China has a very Orwellian reason for banning typing "1984" on social media, while allowing people to read Nineteen Eighty-Four

Chinese internet users can't type the numbers "1984" into social media, but Chinese bookstores freely sell copies of Orwell's novels, including Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as other books whose titles are banned on social media. Read the rest

The place of gin in Orwell's 1984

One of the few permitted vices in Nineteen Eighty-Four is Victory Gin, which oils the outer party and offers suggestions of Englishness and party power: it's always served with clove bitters, implying that Oceania's boots are on the ground in Asia. Chemistry professor Shirley Lin wrote an interesting post about gin's place in Orwell's dystopia.

In the last paragraph of the book, Winston’s tears at the end of the book are also “gin-scented” (page 297). While I was unable to find any studies examining the presence of alcohol in human tears, ethanol in the sweat of continuous drinkers has been detected and quantified.

I always figured that Victory Gin is just watered-down random-grain alcohol and that the "saccharine flavoured with cloves, the speciality of the cafe," is turps. Bottoms up! Read the rest

Santa Cam knows when you are sleeping AND awake

Your kids thought that Elf on the Shelf was a dirty snitch, but just wait until they get a load of this Santa Cam.

For just $19.99 you can further perpetuate one of the world's biggest lie to children, the existence of Santa Claus. Because, that jolly guy in the red suit knows when you are sleeping and he knows when you are awake, with or without this (dummy) cam.

Santa can "check-in" from the North Pole to see when kids are kind to others, listen to their parents, and make good choices!

But wait, there's more! The let's-normalize-survelliance cam comes with the book, The Santa Cam Saves Christmas.

A big thanks to SF Slim! Read the rest

George Orwell's letter from his former French teacher, Aldous Huxley, about Nineteen Eighty-Four

Shortly after George Orwell published Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949, he received a letter from his onetime high school French teacher, Aldous Huxley, who had published Brave New Work 17 years earlier. Here are Huxley's comments, via Letters of Note:

Wrightwood. Cal. 21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals --- the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution --- the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual's psychology and physiology --- are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful.

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Kickstarting a line of Orwell-inspired clothes with radio-shielding pockets

"The 1984 Collection" is a line of clothing for men and women with removable, snap-in pockets that act as radio-shields for slipping your devices and tokens (cards, phones, etc) into to stop them from being read when you're not using them. Read the rest

UK legal proposal: authorities can prevent anyone from doing anything for any reason

The UK's proposed new Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill creates a new kind of injunction, the Ipnas ("injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance"), which judges can hand down without proof of wrongdoing to anyone over ten, and send them to jail to violate them (kids go to young offenders centres for up to three months). Along with the Ipnas comes "dispersal orders," which police can use to order anyone to leave any public place for any length of time, for any reason, on their own say-so.

As George Monbiot writes in the Guardian "The new injunctions and the new dispersal orders create a system in which the authorities can prevent anyone from doing more or less anything." Read the rest