April 20, 2018 § Leave a comment
“The Big Read: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Classic Science Fiction”
After the Montgolfier Brothers made their first balloon flight in 1783, balloons became all the rage and for the next half century almost all lunar flights [portrayed in science fiction] were by balloon. The first was Le Char Volant [The Flying Chariot] written the same year by the Belgian Baroness de Vasse. When her travellers reached the Moon they discovered it was a utopia, ruled by women, unlike the hell of Earth, ruled by men.
It had been speculated that space was a vacuum since the 1640s but no one could quite believe it, and hardy space travellers took little precaution. Edgar Allan Poe was more practical. When his hero went to the Moon by balloon in “Hans Phaall” in 1835 he took the precaution of placing him in a sealed basket with an air condenser.
Poe’s planned sequel to “Hans Phaall” was frustrated when just weeks after it was published his thunder was stolen by a several articles in the New York Sun newspaper claiming that the great astronomer, Sir John Herschel, had discovered life on the moon. They described trees, seas and a host of creatures including bat-winged humans. Englishman Richard Adams Locke, then living in New York, later admitted writing the pieces as a hoax. But it convinced many around the world, finding a particularly gullible readership in France. It has been known as the Great Moon Hoax ever since, and triggered people’s interests in the possibility of life beyond Earth.
The Sunday Herald, April 7, 2018
March 8, 2018 § Leave a comment
“Pigcasso . . . or a New Francis Bacon?”
Her signed canvases sell to fans around the globe for up to £1,700 [US$2,400] apiece and an exhibition of her work is about to embark on an international tour.
Not bad for a girl who has only just turned 21 months old. Especially so when you consider that she’s a pig.
Pigcasso — as she has been christened — and her sister Rosie were rescued by Joanne Lefson from a slaughterhouse close to her home.
The animal artist produces her pieces by gripping the brush in her teeth and moving her head to lay acrylic paint on canvas. So impressive are the results that she has sold 44 paintings to fans in Britain, America, South Korea and Malaysia and last month launched her own exhibition, Oink, on Cape Town’s Victoria and Albert waterfront in her native South Africa.
Aislinn Laing, The Times, February 24, 2018
December 22, 2017 § Leave a comment
“This Airport’s Christmas Tree Was So Offensively Ugly They Had to Take It Down”
[T]he people of Beirut, Lebanon were far from pleased with the Christmas tree that was standing in Rafic Hariri International Airport this season.
It wasn’t just ugly—it wasn’t really a tree. The structure was actually made of metal, fire extinguishers, life vests, and other recycled airplane parts.
The tree was actually commissioned as part of an environmental initiative from Middle East Airlines in order “to raise awareness about environmental protection and to prevent logging and awareness on the recycling process.” However, most people traveling through the airport couldn’t really get past the idea that they were looking at what was basically a Christmas tree made of garbage.
. . . . .
After many complaints, the tree was removed from the airport.
Andrea Romano, Travel and Leisure, December 15, 2017
September 20, 2017 § Leave a comment
Latinos, Asians and people who fall in between the black-white racial binary in the United States are those who are most likely to be asked, often in casual conversation, about their racial or ethnic roots. On the surface, the question, “Where are you from?” seems innocuous. And for many of those asking the question, it is often an expression of genuine curiosity, an effort to connect, or a way to learn more about someone. But for those on the receiving end, like me, it can be a different experience.
As someone who writes about race and relishes a good conversation about it, maybe I should be the last person saying that being asked where I’m “really from” is tiresome and predictable.
But it is.
Critics of microaggression say people like me are being too sensitive about harmless, everyday questions.
I disagree.I think it’s about time we questioned the question.
Tanzina Vega, CNN, August 25, 2017
July 3, 2017 § Leave a comment
“Six Flags Aiming to Open First Saudi Theme Park by 2021”
US-based Six Flags announced in June that it had begun talks with the Saudi government to build theme parks as part of the kingdom’s efforts to expand its entertainment sector and diversify the economy.
Developing the leisure sector is fraught with difficulties in Saudi Arabia, which adheres to a strict social code where women are required to wear plain loose-fitting robes, cinemas are banned and public spaces are gender-segregated.
[Jim] Reid-Anderson [executive chairman of Six Flags] said it was too early to say whether the Six Flags parks would be segregated or whether there would be any restrictions placed on women’s access to the rides, which elsewhere include roller coasters and water slides.
“We’re at the research phase,” he said, but added there was “great support” for the project from its Saudi partners.
Katie Paul, Reuters, November 15, 2016
March 11, 2017 § Leave a comment
[an animation made from tea leaves]
“Tea Tuesdays: Kenyan Farmers See Green in the Color Purple”
Across the picturesque highlands of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, fields of tea shimmer in shades of emerald, lime and moss under the equatorial sky.
Some of these fields, though, are now darkened with patches of purple. The purple comes from leaves with high levels of anthocyanins, natural pigments that also give cranberries, blueberries and grapes their color.
These purple leaves are Africa’s newest—and most intriguing—tea.
At the moment, they are being made into a handful of different styles. . . .
As pleasing as the unique flavors might be, [purple tea] was never developed for its taste.
Instead, [state-run Tea Research Institute] breeders were most interested in creating “a high-value medicinal tea product.” A number of scientific studies done inside and outside Kenya on purple tea suggest that its anthocyanins may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.
“Anthocyanins have capacity to scavenge for free radicals and thus are good antioxidants,” says Stephen Karori Mbuthia, a biochemist at Egerton University, Kenya’s premier agricultural public university, and lead author of a recent study.
Jeff Koehler, Tea Tuesdays, NPR, March 3, 2015
August 27, 2016 § Leave a comment
“The Public Shaming of England’s First Umbrella User”
In the early 1750s, an Englishman by the name of Jonas Hanway, lately returned from a trip to France, began carrying an umbrella around the rainy streets of London.
. . . . . .
Hanway was the first man to parade an umbrella unashamed in 18th-century England, a time and place in which umbrellas were strictly taboo. In the minds of many Brits, umbrella usage was symptomatic of a weakness of character, particularly among men. Few people ever dared to be seen with such a detestable, effeminate contraption. To carry an umbrella when it rained was to incur public ridicule.
The British also regarded umbrellas as too French—inspired by the parasol, a Far Eastern contraption that for centuries kept nobles protected from the sun, the umbrella had begun to flourish in France in the early 18th century. . . . Later British umbrella users reported being called “mincing Frenchm[e]n” for carrying them in public.
Michael Walters, Atlas Obscura, July 27, 2016