25 April 2010

The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody

A huge tip of the hat to "zarq" for posting at Metafilter an extensive set of links about Bohemian Rhapsody, including some covers that I had not previously heard.

He also linked the six-part BBC Three program on this history of Bohemian Rhapsody.  I've embedded the first three parts above. Here are the links for Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Addendum:  Well, heck with it.  After watching the first three parts, I decided to embed the others as well.  Enjoy. 

A Hawaiian beach "turning into plastic"

An article with video at the BBC website shows a beach on a remote part of Hawaii's Big Island that is deeply and extensively contaminated with plastic.  Not from Hawaii itself, but drifting up from the Pacific Ocean.
"This plastic goes down a foot deep. At one time these were toothbrushes, pens, cigarette lighters, plastic bottles, plastic caps, but now they're plastic fragments and pre-production plastic pellets, together forming a new kind of sand: plastic sand here on the beaches of Hawaii"...

This is the place where Hawaiians came to find bodies of people who were lost at sea. Nowadays, this beach is where we come to find what our throw-away society has done to the environment."
Unfortunately BBC videos are not embeddable, and this one hasn't been reposted on YouTube as far as I can tell.  Please view the video at the site - it is unutterably saddening for those who love the ocean and our planet.

I have previously posted an item at Neatorama entitled "Death by Plastic" with photos of albatross and seabird carcasses engorged with plastic, and one here of plastic retrieved from a fledgling.  Some blogreaders called these posts b.s.   I also posted this indescribably horrifying video of plastic heading out to sea from a Romanian river.  I'll keep posting these items, because what we are doing to our oceans is nothing short of criminal.

That's no "meteorite" on the Israeli beach

The BBC has a video [at the link - I can't embed] of an object found burning on the beach near Tel Aviv.  They note it was "thought to be a fragment of a meteorite" and has now been taken away to be examined.

When someone finds a strange object burning on the ground in Israel, I don't think "meteorite" should leap to the top of the differential diagnosis.  And I thought I remembered reading somewhere that meteorites were actually cold when they landed, not hot.  Found this at Cornell's Curious About Astronomy website:
Unfortunately, there really aren't very many meteors that are picked up directly after they've fallen, so it's hard to do good statistics on which ones are hot or cold. So far it seems that some of each have been found. For example, this FAQ lists reports of meteorites (compiled by Don Blakeslee of Wichita State University) that have been touched soon after they fell, and some people reported that the rock was hot, some that it was warm, and some that there was frost on the outside! These reports are all of a qualitative nature, usually based on the testimony of a small number of people.
More at the link.

"How'd that feal?"

When I saw this photo at the weekly Telegraph gallery, I was going to post it as an example of butchery of the English language, but after further reflection and examination of the caption -
Suzy Shameless, Tiki TimeBomb and Helga Von Beaterdown of the Atomic City Roller Girls take part in a women's flat track roller derby bout in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo credit Reuters)
- I decided the misspelling must be intentional.  A quick perusal of Suzy Shameless' page at the website for the Terminal City Rollergirls heightens my suspicion:
Diet: Bacon Cheeseburgers
Cat Power: irresistable charisma, vomits glitter
There are some other interesting bios there, which I don't have time to pursue now.

Addendum:  A clarification from an anonymous reader -
"Do not worry, Shameless was as horrified as you at the mis-spelling on her beloved belly. She always lets someone have the honour of inking her up, and this time it was one of the gals on the guest team from Tri-Cities, Washington. The American girl later said it was intentional, after multiple people pointed out the error... But rest assured that Suzy Shameless has an excellent grasp on the English language! The look on her face when she called me over in the changeroom to show me what had been done was one of pure disbelief."

"Three light years tall"

That's how NASA's Hubble Center describes this "pillar of gas and dust" that lies within the Carina Nebula.

I had to look up why the Carina Nebula was so named, because the word is used in a number of different settings.  In this case it was because the Carina constellation is located in the keel part of the Argo Navis constellation.

Wikipedia mentioned that a part of the Carina Nebula is called the Keyhole Nebula, and the photo of THAT is so interesting that I've posted part of it separately below!

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI).  Via.

The "Finger of God" nebula

Image cropped from a larger photo of the Keyhole Nebula, to show a smaller nebula colloquially called the "Finger of God."

Cannabis in alcohol

This, of course, was perfectly legal in its time.  And note the alcohol content - 74% (148 proof!).

From Historical Indulgences, via.

The Polish President's plane crash

This is how fake conspiracy theory is generated and propagated.

Several days after the plane carrying the president of Poland crashed, the video above was posted at YouTube; it shows people arriving at the crash scene and supposedly seeing strangers shooting the survivors of the crash.  The superimposed translations "explain" what is going on.

The video is then propagated at sites like this, where hundreds of comments are lodged re how the president was assassinated after the plane was sabotaged.

Now, cut to Reddit, where comments in the thread clarify that the subtitles on the video are totally inaccurate:
Ok, I think I'm starting to understand what they say. The part "give me a gun" is actually "get the fuck out of here". The part "don't kill me" I think is "you got not right to do that". My scenario is: the rescue team/ military arrive at the crash sight and see these guys walking around, possibly making a mess. Some guy says that we should get out of here, but other hesitate and the cameraman actually keeps walking forward. The military shout at them that they get the fuck out. One guy replies: you have no right to tell us that. The cameraman retreats. But others possibly hesitate. The military shoot in the air to show they are serious and the cameraman is like what the fuck. Hope that helps.
And yet, with this video "out there," it will continue to convince some gullible people that an assassination was successfully carried out.

Classic Roadrunner sequence

Via The Daily Dish.

Postmortem photo

We've discussed postmortem photos before. 

The original source may have been etsy, but I can't find it at that website now, via.

Addendum:  Several posts discussing postmortem photography are included at the Burns Archive.

Tibetan sky burial

Sky burial or ritual dissection was once a common funerary practice in Tibet wherein a human corpse is cut in specific locations and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements or the mahabhuta and animals – especially to birds of prey. The location of the sky burial preparation and place of execution are understood in the Vajrayana traditions as charnel grounds. In Tibet the practice is known as jhator (Tibetan: བྱ་གཏོར་; Wylie: bya gtor), which literally means, "giving alms to the birds."

The majority of Tibetans adhere to Buddhism, which teaches rebirth. There is no need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty vessel. Birds may eat it, or nature may let it decompose. So the function of the sky burial is simply the disposal of the remains. In much of Tibet the ground is too hard and rocky to dig a grave, and with fuel and timber scarce, a sky burial is often more practical than cremation.
An eminently practical solution, and one which does not distress me at all; I wouldn't mind my corpse undergoing the same fate.

I selected the photos from this set of about 70 photos.  I know there are some TYWKIWDBI visitors who are quite senstive to graphic images, so I will advise you that several of the other images in the set depict the preparation of the corpse before offering it to the vultures and the breaking of the skeletal bones midway through the process, and you may find these too intense.

Reddit has a discussion thread with a comparison to the Zoroastrian "tower of silence."  Some of the comments there are inappropriately juvenile, but there is also some useful information.

This is a giant tricycle. Obviously.

Photo via Black and WTF, via Sloth Unleashed, which appended the following backstory:
This giant tricycle was a promotional stunt, publicizing “VIM” tires made by the Boston Woven Hose and Rubber Company. In 1895 ten men rode it 37 miles from Nashua to Concord, New Hampshire, to take part in the Merchant’s Week Bicycle Parade; not that it was strictly speaking a bicycle.

The wheels were 11.5 ft in diameter and it weighed 1900 pounds, presumably including the crew. Apparently it terrified all the horses it met, and an advance party was required to throw blankets over the heads of said horses to stop them bolting.

The last leaf on a tree may hold a treasure...

... if your definition of "treasure" includes a cocoon or a chrysalis of a moth or butterfly.  I was walking in a park several weeks ago, prior to the spring leaf-out, and noticed the above rather anomalous appearance of an aspen twig, which had a dead leaf still attached.  Some trees (notably oaks) exhibit marcescence, but not aspens, so I took a closer look.

Here is the same twig/leaf viewed from the other side...
... and you can see the cocoon nestled in to its well-disguised hidey-hole.  I brought it home and put it out on the screen porch hoping to see the inhabitant eclose this spring, but I don't have very high hopes because I think that small gap in the silk at the top represents the site of emergence of a parasitic wasp.  Butterflies and moths are primary prey for a variety of wasps, both while caterpillars and while in their pupae.  I think a wasp found this cocoon before I did. 

Click to enlarge the photos.  Can anyone offer an suggestion re the species?

Memento Mori from 1620

Can you guess what this object was used for?

It's a ceramic (?porcelain) forearm with an embedded jewel and an attached golden skull and sickle.

It's obviously a memento mori, but what practical purpose did it serve?

Answer at the source (in Cyrillic), or at Titam (in French), or in the comments.

Mapping support for the Tea Party

PBS posted the map above, which shows where people have registered with Tea Party organizations.
The geographic snapshot: According to tea party member databases, there are roughly 67,000 members in counties across America, but the biggest producers of tea-party members in Patchwork Nation, per capita, are the "Boom Town" counties. These places experienced rapid growth around 2000 - and the worst part of the housing crash that followed.

That list of members does not include people who say they sympathize with the tea parties or their goals. Adding in those people would swell the group's ranks and possibly change its geographic distribution.

But the numbers suggest a few things. First, the tea party movement, despite the large amount of coverage it has received, is probably not the force that media outlets have portrayed it as - at least not yet. Second, the places it is most strongly tied to tend to lean Republican and have been hit hard economically in recent years.
Much more discussion and analysis at PBS.

Atypical Tea Party supporter

Barbara Ann Nowak at a Chicago Tea Party rally.
Last week when I posted a report about a Tea Party supporter with ten children who was the recipient of Medicaid funds, I was roundly criticized for choosing an unrepresentative example of the Tea Party constitutency.  So this week I will go out of my way to emphasize that the woman in the photo above is NOT a typical Tea Party member.

Photo credit AP, via The Telegraph.

Is this a real cemetery?

Everyone knows this iconic standoff scene from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  I'm posting it to ask if anyone knows whether this is a real graveyard (Confederate or otherwise), or whether the whole magnificent site is just an imaginary film studio creation.

Addendum:  Hat tip to Mademoiselle Titam, who was the first to reply:
"It is not a real cemetary. The movie was shot in Spain, in the Almeria desert; 250 soldiers built the cemetery and its 10 000 tombes in 2 days (!!!)"
Second addendum: The location is here (found by Stray Snippets).

"Pebbles confused in these letters. pls study her."

A note from a teacher to a parent.

The "Food Inc." documentary

This controversial film aired on our PBS channel this week.  Embedded above are the first ten minutes of the movie; you will know before it's half over whether or not it interests you, and if so, you can check it out from your library or see the other 9 videos at YouTube.

Here is the Reddit discussion thread, which links to this report at Green Change:
President Obama announced that he will recess appoint Islam A. Siddiqui to the position of Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.  Siddiqui is a pesticide lobbyist and Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, an agribusiness lobbying group that represents Monsanto.

Clever vanity license plate

Cropped from original.

The damage to Apollo 13

"After an oxygen tank exploded and crippled their service module, the Apollo 13 astronauts were forced to abandon plans to make the third manned lunar landing. The extent of the damage is revealed in this grainy, grim photo, taken as the service module was drifting away, jettisoned only hours prior to the command module's reentry and splashdown. An entire panel on the side of the service module has been blown away and extensive internal damage is apparent."
I have seen the movie, but this photo is new to me.  Wow.

Text and photo via APOD.

Time-lapse orthodontics

Via Titam et le Sirop d'Erable.

This is a "peruke head"

I found the photo without context at nrkn.  At first glance it looked like a joke photo with someone's knitting placed on the mounted deer head, but then I decided it must be some kind of proliferative growth.

A quick search led me to Shooting Times, which had an article about a "perruque head."  That suggested "peruke head" which would use the French term for a wig, which finally led me to an article at The Anchorage Press which described the condition in a moose:
Knobby's odd antlers are due to a “testosterone issue” - a hormone deficiency that was most likely caused by a birth defect. Knobby's condition, sometimes called “Peruke Head,” can also be caused by old age, which lowers testosterone, or by accidental castration...

Normally, when moose start growing back their antlers in summer, the antlers are covered in a velvet-like skin and are very fragile. When the antlers reach full size for the year and it's time for the rut, they harden and lose the skin.

Knobby's antlers have grown little by little every year, but they're severely deformed. His lack of testosterone means he doesn't have a trigger to tell his antlers when to fall off and when to harden. His antlers are continually soft. As Knobby trots around the city, he's constantly damaging them. Layers of scar tissue have grown over his injured antlers. They look like big, squishy knobs, hence his name.
So we wind up with a handy insult you can hurl at someone if you want to accuse him of behaving as though he were testosterone deficient.

Kicking off National Pickle Week

National Pickle [ten-day] Week.  Via Black and WTF.  Original photo credit unknown.

Fordham baseball player jumps over catcher to score

All you need to see is about the first 30 seconds of the video, since there is no slo-mo or replay.  Background details here.

Rapunzel's apartment

"The exhibition 'Time Reversa' explores childhood memory and how time shapes those memories and continues until April 24, 2010."

Found at the Telegraph.  Photo credit Reuters.

The Cirque Du Soleil's "Wheel of Death"

It starts slowly, but gets better towards the end.

It's not speed per se that kills

Bridget Driscoll received instant notoriety when she stepped off the kerb and into the history books on August 17th 1896. Mrs Driscoll, a 44 year old housewife, who was travelling from Old Town, Croydon to a folk-dancing display in Crystal Palace, became the first pedestrian in the UK to be killed by a car.

Mrs Driscoll, a resident of Croydon, was hit by a demonstration car travelling at 4mph. She died within minutes of receiving a head injury.

At Mrs Driscoll's inquest, Coroner William Percy Morrison said he hoped that "such a thing would never happen again" and was the first to apply the term "accident" to violence caused by speed. Coroners across the country have followed his example ever since.

Witnesses said that the car, driven by Arthur Edsel, was travelling at a reckless pace, in fact, like a fire engine. Mr Edsel claimed that he had only been doing 4 mph and that he had rung his bell as a warning. The jury took six hours to reach a verdict that Mrs. Driscoll had died of accidental death.
Found at The Shady Old Lady's, via.

Why does he lisp? No teeth!

Found at The Frustrated Teacher.

Addendum:  And a related cartoon, also via The Frustrated Teacher, who apparently feels the same way about Goldman that I do.

Gas mask bling

Credit this one to Mexican designer Gianfranco Reni.

Found at The Telegraph.  Photo credit AP.

"420" explained

Since April 20 (4/20) occurred this past week, there were many references to "420" that may have seemed obscure.  Here is the context:
420, 4:20 or 4/20 refers to consumption of cannabis and, by extension, a way to identify oneself with cannabis subculture... The term was coined from a group of teenagers at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, United States in 1971.  The teens would meet after school at 4:20 p.m. to smoke marijuana outside the school.

The third Xanax proved to be too much for Sarah...

A most curious composition (Jove decadent, Ramon Casas, 1899).

Found at Up With The Stars, via.

Young voters are not afraid of socialism

Boston.com has an interesting article about how the youngest voters in America do not share their parents' and grandparents' fears of socialism.
But it’s not that the youngest voters don’t know what socialism means. It’s that most aren’t scared of it — and find it bizarre that, decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a political movement would center itself around opposition to it. The fact that both the tea party and the Republican Party have made vociferous opposition to “socialist’’ policies a key part of their rhetoric helps explain the tepid response among young adults.

Republican strategists see short-term advantages in the tea party movement’s passion. But if conservatives can’t wean themselves off of Cold-War-era rhetoric, they risk alienating an entire generation of young people. The tea party is well on its way to doing just that. A recent New York Times/CBS News survey found that three-quarters of the movement’s supporters were older than 45...

And if the health care reform bill actually were socialist? He shrugged off that concern. “Socialism itself isn’t terrible,’’ he said, unless it involves the abrogation of individual rights...
Here's the key sentence, which I think explains it all:
Young people grew up in a post-Soviet world. When they hear “socialism,’’ they think Scandinavia, not Russia.

Two charts of economic trends

"A study by Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, who created this chart, illustrates that by 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available), the share of total income going to the top ten percent of the population soared to highs not seen since the Great Depression -- and then exceeded them."

"Beginning in the 1990s, Wall Street bonuses began to take off, and were downright astronomical by 2006. And even when Wall-Street bonuses dipped during the financial crisis, they still did not, according to this chart, come anywhere near worker's annual salary."

Charts and text found at The Huffington Post (where there are additional related charts).

Tea Party mocker misspells "y'all"

Huffington Post has a gallery of what they call "fake teabagger signs," where I found the one above.  He was trying to cite a common meme from a Maury Povitch show, but misplaced his apostrophe.  "Y'all" is an abbreviation for "you all," but he seems to have confused it with "you'll" and "they'll."

Academics argue whether the "you" in "y'all" is implicitly plural.  Some say it is, but when I lived in Texas (and to a lesser extent in Kentucky), "y'all" was often used when addressing a single person.  When addressing a group and intending to address all of them, the term would be modified to "all y'all."

I wonder how her face looked before it was adjusted

This 1853 painting by William Holman Hunt depicts a young woman rising from a man's lap - but there's more to the story:
Initially the painting would appear to be one of a momentary disagreement between husband and wife, or brother and sister, but the title and a host of symbols within the painting make it clear that this is a mistress and her lover. The woman's clasped hands provide a focal point and the position of her left hand emphasizes the absence of a wedding ring. Around the room are dotted reminders of her "kept" status and her wasted life: the cat beneath the table toying with a bird; the clock concealed under glass; a tapestry which hangs unfinished on the piano; the threads which lie unravelled on the floor; the print of Frank Stone's Cross Purposes on the wall; Edward Lear's musical arrangement of Tennyson's poem "Tears, Idle Tears" which lies discarded on the floor, and the music on the piano, Thomas Moore's "Oft in the Stilly Night", the words of which speak of missed opportunities and sad memories of a happier past. The woman's discarded glove and the man's top hat thrown on the table top suggest a hurried assignation. The room is too cluttered and gaudy to be in a Victorian family home; the bright colours, unscuffed carpet, and pristine, highly-polished furniture speak of a room recently furnished for a mistress.
Personally, I don't find it to be a particularly attractive or interesting painting, except for this next part of the story:
The look on the girl's face in the modern painting is not the look of pain and horror that viewers saw when the painting was first exhibited, and which shocked and repulsed many of the contemporary critics. The painting was bought by Thomas Fairbairn, a Manchester industrialist and patron of the Pre-Raphaelites, but he found himself unable to bear looking on the woman's expression day-to-day, so persuaded Hunt to soften it. Hunt started work but fell ill and allowed the painting to be returned to Fairbairn before he was completely happy with the result.
More at Wikipedia, via.

Volcanic lightning

Everyone has been posting photos of Eyjafjallajökull this week, so this obviously isn't a TYWK, but this is the best one I've seen, and the image is so beautiful that I want to store it in the blog.  This was the Astronomy Photo of the Day.

Recent Neatorama posts

So you think you have good eyes and good perceptual skills?  Think you can distinguish a spiral from a set of concentric circles?  No, you can't.

Sperm race around inside the female genital tract.  You can follow their progress if you use a fluorescent tag to mark some of them red and some of them green.  It looks like a totally bizarre Christmas ornament.

It's a truism that life cannot exist without water.  But life may be able to pass through a totally dehydrated state and return when water is reapplied.  A Cambridge University scientist demonstrates the alien-like abilities of the rotifer.

Remember Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men)?  If he played golf, this is the club he would use - it has an explosive charge inside the clubhead...

Some people argue (not illogically) that income tax records should be public information (bottom lines, not details).  It was actually done that way in the 1920s.

Outsourcing - coming to universities and colleges near you.  Teachers can now outsource the grading of student papers.  Don't like it?  Would you prefer that the teacher not assign any written papers because he/she doesn't have time to read it?  It's a complex problem.

You can make music with a vinyl tube and a mouthpiece; you don't need all those metal parts.

The post office has Automated Postal Centers that print up stamps on demand for you, with the date of printing on the stamp.  In certain circumstances that knowledge might prove useful.

The turtle ant is a "living door."  When you see his head, you will understand how/why.

Here's a very strange photograph made with a pinhole camera.  I'll bet a nickel you can't guess what the bright lights behind the house are.

This photo shows the awesome power of an earthquake.

I posted the Ross Sisters performing Solid Potato Salad last year, but found a better quality YouTube video of their act.  In case you have forgotten, they are singing acrobatic contortionist sisters with abs you would die for.

An ancient Roman coffin is shaped like a burrito.  No one knows why. 

A sculpture representing the Virgin Mary is shaped in the most curious way.

Earthworms communicate by touch and travel in herds.  And after reading that, you can watch the famous "cat herding" commercial.

If you've ever pushed a rotary lawn mower, you've had to clean grass out from the area under the deck around the blade.  But yours never looked like this.

Video of a dog leading police to the site of a burning house.   A cat would have just headed to the neighbors looking for a new source of food.

Homemade snowmobiles in Russia.

A huge computerized baggage carousel sorts books at the NYPL.

If/when you use a public photocopier, consider covering up sensitive information (social security number etc, which you presumably can remember without having it on your copy) because the photocopier may store the photo of your document, and it might fall into the wrong hands if the machine's hard drive is not wiped before it is resold.

When cars hit wild boars, both lose.

As always, for the relevant photos you need to go to the Neatorama links.  The ones embedded above show our newly-eclosed luna moth (and his magnificent pheromone-detecting antennae) and some bluebells and grape hyacinth in our garden.

Sunday Smorgasbord

With baseball season underway, this is a good time to recall a Cincinnati Reds player who in 2004 hit a baseball into an adjoining state.

Our state has been besieged by meteorite hunters this week after one lit up the skies and crashed here.  Part of the interest is scientific, and part of it is financial, because meteorites can be sold for $2 - $8 per gram.

A split-belt treadmill has been developed; the left side and right side can move at different speeds.  It's not as crazy as it sounds; it was created for the rehabilitation of stroke patients who have a weak leg that doesn't take a full stride length.

Jerusalem Post reports that the week following Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day), Israel implemented a law requiring Palestinians to show their papers or be deported; some wags are calling this Holocaust Irony Week.

If you bank online, you are at risk from the Zeus banking virus.  It is a keystroke-logger that has infected about one out of every 3,000 computers.

An editorial at the Guardian expresses the somewhat-fringe(y) but widely believed opinion that the world financial meltdown was not the result of innocent accidental mistakes, but rather part of a global con game.

A concise piece on the SEC's case accusing Goldman Sachs of financial fraud.

A store in California was found to be selling food after its expiration date.  Way after the expiration date.  Way, WAY after the expiration date.  Some items had expiration dates from 10-15 years ago.  Note, this is NOT illegal.  Caveat emptor.

Several reports this week about a newly recognized fungus (a type of Cryptococcus) which is "thriving" in Oregon and spreading to other states.  Unlike conventional crypto, this one infects normal people.  Other reports suggest it is more of a curiosity than a threat.  Time will tell.

Some of you will remember when the Please Rob Me website was launched to bring to people's attention the risks they run by postiing their activities on social networking sites.  Now some insurance companies are indicating that they may raise homeowner's insurance rates for Facebook and Twitter users.

I believe I've posted the "Pale Blue Dot" video before.  Gizmodo has it now, along with full text of Carl Sagan's narrative.

Pepsico, maker of Frito-Lay potato chips, is redesigning the salt crystal.  Apparently they are going to make it plate-like rather than the conventional cubic shape, so that it will dissolve more quickly in the mouth and not be swallowed undissolved.  If that works, it may be possible to impart the same "saltiness" to chips while ingesting less salt overall.  More details at Popsci.

A brief video shows why ibex have curved horns.

Bohemian Rhapsody covered by P!nk.

Photo credit LandLearn NSW.

The Sutherland Sisters

Via Love Dance of the Saroos.

A big hat tip to Dan, who identified the young ladies in the photo as the "Sutherland Sisters."  The seven of them had a combined hair length of 37 feet.  Additional group and individual photos are assembled at The Hidden Secrets.

19 April 2010

Children in 1952 and 1960

The post below this one was a little too grim to be the final item of the night, so I'll add one more entry from Shorpy - this set of two photos of schoolchildren all born the same year I was (1946).  The upper photo is from 1952 when they began school, the lower one from 1960 when they became teenagers.

I'm always fascinated by looking at faces.  I highly recommend viewing these photos in the fullscreen versions here:  children in 1952 and children in 1960.

I have no comments to offer.  It's just an interesting pair of photos.

The tragic death of Neda

For my final post tonight, I'm going to wade into territory that I'm only marginally familiar with, because of an item which will certainly be controversial.

Neda Agha-Soltan died during the protests against the Iranian government last summer.  She has subsequently become an icon in the ongoing opposition to President Ahmadinejad.  The circumstances and details surrounding her death are summarized relatively objectively on her Wikipedia entry and at the Los Angeles Times.

Iranian state television has issued a documentary report suggesting that Neda's apparent death on the street was faked.  Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty summarizes the report as follows:
The state-television documentary suggests the video of Neda's dying moments merely depicted her pouring blood on her own face from a special bottle she was carrying. Later, the documentary alleges that 27-year-old Neda was shot dead in the car that was taking her to a hospital...

Neda is portrayed in the documentary as a foreign agent who became the victim of a plot orchestrated by foreigners and opposition supporters...

The documentary alleges that Arash Hejazi, the writer and physician who treated Neda as she lay bleeding on a Tehran street, as well as her music teacher who was with her at the protest, were members of a team that carried out the plot...

On January 6, Iran's ambassador to Bahrain, Hossein Amir Abdullahyan, told "The Nation" that groups from Britain and the United States infiltrated the opposition movement and carried out assassinations among its ranks.
The video above was posted this past week at Milwaukee's Examiner, where it is accompanied by a rather vehement diatribe.  PressTV is Iran's English language television network, so I assume this video segment comes from the documentary referred to by Radio Free Europe.

I've watched the video many times, and I'll admit it does look like she pours blood onto her face.  I don't agree that the bystander saying "squeeze it" is suspicious - he's probably telling the rescuers to compress the presumptive chest wound.  But I find the image of the left hand holding the ?bottle to be unusual because the position of the fingers suggest that the bottle is pointing from the bottom of the hand, which would be a most unusual orientation.  The photo of her bloody face is a little atypical for a penetrating chest wound in that blood exiting from the lungs would typically be foamy;  this seems to be "welling up" as an esophageal bleed would do.

I'm not taking a position; just posting the video for information and because "conspiracy theory" is always interesting.

Addendum:  I haven't been able to get this video out of my mind ever since I posted it, and I've suddenly realized what is inconsistent.  This screencap -
supposedly shows the blood after she poured it on her face.  But you can't pour blood like that - to have it IN the nosrils and NOT on the lips, nasal septum or outer edges of the nostrils.  That blood HAS to be issuing from inside the nose.  And from where the rescuers were applying pressure to her chest, I would guess the entrance wound was in the central sternum/mediastinal region, so she probably has a major vessel now communicating with her esophagus.  The "bottle" in her hand may have been 'shopped by authorities, or they are misinterpreting some other item.

"Goldman Sachs are Scum"

For this blog I have a category entitled "rants" which currently has about a hundred items that either I rant about (or am just upset about), or where I post well-done rants by others that I agree with.

The video above fits in the latter category.  Max Keiser is a broadcaster and financial pundit who in this video interview gives holy Hell to Goldman Sachs, asking how they are different from Osama bin Laden?
“They are literally stealing a hundred million dollars a day. Goldman Sachs is stealing every day on the floor of the exchange. They should be in the Hague, they should be taken on financial terrorism charges. They should all be thrown in jail”
This tirade apparently was broadcast on French television; you will never hear anything like it on an American news channel.

And note this interview was dated July 16 of last year - WAY before the current accusations of securities fraud.

Originally posted by Matt Taibbi at The Smirking Chimp.

Maps of murder scenes

Years ago I read lots of mysteries in paperback (all the Agatha Christies and the John Dickson Carrs/Carter Dicksons), and I used to love it when the publisher included a map of the murder scene.  A number of such maps have been assembled at the links below.

Credit to Marble River's Ephemera, via Strange Maps.

18 April 2010

The mindless (il)logic of a Tea Party enthusiast

Early yesterday morning, Valerie and Rob Shirk corralled their 10 home-schooled children into their van for the 2 1/2-hour drive from their home in Connecticut to Boston, arriving just in time to hear Sarah Palin denounce government-run health care at the tea party movement rally on Boston Common.

They thought it would be a learning opportunity for their children, who range in age from 9 months to 15 years old and who held up signs criticizing the government for defying the “will of the people.’’

“The problem in this country is that too many people are looking for handouts,’’ said Valerie Shirk, 43, of Prospect, Conn. “I agree with the signs that say, ‘Share my father’s work ethic — not his paycheck.’ We have to do something about the whole welfare mentality in this country...’’

The couple, who rely on Medicaid for their health care, were also upset about the nation’s new health reforms.

When asked why her family used state-subsidized health care when she criticized people who take handouts, Valerie Shirk said she did not want to stop having children, and that her husband’s income was not enough to cover the family with private insurance.

“I know there’s a dichotomy because of what we get from the state,’’ she said. “But I just look at each of my children as a blessing.’’

Text from Boston.com via Reddit.


Boy, that looks like fun...  Too bad it didn't last longer...

Via the new shelton wet/dry.

"Angel lust" immortalized in bronze

"Angel lust" is postmortem priapism, typically seen in males who have died via strangulation.  That process appears to be depicted in the Parisian monument to Victor Noir.
A life-size bronze statue was sculpted by Jules Dalou to mark his grave, portrayed in a realistic style as though he had just fallen on the street, dropping his hat which is depicted beside him. The sculpture has a very noticeable protuberance in Noir's trousers. This has made it one of the most popular memorials for women to visit in the famous cemetery. Myth says that placing a flower in the upturned top hat after kissing the statue on the lips and rubbing its genital area will enhance fertility, bring a blissful sex life, or, in some versions, a husband within the year. As a result of the legend, those particular components of the oxidized bronze statue are rather well-worn.
You learn something every day.

Photo credit to Gyrus, via Futility Closet.

Asthma cigarettes

Asthma cigarettes were real and -- theoretically -- effective bronchodilators.  I've not seen the cigarettes, but when I first moved from Texas to Lexington, Kentucky in 1978, a local pharmacy there had on the shelf a product called "Dr. R. Schiffmann's Asthmador" which claimed "to relieve the distress of bronchial asthmatic paroxysms."  The directions say to put a half- to one teaspoon of the powder on a plate and ignite it ("allow sulphur to burn off match") and inhale the vapor or smoke into the lungs.

The active ingredients are stramonium and belladonna, both of which are anticholinergic bronchodilators, but the problem of course would be that the combusion process creates so many other byproducts that are bronchoconstrictors that the resultant inhalation would be a chancy process.

Erowid offers the following comments re the CNS effects:
Asthmador, a physically fine powder, is a nonprescription mixture of belladonna and stramonium; the directions on the package state that the powder is to be burned and the smoke inhaled to relieve bronchial asthma. The mixture contains between .23 percent and .31 percent alkaloids... The patient stated he took no particular care in measuring out one and one-half tea- spoons; he probably ingested between eight and 12 and perhaps as much as 20 mg of hyoscyamine. The description of atropine toxicity in this dosage range includes hyperpyrexia, accelerated pulse, mydriasis, confusion, delirium. hallucinations, exaltation, and bizarre neurological symptoms(2, 5).

Datura stramonium (one of the ingredients of Asthmador), of which hyoscyamine is the principal alkaloid, was used in the Middle Ages in demonology, and to evoke hallucinations. It was smoked by the Arabs and Swahili of East Africa and in the Bengal legion of India in recent times. It has been ingested in the Darien and Choco regions of the Americas, by the Aztecs and by Indian tribes in the southeastern and western United States to evoke hallucinations and for religious and ceremonial purposes...
Image via My Ear-Trumpet Has Been Struck By Lightning.

Saving you a trip to the Museum of Modern Art

If the subject interests you, I recommend watching full-screen (perhaps muting the repetitive audio).  It's too bad there's not a "slow" speed option.

"Data rape" - Can you disappear in "surveillance Britain" ?

A young British man hires detectives to try to locate him and then tries to "disappear."
Back in January last year, David Bond packed a rucksack, kissed his pregnant wife Katie and toddler Ivy, climbed into his Toyota Prius and drove away from home. Nobody knew where he was going – he didn’t even know himself. One thing he was sure about was this: “I’m going to leave my life behind and disappear,” he said...

He “became obsessed”, Katie remembers, about the amount of information on him and his family that was already out there. As he looked into it, he found that the UK, once a bastion of freedom and civil liberties, is now one of the most advanced surveillance societies in the world, ranked third after Russia and China. The average UK adult is now registered on more than 700 databases and is caught many times each day by nearly five million CCTV cameras. Increasingly monitored, citizens are being turned into suspects. Within 100 yards of Bond’s home, he discovered, there were no fewer than 200 cameras...

“A lot of people are giving information away voluntarily,” says Gowlett. “Look how many young children are giving up their whole lives on Facebook and Twitter – everything, their date of birth, the names of relatives and friends, where they live, when they’re going on holiday and what their political views are.

“People should think carefully how data is going to be used. Some are careful enough to opt out of the electoral roll, but when they have a baby and a nappy company comes round they give every piece of information they’re asked for. And that will be used to tie up with other databases.” Databases such as Tesco’s, which holds information on virtually every adult in the country, regardless of where they shop. 
More details at the Times.

I have a question about a bird's nest

I encountered this nest while hiking last October.  The view above shows it as it appeared from the trail - long abandoned, with residual ?feathers/down or perhaps ?thistledown still present on the top.  In terms of size it was about equal to two clenched fists, and was located about five feet above the ground in south-central Wisconsin.

My puzzlement began when I walked to the other side of the nest and saw this:
There is clearly a hole in the side of the nest away from the trail.  I had assumed that the nesting area was on top, but this cavity looks like the true nest (I didn't dissect it to see what was inside).

I'm not a "birder," so perhaps someone out there can enlighten me re the species of bird that constructed this.  It's probably a common nest structure, but I just haven't seen one like this before.  Or is the hole a secondary access created by another critter/bird in an abandoned nest?

(Click pix to enlarge).

From "sideshow freak" to "person of Walmart"

"This is Chauncy Morlan, and around 100 years ago his obesity was so shocking that people would pay money to see him as he toured the country as a circus “fat man”. I find the unremarkableness of his size to be a telling sign of how we’ve pushed the limits of obesity in the past 100 years."

Text and photo from Modeled Behavior.

Addendum:  This post has garnered a lot of attention this week, for whatever reason.  I'd like to clarify for the newcomers to this blog that the purpose of this particular post was NOT to make fun of or otherwise disparage obesity - the point is to note how the cultural response to obesity has changed in just a couple generations.

 And yes, I do know that some biographies refer to Mr. Morlan as weighing 600+ pounds.  You need to understand that those data come from circus and sideshow promotional pamphlets; if you believe such things, you must be a Sarah Palin supporter.  It is also possible that he did weigh 600# at some point in his career, but in the photo above he's nowhere near that (prob 420 max), and that photo is a promotional piece supporting his career in the sideshow.

Income and taxes of America's 400 richest households

Data from the IRS, via NPR and Yglesias.

Sim City to the max -- 6 million residents

My wife gave me Sim City back in 1990, shortly after it was released.  I've created some interesting cities since then, but never anything like the "Magnasanti" shown in this video.

For anyone familiar with the game, this is a jaw-dropping creation achieved by tesselating a smaller pattern.  It's entirely subway-dependent, so no land is used for transportation (impractical in real life, but permitted by the AI of the game engine).  Zero pollution.  Zero crime.

There's a lot here I don't understand, but I am certainly impressed.

Via Reddit, where the video is discussed.

"The Foot of the Artist"

An oil painting by Adolph Menzel, completed in 1876.  Menzel may have been considered "one of the two most prominent German artists of the 19th century," but this particular painting of his I'll file in the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot category.

Source, via It # π.

A challenging vocabulary test

Michael Spear, an Associate Professor in a Journalism Program came up with "The Journalists' Vocabulary Challenge" for his copy editing students - a "random list of words that journalists might know or might want to know. They represent no standard. Take a minute and see how well you do, whether you are a journalist or not."

The background and rationale for the quiz is explained here.  I tried it a few nights ago and scored 90/100.  I missed fulsome, insouciance, cavil, panache, ululate, mordant, feckless, sophistry, sinecure, and one other I can't remember.

The test is "self-scoring" with little smiley-faces for a correct guess and an "X" for an incorrect one.

The quiz itself is HERE.  Via Kottke.

Some interesting emancipated slaves

From an article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehishi Coates, who provides the following explication re the photo:
In honor of Confederate History Month, I present a group of emancipated Louisiana slaves. The following letter was written by Colonel George Hanks, who commanded a Union Corps composed entirely of black troops. Hanks was attempting to raise money for the education of freed slaves...

Rebecca Huger is eleven years old, and was a slave in her father's house, the special attendant of a girl a little older than herself. To all appearance she is perfectly white. Her complexion, hair, and features show not the slightest trace of negro blood...

Rosina Downs is not quite seven years old. She is a fair child, with blonde complexion and silky hair. Her father is in the rebel army. She has one sister as white as herself, and three brothers who are darker...

Charles Taylor is eight years old. His complexion is very fair, his hair light and silky. Three out of five boys in any school in New York are darker than he. Yet this white boy, with his mother, as he declares, has been twice sold as a slave.

These three children, to all appearance of unmixed white race, came to Philadelphia last December, and were taken by their protector, Mr. Bacon, to the St. Lawrence Hotel on Chestnut Street. Within a few hours, Mr. Bacon informed me, he was notified by the landlord that they must therefore be colored persons, and he kept a hotel for white people. From this hospitable establishment the children were taken to the "Continental," where they were received without hesitation. 
Much more at The Atlantic.
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