Tuesday, November 21, 2006

And if you have anything left after reading Pynchon's book ...

From a Guardian article, "For those about to rock, Kim Jong-il salutes you" about a proposed music festival next May:

Rock For Peace, which takes place next May in North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, "will be the 2007 version of Woodstock rock festival in 1969 but in a different location and with different goals".

Though not a place historically associated with free love and hippy wig-outs, all that is about to change, with organisers embracing "capitalist popular music" for the first time. And, in keeping with the laissez-faire spirit of rock festivals, there are few restrictions: "Lyrics should not contain admirations on war, sex, violence, murder, drug, rape, non-governmental society, imperialism, colonialism, racism, anti-DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), and anti-socialism."

Update (November 29, 2006): U.S. tailors sanctions to annoy N. Korea's Kim: Ban on iPods, plasma TVs, jet skis targets leader's swanky lifestyle

No word yet on how this will affect Rock for Peace.

Pretty much everything you need

The headline of Bloomberg's review of Against the Day:

Pynchon's First Novel in 10 Years Has Sex, Math, Explosives.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Keep your 40, I'll just have an Earl Grey tea

Only 40 days are left of our 9 months in London.

I installed Fedora Core 6 on my laptop. NTFS-3G seems to work; i.e., I can write to my Windows XP partition from Linux. These truly are the end times.

Our ally in the War on Terror

A defector from the KGB, Alexander Litvinenko, was poisoned with thallium in London. He was investigating the death of Anna Politkovskaya. Eastern bloc dissidents have been targeted before in London. The Kremlin has dismissed claims of its involvement in the poisoning as "sheer nonsense".

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Beyond belief

Some of the best minds of our generation met in La Jolla a week ago to discuss replacing religion with science. I can see the appeal - I'd rather live in the 21st century than the 9th - but I have little confidence that scientists are wiser than priests, rabbis, or imams. I'm sympathetic to the views of Lawrence Krauss:

"The presumption here was that any effort to respect the existence of faith is a bad thing," he told New Scientist. "Philosophically I'm in complete agreement, but it's not a scientific statement, and I've seen how offensive it is when scientists say 'I can tell you what you have to think'. They make people more afraid of science. It's inappropriate, and it's certainly not effective."

Where we live

From Trainspotting:
Mile End by Blur:

We didn't have nowhere to live,
we didn't have nowhere to go
til someone said
"I know this place off Burdett Road."

It was on the fifteenth floor,
it had a board across the door.
It took an hour
to prise it off and get inside.
It smelt as if someone had died;
the living room was full of flies,
the kitchen sink was blocked,
the bathroom sink not there at all.

Ooh, it's a mess alright,
yes it's
Mile End.

And now we're living in the sky
I never thought I'd live so high,
just like Heaven,
if it didn't look like Hell.
The lift is always full of piss,
the fifth floor landing smells of fish
not just on Friday,
every single other day.
Below the kids come out tonight,
they kick a ball and have a fight
and maybe shoot somebody if they lose their cool.
it's a mess alright,
yes it's
Mile End.

Nobody wants to be your friend
cos you're not from round here, ooh
as if that was
something to be proud about.
The pearly king of the Isle of Dogs
feels up children in the bogs.
Down by the playing fields,
someone sets a car on fire
I guess you have to go right down
before you understand just how,
how low,
how low a human being can go.

it's a mess alright,
yes it's
Mile End.

Actually, it's not that bad except for having to evacuate our building at least once a week because someone has taken a shower with the door open a femtometer, setting off the fire alarm and causing several trucks from the London fire brigade to converge on our building. As Joey points out, the evacuations are the main form of social gathering in the dorms.

This post was inspired by Londonist.

A holocaust archive in Germany is going public next year

The Associated Press has published the first article in a series about the largest archive of Nazi prison records.

This vast archive — 16 miles of files in six nondescript buildings in [Bad Arolsen], a German spa town — contains the fullest records of Nazi persecutions in existence. But because of concerns about the victims’ privacy, the ITS has kept the files closed to the public for half a century, doling out information in minimal amounts to survivors or their descendants on a strict need-to-know basis....

... the files occupy a former barracks of the Waffen-SS, the Nazi Party’s elite force. They are stored in long corridors of drab cabinets and neatly stenciled binders packed into floor-to-ceiling metal shelves. Their index cards alone fill three large rooms.

Another subject is the sheer scope of the Holocaust system. The files will support new research from other sources showing that the network of concentration camps, ghettos and labor camps was nearly three times more extensive than previously thought.

Postwar historians estimated about 5,000 to 7,000 detention sites. But after the Cold War ended, records began pouring out of the former communist nations of East Europe. More sites were disclosed in the last six years in claims by 1.6 million people for slave labor reparations from a $6.6 billion fund financed by the German government and some 3,000 industries.

“We have identified somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 camps and ghettos of various categories,” said Geoffrey Megargee of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, who is compiling a seven-volume encyclopedia of these detention centers.