flashback

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

32.jpg

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.

21.jpg

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

2.jpg

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

32.jpg

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

211.jpg

{ 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

25.jpg

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.]

212.jpg

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?

25.jpg

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

23.jpg

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 }

6′50 for a O, blink, a kilo is out the door

imp-kerr-cabinet-19-fat.png

On Friday, representatives of more than 60 nations, gathered in Versailles, France, approved a new definition for the kilogram.

Since the 19th century, scientists have based their definition of the fundamental unit of mass on a physical object — a shining platinum iridium cylinder stored in a locked vault in the bowels of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France. A kilogram was equal to the heft of this aging hunk of metal, and this cylinder, by definition, weighed exactly a kilogram. If the cylinder changed, even a little bit, then the entire global system of measurement had to change, too.

With Friday’s vote, scientists redefined the kilogram for the 21st century by tying it to a fundamental feature of the universe — a small, strange figure from quantum physics known as Planck’s constant, which describes the smallest possible unit of energy. […]

Though the newly defined kilogram won’t affect your bathroom scale, it will have practical applications in research and industries that depend on meticulous measurement. […]

The kilogram prototype, known as “Le Grand K,” was made by humans and is subject to all our limitations. It is inaccessible — the safe containing the cylinder can be opened only by three custodians carrying three separate keys, an event that has happened fewer than a dozen times in the object’s 139-year history. And it is inconsistent — when Le Grand K was examined in the 1980s, it weighed several micrograms less than it was supposed to. This meant that anyone who made products based on the standards had to reissue their weights. Manufacturers were furious. Lawmakers were called. Metrologists, people who study measurements, were accused of incompetence.

So, in a 2014 meeting at the BIPM, the metrology community resolved to redefine the kilogram. 

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

On April 7, 1795, the gram was decreed in France to be “the absolute weight of a volume of pure water equal to the cube of the hundredth part of the metre, and at the temperature of melting ice.”

Since trade and commerce typically involve items significantly more massive than one gram, and since a mass standard made of water would be inconvenient and unstable, the regulation of commerce necessitated the manufacture of a practical realization of the water-based definition of mass. Accordingly, a provisional mass standard was made as a single-piece, metallic artifact one thousand times as massive as the gram—the kilogram.

At the same time, work was commissioned to precisely determine the mass of a cubic decimetre (one litre) of water. Although the decreed definition of the kilogram specified water at 0 °C—its highly stable temperature point—the French chemist Louis Lefèvre-Gineau and the Italian naturalist Giovanni Fabbroni after several years of research chose to redefine the standard in 1799 to water’s most stable density point: the temperature at which water reaches maximum density, which was measured at the time as 4 °C. They concluded that one cubic decimetre of water at its maximum density was equal to 99.9265% of the target mass of the provisional kilogram standard made four years earlier.

That same year, 1799, an all-platinum kilogram prototype was fabricated with the objective that it would equal, as close as was scientifically feasible for the day, the mass of one cubic decimetre of water at 4 °C. The prototype was presented to the Archives of the Republic in June and on December 10, 1799, the prototype was formally ratified as the kilogramme des Archives (Kilogram of the Archives) and the kilogram was defined as being equal to its mass.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Only three countries—Burma (Myanmar), Liberia, and the US—have not adopted the International System of Units as their official system of weights and measures.

{ Mental Floss | Continue reading }

bellissima gente, musica spettacolare, emozioni indelebili

28.jpg

The Beast of Gévaudan is the historical name associated with the man-eating gray wolf, dog or wolfdog that terrorized the former province of Gévaudan, in south-central France between 1764 and 1767.

The attacks, which covered an area stretching 90 by 80 kilometres (56 by 50 mi), were said to have been committed by a beast or beasts that had formidable teeth and immense tails according to contemporary eyewitnesses.

Victims were often killed by having their throats torn out. The Kingdom of France used a considerable amount of manpower and money to hunt the animals, including the resources of several nobles, soldiers, civilians, and a number of royal huntsmen.

The number of victims differs according to sources. In 1987, one study estimated there had been 210 attacks; resulting in 113 deaths and 49 injuries; 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten. However, other sources claim it killed between 60 and 100 adults and children, as well as injuring more than 30.

According to modern scholars, public hysteria at the time of the attacks contributed to widespread myths that supernatural beasts roamed Gévaudan, but deaths attributed to a beast were more likely the work of a number of wolves or packs of wolves.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

The Beast preyed almost entirely on women and children living in isolated cottages and hamlets, often as they tended animals or gathered crops in open fields. Men and cattle were not to its liking. Nor, it seemed, were sheep and goats. […]

Sometimes La Bête attacked several times in one day or on successive days, often leaving the victim uneaten. Some witnesses said that it wore an armoured hide, perhaps that of a boar. One surviving victim claimed the beast walked on two legs. Several witnesses saw a man with La Bête.

{ History Today | Continue reading }

The king sent his own gun-bearer and bodyguard, François Antoine. Along with his son and a detachment of men, Antoine traipsed around the forested countryside in search of the beast. In September 1765, he shot and killed a large wolf. He had the body sent to the court at Versailles, received a reward from Louis XV, and accepted the villagers’ gratitude

Two brief months later the attacks recommenced.

For another 18 months, something continued to stalk the villagers of Gévaudan, with a reported 30 to 35 fatalities in that period. […]

Jean Chastel was a local farmer involved in a previous hunt, and thrown in prison [with his son Antoine Chastel] by François Antoine for misleading his men into a bog.

{ Smithsonian | Continue reading }

There were no killings when Jean and Antoine Chastel were in prison. The attacks resumed when they were liberated, and stopped only when Jean Chastel killed the animal.

{ Loren Coleman/FATE | Continue reading }

A 2009 investigation uncovered a potential culprit, Jean Chastel, the man said to have killed the second beast in June 1767. The investigators wondered how Chastel, a farmer, shot La Bête dead when the region’s finest wolf hunters could not. They concluded that La Bête must have been still for sometime, when Chastel shot it. It did not run from, or at, Chastel. Was La Bête tethered? Was this man its keeper?

As for motive, some have suggested that Chastel, or one of his sons, was a serial killer, and La Bête their way of covering up the crimes. Others claim that Chastel’s son had a hyena in his menagerie and a huge red mastiff that sired the monstrous offspring with a female wolf. […]

The body of the animal Chastel shot was taken to Versailles. By the time it reached the king the carcass had rotted and was ordered to be destroyed.

{ History Today | Continue reading }

Jean Chastel’s son Antoine was said to have lived as a hermit on Mount Mouchet, with a menagerie of beasts, including a hyena. Cryptozoologists have speculated that Antoine Chastel might have used this animal to attack the young boys and girls.

{ Loren Coleman/FATE | Continue reading | Note: “Fate is a U.S. magazine about paranormal phenomena” }

acrylic, oilstick and paper collage on canvas { Jean-Michel Basquia, Peter and the Wolf, 1985 }