24 August 2011

Up in the Air: A Miscellany for Your Pleasure & Edification

Great song:

And under our feet:

So, did hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus shale layer in the pursuit of deeply embedded natural gas (aka 'fracking') cause the exceedingly rare East Coast earthquake epicentered on Rep. Eric Cantor's congressional district (h/t) in Virginia yesterday? I, for one, don't know. But if you go to TEH GOOGLY and type in 'virginia earthquake fracking', you'll get over 1.5 million hits. I'm glad people are at least thinking about it. And arguing.

In other news you might have missed: Somebody should clone that shit, dude. How many times have you heard that one? Heh!

Speaking of DNA, NASA now claims it has found traces of DNA in space. This article is worth reading if only because it uses the word "panspermia".

And speaking of controlling the DNA sequencing of organic life, more than 270,000 organic farmers are suing Monsanto for trying to monopolize the market for seeds. See Food, Inc. Seriously, biodiversity of the food supply is absolutely crucial for continued life on this planet.

Estimates are there are some 8.7 million species of life on Earth, the vast majority of which (~90%) are undocumented—or, I should say, unclassified at present. [Boris Worm, the marine biologist cited in the article, is not—I repeat NOT—one of them.]. Our ecosystem is incredibly complex, and human hubris and narcissism threatens to bring the whole thing down.

Serious people are trying to bring together the diverse interests of conservationalists and agribusiness. Hint: it's all about water. A preemptory truce in the upcoming water wars?

A cure for the common cold, all types of flu, and other viruses? DRACO! (not Malfoy) What about cancer? Can it be far behind. C'mon, people, I'm not getting any younger.

Speaking of water, oceanographers are still learning to map deep ocean currents that warm and cool the planet.

Speaking of heating the planet, the U.S. military is moving to more solar and renewable sources of energy, a move which could increase demand for solar and other renewable energies and, thus, bring the prices down. Is that ninja Obama behind this, too?

If you want the facts about what people who study this kind of thing professionally think about global heating, you could do worse than to start here—with the Union of Concerned Scientists. My guess is you can get the other side's point of view from a petroleum institute of one form or another's site and anything having to do with Koch Industries's public relations operations. You're bright, you can figure out where to look.

DARPA, the military organization that brought you this here internet you now so blithely search, in association with NASA "plans to award some lucky, ambitious and star-struck organization roughly $500,000 in seed money to begin studying what it would take — organizationally, technically, sociologically and ethically — to send humans to another star, a challenge of such magnitude that the study alone could take a hundred years." It's not too late to sketch out some ideas on a napkin or three: the grant will be awarded on 11/11/11.

Still no Higgs Boson? Who's driving that Large Hadron Collider anyway?

Still thinking about building that North Pole Fortress of Solitude. Well, you're one step closer: Memory Crystals may be on the way.

You might have to wait, though. If you are so inclined, you can add three years to your life by exercising only 15 minutes a day. But that raises certain philosophical questions like, you know, is it worth it?

Dr. Doom, aka Nouriel Roubini, thinks that Capitalism may be destroying itself in much the way anticipated by Marx 150 years ago. Analysis does not readily translate into praxis. Essence does not necessarily align with Timelines. Truth is not so easily nailed to the cross of history. Quoth this mainstream NYU economist:
You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to Capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. That's what has happened. We thought that markets worked. They're not working. The individual can be rational. The firm, to survive and thrive, can push labor costs more and more down, but labor costs are someone else's income and consumption. That's why it's a self-destructive process.
In other mainstream news: a U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled that former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld can be tried for "personally establish[-ing] the relevant policies that caused" the torture of two U.S. citizens. Not quite a war-crimes tribunal. Baby steps.

From my Alma Mater (proudly), a study finding that the four primary attitudes of Tea Party types are: Authoritarianism, Libertarianism, Fear of Change/Ontological Insecurity, and Nativism. Interestingly, "authoritarianism" is defined as "respondents believe that obedience by children is more important than creativity, and that deference to authority is an important value." Bear that in mind. Seems contradictory to professed libertarianism, don't you think?

People are still arguing over NOTHING. As always. But I'm not talking about politics and the debt ceiling nonsense. Think about your body: what if it wasn't there? What is it currently displacing? Is that a something or nothing? If it's a something, what is it and what is it displacing? That sort of (no-)thing.

Great cover:

23 August 2011

Londinium, Ta Ta!

Sniff, sniff. Almost time to head home. London, I hardly knew ye!

Hey, look at me! I survived the bombings of the Battle of Britain and I'm damn proud of it:

Yes, we made like tourists and rode the London Eye:

Beep! Beep!

If I had a hammer...

Once more, the British:

Birdman (Radio ...? ...of Alcatraz? or Harvey ...?)

[I know they're Aussies, but I couldn't help myself:

Play it loud, yo!]

Believe it or not, this an allegory is about Haile Selaissie:

Yep, this is pretty much the tale of the tape:

Except, I kept trying to find this channel on the TV in our flat and couldn't:

Felt like they were pretty much everywhere. Why can't I watch?

22 August 2011

The Answer

I left off my last post with a poser: What exhibit is the snagglepuss, bronze lion duo looking at? As there were no takers (even with serious Scotch riding), I'll tell you: They are looking right at the case that contains the origin of writing. Sumerian cuneiform script. And, what's more, the original Gilgamesh tablets—the first, if you will, novel. The kind of thing I bow down to.

Then there was this gem ("clearly highly trained"—click it, yo):

And the first thesaurus:

It's remarkable how vast and wide was the plunder of the British Empire. Its museum, the British, gives an accounting of the places they well and truly looted. Yes, it was theft; but the well-preserved and -curated booty is on display free for the world to view.

No visit, though, would be complete without an homage to the Rosetta Stone, perhaps its most famous, and important, artifact:

Which allowed people to be able to read this sort of thing:

18 August 2011

The Gauntlet

I was fortunate enough to have the chance to spend an afternoon at the Louvre. I chose to explore the Renaissance painting wings—Southern and Northern. So much is made of the supposed 'warmth' of the Italian art of the period. I couldn't disagree more. Practically every painting had for its subject matter gods or angels or bible stories or mythic tales—high-falutin' big shots and such. Focus was on formal beauty—line, color, structure. Most were brilliant and bright. The paintings of the Dutch & Flemish artists of the same period were, indeed, darker in tone. They took for their themes, though, still and active lives. Portraits of real people showed them with rumpled noses and warts, fat and ugly. There were plates of eaten food. Parties with, apparently, plenty of libations. Hunting and fishing. Folks with pets. And, mirabile dictu, there were even paintings of people actually smiling. Smiling. Nary a single smile in all of Renaissance Italian painting. Nary a wart. You tell me which is warmer.


Three things in England were ruined for me by the pernicious effects of American pop culture.

Stonehenge was forever ruined for me by this [as was, of course, Led Zep]:

I took tons of pics there, but this is by far the best—a Druid stone if there ever was one:

At the British Museum, this guy:

was ruined by the "Dum Dum give me gum gum" talking Easter Island head in "Night at the Museum" (starring Ben Stiller) to which movie I was contractually obligated as a father to take certain of my brood by virtue of having been a member of the Natural History Museum in New York. When the kids were little, we lived about a mile from the museum and would go on Friday evenings after the tourists cleared out and let the kids flow from room to room for hours. If you don't know what I'm talking about, good on you. You might be able to find clips on the internet; I couldn't.

Then there was this:

Wisdoc and I walked into the the British Museum gallery where two of these patinaed bronze Snagglepuss lions preside. My eye was immediately drawn to them. I said something like "Look honey, aren't those lions amazing. There's something importantly familiar about them, but I don't remember what. I don't know where I've seen them before."

Well, I remember now. BDR put it up at his estimable site after his visit there. The suggestion was planted.

Thus, for ruining (heh!) my British Museum afternoon, the gauntlet: What uber-important world historical artifact(s) are these two cats staring at? [Hint: if you know my site at all, you'll know it's of central significance to me.] Shots of Balvenie or other connoisseur-quality Scotch ride on the answer. Anyone, of course, can weigh in, and I'll make good when we meet.

17 August 2011

Click 'em, yo!

Sorry to say though haggis was gustily eaten (by some) in Edinburgh, we had a collective family brain fart and failed to bring forth cameras. Not so at the Tunnel.

We saw lots of art on our trip. We visited the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Museum Ludwig, the Louvre, Versailles, Musee d'Orsay, Edinburgh Castle, and the British Museum (about which more tomorrow). We wanted to make it to the Tate and the Tate Modern in London, but were unable to work it into our frantic schedule. We did, however, find time for the Tunnel. I'm afraid most of the Banksys have been spray painted over, but it's still a terrific gallery. It's in Westminster, near the Waterloo stop on the Tube—the Leake Street tunnel. It's a short walk from the London Eye.

Click 'em, yo!

For my money, though, this may have been the Mona Lisa of the gallery: