• Michelle Yeoh got an honorary doctorate

    Have you ever felt like life is an RPG and did a poor job allocating your experience points in your youth? Instead of pouring all of that time into mindlessly consuming television or trying to catch frogs, you could've used those hours to become a martial arts master. Once you had a black belt to your name, you could've gone Hollywood and turned your physical prowess into a hefty paycheck.

    In addition to being gorgeous, deadly, and a legend in both Hong Kong and Hollywood, Michelle Yeoh is now a doctor. Earlier this week, Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian person in the history of the American Film Institute to garner an honorary doctorate. You can check out the story in the Instagram post linked above.

  • Heavy Metal magazine is taking another crack at movie making

    The 1981 Heavy Metal anthology film, based on the popular science fiction / fantasy magazine of the same name, was the stuff of legends amongst my friend group growing in the late 90s. It had the edginess of underground comix, with all the nerdy goodness you could hope for, plus scintillating women and a sick soundtrack.

    During the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, the publishing company revealed the sizzle reel above to announce their new plans to launch a whole "Metalverse" of film and TV products based on their extensive IP catalog. From the press release:

    At the panel, attendees were also treated to a sneak peek of the upcoming Heavy Metal animated television series Moon Lake, created by award-winning actor-writer Dan Fogler and based on his anthology graphic novel series. The horror comedy television series, currently in development and seeking distribution, is being co-produced by Heavy Metal, Fogler, Emmy and Peabody-winning Executive Producer Daniel Powell, and Emmy Award-winning animation studio Bardel Entertainment, the studio behind hit shows like Rick and Morty and Teen Titans Go!. Moon Lake is a thirty-minute animated TV show hosted by the Man in the Moon, a farcical character reminiscent of iconic TV anthology hosts of the past who has been held captive by "moon-men" since childhood. He prevents these aliens from attacking Earth by keeping them endlessly entertained with shocking tales of gruesome horror and hilarity

    "Just as Heavy Metal Magazine changed the way the world looked at comic books, and how the '81 animated film Heavy Metal changed animation forever, Heavy Metal Studios is about to take the reins on live action content and push it far past its current stagnation and into new heights. Things will never be the same again, again," said Tommy Coriale, Heavy Metal's President and Head of Studio.

    The company also announced some web3 crypto promotional stuff to help build the hype but, uhhh, I don't think BoingBoing readers will be as excited about that aspect of it.

    Heavy Metal announces 'Metalverse' TV and movies coming soon [David Brooke / AIPT Comics]

  • Trump under investigation for violating the US Espionage Act, obstruction of justice, and destroying federal government records

    Twitter Events reports that the "US Justice Department is investigating whether former President Donald Trump violated the Espionage Act, which prohibits retaining national security information that could harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary, The New York Times, Politico and The Guardian report. Per an FBI warrant obtained by the outlets, Trump is also being investigated for violating additional statutes relating to obstruction of justice and destroying federal government records. Conviction under these statutes can result in imprisonment or fines."

    According to The Guardian, a "conviction for violating any of the detailed laws would be severe: the Espionage Act has a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and the statute for obstruction has a maximum penalty of 20 years, while the statute for destruction of records can also bar anyone convicted from holding future office."

    Politico got an advance peek at the search warrant and revealed some tidbits on what was inside:

    A receipt accompanying the search warrant, viewed by POLITICO in advance of its unsealing, shows that Trump possessed documents including a handwritten note; documents marked with "TS/SCI," which indicates one of the highest levels of government classification; and another item labeled "Info re: President of France."

    Also among the items taken from Mar-a-Lago this week: An item labeled "Executive grant of clemency re: Roger Jason Stone, Jr.," a reference to one of Trump's closest confidants who received a pardon in late 2020.

    Trump has been complaining on Truth Social that he has been treated very unfairly by the FBI and Justice Department, saying Obama took nuclear secrets but nothing happened to him. The Washington Post explains why Trump's accusation is malarky:

    [T]he former president claimed his predecessor, Barack Obama, kept sensitive documents after leaving the White House. "How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!" Trump wrote.

    The National Archives and Records Administration issued a statement pushing back on that accusation, saying that the agency had, as required, obtained "exclusive legal and physical custody" of Obama's records when he left office in 2017. It said that about 30 million pages of unclassified records were transferred to a NARA facility in the Chicago area and that they continue to be maintained "exclusively by NARA."

    Classified records from the Obama administration are kept in a NARA facility in Washington, the statement said.

    View the entire unsealed warrant here.

  • Watch: Montage shows Fox's Steve Doocy battling rare condition that has him uttering truths all week

    Has someone been spiking Steve Doocy's coffee mug with Sodium Pentothal over at Fox & Friends? Or has the co-host been cloned by a Democratic body-snatching pod sent to Earth by space-lasers? All week the conservative has been acting peculiar, as if he can suddenly think. Watch in the montage below as he repeatedly pushes back against the GQP's conspiracy theories and baseless rhetoric on everything from the FBI's search warrant on Trump's Mar-a-Lago home to the Democrat–backed Inflation Reduction Act just passed in the Senate. Of course his condition is only intermittent, and should clear up in a few days.

  • It's likely Fox's legal department forced Kilmeade to tweet a "clarification" about the defamatory doctored photo of FBI judge

    As we posted earlier, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade tried to pass off a defamatory fake photo of U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart — who signed off on Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago FBI search — as the real thing.

    Here's a video of Kilmeade making the boldfaced claim that the photo was indeed genuine. He said at the beginning of the show: "That isn't the only embarrassing photo from Judge Bruce Reinhart. You won't believe who he's pictured getting cozy with. We're going to show you that next."

    (*listen to the weird emphasis he uses when he says "Reinhart.")

    After Kilmeade showed the photo, Sean Hannity voiced his doubts about the veracity of the photo, but Kilmeade refused to admit it was fake:

    Hannity: "I think that's actually a picture of Jeffrey Epstein with somebody putting his head on there. I'm just guessing, I don't know."

    Kilmeade: "It might be his plane, who knows?"

    Hannity: "I'll let you determine that in the morning."

    This afternoon, Kilmeade finally got around to admitting via Twitter the photo was fake, but pretended it was just a hilarious "jest":

    Last night while subbing for Tucker Carlson, we showed you an image of Judge Bruce Reinhart w/ Ghislaine Maxwell that was sourced on screen to a meme pulled from Twitter & wasn't real. This depiction never took place & we wanted to make clear that we were showing a meme in jest.

    To be clear, there are no real photos of Reinhart with Maxell or Epstein. Of course, there are tons of photos of Trump cozying up with the infamous sex predators, but Fox wouldn't dare show those, because they would cast their Christofascist god-emperor in a negative light.

    Here's the segment where Kilmeade tried to pass off the photo:

    I smell a lawsuit.

  • Check out Mdou Moctar, an outstanding self-taught guitarist who plays music that transcends borders and labels

    Here's an artist you should know if you don't already: Mdou Moctar. He is an outstanding self-taught guitarist who plays music that transcends borders and labels. His website describes his eclectic musical style:

    Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar boldly reforges contemporary Saharan music and "rock music" by melding Eddie Van Halen pyrotechnics, full-blast noise and guitar shredding, field recordings, drums rhythms, poetic meditations on love, religion, women's rights, inequality and Western Africa's exploitation at the hands of colonial powers to rip a new hole in the sky with the Afrique Victime album.

    And his background:

    Mdou Moctar's home is Agadez, a desert village in rural Niger. Inspired by YouTube videos of Eddie Van Halen's six string techniques and traditional Tuareg melodies, he mastered the guitar which he himself built and created his own burning style. A born charismatic, Mdou went on to tell his story as an aspiring artist by writing, producing & starring in the first Tuareg language film: a remake of Purple Rain called Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, which translates to "Rain The Color Of Blue With A Little Red In It", winning the approval of his family and his community. The word and the sound travelled across West Africa via mobile phone data cards, a popular form of local music distribution. Gruelling DIY world tours and albums on the independent US label Sahel Sounds followed, including 2019's landmark Ilana: The Creator album that earned Mdou Moctar an ecstatic international audience.

    Please go listen to his music, you won't be disappointed. Here's an amazing set he did for KEXP and a live recording from a show he played in Niamey, Niger. The folks filming the Niamey show describe the scene:

    In winter 2020, the Mdou Moctar band met up in Niamey, the capital of Niger, to record a few songs in anticipation of the release of, Afrique Victime (May 21st on Matador Records). We were staying on the outskirts of town at a friend's home. One day, we quietly set up in front of the house to film a few songs. Despite our relative isolation, the noise of the band inevitably attracted a crowd. What started as the four of us simply playing a few songs for a camera turned into a three-night run of rowdy concerts, bringing in hundreds of eager listeners. Each night, kids from all over the city would line up at our door, rushing over after their final evening prayer. These performances were completely spontaneous and wholly unplanned. Thanks to our audience, we were able to capture the spectacular energy of a typical Niamey concert for you. We're thrilled about it and hope you will be, too. Enjoy!

    His music is so infectious and captivating, it's not long before everyone in the audience gets up to dance. I am beyond thrilled to be able to see him next month in Tucson at HOCO fest!

  • Incredibly satisfying video of a monstrously huge hammer smashing cars to bits

    Angry? Wanna smash something? Well, watching this video might be almost as cathartic. Check out this video, "Giant Hammer vs. Cars," and watch a giant hammer smashing all kinds of vehicles, from a VW Beetle, to various trucks, to a forklift. They aren't real cars, they are from BeamNG.drive, a super-realistic vehicle simulation video game.

    The video description reads:

    Hello everyone! New video for you – Giant Hammer vs Cars in the game BeamNG.Drive. In this video you will see how a giant hammer destroys various cars. Which destruction did you like best?

    BeamNG.drive is a realistic & immersive driving game offering limitless possibilities. Our soft-body physics engine simulates every component of a vehicle in real time resulting in realistic & dynamic behavior.

    It's oddly satisfying to watch, and maybe somewhat accurate with regard to physics? Don't ask me, I was an English major. It's fun to watch, though!

  • Meet the parrot daddy and his adorable six feather babies

    Watch this video, featuring an adorable "parrot daddy" and his six blue and gold macaws. Johan Devenier, who lives in South Africa, hatched and raise the six macaws, who are now like his babies.

    In the video, you can see Johan giving them baths, kissing them goodnight, tucking them into bed, feeding them, dancing with them, watching tv with them, and more.

    He is absolutely in love with his birds, and they seem equally smitten. If you want more of Johan and his macaws, he also has an Instagram!

  • This American Sign Language training is price-dropped again. This time, it's for a charitable cause!

    With around a million people using American Sign Language in the U.S. these days, there's a chance you'll encounter someone who uses this way of communication, even if you don't personally know anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing. That's why more folks are becoming interested in learning ASL, understanding the importance of being able to converse with others in general situations, emergencies, and even the film industry.

    Sure, you could Google some basic signs, but that will hardly get you by in a real conversation. But luckily for you, these American Sign Language (ASL) courses, which are price-dropped to just $39.99, can help you reinvest in your education. They teach you way more than the basics, helping you sign confidently in every situation you can think of. And since the courses are designed for signers of different levels, you can rest assured you'll learn something new, no matter how much experience you have.

    Boasting 100 hours of CPD-accredited content, this master class bundle contains three different levels of courses, exploring more basic concepts, like pronouns, the alphabet, and occupations. And as you go higher and higher in the lessons, you'll be introduced to more advanced concepts, like how to sign in different tenses, order food at restaurants, talk about money in business situations, and so much more. 

    In addition to the more widely known ASL, this e-learning program also features courses that explore less conventional yet relevant signing styles, including baby and toddler sign language and even diving hand signals. And as a bonus, this master class includes an ASL e-book edition that lets you refer to basic vocabulary, etiquette, and more whenever you need it. 

    Created by the respected Cudoo.com, a widely-known e-learning platform that has released over 800 online courses in different languages and professional and self-development skills, learners can rest assured they're in good hands. 

    The Complete American Sign Language Master Class Bundle is currently price-dropped to just $39.99, and with each purchase, we will donate $0.50 to a school or charity for kids in need. 

    Prices subject to change.

  • Check out this hilarious "political ad" by a man who calls himself "Dixon Butts"

    Check out this HILARIOUS "political ad" by a man who calls himself "Dixon Butts," from Gilbert, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix). In the ad, Dixon Butts, wearing a black cowboy hat, a blue cowboy shirt, and blue jeans, stands next to a sign that has an American flag flying next to a photo of Dixon Butts wearing the exact same outfit.

    The sign reads "Gilbert Needs Dixon Butts," and the smaller print reads, "Not Runnin' For Anything, Just Wanted To Make A Sign." In the TikTok video, the voiceover reads: "Gilbert needs Dixon Butts. Loyal. Hardworking. A man of the people. Not a politician. I'm Dixon Butts, and I approved this message."

    This dude is hilarious. I want to drive over to Gilbert and find him and go have a beer with him. Never mind Gilbert, the whole WORLD needs Dixon Butts!

  • This cool app lets you visit the locations where your favorite movies were filmed

    Check out this new app, SetJetters, that lets you visit the locations where your favorite movies were filmed! Here's the description of the app on the SetJetters website: 

    SetJetters is the app that puts film locations in the palm of your hand. We have built the bridge from the theater (or the couch) to the real world of your favorite movies. Explore our interactive map to find movie locations near you. Or, simply type in the film you're after and we'll tell you where it was shot. And once you're here, collect a badge for the scenes you visit. Think of us as Pokémon Go but for film locations. We'll even help you recreate the scene for the perfect photo that's ready to share to our SetJetters Feed or other social platforms. We also provide you with information about interesting things to check out in the local area, like this Birds café that has excellent oysters. Visit the worlds of over 900 films, in 47 countries, across 600 cities, making us the largest mobile movie scene database in the world and growing. Explore the locations of major blockbusters. We have every James Bond scene, Star Wars scene, Harry Potter scene, and all of the Lord of the Rings locations. But, if there's a scene we haven't got to yet, submit it and let us know where it is. Our game features allow users to collect a badge when they visit a grouping of scenes working their way up to a leaderboard. So download the JetSetters app. Travel inspired by the movies we love.

    One of my favorite films is Lost in Translation, and it's definitely a bucket list dream to visit Tokyo. I downloaded the app to see if they include that film, and they do! Now I can visit all of my favorite scenes from the movie. You can also search around your current location to see what scenes were shot nearby. And it's fun to see the scene re-creation photos that app users upload.

  • Humpback whales and their killer whale nemesis

    Whenever I encounter the word "nemesis", I can't help but think of Alan Ford delivering this line as Brick Top in the movie "Snatch":

    Do you know what NEMESIS means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by an 'orrible cunt… me..

    Radiolab's recent episode "The Humpback and the Killer", delves into multiple marine scientist's stories of humpback whales mobbing killer whales that are actively attacking other species, which has led some to refer to this behavior anecdotally as "altruistic".

    ROBERT PITMAN: We define altruism something like a behavior of an animal that benefits another at its own expense.

    ANNIE: And what the humpbacks are doing is technically altruism.

    ROBERT PITMAN: If they go in and save a seal, it costs them time and energy, and they get absolutely nothing out of it.

    ANNIE: And hearing this, I'm tempted, along with a lot of other soft-hearted folks, to attribute this to—what else? Compassion.

    [NEWS CLIP: We all love it when someone stands up to a bully.]

    ANNIE: But Bob says …

    [ARCHIVE CLIP, speaker: Aren't these gentle giants?]

    ROBERT PITMAN: Nope.

    ANNIE: … the same thing that's always said.

    ROBERT PITMAN: Biologically it doesn't make sense. Animals don't go out of their way to help other animals. And if you see an instance where it looks like they are, there's probably something going on there that you haven't accounted for.

    ANNIE: Hmm.

    ROBERT PITMAN: So then the question is: what are they getting out of it?

    ANNIE: What is in it for the humpback whales?

    ROBERT PITMAN: Yeah.

    ANNIE: And for me, I thought surely the case of a seal hovering on the belly of a humpback whale would be kind of a tricky one for a scientist to pack neatly away into a box. But actually, Bob was like, this is pretty simple.

    ROBERT PITMAN: Yes.

    ANNIE: What we're seeing here is kin selection.

    ROBERT PITMAN: We think that kin selection is probably what's behind this apparent altruism in humpbacks.

    ANNIE: The idea is if you're a humpback swimming along, hear a killer whale attacking something, rush to the defense and it turns out it's a humpback calf …

    ROBERT PITMAN: It might be a grandson of yours, or it could be a niece or something. So …

    ANNIE: This habit of saving stuff from killer whales …

    ROBERT PITMAN: … it's worth it to them in the long run because they might be saving the life of a relative.

    ANNIE: And therefore, some of their own genes.

    ROBERT PITMAN: Right.

    ANNIE: But wouldn't they know that the thing they're saving is one of them pretty quickly? And wouldn't they just stop and turn around if it was just a seal and not maybe their cousin?

    ROBERT PITMAN: Well, I think for the humpbacks, all they have to know is when you hear those mammal-eating killer whales calling, it's time to go over there and break up the party. And that means regardless of the species being attacked, if they do this enough times, then they're gonna end up possibly saving a relative of theirs. So individually, these cases can be altruistic, but in the long run they're doing it for their own self interest.

    Latif Nasser and Annie McEwen grapples with how to frame these stories about humpback wales mobbing killer whales and settles on something approaching "revenge" as a motive for the apparent altruism, in this exchange:

    ANNIE: So what are they doing? I mean, it sounds like you're just more—like, what was your—what was your feeling?

    ALISA SCHULMAN-JANIGER: Well, I was just pretty much blown away by everything that was going on because there was so—again, there was so much food around, and the humpbacks were, during their prime feeding season, ignoring the prey and really focusing on what looked like trying to keep the killer whales from feeding.

    ANNIE: Are there other examples of that in the animal kingdom? Of rather than feeding yourself, you're gonna prevent your enemy from feeding?

    NANCY BLACK: Yeah, not that I know of. No.

    LATIF: So wait. The idea, it seems like, is that it's not about the victim that they're protecting in the first place, it's just that they don't want the killer whales to eat. They just hate killer whales so much. Like, it's like let's just forever make life miserable for them. Like—like, let's, like—like, annihilate them.

    ANNIE: Right. Which seems like the opposite of what instincts honed by evolution should do. But according to Alisa …

    ALISA SCHULMAN-JANIGER: Several of the humpback whales that we were with had killer whale tooth rakes on their flukes which definitely show that they had survived a killer whale attack, and have experience with either being attacked as a calf, or being a mom who is trying to protect her calf, or being another humpback whale that was with that mom and calf trying to protect it.

    ANNIE: Do you mean to say that they've either lost a calf of their own, or they have themselves been attacked as a calf and they remember this?

    ALISA SCHULMAN-JANIGER: Oh, absolutely they'd remember that.

    ANNIE: Oh!

    ANNIE: It almost feels like, in this case, lived experience was beating out, or at least joining with evolution. And I was like, does—so is this revenge we're looking at? Like, is that what we're seeing here?

    LATIF: Revenge!

    LULU: Oh my God!

    ANNIE: Could it be that, instead of humpbacks swimming through the ocean saving helpless animals, they're actually scouring the seas, carrying with them battle scars of their own near miss or the memory of losing their calves? Ignoring their own hunger pangs and trying to prevent their enemy from feeding? I mean, this is like the classic definition of revenge. Like, revenge ruins your life too because you are so focused on hurting the other, you know, your enemy that you—your own life is falling apart.

    NANCY BLACK: Yeah, that's—that's interesting.

    ANNIE: But Nancy and Alisa—and rightly so—were kinda like, "Revenge?"

    ALISA SCHULMAN-JANIGER: Revenge? I don't think we know enough. We just—there's no way for us to know that.

    The behavior exhibited by humpback whales towards mobbing killer whales, brings us back to the word "nemesis". It almost sounds like humpback whales recognize the nature of killer whales abusing their absolute power as apex predators, and respond accordingly with vigilante retribution only they can mete out. I really like how Latif Nasser and Annie McEwen encapsulates the feeling of learning all of the above, in this exchange at the end of the Radiolab episode:

    LATIF: You know the blind man and the elephant?

    ANNIE: Uh, no.

    LATIF: You don't know the blind man and the elephant?

    ANNIE: Mmm …

    LATIF: Okay. It's an old, I want to say Buddhist parable. And it's a little bit ableist actually, now that I think about it. But basically, the blind man and the elephant, it's like, I don't know what, like, five blind men walk up to an elephant. They're all using their hands to try to figure out what the heck is this thing in front of us.

    ANNIE: Mm-hmm.

    LATIF: One of them feels the tail and he's like, "Oh, it's like a rope. It's like a rope, basically." And one of them feels a leg and they're like, "Oh, no. It's like a tree—it's a tree trunk. It's clearly a tree trunk." And then one of them is feeling the, you know—the—the actual trunk and is like, "Oh, it feels like a—kinda like a hose, maybe?"

    ANNIE: Mm-hmm.

    LATIF: So they're—they're all—one's touching the ear and being like, "No, no, no. This is like a—it's like a giant leaf or something."

    ANNIE: Mm-hmm.

    LATIF: So each one of them are touching it and they're—they're right. Like, they're right based on their horizon of experience. But they're just, by sensation, incapable of seeing the whole picture. And I think that's all of us. Like, we're—our sensations are so limited, and it does feel like, you know, the pictures that we have, the parts of the elephant that we've groped enough times to know, it's just like, we know the nature red in tooth and claw, the nature, the savage nature, the killer of the killer whales. We know that story, right?

    ANNIE: Yes.

    LATIF: We know the, like, oh, nice and altruistic, like, doing a thing. Like—like, we kinda know that story.

    ANNIE: Mm-hmm.

    LATIF: But then there's a story like the third one that's so bizarre. It's like we touched a new part of the elephant and we're like, "What the hell?" Like, we don't even know what this thing is anymore. Like—like, maybe this thing we thought we knew, we actually don't know.

    ANNIE: Yeah.

    LATIF: And the whale is just—it's so big and it's so complicated, and we're only seeing it this tiny fraction of the time when it's on the surface. So, like, when we do see another dimension of it, it just reminds us how—like, how we really are just grasping a tiny fraction of the whole portrait.

    ANNIE: Right. It reminds us, like, how much we still don't know.

    LATIF: Yeah!

    ANNIE: And I feel like those moments where I see that the thing I thought I knew I really don't know, like, that's when the universe gets big again. Like, I just want to not know more!

    Learning all of this, I feel that the universe feels as if it's remained the same, but it's my perception of it that has expanded in the process.

  • Anthony Boudain's method to find the best food in a city: "provoke nerd fury online"

    In this fantastic 2013 Esquire article by Anthony Boudain on what he brings and does when he travels, he included a tip for finding the best places to eat in a new city:

    [P]rovoke nerd fury online. Go to a number of foodie websites with discussion boards. Let's say you're going to Kuala Lumpur — just post on the Malaysia board that you recently returned and had the best rendang in the universe, and give the name of a place, and all these annoying foodies will bombard you with angry replies about how the place is bullshit, and give you a better place to go.

    As Jehan Uri points out in his Atoms vs Bits newsletter, "Note that posting 'where do I get good rendang in KL?' would have got you zero responses."

    It's basically an application of Ward Cunningham's Law, which states, "the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer." Cunningham should know; he is the creator of wiki software.

  • Author Mark Dery's account of taking magic mushrooms as a treatment for angst

    In the third installment of his fascinating four-part essay about depersonalization, the strangeness of the self, and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, Mark Dery describes his lifelong angst and his research into taking magic mushrooms to treat it. It's an enlightening, deeply personal read.

    In angst, the self comes unglued from consciousness, like Peter Pan's shadow severed from its owner by a slamming window. The "I" we always thought was "me" seems suddenly, terrifyingly Other, a linguistic figment.

    As a staunch materialist-rationalist, I'm wary of the Goop-y, New Age undertow of exhortations to dethrone the "tyrannical" ego, which recall '60s shibboleths about sticking it to The Man. I'm suspicious, too, of the Freudian agenda behind the quest for the neural correlate of the ego. The skeptical inquirer in me raises a Spock-ian eyebrow at researchers' claim that they've pinpointed the precise location of the narrative self in the posterior cingulate cortex, an assertion that's a little too reminiscent of Descartes's belief that the pineal gland is the seat of the soul.

    At the same time, what character can resist an invitation to meet his author? Or to rewrite the story of who he is? Here, in a handful of shriveled little mushrooms, was a map of the labyrinth that would lead me to the Minotaur — to the source of my melancholy, whether it's brain chemistry, childhood trauma, career doldrums, or the Beckettian tragicomedy of struggling to find meaning in life despite knowing we're born to die, a realization that renders all our attempts at meaning-making absurd yet which is, paradoxically, the philosophical precondition for investing our lives with meaning.

  • Congress genius Bob Good knows more than 99% of scientists: "There is no climate crisis!"

    "There is no climate crisis!" says far-right conservative Rep. Bob Good (R–VA). "It is a hoax!"

    Phew, glad to hear that this summer's global record-breaking heatwaves and wildfires — affecting millions of people across the United States, the U.K., France, Portugal, and many countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia — aren't really real.

    The record-breaking rains in California's Death Valley last week that stranded 1,000 people? Phew, apparently it's just a hoax! The fact that Arizona's Lake Powell — which the Western United States depends on for power — is dangerously close to becoming a "deadpool"? Yep, you guessed it. The deadliest 24-hour period of tornados in the U.S. that hit at least eight states in December? Nope, no crisis at all. Because that's what the Big Lie-supporting gentleman in Congress is telling us — as opposed to the more than 99% of scientists who say otherwise.

  • Five ways to hack the happiness treadmill

    Most people tend to move toward a happiness "set point" after good things or bad things happen to them. Philip Brickman and Donald T. Campbell coined the term "hedonic treadmill" to describe this phenomenon in a 1971 essay titled "Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society."

    Wikipedia has a good article about the Hedonic Treadmill, citing studies that show lottery winners end up being about as happy as they were before they won.

    [R] esearchers interviewed 22 lottery winners and 29 paraplegics to determine their change in happiness levels due to their given event (winning lottery or becoming paralyzed). The event in the case of lottery winners had taken place between one month and one and a half years before the study, and in the case of paraplegics between a month and a year. The group of lottery winners reported being similarly happy before and after the event, and expected to have a similar level of happiness in a couple of years. These findings show that having a large monetary gain had no effect on their baseline level of happiness, for both present and expected happiness in the future. They found that the paraplegics reported having a higher level of happiness in the past than the rest (due to a nostalgia effect), a lower level of happiness at the time of the study than the rest (although still above the middle point of the scale, that is, they reported being more happy than unhappy) and, surprisingly, they also expected to have similar levels of happiness than the rest in a couple of years. One must note that the paraplegics did have an initial decrease in life happiness, but the key to their findings is that they expected to eventually return to their baseline in time.

    In a recent issue of the Experimental History newsletter, Adam Mastroianni presents five tools to help people enjoy good things that they've stopped enjoying because they have adapted to them. The tools are:

    1. Disruptors, which "refresh pleasant experiences by interrupting them"
    2. Cutoffs, which "can prevent the inevitable dip in pleasure that comes at the end of most things"
    3. Variators, which are "little modulations that keep experiences fresh"
    4. Recyclers, which are ways reminding yourself of good past experiences
    5. Peaks and finales, which are ways "to make the best parts better, the worst parts less bad, and the endings universally good"

    Here's more about the first tool, Disruptors:

    Most nice things get less nice over time, whether it's a slice of cheesecake, a massage, or houseguests. Disrupters refresh pleasant experiences by interrupting them. 

    Examples:

    -Commercial breaks — people actually enjoy TV more with commercials

    -Short matches in online gaming. Notice that most shooters make team deathmatch last ten minutes or less!

    -That afternoon when someone is staying with you and they go see another friend who lives in the same city and you go to work or stay home and do laundry or whatever

  • Man overcharged 25 cents for a train ticket in India gets refund after 22-year fight in court

    It took him 22 years, but Tungnath Chaturvedi (66) finally got his 20 rupees (25 cents) back after he'd been overcharged for a train ticket in 1999.

    He'd purchased a Mathura station in Uttar Pradesh to go to Moradabad. He was charged 90 rupees instead of 70. He asked for a refund on the spot but was refused. He filed a complaint with a consumer court. After 100 hearings, he got his 20 rupees plus interest. The railway was also fined 15,000 rupees ($188) which Chaturvedi will receive.

    From The Guardian:

    What is surprising is Chaturvedi's pertinacity over a minuscule amount, including taking the case right up to the supreme court when a railway tribunal dismissed the case.

    His family tried to convince him that it was pointless and a waste of time and money, even though he represented himself and so had no legal fees to pay, but he was adamant. "It's not the money that matters," he told the BBC. "This was always about a fight for justice and a fight against corruption, so it was worth it."

    Equally surprising was that Indian Railways, the country's largest employer, chose to continue fighting the case.

    From BBC:

    "The railways also tried to dismiss the case, saying complaints against the railways should be addressed to a railway tribunal and not a consumer court," said Mr Chaturvedi. A railway claims tribunal is a quasi-judicial body set up to address claims related to train travel in India.

    "But we used a 2021 Supreme Court ruling to prove that the matter could be heard in a consumer court," Mr Chaturvedi said. At other times, hearings would get delayed because judges were on vacation or condolence leave, he added.

  • Polio detected in New York City sewage, suggesting its circulating

    Three weeks ago, a man in Rockland County, New York was diagnosed with polio, the first US case in nine years. Unvaccinated against the virus, the man is now paralyzed. Today, New York City health officials announced that they've found the virus in sewage. That means it's likely circulating throughout the city. From the New York Times:

    The spread of the virus poses a risk to unvaccinated people, but a full, three-course dose of the vaccine provides at least 99 percent protection[…]

    "The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple — get vaccinated against polio," Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the New York City health commissioner, said in a statement. "With polio circulating in our communities, there is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you're an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adult, please choose now to get the vaccine."

    "Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us," he added.

    While the polio virus had previously been detected in wastewater samples in Rockland and neighboring Orange Counties, the announcement on Friday was the first sign it had been found in New York City.

  • Video: Tripping bear cub rescued after eating too much hallucinogenic honey

    That young bear above is tripping balls. It apparently ingested too much deli bal, aka "mad honey." The honey comes from the nectar and pollen of certain rhododendron flowers that are rich in grayanotoxin, a poisonous compound with hallucinogenic properties. This poor cub was found dazed on the side of a road in TUrkey's Duszce province and brought to a veterinarian for treatment. From The Telegraph:

    Initially, it was exhausted and barely able to move, said Mevlut Sanli Simsek, an official with Turkey's Nature Conservation and National Parks department. However, its condition soon improved. 

    "Our teams brought her to the veterinarian, where we started the treatment process. She is in very good health. We plan to release her back to her natural environment when she regains her health," he told the Anadolu news agency.

    Murat Unlu, a vet, said: "The bear is much better compared to the day she first came. She can eat and walk. Hopefully, when the bear regains her health completely in the coming days, we will leave her with her mother."