Before we get to the present, or even the immediate past, we’ll start by looking at those who shape the future. All three of these links are extraordinary pieces that would never get into traditional media for various reasons. Watch, and enjoy! On Quora, there is an hugely inspiring set of personal answers to the question: What was it like to have Junot Diaz as your creative writing professor at MIT? It will remind you what a difference a gifted teacher makes to their students. Science of Dogs looks at 100 Years of dog “Improvement”: an exploration of how show breeders have selected for traits that cause disease. With great photos of breeds before and after kennel clubs got hold of them. And Loiter has an amazing film of an elephant giving birth to a baby which doesn’t breathe. She intervenes. Graphic shots of the birth. (Spoiler: elephants make it look easy.)
Pope Francis seems to be challenging some people. Apparently, Huffington Post reports, Pope Francis leaves the Vatican at night to minister to Rome’s homeless. This came out at the same time that, says Al-Jazeera, Pope Francis calls for a more ‘merciful’ Catholic Church with less centralized power. (Tnx, Gabe). The Washington Post argues, approvingly, that the heart of Pope Francis’s mission is afflicting the comfortable, while radical (by US standards) Senator Bernie Saunders of Vermont applauds Pope Francis’ call to rein in the “Tyranny” of capitalism.
How many Nelson’s columns have we all seen this week? But honour needs to be paid to a man like Mandala. Buzzfeed has a fine overview of Mandala’s life, should you need one. On Al Jazeera, a senior correspondent reflects on decades of observing Mandela’s art of ‘understanding the enemy’. Jonathan Cook offers a dissenting opinion on Nelson Mandela, balancing his achievements and failures, while personal friend, Mark Gevisser writes about Mandela’s wisdom, ability to change, and his power of reconciliation.(Tnx, Lydia) From Bill Clinton comes a powerful story, “…But he said, “As I felt the anger rising up, I thought to myself, ‘They have already had you for 27 years. And if you keep hating them, they’ll have you again.’ And I said, ‘I want to be free.’ And so I let it go. I let it go.”And some songs to accompany the mourning: The Specials, singing “Nelson Mandela” (tnx, Amy) and Artists United Against Apartheid - “Sun City” (Tnx again, Amy).
Juvenal wrote, about 2000 years ago, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who will watch the watchmen? for those of you who didn’t suffer through Mrs Huntley’s Latin classes.) Two sections here, starting with why the watchmen need to be watched. In New York, the NYPD shoot at an unarmed man, hit bystanders, and then charge the man for making them shoot. In Ontario, a 12-year-old boy dies of asthma because inhaler is locked in the principal’s office because ‘school policy’. In Montreal, Quebec Police brutally arrest man for photographing cop car as daughter records a video. Leaked Stratfor documents detail their plans to neutralize the four kinds of environmentalists (radicals, idealists, realists, opportunists.) Juan Cole has a spectacular side by side comparison of 1984 and an FBI plan to watch you through your computer camera. And as money is power, read Cory’s listicle about the increasing gaps between the rich and poor in the US
Who’s fighting back? Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and more demand sweeping changes to US surveillance laws, as do more than 500 of the world’s leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy. On Youtube, Matt Damon channels Howard Zinn: “Our problem is not civil disobedience; our problem is civil obedience.” The Guardian argues that the war on terror is an endless campaign of drone and undercover killings creating a more dangerous world. Via Upworthy, comes “the funniest, most effective way to deal with politicians who ignore science facts ever.” (such as these GOPers who argue no climate change because Bible.) Further useful tips can be found in Ten Rules for Recording Cops and other Authority Figures (Citizen Journalism 101).
This Happening World: what’s it like here on the cutting edge of nowness? Well, if you’re looking for a irony-saturated Xmas prezzie, you can’t beat a canvas print of Banksy’s “Destroy Capitalism”, now on sale at Walmarts. סּ_סּ Bitcoins, the new bubble currency gives rise to new problems, as the New Statesman reports: “There’s a £60m Bitcoin heist going down right now, and you can watch in real-time.” In cutting edge math, Wired says, “Sudden Progress on Prime Number Problem Has Mathematicians Buzzing.” (Editor’s Note: stay away from mathematicians when they’re buzzing– they’re liable to become irrational.) An MIT physicist predicts the creation of entangled particles simultaneously gives rise to a wormhole, which is very exciting if you’re the kind of person who cares that we’re all riddled with wormholes. Sentient Code is an inside look at Stephen Wolfram’s utterly new, insanely ambitious computational paradigm. And the NY Times covers biology in a depressing piece on “The Year the Monarch Butterflies didn’t Appear”. And we’ll end with a Light-Bending Cube of Flexible One-Way Mirrors. (Watch the videos!)
A quintet of number links starts with The Food List Challenge: How many of these 100 have you chowed down on (I’m at 75/100) (Bonus: The Moth has a ten minute story of a New Yorker food critic trying to decide whether it’s kosher to report about eating her baby’s placenta.) How many of Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime have you seen? (34 and counting). IMDB lists their readers’ Top 250 Movies of All Time: find your score. (Mine was 124). Reddit looks at how long it took various famous authors to get published. And the always inspiring Brainpickings has eclectic choices: The 13 Best Art and Design Books of 2013
Tools are useful, and here’s a wide-ranging set. For free: TunnelBear “tunnels” you around blocked sites in another country. End irritating “not available in your location” msgs. At the other end of the modernity scale, here’s an amazing one minute video: How To Chop Wood Without Messing Around. Or go small with this clever way to eat mandarin oranges without peeling them. Clever, cheap, organic: what’s not to like: Add scents by simmering water infused with spices, herbs, & fruit. Want to take photos of wild and dangerous carnivores? This remote controlled 4×4 Nikon buggy gets up close when stalked by a curious pride of lions in Botswana. Educational tools: A standard film in my Media course was Jeanne Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women. Watch the updated version. And from Toronto’s top venue for new ideas, Zatoun, comes this link to “Visualizing Palestine”, a wide range of excellent free political Infographics for your use (tnx, Robert!)
Thee movies from Openculture: a 1993 William S. Burroughs 21 minute claymation film “The Junky’s Christmas”. Heartwarming in a Burroughesque way. Or chill out with Kafka’s nightmare tale, ‘A Country Doctor,’ in award-winning Japanese animation (tnx, D& G) All NFB fans will enjoy The Critic: Hilarious Oscar-Winning Film Narrated by Mel Brooks (1963) (3 minutes). That leads smoothly into humour…When Postman Met Snowman; David and Goliath, canine version; Passing the hockey stick has a very cool move! A Vintage Ads blog has a contest for creepiest kids in 1950 magazine ads. Some classics here. Moving into politics, how do you make the seal hunt more acceptable to the EU? And a Walmart-Friendly PR Firm creates an ad so full of propaganda it’s actually hilarious.
Some nature takes: an excellent Wired feature: The Oldest Trees on the Planet. Wonderful photos from Liwa desert, United Arab Emirates. (2 men, 5 camels) A lifeboat in a Cornwall storm, a sparrow taking flight in slo-mo, and the Grand Canyon has a temperature inversion, filling it with clouds. Just space for some art, to round off the issue. Astonishing 3D Artworks Made from multiple layers of painted resin; JeeYoung Lee’s fascinating photographs of invisible worlds, all created in her 3 yard by 6 yard Seoul studio; and Liu Xue Hybrid Sculptures, creepy excellence (tnx, Q) (The first one looks a lot like Rob Ford, don’t you think?)