Thursday Reads

twitter-zombies

Good Morning!!

Tomorrow is Halloween, but the real horror will probably come next Tuesday when Republicans are predicted to take control of the Senate.

What will happen after that? Will they actually accomplish something, or will they just keep blocking everything President Obama tries to do? Even more horrifying, we may not know the makeup of the Senate for sure until next year, because two close races–in Georgia and Louisiana–will likely end up in runoffs.

Steven Brill at Reuters: Why Election Day won’t hold the answer to who will control the Senate for the next two years.

I’m not only thinking about the possibility that two close races — in Louisiana and Georgia — could end up requiring runoffs. If candidates do not get more than 50 percent of the vote because fringe opponents siphon off votes from the pair running neck and neck, Louisiana’s runoff would be in December and Georgia’s not until Jan. 6, 2015.

The uncertainty that’s more intriguing is that even after those runoffs, if they happen, there might be three independent senators who could swing the majority to one party or the other.

One, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, is a staunch liberal who will certainly cast his lot with the Democrats, as he has in the past. But Maine independent Angus King has not said for sure that he will continue to caucus with Democrats. And Kansas’s Greg Orman, an independent businessman who is locked in a tight race with incumbent Republican Pat Roberts, has steadfastly refused to say which party he would vote with.

Another longer-shot wild card is former Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota. He is also running has an independent, but his rise in the polls has subsided recently.

One can only imagine what Orman and King will be promised by both sides if one or both become swing votes. Beyond that, there is a Democratic senator in a red state (John Tester in Montana) and even one or two moderate Republicans in a blue state and a swing state (Mark Kirk in Illinois and Susan Collins in Maine) who might be persuaded to flip.

But most of the so-called experts are predicting we’ll ultimately be stuck with a Republican-controlled Congress. Larry Sabato, Kyle Londik, and Geoffrey Skelley write at Politico: Bet on a GOP Senate.

While many races remain close, it’s just getting harder and harder to envision a plausible path for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Ultimately, with just a few days to go before the election, the safe bet would be on Republicans eventually taking control of the upper chamber.

Generally speaking, candidates who have leads of three points or more in polling averages are in solid shape to win, but in this election five states—Republican-held Georgia and Kansas, and Democratic-held Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina—feature a Senate race where both of the two major polling averages (RealClearPolitics and HuffPost Pollster) show the leading candidate with an edge of smaller than three points.

 What makes the Democrats’ situation so precarious is that Republicans have polling leads of more than three points in five other states, all of which are currently held by Democrats: Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Two others, Democratic-held Alaska and Colorado, show Republicans leading in both averages, but by more than three points in just one. (These averages are as of the afternoon of Oct. 29.)

Citizen-Kang_458

Read it and weep folks. On the other hand, Tarini Parti, also at Politico, points out that this is “[t]he most wide-open Senate election in a decade.”

It’s the largest and most wide-open Senate battlefield in more than a decade: ten races, all neck-and-neck affairs headed into the final days of the campaign.

And it’s not only that there are more competitive races this time around; it’s how close they are that has made the 2014 midterms different from previous cycles. The 10 close contests this year are all separated by 5 points or less, according to RealClearPolitics polling averages as of Tuesday….

Republicans have an edge in more than half of the competitive races, based on RCP averages, and are favored to gain control of the Senate. But many races across the country remain too close — with more contests coming down to the wire than in recent election cycles.

Based on interviews with a dozen operatives on both sides of the state of play, some of these tight races do lean toward one party or the other. Republicans — who need a net gain of six seats to win control of the chamber — are perhaps most confident about their chances in Arkansas, largely dismiss any trouble in Kentucky and remain somewhat nervous about Kansas. After a brief moment of panic in South Dakota, the state, along with West Virginia and Montana, is back to being considered safe for the GOP, as Virginia, Oregon and Michigan are thought to be solid for the Democrats.

At the outset of the cycle, Democrats saw Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina as their firewall against a GOP takeover. Today, those races are neck and neck — and Republicans are even bullish about their chances in New Hampshire. There remains some uncertainty among Republicans about Alaska, despite Republican Dan Sullivan’s edge in polls, because of a superior Democratic ground game and the difficulty of polling the state.

It all adds up to an unusually jumbled puzzle less than a week before Election Day. In 2010, Republicans won just three of the eight tight races — despite their national wave. But in 2006, Democrats won all five of the closest races.

It’s really going to come down to turnout, and Democrats are traditionally better at that. So there’s always a chance. Let’s face it, Republicans have done very well at blocking Obama’s initiatives and appointments throughout his presidency. No matter what happens on Tuesday, we have to elect a Democrat to the White House in 2016.

Finally, Reid Wilson at The Washington Post writes that this “[e]lection could tip historic number of legislatures into Republican hands.”

Again, what will a Republican Senate accomplish? The consensus of the pundits seems to be that they’ll do very little. A few predictions:

John Dickerson at Slate: “Republican victories will prove the president is unpopular. They won’t give Republicans a mandate to govern.”

Danny Vinik at The New Republic: Republicans Have Big Plans for a GOP Senate. Here’s What Will Come of Them: Nothing.

Paul Waldman at the WaPo: Republicans will probably take the Senate. Here’s why it will be a nightmare for them.

Republican Zombies and Democratic Vampires

On a lighter note, I came across some Halloween-themed comparisons between Democrats and Republicans from a few years back. From a blog called Entertained Organizer, Movie Monsters and Political Parties: A Spotters Guide to America’s Psyche.

A good friend and colleague of mine recently sent me a link to the Cracked.com article “6 Mind-Blowing Ways Zombies and Vampires Explain America.”  Basically, the article looks at the bizarre fact that Zombie movies are more likely to be made under Republican Presidents and Vampire movies are more likely to be made under Democratic Presidents, and argues rather persuasively it’s that each monster represents the cultures fears of the Party in power.  Here’s a chart from the original article at Cracked.com.

Chart zombies and vampires

 

The Cracked.com articles argument for why Zombies embody the country’s worst fears of Republicans is pretty simple.  They’re mindless killing machines (see President George W. Bush).  They have a rabid pack mentality leading them to consume (see anyone who seems to believe “The Free Market” and “God” are synonyms).  And they’re bent on destroying minorities (the living).  Now of course I have absolutely no idea where any of those ideas about Republicans came from, and am frankly shocked that anyone might think those things about our Conservative Opponents.

Cracked.com’s argument for why Vampires pique conservatives fears of Democrats is even simpler.  Vampires are murderous immigrants from foreign sounding places like Transylvania (or Mexico).  Once they arrive, vampires start seducing everyone pretty much indiscriminately as symbols of carnal lust (you think they tried to impeach Clinton over an affair? Nope, Vampire).  And of course, more than anything, Vampires are leeches.  Sure Dracula is after your blood and Democrats are after your tax dollars but in the Howard Jarvis Republican Party, I’m pretty sure taxes are scarier than bleeding out.

evil-republicans-pic

The author then goes on to identify other parties by the movie monsters they represent: Green Party = Werewolves; The American Independent/Constitution Party = Pod People; Lyndon LaRouche Supporters = The Creature from the Black Lagoon; Libertarians = Mummies.

And did you know that horror writer HP Lovecraft had some choice words for the Republican zombies? From Before It’s News:

“As for the Republicans—–how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.”

Street Harassment Follow-Up

A couple of days ago a video of a woman being harassed on the streets of New York City went viral. Dakinikat posted it in a comment on Tuesday, and JJ put it in her post yesterday. I found some interesting follow-up articles about the video that I want to share.

Here’s the video again:

At Slate, Hanna Rosin called attention to something I wondered about while I was watching the video. Where were the white men?

On Tuesday, Slate and everyone else posted a video of a woman who is harassed more than 100 times by men as she walks around New York City for ten hours. More specifically, it’s a video of a young white woman who is harassed by mostly black and Latino men as she walks around  New York City for ten hours. The one dude who turns around and says, “Nice,” is white, but the guys who do the most egregious things—like the one who harangues her, “Somebody’s acknowledging you for being beautiful! You should say thank you more,” or the one who follows her down the street too closely for five whole minutes—are not.

This doesn’t mean that the video doesn’t still effectively make its point, that a woman can’t walk down the street lost in her own thoughts, that men feel totally free to demand her attention and get annoyed when she doesn’t respond, that women can’t be at ease in a public space in the same way men can. But the video also unintentionally makes another point, that harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break. As Roxane Gay tweeted, “The racial politics of the video are fucked up. Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?”

Here’s the supposed explanation:

The video is a collaboration between Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment organization, and the marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative. At the end they claim the woman experienced 100 plus incidents of harassment “involving people of all backgrounds.” Since that obviously doesn’t show up in the video, Bliss addressed it in a post. He wrote, “we got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera” or was ruined by a siren or other noise. The final product, he writes, “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.” That may be true but if you find yourself editing out all the catcalling white guys, maybe you should try another take.

But Rosin notes that Bliss has had similar issues in the past.

This is not the first time Bliss has been called out for race blindness. In a video to promote Grand Rapids, Michigan, he was criticized for making a city that’s a third minority and a quarter poor look like it was filled with people who have “been reincarnated from those peppy family-style 1970s musical acts from Disney World or Knott’s Berry Farm,” as a local blogger wrote.

Activism is never perfectly executed. We can just conclude that they caught a small slice of catcallers and lots of other men do it too. But if the point of this video is to teach men about the day-to-day reality of women, then this video doesn’t hit its target.

Jessical Williams

Rosin recommends a video from Jessica Williams of The Daily Show. I watched it, and it’s terrific–plus it’s funny. Check it out.

On a more serious note, CNN reports that the woman in the viral video has been getting rape and death threats.

What started as an expose of the harassment women face in public has turned into fodder for death- and rape threats against the woman in the viral video….

“My nonverbal cues were saying, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ No eye contact. No friendly demeanor,” she said. “But they were ignoring my nonverbal cues.”

Roberts said the video is an accurate depiction of what she faces daily. For instance, there was a time when her grandfather died “and someone told me that they liked the way I looked.”

“It is all day long. It is every day,” she said. “That’s a typical day… It doesn’t matter what you wear.”

The 10 hours of footage was edited down to a 1:56 public service announcement for the anti-street harassment group Hollaback! It was shot by filmmaker Rob Bliss, who was wearing a hidden camera in his backpack.

“I have multiple experiences of sexual assault, which is why I wanted to be involved in this project,” Roberts said in a separate interview with HLN.

Also at CNN, Todd Leopold sort of misses the point, and wonders how men should approach women on the street. He quotes a 2010 piece by a woman named Katie Baker:

“There’s a huge difference between harassing a woman and trying to start a conversation,” she wrote. “Here are some tips: talk to her, not at her. Treat her with respect: be aware of her personal space, ask her how she’s doing or what she’s reading instead of commenting on her body parts, look at her face instead of her chest. If she ignores you, drops eye contact, or walks away, back off.

“It wasn’t rude of you to approach her, but she’s not being rude if she doesn’t want to keep talking to you, especially if you initiated conversation while she was running an errand, waiting for the bus, or on her computer at a coffee shop.”

But why do men feel they need to approach strange women at all? What if women did that to men?

Leopold also calls attention to a different kind of street harassment.

On the Reddit thread, which has drawn more than 6,500 comments, one man observed that lack of respect knows no gender.

“As a fat guy who once walked around NYC for a day sightseeing I got so many comments,” he wrote. “‘Lose weight, ass***e!’ ‘Hey fatty want me to buy you a hot dog?’ ‘Hey kill yourself you fat f***’ I would have been happy with just a ‘good morning.’ “

 Personally, as I love to say “hello” to strangers out in public. I’m a Midwesterner by birth, and that’s just how we are–friendly and open. Usually they seem to like it, but if people ignore me, I don’t take offense.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread, and have a nice Thursday and a great Halloween!


Lazy Saturday Reads: The Psychology of Horror

Boris Karloff

Good Morning!!

This is the time of year when lots of people get the urge to watch old horror movies, and I’m one of them. Actually, I love horror movies any time of year, but October is when the TV programmers provide the most opportunities for horror fans to indulge their cravings.

I love to watch old Hitchcock movies like Psycho and The Birds. They never seem to get old. And then there are the cheesy slasher movies like Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth that are still kind of fun to sample this time of year.

I love George Romero’s classic zombie films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, and dystopian films from the 1950s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’ve enjoyed more recent zombie classics too–28 Days Later comes to mind. Old creature features are fun too–have you ever seen Them? It’s a 1954 film about giant ants in the New Mexico desert created by radiation from atomic tests.

Of course there are plenty of new horror offerings these days too. Dakinikat recommended a couple of TV shows that I plan to try over this long weekend: American Horror Story on FX and Z Nation on the Syfy Channel. These days there is plenty of real-life horror going on, so I don’t know why so many people like to escape into horror films and TV shows, but it seems they do. There’s also The Walking Dead on AMC. I watched the first season, but kind of lost interest after that because I find the characters so unlikable.

It’s interesting that zombies and vampires have been very much in vogue in the 21st Century. Why is that? Do they somehow reflect our culture like the movies of the 1950s and ’60s seemed to comment on the cold war and fears of nuclear disaster?

Anyway, since it’s Saturday and long weekend (Monday is Columbus Day, a horror story in itself), I’m going to devote this post to the psychology of horror–why are some of us so drawn to it? Believe it or not, psychologists have systematically studied this. Here’s a survey article published in The Psychologist, a UK psychology magazine: The Lure of Horror (pdf). There’s an easier-to-read version here.

Fear coils in your stomach and clutches at your heart. It’s an unpleasant emotion we usually do our best to avoid. Yet across the world and through time people have been drawn irresistibly to stories designed to scare them. Writers like Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker continue to haunt the popular consciousness. Far longer ago, listeners sat mesmerised by violent, terrifying tales like Beowulf and Homer’s Odyssey.

‘If you go to your video store and rent a comedy from Korea, it’s not going to make any sense to you at all,’ says literature scholar Mathias Clasen based at Aarhus University, ‘whereas if you rent a local horror movie from Korea you’ll instantaneously know not just that it’s a horror movie, but you’ll have a physiological reaction to it, indicative of the genre.’

hitchcock-reads-book

So horror is a universal language recognized by our brains?

Clasen believes the timeless, cross-cultural appeal of horror fiction says something important about humans, and in turn, insights from evolutionary psychology can make sense of why horror takes the form it does. ‘You can use horror fiction and its lack of historical and cultural variance as an indication that there is such a thing as human nature,’ he says.

This nature of ours is one that has been shaped over millennia to be afraid, but not just of anything. Possibly our ancestors’ greatest fear was that they might become a feast for a carnivorous predator. As science writer David Quammen has put it, ‘among the earliest forms of human self-awareness was the awareness of being meat’. There’s certainly fossil evidence to back this up, suggesting that early hominids were preyed on by carnivores and that they scavenged from the kill sites of large felines, and vice versa. Modern-day hunter-gatherers, such as the Aché foragers in Paraguay, still suffer high mortality rates from snakes and feline attacks.

Such threats have left their marks on our cognitive development. Research by Nobuo Masataka and others shows that children as young as three are especially fast at spotting snakes, as opposed to flowers, on a computer screen, and all the more so when those snakes are poised to strike. Modern-day threats, such as cars and guns, do not grab the attention in this way. That we’re innately fearful of atavistic threats is known as ‘prepared learning’. Another study published just this year by Christof Koch and his team has shown how the right amygdala, a brain region involved in fear learning, responds more vigorously to the sight of animals than to other pictures such as of people, landmarks or objects.

Viewing the content of horror fiction through the prism of evolutionary evidence and theory, it’s no surprise that the overriding theme of many tales is that the characters are at risk of being eaten. ‘Do we have many snakes or snake-like creatures or giant serpents in horror fiction?’ Clasen asks. ‘Yes we do: look at Tremors – they were really just very big snakes with giant fangs’. In fact, many horror books and movie classics feature oversized carnivorous predators, including James Herbert’s The Rats, Shaun Hutson’s Slugs, Cat People, King Kong, and the Jaws franchise, to name but a few. Where the main threat is a humanoid predator, he or she will often be armed with over-sized claws (Freddie Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street) or an insatiable taste for human flesh (e.g. Hannibal Lecter in the 1981 novel Red Dragon).

Vince Price reads

Still, horror is a minority taste. Why are some people–like me–so attracted to it, while others are simply grossed out?

Who are these people who pay out money to be scared? A meta-analysis of 35 relevant articles, by Cynthia Hoffner and Kenneth Levine published in 2005 in Media Psychology, highlights the principal relevant traits: affective response; empathy; sensation seeking; aggressiveness; gender; and age.

The more negative affect a person reports experiencing during horror, the more likely they are to say that they enjoy the genre. Media experts like Dolf Zillmann make sense of this apparent contradiction as a kind of conversion process, whereby the pleasure comes from the relief that follows once characters escape danger. This explanation struggles to account for the appeal of slasher films, in which most characters are killed. Part of the answer must lie with meta-emotion – the way we interpret the emotional feelings we’re experiencing, with some people finding pleasure in fright. Another possibility is that, for some, pleasure is derived from the sense that film victims are being punished for what the viewer considers to be their immoral behaviour. Consistent with this, a 1993 study by Mary Oliver found that male high school viewers who endorsed traditional views on female sexuality (e.g. ‘it’s okay for men to have sex before marriage, but not women’), were more likely to enjoy horror movie clips, especially if they involved a female victim portrayed with her lover.

Other findings: people with low self-reported levels of empathy and younger people tend to be more attracted to horror. Neither of those explains my interest–I score high on empathy, and I’m an old lady. So what’s my problem?! Maybe I just never really grew up?

Read much more at the link. Since it’s a scholarly article, there are references to research articles too.

Here’s another interesting article at Filmmaker IQ: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SCARY MOVIES.

There’s something about horror that speaks directly and instinctively to the human animal. Millions of years of evolutionary psychology have ingrained in our minds certain fear triggers – a survival instinct – Fear of the Dark where predatory animals might be laying in wait – Fear of animals with large sharp teeth who would make a quick meal of us. Fear of Poisonous Spiders who can kill with one bite. So ingrained into our developmental psychology that research done by Nobuo Masataka show that children as young as three have an easier time spotting snakes on a computer screen than they do spotting flowers. Research by Christof Koch show that the right amygydala, the portion of the brain associated with fear learning, responds more vigorously to images of animals than to images of people, landmarks or objects even though those are much more dangerous in our civilized world.

This may explain the shape of our movie monsters: creatures with sharp teeth or snake like appearance. The fear of being eaten alive also explains the cannabilistic traits of human monsters like Dracula and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

But brain scan research in 2010 by Thomas Straube at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena show that scary movies don’t actually activate fear responses in the amygdala at all. Instead, it was other parts of the brain that were firing – the visual cortex – the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information, the insular cortex- self awareness, the thalamus -the relay switch between brain hemispheres, and the dorsal-medial prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with planning, attention, and problem solving.

So we’re not really being scared at the movies – at least not necessarily in the brain chemistry way… what’s going on?

dracula reads

Three things, according to Dr. Glenn D. Walters.

The first is tension – created through mystery, suspense, gore, terror, or shock. This is pretty straight forward elements of horror, the craft and technique of filmmaking.

The second factor is relevance. In order for a horror film to be seen, it has to be relevant to potential viewers. This relevance can take the form of universal relevance – capturing the universal fear of things like death and the unknown, it can take on cultural relevance dealing with societal issues. Audiences can find subgroup relevance – groups like teenagers which many horror films are about. Lastly, there’s personal relevance – either in a way that identifies with the protagonist or in a way that condemns the antagonists or victims to their ultimate fate.

The last factor, which may be the most counter intuitive is unrealism. Despite the graphic nature of recent horror films, we all know at some level that what we are watching is not real. Haidt, McCauley and Rozin conducted research on disgust, showing students in 1994 a series of gruesome documentary videos… few could make it to the end – and yet these same students would pay to see even worse acts conducted on a movie screen. Why? Perhaps its because when we walk into a theater we know what we’re seeing on screen is fabricated reality. Movies are edited from multiple camera angles with soundtracks and sometimes horror is tempered and made palatable with black humor – a sly wink that what you’re seeing on screen isn’t real. This also explains why we all remember that scary movie we saw when we were way too young but looks hokey now. Children have a harder time separating reality and fiction especially when its on a movie screen.

There’s much more to the article, including a brief summary of “8 incomplete theories on our attraction to horror.”

One eminent psychologist, Joseph LeDoux, a professor at NYU, has a particular interest in emotion and the brain and more specifically fear and the amygdala. Here’s the intro to a brief interview with him at Cognitive Neuroscience:

With Halloween around the corner, fear may be on your mind. As a basic emotion, fear develops when we react to an immediate danger.

Understanding exactly how our brains detect and respond to such danger has been a goal of Joseph LeDoux of the Center for Neural Science at New York University for much of his career. His pioneering work on “fear conditioning,” which he now calls “threat conditioning,” revealed the neurological pathways through which we react to threats.

This Pavlovian-type conditioning uses a neutral stimulus like an auditory tone at the same time as a painful event, and over time, this tone becomes associated with the discomfort and can trigger a fear response in the brain, specifically the amygdala. The neural processing in the amygdala causes chemical processes in the brain cells that lead to our natural defenses in the face of a threat – whether a spider or a robber.

LeDoux’s work has not only contributed to our understanding of these processes but also to ways we can work to overcome pathological fears, including through work on memory and fear.

Read the interview at the link. And here is an audio interview with LeDoux at ConstructingHorror.com.

died laughing

LeDoux told the LA Times in October 2013 that intense emotions like fear stimulate the brain.

Arousing situations, “whether joyful or frightful, juice up the brain,” says Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist and director of New York University’s Emotional Brain Institute and author of “The Emotional Brain.”

Horror movies energize the system: Hearts pump faster, blood pressure rises and dopamine releases, as does norepinephrine (which readies the body for flight-or-fight response) and endorphins (which kill pain), Fanselow says.

But experts agree that children’s brains are too vulnerable for scary movies.

And some adults are vulnerable too. “There have been case reports of people having stress symptoms after watching ‘The Exorcist,’ ” says Richard J. McNally, a Harvard psychology professor. “But these folks already had histories of mental disorders and thus were vulnerable.”

And many people want nothing to do with Halloween frights. “Genetics, epigenetics, upbringing and all the other individual experiences they’ve had probably all contribute,” LeDoux says. “It’s a matter of degree.”

Read more about the effects of horror on the brain at the LA Times link.

A few more horror links:

The Atlantic, Horror-Movie Marathon: The Brilliant, Not-So-Scary Classics.

The Atlantic, How Clowns Became Terrifying.

People Magazine, From It to American Horror Story: 13 of the Creepiest Clowns in Pop Culture History.

What Culture, 10 Best Horror Movies Of 2014 Ranked.

Rolling Stone, Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Horror Movies of All Time.

The Washington Post, The sums of all fear: Horror makes a Hollywood comeback.

The Verge, Check out this gorgeous limited edition art for 13 classic horror movies.

So . . . are you a horror fan? If so, what are your favorite horror movies and books? Why do you think you enjoy them? If you’re not a fan, why do you think that is?

Of course you should feel free to post links to real-life horrors or even good news stories if you can find them!

 

 

 

 


Late Night: Friday the 13th

Good Evening!

In case you hadn’t noticed, today is Friday the 13th. Therefore, this post has a horror theme. Lately I’ve been feeling that the news has become a horror show anyway, what with the candidates for President–Horrendously-Horrible (Mitt Romney) and Slightly-Less-Horrible (Barack Obama)–and the ongoing war on women and the war on the poor and middle class.  So why not wallow in horror on this supposedly unlucky day?

First up, where did the idea that Friday the 13th is unlucky come from? I found a 2004 article at National Geographic that offers some background from Donald Dossey, a psychologist who treats phobias and is also a folklorist. He says that the Friday the 13 phobia is based on ancient mythology.

Dossey traces the fear of 13 to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.

“Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day,” said Dossey. From that moment on, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding.

There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.

Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.

A number of other experts are quoted in the article as well, if you’re interested.

Today Mitt Romney gave a speech to the National Rifle Association. If there’s anything to the Friday the 13th myth, perhaps bad luck will come to both Romney and the NRA. One can only hope. Naturally Romney, who used to be pro-gun control, is now claiming to be the ultimate Second Amendment wacko. From HuffPo: You’ll Have To Pry Mitt’s Gun From His Warm, Probably Manicured Hands.

WILLARD, A FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR, IS JUST CRAZY ABOUT GUNS – Can’t get enough of ’em! Mike Sacks: “Speaking at the NRA national convention in St. Louis on Friday, likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney warned that re-electing President Barack Obama would lead to an ‘unrestrained’ assault on freedom with decades of repercussions. Romney, whose record on gun rights is hardly rock-ribbed, tried to convince a skeptical audience that he would fight for its interests upon entering the Oval Office. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney in 2004 extended the state’s ban on assault weapons and small handguns. Less than a year later, however, he designated May 7 “Rights to Bear Arms” day in Massachusetts and became a lifetime member of the NRA. ‘The right to bear arms is so plainly stated, so unambiguous, that liberals have a hard time challenging it directly. Instead, they’ve been employing every imaginable ploy to restrict it,’ Romney said.”

Romney claimed that “re-electing President Barack Obama would lead to an “unrestrained” assault on freedom with decades of repercussions” despite the fact (Romney doesn’t believe in facts) that Obama has done absolutely nothing to promote gun control. In fact, in 2008, Obama showed himself to be a better friend of the NRA than Romney ever was.

Romney’s statement refers to the fact that if re-elected, Obama may have the opportunity to appoint up to three justices, including filling the seats of two justices — Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, both turning 76 this year — who were in the court’s 5-4 decision establishing an individual right to keep and bear arms for self defense in the home.

Responding to the landmark 2008 case that first articulated the individual right, Obama applauded the ruling. “As president, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen,” he said in a statement just as his campaign against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was heating up.

See? Horribly Horrible vs. Slightly Less Horrible.

Here’s a little of what Charlie Pierce had to say today about Willard’s NRA performance:

I have come to conclusion that the key to understanding Willard Romney, foof-dauphin of the Republican party, is to understand an old vaudeville joke. (This is the key to understanding many things, as Woody Allen demonstrated in Annie Hall.) Two women are sitting at a bar. One talks like the young Lauren Bacall. The other one talks like a duck. When the bartender talks to the former, he sounds like Clark Gable. When he talks to the latter, he talks like a duck. The second woman gets fed up. “Are you making fun of me?” she quacks at the bartender.

“No, ma’am,” he quacks in reply. “I’m making fun of her.”

Having lived in the Commonwealth (God Save it!) under the barely perceptable leadership of Governor Willard, I have spent the campaign wondering if the Governor Willard is the sham or Candidate Willard is the sham. I wonder no longer. He wasn’t making fun of them. He was making fun of us.

He’s gone so fully wingnut that the only conclusion that any of we veteran Romneybot watchers can come to is that his whole governorship here was a riff. He’s shucked off all the “moderate” camouflage that so fooled us that it can never have been stuck to him that solidly. Take today, for example. He went and spoke to the National Rifle Association and he vigorously stroked that group’s most deeply masturbatory fantasies…

That was followed by quotes from Romney’s ludicrous speech.

This week notorious murderer Charles Manson came up for parole for the 12th time and once again his petition was denied.

A prison panel denied parole Wednesday to mass murderer Charles Manson in his 12th and probably final bid for freedom.

Manson, now a gray-bearded, 77-year-old, did not attend the hearing where the parole board ruled he had shown no efforts to rehabilitate himself and would not be eligible for parole for another 15 years.

“This panel can find nothing good as far as suitability factors go,” said John Peck, a member of the panel that met at Corcoran State Prison in Central California.

Also playing heavily into the board’s decision was something Manson had said recently to one of his prison psychologists that Peck read aloud.

“‘I’m special. I’m not like the average inmate,'” Peck said. “‘I have spent my life in prison. I have put five people in the grave. I am a very dangerous man.'”

Charles Manson and Matthew Roberts

But what about the children that Manson fathered during his few years of freedom in the late 1960’s? What has become of them? One young man who claims to be Manson’s son has been in the news again this week.

Matthew Roberts, 44 — who says he was conceived at a San Francisco orgy attended by Manson in 1967 — is worried that two inconclusive DNA tests were his last hope to confirm whether his father is the infamous cult leader, CNN’s Miguel Marquez reports….

Roberts says that unless he sees “somebody scrape a piece of skin off [Manson’s] ass and bring it to a lab,” he can’t be sure if Manson is his father, he told CNN….

Roberts, whose mother put him up for adoption shortly after he was born, tried twice to confirm his true identity with DNA tests. But the results revealed that Manson’s samples were contaminated. The New York Post reported that even Roberts’ mother admits her son bears a striking resemblance to the incarcerated murderer.

It’s well known that Manson fathered several children while living with his followers at Spahn Ranch near Death Valley. Here’s a site with some research on where those children are now.

What could be worse than being one of Charles Manson’s offspring? How about being the child of Adolf Hitler?

The results of new testing support the story of a French man who said he was the illegitimate and only child of the German dictator.

Jean-Marie Loret had said his mother told him that she and a young Hitler dated while he was stationed in Northern France during World War I and she was a teenager.

Before Loret died in 1985, he shared his story with a lawyer; the sensational and history-defying details of that conversation — plus new evidence to support the claim — were just published in the French magazine Le Point. Loret also wrote a book titled “Your Father’s Name Was Hitler” in 1981….

Loret says his mother first revealed the identity of his father in the 1950s, triggering the kind of reaction you’d expect from someone who just learned their father was a genocide-perpetuating mass murderer and one of the most awful people in history.

“In order not to get depressed, I worked non-stop, never took a holiday, and had no hobbies. For twenty years I didn’t even go to the cinema,” he wrote in his book.

Loret had a son named Philipe and six other children. One day as the family was sitting at the dinner table,

“Suddenly my father said, ‘Kids, I’ve got something to tell you. Your grandfather is Adolf Hitler’, ” explains Philippe.

“There was stunned silence as no one knew what to say. We didn’t know how to react.”

That was 40 years ago, yet there is a sense that Philippe, 56, still doesn’t know how to react.

He has never spoken out about that conversation or the fact he may be the grandson of the most infamous dictator in history.

A former plumber for the plumber largo fl at the French air force, he has kept it a secret from all but his closest friends, never telling his colleagues or even his partner’s family.

Closer to home, the American Nazi Party now has a registered lobbyist representing them in Washington, DC.

John Bowles, the National Socialist Movement’s presidential nominee in 2008, registered Tuesday, U.S. News and World Report notes. He stated on his registration form that he intends to lobby on the issues of “political rights and ballot access laws.”

Asked by U.S. News and World Report if he thought an avowed Nazi would actually be able to secure meetings with politicians, Bowles responded with confidence:

“I don’t see why not,” he says, adding that he knows lobbyists rely on their credibility. “Of course I won’t approach anybody in Congress unless it’s a very interesting issue or law,” he promises. “I’m going to be very careful about the issues I choose for this.”

He might get a friendly reception from Paul Ryan or Allen West.

Have you heard about the “luxury ‘Doomsday’ shelters” in Kansas?

Tucked deep beneath the Kansas prairie, luxury condos are being built into the shaft of an abandoned missile silo to service anxious — and wealthy — people preparing for doomsday.

So far, four buyers have plopped down a total of about $7 million for havens to flee to when disaster happens or the end is nigh. And developer Larry Hall has options to retro-fit three more Cold War-era silos when this one fills up.

“They worry about events ranging from solar flares, to economic collapse, to pandemics to terrorism to food shortages,” Hall told AFP on a tour of the site.

These “doomsday preppers”, as they are called, want a safe place and he will be there with them because Hall, 55, bought one of the condos for himself. He says his fear is that sun flares could wipe out the power grid and cause chaos.

He and his wife and son live in Denver and will use their condo mostly as a vacation home, he says, but if the grid goes, they will be ready.

Here’s a guy who lives in a similar missile silo in Texas.

Those are my offerings for tonight. Friday the 13th will soon draw to a close. I hope you made it through the day safely!