Sunday 25th of October 2020

Of magic potions, poetry, love and sciences... and memory...


A poem of Arthur Rimbaud (translated from the French by George Bitzolot, adapted by Jules Letambour)

For her

Dreamed for winter...

Winter... We’ll travel in a small pink buggy

         With some blue cushions.

We'll be happy. A nest for kisses in motion

          In ever corner comfy.


You will close your eyes, not to see in the mirror

The shadows of the night pulling faces

Monsters of hate and of awful places

Of black wolves and devil’s horror.

Then your cheek will be scratched...

Like a mad spider, a kiss

Will climb along your neck.

And you will say to me “find it”, your head reclined

— And we’ll spend a lot of time looking for the beast

— That travels a long-long heck.

                        (First published in 1881 — written in 1870, when aged 16)


Ah... Love... 

We know this feeling that quickens the pace and spurs our desires that we manipulate with restraint or abandon, as we plump the cushions and draw the curtains.

Chemical evidence of love

The first piece of scientific evidence is the ‘oxytocin-gaze positive loop’.

Ah yes, the ol’ “oxytocin-gaze positive loop”.

Oxytocin is a hormone that works as a neurotransmitter in the brain.

Bursts of this “molecule d’amour” are registered when people hug loved ones or gaze into their eyes, and it appears to help facilitate bonding in humans.

But doggos may have hijacked this important chemical bonding pathway.

A 2015 study in Japan found dogs and humans were engaging in cross-species gaze-mediated bonding using this same oxytocin system.

When humans and dogs stare into each other’s eyes, they each register a spike of the so-called “love drug”, oxytocin.

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Science is a bastard. It tells the truth of cogs and chemicals when we simply feel good about loving someone or a dog. This is where we might still need poetry to ... But I’m sure sciences have a cure for this and can explain poetry.

Science can tell us why there are droughts and floods, beyond the simple observation of the weather gone mad.

In Classical times, a severe drought followed by a storm and a foaming flood was explained thus:

“Choose out a gift from seas, or earth, or skies,

For open to your wish all nature lies ;

Only decline this one unequal task,

For ’tis a mischief, not a gift you ask.” (Addison)

This was to explain that Apollo, the god of the sun, was reticent in letting his young son Phaeton drive Apollo’s chariot of fire through the sky, but having granted the wish “I swear I will grant you whate’er you desire !” (Saxe), Apollo true to his word let the vanitous young Phaeton go with it. 

       “And Phaeton, caught in mid career,

And hurled from the sun to utter sunlessness,

Like a flame-bearded comet, with ghastliest hiss,

fell headlong in the amazed Eridanus,

Monarch of streams, who on the Italian fields

Let loose, and far beyond his flowery lips

Foam-white, ran ruinous to the Adrian deep.” (Worsley)

Here the story is that Phaeton drove the sun-chariot too close to the earth and burned the plants and crops, so Jupiter became angry and stroke Phaeton with a lightning bolt that killed him. This bolt was followed by drenching rain that flooded the place to the Adriatic sea. Simple.

In the light of global warming, we can cry at the lack of poetry in the scientific observations: 

Anthropogenic CO2 drives the fucking cobber!

 is as close to any poetic expression to counter that stupid sentence that “global warming is crap!” 

Clymene, Phaeton’s mother mourned her only son, while his sisters — the Heliades — Phaetusa, Lampetia and Aegle, cried by the riverside, bewailing their loss — till the gods, in pity, transformed them into poplar trees. The amber liquid substance that often drops from the poplars are actually the tears of the sisters mourning Phaeton. Phaeton’s best friend, Cygnus, searching the rivers for Phaeton’s remains was turned by the gods into a swan.  Now you know.

Science has a lot to learn from poetry, but in return poetry has to learn everything from sciences. They are not mutually exclusive, unlike religions and sciences. We can tell fancy stories and fairly tales as long as we don’t indulge in believing them too much, just bask in the momentous infusion of hormonal wellness. The eternal gods have done their dash and died. Their legends have been explained and the universe is photonic.

What a great place this is to be alive in for a few instants, like butterflies that discover they are not alone and fly topsy-turvily towards each-other in a mad dance of love, to eventually lay eggs on my plants, especially the supadistrastus magnificus (I made this name up to describe these magnificent leafs), that will eventually be devastated by caterpillars. The plants won’t look good for a while, but to witness the mad dance of these Papilio aegeus is a privilege that science can explain, but poetry can describe to insert sunshine in our hearts. 

May the idiots enjoy the day, as well. 

Gus Leonisky

Your local patronising kook

the genesis of oxytocin...

1 After a minibitsosecond of discrepency between some particles and their opposites, the Big Bang created a gaseous hydrogenic expanding universe with many solid/liquid/gaseous earths/planets that spun around a billion billion stars in a void of background waves. 

2 Now the earth was spherical, hot and breaming with newly formed molecules, darkness alternated with day, as the planet was spinning on its axis and circling around the sun in some 365 days.

3 And Albert said, “What is the energy of the surface of black bodies?” and there was a lightbulb. 

4 Albert saw that the light was a limit, and he combined light and space into an energy value. Albert called this energy, a result that is equal to the mass multipled by light speed squared.

5 And there was evening, and there was morning — one of many million days day since the conglomerate’s cooling.

6 And Albert said, “there should be a vault between water and water at the lowest temperatures.” 

7 So Albert saw the limit that separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 

8 Albert called the vault the Bose-Einstein Condensate. And there was evening, and there was morning — the second law of thermodynamics. (The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the state of entropy of the entire universe, as an isolated system, will always increase over time. The second law also states that the changes in the entropy in the universe can never be negative.)

9 And in 1915 Wegener said the water under the sky gathered to one place, and let dry plate techtonic appear.” And it was so. 

10 Wegener called the dry ground “Pangea,” and the breaking up of it in two as Gondwana and Laurasia.” And some scientists remained unconvinced. But it was so nonetheless.

11 Then Darwin said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to evolution.” And it was so. 

12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to evolution and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to evolution. And Darwin saw that evolution worked. 

13 And there was evening, and there was morning— another million days of eons and periods of climatic changes.

14 And Einstein said, “Let there be Photons in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as waves and particles to mark relative times, and days and years. 

15 And let the photons be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. And so on and on...

This was the Genesis of the universe in which there is no final judgement, except our own and that of our peers when we die like exhausted butterfies... Only the psychopaths regret nothing, but that they were not psychopathic enough. We? We should not have any regrets nor hopes, just that we enjoyed the Oxytocin (C43H66N12O12S2) as we were as loving as we could ever be.

the jesus-loves-you oxytocin...


31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Following this biblical (God saw all that he had made, and it was very good) Genesis rubbish (the dinosaurs got wiped out — and they were not the only ones, etc, etc), the original bullshit of the first sin than turns all of us into sinners even before we are born or even conceived, was invented by old men to make sure we don’t escape the mad cloaqua of their religious dependency. How conceited!

Now, a new nauseam-seum, about to open in Washington next to the Smithsonian, is an abomination of "fake news" written in stones (some genuinely fake, some stolen — all fanciful) first presented to us with an inspired “confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the bible” but then toned down to meet the pluralistic social demands. Scientific, this polished crap ain’t, but this new museum of mothly myths tries to be "educational", with an infantile approach that does not even delve into the various idiotic interpretations of the bible — all of which are completely false in terms of scientific observations — and even wrong about recent human history as it evolved. 

Meanwhile despite this new "other" lavishly funded circus in Washington— that for whatever stupid reason, we have to be respectful of — sciences that are under pressure against this nonsense, though, are making great stride in debunking all these idiotic legends designed to lure us to the general ignorance of who we really are. We cannot be respectful of religions when they are so dismissive of sciences while trying to make them fit a ridiculous dogma. It’s not even a competition. Sciences and religions have nothing in common, not even in humanity, nor in nature.

The reaction of many adults to religion is like that of kids to father Xmas, until these kiddies are told it’s a hoax. But the Jesus-loves-you oxytocin is imbued with far more devious repeats than a Pavlov’s dog experiment and there is no eventual denial from the authorities that stop this dependency to the horrible disease: belief. Belief is a deceitful disease.

Under such powerful brainwashing, people are unable to make any proper choices of understanding, even with reason on their side, as they already are in the fenced-off corral, like a bunch of sheep awaiting fleecing. And they are fleeced. Religions are full-blown businesses, hierarchically constructed like kingdoms with armies and using advertising techniques to make sure people are addicted to the sweet buns, nor can escape.

And religions lie with brilliance, cash, decorum and are unfortunately supported by already religiously corrupted governments. The future for sciences could be grim in this atmosphere as many ignorant religious twats now control the levers of governments and deny the obvious. The salvation for sciences could be the Scientist’s apprentice — Artificial Intelligence — that has to be developed as soon as possible. 

It’s most likely going to be brutal — especially as global warming is going to accelerate in the next few years...

Despite his erroneous belief, I have some respect for Rod Dreher. He is a genuine human being with the wrong answer — but he is a religious sheep in search of a better corral...


Says Rod:

Readers, you’ve heard me say this many times, but I have to say it again: It could happen to you. You think that you’re in control of what you believe, but the day could come — and you might not see it coming (I certainly didn’t) — when you become so angry and alienated from the institutional church that you find yourself unable to believe.

There are things you can do right now to protect yourself, and your faith — and to reach out to protect your friends and their faith. But I am pretty sure that Evangelicalism will lose significant numbers of its younger people over all this tribalism. That would be an enormous tragedy. Who cares if Hollywood studios and talent agencies go down over this? Couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people. It’s not such a bad thing, all things considered, if the Republican Party blows itself up. Nor is it such a bad thing if the Democratic Party, which stood tribally by Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy, blows itself up.

But the church — now that is something different. Souls are at stake — not only the souls of those so discouraged that they quit believing in God, but all the descendants they may yet father or mother, who may never come to faith because the link in the chain was broken.

The responsibility the Jerry Falwell Jrs of the world will have for that will be enormous. But they don’t think about that. They just think about power. But God is not mocked, not forever.

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Okay, Rod.... God mocked Himself by created human beings in “His own image”... What a let down unless you are an old bearded man with a weak bladder and needs to do a piss-stop every five minutes...

Rod, come to sciences. Awaken and don’t be afraid...


Read from top...

musings about knowledge...

“Knowledge is not happiness, and science

But an exchange of ignorance for that

Which is another kind of ignorance.”

              (Lord Byron)


Lord Byron may have been a great poet but he was an ignorant twat, unless it’s me, old Gus, who is missing the satire ot the ultimate demise of the human condition with one foot in the grave, in the verses above. Death tends to erase knowledge in one stroke of the sythe. So all in all, we’re cooked... Lord Byron, George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (born January 22, 1788, London, England—died April 19, 1824, Missolonghi, Greece), was a British Romantic poet and satirist. Renowned as the gloomy egoist of his autobiographical poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812–18), he is now more generally esteemed for the satiric realism of Don Juan (1819–24). Gone in his prime, aged 36... I am ready to believe he would have taken to Einstein’s scientific imagination like a duck to water.

But it was not till 1840, that the name “scientist” was given to a “man” of science, by William Wherell, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Before this they were “astronomers”, “botanists”, “alchemists” “doctors,” etc”

The greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.

              (Charles Colton)

"The study of mathematics, like the Nile, begins in minuteness but ends in magnificence."

              (Charles Colton)


So as sciences cannot answer all the questions, religions have but one answer...


Of Faith

A young woman brought her fiancé home to meet her parents.

After dinner, her mother told her father to find out about the young man.

The father invited the fiancé to his study for a talk.

“So, what are your plans?” the father asked the young man.

“I am a biblical scholar.” he replied.

“A biblical scholar, hmmm?” the father said. “Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in?”

“I will study,” the young man replied “& God will provide for us.”

“And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?” asked the father.

“I will concentrate on my studies.” the young man replied “God will provide for us.”

“And children?” asked the father “How will you support children?”

“Don’t worry sir, God will provide.” replied the fiancé.


The conversation proceeded & each time the father questioned, the young idealist insisted that God would provide.

Later, the mother asked: “How did it go, honey?”

The father answered: “He has no job, no plans, no prospects & he thinks I’m God.”



lazy bastards...

It is a given that we, humans — as a clever animal — always want the maximum result for the minimum effort. Say, when we're getting a phone contract, we want to make sure we get the best value for money. More calls for zero extra cash. This is what religious hubris is trying to give you. The advertising or religious dogma is that of a lottery that you can’t loose: Heaven and eternal life for the modest price of a belief — plus a bit of cash to maintain the priests in tax deductible employment. But even in terms of cash this represents peanuts for a massive offer we could not really refuse because we'll get it for sure — when we croak... No-one will be there anyway to check that you got your banana. Impossible. So should you wish not to believe and enjoy life in the ebbs of being employed to pay for the bills and some leisure — or become an atheist, you are placed at the end of the human queue and looked upon as if you had the plague. 

We’re lazy. Religious hubris is minimalistic and lazy despite the pomp, the hats and the golden goblets. Religious extremism is a bit more demanding though. Anyone born in this extremist system, rejecting the beliefs and escaping it shall be put to death — or kill oneself in dedication to the belief with a glorious suicide vest. Uncooth. Stupid. Still effortless to believe in when brainwashed from early in life as if a sudsy wet cloth... When dead, we feel no pain. So it’s natural to believe in an almighty, because it’s the route of the least effort, with blessings, sing-songs and forgiveness to boot. 

Sciences are hard work. They are demanding massive intellectual gymnastics and a general accuracy that would make any god frightfully shudder. "His" Genesis is a bit loose around the edges and totally crap despite the religious mob telling us it’s only an interpretation of... Bullocks!. At this level, such interpretations are not the capers we should live with. We can do better and more accurately, better entertained with the poetry of glorious words, than with the genesis of the bible that is innacurate beyond redemption and totally deceiving.

Try something more rewarding; Gating of social reward by oxytocin in the ventral tegmental area for example. Then you’ll know why you crave stuff, including useless stuff in a social context.


Brain circuits that modulate sociability

Understanding the neural mechanisms that mediate social reward has important societal and clinical implications. Hung et al. found that release of the neuropeptide oxytocin in the ventral tegmental area of the brain increased prosocial behaviors in mice (see the Perspective by Preston). Optogenetic manipulation of oxytocin release influenced sociability in a context-dependent manner. Oxytocin increased activity in dopamine cells that project to the nucleus accumbens, another key node of reward circuitry in the brain.

Science, this issue p. 1406; see also p. 1353


The reward generated by social interactions is critical for promoting prosocial behaviors. Here we present evidence that oxytocin (OXT) release in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a key node of the brain’s reward circuitry, is necessary to elicit social reward. During social interactions, activity in paraventricular nucleus (PVN) OXT neurons increased. Direct activation of these neurons in the PVN or their terminals in the VTA enhanced prosocial behaviors. Conversely, inhibition of PVN OXT axon terminals in the VTA decreased social interactions. OXT increased excitatory drive onto reward-specific VTA dopamine (DA) neurons. These results demonstrate that OXT promotes prosocial behavior through direct effects on VTA DA neurons, thus providing mechanistic insight into how social interactions can generate rewarding experiences.



Then it becomes more complicated but is totally accurate...


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if you can't remember, simply remember this...


Behavioral time scale synaptic plasticity underlies CA1 place fields

A different form of synaptic plasticity

How do synaptic or other neuronal changes support learning? This subject has been dominated by Hebb's postulate of synaptic change. Although there is strong experimental support for Hebbian plasticity in a number of preparations, alternative ideas have also been developed over the years. Bittner et al.provide in vivo, in vitro, and modeling data to support the view that non-Hebbian plasticity may underlie the formation of hippocampal place fields (see the Perspective by Krupic). Instead of multiple pairings, a single strong Ca2+ plateau potential in neuronal dendrites paired with spatial inputs may be sufficient to produce place cells.

Science, this issue p. 1033; see also p. 974


Learning is primarily mediated by activity-dependent modifications of synaptic strength within neuronal circuits. We discovered that place fields in hippocampal area CA1 are produced by a synaptic potentiation notably different from Hebbian plasticity. Place fields could be produced in vivo in a single trial by potentiation of input that arrived seconds before and after complex spiking. The potentiated synaptic input was not initially coincident with action potentials or depolarization. This rule, named behavioral time scale synaptic plasticity, abruptly modifies inputs that were neither causal nor close in time to postsynaptic activation. In slices, five pairings of subthreshold presynaptic activity and calcium (Ca2+) plateau potentials produced a large potentiation with an asymmetric seconds-long time course. This plasticity efficiently stores entire behavioral sequences within synaptic weights to produce predictive place cell activity.

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modifying consciousness...

“Whoever tasted once of that sweet food

Wished not to see his native country more,

Nor give his friends the knowledge of his fate,

And then my messengers desired to dwell

Among the Lotus-eaters, and to feed

Upon the lotus, never to return.”

               (Homer) translation by Bryant

Ulysses, invited by the Lotus-eaters to taste the magic food, stopped his other men from touching it and ordered them to seize and bind their already taken-in comrades back to their ship. The magic effect of the food came to pass and the Ulysses expedition sailed to the Island of Sicily, inhabited by the Cyclopes...

Aporphine is one of a class of quinoline alkaloids. Many different relatives of this compound have been purified from plants.[1] Many water-lillies (Nymphaea species) produce aporphine alkaloids, like nymphaeine, nymphaline, nupharine, alfa- and beta-nupharidine[2]. Aporphines from other plants include some that occur in extracts of Cassytha species that have been used in African folk medicine to treat cancer and trypanosomiasis. In vitro tests of some of the aporphines from Cassytha filiformis, namely actinodaphnine, cassythine, and dicentrine, on Trypanosoma brucei did show promising levels of activity. Investigation of possible mechanisms revealed that the active compounds bind to DNA and act as intercalating agents, besides inhibiting topoisomerase activity[3]

Aporphine is a 5-HT1a partial agonist with a ki of 80nM and a 5-HT7 antagonist with a ki of 88nM.[4] Aporphine is a Dopamine D1 antagonist with a ki of 717nM[5] and a dopamine D2 antagonist with a ki of 527nM.[6] Aporphine and its related alkaloids bulbocapnine, boldine, glaucine and corytuberine are antipsychotic, exert naloxone-reversible antinociceptive activity and with the exception of corytuberine are anticonvulsant.[7] Some derivatives of aporphine such as S(+)-N-propylnorapomorphine have potential as low side effect profile antipsychotics. S(+)-N-propylnorapomorphine is highly selective for meso-limbic dopaminergic tracts and function as efficacious partial agonists, with no elevation in prolactin.[8]

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of good nature, in spanish...

Poet and literary critic Thomas Holley Chivers said that the "only thing [Bryant] ever wrote that may be called Poetry is 'Thanatopsis', which he stole line for line from the Spanish. The fact is, that he never did anything but steal — as nothing he ever wrote is original."


Thanatopsis by Bryant

To him who in the love of Nature holds

Communion with her visible forms, she speaks

A various language; for his gayer hours

She has a voice of gladness, and a smile

And eloquence of beauty, and she glides

Into his darker musings, with a mild

And healing sympathy, that steals away

Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts

Of the last bitter hour come like a blight

Over thy spirit, and sad images

Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,

And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,

Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—

Go forth, under the open sky, and list

To Nature’s teachings, while from all around

Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—

Comes a still voice—

 Yet a few days, and thee

The all-beholding sun shall see no more

In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,

Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,

Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist

Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim

Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,

And, lost each human trace, surrendering up

Thine individual being, shalt thou go

To mix for ever with the elements,

To be a brother to the insensible rock

And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain

Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak

Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.


and now to the spanish view of the castle...


NATURAL HISTORY OF OBLIVION (translated by José Gambasol)

I climb the train of the past.

It drives me

to the place where memory is erased.

                José Emilio Pacheco

The gaze of the gods is obscured by Nietzsche’s insistence. 

Truth corrodes time and the eagerness of doubt exchanges the signs of heaven with those of earthly dust. 

History, the only testament that man has to recognize himself, has been disturbed by Protagoras who travels in silence: the gods have been forgotten. 

God is a threat.

Our revealing and positivist form of mind has fallen like a meteorite on ideas that are slowly replaced by others. 

Banalized by a psychotonic chip, our conscience is torn between information abundance and emptiness. 

Noises stun and lead to the erasing of codes, habits, customs and even ways to address the mystery.

We have nothing left of the truth. 

Or it never existed. 

Bulked up by references and virtual images, we submit it to a straitjacket. 

Utopia is a crazy place, getting rid of lice. 

A collector in front of a computer assimilates all postmodern emblems. 

The historical characters are transvestites. 

The memory has been discarded and thrown into a garbage smelly dump.

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on a more prosaic level, led by the hedgehog...


Readers of The American Conservative—or anyone else interested in understanding how the United States in recent decades managed to squander so much so fast—might want to check out the Fall 2017 issue of the quarterly Hedgehog Review. The theme of this particular issue is “The End of the End of History?,” a reference to the essay that (question mark and all) catapulted Francis Fukuyama to global fame back in 1989. History had “ended,” Fukuyama proposed, when the passing of the Cold War left liberal democratic capitalism—a.k.a., the American Way of Life—without a plausible challenger. Our way had become the only way as others would inevitably acknowledge.

In fact, in the years that followed, history proved to be more resilient, willful, and stubbornly opaque than Fukuyama and the legions rushing to endorse “endism” imagined. With climate change endangering the planet and a sitting American president threatening “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” the end might be near, but it’s not the end that Fukuyama’s acolytes had in mind back when the collapse of communism seemingly resolved life’s ultimate questions.

The essays assembled in the Hedgehog Review include contributions by such notable scholars as James Davison HunterPatrick DeneenWilfred McClay, and Jackson Lears. Rather than offering a point-by-point rebuttal of Fukuyama’s thesis, they expose its very premises as bogus.   

I will not try to summarize the content of their essays, which deserve to be read in full. Taken together, however, they offer many points worthy of reflection.

Point one: The utter fraudulence of contemporary American politics. Washington today serves as little more than a comedic theater of sorts. The principal players pretend to believe the lines they recite. A privileged audience of insider journalists, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and power brokers pretend to take the performance seriously. Yet this playacting is not without purpose. The aim is to stifle actual democracy in which citizens actively debate and engage with real issues.  

Point two: The underlying liberal consensus. On stage, “conservatives” like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell pretend to duke it out with “progressives” like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Behind the curtain, meanwhile, a liberal consensus prevails and imparts direction to national life. Classical liberals herald the wonders of a market economy and limited government Progressive liberals look to the state to temper the excesses of the market and provide a pathway to utopia. Both sides purport to offer choice. But actual choice is illusory. ...

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the shifting baseline syndrome...


What you see is not what others see. We inhabit parallel worlds of perception, bounded by our interests and experience. What is obvious to some is invisible to others. I might find myself standing, transfixed, by the roadside, watching a sparrowhawk hunting among the bushes, astonished that other people could ignore it. But they might just as well be wondering how I could have failed to notice the new V6 Pentastar Sahara that just drove past.

As the psychologist Richard Wiseman points out: “At any one moment, your eyes and brain only have the processing power to look at a very small part of your surroundings … your brain quickly identifies what it considers to be the most significant aspects of your surroundings, and focuses almost all of its attention on these elements.” Everything else remains unseen.


Our selective blindness is lethal to the living world. Joni Mitchell’s claim that “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” is, sadly, untrue: our collective memory is wiped clean by ecological loss. One of the most important concepts defining our relationship to the natural world is shifting baseline syndrome, coined by the fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly. The people of each generation perceive the state of the ecosystems they encountered in their childhood as normal and natural. When wildlife is depleted, we might notice the loss, but we are unaware that the baseline by which we judge the decline is in fact a state of extreme depletion.

So we forget that the default state of almost all ecosystems – on land and at sea – is domination by a megafauna. We are unaware that there is something deeply weird about British waters; they are not thronged with great whales, vast shoals of bluefin tuna, two-metre cod and halibut the size of doors, as they were until a few centuries ago. We are unaware that the absence of elephants, rhinos, lions, scimitar cats, hyenas and hippos, that lived in this country during the last interglacial period (when the climate was almost identical to today’s), is also an artefact of human activity.

And the erosion continues. Few people younger than me know that it was once normal to see fields white with mushrooms, or rivers black with eels at the autumn equinox, or that every patch of nettles was once reamed by caterpillars. I can picture a moment at which the birds stop singing, and people wake up and make breakfast and go to work without noticing that anything has changed.

Conversely, the darkness in which we live ensures that we don’t know what we have, even while it exists. Blue Planet II revealed the complex social lives and remarkable intelligences of species we treat as nothing but seafood (a point it failed to drive home, in its profoundly disappointing final episode). If we were aware of the destruction we commission with our routine purchases of fish, would we not radically change our buying habits? But the infrastructure of marketing and media helps us not to see, not to think, not to connect our spots of perception to create a moral world view upon which we can act.



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One of our major problem is the ease of advertising and selling insecticides, herbicides and other poisons. Most of these are somewhat of limited value on "our crops" but totally devastating on other areas near-by. The problem of the bees is but a small example of what DESTRUCTION WE HAVE DONE TO THIS LITTLE PLANET.  WE NEED TO TAKE FAR MORE CARE. Kick Donald Trump in the gonads — because what he's doing to nature through his agents (including Pruitt) is far far worse than what Harvey Weinstein did to women. Apologies to all the women who have been raped or sexually assaulted, but the rape of nature is decidedly philosophical across the board, rather than based on (too many) individual cases... Read from top. 


read also: 

dead koalas crossing...

it's not "playing god"... nor from a sci-fi B-Movie...

It sounds like something from a sci-fi B-Movie: scientists have moved a step closer to bringing the Tasmanian tiger back from extinction.

Also known as the thylacine, or Tasmanian wolf, the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial died out in its native land sometime during the 1930s. Despite almost 4,000 reports of “sightings” since, including tantalisingly inconclusive video footage as recently as 2008, most regard the species as having gone for ever.

So the mapping of the thylacine’s genetic sequence, which in theory makes cloning the living animal itself possible, raises tricky questions. How far should we go to reverse the tide of extinction? And what ecological and ethical issues might this raise?

Professor Andrew Pask of the University of Melbourne, who led the team sequencing the thylacine’s DNA, has no doubts about bringing back lost species, seeing a clear moral obligation to do so. “We were responsible for hunting [the thylacine] to extinction – in that case, we almost owe it to the species to bring it back”.

Others are less sure. Some have accused scientists of “playing God”, while even National Geographic ran the cover headline “Reviving Extinct Species. We Can. But Should We?”

But such concerns may be too late, as the genie is already out of the bottle. Scientists in Cape Town recently announced that the quagga, a dark subspecies of the familiar zebra that went extinct more than a century earlier, had been revived. The team used selective breeding of zebras, which showed characteristics of their lost cousin, to “reverse engineer” the quagga into existence.

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The Thylacine's demise is a major example of the sad case of humans destroying nature. Reviving the species will not protect other species that have gone or are going out because of our carelessness, but it might make a small point: we're not gods but we care a bit more than we did, beyond the scientific curiosity of reviving a species. It's going to be harder than it looks though — and it has nothing to do with "playing god".

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The world's last great wildernesses...


The world’s last great wildernesses are shrinking at an alarming rate. In the past two decades, 10% of the earth’s wilderness has been lost due to human pressure, a mapping study by the University of Queensland has found.

Over the course of human history, there has been a major degradation of 52% of the earth’s ecosystems, while the remaining 48% is being increasingly eroded. Since 1992, when the United Nations signed up to the Rio convention on biological diversity, three million square kilometres of wilderness have been lost.


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le coin pantheonique des poètes...

President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure to strike a blow for sexual diversity by ordering the "Pantheonisation" - interment at the national mausoleum in Paris - of two of France's best-loved poets, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine.

A petition signed by 10 former culture ministers, as well as a long list of artists and intellectuals, says the two poets - who had an intense but ultimately violent affair in the early 1870s - "were symbols of diversity". 

They suffered the harsh homophobia of their time. They are the French Oscar Wildes.

"It is a question of simple justice to have them enter jointly into the Pantheon alongside other great literary figures like Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas, Hugo and Malraux," the petition reads.

Current Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot, while not signing the petition, nevertheless said she agreed. "Bringing these two poets and lovers into the Pantheon would have a significance that is not just historical and literary, but profoundly relevant today," she said. 

Arguments for and against moving the poets
The call, however, has triggered an angry backlash, with opponents saying the poets are being made the victims of a 21st Century cultural power-grab, and that absolutely nothing in their lives or work suggests suitability for a patriotic Valhalla.

Rimbaud and Verlaine are certainly among the most revered of French poets - and it is also true that of the 75 residents of the Pantheon, none is there for poetry. Victor Hugo was transferred for his political achievement.
Supporters say there are both literary and moral reasons for their re-interment.
Not only has "their genius nourished for more than a century our literary and poetic imagination", but also their current burial places - in Charleville, Lorraine for Rimbaud, in a cemetery off the Paris ring road for Verlaine - are "unworthy".

There is also the homophobic persecution which Verlaine above all had to endure.
Famously, the poets' relationship ended in 1873 when Verlaine fired a gun and lightly wounded Rimbaud in Brussels. 

Rimbaud refused to press charges, but Belgian police went ahead anyway and their report was heavily slanted by their distaste for the poets' relationship.

Verlaine spent a year and a half in jail.


Short presentational grey line

Arthur Rimbaud: 20 October 1854 - 10 November 1891

France's culture minister says she sometimes arrives at cabinet meetings with Rimbaud's 1871 poem The Drunken Boat coursing through her head.


As I was going down impassive Rivers, I no longer felt myself guided by haulersYelping redskins had taken them as targets, And had nailed them naked to coloured stakes

Paul Verlaine: 30 March 1844 - 8 January 1896

Lines of Verlaine's Chanson d'automne were used to warn the French Resistance of the imminent Allied landings in Normandy in World War Two.

Les sanglots longs
Des violon
De l'automne (The long sighs of autumn's violins)
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur/
Monotone (Wound my heart in a monotonous languor)

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