From the March 26, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Beaver Falls — When the bock beer signs made their appearance here, Joseph Bouva, an Italian fish dealer, made a wager that he could drink 250 glasses of the beer in three days. He won the wager, but is now in the hospital. He is dying.”

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Sure, it’s nice that Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg and the like are philanthropic, but you have to pause and wonder why there’s such a desperate demand for CEO largesse. How much do corporate tax loopholes lead to the need? From Suzanne McGee at the Guardian:

“How liberal, really, are these boardroom liberals?

Mind you, these are the same people who squawk, very loudly, at any suggestion that the fees they collect for managing their funds should be taxed as ordinary income, instead of as capital gains.

They’ve been fighting for years any suggestion that their primary source of income should be taxed at the same higher rates as those people whom their philanthropy helps.

If the tax rate changes, those millionaires and billionaires would be paying an effective rate of 39%, rather than 20%. With that kind of tax revenue, perhaps the government wouldn’t be slashing away at social programs that now have to come, cap in hand, to the Robin Hood Foundation to ask for some of those refrigerator-sized checks. Then the philanthropists can make their decisions based on whatever personal criteria they find most compelling.

That’s not to take away from what the Robin Hood Foundation’s do-gooders accomplish. Without them, life would be a lot tougher for New York’s poorest citizens. Being a boardroom liberal may very well be better than being a boardroom tyrant, terrorizing your staff from the chief financial officer down to the guy in the mailroom.

But the reason boardroom liberals need to exist at all is the fact that the social safety net that once existed has collapsed, and while some of that can probably be traced to waste and mismanagement, another giant chunk is simply due to lack of resources.

Consider: US tax revenues are at their lowest rate since 1950, which means less money to fund government programs. At the same time, US income inequality is at its highest point since the Great Depression, meaning the rich are richer than they were even a few years go.”

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Consciousness is the hard problem for a reason. You could define it by saying it means we know our surroundings, our reality, but people get lost in delusions all the time, sometimes even nation-wide ones. What is it, then? Is it the ability to know something, anything, regardless of its truth? In this interview with Jeffrey Mishlove, cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky, no stranger to odysseys, argues against accepted definitions of consciousness, in humans and machines.

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I get along famously with New York security guards, and at some point pretty much all one of them tell me about the stint they did in prison. They know the industry from inside out, so to speak. Robots, conversely, have a clean record, and while they won’t devastate every industry in the near term, security is a natural fit for their functions. From Rachel Metz at Technology Review:

“As the sun set on a warm November afternoon, a quartet of five-foot-tall, 300-pound shiny white robots patrolled in front of Building 1 on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus. Looking like a crew of slick Daleks imbued with the grace of Fred Astaire, they whirred quietly across the concrete in different directions, stopping and turning in place so as to avoid running into trash cans, walls, and other obstacles.

The robots managed to appear both cute and intimidating. This friendly-but-not-too-friendly presence is meant to serve them well in jobs like monitoring corporate and college campuses, shopping malls, and schools.

Knightscope, a startup based in Mountain View, California, has been busy designing, building, and testing the robot, known as the K5, since 2013. Seven have been built so far, and the company plans to deploy four before the end of the year at an as-yet-unnamed technology company in the area. The robots are designed to detect anomalous behavior, such as someone walking through a building at night, and report back to a remote security center.

‘This takes away the monotonous and sometimes dangerous work, and leaves the strategic work to law enforcement or private security, depending on the application,’ Knightscope cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing Stacy Stephens said as a K5 glided nearby.”

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Legendary baseball team owner Bill Veeck was, sure, a carny and a wreck, but he was also an innovator, as you can see in the above photo of him employing a decidedly lo-fi crowdsourcing technique to allow fans to manage a game. One business “innovation” he championed six decades ago, talking the government into giving an unnecessary tax break to owners of sports teams, has become a gigantic piece of corporate welfare in the modern age of multibillion franchises. It will pay huge dividends to new Clippers owner Stave Ballmer. From David Wharton at the Los Angeles Times:

“Baseball fans remember Bill Veeck mostly for his bizarre stunts.

The maverick team owner once signed a player with dwarfism, then sent the 3-foot-7 batter to the plate to draw a walk.

Another time, he let the crowd hold up placards to dictate in-game strategies to the manager.

But there is a legacy for which the late Veeck is less well-known. During the 1950s, the man who bought and sold three major league franchises over his lifetime was credited with persuading Internal Revenue Service officials to give him a hefty tax break on player salaries.

These deductions have survived, with periodic changes, into the present day. And they could greatly benefit Steve Ballmer after his recent $2-billion purchase of the Clippers.

‘It’s a huge part of this business that never gets talked about,’ said Dennis Howard, a professor emeritus at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. ‘It changes your sense of what he’s really paying.’

Ballmer could seek as much as half of the purchase price of the team in tax benefits over the next 15 years, according to accountants and sports business analysts familiar with the financial aspects of team ownership.”

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This strange 1975 photo captures Ingmar Bergman in Hollywood enjoying a tender moment with the Jaws prop shark nicknamed “Bruce.” Before that film was a big-screen game changer helmed by Steven Spielberg, it was a 1974 bestseller by Peter Benchley, and before that still it was a 1967 Holiday magazine article (“Shark!“) from the same writer. Here’s the opening of the first, journalistic version:

“ONE WARM SUMMER DAY I was standing on a beach near Tom Never’s Head on Nantucket. Children were splashing around in the gentle surf as their mothers lay gabbing by the Styrofoam ice chests and the Scotch Grills. About thirty yards from shore, a man paddled back and forth, swimming in a jerky, tiring, head-out-of-the-water fashion. I had just remarked dully that the water was unusually calm, when I noticed a black speck cruising slowly up the beach some twenty yards beyond the lone swimmer. It seemed to dip in and out of the water, staying on the surface for perhaps five seconds, then disappearing for one or two, then reappearing for five. I ran down to the water and waved my arms at the man. At first he paid no attention, and kept plodding on. Then he noticed me. I pointed out to sea, cupped my hands over my mouth, and bellowed, ‘Shark!’ He turned and saw the short, triangular fin moving al­most parallel with him. Immediately he lunged for the shore in a frantic sprint. The fish, which had taken no notice of the swimmer, became curious at the sudden disturbance in the water, and I saw the fin turn inshore. It moved lazily, but not aimlessly.

By now the man had reached chest-deep water, and while he could probably have made better time by swimming, he elected to run. Running in five feet of water is something like trying to skip rope in a vat of peanut butter, and I could see his eyes bug and his face turn bright cerise as he slogged along. He didn’t look around, which was probably just as well, for the fish was no more than fifty yards behind him. At waist depth, the terrified man assumed Messianic talents. He seemed to lift out of the water, his legs churning wildly, his arms flailing. He hit the beach at a dead run and fled as far as the dunes, where he collapsed. The shark, discovering that whatever had roiled the water had disappeared, turned back and resumed his idle cruise just beyond the small breakers.

During the man’s race for land, the children had miraculously vanished from the surf, and now they were being bundled into towels by frenzied mothers. One child was bawling, ‘But I want to play!’ His mother snapped, ‘No! There’s a shark out there.’ The shark was out of sight down the beach, and for a time the ladies stood around staring at the water, evidently expecting the sea to regurgitate a mass of unspeakable horrors. Then, as if on mute cue, they all at once packed their coolers, grills, rafts, inner tubes and aluminum beach chairs and marched to their cars. The afternoon was still young, and the shark had obviously found this beach unappetizing (dining is poor for sharks closer than a half a mile off the beach at that part of the south shore of Nantucket). But to the mothers, the whole area—sand as well as water—was polluted.

Irrational behavior has always been man’s reaction to the presence of sharks.”

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Harold Robbins would have bragged if nine female typists had quit in shock while working on one of his novels, but it was different story in a different era for James Joyce. Getting Ulysses past censors was an arduous task, and he might have tossed the pages aside for good if it wasn’t for the intervention of Shakespeare & Co. owner Sylvia Beach. She gambled her own money and prodded Joyce through many iterations of his work on the way to the printing press, bringing the novel to Parisians in 1922. The volume was a smash hit in France and was soon reselling for $700 a copy. An article about Beach follows from the December 24, 1933 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, timed to the belated un-banning of the book in America.

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bugs

anyone know of a place where i could purchase insects for cooking? pet shops and graveyards are excluded.

PTSD and other disorders that result from historical horrors (wars, slavery, etc.) seem to be intergenerational not just because of nurture but due to nature as well, with the hormone cortisol playing a significant role in perpetuating the pain. So, it’s not just the ghosts making mayhem but also a heritable biological reordering which victims unknowingly pass on to descendants. Can this phenomenon be neutralized? From “The Science of Suffering,” by Judith Shulevitz at The New Republic:

“In the early ’80s, a Lakota professor of social work named Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart coined the phrase ‘historical trauma.’ What she meant was ‘the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations.’ Another phrase she used was ‘soul wound.’ The wounding of the Native American soul, of course, went on for more than 500 years by way of massacres, land theft, displacement, enslavement, thenwell into the twentieth centurythe removal of Native American children from their families to what were known as Indian residential schools. These were grim, Dickensian places where some children died in tuberculosis epidemics and others were shackled to beds, beaten, and raped.

Brave Heart did her most important research near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the home of Oglala Lakota and the site of some of the most notorious events in Native American martyrology. In 1890, the most famous of the Ghost Dances that swept the Great Plains took place in Pine Ridge. We might call the Ghost Dances a millenarian movement; its prophet claimed that, if the Indians danced, God would sweep away their present woes and unite the living and the dead. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, however, took the dances at Pine Ridge as acts of aggression and brought in troops who killed the chief, Sitting Bull, and chased the fleeing Lakota to the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, where they slaughtered hundreds and threw their bodies in mass graves. (Wounded Knee also gave its name to the protest of 1973 that brought national attention to the American Indian Movement.) Afterward, survivors couldn’t mourn their dead because the federal government had outlawed Indian religious ceremonies. The whites thought they were civilizing the savages.

Today, the Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest spots in the United States. According to census data, annual income per capita in the largest county on the reservation hovers around $9,000. Almost a quarter of all adults there who are classified as being in the labor force are unemployed. (Bureau of Indian Affairs figures are darker; they estimate that only 37 percent of all local Native American adults are employed.) According to a health data research center at the University of Washington, life expectancy for men in the county ranks in the lowest 10 percent of all American counties; for women, it’s in the bottom quartile. In a now classic 1946 study of Lakota children from Pine Ridge, the anthropologist Gordon Macgregor identified some predominant features of their personalities: numbness, sadness, inhibition, anxiety, hypervigilance, a not-unreasonable sense that the outside world was implacably hostile. They ruminated on death and dead relatives. Decades later, Mary Crow Dog, a Lakota woman, wrote a memoir in which she cited nightmares of slaughters past that sound almost like forms of collective memory: ‘In my dream I had been going back into another life,” she wrote. “I saw tipis and Indians camping … and then, suddenly, I saw white soldiers riding into camp, killing women and children, raping, cutting throats. It was so real … sights I did not want to see, but had to see against my will; the screaming of children that I did not want to hear. … And the only thing I could do was cry. … For a long time after that dream, I felt depressed, as if all life had been drained from me.’

Brave Heart’s subjects were mainly Lakota social-service providers and community leaders, all of them high-functioning and employed. The vast majority had lived on the reservation at some point in their lives, and evinced symptoms of what she called unmourned loss. Eighty-one percent had drinking problems. Survivor guilt was widespread. In a study of a similar population, many spoke about early deaths in the family from heart disease and high rates of asthma. Some of her subjects had hypertension. They harbored thoughts of suicide and identified intensely with the dead.”

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GoogleX, the Bell Labs-ish moonshot division of the search giant, may pay off financially in the long run, but it’s likely producing a short-term profit in non-obvious ways. From Ezra Klein’s new Vox interview with Peter Thiel:

Ezra Klein:

I want to try to draw out this idea of a company’s mission a bit more. Imagine two versions of Google. The non-mission oriented Google is, ‘We want to build a search engine that’ll be the best search engine in the world. If we’re dominant in that market, we’re going to be able to extract huge advertising revenues.’ The mission-oriented one is, ‘Our goal as a company is to categorize and make accessible all the world’s information.’

Peter Thiel:

Yes.

I think the second description is certainly far more inspiring. Maybe it starts by building a much better search engine, but then maybe over time, you have to develop mapping technology, maybe you start building self-driving cars as a way to see how well your mapping technology works. It certainly, I think, feels very different to the people working at the company. I think Google still is a very charismatic company for a company of its size.

Ezra Klein:

That’s an interesting point. Google does all of these things that are not obvious profit drivers. The massive effort to digitize books, the decision to send camels across the Sahara to work on mapping the desert. A lot of that, they’re losing money on. But it’s partially a recruitment tool — it makes them, in your word, more charismatic than their competitors.

Peter Thiel:

One level in which these companies do still compete very much is for talent. Silicon Valley is very competitive with Wall Street banks. And there’s a way in which the day-to-day jobs are similar: people sit in front of computers, the people went to similar colleges and universities, even the office floor-planning is kind of similar. There are more similarities than one might think. But the narrative at Google is much, much better than at Goldman. That’s why they’re beating a place like Goldman incredibly in this talent war.”

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In a 1969 Holiday interview conducted by Alfred Bester, Woody Allen let it be known that he preferred Mort Sahl to Lenny Bruce and J.D. Salinger to Philip Roth. Dumb and dumber. An excerpt:

“There were a couple of paperbacks on the make-up table: Selections From Kierkegaard and Basic Teachings of Great Philosophers, the sort of thing you’d expect to see a young intellectual reading on a bus.  We discussed books. ‘I don’t enjoy reading,’ Woody said. ‘It’s strictly a secondary experience. If I can do anything else, I’ll duck it. Maybe it’s because I’m a very slow reader. But it’s necessary for a writer, so I have to do it, but I don’t really enjoy it. The thing itself is boring.

‘The only thing I find interesting today is sporting events. They have everything that great theater should have; all the thunderous excitement and you don’t know the outcome. And when the outcome happens, you have to believe it because it happened. I need something crammed with excitement. I like things larger than life.’

He believes that Stendhal’s The Red and The Black is one of the great fath­ers of modern novels. He says that he hates Terry Southern and had to strug­gle through Philip Roth’s new novel. ‘I felt there were many passages that could have been done better. In the masturbation scenes Roth was reaching for wild effects; in fact, I feel that Roth was pandering to the public. His attitude was: ‘All right, I’ll give you what you want.’ Salinger didn’t do that in Catcher in the Rye. His whole book was on a much higher level.’

Woody is hipped on the subject of pandering. ‘I feel the same way about Lenny Bruce as I do about Roth. Bruce was not particularly brilliant. He pandered. He was and is idolized by the kind of people who must invent an idol for themselves. Nichols and May didn’t do that. Mort Sahl doesn’t do that; he doesn’t pander.”

The name of another prominent comic came up. I said, ‘Now there’s a no-talent for you.’

‘He’s very successful,’ Woody said quietly.

‘And that’s what amazes me; the number of no-talents who are successful.’

‘You don’t understand,’ he said. ‘These days everybody’s successful, talent and no-talent.'”

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Despite the best efforts of the Industrial Immortality Complex, I think it very likely that you and I and Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec and Michio Kaku and Marshall Brain and Aubrey de Grey will pass away this century, without the opportunity to choose forever. But that doesn’t mean that an everlasting arrangement of some sort–of many different sorts?–won’t be possible in the future. That might get interesting. From John G. Messerly at Salon:

“Now more than ever, the topic of death is marked by no shortage of diverging opinions. 

On the one hand, there are serious thinkers — Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Michio Kaku, Marshall Brain, Aubrey de Grey and others — who foresee that technology may enable humans to defeat death. There are also dissenters who argue that this is exceedingly unlikely. And there are those like Bill Joy who think that such technologies are technologically feasible but morally reprehensible.

As a non-scientist I am not qualified to evaluate scientific claims about what science can and cannot do. What I can say is that plausible scenarios for overcoming death have now appeared. This leads to the following questions: If individuals could choose immortality, should they? Should societies fund and promote research to defeat death?

The question regarding individuals has a straightforward answer: We should respect the right of autonomous individuals to choose for themselves. If an effective pill that stops or reverses aging becomes available at your local pharmacy, then you should be free to use it. (My guess is that such a pill would be wildly popular! Consider what people spend on vitamins and other elixirs on the basis of little or no evidence of their efficacy.) Or if, as you approach death, you are offered the opportunity to have your consciousness transferred to a younger, cloned body, a genetically engineered body, a robotic body, or into a virtual reality, you should be free to do so.

I believe that nearly everyone will use such technologies once they are demonstrated as effective. But if individuals prefer to die in the hope that the gods will revive them in a paradise, thereby granting them reprieve from everlasting torment, then we should respect that too. Individuals should be free to end their lives even after death has become optional for them.

However, the argument about whether a society should fund and promote the research relevant to eliminating death is more complex.”

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In the 1968 New York Times Book Review, Dan Wakefield wrote of Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, rightfully lavishing praise on what was an instant journalistic classic and one that has since stood the test of time. Didion had escaped New York for the West Coast to write most of the pieces, struck almost silent by a sort of aphasia induced by an indeterminant anxiety. She still managed to communicate. An excerpt:

“The author writes about the contemporary world– quite often the Western United States where she grew up and where she has returned after the writer’s almost obligatory boot-camp training in New York City– and though her own personality does not self-indulgently intrude itself on her subjects, it informs and illuminates them.

The reader comes to admire what can only be called the character of this observer at work, looking in as well as out, noting, for instance, in a piece about a young California Maoist that is a classic portrayal of a certain kind of political zealot of either left or right:

‘As it happens I am comfortable… with those who live outside rather than in, those in whom the sense of dread is so acute that they turn to extreme and doomed commitments; I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people manage to fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and heroin and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or history.’

In her portraits of people, Miss Didion is not out to expose but to understand, and she shows us actors and millionaires, doomed brides and naïve acid-trippers, left-wing ideologues and snobs of the Hawaiian aristocracy in a way that makes them neither villainous nor glamorous, but alive and botched and often mournfully beautiful in the midst of their lives’ debris. Her portrayals remind me most of the line of a great poem of Robert Frost that says, speaking of us all, ‘Weep for what little things could make them glad.’

Miss Didion is the only writer I know who has captured something of the real mystique and essence of Joan Baez, a frank but elusive subject whom more than one reporter has muffed in the most hopeless manner. (I know; I am one of them.) The fragile innocence as well as the pathos of the students at Miss Baez’s Workshop for Non-Violence are caught in Miss Didion’s description of one of their sessions breaking up as the sky turns dark in the late afternoon, and how they all are ‘reluctant about gathering up their books and magazines and records, about finding their car keys and ending the day, and by the time they are ready to leave Joan Baez is eating potato salad with her fingers from a bowl in the refrigerator, and everyone stays to share it, just a little while longer where it is warm.’

The title piece is about Haight-Ashbury, and conveys the complexity and the ‘atomization’ of the hippie scene not as the latest fashionable trend, but as a serious advanced stage of society in which things are truly ‘falling apart’ as in Yeats’s poem. Compare this piece with Time magazine’s hapless cover story on the hippies last year, and you will see why ‘group journalism’ is usually inferior to a single, talented writer using the ‘method’ explained by Miss Didion: ‘When I went to San Francisco in that cold late spring of 1967 I did not even know what I wanted to find out, and so I just stayed around a while, and made a few friends.’

That is how the best things are always done– a fact they won’t believe when you try to explain it at a writers conference. (They think you’re keeping a secret about how it’s really done.)”

__________________________________

In the 1970s, Tom Brokaw profiles Didion:

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In writing disapprovingly in the New York Review of Books of Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” Elizabeth Kolbert points out that the truth about climate change isn’t only inconvenient, it’s considered a deal-breaker, even by the supposedly green. An excerpt follows.

_____________________________

What would it take to radically reduce global carbon emissions and to do so in a way that would alleviate inequality and poverty? Back in 1998, which is to say more than a decade before Klein became interested in climate change, a group of Swiss scientists decided to tackle precisely this question. The plan they came up with became known as the 2,000-Watt Society.

The idea behind the plan is that everyone on the planet is entitled to generate (more or less) the same emissions, meaning everyone should use (more or less) the same amount of energy. Most of us don’t think about our energy consumption—to the extent we think about it at all—in terms of watts or watt-hours. All you really need to know to understand the plan is that, if you’re American, you currently live in a 12,000-watt society; if you’re Dutch, you live in an 8,000-watt society; if you’re Swiss, you live in a 5,000-watt society; and if you’re Bangladeshi you live in a 300-watt society. Thus, for Americans, living on 2,000 watts would mean cutting consumption by more than four fifths; for Bangladeshis it would mean increasing it almost by a factor of seven.

To investigate what a 2,000-watt lifestyle might look like, the authors of the plan came up with a set of six fictional Swiss families. Even those who lived in super energy-efficient houses, had sold their cars, and flew very rarely turned out to be consuming more than 2,000 watts per person. Only “Alice,” a resident of a retirement home who had no TV or personal computer and occasionally took the train to visit her children, met the target.

The need to reduce carbon emissions is, ostensibly, what This Changes Everything is all about. Yet apart from applauding the solar installations of the Northern Cheyenne, Klein avoids looking at all closely at what this would entail. She vaguely tells us that we’ll have to consume less, but not how much less, or what we’ll have to give up. At various points, she calls for a carbon tax. This is certainly a good idea, and one that’s advocated by many economists, but it hardly seems to challenge the basic logic of capitalism. Near the start of the book, Klein floats the “managed degrowth” concept, which might also be called economic contraction, but once again, how this might play out she leaves unexplored. Even more confoundingly, by end of the book she seems to have rejected the idea. “Shrinking humanity’s impact or ‘footprint,’” she writes, is “simply not an option today.”

In place of “degrowth” she offers “regeneration,” a concept so cheerfully fuzzy I won’t even attempt to explain it. Regeneration, Klein writes, “is active: we become full participants in the process of maximizing life’s creativity.”

To draw on Klein paraphrasing Al Gore, here’s my inconvenient truth: when you tell people what it would actually take to radically reduce carbon emissions, they turn away. They don’t want to give up air travel or air conditioning or HDTV or trips to the mall or the family car or the myriad other things that go along with consuming 5,000 or 8,000 or 12,000 watts. All the major environmental groups know this, which is why they maintain, contrary to the requirements of a 2,000-watt society, that climate change can be tackled with minimal disruption to “the American way of life.” And Klein, you have to assume, knows it too. The irony of her book is that she ends up exactly where the “warmists” do, telling a fable she hopes will do some good.•

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I’ve recently been reading a lot of the old-school Holiday magazine, that wonderful thing, and one of the most fun pieces centers on far-flung travel indeed, Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 prognostication of Mars as a residential address and as a pleasure destination. An excerpt:

“So you’re going to Mars? That’s still quite an adventure—though I suppose that in another ten years no one will think twice about it. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the first ships reached Mars scarcely more than half a century ago, and that our settlement on the planet is less than thirty years old.

You’ve probably read all the forms and literature they gave you at the Department of Extraterrestrial Affairs. But here are some additional pointers and background information that may make your trip more enjoyable. I won’t say it’s right up to date—things change so rapidly, and it’s a year since I got back from Mars myself—but on the whole you’ll find it pretty reliable.

Presumably you’re going just for curiosity and excitement; you want to see what life is like out on the new frontier. It’s only fair, therefore, to point out that must of your fellow passengers will he engineers, scientists or administrators traveling to Mars— some of them not for the first time—because they have a job to do. So whatever your achievements are here on Earth, it’s advisable not to talk too much about them, for you’ll be among people who’ve had to tackle much tougher problems.

If you haven’t booked your passage yet, remember that the cost of the ticket varies considerably according to the relative positions of Mars and Earth. That’s a complication we don’t have to worry about when we’re traveling from country to country on our own planet, but Mars can be seven times farther away at one time than at another. Oddly enough, the shortest trips are the most expensive, since they involve the greatest changes of speed as you hop from one orbit to the other. And in space, speed, not distance, is what costs money.

The most economical routes go halfway around the Sun and take eight months, but as no one wants to spend that long in space they’re used only by robot-piloted freighters. At the other extreme are the little super-speed mail ships, which sometimes do the trip in a month. The fastest liners take two or three times as long as this.

Whether you’re taking the bargain $30,000 round trip or one of the de luxe passages, I don’t know. But you must be O.S. physically. The physical strain involved in space flight is negligible, but you’ll be spending at least two months on the trip, and it would be a pity if your appendix started to misbehave.”

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From the April 3, 1912 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Commack, L.I. — An escaped lunatic from the Central Islip State Hospital, caught in the act of devouring a live hen, created considerable excitement several miles to the west of here yesterday morning, leading a party of farm hands in a chase covering nearly a mile before he was finally captured.”

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  • No Jail Time For Woman Who Cut Man’s Penis With Box Cutter
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  • WATCH: Doctor Pulls Live Maggots From Patient’s Ear
  • Patti Smith Is Going To Rock The Vatican Christmas Concert

 

10 search-engine keyphrases bringing traffic to Afflictor this week:

  1. guy who ate zoo animals
  2. mike wallace insulting david frost
  3. david brenner interviewing jake lamotta and mike tyson
  4. the red man was pressed from this part of the west
  5. nancy reagan’s astrologer
  6. what happened to shields and yarnell?
  7. article about california swimming pools
  8. south florida becoming its own state
  9. peter revson killed in auto crash
  10. early airship circling the eiffel tower
This week, ISIS announed it will print its own currency, which allow the terrorist group to honor the man who made its rise possible.

This week, ISIS announced it plans to print its own currency, which will allow the terrorist organization to honor the man who made its rise possible.

 

  • Jaron Lanier neatly links Artificial Intelligence and religion.
  • Infamous fabulist Stephen Glass might be a changed man. Perhaps.
  • Peter Thiel uses suspect logic to argue we’re not in a Technological Age.
  • Cuba allowed baseball player Yoan Macado to leave. Why?
  • Slavoj Žižek is an avid consumer of vampire movies and detective fiction.

Mars One, that promised interplanetary Truman Show, has always looked like a longshot, a seeming space fugazi. For the uninitiated, the plan, hatched in Holland by entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, is to send a quartet of Earthlings to our neighboring orb in 2025 on a one-way mission, and to largely sponsor it with a reality TV show, a Big Brother from another planet. I’d be shocked it it ever gets off the ground. From “All Dressed Up For Mars and Nowhere to Go,” a Matter article by the remarkably named Elmo Keep which focuses on an Australian would-be astronaut, an aspiring Armstrong who’s been shortlisted for a ticket to the unknown:

“Despite not being a space-faring agency, it claims that by 2025 it will send four colonists to the planet. Ultimately, it says, there will be at least six groups of four, a mix of men and women, who will train on Earth for 10 years until they are ready to be shot into space strapped to a rocket, never to return.

It estimates the mission will cost only about $6 billion, tens if not hundreds of billions less than any manned Mars mission so far proposed by NASA. Mars One openly admits that it is ‘not an aerospace company and will not manufacture mission hardware. All equipment will be developed by third-party suppliers and integrated in established facilities.’ That’s how it will keep costs down, by outsourcing everything to private enterprise.

It is, essentially, a marketing campaign with two goals: first, to raise enough interest among the global community in a manned Mars mission so that crowd-funding and advertising revenues will be generated to the tune of billions of dollars; and, second, to use this money — largely to be raised through a reality television series documenting the training process and journey to Mars from Earth — to pay for the mission itself.

The mission is open to anyone in the world who wants to volunteer. These people don’t have to have any special qualifications whatsoever; they need only be in robust physical and mental health and willing to undertake the mission at their own risk. As the proposed program progresses, they will have to prove themselves adept and nimble learners, able to amass an enormous amount of new practical knowledge, not only in the high-pressure intricacies of spaceflight, but in learning how to perform rudimentary surgery and dentistry, how to recycle resources, how to take commands, and maintain a harmonious team dynamic for the rest of their natural lives.

Two hundred thousand applicants would seem to suggest that the plan has solid legs — a staggering number of people willing to sacrifice their lives on Earth to take part in an open-source, crowd-powered, corporately sponsored mission into deep space. A huge amount of interest in this endeavor clearly demonstrated right off the bat.

If only any of it were true.”

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IVF Frozen Donor Eggs (Newark, DE)

I am a IVF patient in PA who bought six frozen donor eggs from a reputable agency. I no longer need them as I became pregnant on my own. I invested over $15,000 in them and would sell them for much less. They are safely stored at my doctor’s clinic in Newark, DE but I can ship them to your clinic at any time. I have all of the donor information (Caucasian, blue eyes, brown hair, health info etc.) and will provide copies of the signed contract for their purchase. I hope someone can use them for an IVF cycle. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me. Thank you and good luck with your IVF journey.

"Caucasian, blue eyes, brown hair."

“Caucasian, blue eyes, brown hair.”

How I love Jon Stewart. I’ve only been critical of him once in the time I’ve been doing this blog, and there’s even a slight chance he deserved it, but I hope I will be forgiven. Along with Louis C.K. and Chris Rock, Stewart has capably carried the mantle of George Carlin, my choice for the greatest comedian our modest, understated nation has ever turned out. A few exchanges follow from Stewart’s new Reddit AMA, which is timed to the release of Rosewater.

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Question:

You are President for a day… What is your 1st piece of legislation? Who is the 1st person you hire? Who would you pardon?

Jon Stewart:

I think the first thing I might do is photocopy my balls and send it to every teacher i had in high school.

THEN, onto the legislating.

My first presidential hire would have to be Colbert.

And I would pardon… oh wow… that’s a good one. I think I’m gonna have to check the list of pardon people.

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Question:

Can you describe your personal and professional feelings the day that the Anthony Weiner scandal hit?

Jon Stewart:

That’s a good question.

I think I was… sad. For the individual that i knew as a friend.

And that colored, you know, the general process of creating the humor. I also think I may have overcompensated by doing more material on it than we might have normally.

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Question:

Mr. Stewart, how does Stephen Colbert smell?

Jon Stewart:

Stephen smells like – it’s a cross between -

Squints into distance

Persimmons and a tattered copy of THE HOBBIT.

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Question:

Mr Stewart, if you could go back in time and interview someone from history, who would it be and why?

Jon Stewart:

Uh… I would say Abraham Lincoln.

For the obvious historical importance aspect, as well as the “secret to the confidence of being able to rock the top hat and Amish beard.”

Respect.

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Question:

Jon, I know that you said Hugh Grant was your least favorite guest you’ve had on the show. Just curious, have you seen or heard from him since?

Jon Stewart:

Hehehehehee!

Uh, we have not gotten together. Since… that. And I imagine it is not forthcoming.

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Question:

Will you and Bill O’Reilly just kiss already? The sexual tension is palpable.

Jon Stewart: 

Right?

It’s really the height differential that keeps us from consummating.•

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Stewart, in 1994, interviewing Anna Nicole Smith (whom he once impersonated):

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Of the new wave of self-designated digital worriers, Jaron Lanier always makes the most sense to me. In his latest Edge essay, “The Myth of AI,” he draws a neat comparison between the religionist’s End of Days and the technologist’s Singularity, the Four Horseman supposedly arriving in driverless cars. An excerpt:

“To my mind, the mythology around AI is a re-creation of some of the traditional ideas about religion, but applied to the technical world. All of the damages are essentially mirror images of old damages that religion has brought to science in the past.

There’s an anticipation of a threshold, an end of days. This thing we call artificial intelligence, or a new kind of personhood… If it were to come into existence it would soon gain all power, supreme power, and exceed people.

The notion of this particular threshold—which is sometimes called the singularity, or super-intelligence, or all sorts of different terms in different periods—is similar to divinity. Not all ideas about divinity, but a certain kind of superstitious idea about divinity, that there’s this entity that will run the world, that maybe you can pray to, maybe you can influence, but it runs the world, and you should be in terrified awe of it.

That particular idea has been dysfunctional in human history. It’s dysfunctional now, in distorting our relationship to our technology. It’s been dysfunctional in the past in exactly the same way. Only the words have changed.

In the history of organized religion, it’s often been the case that people have been disempowered precisely to serve what were perceived to be the needs of some deity or another, where in fact what they were doing was supporting an elite class that was the priesthood for that deity.

That looks an awful lot like the new digital economy to me, where you have (natural language) translators and everybody else who contributes to the corpora that allow the data schemes to operate, contributing mostly to the fortunes of whoever runs the top computers. The new elite might say, ‘Well, but they’re helping the AI, it’s not us, they’re helping the AI.’ It reminds me of somebody saying, ‘Oh, build these pyramids, it’s in the service of this deity,’ but, on the ground, it’s in the service of an elite. It’s an economic effect of the new idea. The effect of the new religious idea of AI is a lot like the economic effect of the old idea, religion.”

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An article in the November 22, 1939 Brooklyn Daily Eagle tells of technological unemployment coming to the kissing sector in the late 1930s, when Max Factor Jr., scion of the family cosmetics fortune and creator of Pan-Cake make-up which was favored by early film stars, created robots which would peck to perfection all day, allowing him test out new lipsticks to his heart’s content. Bad news for professional puckerers Joseph Roberts and Miss June Baker, of course, but such is the nature of progress. The brand-new robots were capable of kissing 1,200 times an hour. Ah, young love!

The top two photos show the senior Max Factor demonstrating his Beauty Micrometer device and touching up French silent-film star Renée Adorée. The last one captures two actresses wearing the make-up Junior created especially for black-and-white TV. 

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In the 1950s, MIT computer scientist John McCarthy coined the term “Artificial Intelligence,” and in the next decade he organized a transcontinental telegraph computer chess match, pitting an American program versus a Soviet counterpart. In this video, he’s interviewed by psychologist Jeffrey Mishlove. Without mentioning it by name, they wonder over Moravec’s paradox, and McCarthy says that computer programs as intelligent as humans may have already been (stealthily) created or perhaps they will require another 500 years of work.

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