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Corporate Takeover of New Internet Names

Internet map

Map of the Internet - Global Nerve System

Now somebody wants to privatize internet addresses. We think that’s a lousy idea.

The internet is getting to be a crowded place and we need new top-level domain names. Frankly, it’s getting harder and harder for businesses and individuals to invent .com names that haven’t alrady been thought of and taken. So the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has come up with over a thousand new top-level domains – tags such as such as .book or .news or .art or .bank or .university or .beer so forth.

Unfortunately, there’s a movement afoot to allow the new domains to be managed by private, for profit corporations.

Change.org has a petition to stop the private take over.  As they say – “If companies like Amazon and others have their way, there will be no .MUSIC website names available for musicians and bands, No .SALON domain names for real salon owners, no .APP web addresses for app developers.” We at CriticalPages agree.  As we said, we think that’s a bad idea, a lousy idea, a really, really terrible idea.

Death And Other Possible Side Effects

Medieval cure for head cold

Medieval Cure For A Head Cold

The people who sponsor network TV programs do so because they know who is watching those programs. And they figure they have the products that those people want to buy. People from all walks of life might watch the Super Bowl or a weekly comedy show. But only a certain kind of person is going to be a steady viewer of the evening news broadcast on network TV.

Who looks at network TV news? Who wants to be informed about US politics, foreign affairs, advances in science, terrible social situations here and abroad, wars or floods, important legal cases and, occasionally, at the end of the show, some minor,  whimsical event? Who are those people watching the evening news?

They’re people who suffer from head colds, allergies, dry eyes, badly fitting false teeth, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (they call it COPD for short), asthma, gas and bloating, heartburn, acid reflux, constipation, hard stool, arthritis, osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction (they call it ED, for short) low testosterone (low T, for short) and insomnia. And they’re really desperate. The cures advertised for those ailments have scary side effects, such as life-threatening allergic reactions, or cancer, or death due to the collapse of one or more body organs. At least one has suicide as a nasty side effect.

Yes, watching the news is hard. Watching the advertisements is harder.

Far Away Planets Just Like Ours! Sort of… Maybe.

Planets in Milky WayMaybe you’ve seen the curious painting just above here. It was released on January 7, 2013, by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. According to the caption that usually accompanies the painting, it  shows the different types of planets in our Milky Way galaxy detected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. The caption also says that a new analysis of Kepler data found there are at least 17 billion planets the size of Earth in the Milky Way.

New stories about the Kepler data are happy to suggest there’s a possibility, a strong possibility — there must be !—-other worlds just like ours out there. I mean, out of 17 billion there must be at least one beautiful blue-and-white planet like our earth, right? Old TV viewers may remember Carl Sagan, the brilliant  Cornell astrophysicist and his award winning TV series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.  Sagan often spoke of the billions and billions of stars in the cosmos, and if there were “billions and billions” of stars, then there must be only a few billion fewer planets to orbit those suns, and if there are billions of planets then surely there’s one, probably many, like our own.

Popular commentary on the recent Kepler data relies on the same statistical hope that there must be some, surely a few,  certainly at least one, just like our own. And if it’s just like our own, then it must have life, like our Earth does, and — oh, hell, let’s go all the way — there must be somebody on some earth-like planet out there looking at a computer screen, reading a post just like you are now!

The people who gather and present the Kepler data don’t make such claims.  As a matter of fact, a visit to the Kepler web site will be a cold shower for anyone hoping to discover there’s a world like ours out there.  In dull fact, the Kepler site counts 105 confirmed planets and 2740 candidates that might get confirmed someday.  Where did the news about 17 billion planets come from? It came from a press conference, January 7, 2013, at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Long Beach, California. The first two panelists at the press conference spoke about Kepler:

  • Planet Candidates Observed by Kepler: Two Years of Precision Photometry – Christopher Burke (SETI Institute)
  • At Least One in Six Stars Has an Earth-size Planet – Francois Fressin (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

And why now? Maybe — is it possible? — because there are going to be severe cuts to budgets in all sectors of the United States government and even NASA will be on the chopping block. People, tax payers in particular, aren’t especially interested in paying for a space program that scans a bit of the Milky Way looking for a transient dip in starlight, which dip might indicate a planet coming between us and that star, and that’s what Kepler does. But even tax payers are curious about extra terrestial life. So now is a good time to hold a press conference and let the media do the rest.

Winter Solstice

Christmas cookiesKeep calm and eat Christmas cookies. Today is one of those rare times when the longest night of the year coincides with the predicted end of the world. The most important thing when facing Doomsday is not to panic. As usual, to be prepare for such an emergency situation you should have a good flashlight,  candles, a pack of wooden matches, a supply of water and some trail mix, plus a map of your state and the intervening states between your home and the Canadian border. Or you can stay where you are and wait it out, for like other days, Doomsday is only 24 hours long.  If you decide to remain where you are,  stay calm and eat lots of Christmas cookies.

Among the Christmas cookies  in our photo are a couple which will be recognizable to fans of the wonderful British science fiction TV show, Dr. Who.  The show began running in 1963, cancelled in 1989, then resurected in 2005 and is still going.  The central character, the Doctor, has been played by 11 different actors, the change from one actor to another being written into the script as a “regeneration” of the same person, a Time Lord. The Doctor travels around the universe in his TARDIS, a space and time travel machine. On the outside it looks like a blue British police box, common in Britain in 1963 when the series began. The Doctor’s machine is a defective old-fashioned model he stole from a museum, but it does retain a primary characteristic of being much larger inside than outside. Various Dr. Who series are available in the United States on BBC America, and possibly other channels as well.

(The absolutely excellent cookies in our photo were made by Linnea and are vanishing fast into another dimension.)


Mister Rogers and the Little Boy

Mr Rogers and a little kid by Jim Judkis

Mister Rogers and the little kid - Photo by Jim Judkis

This is a photograph of Mister Rogers being greeted by a child. Recently it’s been reproduced all over the web and in newspapers and magazines, so if you’ve already seen it you probably know that it was taken by Jim Judkis in 1978. We don’t know who the child is.  Many children, now in their forties and fifties, remember Fred Rogers — Mister Rogers as he was known to the kids who watched his TV show. Fred Rogers had a wonderful way of connecting with children, as anyone who watched him can tell you. He was extraordinarily friendly and open to children, not jazzy but calm and not at all intrusive.  Sometimes we forget when we were that small and adults so very, very big. Fred Rogers never forgot— notice how he’s dropped down to greet that little boy — and above all he had a way of making children feel secure. After the recent slaughter of twenty children in Newtown, Connecticut, Mister Rogers’ words of comfort to children came to mind again.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

The photographer had this to say about the photo — “This boy immediately went right up to him and held out his hands to touch him, and he said ‘Mister Rogers!’ In total awe. Total awe. And that was the moment of the photo.”I think it shows the pure attraction, the love … it’s like he’s seeing God, touching God.”

Curious George and the Electronic Book

Curious George book coverOur friend Ed Atkeson (best known as a graphic artist, puppeteer, hiker and iceboat racer) sent us a note recently. And that note sums up beautifully why an electronic cyber book , despite its many virtues,  cannot replace an actual paper book.

“I just saw an advertisement that showed a mother reading Curious George to her kid on a Kindle. I thought it was sad because for the kid, Curious George wouldn’t exist. I mean, exist as a book, where he could be found and chewed and written on, colored, puzzled over. Curious George wouldn’t exist as marks on paper, and so the whole idea of writing, bookmaking, story making and picture making, that having a printed book laying around the house naturally leads to, wouldn’t exist either. Yeah, sad.”

Another quality that children’s books have that cannot be translated into an electronic reader is difference in size and shape.  Kid’s books are often quite large compared to the relatively small printed page that appears behind the translucent surface of the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook. You can’t get down on the floor and spread open an electronic reader and let your imagination roam over two square feet of lavish color illustration. The same is true for adult novels as well, because behind the glassy window of the e-book reader all pages are the same in size, margin, texture and type face. It’s like landing on a planet where everybody has a unique history, but — GOOD GRIEF! — everyone looks exactly like everyone else.

Julia Child

Julia ChidThe hundredth anniversary of Julia Child’s birthday is being celebrated this August, especially on television where she  was  one of the most popular TV figures ever. But why did she become so popular?

By now you’re probably familiar with her books or, at least, you know that she wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and maybe you’ve seen the movie, Julie & Julia, with Meryl Streep as Julia. Julia Child’s early shows appeared back when television was in black and white, not color, and those were the days when shows were often not prerecorded — if Julia fumbled a pot or dropped a spoon, that’s what you saw.  (And if you actually saw those black-and-white programs you’re one of the older readers of Critical Pages.)

Everyone has an answer to the question of why she became so popular. (And so do we.) Yes, she knew French cooking and wanted to teach others how to enjoy cooking and, yes, she had a sense of humor and, yes, certainly, she was authentic — a word that’s often used to describe her TV personality. But maybe the more obvious is being overlooked. Julia Child was a big, tall, plain-faced woman with a terribly screechy voice.  It’s worth noting that the  excellent “Saturday Night Live” parody of her show didn’t use a woman but featured Dan Aykroyd as Julia.

Viewers who found Julia Child found her not on the big popular networks but on PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service. What they saw was a woman who wasn’t better looking than they were, a woman more awkward and more ungainly, a woman who had a voice they would have been ashamed of. But Julia Child didn’t seem to notice her own glaring deficits. On the contrary, she appeared happy and self assured. So people watched, maybe a bit interested in French cooking, certainly interested in how a person who had so little going for her could be so cheerful and so ready to share what she knew with them. This was a person they could  listen to as an equal, or even feel a bit superior to, but maybe learn something from — maybe about French cooking, or maybe about how to be comfortable in your own skin.

Breast Feeding Time Magazine

Time magazine cover May 2012We at Critical Pages always thought we were keeping current. We figured we were in the swim with the rest of the culture. We supposed we knew society, its older conventions and its newer, younger ways of doing things. But, OK, we were startled by this cover of Time magazine. I mean, TIME magazine!

The cover photo is  certainly eye-catching. The striking  young woman in those stylish black leggings is Jamie Lynne Grumet, a 26-year-old mother, breast feeding her three-year-soon-to-be-four-year-old son. The mother has a blog called I  am not the baby sitter which crashed upon publication of the Time magazine cover.  In her Time magazine interview, Grumet says  that she herself was breastfed until she was six. Clearly we’ve not been keeping up with nutritional trends.

This might bring to mind the protracted breast-fed youngster in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, the kid who was nicknamed all his life as Milkman. But, no. This isn’t literature, it’s science. And it isn’t nutrition so much as psychology.  And psychology is more or less a science. Well, sort of.  Maybe you’ve heard about Dr. William Sears and his wife, the nurse Martha, and their books on “attachment parenting.” As we understand it, attachment parenting means getting close to your baby, as much of the time as possible for as long as possible. Bring the kid to bed with you. It builds confidence in the child, we’re told.  OK, we’re cool with all that.  Every happy family is happy in its own way. We were just startled by the magazine cover, is all. And only for a moment. We’re cool.

Intergalactic Alien

Intergalactic vehicle

Read Intergalactic Vehicle Fake Photo

Have you ever listened to radio programs that broadcast late at night, very  late at night? At that hour your mind is open to all sorts of strange thoughts, and some pretty strange thoughts get broadcast in those small hours. Once, when Marilyn Robertson couldn’t get to sleep, she tuned in and heard an interesting story which she reports to us in her poem, “Alien”

Last night, a man on the radio was reminiscing
about the time he was touched by an alien.
He was sitting in his carport, shooting the breeze
with an ex-Marine buddy,
when a woman passed by the house.

She was making a kind of humming sound
and she stopped and asked him for a cigarette.
Well, he gave her one and when their fingers touched,
that’s when he felt the electric current in his stomach.
That’s how he knew.
She told him her name was Tomorrow.

Elsewhere on the dial, the usual mayhem:
hurricanes, robberies, runaway trucks, a warning
not to eat certain vegetables…but nothing more
about the humming woman from another galaxy,
bumming cigarettes along a country road.

 —Marilyn Robertson


GOP, Lies and Audio Tape

You probably know that after the Supreme Court hearing about the health care law, the Republican National Committee released a video with what sounded like an honest audio recording of part of that hearing. And you probably know it wasn’t an honest audio. The Republican National Committee had manipulated the audio to make it sound as if the government’s lawyer, Donald Verrilli, was nervous and stumbling, because he was having a hard time making the case for the government’s health care plan.

Why did the Republican National Committee lie that way? After all, only the most partisan Democrats would claim the government came off well in that hearing. Verrilli certianly did his job well, but any objective listener would have to say that the conservative justices appeared very dubious about the law and the more middle-of-the-road justices seemed pretty skeptical of it.  It wasn’t a good day for the Obama administration.

George Romney’s first video attacking President Barack Obama also was a bare-faced lie. Romney’s campaign associates frankly admitted that they used Obama’s words when he was quoting one of his opponents, but they  attributed the sentiments to Obama. They  said they were merely making a political point. Apparently, that made it all right.  (We have a post on that, but please don’t get distracted.)

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee has said that the GOP ad about health care and the Supreme Court uses multiple audio bites and runs them together to make it sound as if the Solicitor General is having a hard time defending the law. “Our goal was to make the point of what a hard sell Obamacare is,” Spicer told the Associated Press.  Oh, good, that explains the lying.

More Notes

Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.