Wednesday, February 10, 2016
From The Black Past:
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate Flag stirred into many of our citizens.
It’s true a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge, including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.
For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.
We see that now.
Removing the flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.
The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.
It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history, a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.
It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union.
By taking down that flag, we express adds grace God’s grace.
But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.
For too long, we’ve been blind to be way past injustices continue to shape the present.
Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty or attend dilapidated schools or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.
Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.
Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system’s not infected with bias [so that] that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.
Maybe we now realize the way a racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal so that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote by recognizing our common humanity, by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American. By doing that, we express God’s grace.
For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.
More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)
Patricia Pisters in Aeon:
Lynne Ramsay’s film We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011) is an exquisite study in fear. Based on Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name, about a teen on a killing spree, it opens with the nightmare of his mother (Tilda Swinton) drowning in the red juices of a tomato-throwing festival; she wakes up to find her house and car covered in red paint. From the start, fear permeates every image of the film. As spectators, we too experience that fear: in the filtered red light of the present and the chilling white light of the past, in the anxious expressions of the mother and the detached cold gaze of the son. Only gradually do we learn the extent of Kevin’s transgressions. But the narrative is the mother’s journey. We have been inside her head all along, and suspense emerges when basic emotions like fear collide with a wide spectrum of higher-level reactions – guilt, hope, despair, and other more nuanced feelings that have passed through the filter of the thinking brain. This new brand of film, the neurothriller, creates a spiral of fear or lust, a warm bath of sorrow, not through classic narrative, but with sound, image, and sophisticated computer technology, all of it tapping the circuitry of the ancient emotional brain.
Perhaps the first person to manipulate film to reach the emotional centres of the brain was the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, who called cinema his laboratory and said each film was an experiment in the interplay between a cinematographic technique and the effect it had on the audience. Suspense and surprise, desire and longing, laughter and fear, sympathy and disgust were the emotions and feelings that Hitchcock managed to induce in his spectators. Hitchcock’s way of distributing narrative information and cinematographic effects guided his audience masterfully from one emotion to the next.
During the shooting of North by Northwest (1959), Hitchcock even confessed to his scriptwriter Ernest Lehman that he would love to access the spectator’s emotions directly. ‘The audience is like a giant organ that you and I are playing. At one moment we play this note, and get this reaction, and then we play that chord and they react. And someday we won’t even have to make a movie – there’ll be electrodes implanted in their brains, as we’ll just press different buttons and they’ll go “oooh” and “aaah” and we’ll frighten them, and make them laugh. Won’t that be wonderful?’
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Tamsin Shaw in the New York Review of Books:
In 1971, the psychologist B.F. Skinner expressed the hope that the vast, humanly created problems defacing our beautiful planet (famines, wars, the threat of a nuclear holocaust) could all be solved by new “technologies of behavior.” The psychological school of behaviorism sought to replace the idea of human beings as autonomous agents with the “scientific” view of them as biological organisms, responding to external stimuli, whose behavior could be modified by altering their environment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 1964 Skinner’s claims about potential behavior modification had attracted funding from the CIA via a grant-making body called the Human Ecology Society.
Skinner was extremely dismayed that his promise of using his science to “maximize the achievements of which the human organism is capable” was derided by defenders of the entirely unscientific ideal of freedom. When Peter Gay, for instance, spoke of the “innate naïveté, intellectual bankruptcy, and half-deliberate cruelty of behaviorism,” Skinner, clearly wounded, protested that the “literature of freedom” had provoked in Gay “a sufficiently fanatical opposition to controlling practices to generate a neurotic if not psychotic response.” Skinner was unable to present any more robust moral defense of his project of social engineering.
In spite of the grandiosity of Skinner’s vision for humanity, he could not plausibly claim to be a moral expert. It is only more recently that the claims of psychologists to moral expertise have come to be taken seriously. Contributing to their new aura of authority has been their association with neuroscience, with its claims to illuminate the distinct neural pathways taken by our thoughts and judgments.
Ed Yong in The Atlantic:
In the darkness of the Akeley Hall of Mammals, swarms of kids gawk at beautifully staged dioramas of Africa’s wildlife. The stuffed safari, nestled in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, includes taxidermied leopards stalking a bush pig, preserved ostriches strutting in front of warthogs, and long-dead baboons cautiously considering a viper. In one corner, in a display marked “Upper Nile Region,” a lone hippo grazes next to a herd of lechwe, roan antelope, and a comically stern shoebill stork.
“This is my favorite one,” says Evon Hekkala, pointing to the display. “There’s a taxidermied crocodile tucked away down there.”
It takes a while to spot it and I have to crane my head to do so, but yes, there it is—a large crocodile, in the back, mouth agape, next to the hippo. It’s mostly hidden from view, and until recently, it was hidden from science, too.
Five years ago, scientists would have classified it as a Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)—one of the largest of the family, and among the most feared. But in 2011, after extracting DNA from this specimen and dozens of others, Hekkala proved that the iconic species is actually two species. One had been disguised as its more widespread cousin all this time. Hekkala called it Crocodylus suchus—the sacred crocodile. It’s the species in the diorama.
Ram Manikkalingam in Open Democracy:
Last week the national anthem was sung in Tamil for the first time at the official celebration of Sri Lanka’s independence day. Six years ago the government’s own regional director for education in the Tamil north, Markandu Sivalingam, was assassinated by “unidentified” gunmen for disagreeing with then President Rajapaksa’s directive to ban the singing of the national anthem in Tamil at official functions. The United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, who is currently visiting Sri Lanka, should welcome the transformation this signals in Sri Lanka’s politics in just over a year since President Sirisena’s election.
No doubt, the High Commissioner will also express the UN view – set out in a Human Rights Council resolution last September – that President Sirisena must set up a court to try war crimes committed during the bloody civil war that ended in 2009. The President is on record in favour of holding violators of humanitarian and human rights law to account. But he is also committed to reaching a deal that would give the Tamil community in the north and east of Sri Lanka power to manage economic, land and cultural issues. Some argue both objectives can be realized in tandem, but the political realities in post-conflict Sri Lanka suggest otherwise.
Demands for accountability for war crimes and autonomy are made by Tamil leaders but still resisted by much of the Sinhala establishment—these remain deeply polarising issues. To achieve both requires sensitivity to the politics.
Is the supposed crisis in painting a product of the medium’s own neurosis? Perhaps it isn’t that painting is dead but that, like many of us, it suffers from anxiety about death? Maybe painting is depressed, a sentiment I dare say many critics would validate, or narcissistic (undeniably), or irrationally obsessed with the threat of other mediums. Obsession of some sort seems the most likely diagnosis, with the result being compulsive inward-looking as well as an unhealthy fixation on what painting or sculpture or video might be doing.
The narcissistic self-obsession of painting was certainly on view in The Forever Now. The exhibition seemed particularly hung up on three primary qualities of painting today: possession of a stretcher or the illusion or reference to one, use of canvas or other painting surfaces, and the gestural mark, something akin to a painterly brushstroke. This dogged insistence on the traditional structure of painting—done on a panel, canvas, or linen, and pulled over stretcher bars—and expressive mark-making done by hand is, minus a dogmatic insistence on the use of paint itself, hardly a step removed from Greenberg’s idea of medium specificity. Both Lowry and Hoptman described the artists in The Forever Now as traditionalists in so many words. Lowry wrote the artists “made their work in the most traditional manner—using paint and brushes on canvas.”3 Hoptman elided her choices as “practitioners of painting qua painting,” perhaps synonymous with the elusive moniker of “painter-painter.”4 If MoMA is correct, the move towards the flatness that Greenberg described is not only alive, but dominant, and while medium specificity seems to have gotten away from necessarily involving paint on canvas, the moves made by Bradley, Johnson, and Mehretu, with a grease stick, carved soap, and ink, respectively, substitute painterly mark-making without using a drop of paint.
In the years after the Second World War, during Dmitri Shostakovich’s second period of disfavour with the Soviet authorities, he wasn’t just humiliatingly wheeled out at the Cultural and Scientific Congress for World Peace in New York, a fellow travellers’ jamboree that just about snuck in under the McCarthyist wire. He was also packed off to Leipzig to judge a piano competition inaugurated to commemorate J S Bach on the bicentenary of his death. Hearing gold medallist Tatyana Nikolayeva rattle through The Well-Tempered Clavier, he went home and wrote his 24 Preludes and Fugues for her.
Opinions remain divided on how good Shostakovich was, or might have been but for the fear that hunched ogreishly over him from the morning in 1936 when Pravda published a damning editorial, ‘Sumbur vmesto muzyki’ (‘muddle instead of music’), about the up-to-then pretty successful and well-reviewed opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, to the last and, in a strange way, greatest humiliation: his enforced joining of the Party in 1960. But the 24 Preludes and Fugues, to put it one way, aren’t half bad for a composer with one ear perpetually cocked in the direction of the doorbell.
The New York episode constitutes the second of three sections – we might call them ‘movements’ – in Julian Barnes’s new novel. It’s a third-person account of Shostakovich’s tribulations at the hands of Stalin and his chief cultural muppet, Andrei Zhdanov, and the different challenges posed by his rehabilitation in the eyes of a regime that had stopped murdering people in industrial numbers but remained somewhat controlling in matters of artistic practice.
In the early 1990s a conservative criminologist at Princeton, John J. DiIulio, scanned the horizon and predicted that a new superbreed of hoodlums was coming like a demographic tidal wave. Over a twenty-year span, DiIulio forecast, 270,000 juvenile offenders would roam the nation’s streets, looking to rob, rape, or assault law-abiding citizens. Due to the depravation of the drugs ingested by their mothers, these young men would be too neurologically damaged to feel empathy; growing up, they would be “fatherless, Godless, and jobless.” According to DiIulio, these youths would prove to be superpredatory, “more terrorist than criminal.”
In his 1996 essay, “My Black Crime Problem and Ours,” DiIulio later wrote, “Think how many black children grow up where parents neglect and abuse them, where other adults and teenagers harass and harm them, where drug dealers exploit them. Not surprisingly, in return for the favor, some of these children kill, rape, maim, and steal without remorse.” DiIulio’s prophecy was echoed by other respected criminologists like James Q. Wilson, Alfred Blumstein, and James Fox, who christened the future “a bloodbath.”
The public at large already had an image for packs of feral black teens destined to terrorize civilians: the Central Park Five, a group of mostly black boys from gritty uptown projects who took to the park to swagger, bully, and punk well-to-do locals. When they were (wrongfully) accused of brutally raping and assaulting a female jogger, the images of glowering young black boys saturated nightly news coverage.
Yanan Wang in The Washington Post:
Sunday's game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers was the third most-watched television broadcast in U.S. history, according to numbers released by Nielsen on Monday. The viewership peaked at an average of 115.5 million not during the game itself, but rather during the 30-minute halftime show. This confirms what many (including The Washington Post's Chris Richards) have been saying: Beyoncé dominated the Super Bowl. With a performance of her new single, "Formation," which touched upon police brutality, the Black Panthers and Malcolm X, the singer handily upstaged fellow performers Coldplay and Bruno Mars. Even after the last of her leather-clad dancers left the field, there was no shortage of material to keep viewers talking. Now, the debate rages on about whether it was appropriate for Beyoncé to inject politics into her performance. The same elements that have been widely praised for showcasing black empowerment also have attracted ire from the likes of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who on Monday called Beyoncé's "attack" on police officers "outrageous."
At issue are, among other things, the "X" formation that dancers created on the field and the Afros and black berets they sported, channeling black activist Malcolm X and the aesthetic of the Black Panther Party of the 1960s and '70s. What wasn't shown on-screen but is now catching fire online is a quieter political display that occurred after the halftime show, when a group of Beyoncé's dancers was approached by two organizers for the Bay Area chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)
Natalie Angier in The New York Times:
Whether to enliven a commute, relax in the evening or drown out the buzz of a neighbor’s recreational drone, Americans listen to music nearly four hours a day. In international surveys, people consistently rank music as one of life’s supreme sources of pleasure and emotional power. We marry to music, graduate to music, mourn to music. Every culture ever studied has been found to make music, and among the oldest artistic objects known are slender flutes carved from mammoth bone some 43,000 years ago — 24,000 years before the cave paintings of Lascaux. Given the antiquity, universality and deep popularity of music, many researchers had long assumed that the human brain must be equipped with some sort of music room, a distinctive piece of cortical architecture dedicated to detecting and interpreting the dulcet signals of song. Yet for years, scientists failed to find any clear evidence of a music-specific domain through conventional brain-scanning technology, and the quest to understand the neural basis of a quintessential human passion foundered. Now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a radical new approach to brain imaging that reveals what past studies had missed. By mathematically analyzing scans of the auditory cortex and grouping clusters of brain cells with similar activation patterns, the scientists have identified neural pathways that react almost exclusively to the sound of music — any music. It may be Bach, bluegrass, hip-hop, big band, sitar or Julie Andrews. A listener may relish the sampled genre or revile it. No matter. When a musical passage is played, a distinct set of neurons tucked inside a furrow of a listener’s auditory cortex will fire in response.
Other sounds, by contrast — a dog barking, a car skidding, a toilet flushing — leave the musical circuits unmoved.
Monday, February 08, 2016
by Paul Braterman
Is this book worthy of your time and attention? Yes. But this is not a book review, so much as a conversation with myself, triggered by reading it, and what follows is as much mine as his, especially as I have focused on those chapters that overlap my own concerns. There is no shortage of writings debunking creationism, or homoeopathy, or others covered here, beliefs that fly in the face of massive evidence, and yet this evidence has no effect at all on their believers. Why is this, Storr asks. What is going on? And what makes us think that we ourselves are so different?
Storr starts by telling us of his meeting with John Mackay, a Young Earth creationist, who was talking to an appreciative audience in a small town in Queensland. This seems to have been his first encounter with the full-blooded version of modern creationism, according to which evolution science and old Earth geology are fundamentally unsound, and the Bible is the infallible word of God. At the end of Genesis 1, God speaks of His work as being "very good". "Very good" must mean no pain, and no death. It follows that tigers and tyrannosaurs coexisted happily with Adam and Eve in Eden, all of them adhering to strictly vegetarian diets, until the Fall went and spoiled everything. And "Tonight, the choice you have to face up to is this - do you put your faith in Darwin, who wasn't there? Or in God, who was?"
Mackay claims to be able to feel the presence of God. What turned him against evolution, he says, was a biology textbook he was reading as an adolescent, which followed its exposition of evolution with a chapter advocating atheism. Unfortunately, he does not tell us which textbook he was referring to, giving me no way of checking his perspective, although such a chapter would of course be completely out of place in a biology textbook.
Mackay's audience were universally sympathetic, a fact that Storr observed with bemusement that turned to dismay when, the following Sunday, Mackay mounted the pulpit to deliver a scathing attack on the wickedness of homosexuals and the compromising Churches who countenance their activities.
A bunch of frogs gather to watch a video about worms on a cell phone…Posted by Daily Picks and Flicks on Wednesday, September 24, 2014
like frogs before a video of food
piling on— poking, jabbing, jumping
at the mysterious fabric of reality
by Leanne Ogasawara
"When I was an undergraduate, on my way to first day of quantum mechanics class, I was riding up in the elevator with the professor and several (male) students. The professor kindly informed us that this would be the class that “separated the men from the boys.”
Astronomy is really making the news these days. Except it's not for the reasons one would hope or expect; for the headlines keep rolling in one after the other about "astronomy's snowballing cases of sexual harassment."
As a woman, obviously, I think matters like this should never be covered up and that process must be put in place in universities to deal with transgressions. In fact, I go a step further and believe that as "exemplars," anyone who is in a teaching profession should be held up to the very highest moral standards.
Like most women, this is also not something that I am unfamiliar with either.
As an undergraduate at Berkeley in philosophy, I was one of the few women in the program, and I think philosophy has similar kinds of issues as we are seeing in astronomy. Even as an undergraduate it often felt like a kind of "boys club." In Japan, too, in my twenties, I worked at Hitachi, ostensibly as a translator and interpreter; but in fact, as the only "girl" in the department, I spent all my time answering the phones and serving tea and stapling papers and tidying up.
I didn't stay long...
In many ways, "not staying long" is what has characterized my life.
by Akim Reinhardt
Progressives, moderates, and even many conservatives are aghast at Donald Trump's populist appeal. As this cantankerous oaf flashes ever brighter in the political pan, they fret that his demagoguery might land him the Republican presidential nomination, and perhaps even carry him all the to White House.
I'm not worried about the prospect of a Hail to the Trump scenario and never have been. As far back as August, I opined on this very website that he has virtually no chance of becoming president. I still believe that. He lost to Ted Cruz in Iowa, just like I said he would. And I'm sticking with my prediction that he'll be done by the Ides of March. Should Trump actually make it to the Oval Office, I'll buy you all plane tickets to Canada, as promised.
That being said, it's certainly worth investigating the Trump phenomenon. After all, how are we to explain the dramatic success of this heinous cretin? How could this man, who is not just a walking punch line, but also thoroughly repulsive in almost every way, be so popular, not just on a silly reality TV show with a dumb catch phrase, but also in the supposedly serious world of presidential politics?
Kerry James Marshall. Lost Boys: AKA 8 ball, 1992.
In Playing in the Dark, a set of essays on race in American literature, Toni Morrison is led “to wonder whether the major and championed characteristics of our national literature . . . are not in fact responses to a dark, abiding, signing Africanist presence. . . . Through significant and underscored omissions, startling contradictions, heavily nuanced conflicts, through the way writers peopled their work with the signs and bodies of this presence--one can see that a real or fabricated Africanist presense was crucial to their sense of Americanness.” That is to say, the sense of American identity embodied in our literature is at least partially achieved through reference to African Americans.
Let’s consider three imaginative works where race is an issue. First we have Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It is not American, of course, but English. The character of Caliban, who may not even be human, marks the imaginative space the English used for understanding Africans. The play was written and performed at about the same time as Jamestown, Virginia, as first settled.
Then we move forward two and a half centuries to late 19th Century. America has established itself as an independent nation and fought its bloodiest war, the Civil War, over the status of the American sons and daughters of Caliban. We find Huck Finn fleeing his abusive father by rafting down the Mississippi with a runaway slave. Jim sure isn’t Shakespeare’s Caliban nor is Huck a Prospero. I conclude with a counter narrative from the early 20th Century, an African-American “toast”, as they’re called, about the sinking of the Titanic. Think of such oral narratives as antecedents of rap and hip-hop.
by Sarah Firisen
We've all known great leaders. People that we’d walk through fire for, but what makes them such great leaders? As the Presidential primary season gets under way, perhaps it’s worth considering what leadership really is. Because despite the inevitable primary bickering over whether a businessman, senator or a governor makes a more effective President, what we’re really looking for is leadership.
Are great leaders born or can these traits be developed? Or is it a combination of the two? People are born with certain natural abilities , but per Malcolm Gladwell’s, Outliers hour rule, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery (this of course probably goes for most things). So does this mean that with enough conscious effort, anyone can be a great leader? I do think that motivation has a part to play. The key word here is “great”. Someone who wants to lead for reasons outside of personal aggrandizement, outside of pure power for power’s sake. Maybe, a person with those core attributes can work towards achieving mastery.
by Brooks Riley
by Shadab Zeest Hashmi
My first encounter with the ghazal had to have happened at home where my parents played ghazal LPs on their Phillips record player, along with Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Harry Belafonte and Edith Piaf. The ghazal entered my consciousness first as music, accessible only to the extent that Edith Piaf was accessible; through melody, beat, rhyme, refrain. Later, listening to ghazals on the radio and television, I developed the sense of awe that surrounds the Urdu ghazal in Pakistan. It is distinguished as the most elevated of poetic forms and considered to be the litmus test of a true poet. When I began to write poetry, this awe for the ghazal turned into intimidation and I experienced a paralyzing fear of writing a miserable flop. I tried my hand at villanelles, sonnets, and pantoums, but it took me a long time to attempt my first ghazal. When I did write my first ghazal, at Warren Wilson, I was exhilarated. What followed was an exploration of the form as adapted in English poetry, an even more exhilarating experience, one that continues to pose more questions than provide answers. The thoughts in this essay are a distillation of my experiences of hearing and reading Urdu ghazals, reading contemporary American ghazals, and writing ghazals in English.
Strained Analogies Between Recently Released Films and Current Events: Kung Fu Panda 3 and Primary Endorsements
by Matt McKenna
The worst part about seeing a kids’ movie in theatres--even a decent one like Kung Fu Panda 3--is sitting through the trailers that play before the feature. For every trailer decent enough to respectably fill its two minutes of running time, there are slew of others starring flatulent anthropomorphic animals who defecate or urinate at inappropriate times, ostensibly because it’s funny (e.g. see the trailers for current and upcoming films such as The Road Chip, The Secret Life of Pets, and The Angry Birds Movie). You can’t blame the kids in the theatre for laughing at these jokes because they may not be aware that they’ll be subjected to the same fart joke in nearly every film they see between now and the time they grow out of children’s movies. And if they ever become parents, they’ll have to suffer these jokes all over again. Fortunately, Kung Fu Panda 3 is not only fart joke free but also educates our nation’s children on the presidential primary election process.
Sunday, February 07, 2016
Tim Parks in the New York Review of Books:
Perhaps inevitably when reading translations, from time to time one comes across a strange word: “ankylosed,” for example. “Nor was it easy to understand how he had survived in Auschwitz,” we read in Ann Goldstein’s new translation of Primo Levi’s The Truce, “since he had an ankylosed arm.” If we turn back to Stuart Woolf’s 1965 translation of what was Levi’s second book, we get the same word with a different spelling, “anchylosed.”
This strange word is, of course, the English cognate of Levi’s original: anchilosato. But the two words are hardly equivalent in effect. If we type “an ankylosed arm” into the Google search engine of the entire English language Internet, we get just five hits, three of them from surgical texts published a century ago; the remaining two are The Complete Works of Primo Levi, in which Goldstein’s translation appears, and a long online discussion of King Philip II of Macedonia’s ankylosis, “a stiffness of a joint due to abnormal adhesion and rigidity of the bones of the joint.”
On the other hand, if we ask Google to search “un braccio anchilosato” we get 477 results (and we remember that Italian, being less widely spoken than English, usually has far fewer hits for equivalent phrases—“concentration camp,” 7.5 million, “campo di concentramento,” 581,000). This time the results are mainly from journalism and popular fiction, including one of Emilio Salgari’s famous novels for young adults.
Ed Yong in Not Exactly Rocket Science:
There’s a group of fossils insects that look really quite a lot like butterflies. They had broad wings with scales and pigmented eyespots. Their mouthparts were long probing straws. They likely fed from plants and pollinated them in return. They’re as butterfly-esque as it’s possible to be.
Except these creatures were flying around between 40 and 85 million years before the first butterflies existed.
They were kalligrammatid lacewings, and they were doing butterflies before butterflies even were a thing. Their resemblance is a coincidence, an extraordinary example of convergent evolution, the process two groups turn up to life’s party accidentally wearing the same outfits.
The kalligrammatids appeared around 165 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, and died out 45 million years later. During their reign, they were among the largest and most conspicuous insects around. Time has since been unkind to them: many became fossilised but most have been badly preserved. Scientists have commented on their similarities to butterflies for more than a century, but no one has been able to thoroughly study their anatomy—that is, until Conrad Labandeira and Dong Ren from Capital Normal University in Beijing got their hands on some beautifully preserved specimens from northeastern China.
Justin E. H. Smith in his blog:
An official reform of French spelling was recently announced, causing no small uproar on the Internet, and presumably in real life too (I don't really talk to people), as to whether this is good or bad.
There were three broad sorts of change. The first are changes to the spelling of words in order to better reflect their pronunciation. The most common example cited has been the replacement ofoignon by ognon. I confess I had always thought the first syllable of this word was supposed to be pronounced as in oie ('goose'), that is, roughly as in the first syllable of the English water. I noticed people around me were pronouncing it as ognon, but took this for a regionalism or a sort of laziness. I can't say I care so much about this change, but ognon looks awfully strange to me, too much like a variation on some proto-Slavic root for fire, as in the Russian огонь ('ogon''), whose genitive is огня ('ognya') and whose Sanskrit cousin is the goddess अग्नि (Agni): in all of which cases the g is pronounced before the n, rather than indicating a softening in the termination of the n and providing a faint iotation to the vowel that follows. I expect I will be practicing orthographic disobedience whenever I write that word in the future, not out of firm principle, but only out of soft preference.
The second sort of reform has mostly to do with hyphens, e.g., transforming that most French of words (at least since Godard), week-end, into weekend. This seems to follow a broad trend that is much further along in English (a hundred years ago it was common to see dog-house, out-fit, and so on), and I find I really could not care less.