News Briefs 24-01-2017

Facts, or alternate facts? You be the judge...

Quote of the Day:

The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.

Terry Pratchett

Hallucinogenic Honey Hunters of Nepal

If you've read Paul Devereux's wonderful book The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia, you'll know how prevalent the use of shamanic plants was throughout the ancient world. But what about the use of hallucinogenic honey?

Nepal’s Gurung people live mostly in small villages in the vast Annapurna mountain ranges. In this remote region, they practice an ancient tradition of honey hunting where they descend towering cliffs on handmade ladders, to harvest honey nestled under jagged overhangs.

In spring, the Gurung’s honey contains a rare substance called grayanotoxin from rhododendron flowers that’s known for its intoxicating effects. While some accounts say it’s a deadly poison, others refer to it as an aphrodisiac, powerful medicine, and a hallucinogenic drug.

VICE travelled deep into the Annapurna mountains to join a Gurung village on their spring hunt and understand Mad Honey's effects.

The use of 'mad honey' wasn't just restricted to Nepal though; people in Turkey, Japan, Brazil, North America, and various parts of Europe have over the years been intoxicated by hallucinogenic honey.

News Briefs 23-01-2017

Useful idiot...

Quote of the Day:

The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

Douglas Adams

Evidence Of Equine Empathy At A Human's Funeral


Death is a part of life, as everyone was repeatedly reminded in 2016. And with death comes grief, one of the worst emotions experienced by anyone.

More tragic is how people observe grieving among animals, but many will discount accounts of mourning as anthropomorphism. Elephants have been seen tearing up when faced with death. When wild herds stumble upon the remains of other elephants, they'll pick up the bones and caress them, as if wondering if this was someone they knew in life. Crows also hold funerals for their fallen comrades. Chimps arrange wakes for their fallen friends. Finally man's best friend also mourn their canine and human friends, often holding vigil beside their bodies.

Recently a cow herder by the name of Wagner Figueiredo de Lima was killed in a motorcycle accident in Brazil, leaving behind his family and beloved stallion Sereno. Sereno was brought to the funeral and many in attendance could tell the horse was truly grieving for his best friend. Wagner's brother Wando noted, "This horse was everything to him, it was as if the horse knew what was happening and wanted to say goodbye" after watching Sereno pound his hooves, whimper, sniff the casket, and lower his head against it. Japanese photographer Kiyoshi Abreu was also in the audience, remarking, "The horse knew what was happening, he knew his best friend had gone" in addition to capturing the following heartwrenching images.

Horses are known to grieve for other horses, best illustrated by Dr. Ella Bittel's anecdote about an Appaloosa named Shilo.

Shilo, a 35-year-old Appaloosa mare, had never been too friendly with the two geldings she had lived with for many years. Yet when the day arrived for her planned euthanasia, Jimmy and Colonel became upset as the mare was led away from the pasture they had inhabited as a trio for so long.

A gravesite had been prepared on the large property and after Shilo quietly took in the view of the sunshine-filled valley one more time, the euthanasia was performed out of sight of the geldings.

All the while, both geldings were running up and down the fence line, calling out loudly. Jimmy slowed down after a little while, but Colonel continued, his distraught whinnying shattering the silence of the surrounding hills.

Usually it's humans who mourn the loss of their equine friends but to the best of my knowledge, and several minutes of googling, this is the only instance where a horse mourned their human. While there is no scientific consensus on the internal, subjective lives of horses or other animals, to declare humans are the only living beings who have profound emotions is the pinnacle of arrogance.

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News Briefs 20-01-2017

“Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.”

Quote of the Day:

“Mysteries abound where most we seek for answers.”

Ray Bradbury

Know Your Cryptids Wall Chart

Know Your Cryptids Wall Chart

Got a weird supernatural beastie lurking in the shadows beyond your porch? Keen for your kids to pursue cryptozoology as a career? Looking to land a fortune by hauling in the first evidence of Bigfoot? These are all good reasons to purchase this limited edition 'Know Your Cryptids' wall chart!

This handy screen-printed 18 X 24 poster will help all aspiring cryptozoologists to properly identify a wide range of mysterious entities and animals. It depicts 30 cryptids, from The Enfield Horror to the Loveland Frogman, and many more. Printed on 100 pound high quality paper. Includes an 8.5 X 11 identification sheet printed on standard 80 pound printer paper. Ships in a solid, heavy-duty tube.

The limited edition print run is restricted to just 40 posters though, so get in quick!

Link: Know Your Cryptids! Identification Chart

Operation Mindfix

Robert Anton Wilson

Written by John Higgs

Wednesday just gone (18th of January) was the birthday of the late great American agnostic Robert Anton Wilson.

His books (and in particular, the Illuminatus! trilogy he co-wrote with Robert Shea) depict a bewildering world of conspiracies, half-truths, lies, fake news, incompetence and our inability to find anything resembling objective truth. Or to put it another way, it describes the world as it is now, ten years after his death.

Wilson was a leading figure in the counterculture project known as Operation Mindfuck. This was a form of western Zen. Seeding our culture with confusion, contradiction and mischief, it was thought, would jolt people out of their illusions. Operation Mindfuck kicked off in the 1970s and has never really stopped.

Operation Mindfuck, like the Discordian religion which embraced it, was typically politically neutral, or at least clear that the ideologies of both the left and right were equally valid targets. However, the ideas behind Operation Mindfuck have since become a tool for those with a lust for political power, most blatantly Putin’s advisor Vladislav Surkov, as explained in this short film by Adam Curtis.

It’s stating the obvious, but the vast majority of us are not enjoying this ‘post-truth’ world. It is not so much that the fake news is disturbing. The real gut-kick is when people confidently proclaim that we should return to the pre-post-truth world, and then think about how to do that, and slowly realise that not only is it impossible but that there was no pre-post-truth world in the first place. Think of Hillsborough, or Iraq’s imaginary WMDs. What has actually changed is that it is no longer possible to comfortably fall for our earlier illusions. As the saying goes, if you want to be certain, buy an encyclopaedia. If you want to be uncertain, buy two encyclopaedias. Our culture has bought a second encyclopaedia.

Boris Johnson's lies

The rise of the Alt-Right, with their use of meme magic, conspiracies and disinformation, led to left-leaning Discordians thinking that Operation Mindfuck had been weaponised against them.

You don’t need me to tell you that this is currently grim as all hell. But if you take the long term, pragmatic view, it could be that the use of Operation Mindfuck techniques in this way are, essentially, a trap.

In his books, and most importantly in his autobiography Cosmic Trigger, Robert Anton Wilson talks about the psychological state where you have no way of making sense of what is happening, where all your maps have run out, and where you have no fixed point with which to orient yourself by. He called this place Chapel Perilous. This is where we are now as a culture.

Cosmic Trigger I

There are only two outcomes from a visit to Chapel Perilous, Wilson tells us: paranoia or agnosticism.

Agnosticism – and here Wilson means not just doubt about God, but doubt about everything - requires an acceptance that you are not the only right-thinking person on the planet, and that it is not true everyone else should agree with you. It requires a ... Read More »

News Briefs 19-01-2017

C'mon, you know the *only* reason you're gonna watch the ceremony, is in the off chance some time-traveling bounty hunter from the future does make an appearance…

Thanks to Barry.

Quote of the Day:

"I prefer a painful truth over any blissful fantasy."

˜Chelsea Manning

Horses Aren't Shy When Asking Humans For Help

ImageLast September a paper came to the intriguing conclusion horses can understand abstract symbols. In a nutshell, horses learned how they could point to three symbols to let their caretakers know if the horses needed a blanket, or wanted their blanket taken off, or leave well enough alone. When the horses realized their demands were getting through the humans's thick skulls, they lined up to participate in the study to promote interspecies communication. This study was just the first step in scientifically assessing the communication skills, and intelligence, of herbivorous perissodactyls also known as horses.

Until recently serious inquiry into animal intelligence has focused on primates, which is not surprising since they're our cousins. They have hands, which means they can futz around with smartphones. Monkeys and apes have similar vocal anatomy as humans but lack the brain wiring to take full advantage of their capabilities. Let's not forget our cousins are highly social, like us, and what's a little nepotism between primates? Horses are also highly social, observing dominance hierarchies in their herds. They understand the importance of eye contact and gestures while seeking the attention of humans and other horses.

A clever new study plays on this knack, illustrating how horses will ask humans for help in situations when they can't complete a task. The set-up uses a horse and two humans. One human's job is to be oblivious to the world while the other's an active participant. Phase one of the test had the active human put a carrot in a covered bucket in full view of the horse, then leave. The 'oblivious' human came out afterwards to keep the horse company. Phase two of the test had the oblivious human present while the active human showed how they were putting a carrot into a covered bucket. Each time the horses would make eye contact with the oblivious human, gesture, and touch them to get their attention. What was interesting about the whole experiment is the horses were more insistent with the oblivious human in phase one, as if that human needed to be convinced.

The study's author, Monamie Ringhofer, concludes:

Further investigation of the social cognitive abilities of horses and other domestic animals and comparison with other non-domestic animals, such as primates, will improve our understanding of how domestication has influenced animals and provide insight into the evolutionary and developmental process of advanced social cognition that domestic animals possess.

And perhaps more importantly, did humans domesticate horses or did they domesticate us? After all, without their help we'd probably still be foraging for food in the woods.

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