Gymkhana Forever

from The Drive

    How Ken Block’s Gymkhana Series Changed Car Videos Forever

    Step into the world of mid-2000s car culture and you’ll understand exactly why Ken Block’s driving videos blew our minds like they were Subaru head gaskets.


    As Ken Block’s fans, followers, and family mourn his tragic passing, many have remarked on how innovative he was as both a racing driver and an entertainer. Without a doubt, his body of work is its own evidence of its epicness. To help us and future readers appreciate exactly what made his stunts and style so special when they first came out, let’s take a look at the debut of Block’s Gymhakana video series in the context of its time.

    Block’s life and professional origins have been beautifully articulated by so many major industry names and our own Jonathon Klein. Check out those tributes to learn why Block was such a special person. Here, we’re going to focus on the early days of Gymkhana as car nerds know it, and how the timing of Block’s emergence in the car scene lined up perfectly with the culture and technology of the mid-2000s.

    As the inventor of Jalopnik, a major player in the /Drive YouTube and TV efforts, and a big part of the evolution of this site you’re reading, Mike Spinelli is a certified OG of online car culture. His insights on the impact of Ken Block’s first videos are particularly interesting because he’s been both a participant in and observer of car media, professionally, as it evolved from magazines to forums to videos to the rich multimedia melting pot it is in 2023.

    [ click to continue reading at The Drive ]

    Mad Dog Marcio Gone

    from USA Today

    Veteran surfer Marcio Freire, featured in ‘Mad Dog’ documentary, dies riding waves in Portugal

    by Natalie Neysa Alund

    Brazilian big-wave surfer Marcio Freire died while surfing the central coast of Portugal Thursday, local officials confirmed.

    Prior to his death, the 47-year-old man was practicing tow-in surfing on giant waves in Nazaré, the country’s National Maritime Authority told USA TODAY Friday morning.”The surfer had an accident while surfing, which left him lifeless,” the city wrote in an email to USA TODAY Friday.

    According to the captain of the Port of Nazaré Mário Lopes Figueiredo, support staff on jet skis managed to get Freire to the beach in Nazaré, but attempts to revive him failed.

    Lifeguards verified the victim was in cardiorespiratory arrest and immediately began CPR until first-responders arrived, according to a news release.

    When they were unable to revive him, city officials said, a doctor pronounced him dead at the scene.

    [ click to continue reading at USA Today ]

    Sky Trains

    from The Washington Post via Yahoo! News

    Starlink satellite trains – is this the future of the night sky?

    by Daniel Wolfe

    Almost 15 years later, seeing the aurora borealis is a bit like a drug, says photographer Ronn Murray.

    “Once you get a taste for it . . . you’re always trying to see it again because you get this kind of spiritual high from it.”

    The lakes by Delta Junction in Alaska weren’t frozen over yet when it was just dark enough to see the magical halation over the night’s sky and another phenomenon Murray instantly knew – a moving train of lights.

    Guide and part-owner of the Aurora Chasers, an Alaska based tour group, Murray had seen the lineup of satellites a few days prior. He recognized it from other people’s accounts but had never seen it himself. Literally the stars aligned, and the night sky opened up on a drive 150 miles outside of Fairbanks. The footage shows what looks like stars trailing one another amid the emerald glow of the northern lights.

    “We were a bit baffled at first then realized, ‘Wait, that must be Starlink,'” he said. “Then my wife got her star tracker app out, and it showed that’s what we had seen.”

    The view, as mesmerizing as it is surprising, has astronomers wondering, is there any way to dim the lights on these satellites, or are we doomed to a mega-constellation future?

    [ click to continue reading at Yahoo! ]

    Profound Boredom

    from The Telegraph via National Post

    Social media kills boredom that may lead to creativity

    Scrolling mindlessly through attention-grabbing posts, videos and threads prevents the build-up of ‘profound boredom’ needed to spur people on to new passions or skills, experts warn

    Lazy man

    Walter Benjamin, a German philosopher, noted that boredom was the “dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.”

    But the creative flights of fancy that often arise from having little to do, are being killed off by social media, researchers believe.

    Scrolling mindlessly through attention-grabbing posts, videos and threads prevents the build-up of ‘profound boredom’ needed to spur people on to new passions or skills, experts warn.

    Instead, people find themselves in a state of ‘superficial boredom’, which does not spark creative thought.

    [ click to continue reading at National Post ]

    Ken Block Gone

    from AccuWeather

    Pro rally driver, YouTube star Ken Block dies in snowmobile accident

    Authorities said the 55-year-old, famous for his Gymkhana series of extreme auto sports videos, was riding on a steep slope in Utah.

    By Darryl Coote, UPI

    Jan. 2 (UPI) — Pro rally driver Ken Block has died following a snowmobile accident in Utah, authorities said late Monday.

    The 55-year-old Park City, Utah, resident was riding a snowmobile on a steep slope in the Mill Hollow area, located east of Salt Lake City, when at about 2 p.m. his vehicle upended and landed on top of him, the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

    Block was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries sustained in the incident, it said, adding that the state medical examiner’s office will determine the official cause of death.

    Jenson Button, a former Formula One and Super GT Series champion, said via Twitter that he was shocked by news of Block’s death.

    “Such a talent that did so much for our sport,” Button said. “He was a true visionary with his own unique style & infectious smile.

    “Our sport lost one of the best today but more importantly a great man.”

    [ click to read full article at AccuWeather ]

    Dr. Ketamine

    from The Washington Post via MSN

    This doctor prescribes ketamine to thousands online. It’s all legal.

    Story by Daniel Gilbert

    This doctor prescribes ketamine to thousands online. It’s all legal.
    This doctor prescribes ketamine to thousands online. It’s all legal.© Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

    In the past two years, Scott Smith has become licensed to practice medicine in almost every U.S. state for a singular purpose: treating depressed patients online and prescribing them ketamine.

    The sedative, which is sometimes abused as a street drug, has shown promise in treating depression and anxiety. But instead of dispensing it in a clinic or under the strict protocols endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration, the South Carolina physician orders generic lozenges online for patients to take at home. He says this practice, though controversial, has benefited more than half of his 3,000 patients. “People are beating a path to my door,” he said in an interview.

    Smith is part of a wave of doctors and telehealth start-ups capitalizing on the pandemic-inspired federal public health emergency declaration, which waived a requirement for health-care providers to see patients in person to prescribe controlled substances. The waiver has enabled Smith to build a national ketamine practice from his home outside Charleston — and fueled a boom among telehealth companies that have raised millions from investors.

    As the urgency around covid-19 subsides, many expect the waiver to expire this spring. Companies are lobbying to extend it, and patients are bracing for a disruption to purely virtual care.

    [ click to continue reading at MSN ]

    Barbara Walters Gone

    from ABC News

    Barbara Walters, trailblazing TV icon, dies at 93

    The pioneering TV news broadcaster was the first female anchor in evening news.

    ByLuchina Fisher and Bill Hutchinson

    Barbara Walters, the trailblazing television news broadcaster and longtime ABC News anchor and correspondent who shattered the glass ceiling and became a dominant force in an industry once dominated by men, died Friday. She was 93.

    Walters joined ABC News in 1976, becoming the first female anchor on an evening news program. Three years later, she became a co-host of “20/20,” and in 1997, she launched “The View.”

    Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company which is the parent company of ABC News, praised Walters as someone who broke down barriers.

    “Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself. She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state to the biggest celebrities and sports icons. I had the pleasure of calling Barbara a colleague for more than three decades, but more importantly, I was able to call her a dear friend. She will be missed by all of us at The Walt Disney Company, and we send our deepest condolences to her daughter, Jacqueline,” Iger said in a statement Friday.

    In a career that spanned five decades, Walters won 12 Emmy awards, 11 of those while at ABC News.

    [ click to continue reading at ABC News ]

    Pelé Gone

    from AP

    Pelé, Brazil’s mighty king of ‘beautiful game,’ has died


    SAO PAULO (AP) — Pelé, the Brazilian king of soccer who won a record three World Cups and became one of the most commanding sports figures of the last century, died Thursday. He was 82.

    The standard-bearer of “the beautiful game” had undergone treatment for colon cancer since 2021. The medical center where he had been hospitalized for the last month said he died of multiple organ failure as a result of the cancer.

    “Pelé changed everything. He transformed football into art, entertainment,” Neymar, a fellow Brazilian soccer star, said on Instagram. “Football and Brazil elevated their standing thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will endure. Pelé is eternal!”

    Widely regarded as one of soccer’s greatest players, Pelé spent nearly two decades enchanting fans and dazzling opponents as the game’s most prolific scorer with Brazilian club Santos and the Brazil national team.

    His grace, athleticism and mesmerizing moves transfixed players and fans. He orchestrated a fast, fluid style that revolutionized the sport — a samba-like flair that personified his country’s elegance on the field.

    [ click to read full article at AP ]

    Vivienne Westwood Gone

    from The LA Times

    Fashion designer and punk icon Vivienne Westwood dies at 81


    Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, known for popularizing British punk and new wave fashion, died Thursday at age 81.

    A major icon in the early British punk scene of the 1970s, Westwood went on to enjoy a long career highlighted by a string of triumphant runway shows in London, Paris, Milan and New York. Westwood’s work, which was often marked by her antiestablishment values, adorned the bodies of numerous celebrities, those on the red carpets of Hollywood as well as those in the British royal family.

    In a 2018 review of a Westwood documentary, The Times’ Kenneth Turan described her as “a woman of formidable energy and drive whether she is tearing apart one of her own fashion collections the night before her show or passionately advocating for environmental issues.”

    [ click to read full article at LAT ]

    Hidden Cézanne

    from artnet

    A Potential Cézanne Self-Portrait Was Found by a Cincinnati Art Museum Conservator Underneath a Meh Still Life of Bread and Eggs

    A curator at the museum got a “hunch” something was hiding after seeing underlying paint through cracks on the canvas.

    by Jo Lawson-Tancred

    Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Bread and Eggs (1865). Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Museum of Art.

    Museums are always looking to expand their collections, but occasionally a new masterpiece is hiding in plain sight. 

    After examining Cezanne’s Still Life with Bread and Eggs (1865) more closely, Serena Urry, chief conservator of the Cincinnati Museum of Art (CMA), noticed a strange concentration of cracks in two areas of the canvas. Underneath, she thought she could make out some underlying white paint.

    It turns out that what she has described as a “hunch” was correct. Further x-ray analysis revealed a hidden painting that they believe might be a self-portrait of the French Post-Impressionist, painted while he was in his mid-20s. 

    “We went from having two Cezannes to three with this discovery,” Urry said.

    [ click to continue reading at artnet ]

    Magnetosphere Cracking

    from LiveScience

    Shock wave from sun has opened up a crack in Earth’s magnetic field, and it could trigger a geomagnetic storm

    The storm is classed as a G1 storm, so is expected to be fairly mild.

    By Ben Turner

    A giant coronal mass ejection burst from the sun toward Venus on Sept. 5, 2022.
    A giant coronal mass ejection bursts from the sun toward Venus on Sept. 5, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/STEREO)

    A mysterious shock wave in a gust of solar wind has sent a barrage of high-speed material smashing into Earth’s magnetic field, opening up a crack in the magnetosphere. The barrage of plasma could lead to a geomagnetic storm today (Dec. 19), according to

    The shockwave’s origins aren’t exactly known, but scientists think it could have come from a coronal mass ejection launched by the sunspot AR3165, a fizzing region on the sun’s surface that released a flurry of at least eight solar flares on Dec. 14, causing a brief radio blackout over the Atlantic Ocean. 

    Sunspots are areas on the sun’s surface where powerful magnetic fields, created by the flow of electrical charges, knot into kinks before suddenly snapping. The resulting release of energy launches bursts of radiation called solar flares, or plumes of solar material called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Once launched, CMEs travel at speeds in the millions of miles per hour, sweeping up charged particles from the solar wind to form a giant, combined wavefront that (if pointed toward Earth) can trigger geomagnetic storms.

    [ click to continue reading at LiveScience ]

    Cloud Bursting

    from Study Finds

    The cloud out of space? Scientists scrambling to prevent global data storage crisis

    by Chris Melore

    Digital Earth

    BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom — Servers around the world could soon face a massive data storage crunch, thanks to the “mind-blowing amount” of information people store digitally every day.

    Researchers from Aston University say the global datasphere — the total amount of data worldwide — will increase by 300 percent within the next three years. Currently, all of this data sits in banks of servers stored in huge warehouses (data centers).

    Unfortunately, the answer to creating more space in “the cloud” is not just to build more server warehouses. The Aston team says data centers already use up 1.5 percent of the world’s electricity every year. That makes endlessly building new facilities just for massive servers an unsustainable practice.

    Servers smaller than your hair!

    With that in mind, scientists are now working on creating new data storage surfaces which are just five nanometers in width. That’s about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair! At the same time, they’ll be able to increase data storage capacity on digital devices — since there will likely be no stopping the amount of information people store digitally every second of every day.

    [ click to continue reading at Study Finds ]


    from WIRED

    Physicists Rewrite a Quantum Rule That Clashes With Our Universe

    The past and future are tightly linked in conventional quantum mechanics. A tweak could let quantum possibilities increase as space expands.



    A JARRING DIVIDE cleaves modern physics. On one side lies quantum theory, which portrays subatomic particles as probabilistic waves. On the other lies general relativity, Einstein’s theory that space and time can bend, causing gravity. For 90 years, physicists have sought a reconciliation, a more fundamental description of reality that encompasses both quantum mechanics and gravity. But the quest has run up against thorny paradoxes.

    Hints are mounting that at least part of the problem lies with a principle at the center of quantum mechanics, an assumption about how the world works that seems so obvious it’s barely worth stating, much less questioning.

    Unitarity, as the principle is called, says that something always happens. When particles interact, the probability of all possible outcomes must sum to 100 percent. Unitarity severely limits how atoms and subatomic particles might evolve from moment to moment. It also ensures that change is a two-way street: Any imaginable event at the quantum scale can be undone, at least on paper. These requirements have long guided physicists as they derive valid quantum formulas. “It’s a very restrictive condition, even though it might seem a little bit trivial at first glance,” said Yonatan Kahn, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois.

    But what once seemed an essential scaffold may have become a stifling straitjacket preventing physicists from reconciling quantum mechanics and gravity. “Unitarity in quantum gravity is a very open question,” said Bianca Dittrich, a theorist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada.

    The main problem is that the universe is expanding. This expansion is well described by general relativity. But it means that the future of the cosmos looks totally different from its past, while unitarity demands a tidy symmetry between past and future on the quantum level. “There is a tension there, and it’s something quite puzzling if you think about it,” said Steve Giddings, a quantum gravity theorist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

    [ click to continue reading at WIRED ]

    Vintage Threads

    from artnet

    Possibly the Oldest Pair of Levi’s Jeans, Salvaged From an 1857 Shipwreck, Just Auctioned for a Deep-Pocketed $114,000

    What may be the earliest known Levi Strauss pants went for double their estimate at auction.

    by Vittoria Benzine

    The jeans salvaged from the wreckage. Courtesy of Holabird.

    Vintage bank notes, gold nuggets, and jewelry were among 550 treasures from the 1857 S.S. Central America shipwreck that went to auction with Holabird Western Americana Collections in Reno this month. Final prices across their multi-million-dollar sale ranged from $48 for a collection of books about treasure (estimated $80–$100) to $1,080,000 for gold from the vessel’s treasure box (estimated $1,800,000–$2,500,00).

    However, a salvaged pair of miner’s pants from Mexican-American war veteran, merchant, and possible gold rusher John Dement stole the show, pulling in a total of $114,000—more than double their $50,000 estimate. Holabird said the trousers could be the earliest known example of Levi Strauss craftsmanship. Gold from the S.S. Central America has appeared at auction before, but this is the first time its artifacts have been sold.

    The 280-foot S.S. Central America had made 43 successful trips by September 1857, when it departed Panama for New York City carrying 477 passengers, 101 crew members, and 30,000 pounds of precious metal from the California gold rush. After one stop in Havana, a hurricane shredded its sails and flooded its decks. Only 153 people survived.

    [ click to continue reading at artnet ]

    P-22 Gone

    from KTLA

    Celebrity cougar P-22 euthanized; his life in photos

    by Cameron Kiszla

    California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced Saturday that famous mountain lion P-22 was euthanized.

    The cougar had apparently been struck by a car shortly before he was captured on Monday. Prior to his capture, he had been accused of attacking pet Chihuahuas in the Hollywood Hills.

    The 12-year-old cougar was a certified star, even by Los Angeles standards. His prowl in front of the Hollywood sign made for a compelling National Geographic photograph, and each sighting in and near his adopted home in Griffith Park created a buzz of excitement.

    [ click to continue reading at KTLA ]

    Desert Kites

    from artnet

    Scientists Have Cracked the Origins of ‘Desert Kites,’ Massive Prehistoric Patterns That Were Carved into the Middle Eastern Desert

    Three studies confirm the long-held hypothesis that the structures were hunting traps.

    by Vittoria Benzine

    Aerial view of a kite in the Khaybar area of north-west Saudi Arabia. These ancient hunting structures were named ‘kites’ by aviators in the 1920s because, observed from above, their form is reminiscent of old-fashioned child’s kites with streamers. (Diaa Albukaai and Kévin Guadagnini, Khaybar Longue Durée Archaeological Project, RCU-Afalula-CNRS)

    In the 1920s, British Royal Air Force pilots over the Middle East recorded the first sightings of what they dubbed desert kites—massive patterns carved into rocky land, often resembling the famous flying toy.

    Archaeologists have since debated the purpose of these enigmas, which appear across geographies and eras, dating back to the Neolithic Period (10,000–2,200 B.C.E.) in Jordan, the early Bronze Age (3,300–2,100 B.C.E.) in Israel’s Negev Desert, and the Middle Bronze Age (2,100–1,550 B.C.E.) in Armenia. Some thought they were cultural cornerstones. Still more posited they were pens for domesticating animals.

    Three recent peer-reviewed papers confirm popular hypotheses that the desert kites actually served as mass hunting traps, allowing early desert dwellers to kill entire herds of game at once. While they were active, the kites funneled gazelle and ibex down tapered, wall-lined paths which ended in massive pits or sudden cliffs where creatures were trapped and killed. The kites’s particular placement, length, and shape generally demonstrate a sophisticated knowledge of landscapes and animal behaviors.

    [ click to continue reading at artnet ]

    Highway To Meth

    from The Atlantic via MSN

    Little House on the Prairie—With Meth

    Opinion by Judith Shulevitz

    A home in Colorado's San Luis Valley
    A home in Colorado’s San Luis Valley © Courtesy of Ted Conover

    In the many decades that have passed since Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books became the most widely read, most beloved account of the American frontier experience, a revisionist view has emerged, not just of what these days is called settler colonialism but of her father, Charles—that is, Pa, the fiddler with the twinkling eyes.

    As portrayed by Wilder’s biographer Caroline Fraser, Charles Ingalls was a feckless man, if a loving father. He dragged his wife and daughters out of Wisconsin and “a comfortable, established home with plowed fields and a productive garden,” in Fraser’s words, and then from bad to worse: a house illegally built on Native American territory from which they are expelled; a farm in Minnesota prey to apocalyptic locust swarms; a hotel in Iowa next to a saloon, where a man tried to force his way into the young Wilder’s room; and finally the Dakota Territory. Scientists at the time had warned that the Great Plains were arid and infertile and sure to drive small farmers into bankruptcy, but the government, urged on by the railroads, lured people there anyway, giving away homesteads, unleashing land rushes, creating the conditions that laid waste to the prairie ecosystem. When Pa died in 1902, he had nothing to leave his widow and blind daughter but the house they lived in.

    A century and some years later, Donald Trump wins the presidential election, and the journalist Ted Conover lights out for the territories—well, for southern Colorado, parts of which have indeed become a barren land. An earlier magazine assignment sent him to that part of the state to write about South Park, the real town of TV-show fame, “a place nearly devoid of people that was overlaid with dirt roads from a moribund 1970s subdivision.” After the election, Conover feels compelled to go back. He heads for a settlement not far from South Park in the San Luis Valley, sometimes called the flats, where a transient population lives in one-room shacks or trailers, many without plumbing, electricity, or internet. “The American firmament was shifting in ways I needed to understand,” he writes in his new book, Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge. “These empty, forgotten places seemed an important part of that.”

    [ click to continue reading at MSN ]

    Oldest DNA

    from The Guardian

    DNA from 2m years ago reveals lost Arctic world

    Breakthrough pushes back DNA record by 1m years to time when region was 11–19C warmer than today

    This illustration provided by researchers depicts Kap Kobenhavn, Greenland, 2m years ago.
    This illustration provided by researchers depicts Kap København, Greenland, 2m years ago. Photograph: Beth Zaiken/AP

    Two-million-year-old DNA from northern Greenland has revealed that the region was once home to mastodons, lemmings and geese, offering unprecedented insights into how climate change can shape ecosystems.

    The breakthrough in ancient DNA analysis pushes back the DNA record by 1m years to a time when the Arctic region was 11-19C warmer than the present day. The analysis reveals that the northern peninsula of Greenland, now a polar desert, once featured boreal forests of poplar and birch trees teeming with wildlife. The work offers clues to how species might adapt, or be genetically engineered, to survive the threat of rapid global heating.

    Prof Eske Willerslev of the University of Cambridge and the University of Copenhagen, said: “A new chapter spanning 1m extra years of history has finally been opened and for the first time we can look directly at the DNA of a past ecosystem that far back in time.”

    The fragments are 1m years older than the previous record for DNA sampled from a Siberian mammoth bone. “DNA can degrade quickly but we’ve shown that under the right circumstances, we can now go back further in time than anyone could have dared imagine,” said Willerslev.

    [ click to continue reading at The Guardian ]

    No More Men

    from Study Finds

    Men are slowly losing their Y chromosome, but new sex gene discovery in spiny rats brings hope for humanity

    By Jenny GravesLa Trobe University

    The sex of human and other mammal babies is decided by a male-determining gene on the Y chromosome. But the human Y chromosome is degenerating and may disappear in a few million years, leading to our extinction unless we evolve a new sex gene.

    The good news is two branches of rodents have already lost their Y chromosome and have lived to tell the tale.

    A new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows how the spiny rat has evolved a new male-determining gene.

    [ click to continue reading at Study Finds ]


    from The Washington Post via MSN

    Ancient human relative used fire, surprising discoveries suggest

    Story by Mark Johnson

    Ancient human relative used fire, surprising discoveries suggest
    Ancient human relative used fire, surprising discoveries suggest © Denis Farrell/AP

    Explorers wriggling through cramped, pitch-black caves in South Africa claim to have discovered evidence that a human relative with a brain only one-third the size of ours used fire for light and cooking a few hundred thousand years ago. The unpublished findings — which add new wrinkles to the story of human evolution — have been met with both excitement and skepticism.

    South African paleoanthropologist and National Geographic explorer Lee Berger described finding soot-covered walls, fragments of charcoal, burned antelope bones and rocks arranged as hearths in the Rising Star cave system, where nine years earlier the team uncovered the bones of a new member of the human family, Homo naledi.

    Control of fire is considered a crucial milestone in human evolution, providing light to navigate dark places, enabling activity at night and leading to the cooking of food, and a subsequent increase in body mass. When exactly the breakthrough occurred, however, has been one of the most contested questions in all of paleoanthropology.

    [ click to continue reading at MSN ]

    Skywriting Renaissance

    from the LA Times via Yahoo! News

    Why are skywriting messages all over L.A. lately? We have answers

    by Ronald D. White

    Los Angeles, CA - July 04: The Skytypers planes release smoke to write "Happy Fourth" on Monday, July 4, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. Pilots manually maintain their tight abreast formation, and an automated program patented by Owner Stephen Stinis' grandfather, Andy Stinis, releases smoke from each plane independently to create matrix-messages of smoke dots. (Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)
    Skytypers’ Grumman Tiger airplanes release vaporized liquid to write “Happy Fourth” above Los Angeles on July 4, 2022. Skywriting and other aerial promotions are enjoying a boom helped by social media, which allows the fleeting messages to survive and be shared. (Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

    On a lightly breezy afternoon, Carlos Shihady and Maram Shehada stood together at the Point Reyes Lighthouse, where the rocky land juts a finger out into the Pacific, and watched “Carlos ❤️ Maram 12 17 2022” appear in the sky.

    It was a grand save-the-wedding-date gesture to share with family and friends via social media, marking a high point in a harrowing journey for the couple, long separated by war and pandemic.

    With both finally in America together, it had taken more than a month of planning to get to this moment: a squadron of airplanes, so high they couldn’t be seen, forming words with computer-choreographed puffs of vaporized liquid that could be seen for miles.

    “The clouds parted in time and I think I was just standing there with her and saying, ‘Oh, my God, look at the writing,'” Shihady said. “It was a special moment for us to announce this date because of all that we went through, you know, with COVID, with Syria.”

    A full-on craze in the early days of aeronautics, skywriting faded over the decades. The messages didn’t have the staying power of other forms of advertising, blowing away in the wind, and, at best, were preserved on low-resolution photographs and video that were rarely shared with anyone except immediate friends and family.

    But social media and our insatiable promotional hunger have pushed the throttle on the old-timey art form.

    [ click to continue reading at Yahoo! News ]

    Hopewell Mysteries

    from the BBC

    The US’ 2,000-year-old mystery mounds

    By Brandon Withrow

    The US' 2,000-year-old mystery mounds (Credit: Ohio History Connection)
    (Image credit: Ohio History Connection)

    Constructed by a mysterious civilisation that left no written records, the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are a testament to indigenous sophistication.

    Autumn leaves crackled under our shoes as dozens of eager tourists and I followed a guide along a grassy mound. We stopped when we reached the opening of a turf-topped circle, which was formed by another wall of mounded earth. We were at The Octagon, part of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, a large network of hand-constructed hills spread throughout central and southern Ohio that were built as many as 2,000 years ago. Indigenous people would come to The Octagon from hundreds of miles away, gathering regularly for shared rituals and worship. 

    “There was a sweat lodge or some kind of purification place there,” said our guide Brad Lepper, the senior archaeologist for the Ohio History Connection’s World Heritage Program (OHC), as he pointed to the circle. I looked inside to see a perfectly manicured lawn – a putting green. A tall flag marked a hole at its centre.  

    The Octagon is currently being used as a golf course.

    All of these all these prehistoric ceremonial earthworks in Ohio were created by what is now called the Hopewell Culture, a network of Native American societies that gathered from as far away as Montana and the Gulf of Mexico between roughly 100 BCE and 500 CE and were connected by a series of trade routes. Their earthworks in Ohio consist of shapes – like circles, squares and octagons – that were often connected to each other. Archaeologists are only now beginning to understand the sophistication of these engineering marvels. 

    [ click to continue reading at BBC ]

    Goodbye Cruel Worldism

    from The Atlantic


    A disparate group of thinkers says we should welcome our demise.

    By Adam Kirsch

    painting of human figure looking out into abstract universe of colorful daubs of paint on black background

    Painting by Reynier Llanes. Home, 2022 (mixed media on paper, 70 x 59 inches).

    “Man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.”

    With this declaration in The Order of Things (1966), the French philosopher Michel Foucault heralded a new way of thinking that would transform the humanities and social sciences. Foucault’s central idea was that the ways we understand ourselves as human beings aren’t timeless or natural, no matter how much we take them for granted. Rather, the modern concept of “man” was invented in the 18th century, with the emergence of new modes of thinking about biology, society, and language, and eventually it will be replaced in turn.

    As Foucault writes in the book’s famous last sentence, one day “man would be erased, like a face drawn in the sand at the edge of the sea.” The image is eerie, but he claimed to find it “a source of profound relief,” because it implies that human ideas and institutions aren’t fixed. They can be endlessly reconfigured, maybe even for the better. This was the liberating promise of postmodernism: The face in the sand is swept away, but someone will always come along to draw a new picture in a different style.

    But the image of humanity can be redrawn only if there are human beings to do it. Even the most radical 20th-century thinkers stop short at the prospect of the actual extinction of Homo sapiens, which would mean the end of all our projects, values, and meanings. Humanity may be destined to disappear someday, but almost everyone would agree that the day should be postponed as long as possible, just as most individuals generally try to delay the inevitable end of their own life.

    In recent years, however, a disparate group of thinkers has begun to challenge this core assumption. From Silicon Valley boardrooms to rural communes to academic philosophy departments, a seemingly inconceivable idea is being seriously discussed: that the end of humanity’s reign on Earth is imminent, and that we should welcome it. The revolt against humanity is still new enough to appear outlandish, but it has already spread beyond the fringes of the intellectual world, and in the coming years and decades it has the potential to transform politics and society in profound ways.

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