‘The Boys’ sucker-punches the superhero genre

This years was yet another triumphant moment for Marvel to plant its flag as the dominant force in the modern film industry. Disney dominates the box office, and superhero fandom dominates popular culture. Even the smallest bit of news about a superhero film can ignite social media.

If superheroes are going to dominate the monoculture, then we at least deserve satire thats as creative and interesting as The Boys. The new Amazon Prime series is the result of a partnership between comedy veterans Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. The combination of Rogen and Goldbergs comedic chops and Kripkes genre expertise has yielded one of the most biting superhero parodies to date.

The Boys

RELEASE DATE: 7/26/2019
CREATORS: Evan Goldberg, Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen
STREAMING: Amazon Prime
Television veterans join forces to create the sharp, if slightly skeevy, superhero satire MCU skeptics have been waiting for.

The Boys is an adaptation of a comic series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson that ran from 2006 to 2008, and like the comic books, the series follows a group of human vigilantes trying to take down corrupt superheroes. Despite the age of the source material, the series has an incredible awareness of our current cultural moment and feels very much about 2019.

In a sense, The Boys is a supervillain origin story.Mild-mannered AV technician Hughie (Jack Quaid)s girlfriend dies by the hands of a superhero five minutes into the pilot.The death is needless and gratuitously graphic, like so many deaths in actual superhero fare. But unlike many innocent bystander deaths in the superhero world, this one actually serves the plot. Hughie resolves that he will become a vigilante who keeps superheroes in check.

Amazon Prime Video/YouTube

Hughie quickly learns the dark truth about the fresh-faced superheroes who protect his world. Vought Industries (a combination of Marvel and a defense contractor like Raytheon) controls superheroes and leases them to cities across the country at high prices. The heroes themselves, led by The Seven, an approximation of the Justice League or the Avengers, are venal, carnal, and callous.

Hughie meets a mysterious Aussie named Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) who also holds a grudge against superheroes, thus beginning his literal antihero journey. He meets the rest of The Boys, fellow anti-superhero conspirators who have have their own grudges against supes.

As long as there have been superheroes, there have been superhero parodies. Hancock, Mystery Men, Kick Ass, and Deadpool have lampooned caped crusaders to varying degrees of success. Even if this is somewhat familiar territory, The Boys is a worthy entry in the subgenre because its depictions of the superhero world areso sharp, so bitter, and so grotesque.

The Boys sets a high bar for itself, trying to parody both the military-industrial complex and Hollywood monoculture at once. You get lines like, It is without a doubt a good time to be in the superhero business The branding opportunities are limitless. But you also get lines like, Allowing superheroes into national defensebasically we would be privatizing war. This broad satirical canvas allows the show to take shots at Hollywood sexism, police brutality, NDAs, Academi, neoliberal philanthropy, corporate greed, and a myriad other plagues of our modern moment.

Amazon Prime Video/YouTube

While it excels as an ambitious satire, The Boys is also a fine superhero show in its own right. Kripke has mastered the art of writing and staging great fight sequences after a decade-plus of Supernatural, and Rogen and Goldberg have perfected mixing action and humor on efforts like Preacher and The Interview. One particularly stunning fight in the pilot involves The Boys duking it out with an invisible superhero. The production design and cinematography are top-notch, which is vital if youre trying to send up blockbuster superhero fare.

Despite allThe Boys does well, it has its limitations. The romantic angle, so vital in sustaining any hourlong drama, isnt quite there. Erin Moriarty plays Starlight, a rookie superhero who serves as Hughies love interest. She gives the strongest performance on the show, but shes sometimes saddled with thankless material.

The Boys, like most earnest superhero fare, sometimes misfires in its portrayal of women. While the show makes noble attempts to tackle #MeToo and gender discrimination in the workplace, it often fails to properly serve its female characters. Starlights sexual assault serves as superficial character development. Jokes about middle-aged motherhood feel easy and arch. One character who appears mid-season is characterized only by her perfect body and drug addiction. Generally, The Boys come off as horny, voyeuristic, and a bit sexist.

The boys club writing tendencies and gory style will turn some people off fromThe Boys. The line between parodying and embracing the problematic aspects of the superhero genre feels awfully thin at times, and the show often feels caked in blood, sweat, and semen.

Amazon Prime Video/YouTube

Despite its blind spots,The Boys fundamentallyworks works well because it understands the symbiotic relationship between our politics and our culture. One character says in the pilot: Movie tickets. Merchandising. Theme parks. Video games. A multibillion-dollar global industry supported by politicians on both sides. But the main reason you wont hear about it is because the public dont want to know about it.

This dialogue could apply to Marvel movies or politics. People put equal faith in Captain America and Beto ORourke to save us, even though theres no saving a rotten system. For Kripke, Rogan, and Goldberg, the rot at the core of American life is pervasive, corrupting everything from the silver screen to the halls of Congress. Dousing it all in buckets of blood feels excessive at times, but its not hard to see why they want to do it.

If the prospect of Marvel movies dominating the box office from now until your unborn child graduates college, youll likely enjoy a parody as smart, funny, and acidic as The Boys. Early episodes may not do everything right, but more often than not, the show sucker-punches the superhero genre with a wink and a smile.

Still not sure what to watch on Amazon? Here are thebest Amazon originals, thebest documentaries on Amazon Prime,whats new on Amazon, thebest 4K movies,Amazon original movies,alien movies, and thesexiest moviesyou can stream right now.

Looking for something more specific? Here are thebest comedies on Amazon Primewhen you need a laugh,sad moviesto make you cry,kids moviesfor the whole family, thebest thrillersto get your heart racing, and theclassic movies on Amazon Primeeveryone should see. If thats not enough, here are thebest Amazon Prime channels.

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/upstream/amazon-prime-the-boys-review/

Mighty Mary by Max Davine

Story Summary:

Mary was a circus elephant. The Star of the West. She could dance, play the trumpet and pleased crowds wherever she went.

In 1916, after a disastrous Wild West show in Erwin Tennessee, acts against Mary the five-ton Indian elephant would go down in history as one of the most disturbing and bizarre cases of animal cruelty the world has ever seen.

But, Mary had a life before the circus. She was free once. Part of a wild herd.

During the British Raj, she was captured, trained and sent to America to become a spectacle. Along the way, she loved, she lost, she made friends and formed bonds. She suffered heartache and experienced ecstasy. She was a living being.

This is her story.

Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/2N8EiLh

Video Link – https://www.goodreads.com/videos/145536-interview-by-susan-reynolds

Good Reads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43090884-mighty-mary


Max Davine’s Mighty Mary tells the story of the real-life circus elephant known as Mighty Mary. Born in the wild, she is captured by humans when her mother is killed for ivory. Once acquired, Mary is subjected to horrific cruelty, as circus elephants typically were in the early 1900s. But Mary remains stalwart in her belief to please the humans and avoid pain by not harming those who have wounded her. She even goes so far as to find friends among humans who give her a place to belong.

But when old human habits return, Mary will be pushed beyond her limits, and not even her new friends can stop what comes next. In Mary’s world, the good guys aren’t always who you think they are, and the allies are those who are the most broken.

Mighty Mary is a heart-rending tale that rings all too real with what elephants suffered in performing shows. Their training and treatment should disturb everyone. Davine paints this treatment vividly, and with his use of Mary’s perspective, this becomes even more visceral. The misunderstanding between animals and humans is a critical point of this story. Everything hinges on how misunderstanding and fear, on both sides, leads to needless suffering and hurt for all involved.

There is stunning depth given to the inner lives of the elephants. It made me curious to know more about the role that research played in writing the book. I’d hoped for some insight from an author’s note, but no such note appeared at the end. This was disappointing as Mary is such an interesting figure, and I’d been looking forward to a behind-the-scenes of her story.

Writing a story from an animal’s point of view is an ambitious project. Davine pulls it off quite well, though it does end up anthropomorphizing the animals a bit, though that would be hard to stay away from inherently. As a result, the animal characters and their experiences are more fully realized than some of the human characters. The humans can come across as one-dimensional when compared to the complexity of Mary. Still, the story is enjoyable, even though it is an emotionally brutal experience. The author keeps tight control of a highly emotional book, and tells an amazing story of an amazing elephant.

Is brutal on reader emotions, but this is a well-told, interesting story that explores the line of brutality and kindness, fear and suffering, and it can cause us to question our own relationship to the animals around us and how they might see us.

Reviewed By: Axie Barclay

About the author:

Max Davine was born in a suburb of Frankston, Victoria in 1989. He began writing dramatic pieces throughout highschool, and upon graduating set off to Los Angeles to learn the art of writing and pitching screenplays. Returning the same year, he went on to study acting with Peter Kalos at the Melbourne Actor’s Lab from 2010 to 2012, the year his first novel, “Terra Domina”, was published by ASJ Publishing. As well as novels, he has written for the stage and screen.

Heres My Challenge to White Parents This School Year

Last school year, my seven-year-old son’s childhood ended. He was in grade two, and we had to explain to him the intricacies of being a Black boy in the school system.

My son had a great grade two teacher. But he did have a challenging year as the only Black child in his class—he was beginning to question his identity. He wasn’t always happy going to school, and his teacher, as lovely as she seemed, was consistently calling me to report on what I considered trivial concerns. She said he didn’t express excitement enough, and the next time she called it was to tell me he was expressing his emotions too much. We tried a collaborative approach: talking to her, talking to him each time, but the calls continued.

Finally, we sat him down and had “the talk.” We had to tell him that his behavior had to be twice as good as his classmates’. That he had to stand extra still when it was time to line up to go out for recess and to be sure not to get too excited in class. When other kids bothered him, he should always just ignore them and never engage. Essentially, to never defend himself or raise his voice, because his teacher may misinterpret his behavior as threatening. We had to teach him to police his behavior first, before others had the opportunity to do so. We had to teach him the realities of being Black.

The very next day, after we asked our seven-year-old son to dim his light, we received a glowing report from his teacher.

Prior to this, in an attempt to address my son feeling uncomfortable in the classroom, and an overarching issue around equity in the school system, I tried to have a conversation with the school principal. I tried to talk to her about the fact that for Black children, punishments are often harsher and their behavior is watched much more closely than that of white children. We wanted to ensure that we disrupted any narrative being formed about our son—he’s a sweet, sensitive child who stops to give money to every homeless person he sees, who asks the big questions about the universe, who philosophizes about the existence of God, Santa and an alternate universe where we are all superheroes in the same breath. The principal shifted in her seat, looked at her watch over and over, alluding to the fact that she had another meeting to get to.

She denied our experience by saying that “things are better now,” and then, in what I consider typical of the heavy-handed approach applied to Black kids and parents, she decided to escalate the conversation to the superintendent without our consent or (at the very least) a courtesy call telling us what she intended to do.

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When I share these experiences with white friends, they respond with shock, sympathy and sometimes anger on our behalf. There’s also guilt. Guilt that they do not have these experiences, that they love their child’s school, that their kids get to be naughty and grow freely with few consequences. Sometimes there is silence. But these are not the reactions I’m looking for. Instead of sympathy or guilt, I want action.

Here’s the truth of the matter. A white voice advocating carries more weight than a Black one. My Black voice is heard as bitter. It’s seen as stirring up trouble, as scary and threatening. It’s why people get panicked when groups of Black people hold meetings.

So please, use your voice this school year to speak up for my kids and all the kids who look like mine, because, frankly, I’m tired.

If you want to be an ally, here are seven practical things you can do to help:

1. Educate yourself on equity vs. equality

Equality means treating everyone the same, but anti-Black racism means that kids are not all on an even playing field at school. Equity is realizing that factors like race, gender and income put people in unique situations, and that we need to give them different things to make them successful. And you can help. Do some research to find out why Black experiences are different from those of other racialized groups. The world has set expectations of my son that are hugely problematic and often result in Black children disengaging from school. Lobby your school board to hire more Black teachers, which research shows will benefit your child just as much as mine. Don’t accept trite responses like “there are no qualified Black candidates.” This is simply not true and is a lazy and unacceptable response to questions of equity in 2018.

2. Order books with Black characters for your classroom

There’s no question that all kids deserve representation, and the reality is that Black kids see very little of themselves reflected in the books, shows and movies they’re surrounded by. We affirm our son and daughter constantly at home, but they spend more time at school than they do at home with us. I am tired of my daughter drawing herself as white with blond hair. So, when you are ordering from Scholastic and you see a book with Black characters, order it and donate it to your child’s library or class.

3. Ask the tough questions

I’ve already faced off with my child’s principal, who didn’t have time to discuss equity and most likely thinks I have a chip on my shoulder because I spoke the truth about outcomes for Black children and what that means for my son. I need help. I need you to go into the principal’s office and ask him or her if the teachers receive equity training, if they are trained on systemic and anti-Black racism and what that looks like in a school. Ask her if they have any Black teachers, and if they don’t, why not? Do they have a plan in place to address this?

4. Push for more than just Black History Month

While you are in that meeting with the principal, ask about Black History Month. Push to have Black history incorporated throughout the curriculum year-round. Tell them you want your kids to know about the history of people of African descent—not just slaves, but the sculptors and artists who lived thousands of years before slavery. And when it is Black History Month, advocate for it to be about more than drummers coming in for a gym assembly and a few lessons on Martin Luther King.

5. Make art class more diverse

Visit the art teacher or your child’s teacher and ask them to incorporate artists, art styles and crafts from countries other than Western ones. There are enough classes throughout the year to feature African-influenced arts and crafts at some point.

6. Teach your kids that color does matter

You can’t tell your kids to be color-blind because then you are telling them to ignore difference. You want them to celebrate difference. So teach them that Black is beautiful. Buy them Black dolls to play with. Most of all, show them Black excellence beyond sports and music. Talk to them about Black inventors, and while you’re at it, maybe mention that to your child’s teacher as well. Why not make a traffic light craft and spend a little time talking about the man who invented it? His name was Garrett Augustus Morgan and he was African-American. No, kids are not “colorblind”

7. Stay vigilant for us

Pay attention to the Black children in your child’s class and how they are being treated. Our kids are often isolated, literally boxed with tape, as happened in one Peel classroom, made to sit on separate mats or treated more harshly than other students. If you are on a school trip and you see it, let us know. If you don’t know the parents, speak to the principal and tell her you want the parents to know. Our children often can’t speak up for themselves when things happen at school. They may feel something is wrong, but they may not have the words to articulate what is happening to them. If you are there and you see something, speak up for them.

**Kearie Daniel is a mom of two. You can follow her blog at wokemommychatter or on Twitter at @wokemommy

Read Next On FaithIt
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Read more: https://faithit.com/challenge-white-parents-this-school-year/

Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War by Patrick Hogan

Book Summary:

What would you say if I told you there are disturbing things the US Government hasn’t told you about the Vietnam War and doesn’t want you to know? Things such as all the rainbow-colored pesticides and the disabling effect they had on US service personnel.

Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War, is an account of war – a tale of anger and determination – a chronicle written in sorrow and hope. It’s the story of countless veterans who served in Vietnam and could even be your story.

While the book is categorized as a memoir, it’s also an investigational voyage into all the issues the U.S. government hasn’t told you and doesn’t want you to know about the Vietnam War. The work isn’t just another rehashing of the war or Agent Orange. Rather it’s a “silver bullet” which cuts through to the heart of the circumstances and chemical used in Vietnam—enduring toxic herbicides and insecticides—which in some cases are still being used to this very day all over the globe, even right here in America. Now I’m sure many of you will find that fact hard to believe. Nevertheless, it’s true.

So, forget everything you’ve heard from the government and what you think you know about the Vietnam War because you will be absolutely stunned by what the US government had willingly dumped on Vietnam—their allies—and even their own troops.

What happened in Vietnam … didn’t stay in Vietnam. It came home with us!

Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/2KR2MFe



Between the years of 1955-1975, The Vietnam War impacted lives across the world. Patrick Hogan, a former staff sergeant, has dedicated his novel Silent Spring: Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War to exposing the public to the horrors that the United States government consciously inflicted upon its own people—soldiers who were fighting for the United States, and never gave their government a second thought as to the motives for their actions. He also wrote this for future generations to not forget some of the fallen soldiers that served during the Vietnam War—too many for Hogan to name.

Hogan covers all of the bases with his research on the ill-effects of the pesticides and herbicides used on the soldiers serving in South Vietnam. Reading thousands of research papers and looking through declassified papers, he has found an abundance of information to help him, personally, explain his many ailments and bodily problems he has experienced since his time in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, our government released highly toxic pesticides into the air, with the U.S. soldiers present to soak in every molecule of the poison into their bodies, of course, unbeknownst to them. Pages and pages of chemicals are listed, including the infamous Agent Orange and Agent White, with all of poisons combined being referred to as the “Rainbow Herbicides.”

To imagine what the soldiers had to go through during the war itself would be hard, but to imagine what they are still having to go through, even after the war has been over for forty-plus years, is sad. The way that Hogan describes everything pertaining to the DVA and the military, especially with their unwillingness to completely comply to the overall healthcare that veterans did, and currently do, need reminds me of a spoiled child who won’t accept responsibility for their actions. Deep down they know what they did, but they are too stubborn to admit it out loud at the risk of losing money and power. The amount of time that had to have gone into this book was extremely evident, and for that, it is very credible. Hogan’s style of writing was easy to read, and, personally, I loved how he incorporated uplifting words, such as Bible verses and the doxology into his book. As this is a story focused on so many negatives, it definitely needs some positivity included. The information included will be valuable for many generations to come to help us not forget this time in history and use it as a learning tool.

Reviewed By: Rachel Dehning


Author Bio:

The author was stationed in Vietnam from September 1966 through June 1969. While there he earned the rank of Staff Sergeant E-6 and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal by the Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor. Shortly after being discharged, in August of 1975, he was appointed to the Teaneck Police Department as a law enforcement officer. During his police career, he attended Fairleigh Dickenson University’s where he earned an Associate in Arts Degree with honors. He has completed police training programs at law enforcement educational facilities such as John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the NJ State Police Training Academy and the New England Institute of Law Enforcement and Management (Babson College). In addition to his educational accomplishments, he is a certified State of New Jersey Police Training Instructor.

Initially, writing a book about the Vietnam War or being an author was the further thing from his mind. However, after he started his research journey into Agent Orange, things changed. He never suspected what his investigation would discover. The deeper his exploration took him, and the more he saw all the lives which had been taken and damaged by the rampant use of pesticides during the war; the more determined he became to try to set the record straight. So, starting with the death of his friend and fellow veteran, Larry White the concept for Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War was born, and a reluctant writer emerged out of sheer exasperation and sorrow.

What do we know about Archie’s christening?

Image copyright Chris Allerton / SussexRoyal

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, has been christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the private chapel at Windsor Castle.

Harry and Meghan ruffled some feathers when they announced the event would be held privately and that details, such as the names of godparents, would not be released.

So what do we know about the christening and how does it compare to other ceremonies in the UK?


Baptisms are a must for Windsor babies.

The Queen is Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England and royal infants are often welcomed into the Christian faith within weeks of being born.

George was christened when he was three months old, Charlotte was only nine weeks and Louis was 11 weeks, while Archie will be exactly two months old on 6 July.

Harry was baptised at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 21 December 1984 when he was three months and six days old.

George was the first future monarch in modern times not to be baptised at Buckingham Palace, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge choosing the intimate Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace instead in 2013.

Statistics show the number of baptisms performed by the Church of England during this period has declined from 135,000 in 2009 to just under 93,000 by 2017.

The christening gown

Image copyright Mary Turner/The Times
Image caption Princess Charlotte on her christening day wearing the family gown

Archie was christened in the frilly cream royal christening gown, like his cousins.

Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all wore the outfit for their christenings, as did Zara and Mike Tindall’s daughters Mia and Lena.

The replica of the intricate lace and satin gown made for Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter has been used for royal infants for the last 11 years.

The new gown was created by the Queen’s dresser Angela Kelly and the team of dressmakers at Buckingham Palace, and features the same lengthy skirt and elaborate collars and bow as its predecessor.

The original Honiton lace and white satin robe, which was made in 1841, was last used in 2004, after which the Queen commissioned the handmade copy so the historic outfit, which had become too fragile to use, could be carefully preserved.

Unlike the royals, many parents in the UK now choose to dress up their little ones in “smart” but less formal clothing which has led to sales of traditional christening gowns going down.

The cake

Image copyright Steve Parsons
Image caption Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake – did they save a tier for the christening?

Traditionally, newlyweds would keep the top tier of their wedding cake for the christening of their first child, just like William and Kate did with their seven-tier fruit cake.

Fruit cakes, which for years were the traditional wedding cake of choice, can be stored for years, but sponge cakes should generally be eaten within two to three days.

But Harry and Meghan chose a layered lemon and elderflower sponge cake, decorated with fresh buttercream for their wedding reception.

Lily Jones, owner of London bakery Lily Vanilli, says that sponge cakes can be frozen and defrosted up to a year after the wedding.

She told the BBC: “No-one really orders fruit cake any more – I think in the last 10 years I’ve only had about three orders for it.

“But we get quite a lot of christening cake requests. Most people are more concerned with the decoration and they tend to be quite traditional – white flowers, crosses, that sort of thing. They are quite simple usually, a bit more pared back.

“All of my customers are quite modern, but there are those nods to tradition. Only a few have ordered a wedding cake with the intention of keeping a layer for the baby, but it sometimes happens – just not very often.”


Image copyright Getty Images

Royal infants usually have more than the standard three godparents.

Prince Louis has six, Prince George has seven and Princess Charlotte has five.

Speculation is rife that Meghan’s best friend, the Canadian stylist Jessica Mulroney, will be chosen while Harry’s old schoolmates, brothers Thomas and Charlie van Straubenzee, could be picked.

Tennis star Serena Williams ruled herself out on Thursday after Meghan watched her play at Wimbledon, as she is playing on Saturday.

The Church of England’s advice states: “You can have as many godparents as you wish, but every child should have at least three, two of the same sex and at least one of the opposite sex to the child.”

Normally under the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978 the names of godparents are publicly listed.

However, it is understood that to protect the privacy of the godparents, who are thought to be private individuals and not public figures, their names are not being released.


Image copyright Getty Images

The tradition of giving a silver coin to a young child for their christening goes back centuries and it is though to have links to the Biblical story of the Three Wise Men.

People thought the coin symbolised good luck, but it also served the practical purpose of setting up a nest egg for the child, according to the Royal Mint.

Over the centuries the type of gift has evolved. During the Tudor era people gave silver spoons and in Queen Victoria’s reign people started giving silver trinkets.

Etiquette expert William Hanson told the BBC: “Traditionally the idea is to give something that lasts and is fairly ageless – something that when the child is an adult they can still use and cherish.

“Things made from silver are always popular, or cases of wine made in the year of the birth (if a vintage year, for instance) that can be enjoyed on the child’s coming of age. I suggest people avoid things that are overly infantile, like children’s books, rattles (even silver ones) or cuddly toys. These are not ‘ageless’, however well meant.

“I suspect some of Archie’s godparents (not that we are likely to know) will be American so there may be some presents that have a US provenance, which can help remind him of his transatlantic roots. But I am sure whatever he will receive will be well meant and of great quality.”

Etiquette guide Debrett’s adds: “Premium bonds or other savings accounts may be set up, or a life membership of an organisation, for example the National Trust, may be suitable.”

Prince Harry reportedly bought his youngest nephew, Prince Louis, a first edition of A.A Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh, for his christening last year.

Harry spent around £8,000 on the book. The gift was inspired by Harry’s childhood memories, a source told The Sun.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48881697

58 Cognitive Biases That Are Screwing Up Everything You Do

We like to think we’re rational human beings.

In fact, we are prone to hundreds of proven biases that cause us to think and act irrationally. In fact, even thinking we’re rational despite evidence of irrationality in others is known as blind-spot bias.

The study of how often human beings do irrational things was enough for psychologist Daniel Kahneman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, and it opened the rapidly expanding field of behavioral economics. Similar insights are also reshaping everything from marketing to criminology.

Hoping to clue you — and ourselves — into the biases that frame our decisions, we’ve collected a long list of the most notable ones.

This is an update of an article that was previously published with additional contributions by Drake Baer and Gus Lubin.

The affect heuristic describes how humans sometimes make decisions based on emotion.

The psychologist Paul Slovic coined this term to describe the way people let their emotions color their beliefs about the world. For example, your political affiliation often determines which arguments you find persuasive.

Our emotions also affect the way we perceive the risks and benefits of different activities. For example, people tend to dread developing cancer, so they see activities related to cancer as much more dangerous than those linked to less dreaded forms of death, illness, and injury, such as accidents.

Anchoring bias means people rely too heavily on the first piece of information they hear when making decisions.

People are over-reliant on the first piece of information they hear.

In a salary negotiation, for instance, whoever makes the first offer establishes a range of reasonable possibilities in each person’s mind. Any counteroffer will naturally react to or be anchored by that opening offer.

“Most people come with the very strong belief they should never make an opening offer,” said Leigh Thompson, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “Our research and lots of corroborating research shows that’s completely backwards. The guy or gal who makes a first offer is better off.”

Availability heuristic describes a shortcut where people make decisions based on information that’s easier to remember.

In one experiment, a professor asked students to list either two or 10 ways to improve his class. Students that had to come up with 10 ways gave the class much higher ratings, likely because they had a harder time thinking about what was wrong with the class.

This phenomenon could easily apply in the case of job interviews. If you have a hard time recalling what a candidate did wrong during an interview, you’ll likely rate him higher than if you can recall those things easily.

The bandwagon effect describes when people do something simply because others are also doing it.

The probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief. This is a powerful form of groupthink — and it’s a reason meetings are often so unproductive.

Bias blind spots describes how individuals can see bias in others, but struggle to see their own biases.

Failing to recognize your cognitive biases is a bias in itself.

Notably, Princeton psychologist Emily Pronin has found that “individuals see the existence and operation of cognitive and motivational biases much more in others than in themselves.

Flickr / Tristan Bowersox

Choice-supportive bias describes the tendency to have positive attitudes about the things or ideas we choose, even when they are flawed.

When you choose something, you tend to feel positive about it, even if the choice has flaws. You think that your dog is awesome — even if it bites people every once in a while — and that other dogs are stupid, since they’re not yours.

The clustering illusion happens when we see trends in random events that happen close together.

This is the tendency to see patterns in random events. It is central to various gambling fallacies, like the idea that red is more or less likely to turn up on a roulette table after a string of reds.

Confirmation bias describes the tendency to only listen to information that confirms our preconceptions.

We tend to listen only to the information that confirms our preconceptions. Once you’ve formed an initial opinion about someone, it’s hard to change your mind.

For example, researchers had participants watch a video of a student taking an academic test. Some participants were told that the student came from a high socioeconomic background; others were told the student came from a low socioeconomic background. Those in the first condition believed the student’s performance was above grade level, while those in the second condition believed the student’s performance was below.

If you know some information about a job candidate’s background, you might be inclined to use that information to make false judgments about his or her ability.

Conformity describes how people tend to behave similarly to other people.

This is the tendency of people to conform with other people. It is so powerful that it may lead people to do ridiculous things, as shown by the following experiment by Solomon Asch.

Ask one subject and several fake subjects (who are really working with the experimenter) which of lines B, C, D, and E is the same length as A. If all of the fake subjects say that D is the same length as A, the real subject will agree with this objectively false answer a shocking three-quarters of the time.

“That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern,” Asch wrote. “It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.”

Conservatism bias occurs when people believe prior evidence more than new evidence.

Conservatism bias is where people believe prior evidence more than new evidence or information that has emerged. People were slow to accept the fact that the Earth was round because they maintained their earlier understanding the planet was flat.

Curse of knowledge means that when people know something, it’s hard to imagine not knowing it.

People who are more well-informed cannot understand the common man. For instance, in the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” it’s difficult for scientist Sheldon Cooper to understand his waitress neighbor Penny.

Decoy effect is a phenomenon in marketing where consumers have a specific change in preference between two choices after being presented with a third choice.

In his TED Talk, behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains the ” decoy effect” using an old Economist advertisement as an example.

The ad featured three subscription levels: $59 for online only, $159 for print only, and $159 for online and print. Ariely figured out that the option to pay $159 for print only exists so that it makes the option to pay $159 for online and print look more enticing than it would if it was just paired with the $59 option.


Denomination effect is when people are less likely to spend large bills than their equivalent value in small bills or coins.

The phenomenon is typically seen with currency.

Duration neglect occurs when the duration of an event doesn’t factor enough into the way we consider it.

For instance, we remember momentary pain just as strongly as long-term pain.

Kahneman and colleagues tracked patients’ pain during colonoscopies (they used to be more uncomfortable) and found that the end of the procedure pretty much determined patients’ evaluations of the entire experience. One set of patients underwent a shorter procedure in which the end was relatively painful. The other set of patients underwent a longer procedure in which the end was less painful.

Results showed that the second set of patients (the longer colonoscopy) rated the procedure as less painful overall.

Empathy gap occurs when people in one state of mind fail to understand people in another state of mind.

If you are happy, you can’t imagine why people would be unhappy. When you are not sexually aroused, you can’t understand how you act when you are sexually aroused.

Frequency illusion occurs when a word, name or thing you just learned about suddenly appears everywhere.

Now that you know what that SAT word means, you see it in so many places!

Fundamental attribution error is where you attribute a person’s behavior to an intrinsic quality of her identity rather than the situation she’s in.

For instance, you might think your colleague is an angry person, when she is really just upset because she stubbed her toe.

Galatea effect occurs when people succeed — or underperform — because they think they should.

Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, in schools it describes how students who are expected to succeed tend to excel and students who are expected to fail tend to do poorly.

Halo effect is when we take one positive attribute of someone and associate it with everything else about that person or thing.

It helps explain why we often assume highly attractive individuals are also good people, why they tend to get hired more easily, and why they earn more money.

Hard-easy bias occurs when individuals underestimate their ability to perform easy tasks, yet overestimate their ability to perform more difficult ones.

Hard-easy bias occurs when everyone is overconfident on hard problems and not confident enough for easy problems.

Herding occurs when individuals mirror the sometimes irrational actions of a group.

People tend to flock together, especially in difficult or uncertain times.

Hypervision Creative/Shutterstock

Hindsight bias is when people claim to have predicted an outcome that was impossible to predict at the time.

Of course Apple and Google would become the two most important companies in phones — but tell that to Nokia, circa 2003.

One classic experiment on hindsight bias took place in the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon was about to depart for trips to China and the Soviet Union. Researchers asked the participants to predict various outcomes. After the trips, researchers asked participants to recall the probabilities that had initially assigned to each outcome.

Results showed that participants remembered having rated the events unlikely if the event had not occurred, and remembered having rated the events likely if the event had occurred.

Hyperbolic discounting happens when people make decisions for a smaller reward sooner, rather than a greater reward later.

Hyperbolic discounting is the tendency for people to want an immediate payoff rather than a larger gain later on.

Ideomotor effect occurs when the body reacts to ideas alone.

Where an idea causes you to have an unconscious physical reaction, like a sad thought that makes your eyes tear up. This is also how Ouija boards seem to have minds of their own.

Illusion of control is when people overestimate how much control they have over certain situations.

Illusion of control is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events, like when a sports fan thinks his thoughts or actions had an effect on the game.

Information bias is the tendency to seek information when it does not affect action.

More information is not always better. Indeed, with less information, people can often make more accurate predictions.

In one study, people who knew the names of basketball teams as well as their performance records made less accurate predictions about the outcome of NBA games than people who only knew the teams’ performance records. However, most people believed that knowing the team names was helpful in making their predictions.

Inter-group bias is when we view people in our group differently from how see we someone in another group.

This bias helps illuminate the origins of prejudice and discrimination.

Unfortunately, researchers say we aren’t always aware of our preference for people in our social group.

Irrational escalation is when people make irrational decisions based on past rational decisions.

It may happen in an auction, when a bidding war spurs two bidders to offer more than they would otherwise be willing to pay.



Negativity bias is the tendency to put more emphasis on negative experiences rather than positive ones.

People with this bias feel that “bad is stronger than good” and will perceive threats more than opportunities in a given situation.

Psychologists argue it’s an evolutionary adaptation: it’s better to mistake a rock for a bear than a bear for a rock.

In modern times, the negativity bias has meaningful implications for our relationships. John Gottman, a relationship expert, found that a stable relationship requires that good experiences occur at least five times more often than bad experiences.

The observer-expectancy effect is when a researcher’s expectations impact the outcome of an experiment.

A cousin of confirmation bias, here our expectations unconsciously influence how we perceive an outcome. Researchers looking for a certain result in an experiment, for example, may inadvertently manipulate or interpret the results to reveal their expectations.

That’s why the “double-blind” experimental design was created for the field of scientific research.

Omission bias is the tendency to prefer inaction to action, in ourselves and even in politics.

Psychologist Art Markman gave a great example back in 2010:

The omission bias creeps into our judgment calls on domestic arguments, work mishaps, and even national policy discussions. In March, President Obama pushed Congress to enact sweeping healthcare reforms. Republicans hope that voters will blame Democrats for any problems that arise after the law is enacted. But since there were problems with healthcare already, can they really expect that future outcomes will be blamed on Democrats, who passed new laws, rather than Republicans, who opposed them? Yes, they can — the omission bias is on their side.

The ostrich effect is the decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich.

Research suggests that investors check the value of their holdings significantly less often during bad markets.

But there’s an upside to acting like a big bird, at least for investors. When you have limited knowledge about your holdings, you’re less likely to trade, which generally translates to higher returns in the long run.

Outcome bias refers to judging a decision based on the outcome, rather than how exactly the decision was made in the moment.

Just because you won a lot in Vegas doesn’t mean gambling your money was a smart decision.

Research illustrates the power of the outcome bias on the way we evaluate decisions.

In one study, students were asked whether a particular city should have paid for a full-time bridge monitor to protect against debris getting caught and blocking the flow of water. Some students only saw the information that was available at the time of the city’s decision; others saw the information that was available after the decision was already made: debris had blocked the river and caused flood damage.

As it turns out, 24% of students in the first group (with limited information) said the city should have paid for the bridge, compared to 56% of students in the second group (with all information). Hindsight had affected their judgment.

Overconfidence is when some of us are too confident about our abilities, and this causes us to take greater risks in our daily lives.

Perhaps surprisingly, experts are more prone to this bias than laypeople. An expert might make the same inaccurate prediction as someone unfamiliar with the topic — but the expert will probably be convinced that he’s right.

Overoptimism occurs when individuals believe they are less likely to encounter negative events.

When we believe the world is a better place than it is, we aren’t prepared for the danger and violence we may encounter. The inability to accept the full breadth of human nature leaves us vulnerable.

On the flip side, overoptimism may have some benefits — hopefulness tends to improve physical health and reduce stress. In fact, researchers say we’re basically hardwired to underestimate the probability of negative events — meaning this bias is especially hard to overcome.

Pessimism bias occurs when individuals overestimate how often negative things will happen to them.

This is the opposite of the overoptimism bias. Pessimists over-weigh negative consequences with their own and others’ actions.

Those who are depressed are more likely to exhibit the pessimism bias.

Library of Congress

Placebo effect is when simply believing that something will have a certain impact on you causes it to have that effect.

This is a basic principle of stock market cycles, as well as a supporting feature of medical treatment in general. People given “fake” pills often experience the same physiological effects as people given the real thing.

Planning fallacy is the tendency to underestimate how much time it will take to complete a task.

According to Kahneman, people generally think they’re more capable than they actually are and have greater power to influence the future than they really do. For example, even if you know that writing a project report typically takes your coworkers several hours, you might believe that you can finish it in under an hour because you’re especially skilled.

Post-purchase rationalization is when we overlook an expensive item’s flaws to justify the purchase.

Post-purchase rationalization is when we make ourselves believe that a purchase was worth the value after the fact.

Priming is when you more readily identify ideas related to a previously introduced idea.

Let’s take an experiment as an example, again from Less Wrong:

Suppose you ask subjects to press one button if a string of letters forms a word, and another button if the string does not form a word. (E.g., “banack” vs. “banner”.) Then you show them the string “water.” Later, they will more quickly identify the string “drink” as a word. This is known as “cognitive priming” …

Priming also reveals the massive parallelism of spreading activation: if seeing “water” activates the word “drink,” it probably also activates “river,” or “cup,” or “splash.”

Pro-innovation bias occurs when a proponent of an innovation tends to overvalue its usefulness and undervalue its limitations.

Sound familiar, Silicon Valley?

Procrastination occurs when you decide to act in favor of the present moment over investing in the future.

For example, even if your goal is to lose weight, you might still go for a thick slice of cake today and say you’ll start your diet tomorrow.

That happens largely because, when you set the weight-loss goal, you don’t take into account that there will be many instances when you’re confronted with cake and you don’t have a plan for managing your future impulses.

Reactance refers to the desire to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do, in order to prove your freedom of choice.

One study found that when people saw a sign that read, “Do not write on these walls under any circumstances,” they were more likely to deface the walls than when they saw a sign that read, “Please don’t write on these walls.” The study authors say that’s partly because the first sign posed a greater perceived threat to people’s freedom.

Recency is the tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older data.

As financial planner Carl Richards writes in The New York Times, investors often think the market will always look the way it looks today and therefore make unwise decisions: “When the market is down we become convinced that it will never climb out, so we cash out our portfolios and stick the money in a mattress.”

Wikimedia Commons

Reciprocity is the belief that fairness should trump other values, even when it’s not in our economic or other interests.

We learn the reciprocity norm from a young age, and it affects all kinds of interactions. One study found that, when restaurant waiters gave customers extra mints, the customers upped their tips. That’s likely because the customers felt obligated to return the favor.

Regression bias occurs when people take action in response to extreme situations. When the situations become less extreme, they take credit for causing the change, when a more likely explanation is that the situation was reverting to the mean.

In ” Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Kahneman gives an example of how the regression bias plays out in real life. An instructor in the Israeli Air Force asserted that when he chided cadets for bad execution, they always did better on their second try. The instructor believed that his reprimands were the cause of the improvement.

Yet Kahneman told him he was really observing regression to the mean, or random variations in the quality of performance. If you perform really badly one time, it’s highly probable that you’ll do better the next time, even if you do nothing to try to improve.

Restraint bias occurs when we overestimate our capacity for impulse control.

With restraint bias, one overestimates one’s ability to show restraint in the face of temptation.

Salience is our tendency to focus on the most easily recognizable features of a person or concept.

For example, research suggests that when there’s only one member of a racial minority on a business team, other members use that individual’s performance to predict how any member of that racial group would perform.

Scope insensitivity is where your willingness to pay for something doesn’t correlate with the scale of the outcome.

From Less Wrong:

Once upon a time, three groups of subjects were asked how much they would pay to save 2,000 / 20,000 / 200,000 migrating birds from drowning in uncovered oil ponds. The groups respectively answered $80, $78, and $88. This is scope insensitivity or scope neglect: the number of birds saved — the scope of the altruistic action — had little effect on willingness to pay.

Seersucker illusion is the over-reliance on expert advice.

Seersucker illusion has to do with the avoidance of responsibility. We call in “experts” to forecast when typically they have no greater chance of predicting an outcome than the rest of the population. In other words, “for every seer there’s a sucker.”

Selective attention occurs when we allow our expectations to influence how we perceive the world.

The classic study on selective attention is called the ” invisible gorilla” experiment. Psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons created a short film in which a team wearing white and a team wearing black pass basketballs. Participants are asked to count the number of passes made by either the white or the black team. Halfway through the video, a woman wearing a gorilla suit crosses the court, thumps her chest, and walks off screen. She’s on screen for a total of nine seconds.

About half of the thousands of people who have watched the video (you can watch it here) don’t notice the gorilla, presumably because they’re so wrapped up in counting the basketball passes.

Of course, when asked if they would notice the gorilla in this situation, nearly everyone says they would.

Self-enhancing transmission bias occurs when everyone shares their successes more than their failures.

Self-enhancing transmission bias leads to a false perception of reality and inability to accurately assess situations.

Status quo bias is the tendency to prefer things to stay the same.

This is similar to loss-aversion bias, where people prefer to avoid losses instead of acquiring gains.

Stereotyping occurs when people generalize characteristics about others based on the groups they belong to.

Stereotyping occurs when we expect a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the individual.

There may be some value to stereotyping because it allows us to quickly identify strangers as friends or enemies. But people tend to overuse it.

For example, one study found that people were more likely to hire a hypothetical male candidate over a female candidate to perform a mathematical task, even when they learned that the candidates would perform equally well.

Survivorship bias occurs when individuals focus on successful outcomes, yet overlook failure.

Survivorship bias is an error that comes from focusing only on surviving examples, causing us to misjudge a situation. For instance, we might think that being an entrepreneur is easy because we haven’t heard of all of the entrepreneurs who have failed.

It can also cause us to assume that survivors are inordinately better than failures, without regard for the importance of luck or other factors.

Tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals use public resources in their own self interest rather than for the common good.

We overuse common resources because it’s not in any individual’s interest to conserve them. This explains the overuse of natural resources, opportunism, and any acts of self-interest over collective interest.

Unit bias occurs when people think a particular size is the optimal amount.

We believe that there is an optimal unit size, or a universally acknowledged amount of a given item that is perceived as appropriate. This explains why when served larger portions, we eat more.

Zero-risk bias occurs when we choose to eliminate risk absolutely in one area, rather than eliminate more risk spread out across different areas.

Sociologists have found that we love certainty — even if it’s counterproductive.

Thus the zero-risk bias.

In general, people tend to prefer approaches that eliminate some risks completely, as opposed to approaches that reduce all risks — even though the second option would produce a greater overall decrease in risk.

Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2019.

Read next on Business Insider: A Harvard psychiatrist has identified 7 skills to help you get along with anybody

Read more: https://www.iflscience.com/brain/58-cognitive-biases-that-are-screwing-up-everything-you-do/

Convention marks Game of Thrones lingo

Image copyright Sky Atlantic
Image caption Dothraki is the language of a nomadic warrior race in Game of Thrones

The brains behind some of science fiction’s most popular invented languages are gathering for a convention to showcase their skills.

The San Diego-based Language Creation Society has brought together “conlangers” – or people who “construct” languages – in Cambridge.

Among the languges represented is Dothraki, as used in Game of Thrones.

UK organiser Oliver Mayeux said the convention would enhance the network of a “rather eccentric tribe”.

Image copyright PA Archive
Image caption Klingon is a constructed language created for Star Trek and has its own institute
Image copyright CBS
Image caption A language was created for the Klingons in the Star Trek films, although it was never heard in the original TV series

The society – which has 185 members in 27 countries – was created in 2007 to “promote the art, craft and science of language creation”.

It came to recent prominence after the producers of Game of Thrones got in touch to find a language creator to develop Dothraki, from the few words and phrases in the original books by George RR Martin.

Linguist David J Peterson, a member of the society, was then chosen to devise an entire language for the series.

Image copyright Langauge Creation Society
Image caption An excerpt of Dothraki, one of the languages devised by David Peterson for Game of Thrones
Image copyright PA Archive
Image caption Ludvic Zamenhof (right) invented the language of Esperanto

Conference host Bettina Beinhoff, of the Anglia Ruskin centre for Intercultural and Multilingual Studies, said most conlangers derived inspiration from Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien, who developed languages for much of his work.

“For many language creators, Tolkien was the starting point, many want to recreate his sense of aesthetics,” Dr Beinhoff said.

“I hope the conference will inspire conlangers to learn from each other, as well as get ideas and solutions to any dilemmas they face.”

Other constructed languages, such as Klingon, from Star Trek, have developed their own cultural appeal.

Esperanto, invented in the late 19th Century as a “universal second language to foster peace and international understanding”, is spoken by about two million speakers worldwide, according to language database Ethnologue.

Image copyright Oliver Mayeux
Image caption Dr Oliver Mayeux’s love of languages led him “down a rabbit hole” to study linguistics

Society president Joseph Windsor, said: “When you hear Klingons speaking Klingon, or the Dothraki speaking Dothraki, it adds a sense of believability to a fictional world.

“I’ve heard from different conlangers who engage with the craft as catharsis after a stressful day, or who use their languages to be able to keep a completely private journal.

“You can’t Google Translate a conlang that no-one else knows.”

Image copyright Language Creation Society
Image caption Members of the society at the 2017 convention in Calgary, Canada

Dr Mayeux, who has a PhD in linguistics from Cambridge University, said building a language from scratch is an “incredibly personal thing”.

“It’s like poetry or painting – people who do it have a natural expressiveness and admiration for language,” he said.

“We don’t do it for fame or notoriety, we’re a rather eccentric tribe of language nerds, coming together to discuss their creations.”

The convention takes place at Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge campus from 22 to 23 June.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-48364411

These Ancient Peoples Smoked the Chronic at Funerals

When folks these days get high they watch TV or play videogames or paint or hike. Or if you’re a New York Times columnist, you eat too many edibles and descend into a Hunter S. Thompson-esque fit of paranoia in a hotel room.

Alternately, if you lived 2,500 years ago in what is now western China, you smoked the good stuff at funerals while playing ritualistic music and also maybe doing some human sacrifice.

So says a fascinating new study in the journal Science Advances. Researchers analyzed ancient incense burners (known as braziers) from burial grounds at the so-called Jirzankal Cemetery, nearly 10,000 feet up in the mountains of Central Asia, and found residue that tested positive for cannabis. Not only that, it’s cannabis high in THC content—at least by ancient standards—suggesting that these peoples were seeking out the most powerful plants for funerary rituals, perhaps aided by the fact that cannabis growing at high elevations tends to express more THC. It’s a glimpse both into how cannabis use spread around the ancient world, and how we humans have long exploited the plant’s malleability for our own purposes, be they for enjoying videogames or ushering compatriots into the afterlife.

The cannabis we grow today is wildly different from what our ancestors got their hands on. Just over the last few decades, growers—particularly in Northern California’s legendary weed country—have bred strains to produce ever more flower with ever higher THC content. We’re talking compositions of up to 30 percent THC, whereas in the ’60s the hippies could puff all day on 5 percent flower, which is more in line with the cannabis you’d find growing in the wild, and what these ancient peoples may have been using.

This study, however, couldn’t pinpoint what percent THC the residue contains, because technically it doesn’t contain any. Instead, the researchers tested for a sort of signal for THC called cannabinol, or CBN. “THC will turn into CBN via an oxidative degradation pathway,” says Jeff Raber, CEO of the cannabis lab the Werc Shop, who wasn’t involved in the work. “That's a fancy way of saying, in the presence of air and/or heat, it will go from THC to CBN.”

The mere presence of CBN in significant amounts is telling, as it suggests significant amounts of THC in the cannabis that burned in the braziers. Because plenty of cannabis growing out in the wild has vanishingly small amounts of THC. Hemp, for instance, is by definition less than 0.3 percent THC.

Where these ancient peoples got their product, though, isn’t clear. But one candidate might be the kafiristanica varieties, which today grow in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. “In its wild state, it does have higher chemical production levels,” says study coauthor Robert Spengler, director of the Paleoethnobotany Laboratories at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. “So it's very possible this plant was existing farther north in the past, and that humans were targeting it.”

The researchers can’t be sure whether these peoples were actively domesticating and cultivating their cannabis, selecting for more intoxicating plants, or whether they were finding populations in the wild to exploit. “The findings suggest that humans may have harvested or traded for atypically psychoactive wild cannabis plants in order to achieve altered states of consciousness,” says Ryan Stoa, who studies the history of cannabis, but who wasn’t involved in the study. “Alternatively, humans may have obtained psychoactive cannabis by breeding and cultivating the plants themselves, which would represent one of the oldest examples of psychoactive cannabis cultivation.”

One of the wooden braziers found to have traces of cannabis. These rocks would have been heated to produce smoke.

Xinhua Wu

Even if these peoples weren’t breeding their own plants for higher THC content, they would have been coming across some pretty darn intoxicating cannabis, at least by wild standards, because of a delightful quirk of biology. Cannabis is a highly plastic plant, meaning you can take two genetically identical individuals and grow them in two different conditions, and you’ll get two different chemical compositions. Things like sunlight exposure and soil quality and water all may influence how much THC—and any number of other cannabinoids like CBD—the plant expresses.

Critically, at these higher altitudes, cannabis would be exposed to more UV radiation than at lower altitudes. “The plant is known to make THC as a UV protectant,” says Raber. A plant, you see, is not as defenseless as it might seem. “It’s sitting there trying to figure out what molecules to generate to ward off pests or protect itself from its own environment.”

So here in the mountains of Central Asia, ancient peoples may have stumbled into the ideal habitat for the growth of strong weed. How, though, do the researchers know they weren’t just burning the cannabis as incense for these rituals? For one, this particular landscape is dominated by two plant groups, junipers and artemisias—basically the Central Asian version of the American southwest’s sage brush. Both are highly aromatic and known to be prominent in ancient incense burning. Wild cannabis, on the other hand, has nowhere near the strong scent of today’s high-octane cultivated varieties. (That characteristic smell, by the way, comes from compounds called terpenoids.)

“So it really doesn't make much sense why they would target something that doesn't really have much of a scent in its wild state, when there were so many other options out there,” says Spengler.

In addition, historical accounts of the Greek historian Herodotus describe cannabis smoking among peoples to the west, in the Caspian Steppe, which an archaeological find has corroborated: A wooden tent frame and copper containers of burnt cannabis seeds, suggesting these folks were, well, hotboxing. This may well have been a cleansing ritual after a funeral, whereas this new finding appears to be more of a mid-ritual smoking.

“I think ancient people smoked cannabis to get to a special hallucinogenic state, to communicate with nature or spirits of deceased people,” says study coauthor Yimin Yang, of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

An excavated tomb.

Xinhua Wu

In the Jirzankal Cemetery, then, someone was blazing. But it’s hard to tell who exactly. It may have been the community, or maybe just spiritual elites. It’s also hard to divine how the intoxication combined with other elements in the ritual, though there might have also been a musical component, given that the researchers discovered an angular harp in the burial grounds. In addition, they found what might be evidence of human sacrifice in the form of perimortem injuries to skeletal remains—that is, blows suffered near or at the time of death.

“So it's a plausible argument that there could have been human sacrifice attached to this whole ritual activity,” says Spengler. “How it all fits into one actual mortuary practice, I could only speculate.” The researchers stress that this evidence demands further investigation. (You can’t just go around accusing people willy-nilly of ritualistic human sacrifice, after all.)

But what’s becoming much clearer is a picture of a time in history when human populations were increasingly flowing in and out of Central Asia: By testing bones in the Jirzankal Cemetery, the researchers could determine that some of the individuals weren’t from around these parts. Moving along trade routes, various peoples disseminated ideas and goods. Cannabis was both an idea and a good, not just a resource for making things like rope but for getting high and influencing rituals.

“Cannabis smoking becomes a broad cultural practice that may have had linkages between people all across Western and Central Asia,” says Spengler.

One love, as they say.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/ancient-cannabis/

‘You don’t run for second place’: Stacey Abrams on a possible 2020 bid

Abrams could be a game-changer as a Democratic candidate for president, but she is carefully weighing her options

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they dont run for president.

With some two dozen Democrats officially in the race for 2020, Stacey Abrams is the only one by the starting line unsure if shell compete.

Indecision is a label most politicians will go to great lengths to avoid. George W Bush declared himself the decider, while the former White House spokesman Sean Spicer memorably characterized his old boss as unbelievably decisive.

But Abrams is leaning into her indecision, seeing it as an opportunity to more fully and intelligently explore her possible paths forward after her dramatic run for the governorship of Georgia last year ended in defeat but catapulted her on to the national stage.

We often push ourselves to make quick choices simply for the expediency of either ourselves or whoever is asking the question, she said in a private side room of the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington DC, where shes just off-stage from a speech at a liberal thinktank conference.

If you havent fully investigated, you can decide in haste and repent at leisure, she said.

Whatever Abrams does next, other 2020 runners will be watching closely.

I believe she would change the game, said Aimee Allison, founder of She The People, a group that works to elect women of color. She would change the calculus for the countrys strongest Democratic voting bloc: black women and other women of color.

Thats not an uncommon opinion.

I believe she would change the game [of the presidential race], said Aimee Allison, founder of She The People, a group that works to elect women of color. Photograph: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

I would be absolutely terrified if I were any of the candidates running that she might jump in the race, said Democratic operative Jess McIntosh whos been excited about Abrams since 2012, long before she was a household name.

Abrams Georgia campaign didnt land her the job she wanted indeed, she chalks up her loss to the voter suppression issues she went to war with in her campaign.

But that race, along with everything shes done since as founder of two new voting-rights not-for-profits and a rising voice in Democratic politics, has now made her the most popular progressive not in the race, as the Washington Post put it recently.

In Washington, Abrams has just finished her remarks in the hotels grand ballroom as the keynote speaker at the ideas conference put on by the pre-eminent liberal thinktank Center for American Progress. And already shes been artfully demurring on 2020.

Theres a solution to the current crisis in American leadership, Abrams told the audience at one point. It is not, however, having everyone in America run for president but that is also not an announcement.

With practically every other star in the party currently running for president, Abrams has become the Democrats de facto headliner for such speeches, delivering a State of the Union rebuttal, meeting with party leadership and top-tier presidential candidates, and pulling off major donor events for the Democratic National Committee.

Shes just back from a west coast tour promoting her new book Lead From The Outside a kind of memoir-cum-empowerment guide for the less advantaged. (When it was published last year the New York Times book review compared Abrams writing to a young Barack Obamas.)

Im not sleeping a lot, Abrams admitted.

For months, political media have been reporting that shes set to reveal soon whether shell run for president, with various outlets drawing out pros and cons of her possible timelines. But Abrams herself doesnt seem overly concerned with reaching a verdict.

Until recently, she says her every waking thought revolved around the Georgia governors race; and reconsidering her options in the wake of a loss, for her, means careful deliberation.

Im shifting gears in a way that is consequential for more than just me its consequential for anyone I ask to support me, for anyone who gives up another job to come and work with me, she says.

Ava Duvernay and Stacey Abrams speak onstage at the National Day of Racial Healing at Array in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Its everyones responsibility to make decisions that arent driven by satisfying one persons notion of what you should be, but by fully understanding who you will be when you decide to move forward.

What comes next is a question shes has been weighing for months, having recently realized she does not want to run for Senate, a conclusion reached through what for Abrams is a characteristically systematic process of deliberation: asking herself what she wants, why she wants it, and how to get there.

Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader of the Senate has expressed disappointment that so many of his partys political powerhouses opted out of Senate bids this cycle. But Abrams rejects the idea that choosing whats best for her is somehow unpatriotic, adding its hubris to think that only she could win.

My decision had nothing to do with whether I could win or not I think I could win, she said of not running for Senate. It really had to do with, is that the right fit for me? As I think about whether Im going to run for president, its a similar conversation.

Though she hasnt answered the in-or-out ultimatum so many have put to her, shes still offering valuable insight into what kind of political leader shed be. Its one who arrives at big decisions only after careful consideration, and who seeks political office only when shes clear about why she wants it.

As Abrams put it recently, When I ran for governor of Georgia, it was not for a title, it was for a job.

In that sense all the hyperventilation about whether shell be throwing her hat into the presidential race or waiting for another shot at the Georgia governorship in 2022, misses a larger point.

Her vision for Democrats is powerful in its simplicity: that America will realize its progressive ideals when its electorate looks like its citizenry.

In speeches traversing the country, Abrams has detailed the litany of ways voters in her state have been kept from the ballot box and flagging what she sees as other examples of voter suppression efforts under way in Texas, Arizona, and elsewhere.

Stacey Abrams campaigning at the St. James Baptist Church in Forsyth, Georgia in 2018. Photograph: Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Shes also shared hard-won solutions and strategies, detailing the three-pronged attack she deployed in her work with the New Georgia Project, the non-partisan group she founded back in 2013 to help reach and register more than 800,000 voters in poor parts of the state.

But, of course, those efforts still left her short of the votes needed to win in Georgia, and its yet to be proven that her strategy is scalable nationally. The theory does appear to be what shes testing, however, and its appeal is powerful.

Voting rights seem like something everyone should support nobody in either party wants to be seen as being pro-disenfranchisement after all but getting more Americans registered has a clear Democratic skew.

Perhaps that helps explain why Republicans have been skeptical of voter registration projects in the past. Or even why a Republican-led statewide ethics commission has been launched into her gubernatorial campaign and allied groups that worked to expand voting access.

Abrams team has called the investigation a partisan witch-hunt, following an election in which her opponent held on to his job as secretary of state a perch from which he was able to purge more than 1.5 million registered voters from the rolls, including 850,000 people kicked off for not voting in two consecutive election cycles, and an additional 53,000 whose registration applications imperfectly matched their drivers licenses.

Abrams lost by just 54,723 votes.

Now, though she may not be running for president, Abrams is keeping a presidential-campaign level schedule, lecturing at Brookings on one day, and zipping cross-country on a book tour the next.

Wherever she goes the political reality is this: whether or not she runs, Stacey Abrams is already influencing the presidential race.

From the airwaves, at fundraisers, and in one-on-one conversations with presidential candidates, shes making her priorities the why of whatever form her political candidacy ultimately takes known, and known widely.

Her speech in Washington was addressed as much to the presidential field as to the policy wonks sitting there in the room.

Whether we have 23, 24, 25, or 150 candidates for president we should demand from every single person they must speak about voter suppression every day until every person who is legally entitled to vote has the right to vote in the United States of America, she told them.

They must also be willing to look every voter in the eye and say, I see you. I understand your challenges. I see the barriers you face and Im willing to tackle those obstacles, not through vague language and not through programs but through action, through policy, and through determination, because when we see our voters and we give them their voices, we will see the change we need in America and will survive for another generation, she said.

A week earlier Abrams had put out a video rallying against new anti-abortion laws alongside Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, a show of political force implicitly (if not subtly) putting Abrams on the same level as top female presidential candidates.

Stacey Abrams, left, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, right, called voters to rally support for Abrams at an event in Jonesboro, Georgia. Photograph: Ben Nadler/AP

Of course, that may be more a display of political might than any indication of actual intent. She is certainly determined to carve her own path.

Media reports suggesting her name was on the lips of certain presidential candidates as a desirable running mate, including rumors shed been singled out as the prohibitive favorite of the current presidential frontrunner, Joe Biden, were not well received by Abrams.

Abrams is well aware that shes on a shortlist of Democrats who can generate excitement nationally and knows better than to let the Washington whisper mill sell her abilities short by casting her as another guys number two.

And so, having received no phone call to which she might respond, Abrams took this particular piece of her mind to national airwaves, explaining to the unacquainted why you dont run for second place.

She is still angry about the story.

I think it is deeply problematic that there would be a discussion of relegating any woman to the role of second when the primary has yet to fully take shape, she said. I think its a reflection again of this notion of what leadership looks like.

Abrams was schooled early in the soft bigotry of seemingly ordinary assumptions.

As a middle school student she won a local writing contest only to learn the white woman distributing the $50 prize, upon seeing Abrams, did not believe she could be the winner one of many regrettable stops along the way to a remarkable adulthood which taught Abrams to distrust peoples artificially low expectations for her. Also, the rigid societal strictures around what women and particularly minority women can or cannot do.

As a young person, she thought winning a Rhodes scholarship seemed an impossibly high achievement and she threw herself upon the challenge. Shes recalled the rejection she received as deeply painful, but it also taught her something perhaps more precious than a win: that defeat isnt fatal.

Before she served as leadership in the Georgia statehouse, she lived more lives than anyone but a cat, making her way as bureaucrat, businesswoman, tax attorney and when she found herself wanting to read more fantasy about people who looked like her as an author of romantic suspense fiction, under the nom de plume Selena Montgomery.

Her life story is a powerful statement of expanding the possible and Abrams wants to help others do the same. But in the 2020 contest, sexism is already out in force, disguised as a seemingly straightforward question: can a woman running for president really win?

Stacey Abrams arrives to speak at the National Action Networks annual convention in New York City. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Abrams has heard it all too often, recalling how during her last campaign well-meaning people would praise her capability and smarts before whispering what they perceived to be a fatal political diagnosis, but youre a black woman.

In fact whats fatal are such misperceptions and Abrams thinks her attunements to such pernicious dynamics would help set her apart from the field.

After Pete Buttigieg warned dismissively about the lure of identity politics, Abrams was center stage explaining how the term had become a dog whistle for conservatives and a disappointing number of liberals who mischaracterize the real need for awareness of challenges faced across backgrounds as either a willful politics of division or, even more crudely, as the practice of simply voting for whomever looks most like you.

Voters need elected officials who can not only reflect their needs but also understand their obstacles, Abrams tells me offstage.

We should not see that identification as a detraction. If you cannot see the obstacles or if you refuse to countenance them as real then how are you going to help those communities advance?

As for the notion identity politics is voting for whoever looks like you? For white men, its called American history.

Many have only ever had the choice to vote for people who dont share their identities, she tells me of minority voters. The opportunity to expand their choices is a good thing, it is a reflection of a growing and maturing democracy where we can have the marginalized stand up and see themselves reflected not only in their voting patterns, but in their choices for election.

And she adds, The demographic inflection point that we are in as a nation is accelerating.

Its a fancy way of saying that America is running out of time to get stuff right, but only she knows what role shell seek to play in this historical moment.

And, for the moment, shes not telling.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/06/is-that-the-right-fit-stacey-abrams-in-no-rush-to-decide-presidential-run

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