Try checking out the real Haunts for Halloween

13475891-mmmainThere are many really cool things about living in a very old city and in very old houses that I don’t know where to start.  You pretty much knowlalaurie-mansion that death, disaster, and the wicked part of human nature have not been sanitized for suburban pearl-clutchers or commercialized by the mercenary.  You live next to churches built for victims of Yellow Plague and cemeteries where the rain can wash up bones.  Living in New Orleans isn’t like living in a European City with their pits filled of tens of thousands of black plague victims and underground cities stacked with skeletons.  But, being in the French Quarter on Halloween night sure beats handing out candy to future obese, diabetics decked out in WalMart’s worst.

I really love watching spooky shows and movies this time of year.  One of my newest addictions is the FX TV show American Horror Story: Coven.  It has some great American actresses in it and it’s filmed in New Orleans.  It stars Jessica Lang, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett.  The two latter actresses play real New Orleans people.

Delphyne posted a link to my Facebook about scary as hell places in the USA.   New Orlean’s St. Louis  Number One Cemetery–where Marie LaVeau is supposedly buried–always pops up on the list.  Bassett plays LaVeau in Coven.  Bates plays Madame LaLaurie whose house is considered so haunted that no one lives there for long.

Frankly,  I’ve never found St. Louis One to be spooky or ooky.  Holt Cemetery is far more full of those weird vibes that you can feel in cemeteries.  Holt is the potter’s cemetery where many of New Orlean’s best Jazz musician’s were eventually buried.  The graves are shallow and not the little above ground houses you think about when you think New Orleans cemeteries  so if you go there after flooding or rain you are likely to find human bones about the place. There were lots of them scattered around  after Katrina.  They’re trying to redo the place to stop these kinds of events.

I lived across from the LaLaurie Mansion for five years and never ever experienced anything akin to a haunt or a wicked bad vibe. Kathy Bates plays Madam LaLaurie who is supposedly cursed by LaVeau to live forever and is buried alive to be found in modern times by Jessica Lange early in the series.  The series very much uses the city as another character in the story.  The rest–of course–is pure fiction and very much in the genre of making a spooky story based on the modern idea of spooky.  But, I do have to say it’s a fun twist and I love watching it display New Orleans in all its spookery.

I thought I’d share with you the actual stories of the LaLaurie House–which has been considered haunted for well over a hundred years–since it figures prominently in the 13459083-mmmainplot of Coven.  Here’s the original news story on the house that exposed the horrific things that Madame LaLaurie did to her slaves.  This is also something that is essential to the plot of Coven.  Again, I  I lived across from the house for five years and really never experienced anything.  That can’t be said for my own house now or other places I’ve been.  We will get to that later.

April 11, 1834

The conflagration at the house occupied by the woman Lalaurie in Hospital … is like discovering one of those atrocities the details of which seem to be too incredible for human belief.

We would shrink from the task of detailing the painful circumstances connected herewith, were it not that a sense of duty and the necessity of exposing and holding to the public indignation such a wretch as the perpetrator, renders it indispensable for us to do so.

The flames having spread with an alarming rapidity, and the horrible suspicion being entertained among the spectators that some of the inmates of the premises where it originated, where incarcerated therein, the doors were forced open for the purpose of liberating them. Previous however, to taking this liberty, (if liberty it can be called), several gentlemen impelled by their feelings of humanity demanded the keys which were refused them in a gross and insulting manner. Upon entering one of the apartments, the most appalling spectacle met their eyes. Seven slaves more or less horribly mutilated were seen suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other. Language is powerless and inadequate to give a proper conception of the horror which a scene like this must have inspired. We shall not attempt it, but leave it rather to the reader’s imagination to picture what it was.

These slaves were the property of the demon, in the shape of a woman whom we mentioned in the beginning of this article. They had been confined by her for several months in the situation from which they had thus providentially been rescued and had been merely kept in existence to prolong their suffering and to make them taste all that the most refined cruelty could inflict. But why dwell upon such aggravating and painful particulars! We feel confident that the community share with us our indignation, and that vengeance will fall heavily upon the guilty culprit. Without being superstitious, we cannot but regard the manner in which these atrocities have been brought to light as an especial interposition of heaven.

81455-AHS-Coven-Kathy-Bates-jnHPThere are a series of later articles on the house’s haunted status that are also great reading.  I love reading the articles in the vernacular of the day. This one is written in 1892 and describes the house’s reputation at the time.

In the Rue Royale stands this quaint, old-fashioned house about which so much has been written, and around which cluster so many wild and weird stories, that even in its philosophic day, few in the old faubourg care to pass the place after nightfall, or, doing so, shudder and hurry on with bated breath, as though midnight ghouls and ghosts hovered near, ready to exercise a mystic spell over all who dare invade its uncanny precincts.

“La maison est hantee,” that is what the Franco-Spanish residents of the “vieux carre” will shake their heads and tell you; and every one who lives in the rue Royale, whether descendants of the ancient habitue or member of that recent cosmopolitan element that has invaded the street, know the history of that old house, and repeats in guarded whispers, “The house is haunted” and will volunteer strange stories of how ghosts and spirits may be seen flitting mysteriously about the rooms after nightfall who the witches and hob-goblins hold high revel there, of the strange unearthly noises that proceed from the damp dungeon and attic, the mysterious, lambent lights that flit rapidly from window to window and then vanish, only to reappear with confused rapidity and the long, ghostly procession that winds up the stairway at midnight, and peers cautiously over the roof, where the figure of a little child may be seen upon moonlight nights haunting the latticed belvedere. And all this began long ago, when the great house was shut up for many years and broken windows and defaced galleries told the story of the uprising of an indignant populace and

delphine-lalaurie-6laid the foundation for the wild and ghostly legends which succeeding years have woven about it. No house in the rue Royale has attracted so much widespread attention. Every stranger who visits New Orleans inquires for it, artists have painted it and travelers have written about it and several years ago Geo. W. Cable made it the subject of a special article in the Century Magazine. How much of that story is true, and how much the creation of Mr. Cable’s fancy the old Creole of New Orleans will tell you; but this fact remains, that the house has a history, a real true history that needs neither imagination nor art to make it one of the most interesting studies in New Orleans, both from a historical and romantic point of view.

The house is still on the Haunted Tours that are omnipresent in the Quarter.  It was, in fact, owned briefly by Nicholas Cage.  It is an imposing structure.  My kids were anxious to take these tours but I have to admit I’ve never done it.  I have been on many a street when guides were spinning the stories they spin at some point in time. I do know a lot of people that have lived in houses they will not return to and the majority of them are not on the tours so I kind’ve judge the entire thing based on that. In my experience, there’s an apartment sitting near Cabrini park at the edge of the Quarter that’s got far more hauntings.  I’ve known folks that have lived there and nearly all of them have left within months of moving in the place.

I have had my share of really strange things that have happened since living in New Orleans and you can officially place me in the category of no longer skeptic about some kind of weird energies that exist that cannot be explained.  Nearly all of my experiences have happened after really raging hurricanes which seem to have a habit of stirring up energy and the watery ground beneath the city.  I’ve had experiences in my own home close after Katrina that I really can’t explain. The first one happened shortly after I got home when there was no electricity to speak of and no one else around.  It was deadly quiet because there were also no birds about.  I was lying in my bed and I had my curtains open wide.  I no longer leave my curtains open on that side of the house now at night.  Just call me extra cautious.  I saw a glowing round, orangish face in the window over my desk.  I really thought it was a person and since the neighborhood was mostly deserted, I was freaked out.  I ran to the window and pounded on it.  I broke the glass actually.  It occurred to me the next day that there is no way any person could peer through my window.  They would have to be standing on the shoulders of some one else to do that.  There was no light to play tricks on me so I have no idea what it could’ve been.  I was not drinking. I was not asleep.   I was in the dark reading a journal article by small flashlight.  If you can develop some plausible hypothesis let me know.  Like I said, I never leave a curtain or window open on that side of the bedroom after dark any more.

My second experience in my house was not too long after that.  I was walking towards the door to the laundry room by the same desk.  A very solid thick glass, cheese crock that holds odds and ends lifted about 18 inches off my night stand, went across my chest in front of my eyes and dropped to the floor without breaking.  My lama was in the house at the time and I ran to get him to show him the crock sitting on the floor. I have absolutely no explanation for that.  It was midday. I was not drinking and I am very much a logical, data oriented person so I am not the kind of person that just sees spirits in everything.  I know what I saw.  I know there is absolutely no logical explanation for it.

The last time I really experienced something strange was last year after Hurricane Issac when I was sitting at a table at Buffa’s in the Quarter.  I had gotten up to talk to a friend of mine.  I felt a distinct tingly,freezing cold sensation in the shape of person walking through me on the left side of my body.  It was like some one about 4 inches shorter than me walked straight through that half of my body.  It was electric and cold and totally in the shape of a person. I distinctly remember the shape of a head and torso.  It was not a linear shape.   I didn’t feel it completely on that side. It felt like the imprint of a short-person.  My friend Randy saw me turn pretty pale and could feel the temperature difference between my left and right hand.  It was very odd.

Anyway, if you spend your Halloweens in the suburbs with kids and candy and fake costumes and fake tombstones bought at Walmart you are really missing out on things.  I really love the Day of the Dead Celebrations that have gravitated here from Mexico.  They’ve got the “spirit” of the day down pat.  You really need to take the day to go to a real “haunted” location or cemetery and check out the energy then ride it to wherever it goes.  Of course, New Orleans is probably the premier Halloween destination on my list.  But, there are so many wonderful historical American cities with equally rich and real culture that I am sure you can get to one or the other.  I’ve never been to Salem, Mass but I have to say I envy people within driving distance.  Now, there’s a perfect Halloween destination!!!

Anyway, we have a lot of severe weather moving our way tonight.  I’m going to be keeping the shade down on the window over my desk tonight for sure!!!

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Thursday Reads: Halloween History and A Little News

black-cat

Happy Halloween Everyone!!

Last year at this time, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and this year a lesser but still “Monstrous Halloween storm” will “pelt the central US” from Texas up to the Midwest. My mom said authorities in Indiana have moved the official day for trick-or-treating to the weekend. Towns in Kentucky and Ohio are doing the same thing, according to USA Today.

Torrential rain, heavy thunderstorms and howling winds are forecast on Halloween all the way from Texas to the Midwest and interior sections of the Northeast, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Andy Mussoline.

Almost 42 million people could contend with severe thunderstorms Thursday, the Storm Prediction Center warns, with cities such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville and Houston all at risk.

“Damaging winds and some tornadoes will be possible with what should be a complex and potentially messy storm,” according to an online forecast from the prediction center.

“The best costume in Houston for Halloween probably involves a garbage bag to keep dry,” reports WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue, who adds that it could be the wettest Halloween ever in some spots.

Read more at the link.

I have a few articles on the Halloween history and traditions for you. From National Geographic: Halloween 2013: Top Costumes, History, Myths, More.

Halloween’s origins date back more than 2,000 years. On what we consider November 1, Europe’s Celtic peoples celebrated their New Year’s Day, called Samhain (SAH-win).

On Samhain eve—what we know as Halloween—spirits were thought to walk the Earth as they traveled to the afterlife. Fairies, demons, and other creatures were also said to be abroad.

In addition to sacrificing animals to the gods and gathering around bonfires, Celts often wore costumes—probably animal skins—to confuse spirits, perhaps to avoid being possessed, according to the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress.

By wearing masks or blackening their faces, Celts are also thought to have impersonated dead ancestors.

Young men may have dressed as women and vice versa, marking a temporary breakdown of normal social divisions.

In an early form of trick-or-treating, Celts costumed as spirits are believed to have gone from house to house engaging in silly acts in exchange for food and drink—a practice inspired perhaps by an earlier custom of leaving food and drink outdoors as offerings to supernatural beings.

Samhain was later co-opted by the Catholic Church when the Church moved “All Saints Day” from May to November 1. Scots-Irish immigrants brought Halloween customs with them to America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Award-winning_jack_o'_lantern

The History Channel has a more detailed article on the history of Halloween:

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

On Halloween traditions in the US:

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

jack o lanterns1

In Europe jack-o-lanterns were made of turnips and other vegetables, since pumpkins were found only in the Americas. On the custom of “trick or treating” in the US:

The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

A few more interesting links to explore:

National Geographic: First Halloween Costumes: Skins, Skulls, and Skirts

The Boston Globe: Seven Books About the History of Halloween

Deseret News: Halloween trivia: From top costumes to carving turnips instead of pumpkins

Washington Post: It’s time to take the sexy out of Halloween and return the holiday to kids

Amanda Hess at Slate: It’s Irony, not sexy, that’s ruining Halloween

Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story: Obligatory Halloween Post On Skimpy Costumes

in other news2

In other news . . . 

In the wake of the Travon Martin killing, Sanford FL has banned neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns.

SANFORD — More than a year and a half after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, the city of Sanford is making major changes to its neighborhood watch program, including banning volunteers from carrying guns while on patrol, and forbidding them from pursuing anyone in their neighborhoods.

Sanford’s new police chief, Cecil Smith, said the neighborhood watch program as it was operated while Zimmerman was part of it was dysfunctional and had no accountability.

“In this program, it is clearly stated that you will not pursue an individual,” Smith explained. “In this new program, it clearly indicates that you will not carry a firearm when performing your duties as a neighborhood watch captain or participant.”

Smith said when he took over as Sanford’s chief of police in April, the neighborhood watch program Zimmerman was part of was still operating the same way it was when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin more than a year earlier.

Sounds like an excellent idea.

The NSA is “firing back” after an article in the Washington Post claimed that the spy agency “infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide.” From Politico:

The program, exposed through Edward Snowden’s leaks, relied on a broad, decades-old executive orderand allowed the NSA access to data-center connections in secret outside the United States, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story. Asked about the leak, Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA’s leader, said earlier Wednesday he was unaware of the Post’s report — adding the NSA is “not authorized” to access companies data centers and instead must “go through a court process” to obtain such content.

The NSA, meanwhile, emphasized it hadn’t tried to circumvent U.S. law under the executive order, known by its numerical designation, 12333. “The assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true,” a spokeswoman said. But the NSA aide declined to discuss further whether the agency — perhaps under other authorities — had infiltrated data center connections at all.

Google and Yahoo both told the Post it hadn’t granted the NSA access to its data centers. Both companies did not immediately comment for this story.

Based on past history of Glenn Greenwald and other reporters neglecting to report that NSA surveillance requires individual warrants, I’m going to assume that this is another instance of this kind of melodramatic “reporting.” I guess it will all come out eventually, since Congress is now investigating and the drip drip drip of leaks continues.

Meanwhile, “progressives” who are panicking over NSA spying continue to ignore vitally important issues that affect millions of Americans–poverty and hunger for examples. From MSNBC: America’s new hunger crisis.

In the 22 years that Swami Durga Das has managed New York’s River Fund Food Pantry, he has never seen hunger like this. Each Saturday, hundreds of hungry people descend on the pantry’s headquarters, an unassuming house on a residential block. The first people arrive around 2 am, forming a line that will wrap around the block before Das even opens his doors.

“Each week there’s new people,” Das told MSNBC.com. “The numbers have just skyrocketed.”

The new clients are diverse—working people, seniors, single mothers—but many of them share something in common: they represent the millions of Americans who fell victim to food insecurity when the Great Recession hit in 2009, but didn’t benefit from the economic recovery.

And the worst may be yet to come.

Food activists expect a “Hunger Cliff” on November 1, when automatic cuts to food stamp benefits will send a deluge of new hungry people to places like the River Fund Food Pantry, which are already strained.

“I thought we were busy now; I don’t know what it will be like then, because all of those people getting cut will definitely be accessing a pantry,” said Das. “It definitely will be a catastrophe.”

Please go read the whole thing.

Finally, here’s an interesting article about Ted Cruz by David Denby of The New Yorker: THE MASK OF SINCERITY.

When Ted Cruz lies, he appears to be praying. His lips narrow, almost disappearing into his face, and his eyebrows shift abruptly, rising like a drawbridge on his forehead into matching acute angles. He attains an appearance of supplication, an earnest desire that men and women need to listen, as God surely listens. Cruz has large ears; a straight nose with a fleshy tip, which shines in camera lights when he talks to reporters; straight black hair slicked back from his forehead like flattened licorice; thin lips; a long jaw with another knob of flesh at the base, also shiny in the lights. If, as Orwell said, everyone has the face he deserves at fifty, Cruz, who is only forty-two, has got a serious head start. For months, I sensed vaguely that he reminded me of someone but I couldn’t place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.

Cruz is not as iconographically satisfying as other American demagogues—Oliver North, say, whose square-jawed, unblinking evocation of James Stewart, John Wayne, and other Hollywood actors conveyed resolution. Or Ronald Reagan—Cruz’s reedy, unresonant voice lacks the husky timbre of Reagan’s emotion-clouded instrument, with its mixture of truculence and maudlin appeal.

Yet Cruz is amazingly sure-footed verbally. When confronted with a hostile question, he has his answer prepared well before the questioner stops talking. There are no unguarded moments, no slips or inadvertent admissions. He speaks swiftly, in the tones of sweet, sincere reason. How could anyone possibly disagree with him? His father is a Baptist, and Cruz himself has an evangelical cast to his language, but he’s an evangelical without consciousness of his own sins or vulnerability. He is conscious only of other people’s sins, which are boundless, and a threat to the republic; and of other people’s vulnerabilities and wounds, which he salts. If they have a shortage of vulnerabilities, he might make some up.

Read the rest at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? And what are you doing to celebrate Halloween? Please let us know in the comment thread.


PLUBs (Pro-Life-Until-Birth) by Definition: Open Thread

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle – 10/30/2013

Uh….can’t define a PLUB better than that!

This is an open thread, come on Red Sox…kick some Cardinal ass!


Wednesday Reads: Purring Monkey, Spinning Atoms and Immigration Suits

fc66eb72eedbbd20793a50086d61c104Good Morning

I’ve got a mixed bag of goodies for you this morning. Let’s just get down to it shall we?

There is some news out of Alabama on the immigration front. Y’all remember those awful laws put on the books down in Sweet Home Alabama?  Well, there has been a settlement between the state and the ACLU. Settlement ends suits over Ala immigration law

The state of Alabama agreed Tuesday to settle the remaining challenges over its toughest-in-the-nation crackdown against illegal immigration, which has mostly been gutted by federal court decisions.

The state and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a proposed settlement that would end a federal lawsuit over the law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011, and the state separately filed documents to end a similar suit filed by the Justice Department. Federal courts later blocked main sections, including a one-of-a-kind provision that public schools must check students’ citizenship status.

[…]

ACLU lawyer Cecillia Wang said the Alabama agreement also means a so-called “show me your papers” provision that allowed police to ask for citizenship documents cannot lead to detentions, as many immigrants had feared.

“Overall this is really a significant win for immigrant families in Alabama and anyone who cares about the rights of immigrants,” said Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project.

The agreement permanently blocks sections of the law that were temporarily stopped by courts. The state also agreed to pay $350,000 in attorney fees and expenses for groups that sued to block the law.

[…]

The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which was heavily involved in the legal challenges, said legislators should repeal the act now that the state has settled the lawsuits.

“We warned the Legislature when they were debating HB 56 that if they passed this draconian law, we would sue in court and win,” Kristi Graunke, an attorney with the organization, said in a statement. “That we have done.”

That about sums it all up. Guess we will have to wait and see what the state will do with all this talk of immigration reform, cough…cough.

I am just going to put this next link here because it is a very depressing read. It’s a review of a book: Got His Gun — Lost His Legs, Arms, Penis

Ann Jones’ new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — The Untold Story, is devastating, and almost incomprehensibly so when one considers that virtually all of the death and destruction in U.S. wars is on the other side. Statistically, what happens to U.S. troops is almost nothing.  In human terms, it’s overwhelming.

Okay, now on to a bit more “positive” news, via John Oliver: Australia Is An Example Of Effective Gun Control. America Is An Example Of Ignoring Australia.

The similarities between Australia and America are pretty striking. The enormous difference, however, is the distinct lack of pro-gun special-interest power in the Australian government. If that blows your mind, check this out: Australian gun control was enacted by conservative politicians against the will of their conservative constituency. If Australian politicians can overlook a powerful minority to pass something that a nationwide majority approves of, why can’t our own suits and ties do it too?

Trick or treat by Political Cartoonist David Fitzsimmons

139379 600 Trick or treat cartoons

Too funny….

Moving on rather quickly, next up: two articles on spinning and weaving, but not the way you may think. These have nothing to do with fiber:

Spinning atoms in light crystals

After more than 40 years of intense research, experimental physicists still seek to explore the rich behaviour of electrons confined to a two-dimensional crystalline structure exposed to large magnetic fields. Now a team of scientists working with Prof. Immanuel Bloch (Chair for Experimental Physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and Director at MPQ) in collaboration with the theoretical physicist Dr. Belén Paredes (CSIC/UAM Madrid) developed a new experimental method to simulate these systems using a crystal made of neutral atoms and laser light. In such artificial quantum matter, the atoms could be exposed to a uniform effective magnetic field several thousand times stronger than in typical condensed matter systems.

Charged particles in a magnetic field experience a force perpendicular to their direction of motion — the Lorentz force -, which makes them move on circular (cyclotron) orbits in a plane perpendicular to the magnetic field. A sufficiently strong magnetic field can thereby dramatically change the properties of a material, giving rise to novel quantum phenomena such as the Quantum Hall effect. The cyclotron orbits shrink with increasing magnetic field. For typical field strengths, their size is much larger than the distance between neighbouring ions in the material, and the role of the crystal is negligible. However, for extremely large magnetic fields the two length scales become comparable and the interplay between the magnetic field and the crystal potential leads to striking new effects. These are manifested for instance in a fractal structure of the energy spectrum, which was first predicted by Douglas Hofstadter in 1976 and is known as the Hofstadter’s butterfly. Many intriguing electronic material properties are related to it, but so far experiments could not explore the full complexity of the problem.

Way over the top for my brain, especially now that I am so stuffed up and sick.

Now for the weaving article, but this is something more wicked and with a twist for Halloween: Looming Danger and Dangerous Looms: Violence and Weaving in Exeter Book Riddle 56

16th century depiction of a loom

The Loom Riddle: I was inside there where I saw a wooden object wounding a certain struggling creature, the wood turning; it received battle-wounds, deep gashes. Darts were woeful to that creature, and the wood skillfully bound fast. One of its feet was held fixed, the other endured affliction, leapt into the air, sometimes near the land. A tree, hung about by leaves, was near tot that bright thing [which] stood there, I saw the leavings of those arrows, carried out onto the floor to my lord, where the warriors drank.

Violence in the Exeter Book riddles is not a new topic. Many discussions of these fascinating texts focus on the way in which commonplace objects are personified and then attacked, bound, mutilated and/or killed. This violence, which is both carried out by humans and at the same time frequently punctuated by expressions of human empathy for the wounded objects, has been explained as acceptable because it occurs in the safe, playful and inverted world of the riddle.

It may not be a riddle that involves a giraffe, but you can go and read more of the abstract at the link, and get further information from Megan Cavell’s website.

Oh, this post is turning into more of a link dump than I thought it would. So I’ve got one more spooky story for you: Haunted Churches Will Give You The Shivers

Halloween comes just before Dia De Los Muertos, All Saints and All Soul’s Day, which are times to remember and honor the souls of those who have passed before us.

However, some churches claim that the spirits of the dead are still hanging around their hallways and graveyards. Mysterious lights, muffled voices, and weird apparitions are just some of the many unexplained phenomena that persist around these places.

From the ghost of a long-dead sea captain in Florida to the phantom of a governess that perished in a house fire, these churches swear that they are haunted by spirits that refuse to leave. Look through them, if you dare..

Dare…dare….(Well, for a little heathen like me, any church is bound to give me the shivers. 😉 )

And lastly, Close To 500 New Species Discovered In The Amazon, Including A Purring Cat-Monkey

Monkey

Thanks to an intrepid team of scientists and the WWF, we know just a little bit more about our amazing planet. During a four-year expedition to the previously unexplored interior of the Amazon Rainforest, the team discovered 441 new species of life – including a purring monkey!

In total, the group discovered 258 new plants, 84 new fish, 58 new amphibians, 22 new reptiles, 18 new birds, and one new mammal – not to mention the innumerable new bugs they came across (in an unpleasant way, I’m sure).

The awesome new finds include a flame-patterned lizard, a frog the size of your thumbnail, a 9-pound vegetarian piranha, a snake they named after a character from The Lost World, a pink orchid – and, of course, the Callicebus caquentensis monkey, which purrs when contented.

That is wonderful…and surely it gives us reasons to protect this world we live in, we have to save the purring monkeys.

Well what are you reading and thinking about today? Go ahead and share with us down in the comments and have a happy Halloween eve.


Final Girls Get Medieval…an open thread

Foreign poster for Rosemary's Baby

Foreign poster for Rosemary’s Baby

Good Evening

Hey, I have wanted to get back to writing the evening read threads…last night Dak beat me to it. Tonight here is a quick post on a the topic of women…horror flicks and medieval queenship.

First a video treat, a little tribute to some of those favorite Final Girls from horror movies past. A Video Tribute to Horror’s Best ‘Final Girls’ — Vulture

If you’re a lady and you’re in a horror flick, there’s no higher honor than being the Final Girl. It’s a title reserved for a female character who outlives her companions, takes on the big bad killer, and kicks his/her/its butt into oblivion (or at least into the next sequel). Film theorist Carol J. Clover coined the term in 1992, but Final Girls have been wielding knives, running through hallways, and delivering killing blows since at least the seventies. With Halloween around the corner, we put together this rockin’ tribute to some of Hollywood’s greatest Final Girls, from Jamie Lee Curtis to Neve Campbell and beyond. Stab on, ladies!

Go to the link and check it out…I think they are missing a few whack jobs, but it is fun to watch.

Next up, this blog post about how fashion icon Edith Head influenced the Hitchcock Heroine and later, the fashion of today. From the GlamAmor blog:  Interview with ELLE CANADA on Influence of the Hitchcock Heroine + Film Noir Style | GlamAmor

To those who follow GlamAmor, it will come as no surprise that the style of film noir and the Hitchcock Heroine act as ongoing influences in fashion.  Edith Head, costume designer extraordinaire best known for her work with Alfred Hitchcock, is a hero of mine and huge influence on my own style. Rear Window was an absolute vision to me (and many others) and Edith followed it with more iconic work such as To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, and The Birds.  Edith and Hitchcock had a near perfect partnership for their similar visions of style–clean lines, tailored fit, and controlled pops of color.  Though femininity was becoming much more overt and revealing in the 1950s, both felt that suggestions of sex should be subtle and left largely to the imagination.

That is just the first paragraph, go see the rest at the link….cool pictures too.

And finally…from Medieval.net: Queenship in Medieval Europe, by Theresa Earenfight

An excerpt from Queenship in Medieval Europe:

The hundreds of articles and books published since 1993 clearly show that far from being ancillary, queens were fundamental to the smooth running of a realm. A queen was more than just a ruler or a mother, so much so that she needed an adjective to clarify precisely who she was and what she did. A queen who governed in her own right might be called ‘female king’, ‘sole queen’, or a ‘female monarch’ who exercised ‘kingly power’ or ‘regal power’, or an ‘autonomous monarch’. She was a queen-consort when she married a king, a queen-mother when she bore his children, a queen-regent when she governed for or with her husband and possessed ‘female sovereignty’. When her husband died, she was queen-dowager. To complicate matters, a queen could be some, or all, in sequence or simultaneously.

Only a regnant queen or empress stood alone. All other queens stood beside a king. A queen-consort’s proximity to the king was central to her identity and all that she did as queen. When she was physically where the king was, his acts and decisions could be approved, mediated, or contended by the queen – because custom and tradition accepted that the queen was a partner in governing the realm, no matter what form the partnership took. As a regent or lieutenant, she stood in his place while he was physically elsewhere. A queen was a nexus between a king and his subjects, a symbol of how royal dynasty can create social cohesion and form alliances.

But, just as queens embodied the unity of realm or people, they also embodied the same forces – family, foreign birth – that might tear that unity apart. It was a precarious spot, situated both inside and outside official power, that placed queens-consort in a perilous position during a crisis. They were easy scapegoats for disgruntled enemies, or for anyone more interested in self-protection than guarding the realm or the royal family. There is no more vivid sign of the power of proximity than when a king orders the exile or imprisonment of a queen.

That is an excerpt from a book Queenship in Medieval Europe | Theresa Earenfight | Macmillan If you look on the Medieval.net link you can see a coupon code for 20% off…in case anyone is looking for something to read on these chilly fall nights.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Liberals, Libertarians, and Concern Trolls

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Morning!!

Between the Red Sox being in the World Series and having to have a root canal on Saturday, I’ve been a little bit disconnected from politics. The Sox won again last night in St. Louis, and they’ll be coming back home to Fenway Park leading the series 3 games to 2; so they could end it tomorrow night. If this post is a little late, my aching jaw and baseball are the reasons why.

We’ve been talking a lot about libertarians lately, because so-called progressives have been aligning with those Ayn Rand fans since libertarian Edward Snowden began leaking top secret documents about the NSA and libertarian Glenn Greenwald began lecturing the world about what a great hero Snowden is for defecting to Russia and revealing the most secret counterintelligence methods of the U.S. and U.K.

The latest shameful episode was Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, at which supposedly “progressive” groups joined with anti-woman right-wingers like Justin Amash and neo-confederates like Ron and Rand Paul to protest the NSA doing its job of collecting foreign intelligence.

Before the rally took place, Tom Watson wrote a heartfelt column warning “progressives” that libertarians don’t make good bedfellows. Watson wrote that while he dislikes mass surveillance,

I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.

The Libertarian Party itself — inaccurately described by Stop Watching Us as a “public advocacy organization” — is a right-wing political party that opposes all gun control lawsand public healthcaresupported the government shutdowndismisses public education,opposes organized labor, favors the end of Social Security as we know it, and argues in its formal political manifesto that “we should eliminate the entire social welfare system” while supporting “unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”

Yet my progressive friends would take the stage with the representatives of this political movement? Why? The loss is much greater than the gain. Organizers trade their own good names and reputations to stand alongside — and convey legitimacy to — a party that opposes communitarian participation in liberal society, and rejects the very role of government itself. And their own argument for privacy is weakened by the pollution of an ideology that uses its few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child.

This is an abandonment of core principles, in my view, out of anger over Edward Snowden’s still-recent revelations about the National Security Agency and its spying activity, particularly domestic access to telephone and online networks and metadata. It represents trading long-held beliefs in social and economic justice for a current hot-button issue that — while clearly of concern to all Americans — doesn’t come close to trumping a host of other issues areas that require “the long game” of electoral politics and organizing. Going “all in” with the libertarian purists is a fatal and unnecessary compromise; reform is clearly needed, but the presence of anti-government laissez-faire wingers at the beating heart of the privacy movement will surely sour the very political actors that movement desperately needs to make actual — and not symbolic, link bait — progress in its fight.

But it was to no avail. Watson was attacked for his argument that the anti-surveillance fever is distracting from other important issues. People like Greenwald and Snowden couldn’t possibly care less about alleviating poverty, protecting women’s rights or the right to vote. They’d have no problem with Social Security and Medicare being eliminated, and as for voting, they’re anti-government anyway. Glenn Greenwald–whom some uninformed people believe is a “progressive,” saves his worst attacks for Democrats and in the past has supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson for president. To Greenwald, sacrificing the entire legacy of FDR and the civil rights and women’s movements is no big deal. Here’s how he characterized the values of liberals who reject Ron Paul in 2011:

Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

Of course, Greenwald is admitting that he’d sacrifice the social safety net and the rights of millions of Americans in a hopeless effort to defeat the military-industrial complex and its technologies. If you can stand to read the whole piece, you’ll also learn that Greenwald thinks Matt Stoller is a “brilliant” writer. Greenwald is a libertarian purist, with no understanding of how politics actually works. This is the pied piper that many “progressives” are following these days.

I guess I’m getting a little carried away here, so I’ll stop ranting and offer some pertinent links.

Read the rest of this entry »


A little Night Humor

vintage-civil-war-poster-of-general-ulysses-s-grant-on-horseback,1158009

We frequently complain about the media’s coverage of politics here.  Most of us also have websites and sources that we laugh at.   Politico often brings out a number articles that cause us to groan, do frantic face palms, and complain.  So,this is good.

What If POLITICO Had Covered the Civil War?Playbook, Emancipation Day Edition

….

WEST-WING MINDMELD: This shows a direct, decisive president, something that will improve Lincoln’s ability to get his agenda through Congress

FORMER GEN.-IN-CHIEF GEORGE MCCLELLAN, on MORNING JEHOSEPHAT: Lincoln has flip-flopped once again on emancipation…. Washington politicians are doing an end run around the Constitution… I think we need less polarization and divisiveness during a civil war. A leader needs to stand up to extremists and reach out across the aisle. Lincoln has not led.” 1864 TEA LEAVES: “I am not ruling anything out, but I’m not ruling anything in.”

PLAY-BOOK FACTS OF LIFE: If the president can convince the public that he emancipated slaves simply to preserve the union, the story will blow over. If it emerges that he actually issued the proclamation because he believes involuntary bondage is an immoral affront to human dignity, we could be looking at months of hearings.

FLASHBACK: “I am not, nor have ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.” –Lincoln, IL-SEN debate, 1858

,,,

Yup.  That would be about right.

beck-cartoon