GIFs are the lingua franca of the Internet, short bursts of video that quickly convey a thought, emotion, or point. They’re frivolous and fun, not at all the type of thing people give much thought to. But Bill Domonkos considers them an art. “I think of them as very short films,” he says.
He isn’t interested in kittens popping out of boxes, guys falling from rooftops or Michael Scott of The Office yelling No!. Domonkos blends vintage photos, old films, and other found material in strange, almost surreal ways that mix genres and eras. “It’s the idea of manipulating the past with the present that interests me,” he says. “The GIFs in particular are kind of like stranded moments that hover somewhere between the past and the future. They seem to exist in a specious present.”
His fascination with film started as a child growing up in Toledo, Ohio, where he shot his own version of Valley of the Dolls with a Super 8 camera. Later, he studied video art at Cleveland Institute of Art. Even now, as an interactive designer in San Francisco, films remain his greatest source of inspiration. He goes to the cinema twice weekly, and whiles away hours at a time watching old movies on Fandor. “There’s such a beauty to images that were made on actual film,” he says. “It’s kind of hypnotizing, the flicker that exists within the frame.”
He is equally fascinated by the past, and was ecstatic when the Library of Congress and others placed their vast archives online for all to use. Before long he was mining the repository to create spellbinding films like Nocturne and Beyond the Blue Horizon.
Those films led Domonkos to GIFs. Five years ago, he started adding odd elements—a hovering knife, a glowing radar screen—to old photos. He found the eerie loops soothing. Hundreds more have followed in the years since, and Domonkos spends an hour each day searching for photos online. Sometimes he’ll whip one up in a few hours. Others can take weeks. The dreamlike scenes bring to mind a fantastic world somewhere between the past and the future, one that is a whole lot more fun than that laughing baby GIF your mother just sent you.
I LOVE UFOCASEBOOK! GOOD MORNING MY FELLOW CRAZIES
Making the Case That Animals Are Impressively Smart
The world is brimming with brainy beings
By Steve Mirsky on July 1, 2016
Twenty years ago I wrote a profile of primatologist and author Frans de Waal for another magazine. As a placeholder for the title until we could think of a better one, I came up with “The Writing on de Waal.” I'm both delighted and appalled to say that either by an act of editorial commission or by one of omission, the piece was published with that title. Now I have the chance to write on de Waal again, in the context of the arrival of his latest book, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? The answer: sometimes, with great effort.
Imagine judging Michael Jordan's basketball skills by watching him hit .202 when he played Minor League Baseball. Gauging an animal's brightness poses similar issues: “We need to familiarize ourselves with all facets of the animal and its natural history before trying to figure out its mental level,” de Waal writes. “And instead of testing animals on abilities that we are particularly good at … why not test them on their specialized skills?” De Waal thus prefers the term “evolutionary cognition” to “animal intelligence” for this field of study. “It seems highly unfair to ask if a squirrel can count to ten,” de Waal writes, “if counting is not really what a squirrel's life is about.” You could even say it's nuts.
Consider the story in the book about a test administered to gibbons, pretty good apes. (Not great apes. They're technically lesser or smaller apes.) The tree dwellers were asked to reach out with a thin stick to move a banana close enough to their enclosure to pick it up. Chimpanzees and some monkeys could get their bananas lickety-split. But gibbons flopped and were thus considered intellectually backward. Until a researcher named Benjamin Beck realized that their hooklike hands, excellent for traveling among the tree limbs, were miserable at the kind of manipulations the task required. When Beck redesigned the experiment so that the provided tools were in the subjects' anatomical wheelhouse, well, blue ribbons for the gibbons.
De Waal reviews numerous studies involving crows, dolphins, whales, bats, sheep and other fauna showing off their brainpower. But as a longtime chimp researcher—he is director of the Living Links Center at Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center—he devotes the lion's share of his time to our close cousins. One anecdote involves a colony of 25 chimps at Burgers' Zoo in Arnhem, Netherlands, which de Waal studied for six years, starting in 1975. The chimps spent nights inside but were let out onto an adjoining island all day. One morning he and some colleagues carried a crate overflowing with grapefruits past the watchful chimps and out to the island—the first time either group of primates had ever engaged in this behavior. “We thought we would get a reaction from them, but they sort of ignored the grapefruits,” de Waal told me when he visited New York City in April.
The researchers then hid the grapefruits on the island to study how the chimps would search for them later. “And then we came back with an empty crate,” he said. “And that's when they reacted. They saw an empty crate, and they started jumping around and hollering and slapping one another on the back. And I've never seen animals so excited for no fruit.... They must have deduced that we cannot go out with a crate of grapefruits and come back with it empty without these things staying” on the island, where they would soon be able to party hearty on the citrus snacks.
But there's more. When the troop got to the island, some went right past the site of a few grapefruits buried not quite completely in the sand. The human observers assumed all the chimps had overlooked the cache. But later, when his Pan pals were taking a siesta, a low-ranking male nonchalantly returned to the buried fruit. “He knew exactly where they were,” de Waal said to me, “but he had decided not to react at the moment that he saw them.” Presumably because if he had, higher-ranking individuals would have pilfered his produce. That's some quick, strategic thinking that shows off impressive evolutionary cognition.
So when somebody says they don't believe that humans evolved from ape ancestors, I tell myself I'm better off talking to de Waal.
I like this item. When I was a kid in Churchill we raised a red squirrel we found in the bottom of an oil drum. My dad made a cage by putting posts in the corners of a wood box, and screening it in. That way we could put in a "tree" and so on. There was a little hinged door on the box, with a lock. As he grew, he chewed a hole under the door, and was somehow getting out. The hole looked too small for him to get in or out, but we put little stones in it, which he would remove and somehow get out. Eventually, we saw how he did it: he would put an arm out through the hole, reach up and slide the lock open. After that, we just left the door open and he came and went as he pleased. He had two favourite games. One was to get on your arm, then, as you spun around like a dervish, he would launch himself and land on a piece of furniture, then run back and go up your leg and onto your arm for more. He would have done that all day if you let him. The other was teasing the cat. Every morning he'd go looking for the cat and pick a fight. They'd spend the next half hour running around the house. At first I worried, but the squirrel was so fast he'd run up the stairs, followed by the cat, then at the top, turn around and actually run down the stairs, jumping on the cat's back (still on his way up) as he went. By the time the cat reacted by waving a paw in the air, the squirrel was already at the bottom of the stairs and gone.
Uh, Mr. President? Mr. President, let's hold off on any big immigration push until we correct this situation.....
A. Let's stop fighting other people's battles all over the globe. B. Let's take care of our veterans, physically AND emotionally.
2014 saw 20 veteran suicides a day
VA gives first precise count of 7,403 former service members who took their own lives
Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
An average of 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014, a trend that reflects record-high rates among young men fresh out of the military and growing numbers of women taking their lives, according to the first actual count of suicides among former service members.
The Department of Veterans Affairs previously had only estimated suicides, saying in 2010 there was an average of 22 a day. The 2014 data released Thursday are based on a precise tabulation of the 7,403 deaths.
David Shulkin, VA undersecretary for health, noted the slight decline from the 2010 estimate, but said, “It’s still far too high.”
The 2014 count is the first slice of a massive examination of 55 million veteran death records dating back to 1979. Shulkin said that a final report due in several weeks will detail more suicide trends.
The VA found the worst suicide pattern among male veterans, ages 18-29. Their suicide rate was 86 per 100,000 people, nearly four times the rate among active duty service members last year.
By contrast, the overall U.S. suicide rate is 13 per 100,000 people, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The new figures show the suicide rate among young female veterans, ages 18-29, was 33 per 100,000 — more than double the overall U.S. rate.
Shulkin said the suicide rate among all female veterans was more than double that of women who didn’t serve in the military.
“It is difficult to understand why that is happening. It is one of the things that I think will become a central research question for us,” he said.
Shulkin said more research is needed to determine whether women who served closer to combat or experienced sexual trauma in the military put them at greater risk of taking their own lives.
He said the VA has taken several “aggressive” steps to deal with the high suicide rates.
They include adding staff to the crisis hotline for veterans (800273-8255), identifying veterans at high risk, increasing mental health counselors and expanding mental health therapy via telephone.
In 2014, veterans accounted for 18% of all suicides in the USA, but made up only 8.5% of the population.
In 2010, veterans accounted for 22% of U.S. suicides and 9.7% of the population.