Boing Boing 

Remembering Adam Yauch: Polly Wog Stew

Earlier this morning, Pesco posted the awful news that Adam "MCA" Yauch died this morning at age 47. Words here can't express how sad I am, reading that news. Hits home in part because I'm fighting the same disease, and in part because the Beasties were such a formative part of my subcultural education as I grew into my teen years.

The first time I heard them, and Adam Yauch, was when a friend from middle school handed me a home-copied dupe of this cassette tape EP [YouTube, and you can still buy copies on Amazon]. I played it over and over until that little black ribbon wore right out. Some of you may not know that the Beasties were a hardcore band before they became a hiphop band. Now you do.

I've embedded some Beastie videos from that era below. Fuck you, cancer.

Read the rest

Dude reading entire Bible in 100 days, tumblogging neat stuff he finds

A Tumblog of greatness: Craig Kanalley decided that reading the entire Bible, cover to cover, would be an interesting challenge. He has committed to doing that within 100 days, and he's documenting interesting stuff he finds here. Update: David Plotz of Slate also did something like this in 2006. (via @producermatthew, thanks Gastronaut!)

Funny video series "Old Jews Telling Jokes" returns with all-new, even older elders telling even funnier jokes

Video director and wonderfully funny guy Eric Spiegelman tells Boing Boing,

The new season of Old Jews Telling Jokes begins today, featuring jokes we recorded in Boca Raton. We've been on hiatus for almost a year, and it's good to be back. The joke that begins our season, about a bull and an enema and a bridgekeeper, is one of the best I've heard. Also, a bit of trivia. We have a new logo for the show, and it was designed by Milton Glaser. I'm not going to lie, I feel like that's a pretty great honor.

Embedded above: I've selected a joke from the new season told by Irving ‘Brownie’ Brown, a gentleman who is 102 years old. Below, the bull enema joke, as told by Charlie Seibel.

Read the rest

This just in: Internet not actually full of sad, lonely rejects

Personally, I'm about to sprain something from rolling my eyes so hard at all the hand-wringing news stories about how the Internet is disconnecting us from other people and making us more lonely. So it's gratifying to read this piece in the Boston Review that points two key problems with that thesis (besides being fracking obnoxious): First, the evidence doesn't support it; second, humans have apparently been worrying about increasing levels of loneliness since the 1700s.

How to make serious people unserious

On May 1, 2012, at 10:51 PM, Matthew XXXXXX wrote:
Hey. Love your site.
The sentiment of the "Demolish Serious Culture" image appearing on your site is repulsive; it's worse if it's intended to be ironic. I won't ask that it be removed because that would be censorship but I just wanted to say think it represents a nadir for you.
Try harder next time.
Best,
MX

On Tue, May 1, 2012 at 10:52 PM, Rob Beschizza wrote:
Eh?

Read the rest

Facebook launches a new game: Organ Farmville

Facebook announced today that the social network's 161 million members in the United States will be encouraged to begin displaying "organ donor status" on their pages, along with birth dates and schools. Some 7,000 people die every year in America while waiting for an organ transplant, and the idea here, according to this New York Times story, is to "create peer pressure to nudge more people to add their names to the rolls of registered donors." Absolutely nothing could go wrong. (via John Schwartz)

For the billionaire who has everything: a spaceship

Dylan Tweney has a good read over at VentureBeat on a trend of sorts among the ultra-rich: investing in space exploration startups. "The wonder isn’t that billionaires are doing this, the wonder is that it’s taken them so long."

Your land, my land, island

Uninhabited Market Island in the Baltic Sea is home to an international border between Sweden and Finland that is shaped, convolutedly, like the number 2. The New York Times explains the history behind this, one of the strangest borders in the world. (Via Doug Mack)

Life in a fracking boomtown: man-camps, meth labs, strippers, and the gas gold rush

“House-Arrest Amber,” Featured Dancer at Whispers. Photo: Mark Ebner.

Veteran muckraker Mark Ebner of "Hollywood, Interrupted" has a knack for producing beautiful writing from ugly subjects. Scientology, pit bull fighting, celebrity scandals, scam artists... you name it, he's investigated it.

Now, Ebner travels to a town several hundred miles north of Deadwood, South Dakota. In a state wracked by joblessness, this little enclave is home to a new gold rush: Fracking.

Read the rest

Man gay after stroke

Lucy Wallis tells the story of a man whose personality changed after a stroke: "Chris Birch struggles to remember or identify with his old self. He used to be a 19-stone, beer-swilling, party-loving rugby fan from the Welsh valleys, the life and soul of a party. He worked in a bank and loved sport and motorbikes. After a freak accident in 2011, he says he underwent a big change to his personality. He believes that he has gone from being straight to gay." [BBC]

Russian City Always On the Watch Against Being Sucked Into the Earth

That's the headline in the New York Times. Really, what more do I need to say?

Catholic students fight back against archdiocese's anti-family rhetoric

Minneapolis' Catholic DeLaSalle High School had a mandatory assembly recently for its senior class, to educate the students on what marriage is and what a family ought to look like. As you might guess, this also meant telling the students who didn't count as a family and why some families were bad.

It didn't go over very well, according to a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

"The first three-quarters of the presentation were really good," said Bliss. "They talked about what is marriage and how marriage helps us as a society. Then it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn't directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex. They implied that a 'normal' family is the best family."

"When they finally got to gay marriage, [students] were really upset," said Bliss. "You could look around the room and feel the anger. My friend who is a lesbian started crying, and people were crying in the bathroom."

Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, "I love my moms."

It's not a coincidence that this assembly was mandatory for seniors only. Minnesota will be voting on a marriage amendment this year. In fact, the presenters from the archdiocese tried to bring that issue up, but didn't get much of a chance to talk about it because of students—politely and respectively—challenging the rhetoric and asking pointed questions about evidence.

Also not random chance: The fact that high school students would challenge the Bishops on these issues to begin with. There is broad support for gay marriage among people under 30. In fact, multiple polls have shown that somewhere between 55% and 65% of all people under 30 support gay marriage. Like the seniors at DeLaSalle, a majority of young Americans get that this isn't a political football, it's a civil rights issue.

Read the Minneapolis Star-Tribune story about what happened at DeLaSalle High School.

See two polls on gay marriage from 2010 and 2011.

Via Slacktivist

Food critic Jonathan Gold attends a 9-course marijuana dinner

Pulitzer-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, who recently departed the L.A. Weekly to join the Los Angeles Times, writes about his experience attending a nine-course "Marijuana and Chinese Herbs" dinner hosted by serial restauranteur Nguyen Tran and prepared by chef Laurent Quenioux. High Times columnist Elise McDonough, author of the newly-released "The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook" (look for my Boing Boing review soon!) was among those in attendance. Snip from Gold's review:

When Nguyen Tran emailed to tell me about an extravaganza he was setting up at an acquaintance's house, a special herb dinner in which each of the many courses would involve fresh marijuana, I did not necessarily beg to be included in the feast. The first time I met Tran, on a social-media panel somewhere, he happened to be wearing a banana suit, and he has been known to show up to food events dressed as a tauntaun from "The Empire Strikes Back." I like his Starry Kitchen, a pan-Asian lunchroom in a downtown office-building food court, and I admire the running pop-up restaurant he mounts with chef Laurent Quenioux. But the notion of an “herb” dinner wasn't especially my thing. The last time I had sampled this particular herb was many years ago, in the course of reporting a story on Snoop Dogg and his 15 pit bulls, and its culinary uses were not apparent even back then.

Read the rest here.

(Photo: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2012: Marijuana leaves are laid out in preparation for one of several courses.)

Crowd-funded epic journey across America by train

Last Monday, I spoke to the Boston Skeptics about energy, infrastructure, and my new book, Before the Lights Go Out. After that talk, I met Erik "Skippy" Sund, a guy who is about to embark on an amazing adventure that he's hoping to crowd-source.

Erik is planning on traveling across the United States by train. His itinerary starts in Boston, heads south to Florida, west to Texas, up to Colorado and west to California, north to Washington, and the back East, through Illinois and and Ohio. It's not a commuter trip. It's not even like my recent train experience—where I chose to choo-choo directly home from a conference in Vancouver. Instead, Erik is trying to recreate the American travel epic, a story as old as the founding of this country.

The impetus behind this trip consists of some assumptions about the way we have come to travel the world around us.


1. Traveling is simply the utilitarian process of getting from point A to point B and is not regarded significantly as an event in itself. I hope to flip this assumption by showing the benefits of choosing a transportation method that encourages a greater interconnectedness with fellow passengers and the environment.
2. We accept that in the United States we have freedom of movement. As a developed country this implies access to a well organized, affordable and user-friendly transportation infrastructure. I intend to explore the infrastructure and see how it affects the lives of travelers. In particular I will be traveling frugally and in a minimalist nature, taking only 2 carry on bags and riding coach.
3. American cultural identity is forever in flux and can only be defined by its point of observation in time through sharing personal stories.

Along the way I will be interviewing people, recording observations and conversations. I hope to collect, curate, circulate, and communicate every detail of this trip. Once the trip is finished I will start process for editing the blog as a book. As soon as that is ready I will post the books as a .pdf available under creative commons licensing to the blog. After that I will be doing a print-on-demand run of the book for interested parties.

A side project on this trip will to be create a series of fictitious travel stories a Crowd Sourced Narrative. This will either be compiled as a novel, a series of short stories, or as a compilation of ideas available for public use.

It's an interesting and ambitious project. Erik thinks he needs about $5000 to make it happen. If you're interested, you can donate to the project through Indiegogo. One of the best rewards comes with a $50 donation: A piece of random, weird, wonderful Americana mailed to you from a whistlestop, somewhere during Erik's travels. Awesome!

Get details about the project and donate at Indiegogo.

Read more on Erik's Posterous, where he's blogging his plans for the trip.

Woodcut maps

I really dig creative work that turns a sense of place into art. That's why I'm really getting a kick out of WoodcutMaps.com, which uses Google Maps to create really great geometric art—some clearly map-like, others much more abstract.

It all depends on what view of the map you choose to have turned into a woodcut. You can do a tight crop, or wide pull-out. Basically, you choose the view that matters to you. They make it art. Above is what my neighborhood in Minneapolis would look like as a woodcut.

At $100 for an 8x8 square, this isn't cheap. But it is very cool and strikes me as something that would make a nice housewarming gift for a special friend, or an anniversary gift for parents who've lived in the same place for decades.

Via Flowingdata and Ryan Sager.

How To: Pack for a European Vacation

Back in high school, I purchased an old travel guide to Europe at a library book sale. It taught me some valuable lessons about inflation and changing social expectations. But I really only used it for ironic comedy value.

My friend Doug Mack, on the other hand, took his interest in 1960s travel guides a bit further. He actually went to Europe, following the advice and directions of Arthur Frommer's groundbreaking Europe on Five Dollars a Day. He's written a book about his experiences, called (appropriately) Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day.

It's a bit more than just wacky hijinks, though. One of the interesting things Doug gets into in the book is the history of why Frommer's guide ended up being so important. It's hard to imagine today, but there was a time, not so very long ago, when the concept of "budget travel" did not exist. Frommer represented a major shift in how Americans thought about vacationing, especially vacationing to Europe.

To demonstrate just how profound that shift was, Doug put together a video illustrating the packing advice of Temple Fielding—the most prominent travel author before Frommer.

The list of items comes from a 1968 profile of Fielding by John McPhee in The New Yorker:

"Fielding uses two suitcases, and in them he packs thirty-five handkerchiefs (all of hand- rolled Swiss linen and all bearing his signature, hand- embroidered), ten shirts, ten ties, ten pairs of undershorts, three pairs of silk pajamas, eight pairs of socks, evening clothes, three pairs of shoes, a lounging robe, a pair of sealskin slippers, and two toilet kits. . . . He wears one suit and carries two."

Also, to get around baggage fees— a headache even back then—Fielding carried a raffia basket (the airlines didn’t know how to classify it, so they essentially just ignored it; try that on your next trip). Its contents included “a bottle of maraschino cherries, a bottle of Angostura bitters, a portable Philips three-speed record- player, five records (four of mood music and ‘one Sinatra always’), a leather-covered RCA transistor radio, an old half- pint Heublein bottle full of vermouth, and a large nickel thermos with a wide mouth.” He also had a calfskin briefcase that he designed himself and whose copious compartments held another forty-one items, including bottles of brandy and Johnnie Walker, a yodeling alarm clock, plus more standard items like toothbrushes and notebooks.

Read more about the Fielding vs. Frommer culture clash on Doug Mack's blog.

Buy Europe on Five Wrong Turns A Day

After 20 years, a former teacher returns to Tanzania

Frank Bures is a friend of mine here in the Twin Cities. He's also one of the best travel writers I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. You might remember his work from a post a couple of years ago, about Bigfoot hunting in northern Minnesota.

He has a more-serious piece out in the recent issue of The Washington Post magazine. Twenty years ago, Frank spent a little over a year working as an English teacher in Tanzania, just outside the town of Arusha. Recently, he went back, both to re-connect with the people he'd met so many years ago, and to make a trip he'd always regretted not taking the first time around—climb Mount Meru.

Unlike most people who travel to Tanzania, I had no desire to climb Kilimanjaro, which seemed like an overrun fundraising cliche. But Meru was different. Meru was difficult, unforgiving, temperamental, with an air of hard beauty and mystery.

Our bus rolled forward, and I stared out the window at the mountain’s outline. After all these years, it looked the same, though much else had changed. Seeing it again reminded me of my last glimpse of it through a bus window, and of the ache of departure, of the bitterness of leaving all my friends and students and neighbors, but also of the sweetness of having known them.

This was a reunion of several kinds. After too long I was back in this place — to reconnect with people, to find out how things had changed.

But also, I was finally here to meet the mountain.

This is a long read, but worthwhile. At it's heart is a story you don't often hear about Tanzania, and other African countries. Turns out, some of the biggest changes that have happened over the last 20 years have been economic. In a good way. When Frank returns to Arusha, he finds that many of his former students have pulled themselves into the middle class. They're creating comfortable, happy lives for themselves and making their own country better.

In the photo above (taken by Washington Post photographer Sarah Elliot), you can see Simon Moses, and his wife Nai, in front of the home they built themselves. Moses was one of Frank's students. Twenty years ago, he asked Frank to take him to America, because he was afraid of having no future in Arusha. Today, Moses owns a travel company. His wife is an accountant.

Read the rest of Frank's story in The Washington Post.

Via Doug Mack

Tales of a great Pacific Coast earthquake passed down in legend

Last year, the Eastern coast of Japan was struck by a massive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Since that happened, you've heard researchers talk about how it was not the first time that region had experienced an earthquake that large. Although the 2011 Tohoku earthquake has been called the biggest earthquake in Japan's recorded history, that's really only describing the relatively short history of scientifically measured earthquakes. The Japanese have kept written records, describing earthquakes that sound as though they could have been every bit as destructive. And those records date back 1600 years.

But written records aren't the only way of preserving local memories, or warning future generations about the destructive power of the Earth.

Geologic evidence shows that North America's Pacific Coast has experienced earthquakes on the scale of the Tohoku earthquake. (In fact, the Pacific Northwest is probably due for one of these large quakes. It's not an "if", but a "when".) The last time it happened, nobody in the area was keeping written documents. Instead, the story of a massive earthquake and a devastating tsunami—which probably occurred around the year 1700—have become a part of oral storytelling traditions. Ruth Ludwin, a seismologist at the University of Washington, has been collecting these stories since the early 1990s.

"There was a shaking, jumping up and trembling of the earth beneath, and a rolling up of the great waters."

So says an ancient tale told to generations of Quilleute and Hoh Indians. Variations of this saga of an epic battle between the Thunderbird and the Whale are found among Pacific Northwest Tribes from Vancouver Island to Oregon's Tillamook tribe.

The Whale was a monster, killing other whales and depriving the people of meat and oil. The Thunderbird, a benevolent supernatural being, saw from its home high in the mountains that the people were starving. The great bird soared out over the coastal waters, then plunged into the ocean and seized the Whale.

A struggle ensued first in the water, the tribal tale says. "The waters receded and rose again. Many canoes came down in trees and were destroyed and numerous lives were lost."

The Thunderbird eventually succeeds in lifting the evil Whale out of the ocean, carrying it "high into the air (and then) dropping it to the land surface at Beaver prairie. Then at this place there was another great battle."

"A picture began to emerge that looked a lot like what you'd expect from a major quake," she said. One tribe even had what sounds like an explanation for aftershocks, noting Whale had a son, Subbus, who took Thunderbird several more days to locate and kill. The earth-rumbling struggle persisted, but eventually Subbus was subdued.

"I can't say for certain this was the 1700 event, but it sure sounds like it," Ludwin said. "You hear the same story from tribes all along the coast."

Read more about how Ruth Ludwin connected the story of the Whale and the Thunderbird to the 1700 Pacific Coast earthquake.

Image: Simulation from a U.S. Geological Survey research report, showing how the 1700 Cascadia earthquake might have created a tsunami that reached Japan. Written documents in Japan describe a tsunami from that year with no "parent" earthquake. Cascadia might be the source of the so-called "orphan" tsunami. You can read the full paper online.

"My feelings could not be lifted but sunk down": Dispatches from Japan on the anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake

Ichiroya Kimono Flea Market is a company that sells vintage and new kimonos. I don't own any kimonos, and I don't expect to ever buy one. But I do subscribe to Ichiroya's email newsletter. Why? Because it's hands-down the best corporate communique I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Honest, earnest, and unfiltered, the newsletter is written by Ichiro & Yuka Wada, who own and operate Ichiroya out of Osaka, Japan. The newsletters are not really about the company, per se. Sure, they discuss kimonos sometimes. But they're really more just a weekly personal letter from Japan. They're about life. And they're a pleasure to read, even when the life they're recording is incredibly sad.

I was turned onto the Ichiroya newsletters last month by science writer Shar Levine, who has been reading them for years. After the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan a year ago—and through the fear and madness that's followed the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns—Shar told me that the Ichiroya newsletters have been a powerful testament to how these disasters impacted the lives of everyday Japanese.

There are archives of some of the newsletters online. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find an archive that contained the letters written since March 11, 2011. However, when I got the Ichiroya newsletter today, I knew I needed to share it with you. The entire thing is posted below the cut. It tells a story of terrible sadness, strength, and rebirth that needs to be read.

Read the rest

The Grand Forks Herald reviews the new Olive Garden in town

Here's a sentence I never expected to type: You should really read the Grand Forks Herald's review of The Olive Garden.

This is in North Dakota, for those not familiar. With almost 100,000 people in the metro area, it's the third-largest city in the state. It recently got its first Olive Garden and critic Marilyn Hagerty got in ahead of the lunch rush.

The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting ...

At length, I asked my server what she would recommend. She suggested chicken Alfredo, and I went with that. Instead of the raspberry lemonade she suggested, I drank water.

She first brought me the familiar Olive Garden salad bowl with crisp greens, peppers, onion rings and yes — several black olives. Along with it came a plate with two long, warm breadsticks.

There are several things to love about this review. For me, it's about the nostalgia. If you grew up in places where Olive Garden and Red Lobster really were the best restaurants in town, you can't help but feel a warm twinge of homesickness reading this. It's not judgement. I can't judge. I chose to go to Applebee's for my fancy high school graduation dinner.

But the best part about this review comes from some background information dug up by intrepid Duluth News reporter Brandon Stahl. In the course of verifying that this was, in fact, a real review, he uncovered something wonderfully upper-Midwestern. First, read the full review. Done that? Great. Now, get this—that was not a positive review of The Olive Garden.

Stahl talked to a former Grand Forks Herald editor who says, "By the way, [Marilyn Hagerty's] regular readers will recognize that as a fairly negative review since she spent a lot more time on the ambience than the food."

Cultural context: It's the difference between a glowing review, and a passive-aggressively negative one.

Via David Brauer

Image: Enjoy the Gift of Italy., a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from herrkrueger's photostream

China Mieville's London: the (authentic) city and the (banks and surveillance) city

Writing in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, China Mieville blazingly describes two Londons: an exuberant, organic place that has been lived and built over and remade, bursting with energy and vitality; and a fearful, banker-driven collection of megaprojects and guard labour, where billions of pounds can be found to surround the Olympics with snipers and legions of police, but nothing can be found for the library on the corner, where the center of town is being purged of anyone but the super-rich, and where rioting has nothing to do with stop-and-search powers and poverty, and is the result of mere "pure criminality."

The Olympics are slated to cost taxpayers $14.7 billion. In this time of “austerity,” youth clubs and libraries are being shut down as expendable fripperies; this expenditure, though, is not negotiable. The uprisen young of London, participants in extraordinary riots that shook the country last summer, do the math. “Because you want to host the Olympics, yeah,” one participant told researchers, “so your country can look better and be there, we should suffer.”

This is a city where buoyed-up audiences yell advice to young boxers in Bethnal Green’s York Hall, where tidal crowds of football fans commune in raucous rude chants, where fans adopt local heroes to receive Olympic cheers. It’s not sport that troubles those troubled by the city’s priorities.

Mike Marqusee, writer and activist, has been an East London local and a sports fan for decades. American by birth, he nonetheless not only understands and loves cricket, of all things, but even wrote a book about it. He’s excited to see the track and field when it arrives up the road from him in July. Still, he was, and remains, opposed to the coming of the Olympics. “For the reasons that’ve all been confirmed,” he says. “These mega-events in general are bad for the communities where they take place, they do not provide long-term employment, they are very exploitative of the area.”

Stratford sightseers are funneled into prescribed walkways; going off-piste is vigorously discouraged. The “access routes,” the enormous structures are neurotically planned and policed. For the area to be other than a charnel ground of Ozymandian skeletons in 30 years, it will have to develop like a living thing. That means beyond the planners’, beyond any, preparations.

‘Oh, London, You Drama Queen’ (via Making Light)

The End of Chiptune History

Thomas Gilmore offers a brief history of chipmusic, whose practitioners "make complex music in a minimal way."

The more popular tools of the chipmusic (or chiptune, or 8bit) trade were made from the early '80s to the early '90s, when the most efficient way to add sound to a video game or computing experience was with a sound chip. These sound chips are limited, there are no two ways about that. Usually they're restricted to a small number of voices (sounds that can be played at once) and the palette of sounds themselves are set to a handful of presets that the chip is capable of creating. As a result of these limitations, the sounds created by these electronic devices are unmistakably distinctive.

What I love about it is the reminder that it isn't a new thing: music was always written for these devices, and many of them came with consumer-friendly composition software from the outset.

One thing about this history that's not quite right—and many of us in geeky indiedom make the same mistake—is in believing that this stuff is only just "starting to change what is happening on the surface of popular music."

On the contrary, this stuff has been mainstream for a good decade now, and the interesting thing is that all these pixels and bleeps are not just another passing fad. The undercurrents of dependence between nostalgia, avant-garde and mainstream culture obscure the way they've become weirdly, persistently invisible to one another. Derrida probably coined a word for this sort of thing 30 years ago, but I can't hear you looking it up because I'm listening to pseudo-orchestral dance arrangements of classic arcade chiptunes.

The Everything is a Remix theory of creativity

Kirby Ferguson, creator of the absolutely outstanding Everything is a Remix series, explains his theory of creative inspiration, remix, and cultural commons, citing some of history's best-loved "individual" creators and explaining how what they did was a remix, an extension and a part of the work that came before them.

2011/08 Kirby Ferguson (Thanks, Avi!)

The 1990s in forty-eight pictures


Buzzfeed's vision of the 1990s seems close to that of many Americans. From the other side of the pond, I offer a single addendum.

Killed by something that doesn't exist

Placebos have no repeatable physical effect that can be broadly demonstrated to exist. But, if people believe the placebo can help them, it often does—especially for inherently subjective issues like pain relief.

Nocebos are what happens when a placebo (again, something that technically has no physical effect on the body) causes a negative side-effect, simply because the person believes that such side-effects are likely to happen to them.

There is a lot we don't understand about both of these effects. After all, running really detailed tests would inherently involve unethical behavior—intentionally not treating patients or intentionally trying to induce a negative reaction in them. But that doesn't mean you can ignore these phenomena.

A great example comes in a recent column by Alexis Madrigal on The Atlantic. You're probably familiar with the idea of sleep paralysis—the experience of waking up, being mentally awake, but still physically paralyzed. This happens to people all over the world. And, all over the world, it's long been explained in folklore as the work of demons and evil spirits. (The fact that sleep paralysis is often accompanied by feelings of terror, and the sensation of something sitting on your chest doesn't hurt in that regard.) Normally, sleep paralysis brings a few minutes of terror, but no lasting harm. In the mid-1980s, however, it suddenly became capable of killing. The catch, the men it killed were all recent Hmong immigrants, living in the United States. Researcher Shelley Adler thinks it was actually a nocebo effect that killed these men—they believed themselves into an early grave.

[In America] some Hmong felt that they had not properly honored the memories of their ancestors, which was a known risk factor among the Hmong for being visited by the tsog tsuam. Once the night-mare visitations began, a shaman was often needed to set things right. And in the scattered communities of Hmong across the country, they might not have access to the right person. Without access to traditional rituals, shamans, and geographies, the Hmong were unable to provide themselves psychic protection from the spirits of their sleep.

Drawing on all this evidence, Adler makes the provocative claim that the Laotian immigrants of the 1980s were in some sense killed by their powerful cultural belief in night spirits. It was not a simple process.

"It is my contention that in the context of severe and ongoing stress related to cultural disruption and national resettlement (exacerbated by intense feelings of powerlessness about existence in the United States), and from the perspective of a belief system in which evil spirits have the power to kill men who do not fulfill their religious obligations," Adler writes, "the solitary Hmong man confronted by the numinous terror of the night-mare (and aware of its murderous intent) can die of SUNDS."

Via Christopher Ryan

Cyclists would rather ride a bike than have sex

In a recent survey of 5000 Bicycling magazine readers, 50% of men and 58% of women said that—if pressed to choose between sex or bikes—they'd pick the bikes.(Via Maria Popova)

Welcome to the Enchanted Forest


Photo: Urban Trophy

"The carefree sensations that once permeated the park are lost, only to be replaced by a grim sense of nostalgia and unease." [Atlas Obscura]

This is what a scientist looks like

Last year, I told you about a group of 7th graders who took a trip to Fermilab that completely changed their perception of what scientists ought to look like. Before they went on the field trip, "scientists" were bald white guys in lab coats who practiced, primarily, chemistry, and who were deeply weird.

At Fermilab, the kids realized that scientists were, basically, people. All ages. All races. Many with luxuriant, flowing hair. Doing things that actually seemed like fun.

This is What a Scientist Looks Like is a Tumblr that kind of does the same thing, but for people who can't just take the day off for a Fermilab visit. On it, you'll find photos of scientists in their natural habitats—practicing yoga, looking gleefully at Lego models, even lifting startlingly large weights.

If you've ever wondered who I'm talking about when I tell you that "researchers" found something ... this is who the researchers are. Think about it as a gossip magazine column: "Scientists! They're just like us!"

Well, except for the entomologist lifting weights. She's clearly better than me.

Sex is Fun podcast: How sexism affects your sex life

I've been doing periodic appearances on Sex is Fun, a sex-positive podcast aimed at providing fun, informative sex ed. for grown-ups. Last time I was on the show, we talked about some funny animal sex studies and what they can and can't teach you about human sexual behavior. This time around, we talked about a couple of recent studies focusing on sociology and sex.

In particular, we focused on a study from last fall that surveyed students at the University of Kansas to find out how men's and women's internalized sexism affect their relationships with each other. If you've ever watched one of those shows about so-called "pick up artists" and wondered, "Who the hell are the women falling for this crap!?", then this is the show to listen to.

Check out the podcast at the Sex is Fun site!

Image: IMG_9459, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from jon_knox's photostream.

How to build an art shanty

Earlier this week, Mark told you about a couple of the cool art projects happening on a frozen lake in Minnesota.

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