124 thoughts on “Open Thread For May”

  1. I am told it is difficult to predict the Australian elections as different demographics are scattered all over the place and traditional labour districts are targeted by “culture war” messages from the right.

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  2. Earlier issues of ‘The Scathing Atheist’ not only brought us stories of dysfunctional Christianity, they also went through the chapters of the koran every third episode.

    -For instance, we learn that it is appropriate to murder a child because it was going to rebel against its parents at some point in the future. And having a daughter instead of a son is terribly humiliating.

    -I realised their story telling skills are much better than mine, so here is episode 174: ‘An-Nahl Bees’. It starts at 34 minutes 20 seconds in.

    or alternatively

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  3. Stephen Colbert- at the end of this nine-minute clip he talks about the Sunday election in Australia.

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  4. Maciej Zaremba has written a long piece about the tension between the government party and the local towns and cities in Poland about the support for Ukrainan refugees in Dagens Nyheter.
    Summary: the Polish government (run by far-right nationalists) is doing very little, the local communities have to carry most of the burden.

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  5. Genome-wide data from medieval German Jews show that the Ashkenazi founder event pre-dated the 14th century.
    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.05.13.491805v1?rss=1

    Ashkenazim coalesced from Levantine Jews, Italian Jews and East European Gentiles. Jews in Europe underwent a severe bottleneck of ~300 (effective size, not total) around ~1250 CE. I was trying to think what might have caused that – the only thing I could come up with was the end of the Medieval Warm Period and the onset of the Little Ice Age. So, that bottleneck explains the long runs of homozeigosity that modern Ashkenazim have to thank for the heritable diseases to which they are particularly prone. Probably a lot of Jewish groups in Europe did not survive. But after the bottleneck event, their population expanded rapidly.

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    1. I wonder if the 1250 bottleneck event could be related to the massacre of the Jewish population that I understand took place at the time of the Crusades.

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      1. I assume these genetic clock dates are not as precise as a good carbon date. 1250 isn’t that far off the Crusades which I thought went on from about 1100 to 1200.

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      2. … and later failures of Jewish communities to establish themselves in Eastern Central Europe.
        This is corroborated by the language Ashkenazim used among themselves:
        modern name is Yiddish, they called it, if I’m not mistaken, taytsh, and it’s also known as Judendeutsch, and which is as closely related to Middle High German as possible.
        The communities probably (I’m speculating here) thrived best in the last pagan regions of Europe, e.g. what’s at present Lithuania (and later in the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom-cum-Grand-Duchy).

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  6. I was just watching TV and was told the Swedish-Yugoslav football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic is even bigger in Italy than in Sweden.
    .
    Good news; the utter tossers in the Australian government have been defeated.
    Labour does not seem to get absolute majority which is a good thing: their political allies may force them to adopt a proportional voting system, which will keep the thief/apocalypse/Uruk-hai parties out of power forever.

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  7. “Ten TV shows that actually get better with every season”
    Note that three of them are animated.

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    1. I only recently have been able to watch Peaky Blinders, having heard so much about it after it first aired (somewhere – not here, that’s for sure) in September 2013. I am just finishing watching the 4th series, and that will be all for me, because the 5th and 6th series are not (yet) available here.

      My opinion is the reverse – it started brilliantly, spectacularly, hugely atmospherically, very believably, and has gone slowly but steadily downhill since.

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  8. Aki Karuismäki’s films from Finland make the country look like it is culturally, socially and economically stuck in the 1950s.
    Also, the Finns themselves have an exaggerated idea about how much alcohol people in the country drink. It is no worse than Sweden.
    They need a PR campaign.

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  9. Erratum- Australia apparently already have proportional representation in the parliament.
    And it looks like Labour might get a total majority after all.
    If they are serious about repairing the damage done by the LNP I would cheer them on, going “Plow them under!!”
    (Murdoch’s media have already stated “The resistance starts today “)

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  10. The headlines about monkeypox have created a disproportionate amount of concern, it cannot beat the classics, like HIV and covid. It is like those one-hit wonders at Top of the pops.
    .
    I know I am picking on islam a lot, but their holy book is such a never-ending source of entertainment.

    The koran says each of us unbelievers will get a personal demon chained to us. I feel sorry for mine, complaining “are you going to get up and have a pizza at 3 am again?”. The Saudi version is more interesting, it says each of us will get a demon as “an intimate companion”.

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  11. “Rishi Sunak blowing our money again as government pleads poverty”
    FFS, just nuke the place from orbit!

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  12. From the large number of people in Singapore recently who want to connect to my LinkedIn network, 100% of whom are young, female and fairly attractive, I have learned that Marketing Research Manager is a code expression for High Priced Prostitute. Or it could be Pimp, I suppose. Or Madam. Someone managing research into the market for high priced call-girls.

    In Monkeypox news, it seems that some Americans don’t know what “intimate contact” means. And that helpful chap Eric Feigl-Ding is getting abused as a fear-monger just for publishing data on known cases of Monkeypox in the UK, Europe and the USA. One lady wanted to know if mask-wearing would help. I wanted to answer “Only if you wear it as underwear, Madam”, but I don’t use Twitter.

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  13. Ancient Maltese genomes and the genetic geography of Neolithic Europe.
    https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(22)00705-9#.YoaFqJOhDjI.twitter

    I can’t get excited. About anything. Any more.

    In ancient times, one-off exploratory ocean crossings obviously happened a lot – see Australian Aboriginal people and those amazing Austronesian seafarers. But regular, routine crossings were more problematic, or costly, or something. There was a lot of interaction between a lot of the Pacific Islands, but once the Māori reached New Zealand, they became isolated.

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  14. The Chinese space telescope that will be launched 2023 is as large as the Hubble telescope, but has much more up-to-date electronics and a larger field of view.

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  15. School shootings…
    If the Republicans were a computer screen in space, it would say “Crew is expendable “.

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  16. Aerosmith had to cancel the concerts for this summer after a member ‘fell off the wagon’ and has to be treated for drug misuse.

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  17. “people who do not believe in the hereafter give angels female names”
    ???? -So, is this a good thing?

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  18. An old issue of The Scathing Atheist had the usual insane comments about bizarre scripture. I would myself never be able to do improv.
    (religious character):”….let My daughter have a refuge from satan the stoned ”
    Eli Bosnick: ” … satan the stoned is hanging out mumbling “have you watched The Mighty Boosh? It’s funny.”
    -The passage where Allah “shaped you in the womb” presumably just meant “God is everywhere” but is phrased in a creepy way that comes across as if he “3D printed you with his hentai dick tentacles”.

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  19. Speaking of tentacles, My Octopus Teacher (2020) is an excellent documentary.

    The fact that the film maker develops a relationship with a wild (i.e. non-captive) octopus (it feels silly even typing that, but it is what happened) by visiting it every day for almost a year and gradually letting it become accustomed to his presence to the extent that it eventually goes and sits calmly on his hand, and later attaches itself to his chest, and (he) develops an emotional attachment to it, enhances rather than detracts from the scientific value of the film. By filming it every day over almost a year (about its full natural lifespan), the film maker is able to illustrate how the octopus learned from experience, developing better ways to protect itself against its main natural predator, a small species of shark, which hunt them mostly by smell (so being able to change colour isn’t actually that helpful).

    It’s not anthropomorphising, which I am always on guard against – the common octopus is intelligent enough to distinguish between different human individuals, let alone distinguish them from other life forms. By getting captive octopus to do things like find their way through mazes and unscrew jars, researchers have estimated that they are about as intelligent as domestic dogs or a bit higher.

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  20. Cephalopods are subjected to strong predation, so the genes needed for longer life span is in “evolutionary shadow “. It is a pity, it would be interesting to se what a hundred year old squid could learn.
    .
    Mermaid is “sjöjungfru” in Swedish. So merman is “sjöman” ?

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  21. Andrew Fletcher, the keyboard player in Depeche Mode passed away May 26th. He was the one who kept the band together when the other members were in conflict with each other.

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  22. Country music stars are deserting the NRL like rats leaving a sinking ship.

    Almost unbelievably crassly, the NRL is planning to go ahead shortly with its annual convention, and a whole lot of country stars were billed to perform at the convention, but they are all pulling out – at least they understand that it is hugely inappropriate to go ahead in light of the recent tragic event, even if the NRL, Trump, Cruz, Cotton and the usual cast of idiots don’t get it.

    Of course sales of firearms have shot up, and the share prices of businesses that make and sell guns have shot up, in the wake of the shooting. They always do after a mass shooting, apparently.

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  23. The demographic of the country music fan base has been changing. There are now a lot more younger black and Hispanic listeners, and of course it is in the interests of the performers to try to appeal to a more progressive fan base. Some of them like Roseanne Cash and the Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) were always more progressive, or had become so. There was always a divide in country music and country rock, which I identify as the ‘good’ country music, going back to Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Brown and that crowd, who were always staunchly democrat and progressive.

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  24. I follow the facebook postings of an author who made some good zombie novels. He has unfortunately fallen into the online MAGAverse with its conspiracy theories and Tucker Carlson lies.

    I keep following him to keep up with what the Trumpograhic/hoax victims thinks.
    Now there is some video by some transgender person that they claim is made by Disney (almost certainly bogus).
    If there us some American readers that keeps up with the crazy , I hope he or she can make an update. At least it is not as horrible as the school shootings.

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  25. As I was listening to a God Awful Movies poscast (dissecting one of the Nigerian Vultures of Horror films) the baddie is putting a curse on the pregnant wife on an enemy to make the pregnancy take twice as long and – get this- make the child be a goat. One of the podcasters noted the obvious flaw of the plan: “wouldn’t they notice the hooves in the ultrasound of the seventh trimester?”.
    I also listened to them reviewing some ordinary Xian films, but none that was as entertaining.
    The later Steven Seagal films are bad, but in a boring way. He is too fat to do any stunts, so the camera keeps avoiding the faces of the stunt doubles.

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  26. Jim Butchers urban gothic ‘Harry Dresden’ series is one of the very few consistently good book series out there (the one about Johannes Cabal is -by contrast- a humoristic dieselpunk/urban gothic combo, not quite the same genre).
    But the brief TV series was a letdown that deviated too much from the books.

    I would buy the whole series for Martin’s kids if I could get it in audiobook form (I am too conservative to download eBooks).

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  27. Who in Middle-Earth apart from Sauron could effectively have wielded the One Ring?

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  28. This is kind of depressing – I recommend reading the first comment at the bottom.

    https://emilyoster.substack.com/p/reinfection-and-long-covid?s=r

    Outside of Mainland China, HK and Macao, the world seems to have lapsed into thinking that Covid-19 is sort of over, it’s endemic, it’s no big deal, almost that it has gone away. But it hasn’t. Number of infections in Australia and the UK are zooming up again, with people reporting being infected multiple times, and some reporting being left with long-Covid even after only a mild infection.

    There is a lot more to learn about this virus yet.

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  29. As of today I am no longer a car owner. Wife had been nagging me for months to sell it, so today I did, and justifiably so.

    With Daughter still in the Mainland, me working part-time from home, and going out rarely except for food shopping, it had become a luxury that I couldn’t justify. Owning a car in HK is costly – parking fees, servicing, annual registration, insurance, fuel – although fuel is very expensive in HK, it’s the least cost factor because you can’t drive far enough to use much. (It’s the opposite of Australia, where I was having to refill my fuel tank twice every week and it was a very big expense item.) Annual registration is a biggie – the government here tries to discourage private car ownership (not unreasonably) by making it very expensive to keep it registered. Also the car had reached the age where it needs an annual roadworthiness check by the government, which is a hassle – not a problem, certainly not with that car which is still in perfect condition, but just yet another thing to have to do; another hoop to jump through.

    Anyway, it’s gone. No more. Fewer expenses, and fewer hoops to jump through. I’m gradually working my way through reducing them.

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  30. The Fisher: (sv fiskmård) A north American mammal I had never heard of. A small wolverine variant, it is larger than a marten and live in the boreal forests of North America, mostly in Canada.

    The Fischer King : A completely different thing, from folktales. I think Robin Williams was in a film tangentially related to this.

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  31. Why was that idiot throwing a cake at a painting in France? Cake throwing is a *Swedish* thing!

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  32. “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”
    Plato

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  33. “It is easier to ask for money from the poor than from the rich”
    Anton Chekov

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  34. To Anglo journalists everywhere, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s name is Mr Wang, not Mr Yi.

    FFS. You’d think they would have figured this out by now. Tennis commentators have got it (took a while, but they’ve all got it now); why can’t people who are actually paid to write stories for publication in national or international media manage to get it?

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  35. Business has been a bit slow, so my preferred Chinese nephew thought he might take a flight to the UK to see if he could drum up some new customers.

    HK$90,000. For an economy seat.

    He’s not going.

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    1. Birger, give up on John Campbell, if you haven’t already. He has gone full nutbag conspiracy theorist.

      In his Youtube video of yesterday’s date he was trying to insinuate that the current outbreak of Monkeypox in the UK, some European countries, the USA, Canada and Australia was – get this – fabricated (i.e. made, not natural) in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, presumably from where he thinks it leaked out (or spread deliberately, he doesn’t say).

      He is completely out of his tree.

      I can explain why he thinks this if I really have to, but I would much prefer not to if I don’t have to.

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  36. If a fossil forest is a petrified forest, should we call the remains of The History Channel the mineral TV program?
    .
    (PS I liked the special episode where Teddy Roosevelt defeated the Grey aliens)

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  37. I read the speculations that Putin has been treated for cancer have been confirmed.
    So- in case you recall the X File from the 90s- Putin is now officially the Cancer Guy.

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    1. So much for John Campbell’s conspiracy theory – he’s not going to pin this one on China, as much as he would dearly love to.

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  38. Polish tennis news: Iga Swiatek has won the women’s singles title at the French Open.

    Since the shock early retirement of Australian Ash Barty earlier this year, Swiatek has been the best female player by a very long way; totally dominant, at the tender age of only 21, which is young in the current era. She is also very popular with tennis fans everywhere because of the way she plays: all-court game, not just a boring base-liner, very fast around the court, hits with great power, plus she is good natured – no ugly outbursts of bad temper, racquet smashing or anything of that sort. There is nothing about her to dislike.

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  39. Speaking of Agatha Christie (reportedly Iga Swiatek’s preferred reading material), I was watching Death on the Nile (2022) last night. I knew Kenneth Branagh played the role of Poirot, plus directed it, but I hadn’t checked who the other cast members were, and recognised only a few.

    Anyway, there was one actor I had never seen before who struck me as very deeply creepy; he really made my skin crawl. When I checked the casting after finishing the film, it turned out to be none other than a certain Mr Armie Hammer, who is alleged to have done lots of creepy stuff in RL (cannibalism fetish, a violent rape, carving his initial in the skin of a woman’s hip and I don’t recall what else). I don’t know if he did or didn’t and don’t wish to spread gossip or condemn anyone in the court of the Internet, but if someone told me it was all true, having watched him acting in this film, I could easily believe it. So how did he manage to get cast in this ‘blockbuster’ (which it really isn’t) when he has been dropped by numerous other film studios (and you would think Disney would drop him like a hot brick, the way they did with a certain John C. Depp after he lost his lawsuit against the Sun) since the allegations about him surfaced? Simple – although this film has only been released this year, it was made back in 2018, before the allegations about Hammer came out. The release was delayed multiple times because of whatever whatever…pandemic, other films being released and bombing, and I don’t recall what else…

    So what about the film, aside from the deeply repellent Mr Hammer? (Next to him, Russell Brand, who I normally detest, came across as decent and normal; mind you, he was hiding behind a big false beard and didn’t say much, and his accent was shit when he finally did get to say something.) Despite being made entirely in England, I think it works. The ‘Egyptian’ scenes don’t look as fake as some critics have claimed – I think they managed those rather well. (There was not much ‘native’ content in either the novel or earlier versions of the film anyway.) It’s eye candy. Plus it’s a pleasant change of pace and a return to an old fashioned style, after all the Marvel Universe super-hero stupidly over-the-top stunts, car chases and CGI. They have reworked the story quite a bit, but I think that’s fine. They give Poirot a bit of a back story and a bit of human dimension without stuffing it up. Branagh slightly underplays Poirot rather than hamming it up the way Ustinov did in the 1978 version, which was refreshing. And I see no problem with his double decker moustache.

    And, as usual, Poirot is utterly useless in protecting or preventing anyone from being killed, but of course finally gets to the bottom of who the guilty parties are after it is all too late.

    Watch out for the excellent performance by Letitia Wright – very different from playing the superhero Black Panther’s little sister, but she does really well; I prefer this version of her. And Sophie Okonedo as her jazz/blues singing and guitar playing aunt is a lot of fun. Those two lifted the film a lot for me.

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  40. I like this quote: “Panic is a myth: human societies respond to sudden catastrophe not with disintegration, disorder, or abject terror, but with feats of sacrifice, a spirit of stoicism, and the strong sense of solidarity that comes only through shared suffering.”

    That pretty much accords with my experience. I won’t say panic is always mythical – I think in a disease pandemic, which is not suddenly catastrophic but more creeping and insidious, you can see people behaving in a panicky way, until their fear of infection gives way to fatigue. I have seen individual parents in a state of abject blind panic when they think their children could be at risk. But some sudden catastrophe, like a very damaging typhoon, no – panic doesn’t happen. Stoicism and solidarity happen. And racial and ethnic boundaries dissolve while that solidarity is operating.

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