Tag: Photograph

Day 991: The Subjective Science of Getting Friendly With Your Water

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Good morning, water. You look lovely today. The way you have meticulously extracted the energizing essence of those crumbly brown nuggets of Sumatra in my coffee maker really brings out the glimmer in your droplets. Look, I’m a married man, but if I wasn’t, I would totally be gettin’ up in dat aqua, you feel me?

According to Dr. Masaru Emoto, I may have just created a more healthy and vibrant cup of coffee. Dr. Emoto is a revolutionary oracle of scientific knowledge, inasmuch as he has concocted his own definitions of the words “scientific” and “knowledge”. Dr. Emoto has “proven” (and it’s hard to find a source for his work that doesn’t nestle that word between the comforting pillows of quotation marks) that positive energy makes water better.

Not better-tasting, not more nutritious or refreshing… just better. Happier. More wholly fulfilled. Dr. Emoto unearthed that line where metaphysics and alternative medicine cross over into crazed Lynchian fiction, then leaped across it like a doped-up Olympian. He landed among the Technicolor bobbles of the absurd, cultivated his own particular brew of ludicrous reasoning and slapped a price tag on it.

And we bought in. Oh, how we bought in.

How could we not trust that sincere face?

How could we not trust that sincere face?

Masaru Emoto earned his doctorate at the Open University for Alternative Medicine in India, though I feel “earned” should be yet another resident of Quotes-Marks Manor, as I have unearthed a couple of sources which claim that such a degree can be bought for around $500. But Dr. Emoto’s doctorness is relatively moot, as he immediately set out to sail the vague ocean of alternative medicine, which contains far more fetid flotsam than it does navigable current. Read more…

Day 986: James Randi & The Magic Of Truth

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One of the television landmarks of my childhood involved magicians/dissectors-of-bullshit Penn & Teller, performing the classic splice-the-assistant trick. They then performed the trick once more on a transparent stage with transparent props in order to reveal the gadgetry and choreography that had effectively deceived us. My mother loathed the bit; to this day her stalwart faith in pure magic remains uncompromised. For me, it was an awakening.

I saw Penn & Teller’s commitment to debunkery as an invitation to question the unexplained, and to search for the truth tucked under the throw-rug of perception. This curiosity need not be an omnipresent obsession – I would much rather share in the astounded guffaws of David Blaine’s close-up audience than pry into the secrets of his masterful sleight-of-hand – but when trickery is but a front for a more nefarious purpose, this well-worn skepticism is a handy frock.

James Randi has been an activist for truth and an intrepid explorer of paranormal hucksterism for decades. When Copperfield transformed the Statue of Liberty into furtive air on national television, Randi made no effort to deflate our collective entertainment. But when pseudo-psychics make ludicrous claims of otherworldly powers in their pockets, James Randi is there to reach in and show us the lint of deception.

Naturally, he has pissed off a lot of people along the way.

Escapologist

The Amazing Randi rose to fame as a magician in 1956 when he broke Harry Houdini’s submersion record by having himself locked inside a sealed coffin beneath the surface of a hotel swimming pool for 104 minutes on The Today Show. But while Randi was happy to entertain a gawking audience, he was always critical of the mysticism that people would invite into their lives as fact. While employed by the Canadian tabloid Midnight, he penned a recurring astrology column by simply rearranging horoscopes from other publications and pasting them randomly under each sign. Read more…

Day 940: The Fists That Punched The Olympics

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The morning of October 15, 1968, just four days of sun-bathed pomp and cheer into Mexico City’s Olympic games, was perfect for a foot race. Australian speedster Peter Norman blasted through his 200-meter quarterfinal race like a sugar addict in the opening throes of a pixie stick; he finished in 20.17 seconds, a new Olympic record. After coming in second in his semifinal, his motor was cackling in high gear for that final sprint, due to take place the following day.

Alas, the wind parted not for Peter in that final round. While he finished with a boast-worthy 20.06 – an Australian record that still stands some forty-six years later – the gold went to American Tommie Smith. Another American, John Carlos, poked his nose past the finish line just 0.04 seconds after Peter, meaning Peter was to find himself sandwiched between a pair of Yanks on the podium. No matter, it was still a day for the books.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos approached Peter after the race, and asked him if he believed in human rights. He did. Then they asked if he believed in God. No doubt feeling a smidge uneasy about this bizarre line of questioning, Peter replied that yes, he did. He’d been raised in a Salvation Army household – a military brat for Jesus, if you will – and his belief in God was as sturdy as any Stenocereus cactus popping out of the Mexican sand. Then the Americans confessed what they planned to do on the podium.

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The raised fist was a symbol of Black Power, an emblem of a cultural struggle for basic human equality that at the time was pummeling America from a racist nation into a… a slightly less racist nation. Yes, the Black Power clenched-fist was also thrust in the air by those militant few who exercised their violent tendencies for that cause, but six months had passed since Martin Luther King’s assassination; more than anything, Tommie and John were making a solemn statement for equality. Read more…

Day 745: Mind Over Brain Matter

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It is more than a little discomforting to imagine the center of one’s universe of perception, that grey squishy head-gloop that defines for us our life, our world and our being, getting plopped onto a table and poked by scientists in search of some glimmer of truth within the think-meat. Certainly I’m fully in favor of organ donation, either for life-saving or sciencey purposes. But no sense of morality is mighty enough to quash my nagging squirminess about my inevitable demise.

Nowadays it’s easy to feel secure in our medical knowledge of the brain. We count on it. Maybe we aren’t yet equipped with the tomes of knowledge that will eradicate our diseases and prolong our existences until whenever, but we should know how things work up there, right? But to get to this point, a lot of skulls had to be cracked open and a lot of eyes had to squint at what was inside.

Sometimes those skulls belonged to famous people. And sometimes the quest for knowledge was not at the front of the list of ‘why’s. Knowing this only makes me feel that much more squeamish.

EinsteinBrain

This particular slab of beige jelly once bopped along beneath the frantic trademark hair of Albert Einstein. When the great physicist expired in 1955, scientists were swiftly removing this cerebral steak from his dome within seven hours, presumably with Einstein’s prior consent. Even with most of the brain’s topography mapped out in extensive detail, the physical construction of a brain this exquisite was bound to pique a truck-full of curiosity. Was some component of this thing going to be larger or more robust than average? Or did he just master the goods that the rest of us also have? Read more…

Day 454: Topping The Market, Part II

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The beauty of what some call ‘useless trivia’ is in its ephemeral nature. The facts and statistics under this heading are fleeting and transitory, often surpassed or rendered obsolete before they’ve made their way through the populace. Yet the good ones will merit a raised eyebrow, a muttered “huh”, or – at best – a thousand words of prose from a guy with a deadline. In that sense, such “useless” trivia belies its name. Yesterday’s mention of the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore topping the list of most expensive buildings held my attention for a period of time greater than a shoe-tie and less than a pint of beer – moderate, yes. But useless? Hardly.

With this feeble sense of purpose I return once again to this exercise in curiosity-poking. What other chart-toppers represent the most expensive in their field? So far the ‘why’ remains mostly elusive (though the massive rooftop infinity pool on the Marina Bay Sands is a pretty solid ‘why’), but I’m not one to speculate on such matters.

I just report the facts; figuring ‘em out ain’t my gig.

CodexLeicester

The highest-priced books read like a logical list of what the highest-priced books should be: Shakespeare’s First Folio, an original Gutenberg Bible, an original exemplar of the Magna Carta… all rare tomes, all worthy of the prestige of costing as much as it would take to feed a starving African nation for a month. But none are worth more than this baby. Read more…