Richard Dawkins to judge 2nd Annual 3QD Prize in Science

June 21, 2010, UPDATE: The winners have been announced.

June 11, 2010, UPDATE: See list of nine finalists here.

June 8, 2010, UPDATE: Voting round closed. See list of twenty semifinalists here.

June 2, 2010, UPDATE: Nominations are now closed. Go here to see the list of nominees and vote.

May 31, 2010, UPDATE: Today is the last day for nominations.

Dear Readers, Writers, Bloggers,

JudgesA year ago we announced that we would start awarding four sets of prizes every year (on the two solstices and the two equinoxes) for the best blog writing in the areas of science, philosophy, politics, and arts & literature. We awarded the science prizes, judged by Steven Pinker, on June 21, then announced the winners of the philosophy prizes, judged by Daniel C. Dennett, on September 22, followed by the politics prizes, judged by Tariq Ali, for which the winners were announced on December 21, and finally, the arts & literature prizes were judged by Robert Pinsky, and the winners announced on March 22, 2010.

Thus we completed our first annual cycle of prizes having exceeded our own expectations of success: through our contests we found, for our readers as well as for ourselves, great new blogs and writers to read and follow, and the quality and range of the submissions was excellent in general. And we hope that in our own small way we also managed to spur and encourage good writing in the blogosphere by acknowledging and rewarding it. We are proud that well-known and highly accomplished experts agreed to serve as final judges for each of the four sets of prizes in the first year. We thank each of them again.

ScreenHunter_04 May. 23 16.42 We are now ready to start the second cycle of annual prizes, and could not be more excited that Professor Richard Dawkins has agreed to judge the second annual science prize. Since we hardly ever mention him here at 3 Quarks, and many of you may not know who he is, let me say a few words to introduce him… Please, I am joking! I do actually, and very seriously, wish to say this: we could not have found a better judge for science writing, as in my opinion as well as that of many, many others, Richard is simply the best science writer of our time. We are very honored to have him.

As usual, this is the way it will work: the nominating period is now open, and will end at 11:59 pm EDT on May 31, 2010. There will then be a round of voting by our readers which will narrow down the entries to the top twenty semi-finalists. After this, we will take these top twenty voted-for nominees, and the four main editors of 3 Quarks Daily (Abbas Raza, Robin Varghese, Morgan Meis, and Azra Raza) will select six finalists from these, plus they may also add up to three wildcard entries of their own choosing. The three winners will be chosen from these by Richard.

The first place award, called the “Top Quark,” will include a cash prize of one thousand dollars; the second place prize, the “Strange Quark,” will include a cash prize of three hundred dollars; and the third place winner will get the honor of winning the “Charm Quark,” along with a two hundred dollar prize.

* * *

(Welcome to those coming here for the first time. Learn more about who we are and what we do here, and do check out the full site here. Bookmark us and come back regularly, or sign up for the RSS feed.)

* * *

PrizeScienceAnnounce Details:

The winners of the science prize will be announced on June 21, 2010. Here's the schedule:

May 24, 2010:

  • The nominations are opened. Please nominate your favorite science blog entry by placing the URL for the blog post (the permalink) in the comments section of this post. You may also add a brief comment describing the entry and saying why you think it should win.
  • Blog posts longer than 4,000 words are not eligible.
  • Each person can only nominate one blog post.
  • Entries must be in English.
  • The editors of 3QD reserve the right to reject entries that we feel are not appropriate.
  • The blog entry may not be more than a year old. In other words, it must have been written after May 23, 2009.
  • You may also nominate your own entry from your own or a group blog (and we encourage you to).
  • Guest columnists at 3 Quarks Daily are also eligible to be nominated, and may also nominate themselves if they wish.
  • Nominations are limited to the first 200 entries.
  • Prize money must be claimed within a month of the announcement of winners.
  • You may also comment here on our prizes themselves, of course!

May 31, 2010

  • The nominating process will end at 11:59 PM (NYC time) of this date.
  • The public voting will be opened soon afterwards.

June 7, 2010

  • Public voting ends at 11:59 PM (NYC time).

June 21, 2010

  • The winners are announced.

And another Mini-Contest!

For each of our contests, I have asked designer friends of mine to produce “trophy” logos that the winners of that prize can display on their own blogs. You can see all of them here. I am now running out of designer friends, so here is an offer: send me your design for a logo for the winners of the Arts & Literature Prize (it must contain the same info as in the examples I have linked to, and the size is 160 X 350 pixels), and if I use it, I'll send you $25. Try. It'll be fun. Deadline: June 10, 2010.

One Final and Important Request

If you have a blog or website, please help us spread the word about our prizes by linking to this post. Otherwise, post a link on your Facebook profile, Tweet it, or just email your friends and tell them about it! I really look forward to reading some very good material, and think this should be a lot of fun for all of us.

Best of luck and thanks for your attention!



Eco-Friendly Grub: Arguments for Entomophagy

by Quinn O'Neill

Mealworms with scallions Climate change, pollution, and dwindling natural resources are growing concerns. “Green” products are widely popular and discussion of environmental issues is constant in the media. Increasingly, people are recycling and reusing, and thinking twice when they reach for plastic bags.

Despite increased public awareness of environmental problems, the role of livestock is generally underestimated. A comprehensive 2006 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN indicated that livestock are a major factor in water use, depletion, and pollution, and also in loss of biodiversity. The report estimates that, in the United States, livestock account for more than half of all soil erosion, 37% of pesticide use, and half of the volume of antibiotics used. Their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is described as enormous.

Nevertheless, the demand for meat products continues to grow. The FAO report predicts a doubling of global meat production by 2050. This will have devastating effects on the environment. Livestock represent a slowly progressive, man made environmental disaster.

If the environmental consequences of our meat consumption aren’t enough, there are the implications for our health. High intake of animal fats and red meat contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. Livestock products are also highly susceptible to pathogens. The consumption of animal products can transmit tuberculosis, brucellosis, and parasitic diseases caused by tapeworm and threadworm.

These problems, and concern for the welfare of the animals, have led some to adopt vegetarian and vegan diets. More recently, the possibility of in vitro meat has been proposed. But petri dish carnivory won’t be an option any time soon. Other alternatives are worth considering. What about insects?

The practice of eating insects is known as entomophagy. Though the very thought is disgusting to some of us, in many parts of the world insects are a normal part of people’s diets. Over 1400 species are consumed – not out of desperation, but as a dietary preference. And they’re not just delicious – they’re nutritious. Insects range in nutritional composition, but generally serve as an excellent source of protein and other important nutrients, like fatty acids, iron and zinc.

Europeans and North Americans, unfortunately, have a somewhat irrational aversion to eating insects. We spray our crops with toxic chemicals to kill pests that are more nutritious than the grain they eat. Yet we’ll readily eat the pests’ arthropod cousins, like lobster and shrimp. Shrimp look quite a lot like insects. Locusts, which are considered a delicacy in some places, are even referred to as “sky prawn”.

Bugs When we think of eating insects, images of Fear Factor contestants stuffing live critters into their mouths might come to mind. Others might recall the last creepy crawler that turned up in their homes and imagine popping it into their mouths. Certainly these images are revolting, but not more revolting than taking a bite out of a live chicken or a live cow. Most of the animals that we eat are killed, prepared, and cooked in a manner that renders them difficult to identify as animals. The slaughter and gutting of animals is unappetizing to say the least, but we tend not to think about these things when we’re eating hamburgers. Similarly, insects must be well prepared for consumption. Crickets, for example, are cleaned first and their heads and legs may be removed prior to seasoning and roasting.

To get around strong aversions to entomophagy, pulverization might be useful. Insect flours could be used in baking or as a protein powder in shakes. The source of the products wouldn’t be readily identifiable.

It’s worth noting that we already consume insects. Extracts from cochineal beetles are commonly used as food coloring agents. Grain beetles and weevils are milled along with grain, and some of the fruits and vegetables that we eat contain small insects. Most varieties of figs are pollinated by wasps and typically contain some insect parts. The FDA allows up to 13 insect heads per 100g of fig paste. Yum.
Read more »

Cerebral Imperialism

Neurons The present is where the future comes to die, or more accurately, where an infinite array of possible futures all collapse into one. We live in a present where artificial intelligence hasn't been invented, despite a quarter century of optimistic predictions. John Horgan in Scientific American suggests we're a long way from developing it, despite all the optimistic predictions (although when it does come it may well be as a sudden leap into existence, a sudden achievement of critical mass). However and whenever (or if ever) it arrives, it's an idea worth discussing today. But, a question: Does this line of research suffer from “cerebral imperialism”?


The idea of “cerebral imperialism” came up in an interview I did for the current issue of Tricycle, a Buddhist magazine, with transhumanist professor and writer James “J” Hughes. One exchange went like this:

Eskow: There seems to be a kind of cognitive imperialism among some Transhumanists that says the intellect alone is “self.” Doesn’t saying “mind” is who we are exclude elements like body, emotion, culture, and our environment? Buddhism and neuroscience both suggest that identity is a process in which many elements co-arise to create the individual experience on a moment-by-moment basis. The Transhumanists seem to say, “I am separate, like a data capsule that can be uploaded or moved here and there.”

You’re right. A lot of our Transhumanist subculture comes out of computer science— male computer science—so a lot of them have that traditional “intelligence is everything” view. s soon as you start thinking about the ability to embed a couple of million trillion nanobots in your brain and back up your personality and memory onto a chip, or about advanced artificial intelligence deeply wedded with your own mind, or sharing your thoughts and dreams and feelings with other people, you begin to see the breakdown of the notion of discrete and continuous self.

An intriguing answer – one of many Hughes offers in the interview – but I was going somewhere else: toward the idea that cognition itself, that thing which we consider “mind,” is over-emphasized in our definition of self and therefore is projected onto our efforts to create something we call “artificial intelligence.”

Is the “society of mind” trying to colonize the societies of body and emotion?

Read more »

Shame On Us

By Maniza Naqvi Shame

A time arrives when circumstances dictate that there is no choice.

“Of course the choice is yours”— said the nonchalant and gentle voice—typically urbane, typically sophisticated— of a seasoned diplomat in the Embassy of Pakistan. His thinning hair jet black and a sliver of mustache equally gleaming above his lips curled into a smile. His eyes shone as he leaned back in his chair behind his desk—amused. A shrug of his shoulders as he contemplated me—his finger tips delicately brought together as his index fingers touched his lips and his thumbs held up his chin. As though, he were contemplating an experiment, or a work in progress. He had dealt with me before, at an embassy reception when we had gotten into an argument about Bhutto and Benazir— Bhutto had been hanged by then and she was in jail. General Zia-ul-Haq’s era was at its zenith. I had exchanged heated words with the embassy man. Now here I was sitting before him in his office at the Pakistan embassy, there to have my passport renewed. And here I was refusing to sign a clause in the application form.

“I won’t sign this” I repeated.

“Fine,” he said, “It is entirely up to you. Then I guess we are done here.”

I sat facing him in silence. He fingered the edge of the application form that I had tossed in his direction. Then without needing to push it back towards me—there was no need, he must have known, he must have done this before—he waited for the moment when I rose from my chair, as I did and watched as I leaned over his desk and retrieved the form. I signed. I needed the passport.

He grinned. “Good girl. Your hero had the Ahmedis declared as non-Muslim through an amendment in 1974 in his newly minted 1973 constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Remember?”

“He had no choice! He was forced to!”——“Like I was today.”

“Forced, really? Who forced you? Said the embassy man, his eyebrows raised in mock surprise “No one forced anyone. You weren’t forced—the choice is always yours”.

The section I signed demands that I declare, attest to the fact that I am Muslim. Muslim in a manner that the Pakistan State defines as being Muslim. This section is called: Declaration In Case of Muslim.

It reads thus:

The above heading announces a section on page two of the Pakistan Passport Application. I ______s/d/w/of—–aged——–adult Muslim, resident of__________________ hereby solemnly declare that:

a. I am Muslim and believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) the last of the prophets.

b. I do not recognize any persons who claim to be a prophet in any sense of the word or any description whatsoever after Muhummad (peace be upon him) or recognize such a claimant as prophet or a religious reformer as a Muslim.

c. I consider Mirza Ghulam Qadiani to be an imposter nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahore or Qadiani group to be Non-Muslim.

The section demands that you sign your name, the date and attest with your thumb print agreement with the three statements above. This section demands that you sign on to State sponsored cessation of thought and rationality. It demands that you consider Islam as only being something defined by the State of Pakistan—and as being only predicated on the negation of all others. Ordinance XX of the Government of Pakistan promulgated under General Zia ul Haq and still on the books forbids Ahmedis to call themselves Muslim or refer to their mosques as mosques or to recite the Kalima or greet using the Muslim salutation. The law of the land forbids Ahmedis to protest or take to court any injustice done to them in the name of religion including the destruction of their mosques.

The same type of clause is present in the National Identification Card's form.

There is silence about taking any real meaningful action against the violence and injustice wreaked upon the Ahmedi community. Witness the murderous events that unfolded at two mosques in Lahore, Pakistan on Friday May 28, 2010.

Read more »

Monday Poem


The river that flows both ways
flows through my house

Sometimes called paradox
—called Muhheakantuck by the Lenape
who knew that reversals in time
are not unusual,
just often misunderstood by we-

The river that flows both ways
has two sources
one in front and one behind. It flows from
two horizons and meets here
in the middle turbulently sometimes
but not always —only when I speak with
forked tongue. At all other times it
comes together silently as one

The river that flows both ways
is like the god with two faces

—antipodal from beginning to end,
Janus, like Vishnu, drifts upon his raft
into the past and future at once
remembering and hoping

The river that flows both ways
has the properties of a mirror

whose face is a nexus as Alice knew
by walking through— call it Paradox,
a town, a place I lived once
in a time before this

The river that flows both ways
has nothing to do with imagination
or poetic conceits

The river that flows both ways
really falls from mountains

is caught by tides
and carried into estuaries

The river that flows both ways
flows through my house

like the Lenape
I'll just call it


by Jim Culleny, May 27, 2010

Thanks to Frances Madeson for her comment on another poem
that lead me to this one.

The cinema of recontextualized relationships: Colin Marshall talks to filmmaker Andrew Bujalski

Andrew Bujalski is the young director of the films Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation and Beeswax, which is newly available on DVD. Though Bujalski's funny, realistic movies are often considered by critics to be of a similar genius to other independently-produced pictures of the 2000s focusing on the personal relationships of twentysomethings, they possess an intellect and an aesthetic all their own. Colin Marshall originally conducted this conversation on the public radio program and podcast The Marketplace of Ideas. [MP3] [iTunes link]

Bujalski1 Watching your three films, I feel like Beeswax is starkly distinct from the two that precede it, but I can't put my finger on exactly why. What would you say to that?

I would probably agree, for starters. Are you asking me to put my finger on it?

Yeah, obviously you're the closest person to that film in existence. I can't quite articulate why. It feels different. I can't exactly point to reasons why it's so different, but why do you think it's so different from Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation?

I could get into a million reasons, which are mostly minutia. One of the things about being so close to a film is, I do sort of see the forest for the trees and the trees for the leaves. I could start with technical things: we shot widescreen format, which we hadn't done on the earlier films. I could go into the fact there are twins at the center of it, which is very different, too, from the other films. All of them have been written for the people who ultimately played the leads, none of whom were professional actors but all of whom had a particular kind of charisma that I thought would translate onscreen.

Of course, those are very different kinds of charismas. That's another thing that's different about this film. What the Hathcher sisters, Tilly and Maggie, who play the twins in the film, brought to it is… there's something about their energy which is a little more inward, not quite like anything I was used to seeing on screen myself and was really interested to try to put at the center of a movie and see what happened. The audience has to lean forward a little bit to see what they're doing. I think — of course, I'm very attached to the film — I think they're miraculous in it. The rhythm of it is a little different. It's more plot-heavy, more exposition-heavy. Certainly, that was another challenge. I could go on and on.

This procedure of creating a film, of conceiving a film starting with the fact that you know somebody and wanted to see if they could carry a film, it's something you've talked about in othe r interviews and have done with the previous two films as well. What sort of things bring these people to your attention as possible leads, whether the Hatcher Sisters or the stars of Funny Ha Ha or Mutual Appreciation?

Maybe it comes from having spent too much time at the movies as a kid. It might not be healthy to look around the world and say, “How would this translate in the movies? What would this be like if I were asking it to hold together the center of a narrative?” I think everybody knows somebody who they think, “Oh, that guy could be a movie star.” Not that I've asked these people to be “movie stars” with everything that entails today.

In no case have I written films I thought were biographical of these people, per se. Beeswax is not the true story of the Hatchers any more than Funny Ha Ha is the story of Kate Dollenmayer and Mutual Appreciation is the story of Justin Rice. I took what I could imagine them projecting onscreen, how I imagined what they do in their ordinary lives, and translated that into the realm of the performer. I've noticed that, when you ask people to act — and this is probably true of professional actors as well — most people pick out something about themselves to exaggerate. People tend to want to do caricatures of themselves. You start from there, and then you can craft it in one direction or another. What is this essence of you that we can translate into a performance? Is there a story to be built around that?

Was the essence these actors would pick out from themselves and exaggerate the same thing you saw in them that you wanted to use? I can imagine that being ideal — they pick out the same thing you see — or they pick out something completely different, and you've got to make a different movie. Has that happened?

Certainly, yeah. There are surprises throughout the production process. Anything you try to boil down in concrete terms — there are always swerves and surprises. If somebody ate something weird for breakfast, they might come in in a different mood than you expected.

With Beeswax, I had a vague notion of the story, but I hadn't begun to write it. I went to the girls and asked them if they would… first of all, it's a huge commitment. You're asking somebody who is not a professional actor to take quite a bit of time and quite a bit of emotional energy to give to a project like this. As we all get older, it becomes harder for people to find the time to do these. First, I asked if they would even be interested. They both seemed game for it. We did a little screen test, and at first I had a notion of what these two roles would be. We switched it.

We did one run-through of a scene with Maggie playing the small business owner and Tilly playing her sister, and then we did it again and switched the roles. My initial instinct had been to cast the opposite of the way I ended up actually doing the film. I thought I would have Maggie play Jeannie the small business owner, and it became clear from that screen test that what they were going to bring of themselves to the roles instinctually — it was much more interesting the opposite way. Tilly was bringing a certain reservation. There was an inwardness and even maybe a defensiveness that I thought could be really, really interesting, if we used it right, in the Jeannie role.

This was a situation where, early on in the process, before I'd written the script, where something made me think very differently about how I was going to approach this. That's at the macro level. On the micro level, when you're on set, you always have to be paying attention to what the actors are bringing, and looking for ways to make that make the film more interesting.
Read more »

EXPOSED: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera. Tate Modern, London

by Sue Hubbard


Little could the British inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot, have imagined, when in 1841 he developed the calotype, an early photographic process using paper coated with silver iodide, where this nascent technology would lead; the ethical and moral questions that photography would raise. From Fox Talbot’s point of view the camera was about producing ‘natural images’. But more than 150 years later we know that the photographer’s relationship with his subject is more complicated. As Susan Sontag perceptively put it in her seminal book On Photography: “like a pair of binoculars with no right or wrong end, the camera makes exotic things near, intimate; and familiar things small, abstract, strange, much further away. It offers, in one easy, habit-forming activity, both participation and alienation in our own lives and those of others – allowing us to participate, while confirming alienation.”

Voyeurism and its cousin, surveillance, have been one of the unforeseen consequences of photography. We take it as a given of modern life that the celebrity is both hungry for photographic coverage, whilst feeling that the paparazzi (as in the case of the late Princess Diana) is constantly hounding them. One of the most complex questions raised by photography is what constitutes private space, provoking slippery questions about who is looking at whom and the degree of surreptitious pleasure and exploitation of power involved. Since its invention the camera has been used to make clandestine images and satisfy the desire to see what is normally hidden or taboo. No one knows exactly how many CCTV cameras are spying on us in the UK as we go about our day to day lives. A figure of 4.2 million cameras has been cited. That’s about one for every 14 citizens and means that most of us will pass an average of 300 cameras a day. Mobile phone and digital cameras are now ubiquitous, making voyeurs of us all.

Read more »

Return to Nothingness

Tetris and its Connection to Confucianism

By Angus McCullough


Tetris is a video game about clearing away what is unnecessary in the best possible way, accessible on almost every gaming console imaginable, on cellular phones and for free on the Internet. Perhaps you played it once on an ancient game system in your youth or maybe you play it whenever you're sitting at your desk at work. Alexei Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris, calls it the first “casual game”, meaning that it is timeless in just such a way: it is the same every time you play, without plot or characters to follow. The first time you played it in middle school is the same game that is probably programmed into your phone today. To compare Tetris to any other game is somehow wrong – it is a masterful test of how our brains function while trying to balance instinctual and intellectual challenges in real time. The major difference between Tetris and other games is the simplicity of its construction and complexity of play. Most importantly, it is a game that does not have a goal or end. There is no castle to storm or high score to achieve – the only way to end your game is to lose. The result of this simple and mildly daunting setup is that Tetris affords the user a repetitive task every time he or she picks it up: to play better than the last time. It has also been shown to have beneficial effects outside the game itself, making it a powerful tool for personal development, mirroring certain aspects of Confucian ritual.

Read more »

Why are people so eager to invade their own privacy?

Rochelle Gurstein in The New Republic:

Glasshouse1_0 What astounds me about today's metaphorical glass-house dwellers—those people who eagerly publicize on websites every detail of their “health” (DNA profile), “finances” (shopping bills and consumer preferences), “family situation” (online dating profile)—is how cheerfully they participate in “one of the most horrifying aspects of modern life.” Self-invasions of privacy on the Internet now compete with “bureaucracy with its documents” and “the press with its reporters” for a place on Kundera's list of the institutionalization and I would add normalization of this “age-old form of aggression.” And so, too, it seems to me, do all those glass apartment houses which sprang up everywhere in New York City during the glory years of the last building boom. I am still baffled as to why architects thought it was a good idea to erect pricey, luxury apartments without solid, exterior walls on streets that are exposed not only to the casual glance of thousands of city walkers from below but also to the unavoidable notice of those who live or work in the many neighboring buildings, and that a new breed of fashionable New Yorkers couldn't wait to live in them.

More here.

In Between Layers

From Lensculture:

Sungpil2010_6 Diverse, affluent cultures around the world have recently embraced a mash-up of photography, trompe-l’oeil imagery, conceptual art and super-large-scale digital printing, to cloak the temporary “ugliness” of construction scaffolding with building-size outdoor art displays.

Photographer Han Sungpil has documented this trend worldwide, with an obsession for making large-format photos of these huge temporary installations from ideal viewing locations — precisely at the times of day when the light is perfect to make the illusions appear almost seamless.

More here.

Mating competition explains excess male mortality

From PhysOrg:

Mate Researchers have long known that women outlive men on average, and more recently have discovered that men have higher mortality risks across the entire . University of Michigan researcher Daniel Kruger offers this explanation: It is all about sex. Women invest more physiologically in reproduction than men, thus men compete with other men for mating partners and try to make themselves attractive to women. This competition leads to strategies that are riskier for men both behaviorally and physiologically, and these result in higher levels of mortality.

“If mating competition is responsible for excess male mortality, then the more mating competition there is, the higher excess male mortality will be,” said Kruger, an assistant research professor in the U-M School of Public Health. In the current study, Kruger shows that two factors related to the level of male reproductive competition contribute to higher rates of risk-taking and mortality. The first factor is polygyny, the social situation in which one man maintains with many women (the opposite is polyandry—one women and many men). Several species of primates show high levels of polygyny, where one dominant male mates with most of the females in the group, and other males are left out. Human cultures have varying degrees of polygyny, and Kruger found that the more prevalent the practice, the higher the rate of male .

More here.

Sunday Poem

(intuition, black rose)

the city lay pressed together, steaming at the joints
the city, a rosebud composed of metal,
pressed together, steaming at joints,
it wheels its rose-head, sucks in a cold night, thick night
sucks in night like ink through a straw

my city is a rose-bud all cold metal
some nights i walked circles through her folds
shadows flapped and tore, broke loose like a storm
a dream made of black lace smothered my mouth
with the scent a man would chase through sheets

(which man? mine!)

a dream made of black lace come scratching my throat
i walk toward the man who loves with ice
lungs aching with a scent he’d chase through sheets
my heart, it twists like rope

but i walk toward the man who loves like ice
my sweetheart crush my bones at the steaming corner
but my heart, she twists quietly.
pressed to my ribs this man (my man!)
pressed to my ribs, ice, ice.
the dream clogs my throat with her careful lace
and my lips go off burning with his lips

the whole city wheels its head off

off comes the rose from its stalk of brute wanting.
see what you’ve done, i thought, when my city
loosed and split, folds cracked with ice
and streets fell away with buildings and night.

(we stood froze like a root, but twisting)

by Mara Jebsen
from Union Station Magazine
February 2010

Terrorism, Shameless Religious Bigotry and Pakistani Mindset

Raza Habib Raja in Pak Tea House:

Anti-american-protests-in-pakistan As I write these sentences, the details of the most shameful attack on the religious sites of Ahmedis in Lahore are unfolding. However, this is not new as Pakistan has been the victim of this brazen behavior repeatedly. The thirty years of state sponsored “true” Islam is showing its colors. In Pakistan all the minorities are constantly harassed and state’s protection has often proved completely ineffective when a serious attack occurs. Although the counterargument can also be made that state is not also able to protect even when Muslims are attacked.

In case of Ahmedis it is a well known fact that they have been victims of state induced discrimination also apart from being openly hated by the public. In fact even today as this most in human barbarity was unfolding I had the opportunity to actually hear people in my office saying that though terrorism is bad Ahmedis deserved it. Muslims are an extremely intolerant group and yet extremely sensitive when it comes to their own religious sensitivities. And when such minorities are under attack the state protection has often been particularly inadequate and public condemnation virtually absent.

More here. [Thanks to Mustafa Ibrahim.]



If you want to watch Silverman’s TED routine, you can’t: It was never put online. So she tells me the joke. “The bit was tied into the theme of the conference, which was ‘What the World Needs Now.’ So I say I’d like to adopt a retarded baby because I don’t have this urge to have a little version of myself to get right this time.” She stops to explain her feelings about the word retard. “I don’t like it. I think it’s a negative bummer word. Retarded, however, technically means [mentally challenged].” She continues: “So I say I’m adopting a retarded baby and I’ll be worried about who will take care of my child when I’m gone. So, solution! I’m going to adopt one with a terminal illness. Now, you’re probably thinking, what kind of person looks to adopt a terminally ill retarded child? An amazing person! I don’t see those 9/11 firefighters adopting retarded children with terminal illnesses. I’m just saying. Of course, there’s going to be the uncomfortable, inevitable question in the adoption process: Are you sure there are absolutely no cures on the horizon?”

more from Will Leitch at New York Magazine here.

the larsson phenomenon


It’s an authentic phenomenon. As “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” the last of three posthumous thrillers by the Swedish writer Stieg Larsson, goes on sale this week in the United States, his books have already sold 40 million copies worldwide in a mere five years, while the modestly mounted movie version of his first title has already grossed something like $100 million, with talk of remaking these Swedish productions in Hollywood versions. There is simply no precedent for figures of that magnitude, especially in the mystery-thriller category, where authors become brand names only after they have patiently added many titles to their bodies of work. It’s possible, of course, that Larsson’s own rather dramatic story is helping to fuel the phenomenon. The writer was well-known as a crusading anti-fascist journalist and as a genial, rather careless man whose addiction to cigarettes and junk food might have hastened his premature demise (at age 50, of a heart attack), not long after delivering his three manuscripts to his publisher. The fact that he also left behind a widely reported controversy is also a good story. Larsson died without a will, meaning his fortune in royalties went to his family, a father and brother with whom he was not close, instead of to his helpmate of 30-odd years, whom he never married but whom everyone (except the lawyers) thinks deserves more than a grass widow’s mite of his earnings. But none of that quite explains the mystery that lies beneath the phenomenon.

more from Richard Schickel at the LAT here.