An open letter to humanity on getting its collective act together.

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Doubtless you’d have preferred a revoltingly twee, anthropomorphised depiction of the author with big googly eyes. You make me sick. (Image by Axel_Kock)

Dear H. Sapien,

You know that scene in the Matrix where Agent Smith monologues his revulsion with your species by likening it to a virus?

You wish you were a virus.

Here’s the pecking order here on planet Earth: plants, unicellular organisms, viruses, fungi and — dead last — animals like you. At least you’re at the top of that totem pole.

I know, I know. It’s hard to take. Here you are, having dutifully woken up at 5AM, made your bed, drunk a litre of water, meditated, gone for a 10K jog and had your Greek yoghurt with goji berries, being told you’re lower than amoebae, pond scum and slime mould. …


Uncomfortable truths about the industry and how it intertwines with child abuse, sex trafficking, and exploitation

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(Image by Yupa Watchanakit)

This article covers the direct and indirect harm of pornography from a non-consumer-centric point of view.

Non-simulated violence and the glorification of rape, child abuse, and incest feature prominently in pornography.

Pornography has come a long way since Grecian urns and Playboy centrefolds; anonymous, easy access to an overabundance of content has resulted in an desensitised consumer, and a saturated market.

In response to such challenges, pornographers are making bank by filming people, primarily women, subjected to increasingly degrading and dangerous sex acts. Secondary distributors also profit while turning a blind eye to the fact that many a video uploaded to their platform was the end result of blackmail, threat, coercion, rape, and child abuse.

Violence in popular pornography

Rough group sex (including “gangbangs”, “double”, and “triple anal”), women gagging on male genitalia (sometimes to the point of vomiting), slapping, choking, misogynistic verbal abuse and ejaculating on a woman’s face — particularly common in the “interracial” genre — are now the mainstay of pornography. …


Book Review

Life lessons from two tales of ascension and one poignant story of what we gain by slowing down

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Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

Although the following books have vastly different settings: the underbelly of New Delhi, the court of Henry VIII, and the world of Salzburg concert halls, all are skillfully wrought tales of self-determination.

The manic, the maudlin, and the melancholic — three of the best books I’ve read this year:

The White Tiger: A Novel | Aravind Adiga

“The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave.”

A book with bite. Its social commentary on corruption in modern day India is top-notch, absolutely dripping with venom. Adiga could have easily made the protagonist, a member of the downtrodden underclass, a figure to be pitied, instead there’s something so delightfully funny, acerbic, and utterly vicious in this first person account of cutthroat ambition. …


It is religion, and not science fiction, which has prepared us for artificial intelligence

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Image by agsandrew

“Scientists built an intelligent computer. The first question they asked it was, ‘Is there a God?’ The computer replied, ‘There is now.’ And a bolt of lightening struck the plug, so it couldn’t be turned off.”

— Stephen Hawking (speaking sardonically)

Rare is the man who is ready to meet his maker, rarer still is the person prepared to come face-to-face with their artificial, self-aware creation.

We rightly fear the ramifications of unleashing an artificial intelligence (AI) on the world. It’s a Pandora’s box that once opened, cannot be closed. …


Part I of “Is Madness Contagious?” Is it possible to transfer a delusional belief to another person?

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Image by igor kisselev

“Doctor, doctor, please help me, I’m plagued day and night by tiny alligators. They crawl all over me!” says the patient, flicking away imaginary reptiles.

“Well, good God, man! Don’t get them on me!” yelps his psychiatrist.

Is it possible to induce madness in another?

Folie à deux (“the madness of two”) involves the transference of a delusion from one person to another. …


SATIRE, POETRY

A pro-life senator is forcibly impregnated by an alien and must live with the consequences of his own policies: a poem

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Image by EgudinKa

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” — U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin

“Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that . . . is something that God intended to happen” — U.S. Senate Richard Mourdock

“they had no problem having similar to a [forced, unnecessary] trans-vaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy” — Right-wing talking head Dana Loesch

“Pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness” — Senator Ted Cruz

The Human Body Has Ways Of Shutting It Down

I hear the human body, once said a clown,
In legitimate rape, has ways of shutting it down.
And so I entreat you to imagine a man of his ilk,
Drunk, wearing “provocative” boxers of silk,
Abducted from corn field, or maybe a glen,
Sucked into a flying saucer by little green men. …


10 minutes on the trampoline is equivalent to 30 minutes of running — and the benefits don’t end there

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Photo: Pavel1964/Getty Images

While backyard trampolines are death traps dearly beloved by children (and strongly discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics), their miniature counterparts are safe, inexpensive, and easily stowed in a corner of your home. Not only does jumping on one allow you to experience the thrill of near-weightlessness, as force is required to launch yourself into the air, bouncing also gives you an excellent lower body workout.

Trampolining — rebranded “rebounding” in the fitness industry — does wonders for your cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal system, as well as your mental health. …


POEM

When there’s no earthly justice where does one turn?

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Image by Miramiska

I’m not at all religious,

Though I do wish for a hell,

Don’t need eternal paradise,

But justice would be swell.

Although I’m no believer,

Fire and brimstone do appeal,

For those who inflict wounds,

On those who’ll never heal.

Can’t say that I’m a Christian,

But karma feels less right,

To say that they deserved it,

Of someone else’s plight.

Perhaps I am a heretic,

Because the world’s unjust,

Surely, as the innocent do suffer,

Then their abusers must.

I’m not at all religious,

But it’s a way of coping,

Imagining a final reckoning,

There is a hell — I’m hoping.


Grounding the abstract in the concrete is the key to the way we communicate, think, and feel

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“Metaphors of the Mind”, Image composed in Canva

She’s got an “explosive” temper, he’s “cold”, and they’re both a bit “shallow”… but as they say, love is “blind”. Metaphors are ubiquitous in everyday speech. Question is, are such linguistic flourishes merely ornamental, or do they serve some higher purpose?

Though you may not be a poet, you likely utter a metaphor six times per minute and write five such expressions per hundred words of text (Gibbs, 1994; Pollio et al., 1990). The frequency with which you reach for a metaphor should clue you in: metaphor is essential to communication and, as I’ll show you soon, cognition too.

Metaphorically speaking

Consider bouba and kiki, imaginary names for the imaginary shapes below — not necessarily in that order. Intuitively you’d assume bouba is round while kiki is sharp and jagged, finding yourself in the company of 95–98% of the population (Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001). …


Squandered potential in the “Stargate SG-1” TV series

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Image by Ian Law

Wishing to ensconce myself in nostalgia and thereby transport myself into a better frame of mind, I sought out Stargate SG-1, a childhood favourite. However, I quickly realised how few episodes could scratch my particular itch. Imagine creating a show centred around an intergalactic portal to alien worlds — a nifty-looking rotary phone festooned with constellations— and then squandering it for various B-grade plots.

A way of exploring the human condition as much as the far reaches of space, the appeal of science fiction varies from person to person. For some it might be that science fiction offers a glimpse of technological wonders beyond our ken — or even more pleasurably — those enticingly close to being within our grasp. …

About

Angela Volkov

Glutting myself on all that life has to offer and writing about it. Art, language, science, humour, and whatever else takes my fancy…

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