October 23, 2018 in 2,684 words

Setting my mood • • •

The socialists are coming! White House sounds alarm at rise of the left

As Democrats score on healthcare, the Council of Economic Advisers raises the spectre of Marx, Sanders and Swedish working mothers making you pay more for your pickup truck

Pictured above: On Karl Marx’s 200th anniversary, the report breathlessly notes, ‘Detailed policy proposals from self-declared socialists are gaining support in Congress and among much of the electorate.’

History repeats itself, observed Karl Marx, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

In the 1950s the “red scare” warned of communists sympathetic to the Soviet Union lurking around every corner of the US. On Tuesday, the White House was back at it, this time raising the spectre of Marx, Bernie Sanders and working mothers in Sweden.

A pre-election report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers sounds the alarm: “Coincident with the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth [May 1818], socialism is making a comeback in American political discourse. Detailed policy proposals from self-declared socialists are gaining support in Congress and among much of the electorate.”

The paper also just happens to be “coincident” with the 2018 midterm elections. It does not take a wild leap of imagination to foresee a feedback loop in which the Fox News host Sean Hannity cites the study as evidence of socialism posing an existential threat, after which Donald Trump talks and tweets about the issue.

Entitled Opportunity Costs of Socialism, the report struck many observers as an attempt by Republicans to neutralise what could be the winning issue for Democrats – healthcare – cloaked in academese about Das Kapital and the follies of “Maoist China, Cuba, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)”.

Archaeologists discover a 2,400-year-old shipwreck, perfectly preserved


Vases like this had been the only evidence that such vessels existed.

Archaeologists are patient professionals, slowly piecing together bits of the past with mysterious scraps, the stubborn detritus of days gone by—bits of pottery, old bones, a partial message etched in stone. Sometimes, however, they get very lucky and make a discovery of a relic that’s intact and can rewrite history, or at least reveal it more completely.

That’s what happened when a group of archaeologists embarked on a three-year search for shipwrecks in the Black Sea. More than a mile below the water’s surface, on the sea floor, lay a 2,400-year-old vessel they believe to be from ancient Greece. Due to a lack of oxygen at those depths, the ancient ship has lain undisturbed, with masts, rudders and rowing benches all preserved. “We believe we now have an unparalleled archive of data with which to address these big questions about the human past,” the international research team on the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP) explain on the project website.

The world’s oldest intact shipwreck.

The ship was found in the waters off of what is now Bulgaria and is believed to be an ancient Greek trading vessel of a kind previously only seen depicted on Greek pottery. The 75-foot vessel is a treasure for archaeologists. “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world,” according to principal investigator Jon Adams.

The MAP project, hosted by the UK’s University of Southampton, involves maritime archaeologists, scientists and marine surveyors from around the world. They have spent the past three years surveying the Black Sea, where thousands of years ago large land masses were inundated as the water level rose after the last Ice Age. Researchers have scoured the sea floor and the sediment for wrecks and have come upon 60 boats so far—including a 17th-century Cossack raiding fleet, Roman trading vessels, and ships from the Ottoman and Byzantine periods.

‘Twisted’ fibre optic light breakthrough could make internet 100 times faster

Researchers say they have developed tiny readers that can detect information in light spirals.

Researchers from RMIT say they have developed a detector the width of a human hair to replace existing dining table-sized readers.

A new development in fibre optics could make internet speeds up to 100 times faster – by detecting light that has been twisted into a spiral.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, can be used to easily upgrade existing networks and significantly boost efficiency, scientists say.

Fibre optic cables use pulses of light to transmit information, but currently information can only be stored through the colour of the light, and whether the wave is horizontal or vertical.

By twisting light into a spiral, engineers effectively create a third dimension for light to carry information: the level of orbital angular momentum, or spin. “It’s like DNA, if you look at the double helix spiral,” said Min Gu from RMIT University. “The more you can use angular momentum the more information you can carry.”

Researchers in the US had previously created a fibre that could twist light, but Gu’s team is the first to create a reasonable-size detector that can read the information it holds.

Previous detectors were “the size of a dining table”, but the new detector is the width of a human hair. “We could produce the first chip that could detect this twisting and display it for mobile application,” Gu said.

5 Of The Creepiest Science Experiments Ever

Science is usually around to take scary stuff and make it less ominous. Science is what tells us that Michael Myers couldn’t survive those wounds, that a giant shark wouldn’t actually seek revenge, and that Chucky would in reality have to rely almost entirely on projectile weapons.

That said, some scientists seem dedicated to exploring all of the ways that Lovecraftian horror can be made real for their test subjects. They’ve discovered that …

5. Brain Stimulation Can Make You Sense A “Shadow Person” Behind You

The right gadgets can put a ghostly figure right in a room with you, and we’re not talking about holograms desecrating the sanctity of the Coachella Music Festival. Scientists have actually figured out the process behind how we create ghosts in our own minds. And they can now replicate the process at will … you know, in case we ever need to do that.

Stimulation via electrodes and a robotic apparatus have been shown to make subjects believe they are surrounded by multiple spectral wraiths, ones that alternately lurk, mimic movements, and even touch their backs with “invisible fingers.”

According to Professor Olaf Blanke (a man whose name seems to indicate that he’ll soon declare war on the Fantastic Four), “Our experiment induced the sensation of a foreign presence in the laboratory for the first time. It shows that it can arise under normal conditions, simply through conflicting sensory-motor signals. This confirms that it is caused by an altered perception of their own bodies in the brain.” Another way to put it is they scared the shit out of some coeds by hooking stuff up to their bodies until they thought the lab was haunted.

Incredibly, the point of all this was not to come up with a fun and exciting new way to induce a heart attack. Rather, it was to identify the parts of the brain that cause us to see spirits and provide a rational explanation for many claims of the supernatural on record. So the next time someone runs out of their house shrieking about poltergeists, you can calm them down by saying, “Actually, it was science! The ghosts are in your skull.”

Pandora is throwing this at me right now


Every minute a dumptruckful of plastic plastic plops into the world’s oceans. That’s eight million metric tons every year1. Once waterborne, whatever doesn’t wash ashore eventually breaks down into itty bits. The puniest pieces—the ones smaller than 5 millimeters wide—are called microplastics, and their fates are numerous. Some glob onto an Alaska-sized gyre of plastic debris swirling in the Pacific Ocean. Others sink to a variety of depths, according to their densities, perfusing the world’s waters. Still others get ingested by marine life, including fish and shellfish, which are in turn ingested by other animals, like birds and humans.

All of this is a mess, from an ecological perspective. But it’s that last bit—the microplasticine infiltration of food webs—that worries not just ecologists but gastroenterologists. If microplastics are invading the things we eat, it’s possible that they’re invading our stomachs and intestines, too. But while the matryoshka-nature of food chains certainly suggests that human guts harbor microplastics, nobody’s really bothered to look in a systematic way.

Until now! Today at the United European Gastroenterology meeting in Vienna, researchers announced they have detected microplastics in stool samples from every single one of a small group of international test subjects. “Plastics are pervasive in everyday life and humans are exposed to plastics in numerous ways,” said Philipp Schwable, a gastroenterologist at the Medical University of Vienna, who led the study, via email. And yet, even he did not expect that every poo would test positive.

The pilot study tested eight subjects from eight different countries: Austria, Italy, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and the UK. Each maintained a food diary the week before donating their stools, which they deposited in glass jars, wrapped in biohazard bags, and shipped in cardboard boxes marked “Biological Substance, Category B” to the Environment Agency Austria for analysis. It’s the first study of its kind—”maybe because it is not the most pleasant material to work with,” Schwable says, but also because it required close collaboration between doctors and analytical chemists, the latter of whom identified the plastics with a method called Fourier-transform infrared micro-spectroscopy.

That Trippy Green Code in ‘The Matrix’ Is Just a Bunch of Sushi Recipes

Mystery solved!

The first few minutes of The Matrix (1999) are ominous and disorienting: a torrent of lime-green characters trickle down and then jam the frame. From afar, it looks like utterly indecipherable code; If you peer closely, however you’ll be able to discern that it’s a jumble of Japanese characters: hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

The Wachowskis, who directed the movie, have opened every subsequent film within the Matrix franchise with this sequence. You could even consider the green techno-rain the series’ defining imagistic attribute.

For those of us who’ve found it impossible to get a handle on what, exactly, is gushing onto the screen, though, I’ve got news: As it turns out, we’ve been played.

The man behind the code is Simon Whiteley, who worked as a production designer on the film. In an interview with CNet last Thursday, Whiteley revealed that the source of that mystifying code was none other than a batch of his Japanese wife’s cookbooks—and the sushi recipes he found within them.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Chicago has one of the highest homicide rates in the country, most of the young victims of crime are serviced at Leak & Son’s Funeral Home which arranges nearly 3,000 funerals per year.

“On Saturday the most funerals take place,” Spencer Leak Sr, President & CEO of Leak & Son’s Funeral Home told VICE News. “We may find ourselves with 10, 12, 15 church services throughout the community — all at the same time.”

VICE News follows the painful experience of one family mourning the loss of Prince Kargou, their beloved teenage son, as they say goodbye with the help of Leak & Sons, a funeral home based in Chicago’s south side accustomed to serving homicide victims.

Kargou’s father, who brought his children to Chicago to escape a war-torn Liberia, and his girlfriend, who witnessed the murder, says the tragedy is an example of how violence permeating the city affects innocent victims.

“There should be no ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ in America,” Kargou’s father told VICE News.​ “But this city, Chicago, has become like a warzone.”

19-year-old Prince Kargou was shot in the head while he and his girlfriend were visiting a friend in the 7200 block of South Bennett on September 3. He died the next day. Chicago police say Kargou wasn’t associated with gang violence, and no arrests have been made in his case. Kargou’s murder is one of 461 in the city this year.

Election Day is still a couple of weeks away. But in dozens of states across the country, voters can already vote — and Democrats are pouring millions of dollars into making that happen.

Resources are finite in any campaign, especially in the final days. A dollar spent is a precious thing. An hour spent is even more precious.

The Democrats often struggle to get their base out in midterm elections. But early voting gives them more chances to try to make that happen.

VICE News goes inside the Democrats’ early vote turnout operation in Arizona to see how it works.

“People who need to take a little more time to do the research are also going to vote early because they’ve got the opportunity to do so,” Felecia Rotellini, Arizona Democratic Party chairwoman, told VICE News. And we believe that when Arizona voters — Republican, Democrats, independent — go to look at whom they should vote for, they’re gonna pick Democrats.”

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Donald Trump finally came out as a nationalist.

With the midterms quickly approaching, Donald Trump is trying out some new lies, many having to do with the migrant caravan and an imaginary tax cut for the middle class.

Ted Cruz’s 2018 senatorial campaign gets an endorsement from 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

President Donald Trump holds an impromptu press conference to answer burning questions, like “What did you whisper to Stormy Daniels?”

Seth reveals hidden production credits from popular shows you might have missed.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s me commentary on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visiting Australia over the last week.

マカロンベッドで寛ぐまる。Maru is relaxed in the macaron bed.


Don Cruella or Hook and his crooks: which Disney villain would serve the longest sentence?
From Jafar’s treason and attempted murder to Scar’s regicide and assault, these cartoon baddies have clocked up some major hypothetical jail time. Could this be the next great franchise?

Starred up? … Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmations.

Most of the time, press releases are the bane of a journalist’s existence. You can smell the desperation on them as they vainly fling together all manner of spurious statistics in the frantic hope that someone – anyone – will publicise their film. Remember when a cinema company made some rabbits watch movie trailers for no discernible reason? That’s the hell I live in.

But sometimes, just sometimes, a press release accidentally strikes gold. Who knows why Music Magpie chose to put out a release ranking Disney villains by the length of time they would spend in prison if animated movies operated under the purview of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Sentencing Council for England and Wales? Is it because Halloween is coming up and villains are scary? Is it because Disney makes films and Music Magpie is a company that buys your unwanted DVDs for pennies? Who knows.

And who cares? Because by haphazardly chucking out a press release that ostensibly serves no purpose to anybody, Music Magpie might have just pre-empted the next few decades of Disney movies.

That’s right: Music Magpie just invented the Disney Dark Universe. A series of thematically interconnected standalone movies about Disney villains languishing behind bars. Doesn’t it sound amazing?

Wouldn’t you watch a film where an institutionalised inmate (Hades from Hercules – serving 56 years for kidnapping, child endangerment and attempted regicide) struggles to operate his criminal organisation from behind bars? What about one where Jafar from Aladdin (47 years for treason, attempted murder and kidnapping) fights the local authority for the right to run and maintain a legal services concession in the prison library?

Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Maybe. Probably Not?