Monthly Archives: June 2008

As if human sacrifice could be more annoying

Pax Arcana

As a victim of Aztec human sacrifice, you could expect to have your diaphragm pierced with a flint knife, your still-beating heart torn out, your entrails fed to animals, your head stuck on a post, and your lifeless body thrown down the temple stairs.


That’s according to Roberto Velazquez, a 66-year-old mechanical engineer who says he has been able to recreate the sounds made by many Aztec noisemakers found at archeological sites. One such noisemaker, the Whistle of Death, emitted a cacophany of high-pitched whistling as you were ushered to your bloody demise:

The modern-day archaeologists who came up with the term Whistles of Death believe they were meant to help the deceased journey into the underworld, while tribes are said to have emitted terrifying sounds to fend off enemies, much like high-tech crowd-control devices available today.

Experts also believe pre-Columbian tribes used some of the instruments to send the human brain into a dream state and treat certain illnesses. The ancient whistles could guide research into how rhythmic sounds alter heart rates and states of consciousness.

Among Velazquez’s replicas are those that emit a strange cacophony so strong that their frequency nears the maximum range of human hearing.

Velazquez played the instruments live on television recently, and while Simon and Randy both hated it, Paula thought it sounded “like it was made of chocolate doo-doo pops in a heaven factory of candy canes dumptruck football aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.”

Researchers make noises of pre-Columbian society [Wired]

Leave a comment

Filed under science

Young Obama supporters desperate to get punched in the face

Pax Arcana

Because of his relative youth and distinct lack of not being a pasty old crankpot, Barack Obama is often compared to John F. Kennedy. But where Kennedy was successful in drawing a line between the old guard and the new and inspire the young people of America to work for a better future, Obama inspires young people to pretend their middle names are “Hussein.”

From the Times:

Jeff Strabone of Brooklyn now signs credit card receipts with his newly assumed middle name, while Dan O’Maley of Washington, D.C., jiggered his e-mail account so his name would appear as “D. Hussein O’Maley.” Alex Enderle made the switch online along with several other Obama volunteers from Columbus, Ohio, and now friends greet him that way in person, too.

The article describes young people adding the moniker to their Facebook profiles, because if shit’s happening on Facebook, it must be something all the youngs are doing.

In solidarity with their candidate, John McCain supporters are changing their middle names to “LiverandOnions.” The hard part is etching that many letters into your Life Alert bracelet.

Obama Supporters Take His Name as Their Own [New York Times]


Filed under media

You too, can be a star on the Internet

Pax Arcana

The Internet is a vast ocean of shared knowledge, open and expansive, on which we pilot our own ships in the pursuit of information.

In this analogy, the endless panoply of dead blogs are the driftwood and detritus that bang into your hull, then sadly float on into oblivion.

Thankfully, One Post Wonder has gathered together the best of the best of blogs that never survived even their first day. Many of them include only one post.

Individually, they are terrible. Collectively they are art.

Here’s my personal favorite, from a blog called “I’m Attractive… So What?”:

Double standards
I never knew being attractive could be a negative thing until I entered the world of “adults”! I am blonde and attractive and have even been turned down for jobs due to my looks… Too distracting to other workers… What’s that all about! I’m an accountant for Pete’s sake!!! They like to look, but think differently when considering serious business. I know there are other people out there that feel like I do.
Posted by Real Blonde at 5:56 AM 0 comments

Real Blonde never posted again on that site, but after a sex change and a dye job reemerged on Pax Arcana as a mild-mannered indie lumberjack from Maine. Also — not that attractive.

One Post Wonder [Home]


Filed under media

The rich are besieged by their own possessions

Pax Arcana

I used to ball my eyes out at those commercials for starving children in Africa — especially the ones where the kids root through garbage dumps for food and other necessities.

Now I realize how lucky those children really are.

No matter how difficult foraging through heaps of fetid trash may be, at least these poor wretches aren’t saddled with the burden of caring for family heirlooms. According to this article in the New York Times, rich (white) people in New York are increasingly traumatized by their own good fortune — especially when it takes the form of possessions handed down by their forebears:

Even today, when so many people favor simple, modern décor, turning your back on a grandmother’s tea set or ornate settee can feel like betrayal. Admit to your family you’re thinking of getting rid of such a piece and you’re likely to kick off a family opera, with crescendoing wails of “How could you?” Quite likely, you’ll be torturing yourself with the same question.

Ambivalence and guilt, it seems, are central elements of furniture inheritance, the anchoring pieces around which everything is organized, like the sofa in a living room. Barry Lubetkin, a psychologist and the director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in Manhattan, has observed this in a number of patients living with inherited furniture they hate. It’s an unhealthy setup, in which people become “slaves to inanimate objects,” he says. “Once you’re defining it as something you can’t get rid of, you’re not in control of your life or your home.”

Because nothing says “I’ve lost control of my life” like a lamp that you’re not crazy about.

I feel bad for these poor people, but I’m also proud of them for dealing with their trauma with proud dignity. Probably the worst thing they could do would be to burden the less fortunate with some of their unwanted possessions. The last thing those African dump-foraging children need is to have to make difficult decisions.

The Tyranny of the Heirloom [New York Times]

Leave a comment

Filed under journalism


Perry Ellis

The Mrs. and I are exhausted but delighted to introduce the greater Paxtropolitan area to Samuel Caesar Ellis, in the red hat and weighing in at 7 pounds, 5.8 ounces. After he gains a little more weight he’s going to give those zombies hell.


Filed under Parenthood, reproduction, science

Buster is a Beast!

Pax Arcana

The extended tribe of Pax Arcanians got about 7 pounds heavier yesterday, when our man Perry Ellis and the balanced and tolerant Mrs. Perry Ellis gave birth to their first child.

Perry reports today that the kid is “amazing” and that mom and baby are healthy.

Many pints will be quaffed from the horn this evening in celebration. Congratulations!


Filed under science

Friday Random 10: Keep Crappy Beer American Edition

Pax Arcana

A few months ago we discussed briefly the merger of Coors and Miller — and the absurd marketing gimmicks that are sure to follow such consolidation.

The good news, for lovers of beer-flavored water, is that Anheuser-Busch is fighting the good fight against a hostile takeover bid from Belgian beer behemoth InBev. This article in the Chicago Tribune sums it all up pretty neatly. The people of St. Louis, it seems, are prepared to go to war with Belgium if this thing happens:

“People do get lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes when the Clydesdales go by,” said Robert Archibald, president and CEO of the Missouri History Museum. “People think of the brewery and St. Louis in the same sentence. I don’t think there’s anything like this relationship anywhere.”

We think Budweiser is pretty crappy beer, having been diluted down to a pale imitator of the better German pilsners. But I’m pretty happy the company is putting up a fight on this. That is all. No snark.

The songs:

Lovely Rita — The Beatles
Tonight I have to Leave it — Shout Out Louds
I Can Change — John Legend
Make War — Bright Eyes
Lost in the Woods — Pete and the Pirates
Mama’s Trippin — Ben Harper
EMI — Sex Pistols
Our Life is Not a Movie Or Maybe — Okkervil River
Give up the Funk — Parliament
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours — Stevie Wonder

Bonus Video:

Desired Constellation (Bjork cover) — Paolo Angeli

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


Filed under music

Manny Ramirez can see into the future

Pax Arcana

We’ve already confirmed that Manny Ramirez is the smartest baseball player in the world, but what we didn’t know is that the success rate of highly skilled hitters like Ramirez is largely a function of their ability to see into the future.

That’s according to ABC News, which interviewed a bunch of scientists to figure out exactly how anyone can hit a baseball traveling at close to 100 miles an hour from only 60 feet, 6 inches away. Everything we know about cognition and reflexes says that should be impossible.

The answer is that batters are actually swinging at a ball they haven’t really “seen” yet:

“The batter can’t actually react to what he sees, because [the ball] would be past him” by the time he reacts, said Richard A. Andersen, professor of neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology. The batter’s brain may not be fast enough, but Andersen’s research suggests it can make up for that by predicting the future.

The batter picks up visual clues, such as how the pitcher is holding the ball, to predict where the ball will be in less than a second, Andersen said in a telephone interview. And of course the batter probably also knows a lot about the pitcher, including his favorite pitches.

The article also points out that the time between when the pitcher releases the ball to when it crosses the plate is shorter than the span between heart beats. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez, of course, who had his heart surgically replaced by a computer built by marketing executives.

Why Even Great Batters Strike Out [ABC News]


Filed under baseball

I breathe on the wrong foot

Pax Arcana

Not Pax ArcanaYesterday, against the advice of my team of modeling agents and insurance adjusters from Lloyd’s of London, Pax Arcana ran the 3-mile Chase Corporate Challenge in downtown Boston.

Actually, I only ran about 2.75 miles of it.

For two city blocks about two-thirds of the way through, I was forced to slow to a walk with side stitches — those stabbing pains in your rib cage people occasionally get while running.

Here’s the thing — I get them every single time I run. I have since I was a kid. That’s partly why I gave up on running-intensive sports like soccer and gazelle tackling.

This morning I decided to consult my physician — Dr. Google — to see if I could find out what the hell side stitches are and why I get them so often.

Turns out I am breathing on the wrong foot. Maybe.


Exhaling when the right foot hits the ground causes greater forces on the liver (which is on the right side just below the rib cage). So just as the liver is dropping down the diaphragm raises for the exhalation. It is believed this repeated stretching leads to spasms in the diaphragm.

One possible solution is to focus on breathing out when your left foot hits the ground. As if I don’t have enough to think about with all those skinny people behind me yelling at my manservant to stop throwing rose petals on the ground. A debt of honor is a debt of honor, people.

The Side Stitch []

Added: Most of the runners out there yesterday wore shirts representing their law firms, investment banks, or consulting firms. What was Pax Arcana representing?

You damn right.


Filed under sports

Wii Fit looks great with anything from Ikea

Pax Arcana

From the makers of the big ass table video comes a sensible look at the Wii Fit goofiness.

Leave a comment

Filed under tech