and his beloved Pandora
are with you again to share rants, opinions, a bit of science and literature and whatever comes into their minds. While they are loyal pagans, they wish happy holidays to their Jewish friends:
and their Muslim friends:
LOUIS SARNO 1954-2017
Louis Sarno was an American musicologist and author. In the mid-1980s he lived among a Bayaka Pygmy clan in the Central African Republic, and recorded their music. Sarno first learned of the Bayaka’s existence through a song he heard on the radio while living in Amsterdam in the early 1980s. Entranced by their polyphonic music—which featured a chorus of voices overlaid with instruments—Sarno listened to vinyl records and trawled through books at the public library to find out more about the Bayaka. His interest grew until he eventually decided he wanted to listen to the music in its rainforest context and record it himself. Sarno wrote to British-American anthropologist Colin Turnbull, who had chronicled his experiences of recording the music of the Mbuti hunter-gatherers in Zaire in The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo, to request advice. Turnbull advised him to apply to the Swan Fund for the “studies of the small peoples of Africa” at the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University. Sarno applied, received £700 ($900), and spent the winter preparing his trip. It was 1984. The rest is history and fascinating history indeed. A full obituary is available in the NYTimes and it is well worth your time to read it.
We first became aware of Louis Sarno and his life by stumbling into a film ” Song from the Forest.” at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. We took the story to heart and donated to his cause. You might also like the write up on him and his adopted people on Motherboard which includes a sample of his recorded music.
AMOTZ ZAHAVI 1928 – 2017
Amotz Zahavi was an Israeli evolutionary biologist, a Professor in the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, and one of the founders of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (known as the “SPNI”). His main work concerned the evolution of signals, particularly those signals that are indicative of fitness, and their selection for “honesty”.
He is best known for his work on the handicap principle, which explains the evolution of characteristics, behaviors or structures that appear contrary to the principles of Darwinian evolution in that they appear to reduce fitness and endanger individual organisms. Evolved by sexual selection, these act as signals of the status of the organism, functioning to e. g. attract mates. He expanded it with theories on honest signalling and the idea that selection would favor signals that impose a higher cost, those that are not easily cheated on. He worked in particular on the Arabian babbler, a long-lived and social bird with altruistic behavior among unrelated individuals, not explainable by kin selection. Zahavi reinterpreted these behaviors according to his signal theory and its correlative, the handicap principle. The altruistic act is costly to the donor, but may improve attractiveness to potential mates, a form of competitive altruism.
An obituary can be found in the Jerusalem Post.
Born in May
04 May 1929 Audrey Hepburn, British actress
6th May 1856 Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist,
founder of psychoanalysis
12 May 1925 Yogi Berra.,American baseball player
14 May 1984 American computer expert Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
24 May 1819 Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Died in May
May 2, 1519 Leonardo da Vinci, Italian painter, sculptor, scientist
May 11, 1981 Bob Marley, Jamaican singer and composer
May 19, 1954 Charles Ives, American composer
May 30, 1593 Christopher Marlowe, English playwright
May 31, 1809 Franz Joseph Haydn, Austrian composer, credited with
creating the modern symphonic form and the string quartet
Prometheus and Pandora can rant with the best
MANCHESTER ARENA ATTACK
At least 22 people, including children, have been killed and 59 injured in a suicide bombing at a crowded pop concert in Manchester, the most deadly attack in Britain in a decade.
ABUSE OF WORKERS IN ACADEMIA: HUNGER STRIKE AT YALE
The life of a graduate student in any field is hard–grueling studies, toil at research (which in itself may be a source of joy, but not always) and teaching undergraduates, all for a pittance. Students dream of an academic career after grad school, but in today’s reality, it is a pipe dream for many. Now graduate students have unionized, but the universities are behaving like monsters and engaging in brutal union busting. We refer you to what is happening at Yale–read the article and note what they are facing. What is happening at Yale and elsewhere is brutal abuse and exploitation. Their peers tormented them further by grilling steaks near them, inspired no doubt by what Israeli fascists did to Palestinian hunger strikers. . When we were in grad school half a century ago, you scraped by on meager wages in the hope of a well-paying job after graduation.Of course, even for the generation of the so-called “golden age of science” in the 1960’s and ’70’s, life was not easy nor simple.
Nonetheless, we managed to do science, teach students and have lives in academia. Writing grant proposals to participate in major spacecraft projects was not onerous and the rewards were great. The reality of today is much different. For example, In 2015, for example, 1,183 English Ph.D.s graduated, but there were only 361 openings for assistant English professors in all of academia. Job postings with the American Historical Association — the nexus for history professor job listings — declined by 45 percent over the past five years. Prometheus and Pandora would like to share a few grad school comics with you–they would be funnier if they did not reflect such a cruel reality.
and the job, at last:
LIFE UNDER TRUMP
Prometheus and Pandora have been watching the Trump presidency with great anxiety. Prometheus thinks of his idiot brother Epithemeus and wishes he could take the gift of fire back from humanity, which seems to be led by what David Brooks in the NYTimes calls a seven year old child. He is hollow and immature as indicated by his disclosing sensitive intelligence information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister. He is so stupid and incompetent that he fails to realize the extent of his own incompetence–Brooks quotes Gertrude Stein “there is no there there” and it is true. This is known in cognitive psychology as the Dunning-Kruger effect, the inability of incompetents to recognize their incompetence. As Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man (1871): ‘Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.’
For a view from across the pond, Trump along with Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, and Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, sat down for a conversation with editors from The Economist on May 4th, 2017. We append a transcript of the interview and it is frightening to think that this man holds the keys to the fate of humanity. Prometheus and Pandora recommend strongly that you read the comments made on PRI by the interviewer in the wake of the conversation with Trump.
The White House of today has been described as being similar to a Tudor court with Trump surrounded by his courtiers and wallowing in the role of Henry VIII. To quote the interviewer David Rennie:
Trump is practicing the politics of protectionism, victimization, aggression, and nationalism (a particularly heady form of entitlement). These are incredibly
dangerous forces in the global economy when any country tries to harness them — even more so when that country is the richest and most powerful in the world (hardly a victim).
And so this is what we have. Trump is the bully who was picked last in gym class in the fourth grade and still seethes about it in his junior year of college. Even as an adult he can’t help himself any time he sees a kick ball.
VIVE LA FRANCE
Prometheus and Pandora were quite worried about the French Presidential election, in view of results in the USA and in Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Poland and Hungary, to name a few, as noted in their first rant on the erosion of democracy last February. They are delighted that the people of France, along with those of the Netherlands and Austria, have turned their back on populism and right wing extremism and have chosen to vote for democracy. The extent of Macron’s landslide victory can be seen in this graphic.
HOME SWEET HOME
There are so many things to rant about in Israel that Prometheus and Pandora hardly know where to start. Their predecessor Titan ranted for years on the antidemocratic initiatives of the Netanyahu government and pointed out that this was the road to fascism. Now Shaul Arieli, writing in Haaretz, draws an ominous comparison of the state of politics in Israel with the 14 criteria of a fascist state defined by Umberto Eco in an article in the New York Review of Books (NYRB) in 1995. If you have difficulty opening the NYRB article, a reprint is available. The examples of fascist rhetoric and action pointed out by Arieli are indeed frightening and while he tries to be optimistic, Prometheus and Pandora, whose experience with autocracy goes back to ancient Olympus, fear the worst. Fascism, as Eco points out, can appear in various guises. He gives us stern advice.
Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task.
A CONCRETE EXAMPLE (EMPHASIS OURS)
At a gathering of religious Zionist public figures two weeks ago, Deputy Knesset Speaker Betzalel Smotrich talked about his diplomatic plan, which he dubbed “The subjugation plan.” The purpose of the plan, he said, was “to erase all Palestinian national hope.”
Under the plan, the Palestinians will be given three choices – to leave the country; to live in Israel with the status of “resident alien,” because, as Smotrich made sure to note, “according to Jewish law there must always be some inferiority,” or to resist, “and then the Israel Defense Forces will know what to do.” When the deputy Knesset speaker was asked if he intended to wipe out whole families, including women and children, Smotrich replied, “In war, as in war.” Reading the rest of his speech is enough to make any decent person shudder.
SMOKE SCREEN REMOVED FROM TOBACCO
The Health Ministry has decided that the new cigarettes (IQOS) produced by tobacco giant Philip Morris will be defined as a “tobacco product” and be subject to all the restrictions applying to cigarettes and smoking. The ministry expressed its viewpoint after professional meetings between representatives of the Health Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the attorney general. In doing so, the government effectively is reversing Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s decision to allow unrestricted sales of the IQOS until the FDA decision, at an unknown future date. Now the government is announcing that the IQOS will be considered an ordinary cigarette, a policy that will be reexamined by the ministry after the FDA decision.
A Knesset research department report disclosed at committee session showed that limitations on advertising and marketing of tobacco products lead to a decline in smoking. Israel, the researchers said, is one of the “most lenient” countries in advertising and marketing cigarettes in the world,” even though, decades ago, it was one of the most advanced in antismoking legislation. It all comes down to the corrupt relationship of Litzman and the tobacco industry. Cheers for the professionals in the Ministry of Health who stood up to their boss and protected young people from this insidious attack on their health.
WRITERS’ PROFILES AND A FEW REVIEWS
We would like to call your attention to two successful and prolific women writers, one on each side of the Atlantic. Both Penelope Lively and Joyce Carol Oates have been writing for half a century and they have both enriched the lives of their readers.
This British writer has been writing for decades, yet she is not nearly as well-known as she ought to be even in her own country — although she has won both the Booker Prize and the Carnegie Medal for children’s literature. She has a fervent following and regularly sells out at literary festivals, but has remained just on the edge of the radar. She has just been the subject of a detailed profile in the NYTimes by Charles McGrath which may take her out of obscurity. Lively is in her 80’s and still producing excellent fiction. Her Carnegie winning book “The Ghost of Thomas Kempe” (1973), is, to quote McGrath, “in some ways a grown-up book in disguise: The ghost is really a metaphor for the persistence of the past, the way some things never vanish, or else the way the past shapes the future, which has become Lively’s signature theme.”
Her Booker-winning book “The Moon Tiger” was not well received by critics at the time, but was given a strongly favorable review in The Guardian a few decades later. Her most recent book is a collection of short stories “The Purple Swamp Hen” which is reviewed, again in the Guardian, by Christobel Kent. He calls it exquisite black humor and sage observations. You might want to add Ms Lively to your plans for summer reading.
The American writer Joyce Carol Oates has also had a long and fruitful career as a novelist. She has received many honors including the National Book Award winner for her novel them (1969). Her novel We Were the Mulvaneys (1996), the story of an unraveling family, became an Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1978 and has won scores of awards over the course of her career, including the Prix Femina Etranger and the Pushcart Prize.
Her latest novel, “A Book of American Martyrs”, deals with the painful issue of abortion and plumbs the depths of what is involved in extreme positions on both sides of the struggle. It is reviewed in the NYTimes by Ayana Mathis who praises much, but takes Oates to task for espousing the view of the educated liberal class, what Norman Rush (writing about Teju Cole) called “the educated secular leftcentric urban readerships of today,” and thus portraying the other side of the barrier as characterized by lack, victimhood and ignorance. Indeed, Prometheus and Pandora share the prejudices of the educated classes vis a vis the Other and we all have been rewarded with the likes of Trump and Netanyahu, so say nothing of the populist autocrats who have surfaced in Eastern Europe and elsewhere in recent years.
Prometheus and Pandora have stumbled across a piece written by Oates in the New Yorker in 1995 about her girlhood fascination with abandoned places and houses. It is worth a read.
A BIT FROM SCIENCE
TALK TO YOUR KID NOW!!
Prometheus and Pandora thank Hadass in Winnipeg for pointing us at a very important need for those who are raising kids and do not wish them to go astray in the world of quantum computing.
Then there are other no less esoteric applications of quantum theory:
‘Winged Serpent’ Fossil Found in 5-Million-Year-Old Sinkhole
Inside a 5-million-year-old sinkhole in Tennessee, at a spot dubbed Gray Fossil Site, scientists have unearthed the fossilized remains of an ancient “winged serpent” among hundreds of other snake bones.
Though it may sound like the stuff of nightmares, the winged snake was not gifted with flight — its name is in reference to the wing-like protrusions on its vertebrae. These protrusions drew the attention of the researchers, who realized the ancient beast was a new species.
Snakes’ vertebrae are key to the classification of the creatures’ fossils, according to study lead author Steven Jasinski, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania and acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. [Shhh: A Gallery of Secretive Ground Snakes] Read More
What If is quite amusing this week, both question and answer. Obviously Randall must have visited Winnipeg in the winter, as we have done several times. We are all grateful to Prometheus for the heat.
PRESIDENT TRUMP IS A FAVORITE TARGET
CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL
A NEW TWIST ON OLD MELODRAMAS (WHO REMEMBERS MARY PICKFORD?)