flashback

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 }

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

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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

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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 }

Light travels faster than sound, this is why some people appear bright until they speak

Case of Tetanus, in Which a Large Quantity of the Tincture of Opium Was Administered by Mistake (1819)

On the Cure of Tetanus by Opium and the Warm Bath (1812)

{ PubMed }

The man who invented autocorrect should burn in hello

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50% of human experience has happened after 1309 AD. 15% of all experience has been experienced by people who are alive right now. […]

{ Eukaryote Writes Blog | Continue reading }

inkjet and acrylic on canvas { imp kerr, looped breathing tubes, 2018 }

THREAT TO ‘SHOOT THE PLACE UP’

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Vyacheslav Molotov (1890 – 1986) was a Soviet politician and diplomat, and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin. […] Molotov served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1939 to 1949 and from 1953 to 1956. […]

The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. […]

The Molotov cocktail is a term coined by the Finns during the Winter War, as a generic name used for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons. During the Winter War, the Soviet air force made extensive use of incendiaries and cluster bombs against Finnish troops and fortifications. When Molotov claimed in radio broadcasts that they were not bombing, but rather delivering food to the starving Finns, the Finns started to call the air bombs Molotov bread baskets. Soon they responded by attacking advancing tanks with “Molotov cocktails,” which were “a drink to go with the food.”

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

watercolour on paper { JMW Turner, Clouds at Dawn or Sunset, c.1834 }

‘Truth isn’t truth.’ –Rudy Giuliani

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In 2004 Emily Oster of Brown University found a correlation between the frequency of witch trials and poor weather during the “Little Ice Age”. Old women were made scapegoats for the poor harvests that colder winters caused.

A more recent paper by Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama of George Mason University argued that weak central governments, unable to enforce the rule of law, allowed witch-hunts to take place. They found the ability to raise more in taxes, a proxy for growing state power, to be correlated to a decline in witch trials in French regions.

A paper published in the August edition of the Economic Journal casts doubt on both theories. Peter Leeson and Jacob Russ, also of George Mason University, collected data for witch trials from 21 countries between 1300 and 1850, in which 43,240 people were prosecuted. They found that the weather had a statistically insignificant impact on the occurrence of witch trials. The impact of negative income shocks or governmental capacity was also very weak. […] Where there was more conflict between Catholics and Protestants, witch trials were widespread; in places where one creed dominated there were fewer. […] Europe’s witch trials only ceased a century after the end of its religious wars.

{ The Economist | Continue reading }

c-print { Miles Aldridge, Lip Synch #3, 2001 }

A husky fifenote blew. Blew. Blue bloom is on the.

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“Modern” Homo sapiens (that is, people who were roughly like we are now) first walked the Earth about 50,000 years ago. Since then, more than 108 billion members of our species have ever been born, according to estimates by Population Reference Bureau (PRB). Given the current global population of about 7.5 billion (based on our most recent estimate as of mid-2017), that means those of us currently alive represent about 7 percent of the total number of humans who have ever lived.

{ Population Reference Bureau | Continue reading }

photo { Edward Weston, Death Valley, 1947 }

there shall be no more Kates and Nells

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Coding theorists are concerned with two things. Firstly and most importantly they are concerned with the private lives of two people called Alice and Bob. In theory papers, whenever a coding theorist wants to describe a transaction between two parties he doesn’t call then A and B. No. For some longstanding traditional reason he calls them Alice and Bob.

Now there are hundreds of papers written about Alice and Bob. Over the years Alice and Bob have tried to defraud insurance companies, they’ve played poker for high stakes by mail, and they’ve exchanged secret messages over tapped telephones.

If we put together all the little details from here and there, snippets from lots of papers, we get a fascinating picture of their lives. This may be the first time a definitive biography of Alice and Bob has been give

In papers written by American authors Bob is frequently selling stock to speculators. From the number of stock market deals Bob is involved in we infer that he is probably a stockbroker. However from his concern about eavesdropping he is probably active in some subversive enterprise as well. And from the number of times Alice tries to buy stock from him we infer she is probably a speculator. Alice is also concerned that her financial dealings with Bob are not brought to the attention of her husband. So Bob is a subversive stockbroker and Alice is a two-timing speculator.

But Alice has a number of serious problems. She and Bob only get to talk by telephone or by electronic mail. In the country where they live the telephone service is very expensive. And Alice and Bob are cheapskates. So the first thing Alice must do is MINIMIZE THE COST OF THE PHONE CALL.

{ John Gordon, The Alice and Bob After Dinner Speech, 1984 | Continue reading }

acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, and roll-a-tex on canvas { Peter Halley, Laws of Rock, 2008 }

‘L’orgueil est la même chose que l’humilité, c’est toujours le mensonge.’ —Georges Bataille

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Austrian nobles Princess Pauline von Metternich and Countess Anastasia Kielmansegg agreed to a topless duel in the summer of 1892.

The duel went down in history as the first ‘emancipated duel’ because it involved female participants, female seconds’ and a female medic.

Baroness Lubinska from Warsaw, who had a medical degree, oversaw the duel and advised the women to sword fight topless to avoid infection.

{ Daily Mail | Continue reading }

Princess Pauline was involved in many charitable organizations. It was in her capacity as Honorary President of the Vienna Musical and Theatrical Exhibition that she quarreled with the Countess Kilmannsegg, wife of the Statthalter of Lower Austria and President of the Ladies Committee of the Vienna Musical and Theatrical Exhibition, apparently over the flower arrangements for the exhibition.

Whatever was said about those flowers could not be unsaid, and the Princess, then 56 years old, challenged the Countess to settle their dispute by blood.

The two adversaries and their seconds, Princess Schwarzenberg and Countess Kinsky, traveled to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, and took to the field of honor. Presiding over the encounter was Baroness Lubinska who, unusually for women of the time, was a medical doctor. Her modern understanding of infection proved pivotal. Having seen many superficial battle wounds turn septic and fatal because fragments of dirty clothes were driven into them, the Baroness insisted both parties remove all clothing above the waist.

So the Princess Metternich and Countess Kilmannsegg, both topless, took up their swords to fight until first blood.

After a few exchanges, the Princess received a small cut to the nose and the Countess was cut on the arm practically at the same time. The seconds called the duel and Princess Metternich was declared the winner.

{ Mental Floss | Continue reading }

And it must follow, as the night the day

The paper is called Prolonged apnea and the sudden infant death syndrome: clinical and laboratory observations and it was written in 1972 by Dr Alfred Steinschneider of Syracuse, New York. In this paper, Steinschneider described the case of a woman, “Mrs H”, who had already lost three children, ostensibly to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Dr Steinschneider describes how two additional children from the “H” family were studied in his sleep laboratory in an effort to determine whether sleep apnea was a risk factor for SIDS. Both children did show apnea in the lab, and both died shortly after being discharged from the clinic back home with Mrs H.

Steinschneider concluded that apnea was “part of the final pathway” leading to infant death in SIDS.

But over twenty years later, “Mrs H” – her real name Waneta Hoyt – was convicted of murdering her children by smothering.

A forensic pathologist, Linda Norton, had formed suspicions about “Mrs H” after reading Steinschneider’s paper, and she brought them to the attention of a prosecutor in Syracuse. In 1992, the prosecutor opened a case against Hoyt.

Under police interrogation, Hoyt confessed to killing each of her five children by smothering. She later retracted her confession and denied the charges, pointing to Steinschneider’s paper as evidence of her innocence. It didn’t work: Hoyt was convicted of murder in 1994. She died in jail four years later.

{ Neuroskeptic | Continue reading }