“Lost children will be taken to the Lion House” is the Washington Zoo’s most quoted sign. Outraged parents of straying tots protested vigorously until they discovered zoo police headquarters was sandwiched above the lions. Now, at long last, the sign will be changed. Come winter, the Zoo is to have a new building, housing among other facilities, police headquarters and the most up-to-date comfort station. (Washington Post, June 26, 1955.)
In light of the recent bluster from Kim Jong Un, Joel S. Wit, a visiting fellow with the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Jenny Town, a research associate at the Institute attempt to debunk five myths about North Korea. Myth #3 is that…
North Korea is a hermit kingdom: The United States may have very little to do with the North, but that does not apply to the rest of the world. Did you know that North Korea sends hundreds of students overseas for educational and business training? Thousands of North Koreans work in China, in Mongolia where they produce goods for popular British clothing brands, in Kuwait where they work on construction projects, and in Russia where they labor in logging camps. A North Korean construction company is currently completing a museum near Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples featuring computer-generated simulations of the ancient monuments. Inside North Korea, just to give a few examples, the information technology sector is an outsourcing destination for other countries, even developing software and apps for the iPhone. Pyongyang’s sophisticated cartoon industry is reported to have been involved in the production of “The Lion King.” The German Kempinski group has been hired to operate Pyongyang’s largest hotel expected to open this spring. And residents and visitors to Pyongyang can now find Viennese coffee at the appropriately named “Viennese Coffee Restaurant.” Of course, North Korea is not an integral part of the international community, but neither is it a “hermit kingdom.”
Some of their debunking, as with the leaders-not-crazy part, are more technically-true than emphatically-true.
It’s Not a Hermit Kingdom, and 4 Other Myths About North Korea [The Atlantic]
If you look closely, you can see that the man sleeping on the couch has the face of Adolf Hitler, while the two snakes about his shoulders have the faces of Mussolini and Tojo. His body and clothing, however, evoke the evil ruler Zahhāk, from Ferdowsi’s Shahname, the Persian national epic. In the image above, the evil ruler is dreaming of three kings who are coming to kill him – Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin.
The piece is part of a larger series created by a British graphic designer who incorporated traditional Persian themes in an effort to win the support of the Iranian people.
The British and Soviet forces invaded Iran from the north and south between August 25 and September 8, 1941. The reason for the invasion was that after the German offensive against the Soviet Union in June, they felt threatened the Iranian petroleum resources in their management, and they also intended to transmit war material from the Persian Gulf via rail to the Soviet Union. Although Iran was neutral, the Shah had basically done the inter-war modernization of the country with German help, and he refused to expel the German advisors on British request. After the peace treaty the British deposed him and expelled him to Egypt, and raised on the throne his son Reza Pahlavi, who represented the Anglo-American policy, and declared war on Germany. Subsequently, in November 1943 opened the Tehran conference with the participation of the three above kings, with the aim of coordinating the common war efforts and to open the second, western front.
The easy defeat of the Persian army and the humiliation of the occupation hit very hard the country’s public opinion. This was acerbated by the fact that the massive British buying-up of food for the troops caused a severe famine in the occupied zone, and that, on the principle of “divide and conquer”, both occupying forces excited the ethnic minorities living under their power against the Persian rule. All this is described in detail in Simin Daneshvar’s Savushun (1969), the key novel of 20th-century Iran.
It is understandable therefore, that on the occasion of the Tehran conference the British saw it opportune to present the purpose of their arrival in an easily perceptible visual form to the Persian people.
Additional historical context and images here:
Book of Kings [Poemas del Rio Wang]
Amazing camouflage from the orchid mantis.
[click to embiggen]
The infographic above shows how big a city would have to be to house the entirety of the worlds population if they lived like the residents of various cities, using the continental United States for scale. Its author, Tim de Chant, considered only the geographical space taken up by the residents and not the land required to provide them with resources like food and water in this particular graphic. He has, however, investigated these other factors as well:
What’s missing from it is the land that it takes to support such a city. In articles and comments about my infographic, some people overlooked that aspect—either mistakenly or intentionally. They shouldn’t have. Cities’ land requirements far outstrip their immediate physical footprints. They include everything from farmland to transportation networks to forests and open space that recharge fresh water sources like rivers and aquifers. And more. Just looking at a city’s geographic extents ignores its more important ecological footprint. How much land would we really need if everyone lived like New Yorkers versus Houstonians?
It turns out that question is maddeningly difficult to answer. While some cities track resource use, most don’t. Of those that do, methodologies vary city to city, making comparisons nearly impossible. Plus, cities in most developed nations still use a shocking amount of resources, regardless of whether they are as dense as New York or as sprawling as Houston. Any comparison of the cities in my original infographic would be an exercise in futility at this point.
If the World’s Population Lived Like… [Per Square Mile] [Dekuju, M!]
PC World has a great article about ancient computers still being used today. For example, Sparkler Filters of Conroe, Texas, uses an IBM 402 from 1948 for all of their accounting and billing tasks:
Of course, before the data goes into the 402, it must first be encoded into stacks of cards. A large IBM 029 key-punch machine–which resembles a monstrous typewriter built into a desk–handles that task.
Carl Kracklauer, whose father founded Sparkler Filters in 1927, usually types the data onto the punch cards. The company sticks with the 402 because it’s a known entity: Staffers know how to use it, and they have over 60 years of company accounting records formatted for the device.
The key punch isn’t the only massive accessory in Sparkler’s arsenal. The 402 also links to an IBM 514 Reproducing Punch, which has been broken for three years. When it works properly, the 514 spits out punched “summary cards,” which typically contain the output of the 402′s operation (such as sum totals) for later reuse. Sparkler stores all of its punched data cards–thousands and thousands of them–in stacks of boxes.
The company also possesses dozens of 402 programs in the form of IBM plugboards. Computer programming in the 1940s commonly involved arranging hundreds of individual wires in a way that would likely drive a modern software engineer insane. In the 402′s case, a spaghetti-like pattern of wires attached to hundreds of connectors on each plugboard determines the operation of the machine, and different plugboards can be pulled out and replaced as if they were interchangeable software disks. So you might insert one plugboard for handling, say, accounts receivable, and a different one for inventory management.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: Ancient Computers in the World Today [PCWorld]
Sebastião Salgado recently gave a brilliant TED talk on his story as a photographer and showed some images from his newest project, Genesis:
Brazilian-born Salgado, who shoots only using Kodak film, is known for his incredibly long-term projects, which require extensive travel and extreme lifestyle changes. Workers took seven years to complete and contained images of manual laborers from 26 countries, while Migrations took six years in 43 different countries on all seven continents. Most recently Salgado completed Genesis, an ambitious eight-year project that spanned 30 trips to the world’s most pristine territories, land untouched by technology and modern life. Among Salgado’s many travels for Genesis was a two-month hike through Ethiopia, spanning 500 miles with 18 pack donkeys and their riders. In the words of Brett Abbott, a Getty Museum curator, Salgado’s approach can only be described as “epic.”
Sebastião Salgado: The Silent Drama of Photography [TED]
Last summer three peace activists, one of whom was an 82-year-old nun, broke into Y-12 in Tennessee – ostensibly one of the most secure nuclear weapons facilities in the world. They go on trial next week for sabotage-related charges. Against all odds, they managed to make it through security where they spray-painted slogans calling for swords to be beaten into plowshares before being arrested. Dan Zak tells their story in the Washington Post:
The action last summer was dubbed “Transform Now Plowshares” because its three participants desire the immediate conversion of all nuclear weaponry from agents of war to resources that benefit mankind.
Michael and Sister Megan live in the world as they believe it should be, not in the world as it is.
Sister Megan doesn’t vote.
“It would mean I would be a citizen of this regime. I am a citizen of the world. I act in consequence.”
Michael derides Washington as the belly of the beast.
“Did you know that the last president who wasn’t a war criminal was Herbert Hoover?”
Says Sister Megan of Michael: “His mind is never still.”
Says Michael of Sister Megan: “She’s a visionary.”
Together they’re like an overactive younger brother and patient older sister. Michael summons the brimstone, Sister Megan the bromide.
The Prophets of Oak Ridge [Washington Post]
The Telegraph has a great selection of notes on words by David Foster Wallace. I seem to recall hearing once that these were left as margin notes in his personal dictionary, but I’m not sure if all of these were or not. Here’s his take on the word, ‘Unique’:
This is one of a class of adjectives, sometimes called “uncomparables”, that can be a little tricky. Among other uncomparables are precise, exact, correct, entire, accurate, preferable, inevitable, possible, false; there are probably two dozen in all. These adjectives all describe absolute, non-negotiable states: something is either false or it’s not; something is either inevitable or it’s not. Many writers get careless and try to modify uncomparables with comparatives like more and less or intensives like very. But if you really think about them, the core assertions in sentences like “War is becoming increasingly inevitable as Middle East tensions rise”; “Their cost estimate was more accurate than the other firms’”; and “As a mortician, he has a very unique attitude” are nonsense. If something is inevitable, it is bound to happen; it cannot be bound to happen and then somehow even more bound to happen. Unique already means one-of-a-kind, so the adj. phrase very unique is at best redundant and at worst stupid, like “audible to the ear” or “rectangular in shape”. You can blame the culture of marketing for some of this difficulty. As the number and rhetorical volume of US ads increase, we become inured to hyperbolic language, which then forces marketers to load superlatives and uncomparables with high-octane modifiers (special – very special – Super-special! – Mega-Special!!), and so on. A deeper issue implicit in the problem of uncomparables is the dissimilarities between Standard Written English and the language of advertising. Advertising English, which probably deserves to be studied as its own dialect, operates under different syntactic rules than SWE, mainly because AE’s goals and assumptions are different. Sentences like “We offer a totally unique dining experience”; “Come on down and receive your free gift”; and “Save up to 50 per cent… and more!” are perfectly OK in Advertising English — but this is because Advertising English is aimed at people who are not paying close attention. If your audience is by definition involuntary, distracted and numbed, then free gift and totally unique stand a better chance of penetrating — and simple penetration is what AE is all about. One axiom of Standard Written English is that your reader is paying close attention and expects you to have done the same.
What Words Really Mean: David Foster Wallace’s Dictionary [The Telegraph]