Your Guide To Not Getting Murdered In A Quaint English Village

Maureen Johnson in Crime Reads:

It’s happened. You’ve finally taken that dream trip to England. You have seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park. You rode in a London cab and walked all over the Tower of London. Now you’ve decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and stretch your legs in the verdant countryside of these green and pleasant lands. You’ve seen all the shows. You know what to expect. You’ll drink a pint in the sunny courtyard of a local pub. You’ll wander down charming alleyways between stone cottages. Residents will tip their flat caps at you as they bicycle along cobblestone streets. It will be idyllic.

Unless you end up in an English Murder Village. It’s easy enough to do. You may not know you are in a Murder Village, as they look like all other villages. So when you visit Womble Hollow or Shrimpling or Pickles-in-the-Woods or Nasty Bottom or Wombat-on-Sea or wherever you are going, you must have a plan. Below is a list of sensible precautions you can take on any trip to an English village. Follow them and you may just live.

More here.

How China’s Coronavirus Is Spreading—and How to Stop It

Annie Sparrow in Foreign Policy:

A medical staff member takes the temperature of a man at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in China on Jan. 25. HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

The official story is that this new coronavirus emerged from a Wuhan wet market, where live animals that would never normally meet in the wild live side by side, facilitating trans-species mutation of pathogens. Yet the first three known cases from Dec. 1 and 2 were not linked to the market. Neither were 11 more cases of the 41 reviewed in the recent study. This early data suggests an evolving virus that surfaced considerably earlier. Undetected among the plethora of similar chest infections and common symptoms, it honed its capacity to spread from human to human. As happened with SARS, new corona may be mutating along the way, gradually becoming more virulent.

The coronavirus is a physically large virus—in relative terms, at just 125 nanometers with a surface of spike projections, too big to survive or stay suspended in the air for hours or travel more than a few feet. Like influenza, this coronavirus spreads through both direct and indirect contact. Direct contact occurs through the physical transfer of the microorganism among friends and family through close contact with oral secretions. Indirect contact results when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spreading coronavirus droplets on nearby surfaces, including knobs, bedrails, and smartphones.

More here.

Ten Years After Howard Zinn’s Death — Lessons from the People’s Historian

Bill Bigelow in Common Dreams:

January 27th marks the 10th anniversary of the death of the great historian and activist Howard Zinn. Zinn did not merely record history, he made it: as a professor at Spelman College in the 1950s and early 1960s, where he was ultimately fired for his outspoken support of students in the Civil Rights Movement, and specifically the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); as a critic of the U.S. war in Vietnam, and author of the first book calling for an immediate U.S. withdrawal; and as author of arguably the most influential U.S. history textbook in print, A People’s History of the United States. “That book will knock you on your ass,” as Matt Damon’s character says in the film Good Will Hunting.

It’s always worth dipping into the vast archive of Zinn scholarship, but as the United States flirts with another war in the Middle East, as the presidential campaign raises fundamental questions about the kind of country we will become, and as the world confronts a potentially catastrophic environmental crisis, now is an especially good time to remember some of Howard Zinn’s wisdom.

More here.

The Science and Art of Engineering Deities

Ed Simon at berfrois:

Art historian Jean M. Evans (the current Chief Curator and Deputy Director of the Oriental Institute) writes in The Lives of Sumerian Sculpture: An Archeology of the Early Dynastic Temple that the “eerie effect of the enlarged eyes… has often arisen as a question. These eyes are perplexing.” Several hypotheses have been tendered over the decades as to why the Tal Asmar figurines, and other Sumerian votive statues, have this distinctive characteristic. Wide eyes, especially those absurdly large ones on these idols, could convey an emotion of surprise, or of ecstasy, or pupil-engorged intoxication. Evans gives several examples of modern interactions viewers have had with the figurines, quoting the American painter Willem de Kooning who commented that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had a cache of Sumerian statues with “huge staring goggle eyes” that were “wild-eyed,” and the psychologist George Frankl writing in The Social History of the Unconsciousness that these spheres of obsidian and opal convey a “sense of awe and apprehension which obviously indicated the anxiety those people felt in the presence of the gods.” Regardless of the intent (or multiple purposes) of the statues’ creators, Evans makes the point that the artworks have become “the subjects and objects of gaze.” Consider the first of these functions when deciding why the creatures’ pupils are so wide–it’s because they’re looking at you.

more here.

Danilo Kiš: Between Poetry and Politics

Katarina Luketić at Eurozine:

Through the language of his ‘troubling strangeness’,4 Kiš broached important questions about contemporary identities in a highly effective literary fashion: the meaning of the European and the Balkan, and the manner in which ‘we’ invent our identities and present them to others. Do ‘we’ present ourselves as others expect us to? How far do we adapt our own identities to other peoples’ readings of ‘our’ authenticity? Why should belonging to one place (the Balkans) preclude belonging to another (Europe)? Where does the idea come from that living in a particular place preordains one to a particular type of mentality or artistic tendency, and why does it predominate? Do we have to present ourselves to the outside world as a ‘we’, or can we also approach it as individuals: me, him, her?

more here.

Performance Art

Anthony Mostrom at the LARB:

AMONG THOSE L.A. RESIDENTS who have listened (patiently) over the years to KPFK-FM, our local — and at times volatile — Pacifica-based radio station, many will recall my erstwhile colleague at the station Jacki Apple and her excellent performance art program, Soundings, which ran from 1982 to 1995. Since that was an era long before the crucial turning point of 2012–’13, when humanity finally reached its potential as walking appendages of electronic devices (a development actually prophesied by some of those performance artists), Jacki was an essential, one-woman dervish of activity in this city, a writer-observer who avidly promoted the furthest fringes of performance art and experimental music in the Southland, through both the printed word (in the pages of High Performance and Artweek) and that unlikely 20th-century medium of radio.

more here.

Friday Poem

Hey, People!

Hey, you over there
who are sitting on the shore, happy and laughing,
someone is dying in the water,
someone is constantly struggling
on this angry, heavy, dark, familiar sea.
When you are drunk
with the thought of getting your hands on your enemy,
when you think in vain
that you’ve given a hand to a weak person
to produce a better weak person,
when you tighten your belts, when,
when shall I tell you
that someone in the water
is sacrificing in vain?

Hey, you over there
who are sitting pleasantly on the shore,
bread on your tablecloths, clothes on your bodies,
someone is calling you from the water.
He beats the heavy wave with his tired hand,
his mouth agape, eyes torn wide with terror,
he has seen your shadows from afar,
has swallowed water in the dark blue deep,
each moment his impatience grows.
He raises from these waters
a foot, at times,
at times, his head…
Hey you there,
he still has his eyes on this old world from afar,
he’s shouting and hopes for help.
Hey you there
who are calmly watching from the shore,
the wave beats on the silent shore, spreads
like a drunk fallen on his bed unconscious,
recedes with a roar, and this call comes from afar again:
Hey, you over there…

And the sound of the wind
more heart-rending by the moment,
and his voice weaker in the sound of the wind;
from waters near and far
again this call is heard:
Hey, you over there…

Nima Yooshij
from Poem Hunter

Nima Yoshij (1896 – 1960), his real name is Ali Esfandiyari, the eldest son of Ebrahim Nouri of Yosh (a village near Nour county in Mazandaran province of Iran), was born in November 12 1896. He was a contemporary Tabari (Mazandarani dialect) and Persian poet who started a new movement in Persian poetry called she’r-e no (“new poetry”) or sometimes called she’r-e Nimaei (Nimaic poetry). —More Here.

How did the last Neanderthals live?

Melissa Hogenboom in BBC:

Forty thousand years ago in Europe, we were not the only human species alive – there were at least three others. Many of us are familiar with one of these, the Neanderthals. Distinguished by their stocky frames and heavy brows, they were remarkably like us and lived in many pockets of Europe for more than 300,000 years. For the most part, Neanderthals were a resilient group. They existed for about 200,000 years longer than we modern humans (Homo sapiens) have been alive. Evidence of their existence vanishes around 28,000 years ago – giving us an estimate for when they may, finally, have died off. Fossil evidence shows that, towards the end, the final few were clinging onto survival in places like Gibraltar. Findings from this British overseas territory, located at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, are helping us to understand more about what these last living Neanderthals were really like. And new insights reveal that they were much more like us than we once believed.

In recognition of this, Gibraltar received Unesco world heritage status in 2016. Of particular interest are four large caves. Three of these caves have barely been explored. But one of them, Gorham’s cave, is a site of yearly excavations. “They weren’t just surviving,” the Gibraltar museum’s director of archaeology Clive Finlayson tells me of its inhabitants.”It was in some way Neanderthal city,” he says. “This was the place with the highest concentration of Neanderthals anywhere in Europe.” It’s not known if this might amount to only dozens of people, or a few families, since genetic evidence also suggests that Neanderthals lived in “many small subpopulations”.

More here.

To read or reread? New books are alluring, but don’t discount the value of the familiar

Michael Dirda in The Washington Post:

In her just-published “Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader,” Vivian Gornick looks at a handful of books — mainly 20th-century novels — that have helped her better understand herself and key episodes in her past. However, Gornick’s vivacious and highly recommended memoir never fully takes up the larger question: To read or reread? As we all turn the pages on life’s way, there are clearly times we hunger for the excitement of the new and other times when we need the comfort of the familiar. The very young, at bedtime, never tire of hearing yet one more rendition of “Goodnight Moon,” as sleepy parents well know. Later on, kids gravitate to series titles, racing through the Wimpy Kid’s misadventures, one Sweet Valley High paperback after another, or that supreme test of a young reader’s skill, the seven volumes of Harry Potter. In adolescence, we enter the era of competitive reading. During my own high school days fat paperbacks of “Gone With the Wind,” “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” were passed around school hallways. Now, it might be “Infinite Jest.” Page count, after all, confers cachet. In ninth grade, I doggedly worked my way through a two-volume history of English literature mainly to show off.

College is dominated by required reading. In those years, we don’t read, we take notes, we highlight and underline. Study grows into a weariness of the flesh. In the evenings, we dutifully trot over to the library, spread our books out on an oak seminar table, open Paul Samuelson’s “Economics” to Chapter 3 and then gently lower our heads onto our pillowy backpacks. Once we finally graduate, we store our college texts in our parents’ attic and never look at them again. For the next few decades, the bestseller list governs much of our reading, even much of our thinking.

More here.


Rethinking consciousness according to eliminative materialism

Michael Graziano at the IAI:

The scientific work that I do on the brain basis of consciousness is sometimes misunderstood – a misunderstanding which I think comes mainly from the political divide between mystics and materialists. I am a materialist, and reactions to my work tend to follow along the lines of: ‘keep your scientific hands off my consciousness mystery’.

This kind of argument often devolves into distortions and phrases examined out of context – in short, the wooly thinking of philosophy that’s lost its integrity. Among the most common and puzzling reaction I get goes something like this: ‘Graziano says that consciousness does not exist; that we lack an inner dialogue; that getting stuck by a pin, or walking into a wall, is ethereal’. None of these statements are true, of course, but I do often hear them coming from the nonscientific, or often pseudoscientific, political side.

As an attempt to get across the reality of what I work on, I’ll start with a simple example: suppose you’re looking at something obvious, like a chair. There it is, in front of you. The truth is that the chair you think is there is not exactly the same as the chair that is actually there – a strange thought for most people, but a very familiar one to neuroscientists.

More here.

Science for Sale

David Michaels in the Boston Review:

Decision makers atop today’s corporate structures are responsible for delivering short- and long-term financial returns, and in the pursuit of these goals they place profits and growth above all else. Avoidance of financial loss, to many corporate executives, is an alibi for just about any ugly decision. This is not to say that decisions at the highest level are black-and-white or simple; they are dictated by factors such as the cost of possible government regulation and potential loss of market share to less hazardous products. And, of course, companies are afraid of being sued by people sickened by their products, which costs money and can result in serious damage to the brand. All of this is part of the corporate calculus.

Unfortunately, though, this story is old news: most people, especially Americans, have come to expect corporations to put profit above all else. Still, we mostly don’t expect there to be mercenary scientists. Science is supposed to be constant, apolitical, and above the fray. This commonsense view misses the rise of science-for-sale specialists over the last several decades and a “product defense industry” that sustains them—a cabal of apparent experts, PR flaks, and political lobbyists who use bad science to produce whatever results their sponsors want.

There are a handful of go-to firms in this booming field.

More here.

Most Jews Weren’t Murdered In Death Camps and It’s Time To Talk About The Other Holocaust

Izabella Tabarovsky in Forward:

My experience at the Auschwitz exhibit was a powerful one. But it was actually a familiar one. We are used to experiencing the horror of the Holocaust through the lens of Auschwitz. When we talk about the six million, we picture concentration camps, ghettos, cattle cars.

And yet, the members of my family who were murdered during the Holocaust did not die at Auschwitz. They were killed at Babi Yar. And I cannot imagine an exhibit like this honoring their memory.

In part, this inability stems from the fact that after decades of silence and intentional forgetting, the material evidence of their lives and deaths is long gone — unlike the thousands of artifacts left behind by the Nazi concentration camps. But the main reason I can’t imagine an exhibit dedicated to the memory of my family is that their story as a whole is not part of our collective memory of the Holocaust.

More here.

What Did We See In Color TV?

Laura Kalba at Public Books:

How much our historical context informs our perceptions of and beliefs about color is ably illustrated by Susan Murray’s award-winning book Bright Signals. Tracing the evolution of color television in America from the late 1920s to the early 1970s, the book successfully demonstrates how the medium reflected and refracted American social and political history, despite its initially halting, tentative development. Industry leaders, Murray shows, only progressively overcame regulators’, advertisers’, and the public’s initial resistance to color television as a finicky luxury.

The television industry’s strategy was twofold. First, manufacturers and regulators subjected electronic color to the same processes of measurement and standardization adopted in other industries (such as paints and plastics). Second, and more controversially, industry leaders actively promoted the medium as a new, more immersive, and emotionally engaging form of vision.

more here.

Holding Virginia Woolf In Your Hands

Roxana Robinson at The New Yorker:

What moves you to stand in the presence of the house, the landscape, the objects of a writer whom you so admire? Why are literary pilgrimages so compelling? Virginia Woolf explains: “It would seem to be a fact that writers stamp themselves upon their possessions more indelibly than other people.” Certainly, each year, thousands of people visit Monk’s House, Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s sixteenth-century cottage, in Rodmell, East Sussex. It’s set right on the village street, a modest clapboard building with a big garden beyond. Inside, the small, low-ceilinged rooms are peopled with pilgrims. You move quietly among them; the atmosphere is hushed and meditative, like that in a church. You are caught up in a silent current, adrift in Woolf’s life: these are the chairs that were decorated by her sister; here is her narrow bed by the window; here are her books, tightly packed, floor to ceiling. You are very close to her here. You are speaking with her in your mind.

more here.

The US Military’s Underwater Dump in The Pacific

Sasha Archibald at Cabinet Magazine:

Just off the coast of Espírito Santo, an island in the Vanuatu archipelago of the South Western Pacific, there is a massive underwater dump. Called Million Dollar Point after the millions of dollars worth of material disposed there, the dump is a popular diving destination, and divers report an amazing quantity of wreckage: jeeps, six-wheel drive trucks, bulldozers, semi-trailers, fork lifts, tractors, bound sheets of corrugated iron, unopened boxes of clothing, and cases of Coca-Cola. The dumped goods were not abandoned by the ni-Vanuatu people, nor by the Franco-British Condominium who ruled Vanuatu (then known as the New Hebrides) from 1906 until 1980, but by personnel of a WWII American military base named Buttons. At the end of the war, sometime between August 1945 and December 1947, the US military interred supplies, equipment, and vehicles under water.

more here.

Thursday Poem

Synge on Aran

Salt off the sea whets
the blades of four winds.
They peel acres
of locked rock, pare down
a rind of shriveled ground;
bull-noses are chiseled
on cliffs.
…………..Islanders too
are for sculpting. Note
the pointed scowl, the mouth
carved as upturned anchor
and the polished head
full of drownings.
he comes now, a hard pen
scarping in his head;
the nib filed on a salt wind
and dipped in the keening sea.

by Seamus Heaney
Death of a Naturalist
Faber and Faber, 1996

You know Goodall and Fossey. Meet Dagg, ‘The Woman Who Loves Giraffes.’

Peter Rainer in The Christian Science Monitor:

When Canadian biologist Anne Innis Dagg was 3 years old, her mother took her to the zoo for the first time. There she saw her first giraffe, and a lifelong love affair ensued. And who can blame her? Is there any other four-legged creature whose looks are more magisterially goofy? Dagg is the focus of Alison Reid’s “The Woman Who Loves Giraffes,” and it confirms a long-held tenet of mine: If the subject of a documentary is fascinating, it doesn’t much matter if the filmmaking is workmanlike. Now in her 80s, Dagg is such a singular personality that everything about her seems sprightly and newly minted.

At 23, in the summer of 1956, with a master’s degree in biology, she traveled alone to South Africa during a time of mounting political unrest in order to study up close her beloved giraffes. Other than a Scottish study of red deer, she was the first person to venture into the wilds to investigate animal behavior. This was years before either Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey embarked on their work with chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Her dogged independence had a rich pedigree: Her mother, Mary Quayle, was the dean of women at the University of Toronto’s University College; her father, Harold Innis, was a famous economist. Thanks to the welcoming ministrations of Alexander Matthew, whose citrus and cattle ranch was also home to many free-roaming giraffes, Dagg was able to closely observe these magnificent animals. Her research was groundbreaking, and the 16 millimeter color footage she shot at the time, amply displayed in the documentary, is breathtaking. (I was especially grateful that Dagg didn’t photograph any maulings or attacks – an unfortunate ingredient in far too many wildlife documentaries.)

More here.

Not ‘brains in a dish’: Cerebral organoids flunk comparison to developing nervous system

From Phys.Org:

Brain organoids—three-dimensional balls of brain-like tissue grown in the lab, often from human stem cells—have been touted for their potential to let scientists study the formation of the brain’s complex circuitry in controlled laboratory conditions. The discussion surrounding brain organoids has been effusive, with some scientists suggesting they will make it possible to rapidly develop treatments for devastating brain diseases and others warning that organoids may soon attain some form of consciousness. But a new UC San Francisco study offers a more restrained perspective, by showing that widely used  fail to replicate even basic features of brain development and organization, much less the complex circuitry needed to model complex brain diseases or normal cognition.

“Some people have branded organoids as ‘brains in a dish’ but our data suggest this is a huge exaggeration at this point,” said Arnold Kriegstein, MD, Ph.D., a professor of neurology in the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, John G. Bowes Distinguished Professor in Stem Cell and Tissue Biology, and director of the UCSF Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research, whose lab has been a leader in the development of cerebral organoid models (see prior studies herehere and here.) “We find that organoids do not develop the distinctive cell subtypes or regional circuit organization that characterize normal human brain circuits. Since most human brain diseases are highly specific to particular cell types and circuits in the brain, this presents a grave challenge to efforts to use organoids to accurately model these complex conditions.”

More here.