December 29th, 2012
Imagine what would happen if a huge wooden spaceship full of laughing paedophiles landed in the centre of Hyde Park during a snow storm, and a mob turning up clutching flaming torches to dish out some instant justice. It looked like that – but conducted amid an air of good-natured, drink-fuelled insanity.
The story of what's actually happening is almost as strange, and makes for a pretty entertaining read.
- As it is held on 15 January each year I assume Brooker was attending last year's event, though he doesn't say so. ↩
July 5th, 2012
After a mini-marathon of Godzilla movies, William Moss puts forward the theory that Godzilla has finally encountered a nigh on invincible foe:
[No city...] has ascended the Olympian heights of popular culture until it has been ravaged by a giant monster. Tokyo is clearly way out in front in this regard. It's taken for granted that monsters are drawn to Tokyo like frat boys to Jaeger shots. Monsters have also afflicted New York, London, San Francisco, Seoul, Paris, Rome, Los Angeles and even Bangkok (look it up). But as far as I can tell, Beijing has been blissfully free of giant monsters. Mothra was reported to be attacking Beijing in "Destroy All Monsters," but it was never shown on screen, so it doesn't count. Neither does "Mighty Peking Man," which was made by the Shaw Brothers while Hong Kong was still British and, despite the name, had no action in Peking (the Chinese name was "Gorilla King").
Why hasn't there been a Chinese giant-monster film with a Chinese giant monster? While armies, police forces and parliaments have crumbled before Godzilla and his brethren, there is one bureaucracy that is apparently entirely impervious to giant monsters: the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television. SARFT has apparently erected a monster-proof shield around Beijing and indeed around all Chinese cities. This is not because giant monsters are particularly scary, obscene or conducive to social unrest. It is because they are politically unacceptable. [...]
February 16th, 2012
This visualization of how Twitter users reacted to Japan's 2011 earthquake acts as a small-scale companion piece to the visualisation of a year's worth of earthquakes I posted the other week.
February 6th, 2012
It's one thing to be intellectually aware of the fact that there are thousands of medium-to-large magnitude earthquakes around the world each year, quite another to see their frequency, magnitude and location plotted in animated form, in great detail. It brings home just how fortunate I am to be living on a small, geologically stable island nation off the coast of the continent of Europe.
[Via Chocolate and Vodka]
August 22nd, 2011
[Via BERG Blog]
April 16th, 2011
OFUNATO, Japan – There are no cars inside the parking garage at Ofunato police headquarters. Instead, hundreds of dented metal safes, swept out of homes and businesses by last month's tsunami, crowd the long rectangular building.
Any one could hold someone's life savings.
Safes are washing up along the tsunami-battered coast, and police are trying to find their owners – a unique problem in a country where many people, especially the elderly, still stash their cash at home. By one estimate, some $350 billion worth of yen doesn't circulate.
There's even a term for this hidden money in Japanese: "tansu yokin." Or literally, "wardrobe savings." [...]
Worse yet, according to the article under Japanese law any monies not claimed after three months become the property of the finder (presumably, in this case, the state.) Imagine that you'd survived the tsunami and returned to where your home used to stand only to find a pike of damp rubble. You've got another two months now to figure out out which police station your safe washed up nearest to before you lose your title to the safe's contents – if it even washed up at all.
I'm guessing that there might be some pressure on the Japanese government not to start enforcing that '3-month rule' any time soon.
[Via Bruce Schneier]
- Having said that, if you lost all your personal documentation in the tsunami – perhaps because it was in your safe that washed away – you might have a few problems persuading the bank that you're who you claim to be. ↩
April 9th, 2011
Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan's destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.
"High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants," the stone slab reads. "Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point." [...]
I'm not sure "forgot" is the word. More like "chose not to heed", I think.
[Via The Long Now Blog]
April 3rd, 2011
Plutonium kun [...] appeared in a 10-minute anime made about a decade ago by the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (now the Japan Atomic Energy Agency), an industry body specializing in the development of fast-breeder and advanced-thermal reactors, an anime that was swiftly withdrawn in part because of a scene in which Plutonium kun gets his boy pal to drink a glass of liquid plutonium while he sweetly intones that "I'm hardly absorbed by your stomach or intestines and I'm expelled by your body, so in fact I can't kill people at all".
Good to know…
March 20th, 2011
Susan Orlean on The Origami Lab:
One of the few Americans to see action during the Bug Wars of the nineteen-nineties was Robert J. Lang, a lanky Californian who was on the front lines throughout, from the battle of the Kabutomushi Beetle to the battle of the Menacing Mantis and the battle of the Long-Legged Wasp. [...]
[Via The Essayist]
March 19th, 2011
Ian Lyon (quoted by Emily Lakdawalla) on checking the Hayabusa probe's sample chambers:
When the sample chambers were opened they looked clean and empty. There was nothing visible larger than one millimeter in size, but fortunately on closer inspection, some smaller grains were observed. The team tried to pick out the grains with a quartz glass probe but this wasn't too successful at picking up the small particles. They then tried scraping a Teflon spatula across some of the chamber surface and fortunately on subsequent inspection in an SEM, found a number of grains stuck to the edge of the spatula. These grains had to be picked from the Teflon spatula and distinguished and separated from a large number of similarly sized aluminium-rich particles that were also present, a result of the scraping of the aluminium sample chamber surface.
Finally, somewhat in desperation one suspects, they turned the chamber upside down and held it over a quartz disk and hit the back of the chamber 20 times with the handle of a large screwdriver!
Sometimes, brute force and ignorance really is the only option.
March 18th, 2011
The very definition of calmness: walking around a park in Tokyo during the earthquake, adding narration to your film of the cracks in the ground moving around and subterranean waters being pushed up to ground level as the ground flexes beneath your feet. Bonus points for noting that this whole park was reclaimed from Tokyo Bay some years ago and idly wondering whether the sea is about to reclaim the land around you.
[Via Memex 1.1]
March 14th, 2011
November 25th, 2009
October 31st, 2009
President Obama has inspired Japanese youth to adopt his name as slang:
[It was found ...] as an entry dated 22 September in a collection of slang and modern usage put together by the Japanese Teachers' Network in Kitakyushu. Here's what they write:
obamu: (v.) To ignore inexpedient and inconvenient facts or realities, think "Yes we can, Yes we can," and proceed with optimism using those facts as an inspiration (literally, as fuel). It is used to elicit success in a personal endeavor. One explanation holds that it is the opposite of kobamu. (æ‹’ã‚€, which means to refuse, reject, or oppose).
[Via James Fallows]
June 13th, 2009
I've never heard the term 'nail house' before, though as it turns out I have seen photographs of a couple of them.
The house in Changsha, China1 looks especially surreal, not least because in one of the pictures it looks as if there's another remnant of the original street a couple of hundred yards down the road.
- The fifth house pictured in the linked article. ↩
June 13th, 2009
Purposefully crashing something into the moon just to watch what happens is akin to a schoolboy cutting up a live frog to see what makes it jump. It is an example of the domination of the left-brained rational scientific approach over the intuitive.
Did these scientists talk to the moon? Tell her what they were doing? Ask her permission? Show her respect?
[Via Ben Goldacre]
May 31st, 2009
Sage advice from Robert Brady:
If one is swinging a cat with any sense of urgency, one should ideally have a short stiff cat and a large target.
Yes, there is a story behind that line.
May 25th, 2009
The Times reports on something that – their headline notwithstanding – is more of a 'Japanese problem' than a 'Google problem': Google Earth maps out discrimination against burakumin caste in Japan…
Despite its ambition to be the cartographer of the internet age, the search engine has lumbered into one of the darkest corners of Japan – the bigotry of mainstream Japanese society towards the burakumin, the "filthy mob", whose ancestors fell outside the caste system of the 17th-century samurai era.
By allowing old maps to be overlaid on satellite images of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto on its Google Earth service, the search engine shows how the old ghettos relate to the 21st-century streets.
That, critics say, is perfect ammunition to hurt descendants of the people who lived there 400 years ago. [...]
One more thing:
Under pressure to diffuse (sic) criticism, the search engine has asked the owners of the woodblock print maps to remove the legend that identifies the ghetto with an old term that translates loosely as "scum town".
That's "defuse", FFS!
[Via Net Effect]
- No pun intended! ↩