Wednesday, 27 April 2016


Let us turn away from the EU referendum, at least for a bit. Here are some other things you might like to read,

1. Trump. He tweets a lot. Like a South American political leader, in fact.

2. I don't know about North Korean Twitter, but what about this: "The popular image of Kim Jong-un is as an old-style James Bond villain: a pudgy tyrant with bad hair, variously throwing his uncle to the dogs, partying with eccentric former US basketball players and threatening to nuke the world. Yet the experts [who complain about cartoonish representations of the Kims] protest too much. Of six claims in the sentence above, one detail is false and only the hair is truly trivial. Kim Jong-un actually had his uncle Jang Song-thaek shot, though footage from North Korea, available online, does show dogs mauling other foes in effigy." From an interesting article in the TLS.

3. Also from the TLS, this is Luttwak on torture: "torture works. The one form of it that very many of us will have experienced is sleep deprivation, and there happens to be an expert consensus that extended sleep deprivation is the most extreme form of torture that leaves no permanent physical injuries. That is the reason, no doubt, why this method in one form or another is used by prosecutors and police interrogators all over the world to break the will of detainees who refuse to talk."

4. Staying in the literary world, if you haven't come across that chap who tried to be a badger, a fox and so on then here's a chance to catch up: "he takes us along the river banks, showing us otter spraints – faeces that otters use as territorial markers. Confirming his deep commitment to his mission, or his deep eccentricity, or both, Foster then makes his children leave their own spraints along a river bank to mimic otter behaviour."

5. Another visit to an alien world: Japanese tips on visiting America.

6. I'm not sure how any guide book can deal with this: "A 5’9″ white guy goes onto the University of Washington campus and asks students to explain why he isn’t a 6’5″ Chinese female child in first grade. They can’t do it." Sometimes people talk about North Korea (and similar things are said about other strange places or times in the world or in history) and ask: do they really believe all the things they say? This video is a good example. Could those students really believe that the man they were looking at was 6'5, 7 years old, Chinese or what have you? The answer is that, at some level, yes they could.

7. If you've seen the video at 6 then you might be in the right mood for this, your guide to neo-reactionary thought. Quite apart from being a rollicking good read in many places (look out for genuinely multi-lingual American Presidents (all dead), Conservia, "a sprawling empire of a billion people that has a fifth-dimensional hyperborder with America", and popular Disney films about subservient housewives), it is perhaps the best example of someone passing the ideological Turing Test (sensibly expounding a political view they do not agree with) that I have ever seen. Warning: it's on the long side.

8. Remember the time America nuked Spain by accident?

9. Alcohol guidance varies quite a lot around the world.

10. Last but by no means least, this chap writes sensibly about Star Wars. Here are 3 good bits: (a) "In his own view, Lucas was a bohemian auteur who got slightly sidetracked by creating the most popular and lucrative franchise in entertainment history", (b) "The question of whether or not Star Wars is a “good film” was almost entirely irrelevant to us ’80s kids. Indeed, to us, it was hardly a film at all, in the sense of something you sat down and watched from start to finish. It would be more accurate to say that Star Wars lived through us as a collection of hummable songs, snippets of dialogue you heard quoted on the playground and quoted in turn, robotic bleeps and bloops, alien languages, daydreams, arguments over trivia, rumors about stories untold" and, (c) on the Force Awakens, "... in one of the most appalling and unmotivated deus ex machina moments of recent cinematic history, R2-D2 simply wakes up. ... R2’s “awakening” is nothing less than the resolution of the central narrative problem our heroes have been trying to overcome for the entire film. It happens for no discernable reason whatsoever aside from the fact that the movie needs to end."

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