Fear of death: It’s what makes you go shopping
“Materialistic people tend to form strong connections to particular product brands when their level of anxiety about death is high…”
Even women don’t know what women want
In tests measuring sexual arousal, “men’s minds and genitals were in agreement” — they were aroused by what they claimed to find arousing. But with women, it’s a different story altogether…
The Swedish solution
As the US struggles to keep its financial sector afloat, the government seems intent on ignoring a precedent that offers an effective solution: Follow in the footsteps of Sweden in the early 1990s, nationalize the banks, and create a ‘bad bank,’ the place where toxic assets go to die…
A fake economy, 2001-2008
The conventional wisdom states that the Great Recession began last year, when banks collapsed due to bad mortgage debt. But for the true causes, you have to dig deeper, back to the recession of 2001-2002, from which we never really recovered… ALSO: Is drug money keeping teetering banks afloat?
Do we need a con artist to run the American economy?
“Instead of an easily duped, incompetent weasel like Geithner for Secretary of the Treasury, what we really need is a lying bucket of evil snot, a flaming red take-no-prisoners asshole. A guy like [John] Thain [who] can sell a piece of crap like [Merrill Lynch] for billions — twice — is just what we need to shake down the sheiks…”
The war everyone lost
‘”The war between George W Bush and Osama Bin Laden defeated both of its protagonists,’ Gilles Kepel writes. The conflict, however, is unlikely to end while both sides see advantages in the posturing that comes with a perpetual battle with evil…”
Sexual perversions of your favorite belletrists
Byron was a nympho, Yeats had performance issues, Fitzgerald had a foot fetish, and Wilde, where to begin with Wilde…
Poe, two hundred years on
“Early detractors failed to share [Poe's] vision and accused him of merely aping Gothic thrillers penned by German authors. Poe would have none of it: ‘I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul — that I have deduced this terror only from its legitimate sources, and urged it only to its legitimate results’…”
All in the engineered family
Controlling family size is a totalitarian notion that could only happen in a place like China, right? Wrong. Just look at the Phillippines, and France…
To: Sir Richard Branson, Re: Service on Virgin Airlines
“Look at this Richard. Just look at it. I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And which one is the starter, which one is the desert?”
Peace in the Middle East? Never
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti “was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Jerusalem and worked in a hospital there for fourteen years. Four years ago he moved to a town just ten miles away, but now, because he no longer lives in Jerusalem, he can’t get back in - ever.” It’s just a symptom of the problems that all lead to one conclusion: The two-state solution is dead… ALSO: One measurable effect of the Gaza war: Israel has never been so isolated…
Al Jazeera wins the Gaza war
If the war in Gaza has had one measurable effect, it’s Al Jazeera’s skyrocketing viewership in America…
Pray the logic away
2,200 years ago, Archimedes came closer to inventing calculus than anyone would have thought possible. That knowledge was lost for two millennia because someone took Archimedes’ early calculus works and scribbled prayers over them…
Extraterrestrial weather report: It’s snowing on Mars…
From Gallery 1988, a collection of watercolors inspired by cult movies…
And finally: Kurt Vonnegut motivational posters (Caveat: They’re not very motivational)
And finally finally: Breaking News: Chipotle employee just gave the guy in front of you more rice…
“America seems less identifiably itself with his loss, its face in the mirror deprived of his silver luster…”
“Caught on the margins of a changing morality, unable to forget the old pieties and taboos and yet unable to resist the 60s promise of sex without consequences,” Updike’s heroes are men who “vacillate between duty and self-fulfillment, a craving for roots and hungering after freedom…”
“A John Updike is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, if that generation is lucky: so comfortable in so many genres, the same lively, generous intelligence suffusing all he did…”
“He wrote everything—poetry, criticism, novels, essays—but I love his short stories best. I love how confidently he dismissed plot in his stories, depending on that more enigmatic and amorphous device of shape. I love how he made the ordinary beautiful, and the typically beautiful vaguely grotesque. It was his untiring mission to make us see the world anew…”
Updike’s first-ever piece in the New Yorker was a poem, about the day when Rolls met Royce…
“He could take the fruits of high culture — obscure philosophy, art history, sociological scraps — and translate it, for a wide audience, into little miracles of focused thought, all written in an elegant verbal music…”
Updike on the economic crisis: “My secret hope is that if it is a [new] depression, everyone will start voting Democratic again!”
So we close Gitmo. Then what?
As the Obama administration prepares to close Guantanamo, stories are beginning to appear everywhere about former Gitmo inmates turning recidivist — as many as sixty-one of them have reportedly returned to terrorism. Is Obama making a mistake, or is it all a bunch of propaganda?
One day soon, you DVD player will be made of wood
One of the biggest problems posed by the coming end of oil supplies is how to replace plastics, which are petroleum-based products. Researchers in Germany think they may have a solution: Liquid wood…
Nationalized in all but name
“Washington remains deathly afraid of the N-word — nationalization. The truth is that [America's major banks] are already wards of the state, utterly dependent on taxpayer support; but nobody wants to recognize that fact and implement the obvious solution: an explicit, though temporary, government takeover…”
Wall Street bankers
They lied, they lied, and they lied. Now, they could go to jail…
Is America afraid of what it preaches?
“At bottom, this abhorrence of competition and change are the common theme that binds together the near death of the American car industry, the collapse of the credit market, the implosion of the housing market, the SEC’s disastrous negligence, the Madoff Ponzi scheme, and the other economic catastrophes of recent months…”
How bankrupt is Britain?
The UK government is contemplating paying companies to move to a three-day work week…
How bankrupt is California?
So bankrupt that, starting next month, the state’s poorest will lose their welfare checks…
Going down in flames
“Like the pairs of foxes in the biblical story of Samson, tied together by their tails, a flaming torch between them, so Israel and the Palestinians - despite the imbalance of power - drag each other along…”
The crime that dare not speak its name
“His final estimate, from that initial study, was that seventy five percent of all SIDS cases are actually homicides. But, he admitted, just acknowledging this possibility puts us in an awful dilemma. To catch the three out of four women whose babies suddenly die that were actually murderers, we have to treat all SIDS cases as potential homicides, therefore piling yet more heartbreak and tragedy on the one out of four who just randomly went through the worst tragedy any family can know…”
The mystery of an astronomer’s death I
Geneticists are working to solve three puzzles about Galileo Galilei: How could a blind man be an astronomer? Did that blindness lead him to error? And who was that woman buried with him?
The mystery of an astronomer’s death II
Was the astronomer Tycho Brahe poisoned by the King of Denmark? Was that the inspiration for Hamlet?
Britain’s silly countryside
Would you stay at a B&B in Crapstone? How about moving out to the country, to a little cottage in Penistone? What would your friends think if you told them you come from Ugley?
And the war goes on
Barack Obama’s first military action: Missile strikes in Pakistan that left eighteen dead…
The new mind control
The Internet has been great for freedom of speech, but governments are learning how to use it to shape consciousness. On the internet, there is already “no sex in Saudi Arabia, no Holocaust denials in Australia, no shocking images of war dead in Germany, no insults to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey…”
Drugs have won the war on drugs. You know that, right?
What has the “war on drugs” gotten us? A militarized police, the evisceration of the rule of law, overcrowded prisons, a messed up foreign policy, and oh yeah, lots and lots of collateral damage…
Crazy like a fox
Psychopaths are two-and-a-half times as likely as other inmates to get early parole…
The dark side was once light
Four billion years ago, something collided with the moon, causing it to flip one hundred and eighty degrees…
And finally: Post-modernism has made it impossible to tell if you really are standing in your high school without any clothes…
From enemy of the United States to New York Times columnist
Strangely, the New York Times has run an opinion column by Muammar Qaddafi — yes, that Qaddafi — in which he argues for a one-state solution in the Middle East. Muammar Qaddafi has a dream, a dream of a united “Isratine”…
Is this the world, or a blurry approximation?
German scientists measuring infinitesimally small gravitational ripples in the universe have come across evidence for a theory that literally changes everything. Our entire universe may be a three-dimensional representation of events taking place on a two-dimensional plane on the edge of existence itself. Are we living in a giant hologram?
A suspicious improvement
From World War II to the Gulf War, US military casualties resulting from friendly fire accounted for ten to fourteen percent of all battleground deaths. For the Iraq war, that percentage is a mere 0.78. Is the US army lying about friendly fire deaths?
Redefining the “killer app”
The BulletFlight app for the iPod Touch turns your music player into a targeting device for your rifle. Just install BulletFlight, mount your iPod to the side of your rifle, and presto…
To fix the future, we have to look back
Holding the Bush administration accountable for their crimes and scandals is not optional, says Paul Krugman. It’s a matter of ensuring the survival of the rule of law. “No important figure in the Bush administration, or among that administration’s political allies, has expressed remorse for breaking the law. What makes anyone think that they or their political heirs won’t do it all over again, given the chance?” But that’s just Paul “Conscience of a Liberal” Krugman talking; much more shocking is to see the same sentiment expressed in the arch-conservative Washington Times…
New behavior in old animals
Dung beetles in Peru are undergoing an incredible instance of evolution: They are changing from feces-eating scavengers to vicious predators, capable of killing and eating an insect ten times their length…
For this Nazi, persistence paid off
Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” tasked by the Nazis to genetically engineer a master race, fled to Argentina after the war — where he succeeded in his dubious endeavor. That’s why the Brazilian town of Candido Godoi has an inordinate number of twins, who also happen to be blonde and blue-eyed in a way Brazilians generally aren’t…
The solution is the problem
The financial bailouts in the US and Europe aren’t solving the fundamental structural problems in the world economy, says David Roche in the Wall Street Journal. They are setting us up for a re-inflation of the flawed bubble, which may bring good times back for a short while, but will result in an even bigger crash down the road…
When a level-headed finance journalist like Ambrose Evans-Pritchard starts sputtering verbal abuse, you know the economy is in serious trouble. After explaining that Britain’s economy is on the verge of total collapse, our intrepid reporter concludes: “The Baby Boomers have had their moment in power. The most spoilt generation in history has handled affairs with its characteristic hedonism. The results are coming in. The blithering idiots…”
What the Middle East could learn from the Big Apple
He was an Israeli novelist; she, a Palestinian artist. Their love never could have happened in the Middle East, but in New York City, it made perfect sense…
Wallet size, that is. “Scientists have found that the pleasure women get from making love is directly linked to the size of their partner’s bank balance…”
If only we could skip the first
Passionate puppy love can be an impediment to healthy relationships later on in life. It seems that old canard that your first love spoiled you for all others is true…
Vonnegut’s mistress reveals all
In 1965, an obscure (and married) novelist named Kurt Vonnegut stepped off the podium at an Iowa University writers’ workshop and into student Loree Rackstraw’s heart. The adultery lasted weeks, but the love affair lasted forty years…
It was inevitable
Sooner or later, China was going to start talking about “expanding the global reach” of its army, and “securing its economic interests” around the world. China, the new America?
They should get together with the Westboro Baptist Church
There are worse, more irrational fundamentalists in the Islamic world than the jihadists: Islamic apocalypticists, “who believe an end-of-the-world battle between the forces of good and evil is forthcoming…”
Kill ‘em all
The New York Post has the solution to the problem of aircraft being forced to land in the Hudson because of pesky birds flying into their engines. A war on geese, of course…
And finally: “I took the presidential oath of office twice, now I’m two presidents…”
It’s official: Roberts screwed it up. Here’s the proper wording of the presidential oath of office (emphasis mine):
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Here’s what Roberts said:
I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will execute the Office of President to the United States faithfully, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Roberts missed the word faithfully, and then tacked it on to the end. It was at the missing word that Obama stumbled. He knew it inside out; not so the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Also, to the United States? Whoopsie.
ADD: Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish makes an interesting point about the wording of the oath of office:
A reminder of what so many forgot these past eight years: the executive branch’s first duty is to protect and defend the Constitution, not the territory, of the U.S. On that score, Bush and Cheney did not keep us safe. They did to the Constitution what Osama bin Laden could never have done.
1135 am EST Dick Cheney being wheeled out of the Capitol building in a wheelchair. a cane across his lap, his lips curled in a grimace, almost completely still, zombie-like. His physical form has finally caught up with him. He is finally as physically crippled as he is intellectually and morally.
1138 am EST Obama walks out of the Capitol; a grim expression slowly turns into a slight smile; a slight air of haughty confidence. Perhaps he is too conscious of the fact that billions of eyes are trained on his face at this moment.
1143 am EST Obama steps out into the cold daylight. Introduced as “Barack H. Obama.” Shouts of “Obama! Obama! Obama!”
1206 am EST Obama takes the oath. He’s been president for six minutes already, according to the constitution. Something made him burst out laughing just as he was standing for the oath. He tried to suppress it, but it came out as a snort, fully audible on the mic. He managed to gain his composure as Chief Justice Roberts started talking. He fumbled the oath; so did Roberts. It was slightly awkward, but very brief. Strangely brief. Where was the “without mental reservation or purpose of evasion” part that Biden had to say? I think Roberts cut it short, because they were both starting to look bad…
ADD: CNN is blaming it all on Roberts. Says Roberts added the word “faithfully” where it wasn’t supposed to be; Obama knew the oath word by word, which is why he was tripped up by that. Says that presidential oath is thirty-five words long, much shorter than vice-presidential (that explains why Biden had that “mental reservation” thing and Obama didn’t.)
1216 am EST “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” — Live feed cuts to George W. Bush, who looks unhappy about that comment.
1218 am EST “America is a friend of each nation.” — Loaded with meaning.
1220 am EST “As the world grows smaller, our common humanity will reveal itself.” Is this the beginning of international humanism in Washington? One can only hope…
1221 am EST “The world has changed and we must change with it.”
1226 am EST Obama speech ends. There were moments of brilliance in there, moments of true inspiration. But I was waiting for that “ask not what your country can do for you” or “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” moment, and I’m not sure it came. Good speech, but expectations for it were too high. Immediate reaction: This is Obama’s second-best speech, after his Philadelphia address on race last spring.
Whole speech here.
More on this speech to come, soon.
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