Monthly archive for January 2008

I hate Macs – Charlie Brooker

From The Guardian:

Unless you have been walking around with your eyes closed, and your head encased in a block of concrete, with a blindfold tied round it, in the dark – unless you have been doing that, you surely can’t have failed to notice the current Apple Macintosh campaign starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb, which has taken over magazines, newspapers and the internet in a series of brutal coordinated attacks aimed at causing massive loss of resistance.

When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, “I hate Macs”, and then I think, “Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?” Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands.


The Notorious Straw Boys

From The Secret Museum of Mankind:

The Secret Museum of Mankind · Volume Four · Europe · Page 44.jpg

The Departure Terminal

A few months ago I took my show on the road. It is not much of a show to be honest, like a one man band playing a haunting and familiar melody on a worn down fiddle with a hat full of coins and crumpled currency at his feat.

I set out to embark on a grand adventure, my charts and maps laid out before me, teasing my destination out with my fingertip that moved coarsely across the flat tattered paper map of Europe. My finger skimmed over boarders and boundaries of established societies with remarkable ease.

My traveling cases were crammed with the distillate of my lares and penates. I wore two hats upon my head, quite literally, as I lurched through the international terminal toward the ticketing counter. One hat would serve as a collection vessel for crumpled gratuities, the other as a metaphor for the dying vestige of my materialistic constancy.

“Oh my, you have a tremendous quantity of luggage in tow considering your gender. How long will you be traveling?” inquired a slovenly togged hen.

“Indefinitely,” I uttered beneath the strain of my burden.

I approached the ticketing agent.

“Mister Taylor, it appears that one of your bags exceed the weight limit.”

“That’s fine, I’ll pay more.”

“I am afraid that is impossible, the weight limit is set by the union, it cannot be exceeded.” She said it as if the union had inconvenienced her greatly in the past. “You will have to move some items to another suitcase.”

“I don’t exactly have another suitcase with me, maybe you have a box I could use?”

“Hmmm, I don’t think that we have a….Let me check,” She glanced over her right shoulder, “No. No box here. If you just go over there,” pointing with a crooked finger to indicate a turn into a corridor, ”you will find a luggage store.”

I stepped away from the counter with my offending baggage and briefly considered purchasing another suitcase and paying the fee for extra luggage. Then, understanding the stupidity of that solution, I hastily tugged the beastly green suitcase to a nearby garbage can and unzipped the compartment. I needed to reduce the load by only 3 kilos. I grabbed my sketchbooks and media folder and crammed them into my carry on bag so it was cumbersome and overflowing. Then I took out two large winter coats and put them on, one over the other, which likely matched the absurdity of my two hats in the balmy Los Angeles weather. Without making use of the garbage can I had succeeded in conforming to the union requirements.

I boarded my flight to Dublin and immediately filled the overhead bin above my seat with coats and hats. I laid back in my chair and dreamt of my future on the other side.


Origins of “Man”

The English term “Man” (from Proto-Germanic mannaz “man, person”) and words derived therefrom can designate any or even all of the human race regardless of their gender or age. This is indeed the oldest usage of “Man” in English. This derives from a Proto-Indo-European root “man-” meaning hand. A similar cognate is Old Norse “mund”, hand, as well as most Romance words for “hand”, such as French main and Portuguese mão. The distinctive and dexterous hands of humans, compared to those of other animals, are the basis of this term and the similarly derived term, “manual” (from Latin “Manus”, hand), by hand.


The Pakistan Conundrum

Scott Ritter in

The secular nature of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship disguises the fact that Pakistan as a nation was birthed in an environment of Islamic national identity. Pakistan from its inception was supposed to bring together the Muslim populations of the former British Indian colony into a viable nation state. While many of those who oversaw the formation of the new governmental structure were moderate, even secular lawyers trained in the British tradition, the overwhelming population of what was to become Pakistan traced their loyalty to a system of local elders and religious figures who more often than not referred to Shar’ia, or Islamic law, when pronouncing decisions of government. This duality is reflected in the resolution passed by Pakistan’s early leaders on the eve of what was to become the country’s constitutional convention. It proclaimed: “Sovereignty under the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone,” and characterized Islamic values as essential in any new government.

But Pakistan is no homogeneous Islamic state. Its roots are deeply seated in tribal, familial and ethnic realities that most non-Pakistani observers are ill-equipped to comprehend. An illustration of this can be found simply by noting that Benazir Bhutto, the martyred symbol of democratic reform, in reality sat at the head of a political party, the PPP, which was born not from Pakistani society in general, but rather from the ranks of the 700,000-strong Bhutto tribe. The Bhuttos, an ethnic Sindhi group, possess an insularity that belies the image of democratic reform embraced by Benazir Bhutto herself. An ongoing rift within the PPP over Bhutto’s successor illustrates this: Benazir’s husband, Zardari, together with her son, Bilawal, have claimed the leadership of the party, citing a controversial and challenged ‘will’ which emerged following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Neither Zardari nor Bilawal are considered to be part of the Bhutto tribe, because Zardari is of Baluchi heritage and the son is traditionally linked to the family tree of the father. It is not the history of corruption that surrounds Zardari, or the inexperience of Bilawal (a student in the UK), which the Bhutto tribe finds objectionable, but simply the fact that a political party founded by, and for, the Bhuttos is now in the hands of someone outside the tribe.


Travel Photos: Alaska : I Once Caught a Fish “This Big”

I am not much of a fisherman. I am far better at drowning worms while dozing beneath the brim of my sun hat. There was a time, as a young man, that I caught a fish that was too big to fit in a skillet. I recently found the evidence of my biggest fish tale while dusting off an old hard drive. I ended up packing two suitcases full of dry ice and halibut for my flight back to San Diego.

Rep. Wexler Calls for Cheney Impeachment


Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) is urging the House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney, despite opposition from House Democratic leaders.

“In this time, at this moment, Congress must stand for truth,” Wexler said in a speech on the House floor Monday night. “A growing chorus of Americans is calling for accountability. The response from Congress thus far has been silence and denial.”


Travel Photos: Bratislava Urban Art: Skapal Pes

This stencil painted on the ground in a shopping district near the Old City of Bratislava reads “Skapal Pes” which translates from Slovak to “Dead Dog”. The idiom means that nothing is going on in town; there is nothing to do today.

Waiting for the Dog to Sleep

Waiting for the Dog to Sleep is a collection of short stories by Polish author Jerzy Ficowski.

The following excerpt is from “The Passing Settlement”:

I don’t know and have never known its name. But this settlement is easy to recognize by its brevity, its rapid passing, almost at the very moment of greeting it we must bid farewell. The train carries us past too quickly for it to be counted among places graced with topographical names; it is doubtless just one of those minor attractions organized for us, the long-distance travelers, by the State Railway, in the interest of alleviating boredom.

I have seen it repeatedly, I have even measured its distance: it stretches alongside the tracks for sixteen quick clacks of the wheels; by the seventeenth it is already gone, and only versts of empty meadows run smooth in its wake. I’m not even sure if it’s only on the Warsaw-Bialystok line that I’ve seen it or somewhere else as well. I get the feeling that I always pass it, no matter where I’m going, on those parts if the journey where the train has gathered the most speed, halfway between two distant stations.

Ficowski continues:

Due to its inaccessibility, the settlement is the subject of my boldest hypotheses and conjectures, which are all the more true in that they are unverifiable. Ephemeral, summoned into existence in the space of an instant behind a train window, it confirms all of my suppositions, every speculation; it cannot, after all, say anything to contradict them. And so, initially featureless, the settlement is gradually penciled in with the meaning I have nominated for it, and yet it is capable of renouncing this meaning at any moment in the name of my changing whims.


Killing African Animals May Help Conserve Them


From the Economist:

While Kenya has a number of nature reserves, most of its wildlife lives on privately owned land, and killing or exporting such animals has been banned since 1977. Before that, landowners might have made money through ranching, hunting, tanning, taxidermy, curios and allowing animals on their land to be captured for sale or export. Mr Norton-Griffiths and Mohammed Said of the International Livestock Research Institute estimate that today the industry might be worth some $600m annually.

At present, however, landowners make around $5 per hectare per year from their wildlife—comparable to agricultural returns on only the driest, most marginal land. Where landowners rent an area for wildlife-viewing to a single tour company, they may average $10 per hectare. In the Mara area—which draws much of Kenya’s safari trade—rents can rise to $50 per hectare. However, in 95% of the land where wildlife is found, it nets landowners no money at all.

…despite millions spent to conserve Kenya’s wildlife, stock has declined by 70% since 1977. More than half of the most productive rangelands in Kenya, which used to hold most of the country’s wildlife, have been converted to agricultural production.

The best way of conserving wildlife is to make it worth landlords’ while. Tourism can help up to a point. But most tourists will not travel more than a few hours from their hotel to see animals. Real wildlife tends to flourish far from people, hotels, roads and swimming pools: large-scale tourism and real wildlife are not compatible. New thinking about how to support wildlife conservation is needed in Kenya.

Rich-country conservationists need to be less squeamish about killing animals. They ought to support developing countries’ efforts to create incentives for their landowners to protect wildlife—even if it means sometimes shedding animals’ blood.

Green.view | Point and shoot |