30 December 2010

Cruelty doesn't fly - PeTA advert banned

AFP via France24 has reported that a PeTA advertisement featuring Pamela Anderson, along with some nudity (bare bottoms) has been deemed inappropriate for showing at Hong Kong International Airport. Excerpts
An animal rights commercial starring former Playboy centrefold Pamela Anderson, which is banned at some US airports, has been deemed too racy for Hong Kong, one of Asia's busiest aviation hubs.

The advertisement, titled "Cruelty Doesn't Fly", features the scantily-clad former "Baywatch" star as an airport security guard who strips passengers of leather, fur and other skins.
The ad -- which also features comedian Steve-O, a star of the 'Jackass' movie series, and German punk icon Nina Hagen -- is already banned at airports in New York City and Boston, PETA said.
The animal rights group said it still hoping to run the ad in other Asia-Pacific airports, including Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney.

See also PeTA media release of 24 November 2010 following Boston (Logan) Airport's ban.

Whether you agree or not with PeTA's methods or messages, they do know how to gain attention.

28 December 2010

Over-indulgent much?

Here is the content of a Christmas meal.
2 x 25lb oven roasted turkeys

2 x 15lb maple-glazed hams

10lbs of roast potatoes

5lbs of mashed potatoes

5lbs of steamed broccoli

5lbs of chopped carrots

5lbs of sweet corn

5lbs of roasted butternut squash

5 loaves of house-baked bread

4 pints of cranberry relish

4 pints of house-made gravy

5lbs of herbed stuffing

1 tray of mixed green salad with dressing
It could easily feed 15 people or more. In this case, it fed one person. Donna Simpson. See reporting in UK Sunday Mirror (26 December 2010). Excerpt
Donna, from New Jersey, USA, claims to be frustrated that she can't eat even MORE as she aims to almost double her weight to 1,000lbs (71 stone) in a bid to smash her current Guinness World Record. She has already gone down in history as the largest woman ever to give birth.

Jacqueline was born when Donna weighed 38 stone in a dangerous delivery that required THIRTY doctors.

She spends up to £500 a week on food and gets through 12,000 calories a day - the healthy recommendation for women is just 2,000. Donna is proud that her blood pressure is "normal" but her doctor has warned that she will die if she continues her quest and she has dangerously high cholesterol levels.

She cannot walk more than 30ft at a time or stand for more than five minutes. She wheezed and appeared out of breath all through our interview.
She should get out more. Oh wait. She can't. Perhaps that is the problem.

23 December 2010

Technology fruit

Ronnie Corbet was half of The Two Ronnies (one of the best comedy skit shows out of Britain) and features in this brilliant skit about fruit, or was it technology?

21 December 2010

Esperanza. Mother of the Year.

Uploaded to YouTube by Edmonton Humane Society (Alberta, Canada) on 9 December 2010 - this is a lovely and inspiring story of a wonderful canine.

The story was picked up by Sylvia Strojek for The Canadian Press on 19 December 2010 and syndicated to a number of Canadian media outlets including Winnepeg Free Press. Excerpt
EDMONTON - She was a young, homeless single mom trying to raise a family of five, but true to the spirit of the season there was room for one more.

Esperanza had been badly injured when she was hit by a car, but the young shepherd-cross with the thick white coat was still managing to care for her newborn puppies — and a kitten — when she was found on a central Alberta reserve.

Criss Gerwing, who runs a small animal rescue group, discovered the dog earlier this month and couldn't believe it when the canine led her to her blended brood.

"I cried because she was in such bad condition with her leg, but she was obviously nursing her puppies and this kitten," Gerwing told a media outlet.

Gerwing took the entire family to the Edmonton Humane Society, where veterinarians thought they'd have to amputate the mother dog's bad leg.

But local vet, Dr. Milton Ness, volunteered to do a special surgery that saved Esperanza's hind quarter.

He calls her a "special soul." Shawna Randolph at the humane society couldn't agree more.

"She is such a sweet, sweet dog. She has such a wonderful personality," Randoph said.
Read more.

It's a mystery why anybody would have dumped Esperanza in the first place. Such a sweet natured canine.

20 December 2010

4'33'' remake from classical to pop

American composer John Cage (1912-1992), composed 4'33'' in 1952 for any instrument, or combination of instruments.

The first orchestral performance of the work was by the BBC Symphony Orchestra on 16 January 2004 at the Barbican Centre.

This year, there is a pop cover of 4'33'' by Cage Against the Machine, for this year's charity single in the UK.

I can't wait for the techno version.

18 December 2010

... we're not in Kansas anymore.

A classic line from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz spoken by Dorothy to her dog Toto, was "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" followed by "we must be over the rainbow" [scene].

The phrase is often 'quoted' to express being far from home or the unfamiliar.

Rich Juzwiak, for his blog fourfour has patiently compiled the phrase as used in numerous films (click on link for list of films).

Are we ever in Kansas?

17 December 2010


Press release from Die Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS)/the Society for German Language, on the word of the year
Am 16. Dezember 2010 hat die Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache bereits zum 35. Mal die Wörter des Jahres gekürt und damit wieder einmal aufgezeigt, in welcher Weise diesjährige charakteristische Themen aus Politik, Wirtschaft und anderen Bereichen des gesellschaftlichen Alltags sprachlich markiert worden sind.

Ausgewertet wurde eine Sammlung von etwa 2000 Wörtern und Wendungen, hauptsächlich Belege aus verschiedenen Medien, aber auch Vorschläge von Außenstehenden. Hieraus wählte die Jury, die sich aus dem Hauptvorstand der Gesellschaft sowie den wissenschaftlichen Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeitern zusammensetzt, zehn Wörter, die die öffentliche Diskussion wesentlich bestimmt und dieses Jahr besonders geprägt haben.

Für die Auswahl der Wörter des Jahres entscheidend ist aber nicht die Häufigkeit eines Ausdrucks, sondern vielmehr seine Signifikanz und Popularität: Die Liste trifft den sprachlichen Nerv des sich dem Ende neigenden Jahres und stellt auf ihre Weise einen sprachlichen Jahresrückblick dar. Als ein solches Zeitzeugnis sind die ausgewählten Wörter dabei mit keinerlei Wertung oder Empfehlung verbunden.

Wie in den vergangenen Jahren ist zu erwarten, dass auch die diesjährigen Wörter des Jahres im In- und Ausland mit großem Interesse wahrgenommen werden:

Als Wort des Jahres wurde Wutbürger gewählt. Diese Neubildung wurde von zahlreichen Zeitungen und Fernsehsendern verwendet, um einer Empörung in der Bevölkerung darüber Ausdruck zu geben, dass politische Entscheidungen über ihren Kopf hinweg getroffen werden Das Wort dokumentiert ein großes Bedürfnis der Bürgerinnen und Bürger, über ihre Wahlentscheidung hinaus ein Mitspracherecht bei gesellschaftlich und politisch relevanten Projekten zu haben.
Read more, for the other nine words in the top ten list.

Wutbürger describes people protesting or rebelling as a means of expressing their frustration at not being involved in political decision-making processes. There is not an English-language equivalent single word, though Wutbürger can be literally translated as angry citizens, but it means more than that, as so-described above.

See also Duden for a more official definition.

Definitely an apt description of the Zeitgeist of 2010.

16 December 2010

A whiter shade of pale

From 1967. Procol Harum's debut song. It went to number one in many parts of the world and remains a classic today.

According to a BBC report, it is one of the most played songs in the UK in public spaces.

What a great opening to a song with
We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
Rest of lyrics

15 December 2010

Supermassive black holes

Some lessons about supermassive black holes from the BBC. The immense gravity of a supermassive black hole is so destructive, that it distorts space-time to breaking point.

13 December 2010

Helping others when we earn more than we need

BBC News has reported about Dr Toby Ord, who has given away more than a third of his income to charity
Toby Ord is a university researcher earning not much more than the average salary. So why is he giving away £1m over his lifetime to help address global poverty? When Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg pledged to give away most of his wealth during his lifetime, some British commentators bemoaned the lack of philanthropy on this side of the Atlantic.

But an academic at Oxford University is living off little more than £300 a month in an act of charity-giving that is arguably more impressive than those of Zuckerberg, Gates, Buffett and co.

Toby Ord, 31, has in the past year given more than a third of his earnings, £10,000, to charities working in the poorest countries. He also gave away £15,000 of savings, as the start of his pledge to give away £1m over his lifetime.

And he's started a campaign to recruit, Bill Gates-style, other people to give up at least 10% of their lifetime's earnings in the same way. A year on, 64 people have joined his movement Giving What We Can and pledged £14m.

Given his personal sacrifice, it's difficult not to feel rather intrigued about the kind of lifestyle he can maintain while so much of his earnings is going elsewhere.
Read more. Dr Ord still manages a comfortable lifestyle while helping others.

Giving up luxuries to save lives is a great philosophy. Perhaps earning more money than is needed and acquiring wealth for the sake of it, are not what life is about.

11 December 2010

The empty chair

Reported by PBS Newshour of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony

In the speech by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Oslo, 10 December 2010.
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the "fraternity between nations" of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will."

This was the first paragraph of the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s announcement on the 8th of October of the award of this year’s Peace Prize.

We regret that the Laureate is not present here today. He is in isolation in a prison in north-east China. Nor can the Laureate’s wife Liu Xia or his closest relatives be here with us. No medal or diploma will therefore be presented here today.

This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate. We congratulate Liu Xiaobo on this year’s Peace Prize.

There have been a number of previous occasions when the Laureate has been prevented from attending. This has in fact been the case with several awards which have proved in the light of history to have been most significant and honourable. Even when the Laureate has come, he or she has several times been severely condemned by the authorities of his or her own country.

Read more

In an analysis for BBC News, John Simpson suggested that China should have thought through its reaction.

An alternative Chinese award, the Confucius Peace Prize, seemingly hurriedly created, has failed to win any credibility. See report by Steven Jiang of CNN.

10 December 2010

"overcoming insurmountable odds"

An overused phrase is "overcome/overcoming insurmountable odds".

As 'insurmountable' means that, which, cannot be overcome, then clearly to overcome something insurmountable is impossible.

Worst than an oxymoron.

07 December 2010

Random acts of culture

Last month I wrote about the best flash mobs. The unannounced and seemingly impromptu opera performances are amongst the best. In the United States, the Knight Foundation is funding 1000 Random Acts of Culture over the next three years to bring such performances into public places.

One of the best of the recent Random Acts of Culture occurred in Miami at Macy's, with 'Votre Toast/Toreador' from Carmen by Bizet, performed by Florida Grand Opera.

Random Act of Culture at Miami's Dadeland Mall from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

The baritone is Jonathan Michie who has a stunning voice.

06 December 2010

Selling like hotcakes

I've often been confused by the phrase "selling like hotcakes", meaning selling quickly and in large numbers. I have never ever seen hotcakes, or just-cooked pancakes, sold in this manner. The Word Detective did provide a plausible explanation
The term “hotcake” is an American invention, dating back to the late 17th century (”pancake,” meaning the same food, is older, first appearing in England around 1400). To “sell like hotcakes” has meant “to be in great demand” since about 1839, and there doesn’t seem to have been any particular “hotcake fad” leading to the origin of the phrase. But hotcakes have always been popular at fairs and church socials, etc., often selling as fast as they can be cooked, so they make a good metaphor for a very popular product that sells quickly and in great numbers.
It seems rather strange to serve hotcakes (pancakes) at fairs and the like.  Perhaps the phrase should be revised or replaced with "flying off the shelves".

04 December 2010

Beyond reasonable doubt 4: making the invisible visible

I've previously written about the death penalty. From Amnesty International
Troy Davis has been on death row in Georgia, USA for 19 years. He has already faced execution three times. Amnesty is now deeply concerned that a recent decision by a federal district court puts him back on track for execution, despite unresolved doubts about his guilt.

No physical evidence links Troy to the crime and seven out of nine witnesses on whose evidence he was convicted have since changed their testimony. In June, Troy was given an unprecedented opportunity to present new evidence at a hearing ordered by the US Supreme Court. However, the judge ruled that Troy did not meet the extraordinarily high standard for proving his innocence.

“This decision puts Troy at risk of execution and like all death penalty cases, any doubt will become meaningless once his life has been taken.” Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen
This is an innovative way of bringing the case to the public's attention
German street art collective Mentalgassi have teamed up with Amnesty International to highlight his case by creating unique lenticular fence posters across London.

Troy Davis: Making the invisible visible from Amnesty International on Vimeo.

Music track is 'Heart Monitor' by Worried About Satan.

The posters can be seen at
4-7 Great Pulteney Street (W1)
21 Great Pulteney Street (W1)
5 Berners Street (W1)
and there may be others up.

02 December 2010

Being welcomed home at the airport

Airports are horrid places. Despite modern designs and a variety of retail outlets, they are in reality, inconvenient, sterile and often unwelcoming places. Often, we travel to and from airports alone, and even though there are many people also travelling, they are lonely places.

At the end of a trip away and returning home, there is nothing better than being greeted by a familiar face at the airport. However, many travellers also face the additional journey home alone, waiting for trains, buses or taxis.

In the absence of a familiar face, hopefully to take us home, it would be a joy to be greeted by song. Like this, at Heathrow Airport (London), Terminal 5.

Unfortunately, it was an advertisement for T-Mobile. Still, what a great idea for a flash mob.