Bob Shell: Cicadas

A-vertical-painting-of-a-giant-cicada-depicted-in-a-detailed-and-realistic-style.-The-cicada-is-shown-with-its-wings-spread-wide-showcasing-intricat.webp
Cicada. Illustration by AI.

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2024

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Cicadas

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The TV news has been full of stories about the simultaneous emergence of two different broods of periodic cicadas. One brood emerges after thirteen years underground, and the other after seventeen years. 

My original training and occupation was as an entomologist, an insect specialist. I worked in that capacity for the Smithsonian Institution in the 1960s. Cicadas were not my main subjects of study, which were Indo-Australian butterflies and tropical beetles, but I did read a lot about all insects in my studies, including cicadas. It is interesting and puzzling that all periodic cicadas have life cycles that are prime numbers, numbers divisible only by themselves and one. There has been much speculation as to the reason for this, but no one really knows the answer. 

One piece of misinformation that I’ve heard over and over on TV is that the deafening noise male cicadas make is to attract the females. That’s nonsense. Cicadas, male and female, are deaf. The earsplitting noise is much more likely intended to fend off predators. If the females could hear, there’d be no need for such loud noises. Crickets and grasshoppers get along just fine without such volume. 

Cicadas are mostly harmless. They cannot bit or sting. It is true that female cicadas cut deep slits in branches to lay their eggs. This can damage and weaken branches so they break off in high wind or loads of snow. But it is sheer nonsense, as one TV ‘talking head’ reported that their ovipositors (egg layers) are metal! I don’t believe any living creature, at least on Earth, has metal parts, although one wasp does line its nest with a polymer, a plastic. 

If you want to know the truth about an insect, ask an entomologist, not a TV news reporter.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 15th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-the-usps-is-destroying-freedom-of-the-press/

Life on Mars: Humanity’s Bold New Frontier

AI generated image of what life would look like on Mars
Mars illustration generated by AI.

Life on Mars: Humanity’s Bold New Frontier

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Humanity has always been driven by a desire to explore the unknown, and landing on Mars represents the pinnacle of our collective ambition. The red planet, once the subject of science fiction, has now become a tangible reality for human habitation. But what would life on Mars truly be like? Would we have to live under protective domes forever, or is there a possibility of adapting Mars to our needs?

The journey to Mars is no small feat. It involves a six-month voyage through the void of space, with astronauts enduring microgravity and cosmic radiation. However, the rewards of such a journey are immense. Upon arrival, the first settlers would be greeted by a barren landscape, characterized by dusty plains, towering volcanoes, and deep canyons. The thin atmosphere, composed primarily of carbon dioxide, offers little protection from the harsh solar radiation and frigid temperatures that can plummet to -125 degrees Celsius at night.

Given these extreme conditions, the initial phase of living on Mars would undoubtedly involve residing in specially designed habitats. These habitats, often envisioned as bubble-like domes, would provide a safe and controlled environment. Inside these domes, life could be remarkably similar to Earth. Advanced life support systems would maintain temperature, pressure, and oxygen levels, ensuring a comfortable and breathable atmosphere. Hydroponic farms would grow fresh vegetables, while water would be extracted from the Martian soil or recycled within the habitat.

Daily life on Mars would be a blend of routine maintenance, scientific exploration, and communal activities. The psychological well-being of settlers would be a top priority, with recreational facilities, virtual reality experiences, and constant communication with Earth helping to alleviate the isolation of living on a distant planet.

One of the most tantalizing prospects of Martian colonization is the possibility of terraforming—altering the planet’s environment to make it more Earth-like. Scientists envision a future where advanced technologies could thicken Mars’ atmosphere, increase temperatures, and even create liquid water bodies. This process, however, is likely to take centuries, if not millennia, and would require a colossal effort.

For now, the reality is that humans would need to rely on artificial habitats to survive. However, innovative approaches, such as underground living or building habitats within natural Martian caves, are being explored to provide additional protection from radiation and meteoroids.

Despite the challenges, the spirit of human ingenuity is bound to thrive on Mars. The red planet offers a wealth of scientific opportunities. Studying its geology, climate, and potential for past microbial life could unlock answers to fundamental questions about the origins of life and the universe. Moreover, Mars could serve as a stepping stone for further exploration of our solar system, with missions to the asteroid belt or even the moons of Jupiter and Saturn becoming feasible.

The cultural impact of living on Mars would be profound. It would mark a new chapter in human history, one where humanity is no longer confined to a single planet. Martian settlers would develop their own unique culture, blending Earth traditions with new practices born out of necessity and innovation. This cultural evolution would reflect our adaptability and resilience.

Landing and living on Mars is a testament to human ambition and curiosity. While life on Mars would initially require living under protective domes, the potential for scientific discovery and the possibility of terraforming offer hope for a future where humans can thrive on the red planet. Mars represents not just a new home, but a new beginning for humanity—one that will inspire generations to come.

Bob Shell: The USPS is Destroying Freedom of The Press

AI generated image representing freedom of the press
Rendering by AI.

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2024

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The USPS is Destroying Freedom of The Press

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I was in the magazine business for many years. The largest single item in every magazine’s budget was the postage to get the magazines to our subscribers. The increase in postage prices practically every year forced us to increase subscription prices and cost us subscribers. 

Yes, the Internet has cut into print magazines, and other costs went up, but not usually as much as postage. Recently I saw on TV that postage prices are going up yet again. A First Class one ounce stamp is going up by five cents. Unless I’m mistaken, that’s far higher than the inflation rate. And it is certainty extremely inflationary. 

I used to love to read Rolling Stone magazine. I subscribed since the 1960s when Jan Wenner started it. 

Two years ago I had to drop my subscription because it went up to $ 60 a year! I simply could not afford it anymore. I knew that big chunk of that price increase is postage. 

Beyond that, the USPS actually regulates the percentages of editorial and advertising content in a magazine to qualify for Fourth Class, the cheapest postage rate. 

One of the magazines I subscribe to recently dropped their First Class subscription service due to the last round of postage increases. 

I expect other magazines to respond. History Magazine recently went to fewer issues per year due to postage increases, while another magazine I used to get has gone to only one issue a year! I expect to see more printed magazines disappear. 

Now, seeing something on a computer screen or tablet is good for some things, but it doesn’t come close to holding a high-quality printed magazine in your hands. 

Now, the same problem faces book publishers. I recently mailed a book to the next state, about three hours away by car. It went by UPS, which used to be cheaper. This small book weighed well under a pound. The price I was quoted? Fifteen dollars! So, maybe the Post Office would be cheaper? Yes, but it was still $ 8.00 for regular Parcel Post! 

Those ridiculous prices will impact the income of writers negatively. The USPS says it is having problems from the Internet’s competition and email. Anyone with even basic business knowledge knows you don’t compete with lower prices by raising yours!

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 15th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-my-continuing-publishing-saga/

War: Is Netanyahu Ready For Peace?

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Benjamin Netanyahu. Generated by A.I. 2024

War: Is Netanyahu Ready For Peace

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Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving Prime Minister of Israel, has been a polarizing figure in Israeli and global politics. While some hail him as a steadfast leader who has bolstered Israel’s security and economy, others argue that his prolonged tenure has been detrimental to the country’s democratic fabric, its societal cohesion, and its international standing. The case for Netanyahu’s removal from power is compelling for several reasons, including allegations of corruption, his divisive politics, and his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Firstly, the corruption charges against Netanyahu undermine his credibility and the integrity of the Israeli government. Netanyahu has faced multiple investigations and charges, including bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. These allegations not only tarnish his personal reputation but also cast a shadow over the political system he leads. The ongoing legal battles have distracted the government from addressing pressing issues such as the economy, healthcare, and national security. A leader embroiled in such controversies cannot effectively govern or inspire public confidence, making a change in leadership necessary to restore trust in the government.

Secondly, Netanyahu’s political strategy has often relied on divisive tactics that have exacerbated societal divisions within Israel. His tenure has seen increased polarization between different segments of Israeli society, including secular and religious Jews, Jews and Arabs, and left-wing and right-wing factions. Netanyahu’s rhetoric and policies have sometimes fueled these divisions, prioritizing short-term political gains over long-term national unity. This divisiveness weakens the social fabric and hinders collective efforts to address common challenges. A leader who fosters unity rather than division is essential for Israel to move forward cohesively.

Thirdly, Netanyahu’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has drawn significant criticism both domestically and internationally. His hardline stance and expansion of settlements in the West Bank have been major obstacles to peace negotiations. These policies not only strain Israel’s relations with its neighbors but also with its allies, particularly the United States and European Union, who have repeatedly called for a two-state solution. The lack of progress toward a peaceful resolution perpetuates instability and violence, adversely affecting both Israelis and Palestinians. A new leadership approach is needed to break the deadlock and pursue a viable path to peace.

Moreover, Netanyahu’s extended grip on power raises concerns about democratic principles and the health of Israel’s political system. Long-term incumbency can lead to the concentration of power, weakening democratic institutions and processes. Netanyahu’s efforts to weaken the judiciary, control the media, and marginalize political opponents indicate an erosion of democratic norms. For a vibrant democracy, regular leadership changes are crucial to ensure accountability, transparency, and responsiveness to the people’s needs.

In conclusion, while Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure has had its share of achievements, the arguments for his removal from power are substantial. Corruption charges, divisive politics, a stalled peace process, and threats to democratic integrity highlight the need for new leadership. Removing Netanyahu from power would provide an opportunity to restore public trust, heal societal divisions, reinvigorate the peace process, and strengthen democratic institutions in Israel.

Behind The Scenes: KVaughn Summer Linen Collection 2024


Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

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KVaughn Summer Linen Collection 2024

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Photography by Al B For, Copyright 2024

I thoroughly enjoyed hosting KVaughn’s  100% linen scarf collection photo shoot for summer 2024.  Veteran photographer Ted Kawalerski was the first to arrive driving in from Sleepy Hollow, New York.  Since he was a little early we had breakfast and started to plan out his shooting strategy.  He and  I have been talking about KVaughn’s extraordinary work and for this shoot Ted wanted to participate  because he knew there would be great fashion to photograph and amazing portraits to produce. Matt Sampson aka The Sneaker King and the rest of the crew followed shortly afterwards including KV’s creative assistant  Milton White,  photographer Brian Hunt drove his large van filled with camera and lighting equipment  and  his son aspiring model Larson Hunt enjoyed being photographed by all of the talented photographers on hand. Many thanks to my man AL B  for his amazing video and still work as well as photographer Isiah from Blacklight Studios.

Video Clip by AlB For. Copyright 2024