Nature versus Nurture

by on March 10, 2011

China is frequently railed against for its corruption; eg. the senior rail official who embezzled more than a hundred million. Corruption is common and I have seen it – in a nightclub the police arrived and waited until the foreign manager gave them a paper bag – and not secondhand – the ‘red envelopes’ my factory-owning friends say they pay to local officials. It’s not acknowledged but everyone knows.

But the type of corruption that is going on in the US is of another sort – it’s far more insidious. It’s of an ideological sort. If the more common type of corruption of taking kickbacks and other types of payment like sex are, say, mosquitoes, sucking blood on the surface, the kind of corruption that Abe Sauer at the Awl is reporting on is more a virus -a sci-fi virus that doesn’t simply kill the host, it converts the host to a malevolent shadow of itself bent on eliminating everything. Maybe this explains the explosion of zombie films.

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The Revolution Will Be File-Shared Via Torrent

by on March 10, 2011

Gosh, how much the question remains the same since Nixon. Check out more Gil Scott-Heron here. As for Bullwinkle, he may not star in the Revolution, but I am confident that he and the Squirrel have a role to play before the break to Fractured Fairy Tales.

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Popcorn By Cannon

by on March 10, 2011

From the nation that gave us gunpowder – the popcorn cannon. Can I trademark Cannon Korn?

Chinese Popcorn Cannon – Watch more Funny Videos

Via Break


by on March 10, 2011

From Vijay Prashad:

John McCain wants to bomb his “interesting” friend, Qaddafi. McCain sounds like the futurist poet Tommaso Marinetti, who greeted the Italian aerial bombardment of Tripoli with a manifesto that found it “hygienic” and a “moral education.” The Italian air force thought that the bombing had “a wonderful effect on the morale of the Arabs.”

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Glorious Bastard

by on March 9, 2011

The Hollywood Reporter states that Michael Chabon is developing a series with HBO, Hobgoblin, that will tell of a group of con men, hucksters and swindlers who ply their trade against the Nazis during WW II. Seems perfect for Chabon and perfect for the man I see as leader of this group, Mamet regular Ricky Jay.

Jay is a magician’s magician who can baffle and beguile you with a deck of cards and who, if he is not in the show, must certainly be an advisor since he has written a few books on the skills of bewilderment.

Here are a few examples of what he can do. You will be credulous and incredulous, the proper response for such wizardry. Take your disappearing statues and buildings and cram them up your ass: you know it’s just gimcrackery at work in such cases, not skill honed by tens of thousands of hours.

Much more after the break.
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Know Your Rights!

by on March 9, 2011

Researchers at McGill and Harvard have provided data on international working conditions, which has been compiled for the website “Raising the Global Floor: A World Legal Rights Database”.

The database is comprised of “an evidence-based set of national labor policies that affect workers’ ability to meet health and welfare needs.” Boring? Hardly! You don’t have to be a policy wonk to find the site fascinating. Especially as it pertains to labour standards that undoubtedly affect your life. Moreover, the presentation is so clean that negotiating the material is a cinch. You can discover international differences in maternity and paternity leaves, overtime work, sick leave, etc, etc. Colour-coded maps help with country-to-country comparisons while country summaries provide lists of more detailed information. Hey, it’s fun and informative!

Easy-to-find fun factoid #1: All the countries of the world have mandated some paid annual leave to their workers, save for Myanmar, Nepal, and the USA (heaven forbid the freedom to work endlessly be impinged upon).

(h/t Laurence Miall)

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Michigan’s Fiscal Crisis–Killing Democracy

by on March 9, 2011

Pro-Government Tanks Shelling the Russian Parliament (c/o Wikileaks)

Can we call it fascism, yet?  Michigan’s one-party state (Republican) is now prepping the blueprint to strip citizens of their local democracy.  All under the rubric of response to a “financial emergency” (self same “financial emergency” being engineered by the apparatchiki).   And no, this is not all Godwin’s Law–De Stafani, Mussolini’s first finance minister lowered taxes, pushed free trade and privatized state enterprises while reforming the tax code in favor of economic elites and lowered real wages for everyone else.  Sound familiar?  Shock doctrine ain’t so new.  And, of course, the old parliament was blocking these reforms so the parliament had to go.

We don’t have to use the “f-word” on this–Governor Rick Snyder seems to aiming for a brand of “managed democracy” aimed at economic growth.  In Yeltsin’s Russia, we called this shock therapy and it didn’t work out too well (Russia in the 1990s experience a depression twice as severe as what Western Europe and the US experienced in the 1930s).  And, oh, yeah, they shelled the parliament.  At least one election was then stolen.   In the battle between capitalism and democracy, capitalism has been winning quite alot and all the fine elites have been calling the destruction of people’s standard of living, “democracy.”  Yeah, Russians voted for a decline in the expected life span of nearly ten years.  And if you think extra-constitutional measures are not the new normal, just note that Wisconsin passed its union-busting law without a quorum in a dirty, backroom manuever.  And, oh btw, the State Senate Majority Leader, just admitted that none of this has anything to do with fiscal measures but defunding the Democratic Party and costing Obama Wisconsin.

Thing is, they just did it.  Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan will not vote for Obama because you can be sure a raft of measures to disenfranchise democratic constituencies ala Florida 200o are on the way.

See Rachel Maddow’s clip, after the break, with discussion of the process with Naomi Klein, who knows a thing about the subject.

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Libya – This Is How Failed States Happen

by on March 9, 2011

Ras Lanuf March 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)

See the complete gallery of stunning photographs of what is becoming harder and harder not to describe as a civil war in Libya in The Atlantic: Libya’s Escalating Conflict.

The weaknesses of both sides in all this mean the chaos looks open ended. This is how failed states happen.
Laurence Lee, Al Jezeera

Mirror mirror

by on March 9, 2011

Here’s someone who needs to watch more sci-fi movies (I know, Alien 3 isn’t great, but it’s got its moments, what with the hot bald-Ripley and allusions to Passion of St. Joan) and read some good doppleganger fiction. He would then know that building a robot likeness of yourself is going to end with one of you dead, you, and the robot sexing up your women (and they like it),  raping and/or eating your dog, and subjugating and/or eliminating humanity.

We can also add cloning to this – Moon – and even time-based cloning just so you go watch the excellent and mind-screwing Primer.

So, with all that todo, here’s Geminoid from a guy who you know is going to end up making Pris.

I have a suggestion for him: drop the ‘oid’ from the name.

No no. Keep it so we are all safer.  It can become an ending, like the ‘ov’ or ‘ova’ and ‘son’ or ‘dottir’ in patronymics. Say, Malcolmoid – Malcolm’s android.
Then, when the revolution comes and inevitably someone faces you and your ‘droid, someone can engage in Star Trek logic bombs,

‘I like you. But I don’t like you.’

‘But we are (zzt) (zzt) exactly the same.’

(zzt)  (zzt)



and we will be saved.

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Buffalo buffalo? Sure, Sure

by on March 9, 2011




That is scholar and polymath Zhao Yuanren’s 92 character poem, Lion-eating Poet in the Stone Den. Visually, it makes sense since the characters are different and the poem appears be be able to be parsed through reading.

Here it is in pinyin, with the accents indicating the tone (neutral, rising, falling then rising, falling).  

« Shī Shì shí shī shǐ »
Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

It is unintelligible, more a tone poem , only much more confusing because they are actual words –  and illustrative of the problem that people  (me) have learning a tonal language.

English has similar problems  too, only a little less frequently.  Here is the delightful ‘buffalo’ sentence, which is so much fun to say:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Go here for an explanation.

One reason I don’t believe Chinese will ever become as powerful as English is  because characters are difficult – mash your head, toss your dictionary in frustrated stupidity difficult. And not just for non-natives. Chinese have trouble with them, too.  I’ve heard many conversations in which one person asks another which ‘shi’ or ‘xing’ they mean, or how to write a certain character, particularly the rare ones or the ones with many strokes (like the ‘wan’ in ‘Taiwan’). Now that there are two different character sets – traditional in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and others, and  simplified in the PRC – it’s worse. But this poem makes it clear that simply replacing them with pinyin doesn’t work either.  

Guess that’s good for English.

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It’s 2011, where are my Alien friends? Charlie Sheen won’t do

by on March 8, 2011

On the cusp of 2010, I eagerly anticipated what Arthur C. Clarke hopefully called “the year we make contact”. No such luck. Clarke himself passed away in 2008 after 90 revolutions around the Sun, never knowing if one of his foremost wishes for humanity would come true.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Over at SEED Magazine Geoffrey Miller proposes an intriguing hypothesis on why we haven’t met any aliens yet: they, like us, are too busy following the evolutionary impulses of self-stimulation (what he terms brain “fitness-faking”) to concentrate on lofty, physical goals like space travel.

The great temptation for any advanced, technological species is to spend the bulk of our time shaping reality to mimic the cues of survival and reproductive success, sans the substance. Hence: Wii exercise, introspective non-stop reporting on the minute-to-minute ramblings of mentally ill celebrities (winning!), etc.

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Dept of Bond Girls

by on March 8, 2011

In which Pussy Galore does Dick Johnson. Many of their songs are so bristling with tin-can rattle and shrieking guitar harpy-pokes-in-the-eye that I can’t stand them – this one, however, I love.

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