June 28, 2022

Democratic Backsliding in the U.S.

Democratic backsliding

Democratic backsliding has been ongoing in the U.S. since the late 2010s. The V-Dem Institute’s electoral democracy index score for the United States peaked in 2015 and declined sharply after 2016, for which year it was also downgraded to ‘flawed democracy’ by the Economist Intelligence Unit in its annual ‘Democracy Index’ report. Both V-Dem and Freedom House downgraded the United States in 2018.

Iranian–German sociologist Behrouz Alikhani cites the government following the interests of global corporations rather than citizens and loosening of campaign finance laws, especially the ‘Citizens United’ decision, to enable the wealthy greater influence in politics. Political scientist Wendy Brown argued in 2006 that the United States was de-democratizing because of neoliberalism and neoconservatism. In a 2021 book, historian Karen J. Greenberg argued that policies adopted during the war on terror enabled later democratic backsliding under the Trump administration. Continue reading

June 21, 2022

Bodega Cat

Bodega

A bodega [boh-dey-guh] cat is a type of working cat that inhabits a bodega, which in New York City English refers to a convenience store or deli. Much like farm cats, library cats, and ship cats, a bodega cat is typically a mixed breed cat kept as a form of biological pest control to manage or prevent rodent infestations.

A bodega cat may be a domesticated cat that is kept by the bodega owner, or a semi-feral cat that the bodega owner attracts to the store through regular feeding. Public health departments typically prohibit bodega cats under food codes that ban live animals from establishments where consumable goods are sold. Continue reading

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June 15, 2022

Three Wolf Moon

Three Wolf Moon

Three Wolf Moon is a T-shirt designed by artist Antonia Neshev featuring three wolves howling at the Moon. It gained popularity after attracting sarcastic reviews on Amazon.com attributing great power to it, such as making the wearer irresistible to women, striking fear into other males, and having magical healing abilities.

German scholar Melvin Haack considers it to be a notable example of a redneck joke. The reviews have been included in studies of such online sarcasm. The shirt has also been been described as parodic of the alpha male archetype.

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June 12, 2022

Bored Ape

bored ape

Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) is a non-fungible token (NFT) collection built on the Ethereum blockchain. The collection features profile pictures of cartoon apes that are procedurally generated by an algorithm.

The parent company of Bored Ape Yacht Club is Yuga Labs. The project launched in April 2021. Owners of a Bored Ape NFT are granted access to a private online club, exclusive in-person events, and intellectual property rights for the image. Continue reading

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May 28, 2022

Zima

Malt drink

Zima Clearmalt was a clear, lightly carbonated alcoholic beverage made and distributed by the Coors Brewing Company. Introduced in 1993, it was marketed as an alternative to beer, an example of what is now often referred to as a cooler, with 4.7–5.4% alcohol by volume. Its production in the U.S. ceased in 2008, but it was still marketed in Japan until 2021. MillerCoors promoted a limited release of Zima in the summers of 2017 and 2018.

Zima means ‘winter’ in Slavic languages. It was launched nationally in the United States as Zima Clearmalt in 1993 after being test-marketed two years earlier in the cities of Nashville, Sacramento, and Syracuse. The lemon-lime drink was part of the ‘clear craze’ of the 1990s that produced products such as Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear. Early advertisements for Zima described it as a ‘truly unique alcohol beverage’ and used the tagline ‘Zomething different.’ Continue reading

May 23, 2022

Socialist Fraternal Kiss

My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love

The socialist fraternal kiss was a special form of greeting between socialist leaders. The act demonstrated the special connection that exists between socialist countries, consisting of an embrace, along with a series of three kisses on alternate cheeks. In rare cases, when the two leaders considered themselves exceptionally close, the kisses were given on the mouth rather than on the cheeks.

The fraternal kiss became famous via Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev, who were photographed exercising the ritual. The photograph became widespread and it was subsequently reproduced into a graffiti painting on the Berlin Wall named ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.’ Continue reading

May 3, 2022

Preparedness Paradox

y2k

The preparedness paradox is the proposition that if a society or individual acts effectively to mitigate a potential disaster such as a pandemic or other catastrophe so that it causes less harm, the avoided danger will be perceived as having been much less serious because of the limited damage actually caused.

The paradox is the incorrect perception that there had been no need for careful preparation as there was little harm, although in reality the limitation of the harm was due to preparation. Several cognitive biases can consequently hamper proper preparation for future risks. Continue reading

May 2, 2022

Accidental Discovery

Author and researcher Royston Roberts has said that various discoveries required a degree of genius, but also some lucky element for that genius to act on.  Author Richard Gaughan wrote that accidental discoveries result from the convergence of preparation, opportunity, and desire.

Major everyday discoveries that were helped by luck in some way include products like vulcanized rubber, teflon, nylon, penicillin, cyanoacrylate (Super Glue), the implantable pacemaker, the microwave oven, Scotchgard, Saran wrap, Silly Putty, Slinky, safety glass, the propeller, artificial snowmaking, stainless steel, Perkin’s mauve (one of the first synthetic dyes), and popsicles. Most artificial sweeteners have been discovered when accidentally tasted, including aspartame and saccharin. Continue reading

April 27, 2022

Edge Sorting

Edge sorting

Edge sorting is a technique used in advantage gambling where a player determines whether a face-down playing card is likely to be low or high at casino table games by observing, learning, and exploiting subtle unintentional differences on the backs of the cards being dealt.

Applied by poker player Phil Ivey and subsequently challenged in court by the casino in which he did so, the UK High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court ruled that the technique, which requires the player to trick the dealer into rotating specific, high-value cards, is cheating in civil law, and that a casino was justified in refusing payment of winnings. This ruling would not be applicable if the player simply took advantage of an observed error or anomaly in the deck for which he was not responsible. Continue reading

April 26, 2022

Ramen

Momofuku Ando

Ramen is a Japanese adaptation of Chinese wheat noodles. One theory says that ramen was introduced to Japan during the 1660s by the Chinese neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Shunsui who served as an advisor to Tokugawa Mitsukuni after he became a refugee in Japan to escape Manchu rule and Mitsukuni became the first Japanese person to eat ramen. Most historians reject this theory as a myth created by the Japanese to embellish the origins of ramen.

According to historians, the more plausible theory is that ramen was introduced to Japan in the late 19th or early 20th century by Chinese immigrants living in the Yokohama Chinatown. According to the record of the Yokohama Ramen Museum, ramen originated in China and made its way to Japan in 1859. Early versions were wheat noodles in broth topped with Chinese-style roast pork. There are many related, Chinese-influenced noodle dishes in Japan. Continue reading

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April 20, 2022

Terminal Lucidity

Deathbed phenomena

Terminal lucidity, also known as ‘rallying’ or ‘the rally,’ is an unexpected return of mental clarity and memory, or suddenly regained consciousness that occurs in the time shortly before death in patients suffering from severe psychiatric or neurological disorders. This condition has been reported by physicians since the 19th century.

Several case reports in the 19th century described the unusual condition of an improvement and recovery of the mental state in patients days or weeks before death. English physician William Munk, for instance, in 1887 called the phenomenon ‘lucidity before death.’ Continue reading

March 27, 2022

Hyperpop

A. G. Cook

Hyperpop is a loosely-defined music movement and microgenre, characterized by a maximalist or exaggerated take on popular music. Artists tagged with the label typically integrate pop and avant-garde sensibilities, drawing on tropes from electronic, hip hop, and dance music.

The microgenre reflects an exaggerated, eclectic, and self-referential approach to pop music and typically employs elements such as brash synth melodies, Auto-Tuned ‘earworm’ vocals, and excessive compression and distortion, as well as surrealist or nostalgic references to 2000s Internet culture and the Web 2.0 era. Continue reading

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