November 17, 2009
"We didn't commit suicide. We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world."
31 years ago today, 918 people died in the Jonestown Mass Murder-Suicide. One week later, CBC Radio aired this comprehensive examination[MP3] of the events leading up the tragedy, including cult leader Jim Jones' rise to power, the founding of the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in Guyana, and the ill-fated investigative delegation headed by Congressman Leo Ryan which precipitated the tragic event.
Since 1995, Transparency International has published an annual Corruption Perceptions Index, ordering the countries of the world according to "the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians." The 2009 report was released today. See the data. Play around with their interactive map. (warning, map will resize your browser window)
Almost 15 percent of US households are "food insecure". Last year, nearly 17 million children, or 22.5 per cent, lived in households in which food at times was scarce - 4 million children more than the year before. And the number of youngsters who sometimes went hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million. [more inside]
NME.com list The Strokes' 'Is This It' has topped the 100 Greatest Albums Of The Decade list in the new issue of NME magazine out tomorrow (November 18). The 2001 debut album by the New York band was voted top of the pile by a panel of musicians, producers, writers and record label bosses.
Since the Goldsmith's Conference of 2007 (which saw the formal embrace of the name), the movement known as Speculative Realism has, by some accounts, "revivified" philosophy. Led by the young philosophers Ray Brassier and Quentin Meillasoux, the movement is becoming known for its two-pronged critique of both the continental and analytic philosophical traditions. Speaking crudely, the goal is to fashion a "transcendental materialism" that puts the continental tradition in a better position to engage with the evolving insights of experimental science (particularly cognitive science, biology, and physics), while revising the analytical tradition's tendency to a "scientistic" and "naive" materialism. On the whole the philosophy tries to be less human-centric, acknowledging a world indifferent to human knowing and human being, while still acknowledging the problem of epistemic contingency. Brassier is also a leading proponent or investigator of nihilism, which will please Big Lebowski fans. [more inside]
The British government has announced plans to make Ordnance Survey map data freely available online. The Ordnance Survey is the government-funded agency which maps the country at high resolutions. Unlike the US Geological Survey's public-domain data, Ordnance Survey maps are proprietary, and licensed only under restrictive terms and for hefty fees, including to local governments; setting the data free is said to produce a £156 net economic gain. (Previously) [more inside]
Zoos and circuses in India will no longer be allowed to keep elephants. Elephants in captivity and PTSD. [previously]
The 21 Scariest Doctor Who Moments Ever, according to SFX magazine. Waters of Mars, which aired in the UK this weekend and airs in the US on December 20th, may add to that list. Meanwhile, in other formats, Michael Moorcock is writing a Doctor Who novel.
On Thursday, the 12th of November, Karen Armstrong (previously & previously) unveiled her Charter for Compassion. The charter is the product of her Feb 2008 TED prize wish to “restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.” The project began with a “unique web-based decision making platform”, allowing “thousands of people from over 100 countries added their voice to the writing of the Charter.” These contributions were then given to the Council of Conscience for the construction of the final charter. Previous attempts at the promotion of a "global ethic" grounded in the Golden Rule have been largely, globally, ignored. Some people dislike the idea of blurring the differences between religions, some have problems with the Golden Rule itself. [more inside]
Interview with Clare Torry the singer in Pink Floyd's 'The Great Gig In The Sky' (youtube) [more inside]
LIFE magazine presents previously unpublished photos of Vladimir Nabokov, taken by Carl Mydens in 1959.
Google Swirl is a new Google Labs experiment that lets a user search through images in a "visual and semantic" way, allowing users to search through radiating treeviews of conceptually related images. (requires flash)
Wesleyan, a liberal arts college in Middletown, CT, has started a program that allows inmates in a nearby high-security prison to take classes. The students are selected competitively - with only a 16% acceptance rate - and receive the same rigorous education provided to Wesleyan undergrads. Here you can read some of their work. The Bard Prison Initiative [Previously on Metafilter] features a similar program. [more inside]
For those of you, like me, who giggle uncontrollably at Jay Leno's "Headlines" schtick (but cannot stand him or the rest of his show) here's the screenshot version*. You can also get a daily dose of News Fail on the web via Probably Bad News. And the Media Relations blog has a "funny-headlines" tag that's worth a few extra gaffaws**. [more inside]
A year and a half ago, Henry Chung was an assistant vice president at Merrill Lynch. Now he's an NYPD patrol officer.
Yesterday, the little-noticed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force caused a stir by releasing new guidelines discouraging routine mammography for women under age 50 and breast self-examinations at any age. (Comparison chart of new and old guidelines here.) The American Cancer Society immediately registered its strong disagreement; meanwhile, the National Breast Cancer Coalition came out in strong support of the new guidelines, saying:
The over-emphasis on the importance of screening, despite a lack of strong evidence, has been elevated to such a degree that some even equate screening with prevention of breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Coalition hopes that today’s release of the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) revised recommendations will put the brakes on this run-away train and will put screening and its limitations into proper perspective.[more inside]
American Airlines fires AA.com designer for reaching out to customer 1.) Graphic designer and blogger has bad experience with AA.com, 2.) Designer mocks up AA.com page design and blogs about it, 3.) AA.com UX designer emails blogger with info about challenges the AA.com web team faces, 4.) Blogger posts UX designer's response (anonymously), 5.) American Airlines figures out who UX designer is and fires him/her for talking. [more inside]
Autumn, by Roger Ebert. The season of new beginnings and the forever-remembered smell of burning leaves. [more inside]
27 live recordings from the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival can be streamed for free at Wolfgang's Vault. Here's a few of the musicians you can listen to: Count Basie & His Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Oscar Peterson Trio and Thelonious Monk. Registration is required but it's oh so worth it. The New York Times has the backstory of how these recordings ended up at Wolfgang's Vault.
Neda Agha Soltan, killed on camera by a sniper's bullet, became the symbol of opposition to Iranian President Ahmadinejad this summer. Her boyfriend, Caspian Makan, who has just fled the country, talks to Arash Sahami and Angus Macqueen about their romance, his imprisonment after her death and his terrifying escape.
Seems a little early, but the American Family Association is gearing up for another round of Yuletide boycotting. You can check the "naughty or nice list for retailers to avoid. (Warning: AFA site is obnoxious- watch out for auto-play video). We’ve previously discussed AFA boycotts of Hallmark and Ford, which may or may not have had any impact. I guess even the "War on Christmas" isn’t immune to a little Christmas Creep.
Envisioning Chinese Society in the Late Nineteenth Century: Words and Images from the Dianshizhai Pictorial Very nice online presentation of translated content from the famed nineteenth century Shanghai pictorial journal (China's first); Dianshizhai (点石斋画报) was modelled on Britain's Punch and produced as a supplement for Shen Bao subscribers. Flash is used so elements in the cartoons can be clicked for further information: a young woman repels a thief with martial derring-do; a customer bilks on the bill in a street eatery in Hangzhou; small-town society and politics with the muddle-headed magistrate; a non-performing temple bell offers a chance for sceptical commentary on religion; the gentlemanly pastime of cricket-fighting.
The New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year is.... UNFRIEND. That's right, the negation of the verbification of 'friend'. Well, it's not quite as cringe-worthy as some of the runners-up... Teabagger?!? And previous winners of this honor were Hypermiling (2008), Locavore (2007), Carbon-Neutral (2006) and Podcast (2005) (links include each year's finalists, including frugalista, staycation, bacn, mumblecore, Islamofascism, funner, lifehack and squick). Best comment about the WotY (so far)? "an unreliable yet fascinating barometer of tech". But, at risk of over-editorializing, these look more like candidates for the Banished Words List. Clearly better is the recent list of "A Word a Year, 1906-2006" from Oxford's website (if only for the invaluable perspective of time).