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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Links - 1st February 2011

The Death of French Culture - "All of these mighty oaks being felled in France's cultural forest make barely a sound in the wider world. Once admired for the dominating excellence of its writers, artists and musicians, France today is a wilting power in the global cultural marketplace... the U.S. and Germany each have four of the world's 10 most widely exposed artists; France has none... Another problem may be the subsidies, which critics say ensure mediocrity... Other critics warn that protecting cultural industries narrows their appeal... "In America, a writer wants to work hard and be successful," says François Busnel, editorial director of Lire, a popular magazine about books (only in France!). "French writers think they have to be intellectuals"... "The typical French film of the '80s and '90s had a bunch of people sitting at lunch and disagreeing with each other... An hour and a half later, they are sitting at dinner, and some are agreeing while others are disagreeing"... Therein may lie France's return to global glory. The country's angry, ambitious minorities are committing culture all over the place. France has become a multiethnic bazaar of art, music and writing from the banlieues and disparate corners of the nonwhite world. African, Asian and Latin American music get more retail space in France than perhaps any other country... Expand the definition of culture a bit, and you'll find three fields in which France excels by absorbing outside influences [fashion, cuisine and wine]"

Why Is Chinese Web Design So Bad? - "With the exception of baidu.com (who blatantly copied their design from Google) and renren.com (who clearly copied their design from Facebook), the common theme among most Chinese sites seemed to be ludicrous amounts of characters (e.g. text) with either a misuse of graphics or the complete omission of graphics altogether... Moreover, it’s common for Chinese sites to have multiple, simultaneous animations, popups, overlays, sliders, etc… I honestly felt like I was back to 1995 all over again... I spent most of my time in China at the University where I taught. During that time I noticed that the general rule of thumb for Chinese students was to memorize information and really not be bothered with actually understanding it... Another aspect of Chinese culture that became frustratingly obvious over time is that they are extremely indirect"
He becomes culturally relativist at the end - which is fine if web design is an end in itself, but it is mostly a means with the ends being that the user can navigate the website quickly and efficiently

n+1: Revolt of the Elites - "It’s the bearers of culture rather than the wielders of power who are taxed with elitism. If the term is applied to powerful people, this is strictly for cultural reasons, as the different reputations of the identically powerful Obama and Bush attest... Majoring in literature or art history... suggests a certain privileged indifference to material concerns (even when this rests on actual indifference instead of piles of money)... it’s the do-gooding NGO or the progressive magazine that expects you to take an unpaid internship... Goldman Sachs and Google, which pay real salaries, seem in this sense less addicted to exploitation, and more interested in income redistribution, than the Nation or the Yale English department... US higher education went from being the main lever for equality to being the laboratory in which the elite — in the broadest sense — clones itself... The elitism charge mostly exempts those who’ve been to expensive colleges so long as they’ve only learned how to make money there. This absolves not only CEOs but doctors and lawyers, provided they don’t engage in humanitarian work... everyone with power in America is an upper-class guy who went to Harvard. But this isn’t held to be the problem... “progressives” mainly want to suggest they’ve achieved a kind of moral progress — thanks largely to a costly education — that nobody else has"

The Facebook Setting You Should Change as Quickly as Possible - "Facebook has at long last offered an option to use the encrypted "HTTPS" protocol"

African country set to make breaking wind a crime
Amusingly, insulting the modesty of a woman, challenging to fight a duel, trespassing on a burial place and pretending to be a fortune teller are all in the same category

Man Seeks Protection From Sex-Crazed Wife in Germany

Facebook photo vs. real life on Twitpic

Pascal Bruckner: 'Happiness is a moment of grace' - "Jesus is no longer this transcendent God, but a life coach who helps you overcome addiction and so on." Bruckner suggests that with nothing standing between ourselves and happiness, other than our willingness to grasp it, there is a moral compulsion weighing on us to be happy – and it's precisely this social pressure that makes so many people unhappy. "We should wonder why depression has become a disease. It is a disease of a society that is looking desperately for happiness, which we cannot catch. And so people collapse into themselves"... happiness has more in common with an accident than a self-conscious choice... Part of the appeal of anti-capitalism is the notion that "real happiness" exists beyond naked materialism in a utopia of authentic transactions and feelings. While acknowledging the emptiness of much consumption, Bruckner perceives in the anti-capitalist message a rehashed version of Christian morality, "in which ordinary life is sinful""

The Tears of the White Man: Compassion As Contempt: Pascal Bruckner: Books - "In this imaginatively argued essay Bruckner lambasts Western attitudes toward the Third World as being characterized by guilt, hypocrisy, and paternalism. Bruckner is exasperated by those who unquestioningly label the industrial nations "exploiters" and the underdeveloped countries "exploited." Further, he decries left-wing intellectuals' selective championing of Third World causes, and their attempts to mask realities that do not fit their personal ideology. Too often, insists Bruckner, we sentimentalize the Third World instead of subjecting it to rational analysis"

Book Review - The Violence of Peace - By Stephen L. Carter - "A president who lays out such lofty standards is then liable to claims of hypocrisy if his actions belie his principles... he proposes a thought experiment: How would we feel if the Taliban launched a Predator attack on the White House?... Carter points out that in his Nobel speech, Obama argued that America cannot “insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves.” But, Carter writes, “the president’s actions do not bear this out.” The Obama administration has arrogated to itself the right to engage in a whole range of actions it would deem unacceptable if used by our adversaries"

Singaporeans rent partners for CNY - "Instead of bracing themselves for interrogation, singles are taking matters into their own hands. Their solution: Getting friends to pose as romantic partners, seeking help from dating agencies or even hiring social escorts to do the job... he shuns long-term relationships, preferring to date casually... He said: "I just take one of them along for these events to shut up my relatives. The next time I meet my relatives, I just tell them that we broke up." Three out of four escort agencies told my paper that the demand for companions increases by 30 to 50 per cent during the festive season... "(Our male clients') key concern is they don't want girls to wear short skirts or look sexy. They should dress conservatively"... "I got paid a lot just to socialise and that's the best I could've asked for. The guy wasn't too bad looking, too"... a premium Singaporean social escort - typically defined as an attractive university graduate in her 20s - can earn anything from $5,000 to a whopping $20,000 for a three-hour reunion-dinner session"
Wah, a legitimate use for social escorts!
Keywords: Chinese New Year

Mummy fried - woman sets fire to house while trying to reanimate long-dead sister - "The woman preserved the body with gasoline and had been trying the reanimate it ever since. Her last macabre experiment on Tuesday night involved “jump starting” the mummified corpse with two wires connecting the body’s hand and neck to the mains"

Text message blows up suicide bomber by accident - "A message from her mobile phone operator wishing her a happy new year received just hours before the planned attack triggered her suicide belt, killing her at a safe house"

Biology News: Military exercises 'good for endangered species' - "Such land has more endangered species than nearby national parks"

Did China Try To Pass Off Top Gun As Air Force Footage?

People Are Awesome: This Guy Turned Down $12 Million He "Didn't Earn"

Hard Truths (mrbrown edition) - "Hard Truths 7. Foreigners are the solution to economic growth, low fertility rates and just about everything.
Hard Truths 8. No matter how right your argument is, They are more right.
Hard Truths 11. When the Minister Mentor says, "We can integrate all religions and races except Islam" and that Muslims can integrate better if they were "less strict on Islamic observances", it is a hard truth. When anyone else says it publicily, it is probably going to be an invitation to drink kopi and get to know the Religious Harmony Act better.
Hard Truths 13. F1 can make noise at Marina Bay/Civic District for 3 days; Thaipusam cannot make noise between Serangoon Road & Clemenceau Ave for 1 day."

Vote For Nobody (image)

Singapore's growth not so rosy for common folk - ""I would agree that Singapore is probably one of the best places in Asia to live, work and play, but that is only true for the rich and the financially sound... Ask the common folks who are trying to make ends meet, I wonder if they even think there is room in Singapore for 'play'"... "in the longer term, if the government keeps allowing foreign workers in, the political backlash will grow and there will be no incentive for companies to upgrade and find ways to economize on labor". Bhaskaran warned of unintended effects of the open-door policy, such as lowering the wages of local workers... P.N. Balji calls the system "sophisticated control" of the media. The director of the Asia Journalism Fellowship program at Nanyang Technological University and a former deputy editor of The Straits Times, Balji said journalists are hired by people who are pro-government and the news is "indirectly dictated by the government... My daughter told me she chose not to return because of the lack of physical and political space in Singapore," he said. "When I asked if she doesn't miss family and friends back home, she replied family very much so. As for her friends, she said most are living overseas""
Using Japan to claim that Singapore should not change its immigration policy is like using Somalia to claim that deregulation is bad

Infants ascribe social dominance to larger individuals - "The work suggests we may be born with -- or develop at a very early age -- some understanding of social dominance and how it relates to relative size, a correlation ubiquitous across human cultures and the animal kingdom"
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