Tag Archives: Absurd

North Korea, World’s Second Happiest Nation

According to a North Korean study, North Korea is the world’s second-happiest nation, with China being the first:

The blissful top five is rounded out by Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, reports the International Business Times, which picked up the news from Chinese-language outlet Chaoxian.

How merry is the U.S.? It placed more or less dead last at 203rd.

North Korea, the World’s Second-Happiest Nation…According to North Korea   [GlobalPost]


The End is Nigh for Maununneva

This spring Helsinki was left with a 27-metre-high pile of snow, the consequences of a whiter-than-usual winter. The snow represents 20 000 truckloads of snow ploughed off the city streets. The sheer magnitude of the pile has led some to wonder if it would even all melt before the end of the summer, or if some would remain for this coming winter. From the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper:

The melting process has accelerated as the end approaches.
In the last two weeks the pile has shed 3.4 metres in height and the area over which it spreads has also diminished appreciably.
Now the statue of legendary long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi can look down imperiously on the snowpile from its height of 3.6 metres (including the plinth). There was a time when the proud heap was taller even than the rollercoaster at Helsinki’s Linnanmäki amusement park, but it has been a cruel hard summer for snow.
First we had a warm May, then plenty of rain in early June, and then all that quite exceptional heat in July, and then the late-summer rains have come.
Hardly any wonder the snow is getting weary.
To cap it all, machinery has been used to break up the snow-mass in a cruel and inhuman fashion.

Apparently the pile has been giving up objects as it melts that have been lost in it since last winter, such as flower pots, snow shovels and two motorcycles.

The End is Nigh: Maununneva Snow Pile Down to Just One Metre [Helsingin Sanomat]

A Man Like Putin

Russian propaganda has come a long way from the chanted anthems of the Soviet Union. ‘A Man Like Putin’, by techno-pop duo Singing Together topped the charts in 2002 and went on to become the theme song for pro-Putin rallies all over Russia. And just how pro-Putin is it? Well…

I want a man like Putin, who’s full of strength;

I want a man like Putin, who doesn’t drink;

I want a man like Putin, who won’t make me sad.

The song was written by a songwriter and music producer named Alexander Yelin, who wrote the song on a $300 bet that he could produce a hit. If you’re interested in the history of the song and the popularity it’s enjoyed, PBS’ program Sound Tracks has a fascinating documentary on it. It’s one of the most surreal things I’ve watched in a long, long, long time.

A Man Like Putin [Sound Tracks]

Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds

Michael Lewis tale of the Greek financial crisis in Vanity Fair is absolutely fascinating (and unbelievable). It may be the only financial crisis in the world to feature Greek Orthodox monks as the center of attention.

The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2007 has just now created a new opportunity for travel: financial-disaster tourism. The credit wasn’t just money, it was temptation. It offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge. Entire countries were told, “The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do and no one will ever know.” What they wanted to do with money in the dark varied. Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish. All these different societies were touched by the same event, but each responded to it in its own peculiar way.

As it turned out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was turn their government into a pinata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it. In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms-and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year. Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece’s rail passengers into taxicabs: it’s still true. “We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension,” Manos put it to me. “And yet there isn’t a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay.” The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland’s. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something. There are three government-owned defense companies: together they have billions of euros in debts, and mounting losses. The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as 55 for men and 50 for women. As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than 600 Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on. The Greek public health-care system spends far more on supplies than the European average-and it is not uncommon, several Greeks tell me, to see nurses and doctors leaving the job with their arms filled with paper towels and diapers and whatever else they can plunder from the supply closets.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds [Vanity Fair]

Phil Davison

This is Phil Davison running for the GOP treasurer in Stark County, Ohio and making the most ridiculous stump speech I’ve ever seen. He reminds me of Chris Farley’s Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker character (the one who lives in a van! down by the river!)


Full Bottle Wine Glass


Seal the Well with a Nuclear Blast? Uhhh…

With the failure of the “Top Kill” attempt to cap the rapidly leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, some have come to suggest a rather different solution, one supposedly proven effective by the Soviet Union: use a nuclear bomb to melt the well shut.

“Probably the only thing we can do is create a weapon system and send it down 18,000 feet and detonate it, hopefully encasing the oil,” Matt Simmons, a Houston energy expert and investment banker, told Bloomberg News on Friday, attributing the nuclear idea to “all the best scientists.”

Or as the CNN reporter John Roberts suggested last week, “Drill a hole, drop a nuke in and seal up the well.”

This week, with the failure of the “top kill” attempt, the buzz had grown loud enough that federal officials felt compelled to respond.

Stephanie Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said that neither Energy Secretary Steven Chu nor anyone else was thinking about a nuclear blast under the gulf. The nuclear option was not — and never had been — on the table, federal officials said.

“It’s crazy,” one senior official said.

Matt Gurney of the National Post was prompted to ask, “what’s worse than an oil spill? A radioactive oil spill.” See also.

Nuclear Option on Gulf Oil Spill? No Way, U.S. Says [NYTimes]