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Aside from small North Korean flags pinned to the waitresses' blouses, the restaurant is surprisingly free from overt propagandizing. Instead of paeans to the Great Leader and his revolutionary juche ideology, the walls are adorned with a series of monumental landscape paintings. One crashing seascape, rendered in an apocalyptic palette of blues, greens, and reds, recalls the painting used as a backdrop to the official photo of Kim Jong-il and Bill Clinton that was taken during Clinton's visit to Pyongyang in August. The cold flood-lighting and no-camera policy (often violated on the sly by curious Western expats) also lend an Orwellian tinge to an evening at Pyongyang, though the authoritarian mood is often broken by the sound of drunken South Korean businessmen warbling their way through the restaurant's thick karaoke catalog...Kingdom Kim's Culinary Outposts (via Kottke)
In 2006 and 2007, Daily NK reported several incidents in which waitresses from North Korean restaurants in China's Shandong and Jilin provinces tried to defect, forcing the closure of the operations. Kim Myung Ho added that two or three DPRK security agents live onsite at each restaurant to "regulate" the workers and that any attempts at flight result in the immediate repatriation of the entire staff.
"Having been a senior executive at some of America's largest corporations I am convinced that model is ultimately doomed. An entity that lasts forever and grows forever is just not possible and is silly anyway. It is a waste of resources. Society deserves a better model for the organization and deployment of resources to provide products and services. Scale is still important. Companies like Cisco have shown how to continue to innovate by acquisition, but the big question is how do corporations gracefully end? How can we break the cycle of Wall Street, a strong financial services industry is simply not good for society. Wall Street does not improve productivity, the model is parasitic, transferring huge resources out of the system. I am looking forward to the next phase of the industrial revolution." - Glen Edens, former senior vice president and director at Sun Microsystems Laboratories, chief scientist Hewlett PackardThe Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future | Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project
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How do you tell the difference between art and written language?
Oh, yeah. It's math.
[Rob Lee] and colleagues Philip Jonathan and Pauline Ziman analyzed the engravings, found on the few hundred known Pictish Stones. The researchers used a mathematical process known as Shannon entropy to study the order, direction, randomness and other characteristics of each engraving.
The resulting data was compared with that for numerous written languages, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese texts and written Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Ancient Irish, Old Irish and Old Welsh. While the Pictish Stone engravings did not match any of these, they displayed characteristics of writing based on a spoken language.
There is, sadly, not a lot of detail about what specific characteristics make language stand out from decoration. I'm guessing it has something to do finding patterns in the choice of symbols, or the way symbols are oriented, or how the patterns repeat. Wish there was more though. For the record, even if this is language, nobody is even close to deciphering what it means.
On a side note: Shannon entropy is a measure of the amount of information that we get from knowing one English letter. It's kind of the Entropy of Wheel of Fortune—how many guesses does it take to figure out all the letters of a sentence using only the information provided by the letters previously guessed. Besides identifying ancient scripts, it makes for a fun, time-wasting applet game.
In 1916, a time when electricity was still something of a luxury toy, the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company put out a pamphlet of House That Jack Built-themed doggerel illustrating all the wonderful ways you can use electricity around your home (and for such a low cost!).
There's a couple of things I find fascinating about this sales pitch.
First, you're looking at a world that still had a fairly limited number of uses for home electricity. Things were certainly on the upswing from a couple decades previous, when an electric hook-up was as much of a single-use tech toy as anything you can buy in Sky Mall. But this is an 18-page booklet, put out by a very biased source, which repeats several "benefits of electricity" as though it's running out of ideas. Hey, did we mention that you can use it to... um ...turn on a light?!
Second, the booklet really gives you a sense of the honest, fuck-all amazement and wonder people felt at being able to control their environment. In the new world of electricity, the toast never burns (at least, not like it used to when we were trying to grill it over an open fire), you need no longer schedule your week around laundry and everyone is healthier and happier. It's advertising hyperbole, sure. But only kinda. When you read old letters, you find that this was advertising capturing the way people really thought, rather than just pushing happiness that wasn't there. Think Dawn of the iPod, not Late-Night Wall-to-Wall Carpeting Commercial.
Finally, I love the last couple pages that allude to the real conflict between man and nature. Forget about simplifying housework. Centralized electricity changed energy production from a difficult, in-home process that kept the messy by-products of progress literally in your face, into something magical that happened when you threw a switch. The choking smoke was still there, but not at your house. There was still heavy labor involved, but it wasn't done by you or your children. For the first time, people were able to pretend that their standard of living was provided, free of downsides, by little elves that lived in the wall. All benefit, no detriment. Action without consequences. In other words, this is the point where everybody went a little bit bonkers.
In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers who were representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been "subjected to unlawful surveillance," the judge said that the government was liable to pay them damages. The ruling delivered a blow to the Bush administration's claims that its warrantless surveillance program, which Mr. Bush secretly authorized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was lawful. Under the program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans' e-mail messages and phone calls without court approval, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, required warrants.Federal Judge Finds N.S.A. Wiretapping Program Illegal (NYT)
Actual sentence just read, by me, in a history tome documenting the early days of Outagamie County, Wis. — "A fair sized audience attended the lecture on 'The Rise and Fall of the Moustache'." This is listed as one of the highlights of 1880, people. And don't front like you wouldn't have totally gone to that lecture. We all know better. UPDATE: Intrepid reader ncbeets was able to supply some missing context on the moustache lecture. Turns out, it's the work of a sort of proto-David Sedaris, who traveled the country reading his comic stories to packed houses for 30 years. And you can listen to the whole thing online!
People have been known to fall to their knees and weep at the sight of Arizona's Grand Canyon. One wonders what the first traveler to the Mariner Valley will do when gazing into this canyon. At almost four miles deep and so wide that in some places you would have to strain to see the other side, this gigantic tectonic crack would span the U.S. from New York to California--a quarter of the way around the planet--so that sunrise at one end happens six or so hours before sunrise at the other. Water once ran through large segments of this expanse. In this image the traveler views an icy mist filling the valley as the suns sets over the north rim."8 Wonders of the Solar System, Made Interactive"
Super Bowl XX. 1986. Bears vs. Patriots. New Orleans Superdome. One of the great joys of growing up in Chicago was watching Walter Payton turn a corner on nasty winter day. The Chicago Bears were a wondrous team in '85/'86: full of great personalities, before any originality in sports was reduced to the common rubble of brand, and a defensive line that rushed the quarterback like marauding beasts. They were Mongols.
The Jumbotron was still relatively new technology at that time—at least it still felt new. I remember the slack-jawed horror when Reagan's mammoth speaking head filled the giant screen, draped in the pulsing stars and stripes. We were celebrating the apex of liberty and the human spirit and lots of other shit, apparently. His comforting tone was deep with menace. I was with Tim Robbins and we got a bad case of The Fear, even though we had prepared for just this situation.
I remember witnessing the UP WITH PEOPLE halftime pageant terrified, with dilated pupils. It was a time when kids were ordered or bullied into attending high school pep rallies—with all that hateful homecoming gibberish.
As you can see in this video now, watching the performance was like diving into an ocean of bad fashion and forced smiles. Dr. Pepper dancing and Mom Jeans from shore to shore... pre-Prozac in motion.... military ballet... Mandatory cheers and quasi-religious cult patriotics... the glory of the empire. A choreographed tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. A celebration of diversity, unity, and fluorescent leggings.
Meanwhile, Reagan was dumping all the mentally ill and vets out on the streets to die, as a direct result of his policies. Read the rest
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