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News 09.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 09.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 09.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 09.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The waggle dance of the western honeybee (Apis mellifera), in which bees waggle their abdomen from side to side while repeatedly walking in an intricate figure-of-eight pattern, has been observed since antiquity, but the person who finally unlocked the secret of its meaning was an iconoclastic Austrian researcher named Karl von Frisch. The breakthrough initially earned Frisch a great deal of scorn from other mid-20th-century scientists, but also eventually won him the Nobel Prize.

Young Karl was known to skip school to spend time with a menagerie of over 100 animals, only nine of which were mammals. His most beloved companion was a small Brazilian parakeet named Tschocki, who was constantly by Frisch’s side, sitting on his lap or on his shoulder and even sleeping next to his bed. Together with Tschocki, Frisch spent hours out in nature, simply watching. As he later reflected: “I discovered that miraculous worlds may reveal themselves to a patient observer where the casual passerby sees nothing at all.”

Frisch began studying bees in 1912. He had a hunch that ran counter to prevailing wisdom: The bees’ waggle dance was a form of language. In pursuing this hypothesis, he was contesting two core assumptions of Western science and philosophy: that only humans have complex forms of language, and that insects were incapable of complex communication given their tiny brains.

Human verbal language is largely based on the noises we make with our vocal cords and mouths, the expressions we make with our faces, and the way we hold and move our bodies. In contrast, bee language is mostly spatial and vibrational. Its syntax is based on something very different from human language: the type, frequency, angle and amplitude of vibrations made by the bees’ bodies, including their abdomens and wings, as they move through space.

Read the rest of this article at: Noema

News 09.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On May 29, 1966, Jamie Spears was 13 years old, an eighth-grade honor-roll student small for his age, the son of a father a friend describes as “a fireball on steroids.” Jamie had three siblings, ages 3 and 5 and 8, and there ought to have been another one, the second born, but Austin Wayne Spears died at 3 days old, leaving Jamie alone again with his parents. The family lived near the Mississippi line in Kentwood, Louisiana, 70 miles from the hospital where Austin Wayne was born, far from anything then and far from anything now. Generations back and generations forward they lived and would live here, in Tangipahoa Parish, in the bare little towns that ran along the train tracks. The baby had been buried below an oak tree in a small cemetery loud with the buzzing of cicadas. Jamie’s mother was named Emma Jean Forbes, and everyone called her Jean. She was small, like her husband and son, and she was blonde, and she had married when she was 16 years old, which was older than her mother had been when she married in Mississippi. Later, her husband would tell the coroner that Jean had tried to kill herself three times, but whether to believe her husband, and what part he might have played in what unfolded in May 1966, remains in question.

Jean’s husband, Jamie’s father, was named June Austin Spears, and that’s what they called him, June Austin. June Austin was born in 1930 not far from Kentwood, a few miles from where a Black family had been purchased for the sum of $20 a solid 60 years after emancipation. June Austin had a mean streak, but June Austin would live for a very, very long time, and by the end of his life, many people would simply remember him as a man who loved to fish. As a baby, Jamie had his mother all to himself; June Austin was in the Air Force and didn’t meet his son until Jamie was a year old. June Austin was hired as a police officer down in Baton Rouge, was fired after either he or someone else on his team shot at an innocent man, and then was reinstated, but by May 1966, he was once again no longer working as a police officer. It was a Sunday afternoon when Jean Spears drove the empty streets sliced through slim shimmering pines to the little cemetery where her infant son was buried. The story the papers would tell is this: Jean Spears walked from her car to her son’s grave carrying a 12-gauge shotgun, a long hunting rifle that probably would have been over two feet long. She stood on the little piece of land where she had watched them lower her baby into the ground and pointed the gun up so the butt was in the dirt and the barrel pointed at her. She loaded it with 16-gauge shells, technically too small for the gun. She removed her shoe, pressed the trigger with her toe, and fell to the ground, where she would remain until someone found her the next morning and police traced the parked car back to the family.

Read the rest of this article at: Vulture

Steven Spielberg: The Origin Story

In ‘The Fabelmans,’ starring Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Gabriel LaBelle, the director finally tells his own coming-of-age saga, mining family secrets and the antisemitic bullying of his youth as well as the obsession with filmmaking that helped him process it all.

In March 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Steven Spielberg was watching his 103-year-old father, Arnold, deteriorate. After growing distant when the filmmaker, now 75, was in his 20s and early 30s, father and son had reconnected and become close. They lived near each other in Pacific Palisades, and Steven would go to Arnold’s house to watch movies, listen to music and hang out on the patio. Steven’s mother, Leah, had died in 2017 at 97, and by August 2020, Arnold would be gone, too. That spring, as Arnold’s condition worsened, Steven began to grieve.

“Even before my dad left, I was missing the thought that I wouldn’t just be able to drive up to his house, as I did all the time,” Spielberg says. “For all of us under the yoke of COVID, not really knowing how bad it was going to get, all of us were very reflective about the safety of our families, but also about where we’ve been and where we want to go, how we want to continue surviving.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Hollywood Reporter

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News 09.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Beluga caviar. Fennel flowers. Beer-poached lobster. Not exactly a boxed lunch, but this is not your typical work meeting. John Sill, a Black billionaire with a maniacal desire to be a Bond villain, has gathered his appropriately eclectic cast of accomplices. One is a general, the commanding officer at Fort Knox. Another is a professor of mathematics who studies the nature of zero, or “nothing.” The latter is feeling a bit in over his head; he is starting to think maybe he wants, well, nothing to do with any of this.

By this point in Dr. No—the latest zany masterpiece from the novelist Percival Everett—there have been all we would expect from a spy novel: pointless submarine chases, private flights to secret compounds in the Mediterranean, and sexually available women, including one with a comically literal name. Yet Sill’s work, as the general has been explaining to Wala Kitu, the professor, is not just a game. Their boss’s diabolical plan to disappear parts of the country may not be practical or even possible, but it is political. “This country has never given anything to us and it never will,” the general exhorts Kitu, who is Black (we are made to suspect the general is as well). “It’s time we gave nothing back.”

Like Everett’s previous novel, The Trees, Dr. No is an experimental work of genre fiction nestled within a distinctly African American revenge tale. In The Trees, someone is murdering the descendants of Carolyn Bryant, the white woman who accused Emmett Till of accosting her in a grocery store in 1955. In that novel, the thirst for vengeance is sincere, if misguided. In Dr. No, our revenge seeker would seem to be both misguided and insincere. Over time, he degrades his sympathetic origin story (Sill claims that his father was killed after witnessing a cop’s involvement in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.) by treating it as little more than plot filler, trauma that needs to be there to set up the kinds of melodramatic one-liners that we expect from our movie villains. Case in point: “America killed him,” Sill tells Kitu, “and nothing is going to change that.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 09.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On the cusp of winter 2021, I went for a walk in the woods near my house in Oxford. By a bench that overlooks the city, I happened upon a moss-covered log that glistened green under the overcast sky. The moss’s leaves were as tiny and intricate as the finest embroidery, and as thin as clingfilm. I brushed my fingertips over the feathery bed in awe of its minuteness and complexity, before taking a dozen photographs. When was the last time I had touched moss? When was the first? I remember trees, rivers, mountains, but not moss. But, that day, I felt as if moss summoned me to pay attention to its rigour and beauty amid its great arboreal cousins.

Or rather, moss represented something for me. I’d been thinking about touch, about how out of touch with nature I am. I live in a city that has many parks and meadows, but I don’t touch nature enough; rather, I see it – the ornamental birches, the canal, the roses on the hedgerows. In summertime, I’ll swim with friends, or sunbathe and roll in sand and grass, but once we are back in our sanitised homes, I continue to live out of touch. I seek nature in small, appropriate, hygienic doses.

Winter is the only true season of touching. In winters, no matter how efficiently you dress up, a raindrop will find you. Fogs will enshroud you and leave their wetness on your face. Dry, cold air will crack your lips. As you inhale, mist will touch your nostrils and the inside of your throat. You will feel winter’s touch on the backs of your ears. Winter’s physicality reaches everywhere. But moss works the hardest in winters. Over every log, rock and crevice, it grows and glows.

Over the course of that winter, I touched mosses everywhere in the city: on footpaths and walls, on the barks of willows, on metal-based drain covers, on tombstones, on the roofs of houseboats, on abandoned bicycles, under the railway bridge. Moss likes to grow everywhere as long as there’s enough shade and moisture. A nonvascular plant, it lacks an elaborate root-and-shoot anatomy; it has no roots to speak of. Mosses absorb water and nutrients from their one-celled leaves, which are uniquely designed to hold water up to 30 times their own weight. In winter, if you’ve ever paused to gaze at a moss bed and touch its surface, you’ll feel as if you’ve touched a wet sponge. You’ll also realise that while a moss bed may feel soft at first touch, it is a multi-textured world down there. As I carefully brush the backs of my fingers against moss beds, tiny stalk-like beings tickle me. Jutting out of moss leaves, these stalks are known as sporophytes; each sporophyte contains a capsule of spores at its outermost end. As wind and water carry these spores away from their source beds, mosses multiply. The sporophytes grow considerably taller than the bed, to allow the spores to travel far and start a new commune, a new family.

One of the most common mosses in urban settlements is Tortula muralis, or wall screw-moss. It was the first one I noticed, like most beginners do. One day, under a bright blue after-rain sky, I observed that the sporophyte capsules of a wall screw-moss bed growing on a brick fence had swelled to almost three times their usual size. It astonished me, and I thought it might be another stage in their development that I hadn’t read about yet. Down on my knees, at eye level with the bed, I reached out with a fingertip towards a sporophyte, but my hand stopped itself midway. It took a while for my eyes to adjust, but I realised that the capsules had not swelled at all. Each sporophyte was merely holding a tiny water droplet around itself, like a miniature water balloon, or a pregnant belly.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.