There’ll be cheerier news further on, but this week we have to start with Israel and Palestine. Two weeks ago, Rabbi Lau-Levie wrote this sadly prescient and deeply moving call for compassion after the bodies of three murdered Israeli teens were found. Then a Palestinian boy was burnt alive by Jewish terrorists, and things went from worst to worst. Here is a sample of Jewish responses, at a time when it becomes clearer and clearer that the Israeli government does not act or speak for all Jews. Harretz, the Israeli newspaper, editorialized that, “There must be a cultural revolution in Israel. Its political leaders and military officers must recognize this injustice and right it…. Without [this], the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state.” Bradley Burston offers a heartfelt “Israeli Jew’s apology to Palestinians” (Tnx, Rabia!) Rabbi Landes calls for the bulldozing of the homes of Jewish terrorists, too. And the ex-head of Shin Bet, the Israeli counterterrorism agency blames the Netanyahu government for the deterioration, saying, “The deterioration is first and foremost a result of the illusion that the government’s inaction on every front can actually freeze the situation in place, the illusion that “price tag” is simply a few slogans on the wall and not pure racism, the illusion that everything can be solved with a little more force, the illusion that the Palestinians will accept everything that’s done in the West Bank… and so on and so on.” And Uri Avnery, still a clarion voice in his 90s, writes about the racism and the lack of public outcry over Muhammad Abu-Khdeir’s death. Perhaps all that can be said is that this is increasingly clearly a conflict not between Jew and Muslim, but between those who believe that more deaths will solve the conflict, and those who know it won’t.
After that, we need a serious shot of hope. Here we look at an array of maps, on all subjects from the serious to the trivial. The first map is worth studying and rejoicing over. It’s three maps of the world, in 1800, 1950, and 2010, showing life expectancies world wide. (Click to enbigify.) When you despair over whether there is any progress, remember this map. While your map reading skills are honed, here’s a question for you. What’s the minimum number of borders you’d have to cross to get to the equator by land? (Sorry, islanders.) The answer is here. Here’s a map project: XKCD has a brilliant quilt showing the solar systems’ solid surfaces stitched together. (No gas giants!) Here’s an amusingly unanimous map showing the most popular spectator sports in the world. And while on that subject, a map showing how that Brazil–Germany debacle played out in the twitterverse. Vaguely map-like, this spiral of countries is arranged by the percentage of their financial transactions that don’t use cash. And we’ll end with a time-lapse map showing American seizure of indigenous land, between 1776-2010. Sorry to bring you back down.
Climate change is already here: drought now covers almost 35% of U.S., and is predicted to grow. But just this week, faith groups representing half a billion Christians says they will no longer support fossil fuels. The Guardian observes that solar power has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete. An example? India’s building a huge floating solar farm (this is just the start.) In Canadians ongoing fight against the tar sands, Bob Rae discusses why the Supreme Court’s BC land-title decision is more important than you think.
Let’s hop on the money-go-round! Here’s a collection of pieces about the very rich, the very poor, and how they are treated in different countries. The F-35 Fighter Jet is a historic $1 trillion disaster. $167 billion over budget, and counting. With that amount, the US could have bought every homeless American a $600,000 home. Which would have been smart, as a study shows it’s significantly cheaper to house the homeless than leave them on the streets. Of course it won’t happen, as over 75 per cent of US conservatives say the poor ‘have it easy’. Elsewhere there are signs of light: in Vancouver, a charity creates city benches that convert into pop-up shelters for homeless people. (Beats London spikes!) In a political experiment in Iceland, anarchists governed Reykjavik for four years and achieved astonishing successes. And look at the contents of this Finnish maternity box, which every pregnant Finn gets after 154 days of pregnancy.
A curious mix of pieces all of which relate to identity, perceived or real. We’ll open with five centuries of female faces in Western art, put together in a 2 minute video. A few days late for World Pride, a deeply moving piece “I am No Abomination: my rewritten Bar Mitzvah Speech, 30 years later”. Brainpickings looks at how scientists are rethinking the placebo effect: how our minds actually affect our bodies. And here’s some good party advice: Don’t Say Goodbye. Just ghost. And as our perception of our identity is so often limited to the words we have to conceive of it, open your mind with illustrations of 20 untranslatable words from other languages.
Speaking of mind expansion, here are a few thoughts about drugs: after six months of legal marijuana, Colorado has $10 million more cash and 10% less crime. Meanwhile researchers are working to understand how psychedelics affect the brain (Tnx, Linda!) And a draft of a chapter from my book about 40 years of teaching, about handling the reality of drugs. On to films, great films of the past, the future, and the present. The New Yorker has a charming retrospective appreciation of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Here’s the trailer for the new Terry Gilliam film: The Zero Theorem. And in classic Canuk hoser style, effortlessly reprising Bob and Doug McKenzie, a Saskatchewan man films a tornado coming straight at him. That’s air, for water we have three minutes of huge waves crashing against lighthouses in France. Fire? Here’s a film of a drone flying through fireworks. And back safely on the ground, street artist Insa’s animated graffiti gifs(tnx, Diana)
Here are some lovely pictures of children, and other animals, starting with 30 magical photos of children playing around the world (tnx, Rabia!). On, into 23 exceedingly sweet photos of animals and their children, more amazing underwater photos of dogs fetching balls, a husky going crazy in pile of autumn leaves (Tnx, Ruth and Maddie), a cat with a fascinating face, and amazing footage of an annual gathering of 75,000 red-sided garter snakes intent on finding a mate. (Tnx, Gabe) (Not Safe For Herpetophobics).
And in an appreciation of the beauty of our world, despite the horrors: here’s the 2014 National Geographic traveler photo contest (28 photos), the 2014 iPhone photography awards, Twisted Sifter’s top 50 ‘Pictures for the Day’ for 2014, and pictures of 10 incredible crowds. And we’ll end with a time exposure of traffic lights in the fog, and hovering boats in Menorca, Spain. No, wait, there has to be space for Patrick Hughes’ perspective mind twister, which looks like a regular painting, until…. it doesn’t.
See you next time!