Thursday, 1 December 2016

Ten items of interest

Wine and the Metaphysics of Time
via 3 Quarks Daily by Dwight Furrow
Wine is useless. It bakes no bread, does no work, and solves no problem. The alcohol loosens tongues and serves as social lubricant, but wine is an inefficient delivery system for alcohol – there are faster, cheaper ways of getting drunk. No one needs wine. Wine does nothing but give pleasure.
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When flower power turned sour
Rob Chapman’s history of Psychedelia and LSD sees California dreaming become the nightmare of the Manson family murders
via Arts & Letters Daily: Ian Thomson in The Spectator
Aldous Huxley reported his first psychedelic experience in The Doors of Perception (1954), a bewitching little volume that soon became the Newest Testament among the happening people. One spring morning in 1953 the 58-year-old Englishman ingested four-tenths of a gram of mescalin in his Hollywood garden and waited for the visionary moment. When he opened his eyes he saw pure California neon dust. ‘I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his own creation.’
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How Can I Know Right From Wrong? Watch Philosophy Animations on Ethics Narrated by Harry Shearer
via 3 Quarks Daily: Josh Jones at Open Culture
The history of moral philosophy in the West hinges principally on a handful of questions: Is there a God of some sort? An afterlife? Free will? And, perhaps most pressingly for humanists, what exactly is the nature of our obligations to others? The latter question has long occupied philosophers like Immanuel Kant, whose extreme formulation – the “categorical imperative” – flatly rules out making ethical decisions dependent upon particular situations. Kant’s famous example, one that generally gets repeated with a nod to Godwin, involves an axe murderer showing up at your door and asking for the whereabouts of a visiting friend. In Kant’s estimation, telling a lie in this case justifies telling a lie at any time, for any reason. Therefore, it is unethical.
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Clerical celibacy
via OUP Blog by Hugh Thomas
A set of related satirical poems, probably written in the early thirteenth century, described an imaginary church council of English priests reacting to the news that they must henceforth be celibate. In this fictional universe the council erupted in outrage as priest after priest stood to denounce the new papal policy. Not surprisingly, the protests of many focused on sex, with one speaker, for instance, indignantly protesting that virile English clerics should be able to sleep with women, not livestock. However, other protests were focused on family. Some speakers appealed to the desire for children, and others noted their attachment to their consorts, such as one who exclaimed: “This is a useless measure, frivolous and vain; he who does not love his companion is not sane!” The poems were created for comical effect, but a little over a century earlier English priests had in fact faced, for the first time, a nationwide, systematic attempt to enforce clerical celibacy. Undoubtedly a major part of the ensuing uproar was about sex, but in reality as in fiction it was also about family.
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How pee brought us the modern world
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
Urine is golden so it must have some link to gold, thought medieval alchemists seeking to devise methods to transmute base metal into gold.
Not quite, but they did discover that pee is rich with the miraculous bearer of light, aka phosphorus. (American Chemical Society)
Video here

The Clandestine Adventures of Alice in Saudi Land
via Arts & Letters Daily: by Jasmine Bager in Narratively
At a discreet all-female book club in a shadowy Saudi café, women subtly push for societal change – with a little help from an imaginative heroine who turns 150 this year.
Since Saudi women still can’t take control of the wheel, I step out of the backseat of my shared family car, my long black abaya spilling onto the street as the call to prayer lingers in the cool Saudi air and the sun dips behind the horizon. I walk towards the sand-colored building holding a notebook, and adjust my headscarf with my free hand. The car drives away. The male workers inside the family-owned heritage store nod at me as I enter. I nod back. I go up the stairs alone, my abaya wiping away my footsteps as I climb higher.
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The Dustbin of Geography
via Big Think by Frank Jacobs
Article Image
That picture of you standing astride the stainless steel Meridian Line in Greenwich? It's a lie: You dont really have one foot in either hemisphere. The real Prime Meridian runs 334 feet (102 m) east, cutting an imaginary north-south line through Greenwich Park. It is marked unceremoniously by a dustbin [actually it’s a litter bin].
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Bias Detection
via CommonCraft by Lee LeFever
If you are not familiar with the CommonCraft way of presenting learning then you are in for a treat. If you are then this video is one that was published just over a year ago.
It’s all about understanding and detecting bias.
And you can see it here but you need to be aware that if you are not familiar with the concept of bias you may find this a bit too glossed for your liking.

Cameron’s World
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
A beautiful and strangely haunting trip to a compilation of the Geocities-era web, made of carefully-rearranged bitmaps & bitrot.
The work of Cameron Askin, with javascript by Anthony Hughes and music by Robin Hughes, it's "a love letter to the Internet of old."
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Tone Poet: The musical universe of Béla Bartók
via Arts & Letters Daily: George B. Stauffer in The Weekly Standard magazine
The concept of “The Three Bs” in classical music has been with us since 1854, when the writer Peter Cornelius coined the phrase while suggesting that Hector Berlioz should join Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven in the highest realm of composers. Berlioz fell from this pinnacle later in the century, however, when conductor Hans von Bülow proposed a different set of Bs, a musical Trinity consisting of Bach, the Father; Beethoven, the Son; and Brahms, the Holy Ghost. This sacred triumvirate stuck, as every student of classical music knows, despite the fact that Wagner, disturbed by the veneration of his conservative arch rival Brahms, proposed replacing him with Anton Bruckner​​ – ​​a suggestion that no one other than brass players has ever taken seriously.
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