His account of how he’d come to possess the fragment, I noticed, contained a series of small inconsistencies. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of them.
But years later, they still gnawed at me. The American Association of Museums’ Guide to Provenance Research warns that an investigation of an object’s origins “is not unlike detective work”: “One may spend hours, days, or weeks following a trail that leads nowhere.” When I started to dig, however, I uncovered more than I’d ever expected—a warren of secrets and lies that spanned from the industrial districts of Berlin to the swingers scene of southwest Florida, and from the halls of Harvard and the Vatican to the headquarters of the East German Stasi…
July 25, 2016
[religion] Did Jesus Have a Wife? … a must-read crazy detective story into the origins of a papyrus fragment from a gospel where Jesus mentions his wife…
July 19, 2016
[life] How to stop your phone from distracting you and wasting your life … ‘Buy a travel alarm clock and charge outside the bedroom. Waking up to check our phone sets our day off to a bad start. Get a separate alarm clock and leave your phone outside to charge.’
July 12, 2016
[life] Scientists Slowly Reintroducing Small Group Of Normal, Well-Adjusted Humans Into Society … ‘Prior to the conservation efforts, it is believed that even-tempered people with sound judgment and the ability to put the needs of others before themselves had dwindled to less than 150 within the country’s borders, and had gone completely extinct in the nation’s businesses and civic institutions. Experts widely agree that without isolation, protection, and captive-breeding programs, the remaining thoughtful, foresighted individuals would have been totally wiped out.’
June 21, 2016
[philosophy] The Philosopher’s Jumper … a black wool jumper suitable for a philosopher – only £125! ‘Since 1953 (when the German philosopher Martin Heidegger bought one in a shop in Hamburg), the black jumper has been the philosopher’s costume of choice. It has taken pride of place in the wardrobes of philosophical figures as diverse as Herbert Marcuse, Iris Murdoch, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. The Philosopher’s Jumper, designed in collaboration with Bella Freud, invites us to share in the philosophical life: one of soul-searching, interesting relationships, impassioned argument and bold speculation.’
May 24, 2016
[life] List: Things the World’s Most and Least Privileged People Say. … ‘My children aren’t vaccinated!’
May 10, 2016
[life] Existentialist Firefighter Delays 3 Deaths … ‘SCHAUMBURG, IL—In an ultimately futile act some have described as courageous and others have called a mere postponing of the inevitable, existentialist firefighter James Farber delayed three deaths Monday. “I’m no hero,” Farber said after rescuing the family from a house fire on the 2500 block of West Thacker Street, and prolonging for the time being their slow march toward oblivion.’
May 3, 2016
[comics] The Battle Over the Sea-Monkey Fortune … a fascinating look at the weird legal battle over the rights to Sea-Monkey novelties you saw in the back-pages of comic books …
The story began with the widow, whose name is Yolanda Signorelli von Braunhut. She is a onetime heir to the considerable fortune still generated by her husband Harold’s iconic invention, Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys. As her lawyer told it, she was now isolated, cash-starved, often without electricity or running water on a palatial estate on the Potomac River in southern Maryland. Having retreated to a single room in the old mansion, she was prepping for her second freezing winter, barricaded by thick quilts, her bed next to a fireplace stocked with split wood. From this bunker, Signorelli von Braunhut has been waging legal combat against Sam Harwell, chief executive of a big-time toy company whose name seems straight out of a Chuck Jones cartoon: Big Time Toys.
April 22, 2016
[life] Universe Feels Zero Connection To Guy Tripping On Mushrooms … ‘Frankly, I feel like he and I are as separate and unconnected as we’ve always been. Sure, he seems like a decent person, but have we at some level blended together into a single cosmic entity, flowing through each other and commingling our energies? Definitely not.’
April 21, 2016
[life] Deep Intellect … a wonderful article on the alert, intelligent, playful minds of octopuses… ‘Only recently have scientists accorded chimpanzees, so closely related to humans we can share blood transfusions, the dignity of having a mind. But now, increasingly, researchers who study octopuses are convinced that these boneless, alien animals — creatures whose ancestors diverged from the lineage that would lead to ours roughly 500 to 700 million years ago — have developed intelligence, emotions, and individual personalities. Their findings are challenging our understanding of consciousness itself.’
March 30, 2016
[work] HR Sends Out Reminder Email About Not Scrawling ‘Revenge’ In Blood In Conference Room … ‘“Most of you are already familiar with this rule, but just as a refresher, it’s directly against company policy for an employee to use blood to write ‘revenge’ on the conference room walls, door, or table,” wrote Shumaker, emphasizing that it did not matter if the word was rendered in human or animal blood.’
March 7, 2016
[lovecraft] Lovecraftian Oral: Dead Squid Can Have Sex With Your Mouth … LOVECRAFT WAS RIGHT! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! … ‘Squid corpses, even when cooked, retain their sexual reflexes and have been known to inseminate our mouths. After eating calamari…a South Korean woman reported experiencing “severe pain” and a “pricking foreign-body sensation” in her mouth. From her tongue, inner cheeks, gums, throat, her doctor escised “twelve small, white, spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms.” These were spermatophores, whicih possess seriously tenacious ejaculatory apparati, and a cementlike body, which allows for their attachment to materials like the tongue, inner cheeks, gums…’
February 25, 2016
[funny] Jumbled Nest Of Cords Makes Move To Third New Apartment … from the Onion’s News in Photos.
February 24, 2016
February 17, 2016
[celebrity] 19 Completely Underwhelming Real-Life Celebrity Encounters … ‘I queued behind Matt Smith from Dr Who in a Tesco Express. He was buying hummus and a kit kat chunky.’
February 16, 2016
[blogging] Can Young House Love Escape the Internet? … A cautionary tale about lifestyle blogging … ‘By 2011, YHL was getting over 5 million monthly page views (with a million unique visitors), and the Petersiks were regularly working a second shift after Clara’s bedtime and throughout weekends and vacations. Family outings had to include something “bloggable,” like a stop at an antique store. Each holiday required fresh seasonal content. The Petersiks were also picking up all those side projects that felt like huge wins, but required a tremendous amount of additional work. They admit the blog made money “a nonissue” in its final years. “For a long time, we thought we were doing okay if we could duplicate our salaries from our old advertising jobs; then it got to the point where we could bring in much more,” says Sherry. “But I kept saying, ‘I don’t want more money, I want more time.’” She’d spend school field trips sneaking onto her phone to respond to comments from the zoo or the aquarium. “I felt like any day where I was being a great blogger, I was being a bad mom and vice versa,” Sherry says. She and John both worried that their marriage was being reduced to “essentially co-workers.”’
January 21, 2016
[life] Don’t freak out, but scientists think octopuses ‘might be aliens’ after DNA study … LOVECRAFT WAS RIGHT!! … ‘Octopus DNA is highly rearranged – like cards shuffled and reshuffled in a pack – containing numerous so-called “jumping genes” that can leap around the genome. “The octopus appears to be utterly different from all other animals, even other molluscs, with its eight prehensile arms, its large brain and its clever problem-solving abilities,” said US researcher Dr Clifton Ragsdale, from the University of Chicago. ‘
January 15, 2016
[fail] The 100 Most Important Fails Of All Time … go and look at this epic collection of Fails.
December 31, 2015
[life] Why A Double Funeral On Your Birthday Is The Best Party You’ll Ever Have … powerful piece of writing from Hayley Campbell after the death of her grandparents five days apart …
This is how you derail a therapy session: In the middle of a carpeted room with calming pot plants stooped weakly in softly lit corners, you tell a 65-year-old qualified mental health practitioner, beneath her framed medical degrees and her various accomplishments, that she doesn’t understand the American film director Michael Mann, who is not Michael Bay.
There’s a thing that happens in Michael Mann movies where too much stuff gets on top of a person and that person just burns their life to the ground and moves on. It happened in Thief — James Caan drops his bulletproof vest on the street and walks off. It happened in Heat — de Niro leaves his girlfriend in the car and disappears in the crowd. They shed the material, the personal, the emotional, their car, their girl, and they walk away.
I explained that Michael Mann film colours are a whole palette on their own, that they’re blue and orange and saturated but washed out at the same time, and that it’s weird how the colours are so strong because Michael Mann films are about men who feel nothing. The men in Michael Mann movies are obsessive and dead inside; saturated and washed-out at the same time. They don’t even feel the emotion of vomit. As a mode of dealing with a white noise of emotion in your own personal world, a Michael Mann movie is like taking an emotional sleeping pill.
December 30, 2015
[life] 33 Horrific Middle-Class Problems From 2015 … ‘Dropped my phone in a bowl of quinoa and it’s all stuck in the charging hole, day off 2 a good start’
November 24, 2015
[life] Our Dust, Ourselves … The story your house dust tells about you … ‘The sex of a home’s human occupants also played a role in shaping the indoor ecosystem. Lactobacillus bacteria, which are a major component of the vaginal microbiome, were most abundant in homes in which women outnumbered men. When men were in the majority, however, different bacteria thrived: Roseburia, which normally lives in the gut, and Corynebacterium and Dermabacter, which both inhabit the skin. Corynebacterium is known to occupy the armpit and contribute to body odor. “Maybe it means that men’s houses smell more like armpits,” Dunn suggested. “That’s probably—microbially, that’s a fair assessment.” The findings may be due to sex differences in skin biology; men tend to have more Corynebacterium on their skin—and to shed more skin microbes into the environment—than women do. (In the paper, the researchers also acknowledge the possibility that a bachelor pad’s bacterial signature could be the result of “hygiene practices.”)’
November 16, 2015
[tv] Everyone needs a Super Hans: the life lessons Peep Show has taught us … ‘Drugs are a tricky business: “Super Hans, are you trying to skin up with your feet again? Because it doesn’t work does it? It just makes a mess.” Peep Show provided many invaluable lessons in recreational drug use such as this. Crack’s really moreish, “foghorn” ecstasy has a “nice, floaty launch with a soft crunchy landing”, and that over-indulgence can end in someone doing “the bad thing.” And nobody wants that.’
October 30, 2015
[life] Goldfish’s attention span now better than yours … unsurprising news from The Daily Mash … ‘Professor Henry Brubaker said: “The goldfish has sufficient concentration ability to swim up from the bottom of its bowl and grab a food pellet from the surface of the water. “You couldn’t do that. You’d get halfway there and be like – oh, the internet. I’d better check some message type thing, buy some trousers or look at a pornographic video. “So you’d stop to do that, then end up looking a dozen other things of equally poor quality, then have lost all recollection of your original objective.”’
October 20, 2015
[books] ‘This Goes All the Way to the Queen’: The Puzzle Book that Drove England to Madness … a look back Kit Williams’ Masquerade and how the book and treasure hunt caused a huge outbreak of apophenia … ‘Masquerade sold two million copies in the first few years, and readers went mad—sometimes literally—trying to suss out the location of the golden hare. Based on hunches, resonances, illusory references, coincidental results from imagined codes, and genuine mistakes, “Masqueraders” dug up acres of countryside, traveled hundreds of thousands of miles, wrote tens of thousands of letters to Williams, and occasionally got stuck halfway up cliffs or were apprehended by police while trespassing on historic properties. Masquerade’s simple, elegant puzzle was couched in a lush landscape of visual symbolism and wordplay, and as it turns out, there’s no better way to distract people from a genuine plan than by concealing it inside a bunch of random noise. Given enough unrelated, unnecessary information, human brains will construct the decoy patterns all by themselves.’
October 15, 2015
[life] A moment that changed me – my husband fell in love with a bonobo … ‘He was helpless against Malou. His legs carried him without him even knowing to her shady abode several times a day, where she would fling her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist and he would whisper secrets that would have her panting with laughter, and it was all just nauseating. All the more so because Malou had quickly figured out that I was the other woman, and spent her days trying to ruin me. She covered me in poop. She devastated my hair. After every encounter with her, I looked like the forest ape.’
September 8, 2015
[head] I Hung Out With Jeremy Bentham’s Severed Head And This Is What I Learned … Hayley Campbell meets a dead philopsopher’s head … ‘Bentham’s head has been dead for 183 years and he smells like vinegar and feet and bad jerky and damp dust. “Oh, they all smell like that. Y’know, like mummies,” said Kingham, as if the smell of Egyptian mummies is wildly more relatable to me than the smell of a dead philosopher’s head.’
August 28, 2015
[web] Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site… Gizmodo does some data analysis on the user data from the hacking of the Ashley Madison website … ‘When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t having affairs. They were paying for a fantasy.’
July 31, 2015
[stories] Neil Gaiman on How Stories Last … edited transcripts of a Neil Gaiman talk on stories. The full version can be found here … ‘We will do an awful lot for stories — we will endure an awful lot for stories. And stories, in their turn — like some kind of symbiote — help us endure and make sense of our lives. A lot of stories do appear to begin as intrinsic to religions and belief systems — a lot of the ones we have have gods or goddesses in them; they teach us how the world exists; they teach us the rules of living in the world. But they also have to come in an attractive enough package that we take pleasure from them and we want to help them propagate.’
July 29, 2015
[life] Stanley Kubrick: ‘The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.’ [via Letters of Note]
July 10, 2015
[catfish] This Is What It’s Like To Fall In Love With A Woman Who Doesn’t Exist … a fascinating UK Catfishing story … ‘The obvious conclusion is that the culprit is a friend of Ruth’s, or least in her circle of acquaintances. Her social media accounts are private and almost always have been, apart from when she first joined Facebook aged 18. But Ruth is adamant that she can’t imagine any of her friends doing that to her. “People say it must be someone you know,” she says. “But I don’t know anyone who has that amount of time.”’
July 5, 2015
[life] Family Watching Movie White-Knuckles It Through Unexpected Sex Scene … ‘Sources said the awkward experience was made even more unbearable by the fact that the family had been exchanging casual remarks throughout the film, but then fell completely quiet once it became clear the two characters on their television were about to have sex. Though the silence was reportedly grueling, the Schaeffers nonetheless hunkered down, gripped their seats tightly, and showed no outward acknowledgement of the onscreen intimacy. The scene, which lasted 19 seconds, is reported to have felt much, much longer.’
June 27, 2015
[obit] Patrick Macnee, Avengers star and symbol of ‘Swinging Sixties’ dies … RIP Patrick Macnee. His obituary is well worth reading…
He was born Daniel Patrick Macnee in London in 1922 and raised at first in Berkshire, where his father Daniel, known as Shrimp, was renowned in racing circles, but also in pubs and bookies – “a genius with a horse but not so good with human beings”, in his son’s words. Macnee would go on to base much of the Steed persona on his father, who at dinner parties disconcerted fellow guests whom he suspected of being a pacifist by pulling an unloaded gun on them, and was deported from India – where he later settled – for urinating from a balcony on to the heads of high-ranking Raj officials.
His mother, Dorothea, who had aristocratic connections, was 22 years younger than her husband and left him when Patrick was eight for her lesbian lover, Evelyn Spottswood, an heir to the Dewar’s whisky family. Men were banned from the house and Patrick’s mother and her partner did their best to expunge any whiff of masculinity by trying to coax him into wearing dresses. The horrified young boy mollified them by wearing only kilts until the age of 11. Uncle Evelyn, as he was instructed to call her, helped pay his fees for Eton. He expended most of his energy setting himself up as a pornography salesman and bookmaker, using tips from his father. “I had pounds 200 in the kitty when they caught me.” He was expelled.
June 16, 2015
[life] Other People’s Shopping Lists. … … ‘Wine. Fags. Beers.’
June 4, 2015
[life] Highlights From The Guardian’s Soulmates Dating Site… ‘I have simple tastes – I want a man who enjoys cross training on Hampstead Heath, Kurdish folk music retrospectives at the Barbican and the ability to quote every Polly Toynbee column from the last 18 months.’
May 26, 2015
[death] The most insane deaths seen by an NYC medical examiner … fascinating overview of the career of a Medical Examiner in New York …‘When Judy Melinek was considering where to begin her career as a medical examiner — New York or LA? — she was given great advice. “If you really want to learn forensic pathology, do a rotation in New York City,” her chief resident said. “All kinds of great ways to die there.” Including, but not limited to: plummeting down a manhole, attack by egg-roll machine, miscalculating the tensile strength of cable cord and scaffolding collapse. In Melinek’s first week on the job, the tone became clear. As one novice began describing the case of “a man who was shot by a lady,” Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Seymour Hirsch corrected him. “Shot by a woman,” Hirsch said. “Ladies don’t shoot people.” And so began Dr. Judy Melinek’s education in life and death in New York City…’
May 5, 2015
[life] Quite possibly the greatest Internet comment ever… posted by VoteUKIPforTheKids on a Guardian article on Steve Strange.
These guys were Bohemians? Don’t make me laugh. Do you know where the most bohemian place in this country is – The Church of England!
Women bishops, over friendly vicars, vegetarians, and socialists have done more damage to the once wonderful institution of the Anglican church than Hitler’s bombs. It wouldn’t surprise me if I woke up next week and found that Westminster Abbey was now a disco nightclub.
My brother in law, Nigel got caught up in the bohemian lifestyle when he met a Dutch sailor called Jurgen at a ‘get to know your neighbour’ session at his local church. I suppose we should noticed something suspicious when the vicar (who was wearing a rainbow coloured jumper) exhorted everyone present to shake their neighbour’s hand. Little did we realise at the time that this was his introduction to moral depravity. Mind you, Nigel was always an odd one. He preferred musical theatre to sport etc, but despite that found what we thought was a nice girl and got married. Sadly she turned out to be a harridan who was more interested in the Labour Party and ‘women’s issues’ than bearing his children. Ultimately she threw him out and moved her fancyman in. It nearly destroyed poor old Nigel. He lost a lovely home (four beds, large garden, double garage) on a nice estate and ended up living on a barge on a canal. Still he found love of some kind with Jurgen and together they making a living refurbishing soiled cinema seats in Amsterdam. Obviously I don’t talk to him anymore, neither does anyone else in the family. I can only hope he is happy.
April 3, 2015
[life] Inspiration Quote … by Michael Kleinman.
March 29, 2015
March 25, 2015
[life] 12 Devastating Middle Class Problems … ‘A huge amount of my time is spent picking coriander out of things.’
March 21, 2015
[philosophy] ‘Kant is a moron’: vandals critique the philosopher’s home … 210 years after his death an unknown critic vandalizes Immanuel Kant’s home … ‘The Russian word used is a relatively mild term of abuse for a slow-witted or foolish person, and could also be translated as “loser,” “dumb-ass,” or “chump”. The vandals did not, however, leave any accompanying critique of Kant’s thinking to justify the smear on his intellectual powers. Kant (1724-1804) is generally considered one of the most formidable philosophers to have lived, and is credited with breakthroughs in epistemology and moral philosophy that continue to define the fields to this day.’
March 16, 2015
[royalty] What happens when Queen Elizabeth II dies? … fascinating look at the first few days after the Queen dies … ‘For at least 12 days — between her passing, the funeral and beyond — Britain will grind to a halt. It’ll cost the British economy billions in lost earnings. The stock markets and banks will close for an indefinite period. And both the funeral and the subsequent coronation will become formal national holidays, each with an estimated economic hit to GDP of between £1.2 and £6 billion, to say nothing of organisational costs. But to focus on the financial disruption doesn’t begin to describe the sheer magnitude of it. It will be an event unlike anything Britain has ever seen before. There will be trivial disruptions — the BBC will cancel all comedy shows, for example — and jarring cultural changes. Prince Charles may change his name, for instance, and the words of the national anthem will be changed, too. The deaths of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother both brought on waves of public mourning and hysteria. But the Queen, due to her longevity and fundamental place atop British society, will be on a whole new level above that. The vast majority of British people have simply never known life without the Queen. It will be a strange, uncertain time…’
March 3, 2015
[life] What is blue and how do we see color? … a look at why the Ancient Greeks could not see the colour blue … ‘Davidoff says that without a word for a color, without a way of identifying it as different, it is much harder for us to notice what is unique about it — even though our eyes are physically seeing the blocks it in the same way. So before blue became a common concept, maybe humans saw it. But it seems they did not know they were seeing it. If you see something yet can’t see it, does it exist? Did colors come into existence over time? Not technically, but our ability to notice them may have…’
February 27, 2015
[life] The truth about evil … a long-read from John Gray on the nature of evil and how politicians deal with it … ‘Here Blair is at one with most western leaders. It’s not that they are obsessed with evil. Rather, they don’t really believe in evil as an enduring reality in human life. If their feverish rhetoric means anything, it is that evil can be vanquished. In believing this, those who govern us at the present time reject a central insight of western religion, which is found also in Greek tragic drama and the work of the Roman historians: destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings themselves. In this old-fashioned understanding, evil is a propensity to destructive and self-destructive behaviour that is humanly universal. The restraints of morality exist to curb this innate human frailty; but morality is a fragile artifice that regularly breaks down. Dealing with evil requires an acceptance that it never goes away.’
February 26, 2015
[hst] Hunter S. Thompson, Existentialist Life Coach, Gives Tips for Finding Meaning in Life … ‘Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH. Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds…’
February 7, 2015
[life] Health Experts Recommend Standing Up At Desk, Leaving Office, Never Coming Back … some working life advice from The Onion … ‘We encourage Americans to experiment with stretching their legs by strolling across their office and leaving all their responsibilities behind forever just one time to see how much better they feel. People tend to become more productive, motivated, and happy almost immediately. We found that you can also really get the blood flowing by pairing this activity with hurling your staff ID across the parking lot.’
January 18, 2015
[herzog] 24 pieces of life advice from Werner Herzog … ‘Get used to the bear behind you.’
January 8, 2015
[quotes] Flash Card Quotes …
January 6, 2015
[funny] 36 Truly Terrifying Middle-Class Injuries … ‘Today I suffered the most middle class injury ever. I hurt my wrist while rinsing kale.’
December 27, 2014
[serial] ‘Serial’ Podcast Finale: A Desire for ‘Eureka’ as the Digging Ends … More thoughts on the conclusion of Serial … ‘The last episode was a tangled and heartfelt yet frustrating hour of radio in which Ms. Koenig hemmed and hawed and pored back over old evidence and asked, “Did we just spend a year applying excessive scrutiny to a perfectly ordinary case?” The answer to that question, apparently, is no and yes, and yes and no. Unlike the conclusions of Agatha Christie novels, real life can make only murky puddles.’
December 19, 2014
[life] This scientist solved the mystery of belly button lint … ‘It was mostly people that had stomach hair who also typically found belly button lint. He proved it by shaving his own stomach, and seeing that he didn’t produce any belly button lint until his hair grew back. He also confirmed the seemingly obvious fact that lint originates from shirt fibers in two ways: by seeing that it always matched the color of the shirt he was wearing, and by chemically analyzing the lint and finding that it was mostly made of cellulose (the material that makes up cotton). It also contained some nitrogen and sulfur, likely from sweat and skin cells.’
December 15, 2014
[sea] Tjipetir mystery: Why are rubber-like blocks washing up on beaches? … ‘The word Tjipetir turned out to be that of a rubber plantation in West Java, Indonesia, which operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The blocks were not strictly rubber – they are most likely gutta-percha, the gum of a tree found in the Malay Peninsula and Malaysia. It was used in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries to insulate telegraph cables on the seabed. Before modern plastic began to be widely used, gutta-percha was also made into such items as golf balls, teddy bear noses, picture frames and jewellery, among many others.’