Monthly Archives: December 2012

Music Monday

It’s New Year’s Eve people, so we need some “Party in the USA.” And if you say you don’t like this song, you’re a damn liar.

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December 31, 2012 · 6:33 pm

Your Morning Cup of Links

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Photo by NASA. Admire more gorgeous images like the one above, here. They are satellite photos from the U.S. Geological Survey, which make the Earth look like a breathtaking modern art exhibition. The one I chose is of Iran’s Great Salt Desert, which is full of mud and marshes, as you can see in the photo.

Let’s start off the best drinking night of the year with a guide to New Year’s wine.

Fun fact of the day: corn flakes were invented as part of an anti-masturbation crusade. Thanks to religion, human beings consistently get into unnecessary and ridiculous hissy fits about that icky, gross, completely natural, wonderful act known as, sex. American physician John Harvey Kellogg thought sex, particularly masturbation, was the worst thing ever and never engaged in it. He believed it caused mood swings and fickleness (little did he know these two things often happen to people because they are not having sex), stiff joints and palpitations (only if you’re doing it right), and other “problems.” He believed diet and cleansing the bowel was the way to curb sexual desire. His first idea was an enema system which pumped yogurt and water up the butt. For obvious reasons this didn’t catch on, so Kellogg was reduced to inventing corn flakes as an “anti-masturbatory meal.”

How every character on “Game of Thrones” is known colloquially. They could have come up with something way better for Joffrey than, “Worst King,” accurate as that may be.

How did the monocle become a symbol of wealth? Slate knows:

Indeed, the impractical design of monocles ensured their status as a luxurious object. In order to avoid muscle strain, the frame of the monocle—which may be made of gold, silver, tortoise shell, and other materials—must be custom-fitted to the wearer’s eye, an expensive proposition.

I wish I would have discovered this a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t, so I know it’s a little late, but here are letters to Santa written by Shakespeare characters.

Flavorpill’s list of the most anticipated books of 2013. New works by Nabokov and Coetzee? Yes, please.

The New York Times briefly reviews the Bard-fueled theatre year that was 2012.

The Field Museum in Chicago, the mere thought of which floods my head with wonderful childhood memories, is in danger. This is because whenever budget cuts are made educational programs and the arts are sacrificed rather than the things in the paragraph below. Anyway, the wonderful “Why Evolution Is True” blog has the sad details. 

Here’s another thing to angrily rant about when you’re drunk tonight: President Obama just gave members of Congress and Joe Biden a pay raise. Also, as I predicted, the people in the State Department who “lost their jobs” over the Benghazi disaster, are still on the payroll and have likely just changed cubicles. So if you want to be terrible at your job and still get a raise, with the added benefit of never having to worry about being fired, a job in the United States government is for you!

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Video of the Day

Giraffe fighting, aka “necking,” happens, and it’s awesome. I can’t wait for the premiere of “Africa” on Discovery Channel, January 8.

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December 31, 2012 · 12:24 am

Science Sunday

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The Hubble telescope took some breathtaking photos this year, including the one above of two spiral galaxies colliding 70 million light years away in the constellation of Corvus, aka The Crow. See 17 more astounding Hubble images from 2012 here.

Speaking of Hubble, OH SCIENCE YES. LOOK AT THIS. Delightful Hubble-print clothing! Put Hubble on your hiney and wear your favorite nebula everywhere you go.

Editors and writers at the BBC predict the big science stories of 2013.

Bad news for microbes. Dogs are being trained to sniff out your infectious little asses.

It is now universally acknowledged that tigers love pepper, but hate cinnamon. Scientists have now discovered that parrots love music, but hate techno music.

Claire Evans reflects on the magic of seeing planets through a telescope.

Are bilingual people smarter? Chris Berube explores the mapping of the bilingual brain.

Nearly a hundred years later, why are scientists still baffled by the worst pandemic in history, the 1918 Spanish flu?

No more Christmas crap for another year, yay! Radio stations are back to normal music, the incessant bell ringing outside of grocery stores is gone, gaudy decorations are disappearing, Fox News can calm the fuck down for a few months. Let’s bid Christmas adieu with a science lesson: which star were the supposed “wise men” following? Or was it a planet? Where would these paths lead?

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Around the World

Prepare to roll your eyes and feel the urge to bang your head against a wall while reading this post…it does end on a good note, though.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who has done basically nothing during his time in power to elevate black South Africans out of poverty, is finally focusing on the important stuff! Dogs! Yes, black South Africans need to stop keeping dogs as pets because that’s a white people thing, according to Zuma. Eye roll. You have bigger fish to fry, Mr. Zuma.

In other “Absurd African Leaders” news, Africa’s longest serving dictator, Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, is building a new capital city. It is ridiculously expensive of course and far away from where most of the population lives, though Obiang plans to move people there. Without using force, I’m sure. Sigh. The money from the project comes from the nation’s vast oil reserves, which none of the citizens benefit from.

A Muslim man in Pakistan was somewhere in the vicinity of a desecrated Koran, so was, of course, beaten to death and set on fire by a mob. Religion is so awesome. It really makes people kind and moral, doesn’t it?

Elsewhere in the historical blunder that is the state of Pakistan, the National College of Arts has unfortunately caved to Islamist pressure and shut down its academic journal due to paintings deemed “controversial.” The paintings supposedly depict Muslim clerics in scenes with “homosexual overtones.” Threats of violence naturally followed, as well as paranoid bleats that the paintings are a “Western and American plot to malign Islam.” Yeah, because we have the time or the desire to do that. Don’t flatter yourselves.

Moving northeast to the absurdity of Russia’s recent blasphemy case, Cathy Young of Reason magazine explores Putin’s frightening new alliance with the sinister Russian Orthodox Church. It’s an important, well-written article. Back to the Dark Ages we go?

The case looked and felt like something out of the Dark Ages. The state-run Rossiya television channel repeatedly referred to the women as “blasphemers,” while a co-founder of the semi-official pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi warned that the decline of harsh blasphemy laws throughout Europe had set the continent on a path to destructive liberalism. During the trial, the judge deemed it relevant that the Pussy Rioters had violated rules established by an eighth-century church council. Outside the courtroom, the lawyer for one of the prosecution witnesses told a newspaper, with no trace of humor, that the group’s actions stemmed from Satan himself. Are these developments harbingers of a new Russian theocracy? While some of the religious zealotry underlying the scandal was undoubtedly genuine, the prosecution was mostly a loud display of pretend medievalism—political theater performed by Jesus-loving Stalinists, KGB clerics, and Christian soldiers who dabble in soft porn. As Novaya Gazeta columnist Andrei Kolesnikov has pointed out, religion’s true role in contemporary Russia is perhaps best summed up by none other than Karl Marx, who in his 1852 pamphlet The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonapartedescribed it as “the domination of the priests as an instrument of government.”

Foreign Policy previews “10 Conflicts to Watch in 2013.”

J.J. Gould takes a sad look into slavery’s global comeback.

The leading demographic accounts of contemporary slavery project a global slave population of between 20 million and 30 million people. The highest ratios of slaves worldwide are from South and Southeast Asia, along with China, Russia, and the former satellite states of the Soviet Union. There is a significant slave presence across North Africa and the Middle East, including Lebanon. There is also a major slavetrade in Africa. Descent-based slavery persists in Mauritania, where children of slaves are passed on to their slave-holders’ children. And the North Korean gulag system, which holds 200,000 people, is essentially a constellation of slave-labor camps. Most of the world’s slaves are in sedentary forms of servitude, such as hereditary collateral-debt bondage, but about 20 percent have been unwittingly trafficked by predators through deception and coercion. Human trafficking is often highly mobile and dynamic, leveraging modern communications and logistics in the same basic ways contemporary business does generally. After the earthquake of 2010 devastated Haiti, Hispaniola was quickly overrun with opportunistic traffickers targeting children to sell into forced domestic work or brothels.

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the tallest free-standing structure in the world…and possibly the smelliest. Lauren Kelley explores its sewage problem.

In Washington, D.C. Peggielene Bartels is a secretary at the Ghanaian embassy. In Ghana, she’s a king. Mental Floss explains.

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Image of the Day

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Photo by Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP. A candlelight vigil is held after the brutal gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old female on a bus in India last week. The horrific incident has brought the anger against the Indian government for not being tougher on crimes against women to a boiling point. People have flooded the streets in protest all week and will no doubt continue as it has been reported that the young lady has lost the hard fight for her life, passing away in a Singapore hospital Saturday morning. Six men are in custody for the crimes of rape, kidnapping, and now, murder. Rape cases in India usually take years to be heard in a court, if they make it there at all. The Indian government has said it will expedite the trial of these six men, but India’s patriarchal social problems are the bigger issue. It is still one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.

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Poem for the Weekend

Since New Year’s is coming up we obviously need a drinking poem. I think “A Toast” by George Santayana will do. Santayana (1863-1952) was a Spanish citizen raised and educated in America, a country which he characterized as an, “old wine in new bottles.” He taught at Harvard University and his students included T.S. Eliot, W.E.B. DuBois, Robert Frost and Gertrude Stein. He financially assisted Bertrand Russell at one point and was friends with him, although his agnosticism was far more gentle than Russell’s. An important philosopher, poet, novelist and cultural critic of the 20th century, Santayana is perhaps not read enough in universities today.

Happy New Year!

“A Toast” by George Santayana

See this bowl of purple wine,

Life-blood of the lusty vine!

All the warmth of summer suns

In the vintage liquid runs,

All the glow of winter nights

Plays about its jewel lights,

Thoughts of time when love was young

Lurk its ruby drops among,

And its deepest depths are dyed

With delight of friendship tried.

Worthy offering, I wean,

For a god or for a queen,

Is the draught I pour to thee, —

Comfort of all misery,

Single friend of the forlorn,

Haven of all beings born,

Hope when trouble wakes at night,

And when naught delights, delight.

Holy Death, I drink to thee;

Do not part my friends and me.

Take this gift, which for a night

Puts dull leaden care to flight,

Thou who takest grief away

For a night and for a day.

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