Archive for August 2009
Stuart McMillen, who does an interesting combination of commentary and cartooning, points out all the ways that in a post-communist world it is Aldous Huxley, not George Orwell, whose dystopia seems more prescient. He was inspired by a book I’ve tried to read more than once.
While digging around, I noticed a comment that was far to good to pass up:
So instead of reading Amusing Ourselves to Death, you can fit this simplified form of the introduction in-between television commercials.
The most widely known period of cargo cult activity, however, was in the years during and after World War II. First, the Japanese arrived with a great deal of unknown equipment, and later, Allied forces also used the islands in the same way. The vast amounts of war materiel that were airdropped onto these islands during the Pacific campaign between the Allies and the Empire of Japan necessarily meant drastic changes to the lifestyle of the islanders, many of whom had never seen Westerners or Easterners before. Manufactured clothing, medicine, canned food, tents, weapons, and other useful goods arrived in vast quantities to equip soldiers. Some of it was shared with the islanders who were their guides and hosts. With the end of the war, the airbases were abandoned, and cargo was no longer dropped.
In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors, and airmen use. They carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses. The cult members thought that the foreigners had some special connection to the deities and ancestors of the natives, who were the only beings powerful enough to produce such riches.
Comparing scans from tests with and without the opportunity to cheat, the scientists found that for honest subjects, deciding to be honest took no extra brain activity. But for others, the dishonest group, both deciding to lie and deciding to tell the truth required extra activity in the areas of the brain associated with critical thinking and self-control.
(via Lone Gunman)
I feel — and I’m not an economist — that this analysis is probably oversimplified, but I can’t tell quite how.
Why is China [forcing its economy to grow]? It doesn’t have the kind of social safety net one sees in the developed world, so it needs to keep its economy going at any cost. Millions of people have migrated to its cities, and now they’re hungry and unemployed. People without food or work tend to riot. To keep that from happening, the government is more than willing to artificially stimulate the economy, in the hopes of buying time until the global system stabilizes. It’s literally forcing banks to lend — which will create a huge pile of horrible loans on top of the ones they’ve originated over the last decade.
Marco said it better than I would:
I could quote some great part of this like I usually do, but if you just skim part of it and breeze by, you’ll miss the entire purpose of this article.
Rarely does someone’s blog post really make me take a step back from all of this and think for a bit. This did.
The Infrastructurist shares some of the most interesting, innovative, and annoying examples of advertising creeping further and further into our daily lives.
These maps aren’t new — I think I may have even perused them before — and contain no information I was really shocked by, but I still think they’re worth a gander. A fairly comprehensive pair is made by the percentage of people with religious affiliations across the country, and the churches with which the greatest number are affiliated.
(via Flowing Data)
Perhaps the oddest part of the story of the capture of Radovan Karadzic was that the accused war criminal was involved in new age medicine. While exploring the life of Dragan Dabic, Jack Hitt offers this tidbit about that seeming dissonance:
To American ears, the story of the war criminal hiding out among the new-age healers sounds like a classic when-worlds-collide narrative. But in Serbia, things are more complicated. […] In Serbia, then, the politics of alternative medicine became a haven for right-wing anti-Communists — an expression of ancient Balkan heritage. In the war against the Bosnian Muslims, Karadzic and his fellow Serb nationalists co-opted the one-string folk instrument known as the gusle and turned it into a cultural symbol of national pride. Most of the alternative healers I met either had a gusle on their wall or a pin of one on their lapel.