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]
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]
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]
Hōshi is a traditional Japanese inn called a Ryokan. It’s also the oldest hotel in the world that’s still in operation, having opened in the year 717. Interestingly, it’s been operated by the same family for the entire time – almost 1300 years. Apparently family businesses are quite commonplace in Japan:
It should be noted that Japan has a tradition of adopting adult heirs if it seems like there is nobody in the family that would be suitable/wanting to run the family business. Over 90% of adoptions in japan are of adult males in their 20s and 30s, and japan has one of the highest adoption rates in the world.
Because of this family businesses in japan are more successful than in other countries, which tend to die out due to blood lines or become other kinds of businesses.
Suzuki, Toyota, Kikkoman, and Canon are all family businesses. The current head of Suzuki was adopted, and the heir that will replace him will also be adopted.
I love these ads, which were taken out by International Paper in the early 1960′s. [click to embiggen]
Smithsonian Magazine has a fascinating story about a Russian family who were isolated in the taiga for 40 years before being discovered by a surveying crew in the summer of 1978.
The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:
“The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.”
Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”
Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer—a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods [940 pounds] of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.
In a very thought-provoking essay, Paul Graham muses on what you can’t say and why.
Moral fashions don’t seem to be created the way ordinary fashions are. Ordinary fashions seem to arise by accident when everyone imitates the whim of some influential person. The fashion for broad-toed shoes in late fifteenth century Europe began because Charles VIII of France had six toes on one foot. The fashion for the name Gary began when the actor Frank Cooper adopted the name of a tough mill town in Indiana. Moral fashions more often seem to be created deliberately. When there’s something we can’t say, it’s often because some group doesn’t want us to.
The prohibition will be strongest when the group is nervous. The irony of Galileo’s situation was that he got in trouble for repeating Copernicus’s ideas. Copernicus himself didn’t. In fact, Copernicus was a canon of a cathedral, and dedicated his book to the pope. But by Galileo’s time the church was in the throes of the Counter-Reformation and was much more worried about unorthodox ideas.
To launch a taboo, a group has to be poised halfway between weakness and power. A confident group doesn’t need taboos to protect it. It’s not considered improper to make disparaging remarks about Americans, or the English. And yet a group has to be powerful enough to enforce a taboo. Coprophiles, as of this writing, don’t seem to be numerous or energetic enough to have had their interests promoted to a lifestyle.
I suspect the biggest source of moral taboos will turn out to be power struggles in which one side only barely has the upper hand. That’s where you’ll find a group powerful enough to enforce taboos, but weak enough to need them.
What You Can’t Say [Paul Graham]
This beautifully-composed photograph depicts a winter scene in my favourite city, Krakow. the photographer is Martin Ryczek.
Writing in the New York Times, Tim Krieder discusses the value – and etiquette – of the Amtrak quiet car.
And so the volume has incrementally risen, the imbecilic din encroaching on one place after another — mass transit, waiting rooms, theaters, museums, the library — until this last bastion of civility and calm, the Quiet Car, has become the battlefield where we quiet ones, our backs forced to the wall, finally hold our ground. The Quiet Car is the Thermopylae, the Masada, the Fort McHenry of quiet — which is why the regulars are so quick with prepared reproaches, more than ready to make a Whole Big Thing out of it, and why, when the outsiders invariably sit down and start in with their autonomic blather, they often find themselves surrounded by a shockingly hostile mob of professors, old ladies and four-eyes who look ready to take it outside.
Eventually I found myself on the wrong side of the fight. I was sitting in my seat, listening to music at a moderate volume on headphones and writing on my laptop, when the man across the aisle — the kind you’d peg as an archivist or musicologist — signaled to me.
“Pardon me, sir,” he said. “Maybe you’re not aware of it, but your typing is disturbing people around you. This is the Quiet Car, where we come to be free from people’s electronic bleeps and blatts.” He really said “bleeps and blatts.”
“I am a devotee of the Quiet Car,” I protested. And yes, I said “devotee.” We really talk like this in the Quiet Car; we’re readers. “I don’t talk on my cellphone or have loud conversations — ”
“I’m not talking about cellphone conversations,” he said, “I’m talking about your typing, which really is very loud and disruptive.”
I, too, am a devotee of the quiet car.
The Quiet Ones [NYTimes]
It was revealed in the security audit of a major, yet unnamed, American software company that one of their star developers had outsourced his work to China at a cost of 1/5th of his (6-figure) salary, allowing him to do whatever he felt like at work.
The analysis of his workstation found hundreds of PDF invoices from the Chinese contractors and determined that Bob’s typical work day consisted of:
9:00 a.m. – Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos
11:30 a.m. – Take lunch
1:00 p.m. – Ebay time
2:00-ish p.m – Facebook updates, LinkedIn
4:30 p.m. – End-of-day update e-mail to management
5:00 p.m. – Go home
The scheme worked very well for Bob. In his performance assessments by the firm’s human resources department, he was the firm’s top coder for many quarters and was considered expert in C, C++, Perl, Java, Ruby, PHP, and Python.
Further investigation found that the enterprising Bob had actually taken jobs with other firms and had outsourced that work too, netting him hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit as well as lots of time to hang around on internet messaging boards and checking for a new Detective Mittens video.
Security Audit Finds Dev Outsourced his Job to China to Goof Off at Work [theRegister]