend who labors in the bowels of Chicago’s Daley Democratic Machine. I am calling him Billy here so that his gift to me doesn’t bring down the wrath of Richie Daley on his head. Billy has a no-show job at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I don’t ask him what he does there, because I am pretty sure he doesn’t do anything.

The only time you can be sure of finding Billy is at his apartment in the 42nd ward two weeks before every Election Day. He’s a precinct captain. And now I guess you understand why he has a no-show job. I heard via a mutual friend that he spends most of his time in Las Vegas running a strip club.

Billy sent me the speech in a PDF. He had gotten it from his sister-in-law who does clerical work inside the Obama inner sanctum in Chicago. She had given Billy the PDF because she figured that he wouldn’t be watching the convention, with the Sox and Cubs in tight pennant races and all. Billy wrote me that she sent it on to the whole clan in Bridgeport. He thought a scoop like this might generate interest in my column, given that he thinks nobody reads it, and he is a loyal friend and wants to see me make out as a writer.

Given that the whole Bridgeport clan has this part of the speech, and most of them are connected, I decided to put this out, and see if I can pick up a reader or two.

The following is the part of Obama’s acceptance speech that concerns foreign policy:

“The Republicans say that I talk a lot about change, but I don’t say what I want to do.

Not true, but just so there is no mistaking what I intend to do as president, let me lay out my new direction for American foreign policy.

I am going to make big changes.

First, the Iraq war was the biggest mistake America has made since the Vietnam War, and it has cost over 4000 men and women their lives. Tens of thousands will carry grievous wounds around for the rest of our lives. Countless tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives, suffered terrible injuries, or are worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein.

I intend to pull out our troops by the end of the first year of my term. There is already a consensus in the country that this is the best thing to do. There is no guarantee that a McCain administration, once they get in, will do it.

I will. And I will not leave garrisons of American troops on Iraqi soil after the combat pullout. They would be a provocation for Iraqis and their neighbors who wish to govern themselves without American interference. Their resentment would put our troops constantly in harm’s way.

Everybody is coming home. You can count on it.

Second, I favor engagement – not war or isolation — with Iran. Only war could possibly stop them from building nuclear weapons if they choose to. This would be a disastrous course of action. Even a cold war with Iran would fail. We couldn’t stop friends like Pakistan and India, so what gives us the confidence that our hostility will change their minds?

My administration is not going to war with Iran. It is better to establish a relationship with them. It would be even more important if they develop nuclear weapons.

Some argue that we must use force and eliminate Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities to support and protect Israel. I ask you: Since when has Israel ever needed defending? The certain knowledge that Israel would use its A bomb against Iran is deterrent enough. Deterrence worked between the former Soviet Union and us during the Cold War, and it seems to be working between Pakistan and India. Let’s leave Iran to decide its own fate.

Third, we should leave the Israelis and Palestinians to sort out their destinies. Our involvement doesn’t help. Instead, it hurts the chances for peace. Because the United States has given Israel our unconditional support, Palestinians believe they cannot trust us to be even-handed, and they are right. Our constant pressure drives them further away from making peace. Israel too, given our total support, has no real incentive to make peace. We provide each of an excuse. In the long run, they are locked in a deadly and ruinous embrace.

The Palestinians and the Israelis must make their own peace, and their chances of success increase if we get out of the way.

Fourth, we had better acknowledge that we face a new cold war if we do not find better ways of coexisting with Russia. We can blame former President Putin and his governments for making it more likely. But it takes two to make a cold war.

We never stop to consider Russia’s position. We told them to make an American economy out of the shambles of the failed Soviet system. After years of trying and failing, they went back to their old ways of doing things. At least for the time being, their new arrangement works.

When they were down, we lorded it over them. Our plan didn’t work, and the Russian people suffered terribly.

So the state once more controls Russia’s massive corporations, and Russian citizens enjoy what we consider a limited set of civil liberties.

This is their affair. Just as we would resent former President Putin lecturing us about how we eliminated many of our civil liberties after September 11, they find it irritating too to be told how they should run their society.

We also don’t seem to get it about why they are becoming more aggressive. How would we feel if Canada became a close ally with Russia – a second Cuba in other words? We are expanding NATO, the historic bulwark against Soviet ambitions, to their very borders. We would never stand for it, and they won’t either.

How would we feel if Russia put missiles of any sort in Canada or in Cuba again? John Kennedy wouldn’t stand for it, and once more today, neither would we.

We would risk war, and that is the point. If we want to work with Russia, we need to understand its motives – not prattle on about how the Old Russian bear is returning. We need to help find a new détente that will strengthen the treaty obligations that we, the Europeans, and the Russians agreed to when we ended the Cold War. We need to find ways among all of us to make peace and cooperation more desirable.

The bottom line: Nobody needs a new cold war, least of all our friends in central and Eastern Europe. For their sake, we need to support mutual respect and understanding on the part of all the nations of Europe, including the Soviet Union, and avoid unwittingly encouraging Russian aggression.

Fifth, we need to become again, as Franklin Roosevelt put it, a good neighbor to countries near us and to nations around the globe. We consider America great humanitarian, and we are. But we are also quick to tell others what to do, and to back it up with force.

We have military bases in 153 countries. We have half a million soldiers and their dependents stationed permanently abroad. We have an array of weapons and the ability to project deadly force on the ground within 48 hours anywhere in the world.

We need to turn this around. We need to pull back, and give up the bases. They are only an incentive to our meddling in the affairs of others. If nations need our help, we can provide it quickly and efficiently. And we have much to do at home. Our neighbors need the freedom to pursue their own paths to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sixth, the threat of terrorism. I believe we have accomplished more to defeat terrorism with intelligence, with vigilance, and with stealth than with our military operations. Terrorists do not form armies. They are not even revolutionary guerillas wanting to take over nations. They are persons who want to make the world suffer for what they believe are its sins. They seek vengeance and believe wrongly that violence converts people to their cause.

Let us continue to treat them for what they are: international criminals whom we must pursue relentlessly until they are ours. No war can successfully destroy a small group or a network of the angry and unappeased. Smart police work and counter-terrorist initiatives can — and will under my administration.

Finally, we should support the United Nations, and help it have greater impact on the world’s many crises. Let us recall that the United Nations was America’s idea. Franklin Roosevelt made its creation part of the post-World War II settlement. We need to reaffirm his noble vision by helping to make a stronger United Nations.

Mankind’s success as a species depends upon the existence of a grand arbiter such as the United Nations that protects the concerns of all in the management of our world.

To get America moving in a new direction, it must start with us. Let us help the United Nations grow. Let it discover a new role as the arena where peace is made, and agreements undertaken observed.

Let us grow too. Let us find a new way of being a great power. Let us use our power for good rather than our power for war. Let us work together with all peoples and nations of good will, and make the world a better place.

This, my fellow Americans, is change you can believe in. Americans young and old have heard the call. They hunger for changes that will be more than promises. They want changes that revolutionize our ways of life and that of citizens of the world wherever they find themselves.

More of the same will not do. Look at our performance over the past eight years. Does anyone want four more years like the last eight?

John Kennedy once quoted an ancient Chinese proverb that said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

If I become your president, I will help us take this new step together. Let us work to build a world of peace and prosperity for us – and for our global neighbors. “

Wow, helluva speech! Change I believe in.

Glad too that I could reproduce it here, as I know that outside the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, many of you have teams in pennant races and such.

So I say thanks to Billy’s sister in law for the sneak peak and the scoop. I have pennants on the mind too, so go Cubs – and Barak too!

Monday Poem

From the Indictment and Abjuration of 1633:

“Whereas you, Galileo, son of Vincenzio Galilei … were denounced in 1615, to this Holy Office, for holding as true a false doctrine … namely, that the sun is immovable in the center of the world, and the earth moves … We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you … have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy… “

Dermatology & Galileo

Person_galileo_3 A creationist student of mine with a wart the size of a gumball on the end of his nose recently told me science is overrated and is anathema to God.  In the same breath he said he was seeing a dermatologist about the wart.

I asked, “Have you prayed about this?”

He said, “All the time.”

I asked, “Has it helped with the wart?”

He said, “I don’t pray about the wart.  I pray for forgiveness for consulting a dermatologist.”

As his guru, I told him it would be smart to meditate not only on the wart, but upon his inclination to view God as an idiot.  He looked at me as if I’d told him the earth revolves around the sun and excused himself to call his dermatologist on his iphone.
–Roshi Bob

Perennial Argument
Jim Culleny

“The earth revolves around the sun,”
Galileo said.

“No,” said the Pope,
“and if you say it again
you’ll be cut off from the benefit
of my infallibility and exiled
to the wilderness of reason
and lose all hope of hope.”

“Ok, maybe for the moment
it does not,” the miffed voyeur said,
and sheathed his telescope.
“But trust me, it will when
you’ve turned your head.”


Poetry Wars: Rexroth, Bukowski & the Politics of Literature

Ezrap Ben Pleasants in 3:AM magazine:

Charles Bukowski loved the idea of poetry wars. Even at the lowest level of mimeo magazines, when he was co-editing Laugh Literary & Man the Humping Guns with Neeli Cherry, he jumped in guns blazing ready to take on the world. “Poetry,” he always said, “is a poor country without any boundaries. It’s open to all kinds of fools. All the poet has is his shitty little poem and his point of view. It’s like being on a bar stool, but with a piece of paper in your hand instead of a drink. You shout and scream and you hope someone will notice you.”

He thought poets were the spoiled children of literature: they had to do very little work to get published. They could write whatever they felt. Poetry was about feeling. It was not the complex work of a novelist or a journalist or a historian.

“Poets dazzle,” he said, “but often their best stuff is written in bitchy essays about what art is! When people call me a poet, it makes me want to vomit. I’m a writer!”

That was in 1976, when I was Arts editor of the L.A. Vanguard. I was doing a piece about Bukowski for the newspaper. Lory Robbin and I had showed up at Bukowski’s place on Carlton Way when he was first entertaining the woman who would later become Linda Bukowski. Lory got a great series of shots of the three of us drinking, while Bukowski was his usual outrageous self on tape.

The Vanguard had a policy about major pieces; they had to be approved by consensus. When I handed in my piece on Bukowski, it was turned down by a three to two positive vote. Dorothy Thompson and Ron Ridenour turned it down because they viewed Bukowski as reactionary and anti-feminist. I’d had this problem before.

The World’s Oldest Jokes

From Reuters, in Yahoo News:

The world’s oldest recorded joke has been traced back to 1900 BC and suggests toilet humor was as popular with the ancients as it is today.

It is a saying of the Sumerians, who lived in what is now southern Iraq and goes: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”

It heads the world’s oldest top 10 joke list published by the University of Wolverhampton Thursday.

A 1600 BC gag about a pharaoh, said to be King Snofru, comes second — “How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.”