When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

"There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness." - Friedrich Nietzsche


The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years: Mr. Luce's mag does satanism, porn, crack, Pokemon, and more! (from inimitable Reason Magazine)

"Since the British sociologist Stanley Cohen defined the moral panic phenomenon in the early 1970s as hysterical overreactions to imagined threats to social order, no publication has done a better (by which we mean worse) job of scaring the crap out of post-baby boomer America than Time...

Time was right about the increase in production and availability of pornography in the 1970s, it was just wrong about the effects. Two years after this cover appeared, the number of reported rapes in the U.S. began a 30-year free-fall, a period over which pornography became increasingly easier to obtain. Today, porn is more abundant and ubiquitous than ever, while incidence of rape in the U.S. is at its lowest rate since the government started keeping statistics...

A vanishingly small number of people actually die of cocaine overdoses (just 563 in 1983, out of tens of millions of users), yet still refers to the drug as a "taker of lives."...

As Reason's Jacob Sullum explains in his book Saying Yes, studies show that the vast majority of crack users never went on to become addicts. One 1994 survey, for example, showed that 93 percent of respondents who had admitted to trying crack weren't using the allegedly instantaneously addictive drug as much as once a month when the survey was taken. Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman even theorzied in the Wall Street Journal that it's actually the prohibition of cocaine that gave us drugs like crack, likening the intoxicant to the bathtub gin that soaked the black market during alcohol prohibition...

Citing gangsta rap and heavy metal lyrics, raunchy comedians, and radio shock jocks, Time worries that American pop culture has grown too vulgar... a woman who says that after sitting through a comedy routine by Andrew "Dice" Clay, "she felt like a Jew at the 1934 Nuremberg rally."...

Since the Time article ran in 1990, nearly every measurable social indicator has been moving in the right direction, from youth crime to sex crime to teen pregnancy. America has largely grown more tolerant, too, even as ethnic, sexist, and homophobic jokes are widely available on iTunes, the Internet, and basic cable...

"At any moment, the same kids listening to...'Baby One More Time' are just a few keystrokes away from Pandora's hard drive—from the appalling filth, unspeakable hatred and frightening prescriptions for homicidal mayhem" that plague the Internet...

The “principal researcher” for the study that inspired Time's cover was actually an undergraduate, and experts began picking the study apart the moment the issue hit newsstands...

The creepy-but-wired pedophile who substitutes Internet chat rooms for the van and a puppy is largely a myth. Moreover, most kids who download pornography online, the study notes, aren't innocently typing otherwise-innocuous phrases into search engines... Nor does giving out personal information online seem to make kids any more susceptible to predation...

Documenting the Pokemon “controversy,” or Pokemania, this Time cover story breathlessly warns that children are printing counterfeit cards, cheating friends and classmates, and even stabbing one another over Pokemon trading disputes. Time doesn’t dwell too long on any substantive data (there isn't any) that might show what sort of sustained violence and mayhem would make Pokemon an “addiction" (Time's word). Instead, it quickly cuts to what the authors see as the real dark heart of the Pokemon phenomenon: crass capitalism! Time works up a lather over the over-saturation of cuddly consumerism, calling Pokemon a “pestilential Ponzi scheme—complete with a fold-out graphic explaining why."...

Near the end of the U.S. craze—and at the beginning of the U.K.’s—the BBC ran a slightly tongue-in-cheek article about Pokemon that found the fad to be a good lesson in economics, teaching children the theories of speculation, supply and demand, exchange rates, and bubble bursting. But one man's good lesson in economics is apparently another's lesson in predatory cunning and capitalist thuggery...

Time's short, two-page story [on the "Columbine Effect"] is almost incoherent... “for students aged 12 to 18, overall school crime…decreased by nearly a third to 101 school-related crimes per 1,000 students in 1998, compared to 144 crimes per 1,000 in 1992... Thanks in part to scare stories like this one, dim-witted legislatures and school boards across the country enacted "zero tolerance" policies that led to kids getting arrested and suspended for drawing pictures, or for writing creative fiction about zombies...

While Americans have been getting fatter for 25 years, we still set new life expectancy records each year, and deaths from heart disease, cancer, and stroke have all fallen dramatically over that period. This is of course mostly due to advances in medical science. But obesity isn't exactly bringing on a public health calamity, either. As for medical costs, a 2008 Dutch study suggests what would seem to be intuitive: People who live longer tend to incur more lifetime medical expenses. Meaning that if obesity does modestly shorten lifespans, it does so at a savings to taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid."
"He who praises everybody, praises nobody" - Samuel Johnson


The DM of the Rings

"Lord of the Rings is more or less the foundation of modern D&D. The latter rose from the former, although the two are now so estranged that to reunite them would be an act of savage madness. Imagine a gaggle of modern hack-n-slash roleplayers who had somehow never been exposed to the original Tolkien mythos, and then imagine taking those players and trying to introduce them to Tolkien via a D&D campaign."

Some of the best parts so far (it's very long, so I'm only halfway through):

(In Bree)

Aragorn: Wait, I want to visit the Blacksmith. See if he has like, weapons or stuff for sale.

DM: You want to go shopping? But your quest has only just begun!

Aragorn: Have you seen my starting equipment? All I have is a broken sword!

DM: None of these humble blacksmiths are capable of re-forging NARSIL, the mighty blade of old...

Aragorn: Fine. What about a brothel? Does this town have a whorehouse or anything?

DM: Certainly not!

Aragorn: This town sucks!

Sam: Let's just leave.

DM: You have only just arrived in Bree, after several long days of travel!

Legolas: Pry it open?

DM: No gaps.

Legolas: Pour water around the door, let it seep into the cracks and freeze, thus cracking the door?

DM: It is well above freezing here.


Someone: "So we're agreed... You guys go find a big tree, cut it down, and haul the trunk back here. Dave and I will assemble the scaffolding, and Frank will tie all the ropes together. Now all we need is a pulley."

Gandalf (NPC): Oh for crying out loud! The password is Mellon, you lunatics!

DM: From deep within the tangled heart of Fangorn Forest, the White Wizard approaches!

Aragorn: This makes no sense. What would Saurman (sic) be doing here in the middle of the woods?

DM: As he appears, you are surrounded by a brilliant white light!

Legolas: Ahhh! JERK!

Aragorn: So he hiked all this way so he could cast "Flare" at us? Isn't that a Level 1 Spell?

Gimli: It's a cantrip actually. Level Zero.

Now let me see if I understand this:

The guy who is leading the invasion of these lands - the guy with the huge Orc army and the indestructivle Tower of Black Stone - this guy spends his time wandering around in the woods all by himself, pranking random travelers with low-level spells?

Does that seem right to you?

Also great: the extended hit-on sequence in Part LXIII:Overly Requited Love

Friday, June 12, 2009

"How my achievements mock me!" - William Shakespeare


On the co-existence of High and Pop culture:

"The new theaters did not prosper equally. Within three years of its opening, the Curtain was being used for fencing bouts, and all other London playhouses, with the single eventual exception of the Globe, relied on other entertainments, particularly animal baiting, to fortify their earnings. The pastime was not unique to England, but it was regarded as an English specialty. Queen Elizabeth often had visitors from abroad entertained with bearbaiting at Whitehall. In its classic form, a bear was put in a ring, sometimes tethered to a stake, and set upon by mastiffs, but bears were expensive investments, so other animals (such as bulls and horses) were commonly substituted. One variation was to put a chimpanzee on the back of a horse and let the dogs go for both together. The sight of a screeching ape clinging for dear life to a bucking horse while dogs leaped at it from below was considered about as rich an amusement as public life could offer. That an audience that could be moved to tears one day by a performance of Doctor Faustus could return the next day to the same space and be just as entertained by the frantic deaths of helpless animals may say as much about the age as any single statement could.

It was also an age that gave rise to the Puritans, a people so averse to sensual pleasure that they would rather live in a distant wilderness in the New World than embrace tolerance. Puritans detested the theatre and tended to blame every natural calamity, including a rare and startling earthquake in 1580, on the playhouses."

--- Shakespeare, The World as Stage / Bill Bryson

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up." - Lily Tomlin


S'pore needs to build up long-term care sector - "Singaporeans often come across the three Ms in healthcare - Medisave, Medishield and Medifund. But Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said now it is time to focus on the three Es - Eldersave, Elderfund and Eldershield - so that Singaporeans can finance their long-term healthcare expenses as the population ages."
Maybe people can look at the Fourth E - Emigration.

Wiccan Accidentally Stabs Herself in Foot With Sword During Good Luck Ritual - "Gunther said she was performing the ceremony to give thanks for a recent run of good luck. The ceremony involves the use of candles, incense and driving swords into the ground during the full moon. Gunther said was aiming to put the sword in the ground, but hit her foot instead. "It wasn't the first time I performed the ritual, but it was the first time I put a sword through my foot," she said."

Sara Ziff talks to Louise France about the world of teen modelling - "The famous photographer demands to be touched sexually. "Sena - can you grab his cock and twist it real hard," his assistant tells her. "He likes it when you squeeze it real hard and twist it."... This is the ugly, sleazy side of the modelling industry, the side few insiders like to talk about. It's one of the most secretive businesses in the world, which is ironic when you consider that it is also one of the most pervasive... they end up with one of the best films about the world of modelling and an honest portrayal of an industry built on artifice... an industry where women, she believes, are betrayed all the time"... It's an industry that is as much about undressing as dressing up, as much about what's underneath as what's on top. The model's job is to look into the camera lens and make a woolly, oversize cardigan look sexy. It was ever thus... There's a suggestion that some models lose weight because it's the only aspect of their lives that they have any control over."

To thine own self be untrue: Self-awareness in authoritarians - "Described authoritarians, defined as those who score relatively highly on the Right Wing Authoritarianism scale, and presented data in support of the argument that authoritarians are less likely than most people to exhibit self-awareness. Possible explanations for the phenomenon are noted, with discussion focusing on fear as an underlying cause."

Unusual Canned Foods From Around The World (45 Pics) - I like the Reindeer Pate: "Arctic delicacy. Farm raised relative of Rudolph. An
indulgent Christmas treat!" Also nice, Pork Brains in Milk Gravy (156g gives you 1170% of your Cholesterol needs). And the canned cheeseburger (which seems to include the bun).

Male brain vs. female brain II: What is an “extreme male brain”? What is an “extreme female brain”? - "Even after Baron-Cohen figured out the essence of autism as an extreme male brain, the nature of the other extreme, an extreme female brain, remained a puzzle... The female brain tends toward empathizing and mentalizing thinking, treating machines and objects as if they were other people. They attribute minds, thoughts, and feelings to inanimate objects. That, according to Crespi and Badcock, is the essence of paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenics hear voices where there are no people, and they attribute minds and thinking where none exist, such as when they believe other people are talking about or conspiring against them when they aren’t. Paranoid schizophrenics are hypermentalistic, and overinfer minds and emotions in other people, just as autistics are hypomentalistic, and underinfer minds and emotions in other people."
It all makes sense now. And explains why girls (and gay guys) are into literature.

Typhoons trigger slow earthquakes - "This gentle release causes an earthquake that dissipates its energy over several hours rather than few potentially devastating seconds."
In a few years they'll discover that the answer I gave in Geography class about detonating bombs to prevent earthquakes is actually right.

Dog Playing Fetch in Germany Delivers Live Grenade to Owner

Fla. fisherman hooks test missile in Gulf waters - "Fisherman Rodney Salomon hooked the missile about 50 miles off the Panhandle town of Panama City and then kept it on his boat, the Broad Venture, for ten days. Salomon hoped to keep it as a souvenir, but took precautions because he didn't know if it was live."
It'd have been funnier if his name had been "Rodney Salmon"

David Carradine, Bruce Lee 'killed by assassins' - " KUNG-FU cult hero David Carradine may have been killed by a secret society of martial arts assassins, his family's lawyer claims. The New York Post reports Mark Geragos suggested Carradine may have been attempting to uncover groups working in the martial-arts underworld at the time of his death... The conspiracy theories surrounding Carradine’s death echo those around the death of Bruce Lee, who died in 1973 of brain swelling linked to medication, reportedly an aspirin. Lee’s death is often linked by conspiracy theorists to the Triads, a Chinese secret society."

Leading historians on whether fascism is on the march again - "We should be wary about the rise of the far right but not panicky... I don't like all these stupid historical analogies - this is not a re-run of the 1930s. In some ways, history can box you in and limit your options. We live in a very different world, and these parties organise themselves in a very different way. Hitler didn't Twitter. Conditions in Europe are very different now from those that prevailed in the 1930s. We haven't had a catastrophic European war, with resentments about how that ended. We should also be cautious about saying that an economic recession inevitably leads to the rise of the far right. The fascists came to power in Italy long before the Depression. There is no automatic link. In Germany, most of the unemployed voted for the communists... You just have to look at the BNP to see how it is trying to adapt its approach to changed circumstances, ramping up its hostility to the EU while playing down other aspects of its policy. The left has a vested interest in playing up the threat of fascism. It uses it to reoxygenate itself... In Italy, the fascists, faced by an oppressive state, were seen as martyrs, and that won them popular support... Don't censor or oppress the BNP. Marginalise and ridicule them. Ridicule is an underestimated weapon."

Pregnant man Ruben Noe Coronado miscarries twins - "But 25-year-old Ruben Noe Coronado, who was born a woman named Estefania and still has female sex organs, said he plans to try again"
Makes you wonder why he wants a sex change. Maybe I should try to get pregnant also.
This is why having video evidence is useful.

And why reflexive "the Powers That Be are evil" (i.e. always supporting individual citizens against the political system/big companies) attitudes are unjustified.

Everyone is capable of iniquity - not just the "privileged", or the dominant class in "power relations":

Great-grandma dared cop to Tase her, so he did

"Kathryn Winkfein was stopped for doing 60 mph in a 45 zone in her pickup truck on a highway near Austin, Texas. After Deputy Chris Bieze finished writing the ticket, he gave it to her and asked her to sign it.

Winkfein refused. Bieze insisted, saying he would have to arrest her if she didn't sign the ticket. When she wouldn't sign, he opened the door to the truck and told her to get out...

The Travis County Constable's Office alleged that she had been argumentative and profane. She denied the charge, telling a local Fox News reporter, "I was not argumentative. I was not combative. Every bit of this is a lie."

In response, the constable's office released the dashboard video of the arrest, which shows Winkfein using vulgar language and daring Bieze to use his Taser. According to the time stamp on the dashboard video, it was at least seven minutes from when Bieze told the elderly woman to get out of her truck until he finally hit her with 50,000 volts of low-amperage electricity and she fell screaming to the ground.

Winkfein has not commented since the video was released. According to the local Fox station, she has hired an attorney.

When Bieze tells her to get out of her truck, Winkfein says, "Take me to jail. Go on and take me to jail."...

"If you don't step back, you're gonna be Tased," Bieze says.

That's when Winkfein said, "Go ahead. Tase me."

Even then, Bieze did not use the Taser he had out and ready. He attempted to grab her, but Winkfein twisted away.

"Step back or you're gonna be Tased, ma'am," Bieze says again.

"I dare you," she said.

Winkfein then decided she was leaving and tried to walk back to her truck.

"I'm getting back in my car," she said.

"You're gonna be Tased," Bieze said, blocking her path.

"I'm getting back in my car," she insists.

"No, ma'am," he says.

That's when he finally fired the Taser and Winkfein went down screaming."

(This TODAYShow.com - which is mostly a description of the video - is a lot more accurate than the other articles I read describing this incident, where just how belligerent the grandma is is not made clear)

On Truth vs Ideology in History

From the History According to Bob Questions and Answers 77 episode,

A letter that Professor Bob, an Adjunct Professor of History at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Missouri, received from a High School history teacher in Queensland, Australia:

"'A problem which I found plagues everything I do as a history teacher.

One of the reasons I love your podcast so much is because you focus on investigating historical truth and analysing the causes and consequences of events in history.

I find, however, that in my classes and in my dealings with other teachers, this approach has been lost.

Everywhere I look, so-called 'history teachers' are instead teaching cultural or social justice studies. All content and context has been stripped out of the curriculum and replaced with simplistic dogmas and injustice-obsessed theories'...

When I first came into the district... there was no required Western Civ. And, they only required half of American History...

At college, I much prefer a social issue American History/World History text, because I can talk about these topics. I can assign the students to read the social issues. They'll then raise the social question, and I can put it into context."

[Addendum: Interesting comment on the Singapore Humanism Meetup list:

"I'm from Belgium... When I was a history teacher connecting moral issues in history lessons were even forbidden and could get you expelled as a teacher (which is a good thing of course) For example, when you talked about pharaos in ancient Egypt and you asked the pupils "Do you think that's ok that the pharoah had more than 1 wife?" , you could be expelled for that."]


"'What happened after the [American Civil] War? Why were the African-Americans so badly treated?'...

The mistake in American History is to believe that the North and the Abolitionists were in favour of Equal Rights for the former slaves.

They saw Slavery as a bad issue; they didn't want them to be citizens, any more than the States wanted the Indians to be citizens of their states. So you have to separate that - there's a difference between Freedom and Equality. And that's part of that.

[Addendum: This post has been updated to include information on Professor Bob. Previously it might've given the impression that he was a teacher in Queensland, Australia]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jogjakarta trip
Day 4 - 1st May - Jogjakarta Palace (Kraton), Bird Market, Jogjakarta
(Part 1)

We decided to visit the Kraton (Palace), one of less unimportant sights in Jogjakarta.

Cock money changer (notice the exchange rate for the SGD)

According to Jogjakartans, Speedy Gonzales comes from Italy.

Spongebob Squarepants loves Jogja. But not correct spelling. Or IP laws.

One of the other palaces. IIRC it's still used as a government building.

Approach to the palace

Upon entering the palace, we were pounced upon by a guide, who offered to guide us not only for the palace but also the Water Palace and Chariot Museum. It was good in that we learnt many things we wouldn't have otherwise (without a guide and with the lack of information plaques, the place would've been very boring), but he was also the most shameless Indonesian we met.

The Kraton was built in 1756 as the palace of the Sultan. Right now the 10th Sultan is in power, and he has only one wife (the 9th [the first vice-president of Indonesia] had 5).

This three-in-one pillar symbolises Hinduism (the Lotus), Islam (the green colour) and Buddhism (presumably the blue thing).

Ceremonial garb. The sleeves are worn by married people and unmarried people have no sleeves (if you think about it, this makes sense).

Depicting Indonesia's war with the Dutch. The second bit depicts the Dutch going away and the Kris being given to them

This picture is being taken from an area petitioners were summoned from by means of a clap (the ceiling echoed the claps)

The writing on the arch is Sanskrit

Girls can't inherit so the current Sultan, who has only girls, is in trouble.

Coronation area

Hindy style mosque - converted from a Hindu temple. Our guide told us he followed Hindu practices also, and drank beer (though he was officially Muslim).

Porch with symbol of the Sultan

I was wondering why they kept chickens in front of the house. They're holy chickens - one white and one black. You keep them in front of your home for protection. If they sing at 3 or 4 pm it's good luck, but it's bad luck if they do the same at 7. If they sing at 6pm, it means someone is pregnant.

Sacred cocks

Friday prayer offering - this is a Hindu-Muslim hybrid, since Friday is a Holy Day.

The 4 pillars represent the 4 elements. Now this place is used to clean weapons - the Kris during the Javanese New Year.

Another syncretic pillar. The bottom has the Hindu Lotus. The top has a Buddhist Flower. And at the very top is Muslim Calligraphy.

The 9th Sultan (IIRC). The Spock Ears are for protection - last time the Sultans had long hair, and the hair would be held back by the ears-attachments (besides them having magical power).

More murals - the Dutch gave them independence (according to the guide - either he was lying or smoking us, or they're taught rubbish in History). And then the Japanese invaded.

More ceremonial garb - this is for female circumcision. In the past they really potong-ed girls, but now they just cut their hair, give them a shower and have a party. The boys must still go through the real thing and have their genitals mutilated.

Male circumcision garb

The Sultan who founded Jogja was smart, situating it less than 7km from both the beach and mountains (i.e. in between the two). So the city was safe both from Tsunamis and volcanic eruptions).

After the Kraton, our guide brought us into a shop, but we declined to buy anything.

Asterix in Jogja. They had Tintin in Jogja as well.


Next, we were brought through the Bird Market, which sold other animals as well.

Bird food - ants and mealworms

Spiders Bugs

Worms in jar (silkworms?!)







Ginger cat


Cute Puppies. I hope they were not for the snakes.

This small bird was to be fed to an eagle.

More bunnies

Bats and cocks

Cock for fighting. It's illegal but it still happens.

I was told this was a "Bill" (whatever that was)

I had no idea why these models were shooting in an animal market.

Civet cat (?)

Cocks. The second is all-white and so good for luck.


Fucked up girl. Did you give fucked up girl her name as well?

Can I buy me a tudung?
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