Humorous slipcovers

Humorous slipcovers for books Flapart sells funny book-covers to wrap around your reading material to impress strangers on the subway. Covers include "Coroner by Correspondence" and "Fast Track to Prison - Exploring the Many Benefits of Life Behind Bars."


Link via Boing Boing





clock Posted Mon Oct 31st, 2005 - 7:23am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Ukuleles made from demolished buildings

"Japanese artist, Nabuaki Date, make ukuleles out of parts of soon to be demolished houses and buildings. The ukulele is then given to the owner of the house as a physical and acoustic embodiment of its memories and history. "

They are beautifully crafted and unique.






clock Posted Sun Oct 30th, 2005 - 9:21pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Soviet pocket-calculators

This is a gigantic gallery of photos of Soviet-era Russian pocket calculators, along with scans of documentation, pix of the internal circuits (including some with tubes!), and box-art.





clock Posted Sat Oct 29th, 2005 - 11:02pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Osama bin Laden: more media whore than guerrilla warrior

The author of a refreshing new book says al-Qaeda has more in common with new global movements than with nationalist armies of old.

by Brendan O'Neill | Spiked Politics

Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity, by Faisal Devji, Hurst & Company (London), 2005.

'It is disingenuous to try to claw back all these recent events and attacks - things that I think are actually quite new - and put them into old ways of seeing political acts.' Faisal Devji, author of a refreshing new book on al-Qaeda, Landscapes of the Jihad, has had quite enough of the various attempts to explain the antics of Osama bin Laden and his henchmen as having some traditional political or national motivation.

Ask yourself the question: what the hell does Osama bin Laden want? Why did he authorise (apparently) the worst terrorist attack of modern times on 9/11, and why do groups or individuals linked to him, or inspired by him, detonate crude bombs - and often themselves, too - everywhere from beachside cafeterias in Bali to bank forecourts in Istanbul to Tube trains packed with working men and women on a sunny Thursday morning in London?

The oft trotted-out answer to these questions is that bin Laden wants a free Palestine. Or he wants America's grubby mitts off Saudi Arabia and an end to the sell-out House of Saud's domination of that state. Or he wants to liberate Iraq and Afghanistan from American and British occupation and that however bastardised and bloody his tactics may be, he is nonetheless part of an 'arc of resistance' to Western meddling in the Middle East (1).

In short, many argue: it's about territory, stupid! This view is held by thinkers on both sides of the left/right divide. So some of a leftish persuasion have come dangerously close to gushing over al-Qaeda and its offshoot groups, or at least seeking to explain their actions with reference to historic movements for land and freedom. Tariq Ali, for example, compares the al-Qaeda-inspired insurgents in Iraq - those car-bombing killers of children and religious worshippers - to the French resistance to the fascist Vichy regime, and said of the 9/11 attacks that 'the subjects of the [American] Empire had struck back', demonstrating the 'universal truth that…slaves and peasants do not always obey their masters.' (2) He wilfully overlooked the fact that the 'peasants' who organised 9/11 were in fact middle-class students with cushy lives.

On the right, al-Qaeda is referred to as an 'Islamo-fascist' movement seeking to create a 'Greater Islamic State' in which sharia law will be ruthlessly enforced and the people will dream of the good old days when they were dominated by comparatively civilised and mild-mannered Westerners. A recent piece on Open Democracy went so far as to describe al-Qaeda as 'classically imperialist', since it wishes to 'craft the next chapter of human history in its own image' (3). Come off it: al-Qaeda's leaders can't even craft an escape route from Waziristan, never mind human history. Such views wilfully overlook the fact that al-Qaeda is mostly made up of pissed-off posh kids who spend their days fantasising about jihad in chatrooms on the world wide web and occasionally muster up enough nerve to strap a homemade bomb to themselves and murder some civilians. History is not normally made by such individuals.

The right cites al-Qaeda's alleged territorial and political ambitions as a justification for a continuing Western presence in the Middle East (because if we leave they will set up hostile and barbaric Islamist regimes), while the left cites them as the reason we should get out of the Middle East (because if we stay they'll keep blowing us up). Into this tiresome and unconvincing debate, where both sides have effectively made that amorphous thing we call al-Qaeda into a petty proxy army for their own prejudices and actions, comes Devji's fascinating new book.  (continued...)

clock Posted Fri Oct 28th, 2005 - 1:55pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Public Domain Books!

Library of public domain books preview -- MSFT will add 150k titles in 06

The Open Content Alliance is scanning in hundreds of thousands of public-domain books. According to Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, "At an Internet Archive event in San Francisco tonight 14 libraries and MSN joined the Open Content Alliance. MSN kicked off their association by committing to scan 150k books in 2006! (this is a big deal, in my opinion). " As if that's not cool enough, there's a preview of one of the ways that you'll be able to read the Alliance's output that's just gone live. It has a gorgeous in-browser book-viewer that combines the best elements of a physical book (tactility, the idiosyncrasies of printed type) with an electronic book (zoomability, searchability).  Link

"Readings are done by volunteers. For example 'International Episode' was read by the Librivox Project at was mentioned at BoingBoing previously. By the way, Librivox now has 7 books completed and available for download with 18 additional books in process. Here's the current Librivox catalog."

clock Posted Thu Oct 27th, 2005 - 12:27am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Money for Nothing

Billions of dollars have disappeared, gone to bribe Iraqis and line contractors’ pockets.

by Philip Giraldi | American Conservative

The United States invaded Iraq with a high-minded mission: destroy dangerous weapons, bring democracy, and trigger a wave of reform across the Middle East. None of these have happened.

When the final page is written on America’s catastrophic imperial venture, one word will dominate the explanation of U.S. failure—corruption. Large-scale and pervasive corruption meant that available resources could not be used to stabilize and secure Iraq in the early days of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), when it was still possible to do so. Continuing corruption meant that the reconstruction of infrastructure never got underway, giving the Iraqi people little incentive to co-operate with the occupation. Ongoing corruption in arms procurement and defense spending means that Baghdad will never control a viable army while the Shi’ite and Kurdish militias will grow stronger and produce a divided Iraq in which constitutional guarantees will be irrelevant.

The American-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority could well prove to be the most corrupt administration in history, almost certainly surpassing the widespread fraud of the much-maligned UN Oil for Food Program. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people has been wasted, together with hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Exactly how many billions of additional dollars were squandered, stolen, given away, or simply lost will never be known because the deliberate decision by the CPA not to meter oil exports means that no one will ever know how much revenue was generated during 2003 and 2004.

Some of the corruption grew out of the misguided neoconservative agenda for Iraq, which meant that a serious reconstruction effort came second to doling out the spoils to the war’s most fervent supporters. The CPA brought in scores of bright, young true believers who were nearly universally unqualified. Many were recruited through the Heritage Foundation website, where they had posted their résumés. They were paid six-figure salaries out of Iraqi funds, and most served in 90-day rotations before returning home with their war stories. One such volunteer was Simone Ledeen, daughter of leading neoconservative Michael Ledeen. Unable to communicate in Arabic and with no relevant experience or appropriate educational training, she nevertheless became a senior advisor for northern Iraq at the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad. Another was former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s older brother Michael who, though utterly unqualified, was named director of private-sector development for all of Iraq.

The 15-month proconsulship of the CPA disbursed nearly $20 billion, two-thirds of it in cash, most of which came from the Development Fund for Iraq that had replaced the UN Oil for Food Program and from frozen and seized Iraqi assets. Most of the money was flown into Iraq on C-130s in huge plastic shrink-wrapped pallets holding 40 “cashpaks,” each cashpak having $1.6 million in $100 bills. Twelve billion dollars moved that way between May 2003 and June 2004, drawn from accounts administered by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The $100 bills weighed an estimated 363 tons.

Once in Iraq, there was virtually no accountability over how the money was spent. There was also considerable money “off the books,” including as much as $4 billion from illegal oil exports. The CPA and the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Board, which it controlled, made a deliberate decision not to record or “meter” oil exports, an invitation to wholesale fraud and black marketeering.  (continued..)

Read the rest of the article here


clock Posted Wed Oct 26th, 2005 - 2:43pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Band's 'lucky' bra returned by Harper aide

CBC News

Newfoundland musicians, who lost their band's lucky bra to a staff member in Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's office, say they suffered "lift and separation anxiety" until the underwear came back.

The members of St. John's country-rock band, Eight Track Favorites, have adorned their stage for months with a silver bra tossed on stage by an unrestrained fan. The band adopted the lingerie as a good-luck charm, even naming it Yvette.

In early October, Yvette went missing during a Saturday luncheon at a convention of provincial Progressive Conservatives in St. John's.

The Eight Track Favorites had played a gig the previous evening at the Club One nightclub.

Guitarist Sandy Morris came to the club the next day to check on an amplifier, and saw the bra draped over it – on the same stage where Harper was later scheduled to give a speech.

When the luncheon was over, Yvette was missing.

"While she was gone, we had both lift and separation anxiety," said Morris, who fired off an e-mail to Harper's office, hoping to locate the bra.

"The guy who removed the bra from the amp gave it to one of Stephen's aides as a souvenir of the event," Morris said.

"There had been a bra on stage next to him and they managed to whip it away in time so that he wasn't on the national news standing next to a silver brassiere."

On Monday, the bra was returned to St. John's by courier.

However, Yvette won't be staying with the band for very long.

The Eight Track Favorites are donating Yvette to Bras Across the Bay, an upcoming breast-cancer awareness campaign in St. John's in which bras will be stitched together to cross Quidi Vidi Lake.


clock Posted Tue Oct 25th, 2005 - 9:12am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


How to build a working Dalek

(from Boing Boing):

Dalek City is the home of the Dalek Builders' Guild, a group of Dr Who enthusiasts who build lavish, elaborate replica Daleks with astonishingly complete mechanisization and styling. The build-diaries here are comprehensive enough that you could probably kick-start your own Dalek homebrewing hobby off of them.


See previous entry: Doctor Who

See also: CBC's The Planet of the Doctor web site



clock Posted Mon Oct 24th, 2005 - 7:22am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Beatles' 'Rubber Soul' Bounces Back

NPR | All Things Considered

It was 40 years ago this month that the Beatles began recording Rubber Soul and forever changed the sound of music. A new tribute CD, with contemporary artists, features remakes of the 14 original tracks. Many of the artists on This Bird Has Flown (the alternate title of the song "Norwegian Wood") weren't born yet in 1965, the year Rubber Soul came out. This time "Norwegian Wood" is performed by the Fiery Furnaces, "Run For Your Life" is done by the Cowboy Junkies and "The Word" is covered by Mindy Smith. Many of the songs are faithful to the originals, but others bury the Beatles under unrecognizable, avant garde performances.

Art Silverman contemplates the new album -- and the original classic -- in an essay entitled "the Birth of Soul":  Link is here


clock Posted Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 - 11:02pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Wizard of Oz Museum shows it's about more than just Munchkins

Carl Manning | National Post

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) - Those who think that The Wizard of Oz is the story of a Kansas farm girl singing about rainbows and skipping down a yellow brick road in red slippers should think again.

There's a lot more to the world of Munchkins and witches than most people realize, as a trip through the Wizard of Oz Museum in this rural town shows. The fascination for all things Oz goes back more than a century but was boosted by the 1939 movie classic.

Oz festivals are scattered around the country, including one here in October. Oz collectibles are big business. Scores of websites are devoted to Oz, and there's even the International Wizard of Oz Club.

As just about any Kansan knows, mention the state beyond its borders and there always seems to be some obligatory Oz reference, such as this one, spoken by Dorothy to her dog, Toto: "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

"The mystique is that Oz is the good place, where people are happy and differences are respected," said Oz scholar Stephen Teller, an English professor at Pittsburg State University. "The place was the American utopia."  (continued...)

Read the rest of the article here

See also: Behind the Green Curtain


clock Posted Sat Oct 22nd, 2005 - 8:44am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Death Watch at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

By DOUG THOMPSON | Capital Hill Blue

For all practical purposes, governing the nation has stopped at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as aides deal with an increasingly despondent President, mounting scandals and defecting dissidents from the Ship of State.

White House insiders say George W. Bush’s mood swings have increased to the point where meetings with the President must be cancelled, schedules shifted and plans changed to keep a bitter, distracted leader from the public eye.

“He’s like a zombie some days, walking around in a trance,” says one aide who, for obvious reasons, asks not to be identified. “Other times he launches into angry outbursts, cussing out anybody who gets near him.”

Aides say gallows humor has descended on the White House, where the West Wing is now referred to as “death row” and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, along with Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, are known as “dead men walking,” a reference to the last walk death row inmates take to the execution chamber.

With indictments expected against Libby or Rove or both any day now from the Valerie Plame scandal, the White House mood has a “Final Days” aura (“Final Days” was the title of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s book about the last days of the Nixon administration). Although no one expects President Bush to be impeached or resign, Internet blogs buzzed this week with talk of a possible resignation by Vice President Dick Cheney.

“That’s bullshit,” says one longtime Republican consultant. “They’ll have to carry Dick Cheney out of here on a stretcher.” But Rove and Libby will be gone if they are indicted and some wonder if the President, whose ability to govern is already limited by despair and detraction, can function without Rove, often referred to as “Bush’s brain.”

“Rove’s role is diminished already,” says one White House aide. “He still meets with The President daily but all this has taken its toll. He looks terrible.” ...

Read the rest of the article here


clock Posted Fri Oct 21st, 2005 - 11:52am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


What would Jesus blog?

lifted from CNN

That and other pressing questions drew 135 Christians to Southern California this weekend for a national conference billed as the first-ever for "God bloggers," a growing community of online writers who exchange information and analyze current events from a Christian perspective.

The three-day conference at Biola University marked an important benchmark for Christian bloggers, who have worked behind the scenes for years to spread the Gospel and infuse politics with religion.

Topics included God bloggers' relationship with the traditional church, their growing influence on mainstream politics and how to manage outsiders' perceptions.

Some predicted bloggers could play a role in reforming the modern church by keeping televangelists and other high-profile Christian leaders honest.

Joe Carter, author of, compared blogging to the 95 Theses posted by Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago that launched the Protestant Reformation.

"It's like putting 95 blogs out there," said Carter, who previously said God bloggers offer an "uncensored and unadulterated" view of contemporary Christian thought on politics and organized religion.

Many bloggers are now writing about religious oppression, poverty and world hunger, instead of hot-button issues such as abortion, homosexuality and assisted suicide, said the Rev. Andrew Jackson, a seminary professor and pastor at the Word of Grace Church in Mesa, Arizona.

"With blogging you tend to break out of those circles and you see other points of view," Carter said. "There's a bigger world out there than gay marriage and abortion."

At one well-attended workshop -- "When Non-Christians Read Your Blog" -- Biola University professor Timothy Muehlhoff gave instructions on writing about faith without alienating nonbelievers.

He stressed that God blogging has the potential to be a "train wreck" because done wrong it can reinforce stereotypes of evangelical Christians as angry and close-minded "pit bulls of the culture wars."

"As Christians today we are embroiled in the argument culture and we have forgotten this one thing: 'Blessed are the peacemakers.'," he said. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could say we brought a level of civility back to the conversation?"

Jackson, who blogs at, said he wasn't as sure what long-term influence blogging would have on evangelical Christians -- but he knew it would be important.

"We are just at the beginning of what is going on," he said. "We need to start thinking about how we can harness and focus the Christian blogosphere for greater impact."

clock Posted Wed Oct 19th, 2005 - 9:57am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Doomsday: The Latest Word if Not the Last

By MICHAEL LUO | New York Times

WORD spread quickly in some conservative Christian circles when Israeli troops captured the Old City of Jerusalem from Arab forces in June 1967. This was it: Jesus was coming.

But Jesus did not return that day, and the world did not end with the culmination of that Arab-Israeli war.

Neither did it end in 1260, when Joachim of Fiore, an influential 12th-century Italian monk calculated it would, nor in February 1420, as predicted by the Taborites of Bohemia, nor in 1988, 40 years after the formation of Israel, nor after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But after last week's devastating earthquake in Pakistan, coming as it did after a succession of recent disasters, the apocalyptic speculation, bubbled up again with impressive fervor on many Christian blogs, in some pews and among some evangelical Christian leaders.

Combined with fears of a global pandemic of avian flu, the calamitous flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina and last year's tsunami in Asia, the predictions of the end of the world are to be expected, religious historians said. After all, Christians have been predicting the end of history since the beginning of theirs...

Read the rest of the article here


See also: Eschatology at


clock Posted Tue Oct 18th, 2005 - 11:30am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The End of Suburbia

THE END OF SUBURBIA: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream

Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too has the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness.

Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream.

But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary.

The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today's suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia?


See the movie web site here


clock Posted Sun Oct 16th, 2005 - 11:26pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Fatal Accident in Manuels

VOCM | Oct 14, 2005

RNC say a 24 year old man has been charged under the Highway Traffic Act, after his car collided with another car, killing a St. John's women. The accident occurred this morning on Route 60 in Manuels. The man has been charged with failing to yield right-of-way at an intersection while making a left turn, as well as operating an unregistered vehicle. Police says one car was heading west while a second car had been traveling east and attempted to make a left turn into Villa Nova Plaza, when the collision occurred. The elderly female later passed away while at the Health Sciences Complex. RNC are asking any witnesses to contact police... the identification of the female is being withheld by police until all family members have been notified.

The call came this afternoon saying that my Grandmother had been killed in a car accident.  Her 89th birthday was last Tuesday, and I had remembered just this morning that I had forgotten to call...  Shit.

It's going to be some time before I can unpack how I feel about her impact on our lives... it's been a bumpy ride, to say the very least.  The abridged version is that she was quite the character, and I will miss her.


update: read my eulogy here


clock Posted Fri Oct 14th, 2005 - 10:04pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Culture of Celebrity

Let us now praise famous airheads.


by Joseph Epstein | Weekly Standard

CELEBRITY AT THIS MOMENT IN America is epidemic, and it's spreading fast, sometimes seeming as if nearly everyone has got it. Television provides celebrity dance contests, celebrities take part in reality shows, perfumes carry the names not merely of designers but of actors and singers. Without celebrities, whole sections of the New York Times and the Washington Post would have to close down. So pervasive has celebrity become in contemporary American life that one now begins to hear a good deal about a phenomenon known as the Culture of Celebrity.

The word "culture" no longer, I suspect, stands in most people's minds for that whole congeries of institutions, relations, kinship patterns, linguistic forms, and the rest for which the early anthropologists meant it to stand. Words, unlike disciplined soldiers, refuse to remain in place and take orders. They insist on being unruly, and slither and slide around, picking up all sorts of slippery and even goofy meanings. An icon, as we shall see, doesn't stay a small picture of a religious personage but usually turns out nowadays to be someone with spectacular grosses. "The language," as Flaubert once protested in his attempt to tell his mistress Louise Colet how much he loved her, "is inept."

Today, when people glibly refer to "the corporate culture," "the culture of poverty," "the culture of journalism," "the culture of the intelligence community"--and "community" has, of course, itself become another of those hopelessly baggy-pants words, so that one hears talk even of "the homeless community"--what I think is meant by "culture" is the general emotional atmosphere and institutional character surrounding the word to which "culture" is attached. Thus, corporate culture is thought to breed selfishness practiced at the Machiavellian level; the culture of poverty, hopelessness and despair; the culture of journalism, a taste for the sensational combined with a short attention span; the culture of the intelligence community, covering-one's-own-behind viperishness; and so on. Culture used in this way is also brought in to explain unpleasant or at least dreary behavior. "The culture of NASA has to be changed," is a sample of its current usage. The comedian Flip Wilson, after saying something outrageous, would revert to the refrain line, "The debbil made me do it." So, today, when admitting to unethical or otherwise wretched behavior, people often say, "The culture made me do it."

As for "celebrity," the standard definition is no longer the dictionary one but rather closer to the one that Daniel Boorstin gave in his book The Image: Or What Happened to the American Dream: "The celebrity," Boorstin wrote, "is a person who is well-known for his well-knownness," which is improved in its frequently misquoted form as "a celebrity is someone famous for being famous." The other standard quotation on this subject is Andy Warhol's "In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes," which also frequently turns up in an improved misquotation as "everyone will have his fifteen minutes of fame." ...

Read the rest of this essay at the Weekly Standard


clock Posted Fri Oct 14th, 2005 - 10:55am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Why Quebec smoked religiously

I'm grown accustomed to holding my breath while running the gauntlet of sad, coughing (and usually damp) smokers just outside the ubiquitous office entrance, although this has always left me wondering why anyone still smokes, or why kids take up smoking these days.  It has always seemed that smoking was much more commonplace in Quebec...


Why Quebec Smoked Religiously

by PEGGY CURRAN | The Gazette

On the morning my sister was born at St. Mary's Hospital on a sweltering August day, three weeks late and weighing a whopping 10-plus pounds, the maternity ward nurse took one look at my mother and claimed she knew exactly what she needed.

"A nice cigarette."

This was in the 1950s, before heaps of medical evidence documented links between the evil weed and heart disease, low birth weight and assorted cancers, facts now contested only by Big Tobacco, the simple or deranged.

Starting in January, Quebec will gradually ban smoking from all bars and restaurants.

Even in the Gitane haze of Paris, a new poll shows 80 per cent of French people - and 56 per cent of smokers - favour a smoking ban in public places, although maybe not in bars.

My mother's story came back to me as I read The Freedom to Smoke, by McGill University professor Jarrett Rudy.

In it, he tries to understand why Quebecers embraced tobacco, then clung to the habit with the fervour of a hobo sucking fumes from a freshly scrounged butt.

We're Catholic, therefore, we smoke...

Read the rest of the article here.

clock Posted Thu Oct 13th, 2005 - 6:15pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Chilling UNICEF spot puts Smurfs in war zone

CBC Arts

UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, has recruited the Smurfs to deliver a blunt message about the plight of child soldiers.

The campaign advertisement to be broadcast on national television in Belgium begins with the blue-skinned characters romping happily, surrounded by flowers and butterflies and singing their theme song.

A photo of a poster provided by UNICEF. The title in French at left bottom reads "Don't let war destroy the world of children." (AP Photo/UNICEF/IMPS/Peyo) Then their village is bombed by warplanes, amid fiery explosions. The bombs kill Smurfette and leave Baby Smurf orphaned and crying.

The spot is considered so chilling it is not to be broadcast before 9 p.m.

The Smurfs were created by the late Belgian artist "Peyo" and his family has approved the UNICEF animation.

The ad is part of a fund-raising campaign for UNICEF's work rehabilitating child soldiers in Africa.

UNICEF said it had concluded that traditional images of suffering in Third World war zones had lost their power to move television viewers.

"It's controversial," a spokesman for UNICEF told the Telegraph. "We have never done something like this before but we've learned over the years that the reaction to the more normal type of campaign is very limited."

The ad agency behind the campaign, Publicis, says it wanted to tap in to the earliest, happiest memories of Belgian TV viewers. The Smurfs first appeared in a Belgian comic in 1958.

clock Posted Thu Oct 13th, 2005 - 6:12pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Nfld Tricolour don't-push-us flag gains popularity

By MARK QUINN | Globe and Mail

St. John's — What started as a lark has grown into a full-fledged movement to replace Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial flag with a traditional, more rebellious one.

The idea gained momentum recently when Premier Danny Williams endorsed it.

Newfoundland nationalists have flown the pink-white-and-green since before the province joined Confederation.

In late May, four young men climbed the hills across the harbour from downtown St. John's and raised it again.

Twenty-one-year-old Greg Pike was one of them.

"Initially we did it for a laugh. The long weekend was coming up and we wanted to do something to challenge ourselves," said Mr. Pike, a university student in St. John's. "It caught many people's attention."

Mr. Pike says it felt right and after a discussion at a downtown bar, the group took it a step further.

"Someone suggested an on-line petition. I loved the idea and went for it," he said.

"It seemed to explode through word of mouth and now it's gathering all sorts of favourable attention."

More than 1,600 people have signed the petition. Recently, when reporters asked Mr. Williams if he supports adopting the pink- white-and-green as the provincial flag, the Premier replied: "From a personal perspective, I have that preference."

He says he doesn't feel as strongly about this issue as he did when he ordered Canadian flags removed from provincial buildings last year, a move many believe helped to put pressure on Ottawa to rewrite the Atlantic accord and sign over more than $2-billion in offshore oil revenues to the province.

"I have a personal leaning, but I would have to [gauge] the will of the people. It would be premature to say how we would do that."

Government officials say Mr. Williams hasn't discussed this proposal with all cabinet or caucus members yet. He told reporters that if a majority of government members oppose the change he won't push for it.

Mr. Pike says that whether Mr. Williams supports it or not, the pink-white-and-green isn't going away. It's already proved to have impressive staying power.

It is popularly believed that the "Newfoundland tricolour" was originally designed during the 19th century to make peace between competing Irish and English sealers in St. John's.

As the story goes, Bishop Michael Fleming created the flag — using a white handkerchief to join a pink flag, representing the English rose, with a green flag, representing the Irish shamrock.

In the 1940s, people who objected to Newfoundland joining Canada raised it.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Pike and the original flag-raising crew replaced the flag on South Side Hills with a slightly larger, 16-foot version.

This fall, the tricolour is increasingly appearing above homes and businesses in St. John's.

Mr. Pike says as far as he's concerned, it's not about taking Newfoundland and Labrador out of Canada.

"To me it is a sign of hope and strength for our future. I feel it is a symbol of a new attitude that Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans have taken on; an attitude that says we are not going to be pushed around any more," Mr. Pike said. "This campaign is not about separation. This campaign is about changing our current geometrical mess of a flag into something meaningful for our province."

After joining Canada, Newfoundland flew the British Union Jack. In the late 1970s, artist Christopher Pratt was commissioned to design a new provincial flag. Adopted in 1980, it retains the colours and a series of triangles, that are reminiscent of the old Union Jack, and a gold arrow meant to point to a promising future.

clock Posted Thu Oct 13th, 2005 - 6:10pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Smells Like Teen Angst

Move over Britney, Beckham, and Beyonce, Marilyn Manson says he's planning to launch his own fragrance early next year. He told Women's Wear Daily that one of the major fragrance companies will release it and that he was "inspired by the Dali-Schiaparelli collaborations." Heady stuff for an Antichrist Superstar. He hopes the fragrance will lead to a full cosmetics line that will come in three shades: white, black, and red. Marcel Marceau, Robert Smith of the Cure, and Dracula impersonators all say they welcome the addition to their make-up kits.

(lifted from Doggy Style)

clock Posted Thu Oct 13th, 2005 - 6:02am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Dangerfield of instruments

Nova Scotia festival aims to bring the maligned ukulele some respect

Meg Federico | National Post

LIVERPOOL, N.S. - It's not easy to love the ukulele. The instrument has a bad reputation, a tricky name to spell and very little street cred.

To make matters worse, record-breaking rains made the First International Ukulele Ceilidh in Liverpool last weekend nearly inaccessible to anyone travelling from Halifax.

Still, diehard ukulele enthusiasts soldiered on. The festival's headquarters were housed at the Liverpool Curling Club, where ukulele cut-outs dangled from the ceiling and tables covered the red and blue curling courts. Vendors selling ukuleles, beach paintings and Hawaiian shirts lined the far wall.

John Chalmers Doane was among those moseying through the displays. The Nova Scotia legend championed a ukulele program in the province's public school system from the late 1960s to the early 1980s and was awarded the Order of Canada for his work.

"In those years," he says, picking up a ukulele, "we had thousands and thousands of kids across Canada learning musical depth, reading, harmony and rhythm." One famous concert featured 1,500 ukulele players in the Halifax Metro Centre.

But in the 1990s the money ran out and interest in the ukulele waned.

"I hope the ukulele's value is coming to light again," Chalmers says, absently strumming a few chords. "It's not a pseudo-anything. It's a real experience that can reach anyone."

A vendor named Dan Frank agrees. "The uke is the ultimate portable instrument and you can play any kind of music on it, from bebop, the blues, to classical. Last night the British Ukulele Orchestra played Yes Sir, That's My Baby and Smells Like Teen Spirit, both in the same program." ...

Read the rest of the article here.

clock Posted Wed Oct 12th, 2005 - 7:17am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Philanthropy the Wal-Mart way

Will the Walton Family Foundation become a $20 billion tax-exempt opponent of public education?

by Bill Berkowitz | Media Transparency

Today most people think they know the story of Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, owned by the Walton family of Bentonville, Arkansas. Together the Waltons own 39 percent of the corporation that brings discounted merchandise to the public through Wal-Mart and its other stores. The company has more than 5,000 stores (3,400 in the U.S.), is the world's largest private employer, and is the world's largest company based on revenue with more than $280 billion in annual sales.

"Why is the richest family in the world so committed to education, and specifically to school choice, when they themselves mostly attended public school to apparently good effect?" Wal-Mart's discounted prices, however, come with a heavy price tag. Workers are under-paid and overworked in sweatshops overseas, while their non-union counterparts in the U.S. often cannot afford healthcare for their families. Wal-Mart has been the target of a flood of suits; it is currently the defendant in the largest sex-discrimination class-action lawsuit ever, a suit representing more than 1.5 million women.

When Wal-Mart comes to town, many small businesses invariably close, permanently changing the "civil fabric" of local communities. Worse, the company's bottom line is dependent upon soaking up of hundreds of millions of dollar in taxpayer subsidies extracted from cash-strapped state and county budgets. A May 2004 study by the Washington, DC-based Good Jobs First titled "Shopping for Subsidies: How Wal-Mart Uses Taxpayer Money to Finance Its Never Ending Growth," found that the company has siphoned more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments across the country.

If Wal-Mart was just another gigantic retail chain that was virulently anti-union, niggardly with its benefits, and a drain on the economies of local communities, it would certainly be remarkable but it would pretty much fall into the "business as usual" category. However, Wal-Mart, and the Walton family that runs the company founded by Sam Walton, also does its damage in ways that are more insidious: Through its philanthropic ventures, the Walton Family devotes a significant portion of its holdings to boosting conservative political candidates and a conservative social agenda centered on the privatization of public education.

Sometime in the near future, upon the death of the matriarch of the family, Helen Walton, the Walton Family Foundation could get an infusion of up to $20 billion, making it the largest foundation in the world...

Read the rest of the article here.

clock Posted Wed Oct 12th, 2005 - 7:17am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Blond, James Bond

The London Evening Standard reports that a new Bond has been chosen to replace Pierce Brosnan.

"The actor, who found fame as Geordie in the BBC series Our Friends in the North in 1996, got the job after an 18-month mission to replace Pierce Brosnan.

Scores of others, including Law himself, Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell and Orlando Bloom, were considered but rejected.

In the end a shortlist of two emerged - Craig and newcomer Henry Cavill. The pair were auditioned again and tried on tuxedos to see how they would look in the quintessential Bond clothing.

Craig, 37, whose choice will be confirmed by producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson later this week, will be the sixth Bond, but the first blond.

He will star in the 21st Bond film, based on Ian Fleming's first book Casino Royale."

You can read about Daniel Craig here.

clock Posted Tue Oct 11th, 2005 - 7:12am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Final Sail of the Season

It was a dreary 7 degrees C. and drizzle, with a strong breeze from the North East.  We motored our way smartly around the harbour entrance marker, then pulled up the fenders, raised the mainsail, doused the topping lift, and yanked the downhaul -- securing everything.  We unfurled the genoa, shut off the engine, then pointed a half mile down the channel towards the Royal St. Lawrence.  Close hauled, the boat began to drive hard -- with the inclinometer reading near 25 degrees, and lake inches from the starboard rail!

After smartly coming about, we reached while the spinnaker gear went up -- then we flew up the lake!

An hour later, we were soggy, but dockside -- eating a steaming bowl of "stoop", and  deciding to bite the bullet and de-mast for the season in anticipation of haul-out at the end of this week... 

The season was way too damn short.


clock Posted Mon Oct 10th, 2005 - 7:55am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Market in Fear

Politics has become a contest between different brands of doom-mongering.

by Frank Furedi |

Fear is fast becoming a caricature of itself. It is no longer simply an emotion or a response to the perception of threat. It has become a cultural idiom through which we signal a sense of unease about our place in the world.

Popular culture encourages an expansive, alarmist imagination through providing the public with a steady diet of fearful programmes about impending calamities – man-made and natural. Now even so-called high culture cannot resist the temptation of promoting fear: a new exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York has the theme of ‘The perils of modern living’. Fear is also the theme that dominates the Eighth Contemporary Art Biennial of Lyon. Natasha Edwards writes about the ‘art of fear’ that haunts this important exhibition of contemporary European art.

But the more we cultivate a twenty-first century sensibility of anxiety, the more we can lose sight of the fact that fear today is very different to the experience of the past.

Throughout history human beings have had to deal with the emotion of fear. But the way we fear and what we fear changes all the time. During the past 2,000 years we mainly feared supernatural forces. In medieval times volcanic eruptions and solar eclipses were a special focus of fear since they were interpreted as symptoms of divine retribution. In Victorian times many people’s fears were focused on unemployment.

Today, however, we appear to fear just about everything. One reason why we fear so much is because life is dominated by competing groups of fear entrepreneurs who promote their cause, stake their claims, or sell their products through fear. Politicians, the media, businesses, environmental organisations, public health officials and advocacy groups are continually warning us about something new to fear…

Read the the rest of the essay here


clock Posted Sun Oct 9th, 2005 - 11:33pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Bamboo homes, rides and tchotchkes

The "1000 Things Made of Bamboo" features galleries of -- you guessed it -- things made out of bamboo, under the following headers: "Music, Home, Outdoor, Fun, Art, Building, Others." The construction and transport categories are definitely cool.

I grew up envying the Gilligan's Island castaways their amazing bamboo dwellings, furniture and gear.



Link (via Make Blog)


clock Posted Sat Oct 8th, 2005 - 11:10am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Ear-splitting "sonic grenade" for waking oversleepers

This sonic grenade is marketed as a tool for waking up recalcitrant loved ones:

The Sonic Alarm makes the whole 'getting them out of bed' exercise a very simple, and indeed amusing, operation. Looking like an old-fashioned comedy hand grenade, the Sonic Alarm will wake pretty well anything up. Simply pull the pin, yell an emphatic "fire in the hole" and lob the grenade into the sleeper's room. After ten seconds a very annoying and piercingly loud noise (there are three volume settings) will blast out from the alarm. That's not all however, what makes this especially great is that to stop the alarm the sleeper has to find you so you can put the pin back in. It's stupid, and brilliant, and will be the bane of every over-sleeper on the planet.

Link via Boing Boing


clock Posted Fri Oct 7th, 2005 - 9:13pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Life is a cup of tea

How should evolution be taught in schools? This being America, judges will decide

The Economist print edition

HALF of all Americans either don't know or don't believe that living creatures evolved. And now a Pennsylvania school board is trying to keep its pupils ignorant. It is the kind of story about America that makes secular Europeans chortle smugly before turning to the horoscope page. Yet it is more complex than it appears.

In Harrisburg a trial began last week that many are comparing to the Scopes “monkey” trial of 1925, when a Tennessee teacher was prosecuted for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Now the gag is on the other mouth. In 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public-school science classes was an unconstitutional blurring of church and state. But those who think Darwinism unGodly have fought back...

Read the rest of the article here.

clock Posted Thu Oct 6th, 2005 - 7:14am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Blogging China's elusive steam trains

Scott Lothes is traveling in China, seeking out and documenting the history of steam trains in that country. He's just arrived in a tiny, remote town called Lixin (Leesheen), in Heilongjiang.

Our group of rail photographers (...) spent the night in the railway workers' house in Lixin along the Huanan narrow guage coal railway. Lixin is the beginning of the steep climb for eastbound loaded trains, so it contains a modest servicing facility for the locomotives. Modest would be a bit too gentle a way of describing the lodging accommodations, at least by western standards. There are absolutely no bathroom facilities, not even an outhouse. There is electricity, but it is quite sparse and the circuit of low capacity. A welder at the station caused the single-bulb pole light in front of the water tower to go dim, several hundred feet away. Our beds are best described as two wide, wooden tables covered in linoleum which may or may not have been cleaned with soap and water since they were built. We slept five to a bed, with blankets that may or may not have been washed since they were sewn. The one ingenious quality of the beds is that they are heated from beneath by the cooking stove (wood fired, of course) in the next room, and thus stay quite toasty, even on cold nights (of which there are plenty in far northeastern China).

Lixin can also be a very dangerous place at night, as three of us found out the hard way. I received one of the greatest shocks of my life when I stepped between two dark rails, expecting to find solid crossties, and instead found only open space. Five very swift feet later, my feet were on the ground in the bottom of the locomotive inspection pit. I would have escaped relatively unscathed had not my left cheek soundly struck the opposite wall on my way down. As a result, I now look like a chipmunk on the one side, it hurts to chew and bite down hard and there's a burst blood vessel in the corner of my left eye.


clock Posted Wed Oct 5th, 2005 - 11:15am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


‘Wallace & Gromit,’ Nick Park’s Feat of Clay

This is WAY cool!!  Fun movie...

Animator Nick Park is the artistic genius behind the new film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

It’s the feature-film debut of Wallace, a brainy British inventor, and his silent best friend, the flop-eared dog Gromit.

Wallace and Gromit
It was no simple thing to make the film. Park didn’t rely on the computer graphics that have revolutionized animation. This is stop-motion animation, with clay figures and painstaking, frame-by-frame work. There are 115,000 frames of finished footage in the film, and it took five years to complete.

But unlike Wallace & Gromit, Park and his creative team do have feature-length film experience. They scored a major hit with the 2000 escape-movie spoof Chicken Run…

Check out the story stream at NPR.


See also: Aardman Ablaze at

See also: Best Friends at the New Yorker


clock Posted Tue Oct 4th, 2005 - 6:55pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Patent filed for dog poo cement

A German architect has filed an application for a new type of cement made of dog poo.

Friedrich Lentze, 57, from Berlin, applied for a patent for his "odourless heating and building material" made from the dog poo cleaned from the streets of the German capital every day.

He said: "They thought I was joking at first, but it makes economic sense as the stuff has to be collected anyway, so why not use it for something useful.

"The loads of dog poo that are gathered every day actually make a great mortar with fantastic insulating properties."

He added that dung had for centuries been used as building material and he had combined it with modern materials to come up with a new type of insulating cement.

The German patent office confirmed it had received the application but declined to comment on whether it had been approved.

clock Posted Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 - 7:45am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


At 60, the United Nations is still taking fire

by Bill Berkowitz | Media Transparency

The Hudson Institute's new 'EYE On The UN' website aims to make sure the UN is transparent, accountable and doing what the US wants "If member countries want the United Nations to be respected and effective, they should begin by making sure it is worthy of respect," President Bush told the U.N. General Assembly during a September 15 speech at organization's New York City headquarters. "When this great institution's member states choose notorious abusers of human rights to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, they discredit a noble effort and undermine the credibility of the whole organization," Bush said.

Like many projects that have languished in the backrooms of some of the nation's right wing think tanks -- immigration, or the fight against "judicial activism," which dates back to the John Birch Society's beef with Earl Warren's Supreme Court -- the United States-out-of-the-United Nations and the United Nations-out-of-the United States crowd is growing, and getting ready for its close up.

The Bush Administration's recess appointment of longtime UN-basher John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., the unrelenting focus on the Iraqi Oil-for-Food program by Fox News, and now, a new project from the conservative Hudson Institute aimed at keeping a watchful "EYE on the UN," has escalated the situation from merely an ongoing attack to a battle-plan for obliteration.

Author and New York Times Magazine contributing writer James Traub recently suggested, in a piece in the magazine dated September 11, that the U.N. be abandoned and a new "democracy-friendly" institution be created.

The new organization might look "more like NATO, which consists only of members with a (more or less) shared understanding of the world order and thus a shared willingness to confront threats to this order." The new entity would define and battle terrorism, demand that countries protect the rights of its citizens, and combat extreme poverty...

Read the rest here.

clock Posted Sun Oct 2nd,  2005 - 10:02pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Toilet Paper

For anyone who has traveled outside of North America (particularly in the 3rd or emerging world), you probably already know that even that which we would consider our most "economical" toilet paper is abjectly luxurious as compared to what is generally found elsewhere in the world.

Perhaps this is why this offering from a European outfit is so darn interesting: Designer Toilet Paper.


clock Posted Sat Oct 1st, 2005 - 11:13am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page