Was Michael Rockefeller eaten by a tribe of cannibals?

From All That’s Interesting: “The great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, aspiring explorer and ethnographer Michael Rockefeller had no interest in managing his family’s empire upon graduating from Harvard in 1960. Instead, he set out for the remote wilds of Dutch New Guinea to collect art made by the largely uncontacted Asmat people. But Rockefeller’s boat capsized off New Guinea’s southern coast and that was the last anyone ever heard from him. Despite a search effort and a media firestorm, hr was never found and the authorities eventually declared him dead due to drowning in 1964. But in the decades since, various independent investigators claim to have uncovered evidence that the authorities actually buried the truth about Michael Rockefeller’s death because it was simply too horrific to reveal.”

North Korea’s lucrative trade in human hair is helping it skirt the impact of sanctions

From The Guardian: “They almost certainly don’t know it, but western owners of shiny new wigs and false eyelashes could owe their look to North Korean slave labour. In recent years, a booming trade in human hair has helped to sustain North Korea’s isolated economy, softening the impact of international sanctions and providing Pyongyang with vital revenue to pursue its nuclear ambitions. Last year, exports to China included 1,680 tonnes – or about 135 double decker buses worth – of false eyelashes, beards and wigs worth around $167m, according to Chinese customs data. Millions of dollars in sales of human hair helped drive a recovery in the secretive state’s exports in 2023, with wigs and other hair products making up almost 60% of declared goods sent to China, by far its biggest trading partner.”

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Unassuming married couple turn out to be Russian spies

From the Wall Street Journal: “The young Argentine couple in the pastel-colored house lived a seemingly ordinary suburban life, driving around this sleepy European capital in a white Kia Ceed sedan, always paying their taxes on time and never so much as getting a parking ticket. Maria Rosa Mayer Muños ran an online art gallery, telling acquaintances she’d left Argentina after being robbed in Buenos Aires by an armed gang at a red light. Her husband, Ludwig Gisch, ran an IT startup. Described by neighbors in their middle-class district of Črnuče as “normal” and “quiet,” the husband and wife appeared to be global citizens: switching from English and German with friends to accentless Spanish with their son and daughter, who attended the British International School. Yet almost everything about the family from number 35 Primožičeva street was a carefully constructed lie, according to intelligence officials.”

She was pronounced dead then they found her gasping for air in a body bag

Planning A Funeral: Everything You Need To Know – Front Royal Daily Grind

From Popular Mechanics: “About two hours after the body of 74-year-old Constance Glanz arrived at the funeral home outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, earlier this month, an employee there noticed something strange. Glanz, who had been pronounced dead at a nearby nursing home, was breathing. After she was transported to a local hospital, Glanz survived for a few more hours. She was later declared dead for a second time. In 2023, a 76-year-old Ecuadorian woman was declared dead after a suspected stroke. Five hours later, she was found alive after her coffin was opened to change her clothing. Months earlier, an Iowa woman was taken to a funeral home where workers found her gasping for air in a body bag. In 2018, a South African woman who was initially declared dead was discovered alive in a mortuary refrigerator.”

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Why did this celebrity astrologer kill her family?

From Rolling Stone: “Sharonda had struggled with substance abuse when Danielle was a teenager, and had not been present for much of her life; they had only started speaking again in 2015, around the time Danielle had her first child. As part of an effort to reconnect with her daughter, Sharonda had set off on her own spiritual journey. She would eventually call herself a psychic, appointing Danielle as her guide. On April 8, Sharonda received a phone call from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office: Danielle, 34, had driven her car into a tree at high speed and did not survive the impact. Danielle’s partner, Jaelen Chaney, 29, had been found in their apartment stabbed to death. Her two children appeared to have been pushed out of a moving car, and, while the nine-year-old only had a few cuts, the eight-month-old died.” 

The man who sat by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel every day for forty years

The Cabanas at the Beverly Hills Hotel Receive a Retro-Glam Makeover ...

From The New Yorker: “For forty-two years, from the time he discovered the hotel, in 1950, until it closed, last December 30th, Irving’s days had been as well ordered and as predictable as the Sun King’s. At seven o’clock every morning, wearing one of the many perfectly fitted tropical-weight suits that have been a special affection of his since a memorable day in the nineteen-thirties, he would stroll over from his house, in the lower reaches of Beverly Hills; enter the hotel under the long, sloping green-and-white striped awning that extended all the way from the driveway, above Sunset Boulevard, to the main entrance; turn right in the lobby; and arrive at the Polo Lounge. Occasionally, when the weather was particularly fine, he would take his breakfast outside, under the great Brazilian peppertree on the curving flagstone Polo Lounge patio.”

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The immovable ladder on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

From Atlas Obscura: “Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest places in Christianity and has been the site of pilgrimages since the 4th century. Care over the church is shared by no less than six denominations. The whole edifice is carefully parceled into sections, some being commonly shared while others belonging strictly to a particular sect. A set of complicated rules governs the transit rights of the other groups through each particular section on any given day, especially during the holidays. Sometime in the first half of the 18th century, someone placed a ladder up against the wall of the church. No one is sure to which sect he belonged. The ladder remains there to this date. No one dares touch it, lest they disturb the status quo, and provoke the wrath of others. The exact date when the ladder was placed is not known but the first evidence of it comes from a 1728 engraving by Elzearius Horn. It hasn’t moved since.”

Charles de Gaulle’s favorite daughter Anne had Down syndrome

From The Independent: “When Anne was born, in 1928, there would have been a huge stigma attached to having a child with Down syndrome. It was often thought to be a result of parental alcoholism, venereal disease, or overall degeneracy. Eugenics was also coming into vogue at the time. In those days the norm would have been to put a child like Anne into an institution. (Indeed, nearly four decades later, when playwright Arthur Miller fathered a son with Down syndrome, he not only put him in an institution, he pretended he never existed.) De Gaulle is generally thought of as a bit of a pig, but with Anne he was different. Apparently he delighted in telling her stories and singing her songs, doing little dances for her and putting on pantomimes. And in many ways, she was de Gaulle’s secret weapon: “She helped me overcome the failures in all men,” he said, “and to look beyond them.”

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Aphantasia: When you try to picture something in your mind and nothing happens

(Note: This post was originally published in 2020, but I have been updating it regularly ever since as I learn more about this topic. Newest updates are at the bottom)

This is a difficult topic to talk about, since it involves things that happen exclusively inside your (or my) mind, which by definition can’t be experienced by anyone else. So it’s hard to even describe properly, since different people are going to experience things differently, even if we are trying to talk about the same thing. But here’s a question: When someone asks you to picture something in your mind — a horse, a sunset, a shiny red apple — and you close your eyes, what happens? Most people see a visual representation of that thing hovering in front of their “mind’s eye,” and in many cases it is in full colour, like they were looking at a photograph but in their mind. Some people can even rotate this virtual image in 3D. For me, there is nothing. Literally. Just a blank space.

I obviously know what a horse and an apple and a sunset look like, and I can describe them in great detail. But if I try to think of what they look like with my eyes closed, I don’t see anything at all — not even a hazy representation of them. The best I can do is try to remember a photograph of a sunset I saw, or a horse, but even then it’s a memory of having seen something. It’s not just neutral objects either — this goes for loved ones, family members, pets, etc. I don’t see the person or the thing itself, in color, or even in black and white. I think it’s one of the reasons I take so many photographs of literally everything — the only way I can remember what people or things look like is to look at a picture.

I’ve since learned that this is a phenomenon called “aphantasia,” a condition that was first mentioned in the 1800s but not really studied until relatively recently (the man who coined the term in 2012 — Adam Zeman, a professor of cognitive and behavioural biology at the University of Exeter — wrote about his research and what he has learned since). I started reading about aphantasia awhile back, when I came across two things at about the same time: One was a post by a friend on Facebook that mentioned that he has this condition, and the other was a post from Blake Ross, a famous software developer who was one of the original developers of the Mozilla Firefox browser, in which he described his gradual realization that he had the same condition. In the post, entitled “When you are blind in your mind,” Ross says:

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Why did a father of sixteen children hire a hit man?

From New York: “One weekday in the summer of 2021, Christopher Pence entered his home office in Cedar City, Utah, and plugged a USB stick into his computer. He booted up Tails, an operating system designed to optimize privacy, and used it to access the dark web — a marketplace teeming with illicit goods and services like child pornography, weapons, and drugs. Christopher, who was 41 and worked for Microsoft as a systems engineer, wanted to hire a hit man to kill a young couple he had met on only a handful of occasions. Christopher was an unlikely client in the murder-for-hire trade. He was not violent and had no criminal record. When he wasn’t logging ten-to-12-hour days working, often while listening to one of his favorite Christian rock bands, he was helping his wife, Michelle, raise their 11 biological and five adopted children. The entire family, along with Christopher’s retired parents, lived in a 5,800-square-foot home on the northern edge of the Mojave Desert, surrounded by wind-raked brushland and snow-capped mountains in all directions. They were building greenhouses on the property and had plans to buy cows.”

If you really love Excel spreadsheets, this Las Vegas competition is for you

From The Verge: “It’s happy hour in Las Vegas, and the MGM Grand casino is crawling with people. The National Finals Rodeo is in town, the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament is underway, the Raiders play on Sunday, and the U2 residency is going strong at the giant Sphere, so it seems everyone in every bar and at every slot machine is looking forward to something. (And wearing a cowboy hat.) Even for a town built on nonstop buzz, this qualifies as a uniquely eventful weekend. But I’d wager that if you wanted to see the most exciting drama happening at the MGM on this Friday night, you’d have to walk through the casino and look for the small sign advertising something called The Active Cell. This is the site of the play-in round for the Excel World Championship, and it starts in five minutes. There are 27 people here to take part in this event (28 registered, but one evidently chickened out before we started), which will send its top eight finishers to tomorrow night’s finals. There, one person will be crowned the Excel World Champion.”

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