Omnium Gatherum: 1sept2021

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for September 1, 2021

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

  • The fungal mind: on the evidence for mushroom intelligence.”—”Mushrooms and other kinds of fungi are often associated with witchcraft and are the subjects of longstanding superstitions. Witches dance inside fairy rings of mushrooms according to German folklore, while a French fable warns that anyone foolish enough to step inside these ‘sorcerer’s rings’ will be cursed by enormous toads with bulging eyes. These impressions come from the poisonous and psychoactive peculiarities of some species, as well as the overnight appearance of toadstool ring-formations. Given the magical reputation of the fungi, claiming that they might be conscious is dangerous territory for a credentialled scientist. But in recent years, a body of remarkable experiments have shown that fungi operate as individuals, engage in decision-making, are capable of learning, and possess short-term memory. These findings highlight the spectacular sensitivity of such ‘simple’ organisms, and situate the human version of the mind within a spectrum of consciousness that might well span the entire natural world.”
  • “We Don’t See Pure Sword and Sorcery Anymore, So I Wanted to Try to Revive It” – An Interview with John Shirley.” About A Sorcerer of Atlantis with A Prince in the Kingdom of Ghosts [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by John Shirley—”or decades, John Shirley has been a leading author of weird fiction, with an impressively wide range. His work stretches from science fiction to supernatural horror to psychological terror and everything in between. Here, in two new and unpublished works, Shirley ventures into the realm of fantasy. The short novel A Sorcerer of Atlantis introduces us to two adventurers, Brimm and Snoori, who find themselves in Atlantis, battling an array of bizarre monsters in the company of the warrior princess Selinn of Ur. But as Brinn becomes intimate with Maitha, the Queen of Atlantis, he senses that more baleful creatures threaten the continent, including the menacing “People of the Deep,” foreshadowing Atlantis’s imminent doom. In the novella “A Prince in the Kingdom of Ghosts,” Korean-American Kerrin Kim, shattered by his father’s death, is himself murdered—and finds himself in an afterlife realm where he must assume the responsibilities of a prince in a land of ghosts, elemental spirits, and other supernatural threats. In this pair of tales, written in the tradition of Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, and Jack Vance, John Shirley reveals an exuberant imagination, a skill at portraying vivid and memorable characters, and a narrative pace that carries the reader on from beginning to end with breathless excitement. Chilling terror mixes with wry humor as Shirley makes his fantasy worlds unescapably real.”
  • By Crom! “Weird Revisited: Comics’ First Barbarian“—”Before Claw, Wulf, and Ironjaw–even before Conan–there was a barbarian Sword & Sorcery hero in comics. Though there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this particularly mighty-thewed sword-slinger, he’s got a famous name: Crom the Barbarian!”
  • How the Great Billie Jean King Challenged the Patriarchy. The Groundbreaking Tennis Champ on Her Fight to End Gender Discrimination.” Excerpt from All In: An Autobiography [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Billie Jean King with Johnette Howard and Maryanne Vollers—”In this spirited account, Billie Jean King details her life’s journey to find her true self. She recounts her groundbreaking tennis career–six years as the top-ranked woman in the world, twenty Wimbledon championships, thirty-nine grand-slam titles, and her watershed defeat of Bobby Riggs in the famous Battle of the Sexes. She poignantly recalls the cultural backdrop of those years and the profound impact on her worldview from the women’s movement, the assassinations and anti-war protests of the 1960s, the civil rights movement, and, eventually, the LGBTQ+ rights movement. She describes the myriad challenges she’s hurdled–entrenched sexism, an eating disorder, near financial peril after being outed–on her path to publicly and unequivocally acknowledging her sexual identity at the age of fifty-one. She talks about how her life today remains one of indefatigable service. She offers insights and advice on leadership, business, activism, sports, politics, marriage equality, parenting, sexuality, and love. And she shows how living honestly and openly has had a transformative effect on her relationships and happiness. Hers is the story of a pathbreaking feminist, a world-class athlete, and an indomitable spirit whose impact has transcended even her spectacular achievements in sports.”
  • New from Standard Ebooks: The Child of the Cavern by Jules Verne, Mutual Aid by Peter Kropotkin, Short Fiction by Ray Bradbury, Edward III by William Shakespeare.
  • OMG SPACE VAMPIRES! “Inspiration4 Crew Will Conduct Health Research to Further Human Exploration of Space“—”Collect and test drops of blood during spaceflight” I liked it better when it was an episode of Buck Rogers.
  • The Brain Doesn’t Think the Way You Think It Does. Familiar categories of mental functions such as perception, memory and attention reflect our experience of ourselves, but they are misleading about how the brain works. More revealing approaches are emerging.”—”When we wonder how the brain works, he explained, we want it to mean: What’s happening in my brain when I fall in love? Or when I’m excited? If we move too far away from our subjective experience and familiar cognitive concepts, he worries that what we learn about the brain might be like ’42’ in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: the correct answer, but not to the question we had in mind. ‘Now, are we willing to live with that?’ Krakauer asked.”
  • Cannibal toads eat so many of their young, they’re speeding up evolution. Here’s how the young are fighting back.”—”The hatchlings of the invasive cane toad in Australia don’t stand a chance against their deadliest predator: cannibal tadpoles who guzzle the hatchlings like they’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet. But now, the hatchlings are fighting back. They’re developing faster, reducing the time that hungry tadpoles have to gobble them up, a new study finds.” “Developing quickly, however, has its pitfalls. Compared with typically growing hatchlings, those that grew faster fared worse when they reached the tadpole stage of life, the researchers found. So it isn’t ‘worth it to try to defend yourself in this way unless cannibals are definitely coming for you'”
  • Astronauts’ photos from the space station reveal the highs and lows of watching Earth from above in 2021 so far.”
  • An accidental discovery hints at a hidden population of cosmic objects.”—”Brown dwarfs aren’t quite stars and aren’t quite planets, and a new study suggests there might be more of them lurking in our galaxy than scientists previously thought. A new study offers a tantalizing explanation for how a peculiar cosmic object called WISEA J153429.75-104303.3—nicknamed ‘The Accident’—came to be. The Accident is a brown dwarf. Though they form like stars, these objects don’t have enough mass to kickstart nuclear fusion, the process that causes stars to shine. And while brown dwarfs sometimes defy characterization, astronomers have a good grasp on their general characteristics. Or they did, until they found this one.”
  • Multiple hominin dispersals into Southwest Asia over the past 400,000 years“—”Here we report a series of dated palaeolake sequences, associated with stone tool assemblages and vertebrate fossils, from the Khall Amayshan 4 and Jubbah basins in the Nefud Desert. These findings, including the oldest dated hominin occupations in Arabia, reveal at least five hominin expansions into the Arabian interior, coinciding with brief ‘green’ windows of reduced aridity approximately 400, 300, 200, 130–75 and 55 thousand years ago. Each occupation phase is characterized by a distinct form of material culture, indicating colonization by diverse hominin groups, and a lack of long-term Southwest Asian population continuity. Within a general pattern of African and Eurasian hominin groups being separated by Pleistocene Saharo-Arabian aridity, our findings reveal the tempo and character of climatically modulated windows for dispersal and admixture.”
  • Watch “How does artificial intelligence learn?“—”Today, artificial intelligence helps doctors diagnose patients, pilots fly commercial aircraft, and city planners predict traffic. These AIs are often self-taught, working off a simple set of instructions to create a unique array of rules and strategies. So how exactly does a machine learn? Briana Brownell digs into the three basic ways machines investigate, negotiate, and communicate. [Directed by Champ Panupong Techawongthawon, narrated by Safia Elhillo, music by Ambrose Yu].”
  • What Slime Knows. There is no hierarchy in the web of life.”—”Slime mold might not have evolved much in the past two billion years, but it has learned a few things during that time.” Um. That sounds like a threat! “In laboratory environments, researchers have cut Physarum polycephalum into pieces and found that it can fuse back together within two minutes. Or, each piece can go off and live separate lives, learn new things, and return later to fuse together, and in the fusing, each individual can teach the other what it knows, and can learn from it in return. Though, in truth, ‘individual’ is not the right word to use here, because ‘individuality’—a concept so central to so many humans’ identities—doesn’t apply to the slime mold worldview. A single cell might look to us like a coherent whole, but that cell can divide itself into countless spores, creating countless possible cycles of amoeba to plasmodium to aethalia, which in turn will divide and repeat the cycle again. It can choose to ‘fruit’ or not, to reproduce sexually or asexually or not at all, challenging every traditional concept of ‘species,’ the most basic and fundamental unit of our flawed and imprecise understanding of the biological world. As a consequence, we have no way of knowing whether slime molds, as a broad class of beings, are stable or whether climate change threatens their survival, as it does our own. Without a way to count their population as a species, we can’t measure whether they are endangered or thriving. Should individuals that produce similar fruiting bodies be considered a species? What if two separate slime molds do not mate but share genetic material? The very idea of separateness seems antithetical to slime mold existence. It has so much to teach us.”
  • Facebook’s Censoring of Women’s Bodies is Nipocrisy“—”Facebook and Instagram have a combined worldwide usership of over three billion people, and only one rule book split between them. Their ‘Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity’ section of the guidelines firmly assigns nudity to sexual activity without room for negotiation. Within this section, they have dedicated a big portion of text to describing when and how a female nipple is and isn’t allowed, therefore making an exposed female nipple a sexually explicit act by default — with a few vague exceptions, such as for breastfeeding and ‘acts of protest.’ These guidelines prohibit ‘visible genitalia’ and “fully nude close-ups of buttocks” in the same breath as ‘uncovered female nipples,’ making a female-presenting body twice as likely as male-presenting body to be flagged as obscene simply for possessing and showing her nipples.”
  • How Tech Companies Manipulate the Media ft. MKBHD“—”The 5 key ways that Tech Companies (Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Apple etc) try to control the narrative of the Media.”—”Pre-launch giveaways … Features coming soon … Dual embargoes … Exclusive interviews … Out of context quoting”
  • Some simple advice for Apple and app developers: It’s not about you. Most missteps can be avoided by putting the customer first.”—”Too often, when a company stumbles, it’s not because it made a fundamentally bad decision. It’s because it made a decision that benefited itself rather than its customers and lacked the perspective to understand that customers don’t applaud when you lower your costs or the quality of your product.” “It’s so easy to lose perspective. Companies large and small have done it and will do it again. The trick to avoiding this mistake is deceptively simple: Realize that it’s not about you, and consider the needs of the customers who make your business what it is. If you try to sell your customers a product designed to make your business more successful without benefiting them, they won’t thank you for it.”
  • Tweet thread—”What explains Covid’s mysterious Two-Month Cycle? In one country after another, the number of new cases has often surged for roughly two months before starting to fall. The Delta variant, despite its intense contagiousness, has followed this pattern.”
  • Lessons learned from the OCLC Community Center during the pandemic“—”When I wrote about the OCLC Community Center’s fifth anniversary last year, I thought we were all getting a handle on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We knew things weren’t over yet, but we also weren’t expecting to spend the next 12 months working from home, socially distancing, wearing masks in public, missing lunches and meetings and conferences, and so much more. While nothing replaces those in-person interactions, I’ve been amazed at how virtual engagement and connections have grown and deepened. As a result, we’ve all learned many valuable lessons about creating online community that will have lasting impact.” “Active participation is crucial … Let the community lead the way … Grace, grit, and gratitude bridge virtual gaps”.
  • Francis Fukuyama on the end of American hegemony. Afghanistan does not mark the end of the American era; the challenge to its global standing is political polarisation at home, says a foreign-policy expert.”
  • Covert Evacuations and Planned Demolitions: How the C.I.A. Left Its Last Base in Afghanistan. A compound outside Kabul was one of the most secretive — and notorious — in Afghanistan. Our visual analysis shows how the spy agency shut down its operations there — and how the Taliban then entered the site.”
  • What It Was Like to Return to Guantánamo. Because of the pandemic, it had been 500 days since my last visit, but I finally made it back.” Tweet thread—”Strange doings at Guantanamo: Reporters and photographers have resumed visits to the base after a 500-day Covid blackout — but are no longer allowed to photograph at the old Camp X-Ray. Like we did in July.”
  • Tweet—”Good morning to abortion providers, clergy, counselors, lawyers, abortion funds, and every person in Texas willing to break the law to ensure that pregnant people can still access safe abortion care. ❤️” Also tweet—”Imagine if California passed a law banning firearms and outsourced enforcement to the public. If you catch a person with a firearm, you sue them and if you win you get 10K. Sure it violates the constitution but *shrug* That’s what’s happening with abortion in Texas right now.” Also tweet—”How to show up for abortion access in Texas right now: 📢 Get updates from us: lilithfund.org/fightback ⚡️ Volunteer for our Hype Squad in Texas: lilithfund.org/hypesquad 💰 Donate to Texas abortion funds: secure.actblue.com/donate/txfunds” Tweet—”people out here blaming a dead woman for not retiring when a bunch of men asked her to so they could replace her with a centrist. i’m sorry you fucked up in 2016 by acting the fool, but don’t blame the dead lady because you downplayed the importance of the Supreme Court.” Tweet—”Burke & Hare’s murders left no blood and no mess, just a fresh corpse to be sold. The Supreme Court’s shadow docket is clean and neat — no names attached! — and it’s going to leave corpses behind.” Tweet—”abortion is healthcare and bodily autonomy isn’t negotiable”
  • Our Mothers, Ourselves“—”Both miscarriage and abortion are incredibly common. Yet they are, oddly, still taboo subjects.”
  • Oh, good! But, he’s still got a lucrative deal: “Mike Richards Fired as Exec Producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune“—”Richards’ exit comes a little more than a week after he was forced to step down as ‘Jeopardy!’ host, just nine days after he was tapped to succeed the legendary Alex Trebek as the face of the beloved quiz show. Richards currently has a rich overall deal at Sony; discussions on the fate of his relationship at the studio are currently under way.”
  • Emma Corrin will star in Netflix’s adaptation of the infamously steamy ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, and it’s set to be raunchier than Bridgerton. Plus Jack O’Connell? We really are being spoilt.” Tweet—”I am pro sex in literature but have to say: when I finally read Lady Chatterley’s Lover in my twenties I was shocked because… All anyone ever mentioned about the book was the sex. I was astonished to find out it is a book about social class.”
  • Holy crap, Annalise Basso is a standout in the TV series Snowpiercer, based on the French comic series Le Transperceneige, released in English begining with Snowpiercer Vol. 1: The Escape [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] but, just look at her already damned impressive resumé! (Also, as an aside, recall: “How an Obscure 2nd Century Christian Heresy Influenced Snowpiercer” by Michael M Hughes.)
  • Personally I couldn’t stand The Big Bang Theory so never watched it, but I’ve been watching Kaley Cuoco in Harley Quinn and The Flight Attendant is a trip. The Flight Attendant almost reaches Russian Doll heights, but kind of fumbles at the end, I felt, but still definitely worth the watch, and well done cliffhanger episode endiings! Great cast, but, holy hell, every scene with Cuoco and Zosia Mamet acting together is pure goddamned fire. As for the animated Harley Quinn, she, with Lake Bell (no relation, but who also has recently become the voice of Black Widow in What If…?) and Alan Tudyk especially, do a great job building on and transcending the already classic source material. And, I also forgot Cuoco was in Charmed back in the day!
  • Bridget Regan is luminous in everything I’ve seen her in. She definitely stole the scene with a minor role in John Wick, but do you remember her in Agent Carter and Legend of the Seeker? “‘Batwoman’ Casts Bridget Regan as Poison Ivy in Season 3.” She’ll crush it. Also, her eyes. My gods, her eyes!
  • Alien 3: William Gibson Script Gets Novel Adaptation. Pat Cardigan’s adaptation uses a different version of the venerated sci-fi author’s previously published work.”—”Alien 3 has some issues. Even the movie’s most ardent fans have to admit this, given that it went through countless story, script, director, and editing changes, leaving what many feel is the most muddled of the four classic Alien films. Legendary Neuromancer author William Gibson was one of the (many) writers to give the script a go, but his work only saw the light of day as an audiobook and a comic by Dark Horse. Now, a novelization is on the way—but not the one you’d expect. Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson, written by his friend and Hugo Award-winning novelist Pat Cadigan, is based on a different script Gibson wrote for the movie.” About Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Pat Cadigan—”The first-draft Alien screenplay by William Gibson, the founder of cyberpunk, turned into a novel by Pat Cadigan, the Hugo Award-Winning ‘Queen of Cyberpunk.’ William Gibson’s never-before-adapted screenplay for the direct sequel to Aliens, revealing the fates of Ripley, Newt, the synthetic Bishop, and Corporal Hicks. When the Colonial Marines vessel Sulaco docks with space station and military installation Anchorpoint, a new form of Xenomorph appears. Written by Hugo Award-winning novelist and ‘Queen of Cyberpunk’ Pat Cadigan, based on Gibson’s never-produced first draft. The Sulaco—on its return journey from LV-426—enters a sector controlled by the ‘Union of Progressive Peoples,’ a nation-state engaged in an ongoing cold war and arms race. U.P.P. personnel board the Sulaco and find hypersleep tubes with Ripley, Newt, and an injured Hicks. A Facehugger attacks the lead commando, and the others narrowly escape, taking what remains of Bishop with them. The Sulaco continues to Anchorpoint, a space station and military installation the size of a small moon, where it falls under control of the military’s Weapons Division. Boarding the Sulaco, a team of Colonial Marines and scientists is assaulted by a pair of Xenomorph drones. In the fight Ripley’s cryotube is badly damaged. It’s taken aboard Anchorpoint, where Ripley is kept comatose. Newt and an injured Corporal Hicks are awakened, and Newt is sent to Gateway Station on the way to Earth. The U.P.P. sends Bishop to Anchorpoint, where Hicks begins to hear rumors of experimentation—the cloning and genetic modification of Xenomorphs. The kind of experimentation that could yield a monstrous hybrid, and perhaps even a Queen.”
  • Eternal Artifice: ‘Cuadecuc, Vampir,’ ‘Martin,’ and the Deconstructed Vampire“—”The cinematic vampire is a fragile thing, not only for its many vulnerabilities—sunlight, crosses, garlic—but for the ways in which it can be rendered hollow, a construction. The vampire as seen on film becomes a perfect example of how horror—as a genre, as a feeling—is created and recreated.” “These final moments in Cuadecuc go to the heart of all vampire films by highlighting the ways in which they vampirically drain from Stoker’s source material. Every iteration is a kind of supernatural rebirth, like the vampire itself, a mutation of the myth that runs through the genre’s bloodstream.”
  • Watch “The Velvet Underground“, official trailer, coming to cinema and Apple TV+ in October. “The Velvet Underground. A hypnotic new documentary and the first major film to tell the band’s legendary story.” “The Velvet Underground created a new sound that changed the world of music, cementing its place as one of rock and roll’s most revered bands. Directed with the era’s avant-garde spirit by Todd Haynes, this kaleidoscopic oral history combines exclusive interviews with dazzling archival footage.”
  • Chris Kraus and R.O. Kwon on the transgressive power of sex“—”I believe sexual desires don’t just go away. If a person deeply wants something and ignores that desire, it’s probably not going to die a peaceful death.”
  • Cross-Disability Solidarity: Shannon Finnegan and Bojana Coklyat Interviewed by Amelia Rina. A project for resource sharing, discussion, and collaboration about creative approaches to image description.”
  • Guy Uses Modern Software To Restore The Faces Of Julius Caesar And 23 Other People From Ancient History. Interview With Artist.”
  • Tweet thread—”1/25 Okay, I’m gonna be all typography geeky again. This time I’ll walk you through how I personally go about setting a body text. There are probably plenty of other methods, but this one’s mine. A thread. And boy will it get nerdy.” “Note: This method is tedious, inefficient and time-consuming. But thorough. I use it when I layout novels and other projects that depend a lot on body text. But you might find it interesting regardless. Skip some steps if you want.” “Projects where I have used this method include Symbaroum, Oktoberlandet, an annual report (that won gold in the Swedish Design Price, yay!) and a bunch of novels. I did NOT use it for MÖRK BORG. I didn’t even have Paragraph Styles or baseline grids there…”
  • Tweet thread—”Hey, #tabletopgames Twitter: I submitted a proposal to @unicode for a meeple emoji. I’ll find out in October if it was accepted. /1″ “There’s a lot that could go right. It’s unique. It’s essentially public domain. It distinguishes modern tabletop games from older ones (e.g. Chess). We’d all use it like crazy. And for whatever reason, nobody has been foolish enough to propose it. /2”
  • Watch “The Cookbook of Nostradamus: Prophecies in the Kitchen” See The Elixirs of Nostradamus: Nostradamus’ Original Recipes for Elixirs, Scented Water, Beauty Potions and Sweetmeats—”Although most people know Nostradamus for his prophecies, he was also one of the most important healers of his time. The Elixirs of Nostradamus contains his most coveted recipes for elixirs, beauty potions, scented waters, bottled fruits, and other specialties, all of which first appeared in the 16th century. Lavishly illustrated, readers will learn how to add gold highlights to their hair, prepare a powder for whitening their teeth, make aromatic soap, preserve bitter cherries, and even make marzipan. The 41 recipes in this collection make a charming gift for anyone interested in the life of this compelling man.” And “Traité des fardements et confitures.”