Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Year of the Metal Ox
Starting now February 12th, 2021
Via Wikipedia: "The Ox (牛) is the second of the 12-year periodic sequence (cycle) of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar, and also appears in related calendar systems. The Chinese term translated here as ox is in Chinese niú (牛), a word generally referring to cows, bulls, or neutered types of the bovine family, such as common cattle or water buffalo. The zodiacal ox may be construed as male, female, neuter, and either singular or plural. The Year of the Ox is also denoted by the Earthly Branch symbol chǒu (丑). The term zodiac ultimately derives from an Ancient Greek term referring to a circle of little animals. There are also a yearly month of the ox and a daily hour of the ox (Chinese double hour, 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.). Years of the oxen (cows) are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the ox/cow (over a sixty-year period), each ox/cow year also being associated with one of the Chinese wǔxíng, also known as the five elements, or phases: the Five Phases being Fire (火 huǒ), Water (水 shuǐ), Wood (木 mù), Metal (金 jīn), and Earth (土 tǔ). The Year of the Ox follows after the Year of the Rat (the first year of the zodiacal cycle) and it then is followed by the Year of the Tiger."
And these health-boosting impacts of volunteering appear to be found in all corners of the world, from Spain and Egypt to Uganda and Jamaica, according to one study based on the data from the Gallup World Poll."
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End of 2020
Ten things I’ve learned this year December 31st, 2020
Book 2020 I fell in love with Yotam Ottolenghi's SIMPLE recipes. I started at the beginning; just finished the Pasta chapter. It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but this is how I started to learn how to cook, finally.
Bubble Got ultra lucky and found myself in a pandemic lockdown bubble with two extraordinary artists, and their three year old daughter. Thank you Anke Eckardt and Marcus Schmickler for keeping me company in the weirdest of times, and trusting me with your best project so far.
Film To have a wild, almost alien creature teach you about communication, trust, and letting go seems like a huge privilege to me. I am amazed what Craig Foster experienced through his relationship with an octopus female, and that he was able to put it all into an intriguing documentary. My Octopus Teacher provided a lesson in humility for me.
Friends (1984) I don’t know why or how this song by Amii Stewart popped up in my playlist this year – so 80s... From now on it will remind me of a very unique summer in the middle of an international pandemic, including a friendly, short but energizing crush. No harm done ;-)
Lockdown After commuting with planes, buses, cars, etc. came to a shrieking halt the air pollution in my city started to improve a lot. As one of the consequences I can now experience the moon at night in 3D. Wow, I am very grateful.
Perception Children believe that everything is going to be alright, that their parents are almighty, that they themselves are almighty too (and therefore in the position to give advice), and they believe in justice. Now that I’ve grown up, I know that all four are perceptual illusions. A transformative teaching.
Quote All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks is full of important quotes. The definition of love which bell hooks uses in her book might serve this list best, but you should not hesitate to read the book in full. "Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word 'love' is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word 'love,' and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's classic self-help book The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978. Echoing the work Eric Fromm, he defines love as 'the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth.' Explaining further, he continues: 'Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.' Since the choice must be made to nurture growth, this definition counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually."
Spazierengehen The streets in Cologne and also the parks became too crowed to take a relaxed walk and keep the required distance to others at the same time. So, my friends and I started to meet at local cemeteries, which were still pretty abandoned – thanks to society’s denial of death, I guess. Spazierengehen became my new clubbing. The most inspiring tombstone I saw simply says: HONESTY, PURITY, UNSELFISHNESS, LOVE.
Word I know, there are still unsolved security issues, and Jitsi is the good sister. But in 2020 Zoom was where I did spend almost as much time as in my bed. I experienced meetings with one thousand people; that was mindblowing. To me therefore the word of the year is, to zoom.
So, here we are... And what is next?
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"Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi)", 2001, signed William Eggleston and numbered 31/40 and also with copyright stamp on verso. Iris print, image 46 x 68 cm. From BAM Photography Portfolio II published by Serge Sorokko Gallery, San Fransisco.
Shout to the top
Does the human brain resemble the Universe? November 28th, 2020
Via Università di Bologna: "An astrophysicist of the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon of the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies, and surprising similarities emerged. […]
The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe can count upon a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both system, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe. […]
Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers regulating galaxies and neurons."
Usagi is a careless fourteen-year-old girl with an enormous capacity for love, compassion, and understanding. Initially believing herself to be an ordinary girl, she is later revealed to be the reincarnated form of the Princess of the Moon Kingdom, and she subsequently discovers her original name, Princess Serenity.
Rereading All about love – new visions by bell hooks for one of my seminars. Again and again I find her words so empowering. What could be more important and appropriate today than considering love, again.
"Hence the truism: Love is letting go of fear. Our hearts connect with lots of folks in a lifetime but most of us will go to our graves with no experience of true love. This is in no way tragic, as most of us run the other way when true love comes near. Since true love sheds light on those aspects of ourselves we may wish to deny or hide, enabling us to see ourselves clearly and without shame, it is not surprising that so many individuals who say they want to know love turn away when such love beckons. " (p.186, All about love – new visions by bell hooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001)
"We are all capable of changing our attitudes about falling in love. We can acknowledge the click we feel when we meet someone new as just that – a mysterious sense of connection that may or may not have anything to do with love. However it could or could not be the primal connection while simultaneously acknowledging that it will lead us to love. How different things might be if, rather than saying 'I think I'm in love,' we were saying 'I've connected with someone in a way that makes me think I'm on the way to knowing love.' Or if instead of saying 'I am in love' we said 'I am loving' or 'I will love.' Our patterns around romantic love are unlikely to change if we do not change our language." (p.177, All about love – new visions by bell hooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001)
Via my all-time favorite blog the New Shelton wet/dry: "A large empirical literature has debated the existence of a U-shaped happiness-age curve. This paper re-examines the relationship between various measures of well-being and age in 145 countries. […] The U-shape of the curve is forcefully confirmed, with an age minimum, or nadir, in midlife around age 50 in separate analyses for developing and advanced countries as well as for the continent of Africa. The happiness curve seems to be everywhere." Continue reading Here: Journal of Population Economics
Via Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization: "I examine the relationship between unhappiness and age using data from eight well-being data files on nearly 14 million respondents across forty European countries and the United States and 168 countries from the Gallup World Poll. […] Unhappiness is hill-shaped in age and the average age where the maximum occurs is 49 with or without controls."
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"Fiorucci made me Hardcore" by Mark Leckey, 1999.
Fiorucci made me Hardcore
Music can boost your immune system August 18th, 2020
Via Jean Gabriel: "Studies have been conducted that display evidence of music enhancing the amount of antibodies in your system. The presence of antibodies can be determined by measuring the level of cytokines in your blood. Cytokines are a critical component as their purpose is to allow communication between the cells that make up your immune system. Subjects during this study were asked to simply sing for a period of one hour. Their cytokine levels were measured both before and after the duration of the music activity. Levels were shown to have increased after the hour of belting out your favorite songs, which means that the overall effectiveness of the immune system may have increased."
Via Wikipedia: "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore came out of a discussion between Gavin Brown, Martin McGeown and Mark Leckey. They were at a gallery private view in London, and Emma Dexter, then a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), talked to Leckey. He argued that the most exciting art form of the time was the music video, and intrigued, Dexter invited him to make a work demonstrating it. It was later first screened at the ICA. The title, Leckey said, was about the notion that 'something as trite and throwaway and exploitative as a jeans manufacturer (Fiorucci) can be taken by a group of people and made into something totemic, and powerful, and life-affirming'."
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While reading the interview with Bruno Latour consider listening to Ellen Arkbro. Fabulous and mind blowing composer from Sweden.
Lovelock locked us in! While Galileo used a telescope to reveal that the Earth is part of an infinite universe, Lovelock used his electron capture detector to reveal that the Earth is completely different from any other planet because it has life. He and [Lynn] Margulis spotted Gaia. Lovelock from space, taking the question as globally as possible; Margulis from bacteria, taking the question from the other end, both realising that Life, capital L, has managed to engineer its own conditions of existence. For me that is the greatest discovery of this period, though it is still not very much accepted by mainstream science. This may be because we do not yet have the tools to receive it.
Why do you think scientists are still wary?
That such an important concept is still so marginal in the history of science is extraordinary. I have done everything I can to make it accepted. But scientists are reflexively cautious. The cosmological shift from Aristotle to Galileo is the same as that from Galileo to Gaia. With Galileo, our understanding moved outwards to an infinite universe. Grasping that took a century and a half and faced resistance. Gaia is not just one more concept. It is not just about physics and energy. It is Life.
Your work has often challenged the objective, God’s-eye view of science. You argue convincingly that humanity cannot be so detached. But the political right have twisted this approach to undermine all expert knowledge on the climate and nature crises. Any regrets?
A critique of how science is produced is very different from the post-truth argument that there are alternative truths that you can choose from. Post-truth is a defensive posture. If you have to defend yourself against climate change, economic change, coronavirus change, then you grab at any alternative. If those alternatives are fed to you by thousands of fake news farms in Siberia, they are hard to resist, especially if they look vaguely empirical. If you have enough of them and they are contradictory enough, they allow you to stick to your old beliefs. But this should not be confused with rational scepticism.
Has the Covid-19 crisis affected our belief in science?
The virus has revealed the number of things you need to know to decide what is factual and what’s not. The public are learning a great deal about the difficulty of statistics, about experiment, about epidemiology. In everyday life, people are talking about degrees of confidence and margin of error. I think that’s good. If you want people to have some grasp of science, you must show how it is produced."
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“Trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody.”
Via Yes Magazine: "9. On my very first date with my now husband, I climbed into his car and saw baby wipes on the passenger-side floor. He said he didn’t have kids, they were just there to clean up messes in the car. I twisted to secure my seatbelt and saw a stuffed animal in the rear window. I gave him a look. He said, “I promise, I don’t have kids. That’s only there so I don’t get stopped by the police.” He then told me that when he drove home from work late at night, he was getting stopped by cops constantly because he was a black man in a luxury car and they assumed that either it was stolen or he was a drug dealer. When he told a cop friend about this, Warren was told to put a stuffed animal in the rear window because it would change “his profile” to that of a family man and he was much less likely to be stopped. The point here is, if you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success with a floppy-eared, stuffed bunny rabbit so you won’t get harassed by the cops on the way home from your gainful employment (or never had a first date start this way), you have white privilege.
10. Six years ago, I started a Facebook page that has grown into a website called Good Black News because I was shocked to find there were no sites dedicated solely to publishing the positive things black people do. (And let me explain here how biased the coverage of mainstream media is in case you don’t already have a clue—as I curate, I can’t tell you how often I have to swap out a story’s photo to make it as positive as the content. Photos published of black folks in mainstream media are very often sullen- or angry-looking. Even when it’s a positive story! I also have to alter headlines constantly to 1) include a person’s name and not have it just be “Black Man Wins Settlement” or “Carnegie Hall Gets 1st Black Board Member,” or 2) rephrase it from a subtle subjugator like “ABC taps Viola Davis as Series Lead” to “Viola Davis Lands Lead on ABC Show” as is done for, say, Jennifer Aniston or Steven Spielberg. I also receive a fair amount of highly offensive racist trolling. I don’t even respond. I block and delete ASAP. The point here is, if you’ve never had to rewrite stories and headlines or swap photos while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promote positivity and share stories of hope and achievement and justice, you have white privilege."
Have been watching "Ride Upon the Storm" by Adam Price recently. This image is from it's title sequence by Benny Box.
In my backyard
Rotkelchen – European Robin May 24rd, 2020
"Little bird up in a tree Looked down and sang a song to me Of how it began"
Via Wikipedia: "Little Bird is a song written by Dennis Wilson and Stephen Kalinich with uncredited contributions from Brian Wilson. It was first recorded by American rock band the Beach Boys and released on their 1968 album Friends. It was also placed as the B-side of the album's Friends single. The single peaked at number 47 in the US and number 25 in the UK. Brian once said; 'Dennis gave us Little Bird which blew my mind because it was so full of spiritualness. He was a late bloomer as a music maker. He lived hard and rough but his music was as sensitive as anyone's.' The outro of Little Bird features a musical quotation of the unfinished 1966 composition Child Is Father of the Man composed by Brian Wilson for the Smile album. His contribution remains uncredited."
Via Wikipedia: "The avian magnetic compass of the robin has been extensively researched and uses vision-based magnetoreception, in which the robin's ability to sense the magnetic field of the earth for navigation is affected by the light entering the bird's eye. The physical mechanism of the robin's magnetic sense is not fully understood, but may involve quantum entanglement of electron spins."
Via Project Gutenberg's Birds in Legend, Fable and Folklore, by Ernest Ingersoll: "Bearing his cross, while Christ passed by forlorn, His Godlike forehead by the mock crown torn, A little bird took from that crown one thorn, To soothe the dear Redeemer’s throbbing head. That bird did what she could; His blood, ’t is said, Down-dropping dyed her tender bosom red. Since then no wanton boy disturbs her nest; Weasel nor wildcat will her young molest— All sacred deem that bird of ruddy breast."