flashback

‘Mathematics is the simple bit. It’s the stuff we can understand. It’s cats that are complicated.’ – John J. Conway

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{ Pete, the pet squirrel, who was a pet of U.S. President Warren G. Harding, 1922 }

‘there is light somewhere. it may not be much light but it beats the darkness.’ –Charles Bukowski

During the Tang dynasty, a golden age for poets, Empress Wu Chao forced every male dignitary who had an audience with her to wash his mouth with rose water and practice cunnilingus on her. Diplomats and courtiers had to do their best so that their requests were met, and even then it was not a guarantee, since Chinese politics have always been cunning and inscrutable, with oscillations between the sun and the shadow of yin and yang.

{ Taki’s Magazine | Continue reading }

related { Wu was the only empress regnant (or female emperor) in the history of China. }

Desire, for hire, would tire a shire, phone, phunkel, or wire

When the world’s first cellular network was installed in Washington, D.C., in 1983, Gatt and Rwayitare knew instinctively that cellular could solve many of Africa’s communication problems. […] “How do you educate a government on what cellular is all about?” asked Gatt. […] You hand him a mobile phone and get him to call home, of course. […]

On an official state visit to the United States, Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko was handed a Motorola mobile phone and urged to call home. It was 1985, so he had to be persuaded that the device — which weighed as much as a bottle of wine and boasted a retractable antenna — was not a walkie-talkie. But once he’d spoken to his family in Kinshasa, he needed no further convincing. Joseph Gatt and Miko Rwayitare’s plan was coming together.

Telecel, the company they formally founded a year later, would soon have 3,000 subscribers in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) — well before mobile phones were ubiquitous in America. Zaire’s near-defunct fixed-line infrastructure meant that the country’s elite were willing to spend $5,000 on a handset and up to $16 per minute to remain connected. […]

Despite being impressed, the dictator — like most people in 1985 — hadn’t fully grasped how life-changing the technology would be and he initially refused to grant Telecel an operating license. Gatt and Rwayitare knew they were onto a good thing, however, so they used their life savings to purchase an ailing U.S. mobile technology firm and obtained finance from Motorola to erect a small system in Kinshasa. All that remained was to buy a couple of hundred handsets — at $3,000 a pop — and give them to Mobutu and his inner circle.

“These 200 Zairean officials called each other and overseas over the next year without paying for a single call.” […] At the end of the trial period, and faced with the prospect of losing what had now become an essential cog in the state machinery, Mobutu agreed to give them their license.

{ OZY | Continue reading }

And the cloud that took the form (when the rest of Heaven was blue) of a demon in my view

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Cooping was an alleged form of electoral fraud in the United States cited in relation to the death of Edgar Allan Poe in October 1849, by which unwilling participants were forced to vote, often several times over, for a particular candidate in an election. According to several of Poe’s biographers, these innocent bystanders would be grabbed off the street by so-called ‘cooping gangs’ or ‘election gangs’ working on the payroll of a political candidate, and they would be kept in a room, called the “coop”, and given alcoholic beverages in order for them to comply. If they refused to cooperate, they would be beaten or even killed. Often their clothing would be changed to allow them to vote multiple times. Sometimes the victims would be forced to wear disguises such as wigs, fake beards or mustaches to prevent them from being recognized by voting officials at polling stations.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

On October 3, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance”, according to Joseph W. Walker who found him. He was taken to the Washington Medical College where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849 at 5:00 in the morning. He was not coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own.

He is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring.

All medical records and documents, including Poe’s death certificate, have been lost, if they ever existed.

Newspapers at the time reported Poe’s death as “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation”, common euphemisms for death from disreputable causes such as alcoholism.

The actual cause of death remains a mystery. […] One theory dating from 1872 suggests that cooping was the cause of Poe’s death, a form of electoral fraud in which citizens were forced to vote for a particular candidate, sometimes leading to violence and even murder. […] Cooping had become the standard explanation for Poe’s death in most of his biographies for several decades, though his status in Baltimore may have made him too recognizable for this scam to have worked. […]

Immediately after Poe’s death, his literary rival Rufus Wilmot Griswold wrote a slanted high-profile obituary under a pseudonym, filled with falsehoods that cast him as a lunatic and a madman, and which described him as a person who “walked the streets, in madness or melancholy, with lips moving in indistinct curses, or with eyes upturned in passionate prayers, (never for himself, for he felt, or professed to feel, that he was already damned)”.

The long obituary appeared in the New York Tribune signed “Ludwig” on the day that Poe was buried. It was soon further published throughout the country. The piece began, “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.” “Ludwig” was soon identified as Griswold, an editor, critic, and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. Griswold somehow became Poe’s literary executor and attempted to destroy his enemy’s reputation after his death.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Plato has Socrates describe a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and give names to these shadows.

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In mid-1947, a United States Army Air Forces balloon crashed at a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. Following wide initial interest in the crashed “flying disc”, the US military stated that it was merely a conventional weather balloon. Interest subsequently waned until the late 1970s, when ufologists began promoting a variety of increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories, claiming that one or more alien spacecraft had crash-landed and that the extraterrestrial occupants had been recovered by the military, which then engaged in a cover-up.

In the 1990s, the US military published two reports disclosing the true nature of the crashed object: a nuclear test surveillance balloon from Project Mogul.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

photo { W. Eugene Smith, Untitled [man holding bottle, S-shaped foam form emerging from it], Springfield, Massachusetts, 1952 }

‘Elle lui rendit son baiser. L’appartement tourna. Il n’y voyait plus.’ –Gustave Flaubert

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Sometime after four in a dark and cold Italian morning, a young woman accompanied a band of men to a duck shoot. After it was over and the frigid hunters sat by the fire, the eighteen-year old Adriana Ivancich, the only woman in the gathering, asked for a comb for her long black hair. Nearly all the men in the party ignored her and kept up their talking. Ernest Hemingway, however, was not ever one to let a lady go unattended. After rooting around in his pockets, he produced a comb, broke it in half and gave it to her.

{ Long Reads | Continue reading }

photo { Self-portrait of Adriana Ivancich }

‘Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.’ –Oscar Wilde

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Throughout her life, Bly—born Elizabeth Jane Cochran 155 years ago on May 5, 1864—refused to be what other people wanted her to be. That trait, some philosophers say, is the key to human happiness, and Bly’s life shows why.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

oil on linen { Susannah Martin, Helium, 2017 }

CRISPRs have been used to cut five to 62 genes at once

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{ Felice Beato, The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow, 1858 }

He may be very sexy, or even cute, but he looks like a sucker in a blue and red suit

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The Twelve Labours of Heracles are a series of episodes concerning a penance carried out by Heracles or Hercules, the greatest of the Greek heroes, whose name was later romanised as Hercules. They were accomplished over 12 years at the service of King Eurystheus.

[…]

Driven mad by Hera (queen of the gods), Hercules slew his son, daughter, and wife Megara. After recovering his sanity, Hercules deeply regretted his actions; he was purified by King Thespius, then traveled to Delphi to inquire how he could atone for his actions. Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, advised him to go to Tiryns and serve his cousin King Eurystheus for twelve years, performing whatever labors Eurystheus might set him; in return, he would be rewarded with immortality.

[…]

Eurystheus originally ordered Hercules to perform ten labours. Hercules accomplished these tasks, but Eurystheus refused to recognize two: the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra, as Hercules’ nephew and charioteer Iolaus had helped him; and the cleansing of the Augeas, because Hercules accepted payment for the labour. Eurystheus set two more tasks (fetching the Golden Apples of Hesperides and capturing Cerberus), which Hercules also performed, bringing the total number of tasks to twelve.

[…]

The twelve labours:

1. Slay the Nemean lion.
2. Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
3. Capture the Ceryneian Hind.
4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
5. Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
6. Slay the Stymphalian birds.
7. Capture the Cretan Bull.
8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
9. Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta.
10. Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
11. Steal the apples of the Hesperides.
12. Capture and bring back Cerberus.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

helmet, acrylic and crayon { Jean-Michel Basquiat, AARON, 1981 }

[Wile E. Coyote is chasing the Road Runner on rocket powered roller skates. The Road Runner runs into a tunnel, but Wile E. crashes into the tunnel.]

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Violette Morris (1893 – 1944) was a French athlete who won two gold and one silver medals at the Women’s World Games in 1921–1922. She was barred from participating in the 1928 Summer Olympics for her lack of morals — in particular, Morris’ penchant for wearing men’s clothing. […]

Morris underwent a double mastectomy (surgical removal of both breasts), which she claimed was in order to fit into racing cars more easily. She won the 1927 Bol d’Or 24 Hours car race. […]

In 1936, Morris became a spy for Nazi Germany. Following the German occupation of France, she became a member of the French wing of the Gestapo secret police. She was killed in 1944 in a Resistance-led ambush.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Can I tell them that I never really had a gun?

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From 1427 to 1435, Gilles de Rais (1405 – 1440) served as a commander in the Royal Army, and fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years’ War.

In 1434/1435, he retired from military life, depleted his wealth by staging an extravagant theatrical spectacle of his own composition, and was accused of dabbling in the occult.

After 1432, he was accused of engaging in a series of child murders, with victims possibly numbering in the hundreds. The killings came to an end in 1440, when a violent dispute with a clergyman led to an ecclesiastical investigation which brought the crimes to light, and attributed them to Gilles. He was condemned to death and hanged at Nantes on 26 October 1440.

Gilles de Rais is believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale “Bluebeard” (”Barbe bleue”) by Charles Perrault.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading | Watch: Georges Méliès, Barbe Bleue, 1901 }

Plus, we had a dozen guys up there, most of them ex-cheats, who knew every trick in the house

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McCarthy successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1946. After three largely undistinguished years in the Senate, McCarthy rose suddenly to national fame in February 1950 when he asserted in a speech that he had a list of “members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring” who were employed in the State Department. […] At the time of McCarthy’s speech, communism was a significant concern in the United States. […]

McCarthy presented a case-by-case analysis of his 81 “loyalty risks” employed at the State Department. It is widely accepted that most of McCarthy’s cases were selected from the so-called “Lee list”, a report that had been compiled three years earlier for the House Appropriations Committee. Led by a former FBI agent named Robert E. Lee, the House investigators had reviewed security clearance documents on State Department employees, and had determined that there were “incidents of inefficiencies” in the security reviews of 108 employees. McCarthy hid the source of his list, stating that he had penetrated the “iron curtain” of State Department secrecy with the aid of “some good, loyal Americans in the State Department”. In reciting the information from the Lee list cases, McCarthy consistently exaggerated, representing the hearsay of witnesses as facts and converting phrases such as “inclined towards Communism” to “a Communist”. […]

In response to McCarthy’s charges, the Senate voted unanimously to investigate. […] From its beginning, the Tydings Committee was marked by partisan infighting. Its final report, written by the Democratic majority, concluded that the individuals on McCarthy’s list were neither Communists nor pro-communist, and said the State Department had an effective security program. […] The full Senate voted three times on whether to accept the report, and each time the voting was precisely divided along party lines. […]

McCarthy also began investigations into the numerous homosexuals [homosexuality was prohibited by law at the time] working in the foreign policy bureaucracy, who were considered prime candidates for blackmail by the Soviets. […]

One of the strongest bases of anti-Communist sentiment in the United States was the Catholic community, which constituted over 20% of the national vote. McCarthy identified himself as Catholic, and although the great majority of Catholics were Democrats, as his fame as a leading anti-Communist grew, he became popular in Catholic communities across the country, with strong support from many leading Catholics, diocesan newspapers, and Catholic journals. […]

McCarthy established a bond with the powerful Kennedy family, which had high visibility among Catholics. McCarthy became a close friend of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., himself a fervent anti-Communist, and was a frequent guest at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. He dated two of Kennedy’s daughters, Patricia and Eunice. […]

Robert Kennedy was chosen by McCarthy as a counsel for his investigatory committee, but resigned after six months due to disagreements with McCarthy and Committee Counsel Roy Cohn [As McCarthy’s chief counsel, Cohn came to be closely associated with McCarthyism and its downfall. He is also noted for representing and mentoring Donald J. Trump during his early business career. Cohn was disbarred by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court for unethical conduct in 1986, dying five weeks later from AIDS.]

Unlike many Democrats, John F. Kennedy, who served in the Senate with McCarthy from 1953 until the latter’s death in 1957, never attacked McCarthy. McCarthy had refused to campaign for Kennedy’s 1952 opponent, Republican incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., due to his friendship with the Kennedys. […]

Journalist Richard Rovere (1959) wrote: “McCarthy had always been a heavy drinker, and there were times in those seasons of discontent when he drank more than ever. But he was not always drunk. He went on the wagon (for him this meant beer instead of whiskey) for days and weeks at a time. The difficulty toward the end was that he couldn’t hold the stuff. He went to pieces on his second or third drink. And he did not snap back quickly.”

McCarthy had also become addicted to heroin. Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, became aware of McCarthy’s addiction in the 1950s, and demanded he stop using the drug. McCarthy refused.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

photo { Miron Zownir, NYC, 1983 }