Monday, 22 February 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 15-21/2/16

Hi Mockingbirds,

As if a poem in itself, one of the faces of egalitarian literature died, this week, while a face of anti-egalitarian xenophobia claimed victory.

Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, told the (fictional) story of a Black man, put on trial in the USA, for a non-crime (baselessly accused of rape) and treated as a criminal, simply because he wasn't 'one of us'.

By an artefact of history, the people who had the power, in the story, didn't think they had to care about the Black man.

They thought they human decency didn't apply.

They thought they didn't have to care.

They thought the niggers were just there, being non-sentient burdens.

And they thought they could claim anything they liked about them, because it didn't really matter.

And where are we today? With a Prime Minister of the UK, returning to blighty, so proud of himself that he's managed to guarantee 'his nation' concessions, from the EU.

And what might that prejudicial treatment from the EU involve?

Well, of course, they mean his government doesn't have to care about the local niggers - immigrants - quite as much as they used to. They don't have to provide welfare to the needy; they don't have to care about children; they don't have to be a good example to the rest of the world.

They think they can afford to be nationalist isolationists - that if they just build a big wall around 'Fortress Britain' then there's no way the grimey outsiders can harm 'us'.

By an artefact of history, the people who have the power to erect such a wall, don't think they have to care about the Immigrant man.

They think that human decency doesn't need to apply.

They think they don't have to care.

They think the immigrants are just there, being non-sentient burdens.

And they think they can claim anything they like about them, because it doesn't really matter.

"They're bringing problems. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, i assume, are good people" - Donald Trump

Is this racist rhetoric? Or nationalist rhetoric? Or religious rhetoric? Or even sexist rhetoric? The bigotry is generic.

How different are Trump and Cameron really? Apart from the British megalomaniac being less orange?

Harper Lee could write so eloquently about the conditions of racist factionalism, because she was well aware of it. She even lived it.

When she was a child, she saw, through her father's newspaper, the reports of Black men, who'd been sentenced to death, for raping White women, who thought they didn't have to care about what would happen if they falsely accused someone who wasn't 'one of us'.

To this day, there are bigots in the so-called 'developed' world, who think that it's OK to defaultedly believe rape claims. Even in the USA. "Listen and believe" - Sarkeesian.

When there's a demography-defying report of rapes in a German city, the rational thing to do, is to query whether they're even sincere. You don't promise Darlene that you're off to prepare the hanging tree!

When Harper Lee was 10 years old, a woman near Monroeville accused Walter Lett of raping her. Lett was convicted and sentenced to death. After a series of letters appeared, repudiating the claim, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He wasn't even let off.

You are a fool, if you think that you are ever warranted in unleashing firey vengeance on anyone, when there isn't even substantial evidence that they've done anything.

This is a travesty of justice. A travesty facilitated by factionalistic thought - by the truncation of compassion to those within 'our' walls - real or metaphorical.

Sure, it's motivated by fear. But fear is just an emotion. Emotions are stupid. Fear doesn't know whether it's justified or not - whether it's a real snake or a fake one. And people who act emotionalistically - irrationally - will inevitably act stupidly.

All the bovine rhetoric of the nationalists is generic, superstitious emotionalism, and is the genuine threat, pointing its gnarled finger at the impoverished and vulnerable.

Why don't the perpetrators of this xenophobia consider their victims? Because they think they don't have to.

And they think they don't have to, because they think their victims aren't worthy of compassion.

“The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry” - Richard Dawkins

The stupidity is self-perpetuating.

Because they refuse to look, they don't realise there was anything to see, and so they continue, blinkered, unaware that there was ever a moral obligation on them at all.

I remember, back in 2010, Stephen Fry saying that the presiding feeling of living under a Tory government, is one of shame.

Shame that we're all, collectively, responsible for the insidious and pernicious presence of conservative solipsism, gradually soaking its way through statute and society.

When the Prime Minister of one of the richest countries in Europe demands that he be granted the 'right' to turn away the poor and needy, for the sake of that country's bank balance, shame has surely got to be a popular emotion.

Add to that, the demand that Team GB be paid a rebate from the EU, for the privilege of having the UK's stinking, poorly-regulated corporations screwing the rest of the EU over, year after year after year.

The idiom 'adding insult to injury' seems highly apt!

'How satellites can help control the spread of diseases such as Zika'


The 15th of February marked the 28th anniversary of the first ever broadcast of Red Dwarf. As this anniversary comes to pass, work is under way to record the 12th series of the show, which is predicted to be broadcast in 2017.

In other news:

According to an online survey, there are roughly 5 million people in the UK engaged in the 'gig economy', also called the 'sharing economy', 'crowd working', 'platform capitalism' and even 'uberisation', where financial engagements are found through websites. What this means, is that people who are conventionally employed by a company, and covered by various restrictions and privileges for doing so, are instead doing the same work as a self-employed person. With the UK's Conservative Party dominated government imposing more and more bureaucratic penalties on the Unemployed, and desiring fake glory, many people there have shifted from registering themselves as 'Unemployed' with the DWP to registering themselves as 'self-employed' which means they still get some maintenance payments, but have a lot less hassle from the DWP, and therefore a lot more time to do actual work in! The benefit of this system, is that it's easier for the people involved to get some financial support, but the cost is that they are left vulnerable to dodgy clients and financial 'cashflow' problems. From those clients/employers' point of view, this means accessible labour, and probably cheaper labour, but also unreliable quality of work. And for the government that presides over this, it means an artificially lowered Unemployment figure, where millions of people are just as poor as they were before, but don't count, under the figures.

The Mexican State has sued VW Mexico $8.9 million for selling 45,494 vehicles without certificates proving they comply with emissions standards. The Mexican investigation into VW Group's industrial emissions deception between 2009 and 2015 is separate to this, and still ongoing.

Suspiciously self-defeating campaign of the week: TED Prize-winning Sarah Parcak's bid to put all as-yet-unresearched archaeological sites on a centralised internet database, in a bid to prevent people from looting precious artefacts. She is known as the 'Indiana Jones' of archaeology. Hmmmm. When was the last time you saw Indiana Jones recover an artefact without leaving a trail of destruction behind him? Archaeologists are generally small, disparate groups of researchers, with small amounts of funding, and a low ability to respond to an archaeological discovery in a short period of time. Looters, however, are often companies, that are already rich, through criminal activities, and are immediately available to plunder any site that they hear about. Historical artefacts are big business. By assembling a gigantic internet database of plunderable sites, identified and located by satellite surveillance, the power would be shifted from the archaeologists to the looters. All they have to do is 'log in'. It is imperative, with rare finds, that they are kept secret, until after they have been excavated. It would be much wiser to run a site like LootBusters, that catalogues stolen artefacts, so that it's more difficult for looters to sell them on, thereby undermining their profit motive. Poorly done, TED, for rewarding a truly bad idea.

A new vaccine takes advantage of the body's own immune system, to undermine opiate addiction. It contains a molecule that mimics the core structure of fentanyl - one kind of opiate that has an analgesic affect 50 to 500 times more potent than morphine. When given the vaccine, the immune system is 'trained' to produce antibodies to neutralize it. The idea, of course, is that if the fentanyl doesn't interact with the person, and thereby doesn't cause happiness, then patients and abusers will lose motive to use it. This would, i think, work; but what of the people who self-medicate depressive mental illnesses, with elative drugs? While there is a demand for elation, there always be a demand for things that cause it. The only benefit to pushing people off fentanyl, would be from pushin them onto something safer.

It's a new world record! January has set a new record for highest average temperature in the month, continuing a trend of highest-for-the-month records that's run for 9 months in a row! But 2016's January wins two records, according to NASA - one for being the hottest January on record; and one for being hotter than 'normal' by the largest margin on record. NASA disagrees with the NOAA on this measurement, but the trend toward hotter temperatures is clear - NASA says January 2016 had the hottest margin, whereas the NOAA says December 2015 had the hottest margin.

Three scientists who used to work for the New York State Police crime lab have sued the agency, alleging that they were put under pressure to fabricate substantiation for prosecutory claims, in court. NYSP has apparently rejected new software called 'TrueAllele' that reduces the chances of an erroneous prosecution through dodgy DNA analysis, and fired/displaced the three scientists who objected to the inferior, old method, that would have convicted innocent people. They say they were singled out in an internal investigation, and cited for 'ethical violations' because of their outspoken criticism of the old analysis method, which was used as a pretext for silencing them and blocking the new program.

The hoax of the week appears to be a rumour of an asteroid, carooming toward France. No surprises then, that the rumour originated in France. Apparently, it was started by computer gamers, looking to start a trending topic: cheeky #haveawank style, or gaming industry PR ploy? I do not know.

It was an insect's penis in amber, last week; and this week, it's a plant's penis. Well, not quite - it's a flower, with its pistil held prominent. The flower is a never-before-identified species of the genus Strychnos, preserved in amber for at least 15 million years. It took a lot of leg work to check whether it was a known species - there are currently 100 known species of Strychnos, and 200 more that haven't yet been delineated into concise species.

Think your brain's special? Think it's new and modern and amazeballs? Well, think again. Brains have existed for hundreds of millions of years, and the RIKEN Evolutionary Morphology laboratory and other institutions of Japan have found that they've even existed with a complex division of lobes, for different functions, for more than 500 million years. This means complex brains have been around for longer than jaws have. Embryonic research at RIKEN has found that modern lampreys and hagfish, which are jawless, do have genes encoding for the development of brain regions that simply don't grow, suggesting that their ancestors had the complexifying genes, but have simply been unexpressed in modern hagfish and lamprey lineages.

Tardigrades - those wonderful water bears - have set a new record, having been awoken from a frozen slumber, that they were in for 30 years. A moss sample collected in Antarctica in November 1983, was thawed out in May 2014, having been stored at -20°C. Astonishingly (though maybe not if you're familiar with tardigrades' other achievements) two little critters were fine, and immediately engaged in a furious reproductive frenzy, though i don't know whether they were fertilised before the cryptobiosis began. The record for animal cryptobiosis (dessication and freezing) actually lies with nematodes, who survived 39 years, according to a report from 1946. Recovery did take multiple weeks, however, and one of the three did die. You can see a video of them wriggling about, embedded in the linked article.

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

'Surprises in dismantling a sodium streetlight!'

'Captive corals spawn in artificial reef'

'David Colquhoun on cough medicines'

'Which bounces better? Super-balls or Marbles?'

'Lithium into 7 Up - Periodic Table of Videos'

'Sodium gas... OMG ITS PURPLE!!!!'

'The Food Babe Has Her Head in the Clouds'

'World of Batshit - #6: Sphereless'

'Putting Pluto's geology on the map'

'Pluto's 'Hulk-like' moon Charon: A possible ancient ocean?'

'Romance isn't dead'

'10 Amazing Bets You Will Always Win (Ep 15)'


'You're A Socialist - Improv'

'Come Home (Cardinal Pell) - Tim Minchin'

'Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast - with Richard Bacon #100'

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Quote Of The Week: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” - Atticus Finch, in To Kill A Mockingbird

Expression of The Week: adding insult to injury -- the worsening of a situation, by exacerbating the pain already caused by some other loss or indignity

Word Of The Week: compassion -- sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others; an ability to understand the experiences of others; a motive to care about others, and help them out of their austerity

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff

'The Shocking Ingredients Petco Is Selling For Your Pets'

There's never a handy bottom when you need one :-D

'J. S. Bach, The Musical Offering'

1 comment:

  1. The replacement for the 'You're A Socialist - Improv' link:
    "Socialist" by Roy Zimmerman