Friday, December 30, 2005Anyone else out there catch last night's Diane Sawyer ABC Primetime special on "The Mystery of Pope Joan"? I have to confess I'd heard bits and pieces about the legend of the 'female pope' for years, so I wasn't too surprised the show wasn't entirely enlightening on the matter. Despite heated contentions from both sides, no one knows if there really was a 9th Century German woman named Johanna who ascended to the pontificate, only to be murdered by a mob two years later after giving birth on a Roman road. We'll probably never know for certain, but what's truly interesting is the subtext and tenacity of the legend - and its modern day context.
Why a "Pope Joan" special now? Maybe the attention surrounding Pope Benedict XVI's extension of the traditional Catholic "hard line" and crackdown on gays in the church, or maybe the fact a major Hollywood film about the Pope Joan legend is in the works? [Liv Ullmann starred in an obscure 1972 film on the topic, according to IMDb, and Harry Ufland ("Last Temptation of Christ") is reputed to have been associated with the new project for several years] My thoughts:
A quick Google reveals the Pope Joan legend is often cited as an example of "rampant anti-Catholicism." Why "Anti-Catholic"? Because it suggests that Church officials could have been duped by a mere woman? Because it seems so improbable that a female could rise through the ranks unnoticed, and if she did, that the evidence of her existence could have been erased over the centuries?
First of all, let's try to get rid of the Hollywood image of the story, where we imagine that some Angelina Jolie in sackcloth managed to fool the Fathers with a little feminine wile and chest-binding. This being the 9th Century, our Joan of legend (like everyone else) probably looked far older than her years, and like all clergy wore baggy multiple layers of heavy clothing year-round. With apologies to my fellow Central European sisters, some of us in our later years would have no problem passing as old men, even in silk babushkas - and remember, this is the Modern Age. Think of what Pope Iohannis Anglicus ("English John" after the British missionaries who reportedly brought Christianity to Joan's hometown of Mainz, Germany) - er, Joan, might have looked like back then, sans Clairol and waxing?
In all seriousness, there are many true historical accounts of cross-dressing women who "passed" as men undetected for years; and when a woman's inner desire for existence and self-actualization collides with a horribly misogynist historical period, there's no telling what a gal would do. [There's an interesting French-language site on La Papesse Jeanne. If you prefer to brave goofy autotranslation, click here for an "English" version. Also, check out this German Päpstin Johanna page with numerous historical images.]
As for the improbability of Pope Joan's existence being erased from historical records, consider this: in our world of rapid travel, ubiquitous communications, redundant electronic records and the Internet, "facts" and even people still seem to disappear around the world with startling ease. Go back over a thousand years, to days when literacy and recordkeeping were confined to the clergy and a fraction of the rich, and when there was essentially no means of communication between geographical regions. Is it really that improbable that the facts of a person's existence - even a Pope's - could be nullified with a little creative book-cooking and ecclesiastical housecleaning? I think not. The Dark Ages were "dark" for many reasons, not least of which were the epoch's propensity for silencing and secrecy.
We know news shows are designed to squeeze and tease the audience into watching the entire program, but how (un?)intentionally funny and adolescent was it that the Primetime show bumpers continually alluded to the "mysterious chair used to test the Pope's manhood"? In the
Yes, ABC basically kept viewers glued to the screen for a full hour by suggesting we were going to discuss a secret ritual where a church deacon fondles the new Pope's goolies in full view of the assembled Conclave, exclaiming the Latin equivalent of *"he has testicles, and they hang well!" Now, does this sound more like a ceremony fit for the solemn Roman Church - or a bad college fraternity hazing rite?
One would think that if male gonads were so essential to Church status, proving one's biological manhood would be required much earlier in process; say, upon entry to the priesthood? Would the Conclave truly wait until the white smoke rose before checking if the papabile was a he or a she? If there actually were a "testiculos habet" ritual, I would wager its purpose was more to weed out the eunuchs and castrati rather than the women. Some say the proper utterance is actually, "Duos testiculos habet...," or "he has two testicles" - perhaps an allusion to the ancient Levitical constraint that those with "crushed" (injured, or even undescended) testicles are among the many imperfect souls who must not approach a holy altar.
It seems the chair exists, but is it really a ritual "sorting hat," so to speak? Given the "Coronation Chair's" Latin name of record, the sedia stercoraria, I suspect its true purpose it something far less divine. Yes: it's probably a commode of a design common to the Medieval era. A Pontifical Pooper, if you will. [If you don't believe me, look up the Latin root of the term "stercoraceous."] One gentleman on the Primetime special tried to tell Diane Sawyer that the chair is actually a "sella obstetrica," an old obstetric chair used by women during childbirth.
Perhaps it was, but why on Earth would the new Pope sit on an obstetric chair, of all things, at his coronation? One intervew-ee said the porphyry chair [same Latin root that gives us the word "porphyria," the name of the rare real-life blood disorder claimed to be the source of many vampire legends] was used because it was made of the rarest, most expensive form of purple stone known (but a toilet??)
Another scholar explained to Sawyer that the Church used the chair as an allegorical symbol of the new "Holy Father giving birth to the Mother Church." Eh? Sawyer all but laughed in his face. Now, if that doesn't sound like a mixed message with its roots in pagan female-centered religions, I don't know what does. In sum, questioning the history of the "Pope Joan" legend is no more "Anti-Catholic" than questioning the reasons we've gone war in Iraq is "Anti-American." Ahem...let me rephrase that. In any case, a historical instance of a cross-dressing female Pope might be no more sacrilegious than some of the other odd folk who are reputed to have been Pontiff over the centuries.
To paraphrase an old saying, "if Pope Joan never existed, it may have been necessary to invent her." I shall leave you dangling on that note, so to speak. Have a safe and wonderful New Year's Day!
And - a big 'thank you' to No Milk, who spotted the problem and suggested the fix!
Wednesday, December 28, 2005Warning: this batch of recent news stories is not for the faint of heart. You'd think we were preparing for Hallowe'en, not New Years', from the volume of grisly tales that crossed our news aggregator today.
- "Questions about muscle or meat?" Check out the Nordic Department of Meat Science's website
- Did Gary Glitter pull a Jacko to dodge the firing squad in Vietnam?
- A 50-year old man was severely beaten by a mob and left for dead in Milwaukee last night, after he reportedly honked at the group of teenagers, who were blocking the street
- Chicago's murder rate is "right on schedule" with last year's count: nice to know we're not slipping.
- A Palos Heights, Illinois woman found an awful mystery present on her front doorstep. From CBS2 Chicago:
...the package had a note: "With hugs and kisses from Santa. My name was on the box, so obviously they know where I lived if it was addressed to me," said Kelly, an 18-year-old in Palos Heights, who came home to find a nicely wrapped Christmas gift on her front porch. When the 18-year-old opened the box, what was inside defied imagination.Update: ChicagoIST reports it was actually a goat's head.
"I saw an eye, and I freaked out and called my best friend because we are both vegans, so she would be like, ahhh! And we came back here and called the police," Kelly said. What Palos Heights police discovered was that someone had put a lamb’s head inside the box Kelly had opened. [read full article]
- Nativity thieves strike again: someone stole the baby Jesus figure from a Winnetka family's crèche, but left its detachable arms behind.
- Strange Product Tampering: a family in Hawaii who saved money to purchase the last Video iPod™ in stock at a Keeaumoku Wal-Mart received an unpleasant surprise when they opened the box: instead of an iPod™, the sealed package contained a plastic-wrapped piece of raw meat. [KHON-2 TV, via Gizmodo]
- A nifty meat collage for your computer desktop over at tinytoad.com:
I've also been working on a "meat-collage" program. Meat is being loaded and randomly placed (I'm using gdk-pixbuf, I like it!). But I'm going to need to rotate meat and I don't know the best way to do it using gdk-pixbufs. The standard way seems to be to use an algorithm which involves skewing. Now if only I could get my hands on the Paeth paper... I miss my access to uwaterloo's library proxy. Here's a sample of what I've got so far.
Friday, December 23, 2005Just in case I don't write before Christmas Day, let me take a moment to thank every one of you for stopping by to visit farkleberries this year. Thanks for sharing another year of strange news, bad puns, crazy politics, and stories about odd meat products. It's been fun, and I'm sure well have a bumper crop of the same next year, too. We do indeed live in interesting times - sometimes a little too interesting.
Here's wishing you love, health, happiness, success, and importantly, peace this holiday season...and throughout the New Year 2006.
Thursday, December 22, 2005Every two years or so, I seem to develop a craving for a certain odd meat product my parents swear I loved as a young child: liver cheese.
For a moment, try to dispel the unpleasant images the name may conjure; think of it by its tastier German moniker, "Leberkäse." It's a fairly rare cold cut these days, available in a few supermarkets and specialty European delis, and a search of Oscar Mayer™'s website comes up blank: they won't publicly admit to the fact they still make liver cheese. You'll have a better chance finding some by going to a smoky old deli in Milwaukee and whispering its Teutonic name to an old butcher named Hans. Here's the interesting part: there is no cheese in liver cheese, and if you're a traditionalist there is neither liver nor cheese in real German Leberkäse. It's a fine-grained meatloaf made of ground beef and pork.
The liver cheese I'm talking about is actually a square loaf-style preparation with neatly rounded corners, consisting of a liver-based core surrounded by a thin outer ring of
It's the Everyman's Paté, a foie gras for the financially frugal, but no geese need suffer for your gustatory pleasure (we won't discuss the piggies right now, mmm-kay?). It must inspire fond memories of the Old Country flavor for other people as well, as one company actually makes a dollhouse miniature version of a liver cheese loaf.
No, it's probably not healthy at all, and after eating a small package of sliced Leberkäse over the course of a week (every two years or so, remember) this Proustian meaty memory will leave my consciousness. Until the next time it strikes, arriving in its fine livery.
Sorry. I couldn't resist.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
- For weeks, I've been looking for a "just right" recipe to prepare traditional figgy pudding; lo and behold, Jason Kuznicki over at Positive Liberty shares his personal recipe. There's another interesting, veddy English version of figgy pudding over at UK's The Foody; caveat - it's a tad rich in suet, booze, and fiber.
- The 10X10 Project is a live, hourly-updated site displaying
...the 100 words and pictures that matter most on a global scale, and presents them as a single image, taken to encapsulate that moment in time. Over the course of days, months, and years, 10x10 leaves a trail of these hourly statements which, stitched together side by side, form a continuous patchwork tapestry of human life....10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. [Via Bung Phê's Blog]
- The Gadflyer offers a concise look at the Dover intelligent-design case ruling, and a link to the full transcript [PDF] of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case ruling at FindLaw
- One more reason to be glad I don't live in NYC: the MTA transit strike. MetBog promises to cover the chaos "blow by freakin' blow." One of the little "inconveniences" connected to the strike is that vehicles must have at least 4 passengers to be allowed entry to bridges and tunnels into the city. It's prompted some creative hitchhiking action:
I drove in with a few friends....actually 6 of us piled into my trusted 91 jeep Cherokee. Over the Brooklyn Bridge we went. Getting to the bridge was a slow crawl. The cops were stopping every car and checking the number of occupants. The car in front of us had only two people. Was the driver stupid or what ?? Didn’t he hear the news regarding the occupancy restrictions? Well he didn’t. The cop on station was more ingenious. He caught hold of two pedestrians who were going to walk and made them sit in the car and let the car onto the bridge. Talk about hustling !! [read more on MetBlog NYC]And just before the holidays, oy. What if your car's a two seater or full of luggage? I certainly hope Chicago transit workers don't strike anytime in the near future - there'd be few million frozen tushes in the Windy City.
- Gapers Block tips us to this Chicago Tribune article, which reports the city is ordering new buses with wider seats - to accomodate our city's wider seats:
The Chicago Transit Authority and Pace have ordered wider seats for the hundreds of buses that'll begin hitting the streets next year. Typically, bus seats are about 17 1/2-inches wide, according to industry officials. But the City of Big Shoulders can soon settle into some of the nation's biggest transit seats - 18 inches wide.Perhaps the CTA could take a tip from Australia's Butt Bus Lines, which offers
You could call it a natural progression for a city that at least one fitness magazine recently ranked the fifth-fattest city in America. But you won't hear that from transportation officials. CTA President Frank Kruesi said the wider seats reflect "growing support" for transit. Melinda Metzger, a Pace deputy executive director, said she thinks "people like a little more room in the seat." [read full article, reg. req.]
Shuttle Buses & Day trips around Melbourne. Wine tours, Eat & drink on board, Heritage tours all over Victoria. Melbourne Airport transfers to Melbourne CBD for $110.00 21 seat bus plus trailer. CD player, BBQ, Karaoke Microphone, railer for Luggage. Ike the performing dog on request. 21 & 24 seat buses, Not Air conditioned.
Friday, December 16, 2005This story from Sarasota was just too cute and funny to pass up...apparently, a screech owl with a taste for ganja was found stuck inside one family's Christmas tree:
A bird with a buzz found in a Florida family's Christmas tree is getting ready to go back into the wild. The little screech owl was found in the tree, which the family had kept for five days before deciding to decorate it. Animal control officers from Pelican Man's Bird Sanctuary came to get the owl, and said they smelled a strange odor on it when they did.[via NBC-5 Chicago]
"Curiously enough, the owl's feathers smelled very, very potently like marijuana," said Jeff Dering, of the sanctuary. "They examined the owl, looked at its eyes, ... and the owl was, in the vernacular, stoned." Blood tests confirmed the owl's state. Sanctuary staff checked the bird out, fed him and named him "Cheech." They said he would be released in a few days.
Now, let me say that I don't really have a problem with advertising on the sides of trucks, buses per se, because those vehicles are actually moving people and products and have a genuine purpose. On the other hand, is there a single good reason - besides love o' good old god-o-Mammon - that we need to be wasting precious fossil fuel on huge trucks that do absolutely nothing but drive some garish billboard around in circles in crowded inner city rush hour traffic, when just as many people would see the damned ad if it was on a truck, bus - or just standing still?
I'm sure the mobile-ad companies will say, "but more people pay attention to moving objects!" Newsflash: just about everything in the city is moving except the rush-hour traffic. Can't you make an electric/hybrid or LP-gas powered version of one of these, or use them for transporting something wedged inside those 12 wasted inches between the billboards? Your CEO's come to mind, for example.
- Billie Holliday - "God Bless The Child"
- Boozoo Bajou - "Barkensignal"
- Mike Oldfield - "Santa Maria"
- Pixies - "Gigantic"
- Magnetic Fields - "In My Secret Place"
- David Bowie - "Supermen"
- Synthetica - "Mystery of the Third Planet"
- Miles Davis - "All Blues"
- Interpol - "NARC"
- Christmas In The Stars (The Star Wars Chistmas Album) - "The Odds Against Christmas"
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
- Play the addictive game of Mushroom Life (based on John Conway's "Game of Life" applets): "seed" select squares on the Flash site grid with virtual "mushrooms" - making sure not to isolate or overcrowd them (neighborless mushrooms will "die," and those with more than three neighbors will be "crowded out"). Then click "start," and watch as dozens of generations of mushrooms sprout and disappear before your eyes (using a cellular automata algorithm) into ever-changing patterns.
- Echoing the Japanese trend of "Black," "Super Black" and "Black Black" ("HI-TECHINICAL EXCELLENT TASTE AND FLAVOR") confections, Coca-Cola is reportedly launching coffee-flavored Coca Cola Blāk, starting in France in early 2006:
"Coca-Cola Blāk is not just a flavor extension. It is a blend of unique Coke refreshment with the true essence of coffee and has a rich smooth texture and has a coffee-like froth when poured. We believe we have created a new category of soft drink – an adult product in a carbonated beverage – and a whole new drinking experience."Unicode perfectionism aside - wouldn't "Blāk" be pronounced "Blake", not "Black"? Wouldn't it be "Coke Blăk"?
- Love fishing, but hate sitting around in a boat? Try the new Kamome remote-controlled automatic fishing boat by Coden Japan: you'll be reeling in the big ones while sipping caipirinhas on the shady shore. [Gizmodo]
- Thanks to Cripes, Suzette! for tipping us off to Thom Reaves, a New Jersey artist whose unique Trenton-centric designs include the charming Porkroll Baby. Okay, you have to have lived there once to really get it...oh, and thank you for this gem:
It's not so much how busy you are - but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.
-- Marie O'Connor
- Apparently, humans have been busy much longer than we thought: new archaeological discoveries point to the fact that the Mayan civilization existed over 2,000 years age (700 years older than previously thought) and Northern Europeans settled the British Isles 700,000 years ago.
- You heard it here first (or second or third, if you're a true geek): the Next Big Thing is old-school handsets for cell phones. The kids in Japan love it, and DIY modders do too. Even the New York Times has a piece on retro handsets for cellies: "A Cellphone for Calling BUtterfield-8" [reg. req.] Gizmodo says,
It's a cute hack -- although I doubt there's a burgeoning trend in it -- and I have to say I agree with the general sentiment. Who wouldn't like to see a phone made out of wood, or copper, or meat?After all, who hasn't seen a meat phone in their nightmares at some point?
Among the most disturbing aspects of the debate are conflicting reports from doctors about whether the transplant was the result of two suicide attempts, one successful by the donor, and one failed by the recipient. If [recipient, 38-year old Isabelle] Dinoire's disfigurement resulted from an attempted suicide, it would raise questions about her emotional stability and her ability to consent to such a risky operation. Reports that the donor committed suicide also have implications for Ms. Dinoire's future, because if true, and if the transplant is successful, it would mean that for the rest of her life, she would see in the mirror the nose, mouth and chin of a woman who herself met a brutal end. [read full story]Dinoire's relatives deny that her injuries resulted from an attempted suicide, saying she took "two or three doses" of sleeping pills, passed out, and stepped on the family dog who then attacked her. Probably, much of the squeamishness originates from the "Frankenstein"-ish aura surrounding cadaver face transplantation - and from the fact a face transplant is, after all, a life-threatening procedure without being life-saving per se. Still, had this information been publicly known beforehand there would have likely been even more opposition to the experiment. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports French officials are outraged that the transplant recipient's - and the donor's - names have been revealed in the press.
Last year, American doctors at the Cleveland Clinic had selected 12 potential recipients of facial transplants, but had not actually performed one of the surgeries.
MORE: "Face Transplant Gives Hope to Many," [AP, via KSTP-TV5 Minneapolis-St. Paul]
Monday, December 12, 2005
You taste like sushi. Yes, you're a bit fishy, but if handled by the right person, you become a delicacy. People with expert hands bring out the best in you and your smooth texture leaves tongues very happy. How do you taste?
brought to you by Quizilla [Via Polyopia]
Quote from a Friday dinner: "How many eels can you eat?"
Friday, December 09, 2005Last night's snowstorm - the first of the season here - was, as the news reports put it, a doozy. In the space of about three or four hours we received over 8 inches of dense, "greasy," traffic-jamming snow here in Chicago. Fortunately, I'd left the car home yesterday. The storm snarled travel so badly that my usual hour-and-a-quarter commute took nearly two and a half hours. But, no matter how long I'd have spent on that steamy, overheated, standing-room only Hyde Park Express, it wouldn't have been as bad as this:
[Photo © 2005 Chicago Tribune; read more coverage of the story on the Chicago Tribune]
Our dinner date with two friends was delayed nearly two hours because of the weather, and when we walked into our favorite Ethiopian restaurant we spotted the "Breaking News" on the house TV. Just ten minutes earlier Southwest flight 1248 from Baltimore skidded off the end of the runway at Midway Airport into a busy intersection at 55th and Central.
Sadly, as it turns out, an 8-year old boy was killed, and 11 others including his family were seriously injured when their vehicles were crushed by the plane. We stood near the set for several minutes, watching the live coverage of this surreal scene of a huge airliner blocking the street, bathed in consuming orange sodium glow and dizzily flashing emergency vehicle lights.
...and for a brief moment, the thick whiteness brings deceiving calm and bright to our usually noisy North Side neighborhood. Welcome to Winter, 2005.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
- What happens when you cross Godzilla with a Portuguese Man-O-War? You get echizen kurage, giant 450-pound jellyfish that are menacing fisheries in China, South Korea and Japan. The juggernaut jellies are reportedly killing fish, breaking nets, and poisoning fish catches. The UK Times Online [image from the Kyoto Prefecture website]:
The problem has become so serious that fishery officials from Japan, China and South Korea are to meet this month for a "jellyfish summit" to discuss strategies for dealing with the invasion.If the U.S. ever needs to form a Jellyfish Countermeasures Committee, you bet I'll be right there to sign up.
Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has formed a jellyfish countermeasures committee and fishermen are at work on technology to keep the marauders out of their nets. The problem first became obvious in the late summer when fishermen chasing anchovies, salmon and yellowtail began finding huge numbers of the jellyfish in their nets.
In some places jellyfish density is reported to be a hundred times higher than normal. Worst of all, no one yet understands why. One theory is that global warming is heating up the seawater and encouraging jellyfish breeding. ... In the meantime locals are making the best of it — rather than just complaining about jellyfish they are eating them.
- University of Chicago physicists have described a strange new "fluid-like" state of matter. You too can create and view the phenomenon, using only a falling marble and a loosely packed container of sand. Groovy!
- The hole crystal, and nothing but the hole crystal: a team at the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics at Kiel University, Germany used computer simulation to study the behaviour of electron holes within a semiconductors. They have worked out a way to create crystals from the holes between atoms, something that may lead to unexpected benefits such as superconductivity at higher temperatures [New Scientist]
- "Cyclotrons? N.I.M.B.Y.!"
Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home. But when neighbors learned of plans to place the 20-ton device inside the house where Swank operates his engineering firm, their response was swift: Not in my backyard. [WIRED News]
- Gizmodo shows a simple 'hack' that may extend the range of your wireless router: stick it inside a Chinese chef's wire strainer
- If this gadget is decently built and works as advertised, it would be a fantastic gift idea for those people on your list with huge collections of vinyl records - who would love to rip them into .mp3's, or some such nonsense. From BIOS Magazine UK:
California-based ION has created what it is claiming is the industry's first USB turntable, allowing you to convert your old vinyl collection directly to CD or MP3 with the included recording software. No special drivers are required either, which is always helpful.The ION iTTUSB turntable isn't in stores yet, but BIOS reports its retail price will be about $139.00. Not bad.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005I'll make a bold prediction about the backstory behind today's shooting of an airline passenger by a federal Air Marshal: given the man's age (44), a BBC report that a woman traveling with the deceased had said he was "mentally ill" - and the fact there appears to have been no bomb in his carry-on as claimed - this may turn out to be nothing more than an unfortunate case of "suicide-by-cop."
UPDATE: Thank you to Netscape News with CNN for the link to this post.
- Will kill for cheese: Memphis woman hires 'hitman' to rob and kill the occupants of a home she believed held a stash of cocaine, turns out the 'hitman' was an undercover cop, and the coke 'bricks' were only queso fresco Mexican cheese. [Washington Post.com]
- Are fungi and ergotoxins the source of many religious visions and mass hysteria events? The Council on Spiritual Practices site section "Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments: An Entheogen Chrestomathy" reviews Mary Matossian's Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History:
"Why did witchcraft persecution peak in the period 1560-1660? Perhaps the weather was to blame. This was a cold century. The Thames River froze over in 1565, 1595, 1608, 1621, 1635, 1649, and 1655; it has not done so as often in any one hundred year period since.
Cold winters traumatize rye and increase the risk of ergot alkaloid formation. Such alkaloids may have caused the symptoms of bewitchment. When the incidence of these symptoms increased, so did the incidence of witchcraft persecution. ... Ergot is the source of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and it may include natural alkaloids that act like LSD. People under the influence of this compound tend to be highly suggestible. They may see formed images for instance, of people, animals, or religious scenes whether their eyes are open or closed. These hallucinations can take place in the presence or absence of social cues."
- Those Old Rips: WIRED News' Dan Goodin ponders what to do with all those terabytes of low-bitrate .mp3 from a few years ago
- A Syracuse University study finds a reverse relationship between the sizes of bats' testes and brains:
The brainier male bats are, the smaller their testicles, according to a new study. Researchers suggest the correlation exists because both organs require a lot of energy to grow and maintain, leading individual species to find the optimum balance. The analysis of 334 species of bat found that in species where the females were promiscuous, the males had evolved larger testes but had relatively small brains. In species, where the females were monogamous, the situation was reversed. Male fidelity appeared to have no influence over testes or brain size.
[Researcher Scott] Pitnick and his colleagues had predicted that, in species with promiscuous females, males would require bigger brains in order avoid being cuckolded. So they were surprised to find the opposite: "Perhaps monogamy is more neurologically demanding." [read full article in New Scientist]
Tuesday, December 06, 2005Do you know why December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada?
I had just started my first job as a radio announcer/assistant news producer the month before, and was alone at the station audio board when reports and calls started coming in that an armed gunman had murdered a group of female engineering students. I remember feeling stunned, disgusted, and outraged to the point of tears when I heard the news. At the time I was living in Plattsburgh, New York, only about one hour south of Montreal, so this literally happened in my "back yard." The event seems to have vanished into that homogenous pit that contains the world's forgotten tragic headlines - but I'm grateful that Canada remembers. While many saw the murders as the isolated act of a troubled and violent individual, the intentions behind the act were nothing less than terrorism, in the purest sense of the word.
The CBC has a special retrospective feature of the day Marc Lepine slaughtered 14 women, in his words, to "fight feminism."
The Crime Library has a detailed narrative feature of the events of the killing:
As the lone man entered the room, a few people looked over at him and he offered a slight smile, as if to apologize for the interruption. He looked at the women, as if to make certain of where they sat. Used to students arriving late, Professors Yvan Bouchard and Adrien Cernea both ignored him."Yet there is also an interesting irony associated with the École Polytechnique massacre. Lynda Hurst pointed out in the Toronto Star that Lépine's outburst has had the opposite of its intended effect: 'Between 1989 and 1999, the proportion of women enrolled in Canadian engineering faculties rose from 13 to 19 percent. And in absolute numbers, it more than doubled to nearly 9,000.'"
But then the grinning man in the baseball cap ordered them all to pay attention. "Everyone stop everything," he insisted. Professor Bouchard looked over, annoyed. He squinted as if trying to remember who this student was. ... In French, the young man asked the 10 female students to get up and move across the room. He then told the men to leave. No one moved. A few people laughed, as if this were some kind of joke. That was the worst thing they could have done. He had been humiliated enough in his 25 years. On this day, of all days, he was not going to be treated in that way.
Lifting his rifle, he shot twice into the ceiling. It was no joke. ... When the 10 women had moved into the specified corner, the gunman explained his reason for being there. According to survivors who spoke later to police or reporters, he told them that he was there on behalf of males. "I'm fighting feminism."
Women had been taking employment and opportunities away from men, he said, and feminists needed to be taught their place. ... He lifted the rifle again and, as they screamed for mercy or tried to leap out of range, he methodically shot them from left to right. All were hit. ... The men waiting outside heard the shots and the agonized or frightened screams. They could hardly believe what was happening. At least 20 rounds had been fired. A few ran down the hall to raise an alarm and find someone who could call for help, while others waited.
Then the gunman came out and strode past them. No one tried to stop him. No one dared. He aimed the rifle precariously at them and they backed away, allowing him to leave. He fired at several other students on that floor, and three more were hit, including two women. Then he continued on his way. [read full article]
- Audio and video media streams of the CBC's news coverage are available here as well.
- Detailed timeline of the Montreal Massacre at the Crime Library.
-  Mount Royal College remembers
Sunday, December 04, 2005I wanted to offer this space to congratulate my very good friend of nearly twenty years, Ryan Smith, on a few fronts - his graduation from Plattsburgh State, his recent change of careers (he is now working for the New York State government in Albany), and on the continued success of his Sunday afternoon radio show, Homo Radio. Ryan's no stranger to broadcasting; from gigs in commercial radio in the Eighties, stints in college radio, and now his weekly show on WRPI-FM, he brings his vast knowledge of popular music and current events (and his delightful baritone voice) to this unique Capital Region program:
Since Feb. 1992, "Homo Radio" has served as the voice of the LGBT community of New York's Capital Region (Albany). It's on every Sunday from 12 noon to 2 p.m. EST on WRPI, 91.5 FM, Troy, NY. It also streams on the web at www.WRPI.org. There are no plans to podcast "HR" as of yet. [Though it would be lovely, though, for those of us in the Midwest and elsewhere! - Ed. :)] "Homo Radio" begins with the nationally syndicated newsmagazine show "This Way Out" from 12 Noon-12:30 p.m. TWO features national and international news affecting the LGBT community. That's followed by a segment on entertainment (musical performer, comic, actor, etc).Congratulations, 'Sly'!
The local portion of "Homo Radio" begins at 12:30 p.m. There are segments devoted to news, entertainment news, the "Community Calendar" (pubic service announcements, fundraisers, entertainment, etc., geared to the LGBT community), interviews with local and national newsmakers and performers, and inbetween, a wide range of music by LGBT and LGBT-friendly artists.
"Homo Radio" is a collaborative effort between Ryan Smith, Tim Ruppert, Barbara Willow, Kathy Breda, David Liebig, and Jim Dickson. Sean McLaughlin is the chief engineer and host of the program. Joe Galu is our news editor. Volunteers are always needed and appreciated. Ryan Smith has been with "Homo Radio" since June 2000. He is the principal writer and editor of the "Community Calendar" segment. He also writes some of the news stories.
You never know what musical selections Ryan will bring in to play, and what stories he'll tell about the songs and the artists. He has worked in several NYS radio markets since 1983 including stops in Utica, Herkimer, Plattsburgh and Albany. From 1992-1998, he was the writer of two columns about radio in the former Albany, NY based publication, "The Source Weekly Magazine". Ryan is a Dec. 2003 graduate of Plattsburgh (NY) State College where he went to school with Lenka :-)
Friday, December 02, 2005By the way, those of you who assert that the Christmas tree is a purely Christian symbol, and are offended by suggestions it originated in a pagan context, know that history points to the fact that evergreen Christmas Trees seem to have been a pagan Germanic/Druid innovation. December and January have historically been cold, scary, and boring,* and people have been stuck indoors trying to keep their nourishment, spirits, and indoor temperatures high, while avoiding annoyances like chilblains, the Black Plague and Oliver Cromwell's goose-stepping goose-snatchers.
Just be thankful you're not living in England during his reign - not that some people we know wouldn't enjoy making America a 'Cromwellian Paradise,' except with Wal-Marts. There's been a lot of kerfuffle lately about the "War on Christmas" - well, let me tell you about a real "War on Christmas":
Cromwell banned Christmas as people would have known it then. By the [17th Century], Christmas had become a holiday of celebration and enjoyment - especially after the problems caused by the civil war. Cromwell wanted it returned to a religious celebration where people thought about the birth of Jesus rather than ate and drank too much. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Traditional Christmas decorations like holly were banned.Okay, so department stores are greeting customers with a generic "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" rather than "Merry Christmas," are there's a flurry of disputes over whether state buildings can feature Christmas-themed displays with Christian imagery, and so on. My two cents? If someone wishes me "Seasons Greetings" (besides management-mandated canned greetings, thank you), I'll take it as the person offering me their good holiday wishes without a desire to make an assumption about my religious beliefs. Personally, if the person I'm greeting is only a casual acquaintance, rather than a closer friend whose personal preference I know, it strikes me as politic and socially tactful to offer a more general greeting.
...Cromwell was buried in Westminster Abbey. [Later] his body was put on trial, found guilty [of regicide] and symbolically hanged from a gallows at Tyburn (near Hyde Park, London). What was left of his body remains a mystery. Some say the body was thrown on to a rubbish tip while others say it was buried beneath the gallows at Tyburn. His head was put on display in London for many years to come.
When I hear about people being personally offended, boycotting and protesting department store chains, and filing lawsuits because the greeting they were offered wasn't custom-tailored to their specific religious preference, all I want to say is - get a life. I would venture that these "Advocates for Christmas" are going against the very meaning of the holiday's promises of Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward men. At worst, these Christmas Crusaders would like non-Christmas seasonal expression to be kept silent and private; at best, they simply need to feel their faith is publicly acknowledged. Why don't they try this: when offered a bland unsatisfactory "Season's Greetings," wish the greeter a "Merry Christmas" back. This way, they can have the chance to reciprocate the greeting, and make the point of letting their religious preference be known, without resorting to being litigious or passive-aggressive. I'd rather be wished "Happy Hanukkah," or "Season's Greetings" than be offered a Christmas greeting in a mean or proselytizing spirit.
Don't end up with your head on a stick, like Oliver Cromwell. Let it go, have a Happy Holiday whatever the Heck you're celebrating.
UPDATE: World O' Crap now has the "Carnival of the War on Christmas." [via feministe]
* If you're going to mention the Tropics, or the Southern Hemisphere, just never mind.