Cluster Map

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pollyanna greets you

Pollyanna is back and while she assures you that she is not in the least  superstitious (touch wood) and certainly does not believe in zombies, she  would like to share one with you. This particular zombie is cosmic in nature and is certainly of interest. If you are afraid of zombies, relax. This one is 110 million light years away. Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a team of  astronomers has spotted a star system that could have left behind a “zombie star” after an unusually weak supernova explosion.

Supernova 2012Z
The two inset images show before-and-after images captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of Supernova 2012Z in the spiral galaxy NGC 1309. The white X at the top of the main image marks the location of the supernova in the galaxy.
Image Credit: 
A supernova typically  obliterates the exploding white dwarf, or dying star. On this occasion, scientists believe this faint supernova may have left behind a surviving  portion of the dwarf star -- a sort of zombie star.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action  blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what  we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf  of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations  at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week Pollyanna gets to choose a charity. Her choice is  Doctors Without Borders, who deliver medical aid wherever it is needed.

They are on the scene in Africa, in Syria, in Gaza, the list goes on. You can  donate to them either directly on their Web site or via GlobalGiving who list  many projects that they run. Please put your hand into your pocket for this  most worthy organization.
Pollyanna takes the liberty this week of  proposing two charities. We have until Sunday to raise enough money to buy 5000 tons of surplus potatoes and ship them to Gaza. So far a miniscule fraction of the required sum has been raised. Please click and help out.

IN MEMORIAM  Robin Williams 1951-2014

The great actor was found dead at his  home north of San Francisco, apparently a suicide. He was a Juilliard-trained  actor and an uncontainably exhibitionist comic who became one of the most dazzling all-around talents in show business. He won an Oscar for best  supporting actor in Good Will Hunting and in Pollyanna's considered opinion  should have won best actor for his role in Good Morning Vietnam.  He played  a space alien in the TV series Mork and Mindy and starred as an inspired prep school teacher in The Dead Poets' Society.

Depression and addiction are terrible things. He was said to joke about his cocaine habit. He was an admitted abuser of cocaine — which he also referred to as “Peruvian marching powder” and “the devil’s dandruff” — in the 1970s and ‘80s, and addressed his drug habit in his comedy act. “What a wonderful drug,” he said in a sardonic routine from “Live at the Met.” “Anything that makes you paranoid and impotent, give me more of that.” He was also a great one-line, impromptu satirist, who managed not to offend the great and powerful at whom his arrows were aimed.
He was also a supporter of human  rights. Amnesty International mourns the loss of a great friend and supporter  of humanistic causes. His colleagues grieve deeply. A full obituary is in the Guardian as well as the Washington Post.

Here is a video of him from 1987 

IN MEMORIAM Lauren Bacall, 1924-2014, 
She was the sultry presence who first hit movie screens in 1944 and then went on to play a series of sophisticated, tough-as-nails roles for the next six decades – even in real life – has died.
She played several roles opposite her husband Humphrey Bogart and also had major success on her own including 1957′s “Designing Woman” and 1974′s “Murder on the Orient Express.”. She was, as was Robin Williams,  well known for sharp ad-lib quotes. Her colleagues remember her with love and admiration. The Guardian gives an obituary and also some insight into how she escaped being a studio product. We saw her on stage in London in the 1970's in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth and her stage presence was unforgettable.

Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, you enriched the lives of all of us. May you Rest in Peace.

Pollyanna is glad to inform you that one of China’s most famous dissident lawyers, Gao Zhisheng, was released from prison on Thursday. We have campaigned for him over the years since his arrest and wish him the best. We hope he can be united with his family in the USA very soon.
Gao Zhisheng in 2010. Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press

Explorer Vasco da Gama kneels before the Portuguese monarch before his departure to India
The explorer Vasco da Gama is seen kneeling before the Portuguese monarch before his departure to seek out India. Abraham Zacuto is depicted on right – with his head against a sail. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
August 12, 1452, is the birth date of the Spanish-Jewish astronomer and historian Abraham Zacuto, who advised the court of Portuguese King John (or Juan) II, and whose state-of-the-art navigation innovations were used by both Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama. He was one of the great Jewish scholars of Spain until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. He moved on to Portugal and then to North Africa and the Ottoman Empire. His life and contribution to science are most interesting, says Pollyanna.

Since 1988 the Discovery Channel has featured an annual week devoted to sometimes factual reporting about these denizens of the deep. You may want to watch some of them. There has also been criticism of the programs, mainly for their distortion of facts and the propagation of myths. The shark science community is distancing itself from them. We will return to Shark Week in the proper venue, The Kingdom of Id, below.

Before getting on to the rants and raves Pollyanna would like to express her disgust at the fact that one of the convicted rapists in Steubenville is back to playing football for the local high school. Apparently shame has vanished from the Earth. She is also revolted by an antisemitic cartoon in an Australian newspaper.  
We hope that Australia has laws about hate propaganda and that the local Jewish community continues to raise its voice.
This cutting piece of satire by Amir Oren assumes that the reader is  familiar with the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. For the younger set and  the non-literati we refer you to the link. The catch was article 22 in the  military rule book: anyone who is insane is exempt from flying bombing  missions over Germany. The catch is that not wanting to fly these dangerous  missions is taken by the Air Force to be a certain indication of sanity. Our hero Yossarian is everyone's soldier, bless him. Heller takes apart the military in a thorough manner, reminiscent of Hasek and his The Good Soldier  Svejk. BTW, we once had a discussion with some young Israeli officers about Svejk. They totally missed the point of the satire and thought that Svejk was the butt and not the army and the command structure. It has been said with some authority that thinking in Hebrew diminishes IQ. A militaristic  brainwashing from kindergarten on certainly has that effect. 


Such people are beyond the pale. We can understand the  Koch brothers who need a few billion more to be happy and the future of humanity be damned. What revolts us is the phenomenon of people who deny anthropogenic climate change for no reason other than a contrary nature coupled with abysmal stupidity. We could name a few.  Phil Plait, bless him, tells us of a ray of hope, a campaign to name and shame politicians who lick the hands and feet of the oil industry and deny climate change. Go for it guys and gals!

This is a set of commands in the IDF under which a soldier who is about to be taken prisoner and cannot be  rescued is killed to avoid his being used as a bargaining chip. It involves massive fire power to isolate the region and prevent the prisoner from being removed. The procedure was  recently used in Rafa when 1st Lieut. Hadar Goldin was thought to have been  captured. It turned out that he was dead, but the massive fire was used nonetheless with huge loss of innocent life.  Uri Misgav wrote a strong critique (Hebrew) of the action in Haaretz which the newspaper chose not to translate for its English edition. Fortunately, Richard Silverstein provides us with at least a partial  translation.

We are constantly told that Hamas uses the Gazan people as a human shield and stores weapons in hospitals, schools, mosques etc.  Norwegian doctors who served in Gaza in both the previous war and this one repudiate this statement. Uri Misgav delivers a strong blast at the public in Israel that loves to wallow in hate and puts an Iron Dome over its conscience. He notes the great solidarity--in an affluent neighborhood of Tel Aviv  the tenants of a luxury high-rise refused to let the residents of the nearby Givat Amal neighborhood into their shelters when they knocked on their locked doors with their children during an alert. Let us hope that this horror ends soon. We shall all have to live with the lasting consequences, primarily the erosion of democracy and the schism in the community. In truth, the tail wags the dog here and as usual a well organized minority can control an incoherent
majority, alas.


Again there is no new What If? but we can make do with some Randall cartoons.
TED Talk



Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/10/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/11/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/12/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/13/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/14/2014

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