Herpes new year!

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Dr Zuma, or: Why I learnt to stop worrying and love the guy

Just how dumb exactly is the average South African? A previous patterntub entry gave me an inkling of this via the rather abstract notion of IQ: the average IQ in SA is allegedly 72. But what does this really mean? If your majors at school weren't psychology and statistics, you can deduct little beyond "my countrymen are dumb as dirt".

There are subtle clues all over the place. The trick is to force yourself to recognize them. This must only be attempted by those immune to depression or who are in any case already depressed. If you hear a voice in your head telling you not to open up to this reality, ignore it, it’s just Your Sanity speaking. What has he done for you lately?

One telling example is a regular etv (1 of 4 public networks in SA) “competition” in which the viewer is given "cryptic" clues and must sms (text) the answer to some literally unforgettable number.

The format for all of these questions is always exactly the same: A short but ridiculously useful description of what this person does, a glorious full colour 5 megapixel photo, and a thinly disguised anagram of the persons name. So far, my personal favourite of these weekly mindbenders is:

She’s the popular host of a talk show and one of the richest women in the world:


This is nothing less than downright insulting. But it is only insulting if you have the mental faculty to feel insulted by it, and I don’t think etv is in the business of insulting people.

I’m patiently waiting for this one to come up:

He’s the controversial creator of the universe and doesn’t really exist:


It can only be a matter of time.

Yes, I now it’s supposed to be easy, but really. The questions are designed to make the viewer feel that she is playing a game and that she is really clever for figuring out the answer, and therefore has a sporting chance to win the latest piece of technological junk that will be obsolete just about the moment it arrives in the mail. etv obviously believes that these questions are sufficiently taxing for the average television and mobile phone owning South African to be enticed into throwing R2 down the drain. And they should know, they only need to count the number of sms’s received.

The scariest thing: the TV and mobile phone owners hardly constitute SA’s most ignorant demographic. No wait, the scariest thing surely has to be that these are the more priveleged among the people who vote in all matters deemed important enough to vote on. You know when we refer to the voice of the people? That’s them. Well, the people have spoken to etv, and they are saying that they are ignorant and gullible. They insist. This is why a guy that purports to wash away HIV in the shower after rape I mean sex is on his merry way to being our next president. (Unrelated, I hear a shower does wonders for pepper spray as well). If you’re not sure who I’m talking about, here’s a clue:

He’s a corrupt moron and one of the most loved statesmen in South Africa:




Some (wonderful) images of 19th century chamberpots from the book Chambers of Delight.

[Via The Nonist]


The Aerial Photography of Yann Arthus-Bertrand

My favourite photographer, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, has put more than a thousand photos from across the world onto his website. All of them downloadable as wallpapers. Good times.


Foreign Office

Slate has an essay comparing and contrasting four different versions of The Office. In addition to the U.K. and U.S. versions, both France (Le Bureau) and Germany (Stromberg) have produced their own versions of the show.

The Naked Face

The two men, protégé and mentor, sat at the back of the room, as faces flickered across the screen. Ekman had told Tomkins nothing about the tribes involved; all identifying context had been edited out. Tomkins looked on intently, peering through his glasses. At the end, he went up to the screen and pointed to the faces of the South Fore. "These are a sweet, gentle people, very indulgent, very peaceful," he said. Then he pointed to the faces of the Kukukuku. "This other group is violent, and there is lots of evidence to suggest homosexuality." Even today, a third of a century later, Ekman cannot get over what Tomkins did. "My God! I vividly remember saying, "Silvan, how on earth are you doing that?' " Ekman recalls. "And he went up to the screen and, while we played the film backward, in slow motion, he pointed out the particular bulges and wrinkles in the face that he was using to make his judgment. That's when I realized, "I've got to unpack the face.' It was a gold mine of information that everyone had ignored. This guy could see it, and if he could see it, maybe everyone else could, too."

From Malcolm Gladwell's The Naked Face, an article about what people see when we look at each other and how some have taken that skill to a seemingly super-human level.


Short piece detailing how Brian Eno composed the Windows 95 startup sound.

Transcript of Brian Eno discussing Generative Music at the Imagination Conference, 1996.


Kings of Africa

[HALIDOU SALIL, amido of Bibemi]
"There are still several hundred monarchs on this continent. While some amongst them have been relegated to the level of touristic curiousities, others still maintain significant traditional and spiritual power. Born of dynasties which marked the history of Africa until the twentieth century, these kings are the source of underground power with which "modern governments" have to co-exist. Contrary to the Indian Maharajas, they have survived the upheavals of history, and evolve in a parallel world but one which is very real."
From Daniel Laine 's online photograpy exhibition, Kings of Africa.


[SALOMON IGBINOGHODUA, Oba Erediauwa of Bénin]


Bedtime Stories by Thom Yorke

The Happy Little Bunny
Once there was a little bunny who had a little furry tail and a little shiny nose. But the electrodeath cloud of commerce strangled it and its foxhole was converted to a parking lot, a parking lot, a parking lot. Ample parking asphalted over bunny bones. Everyone everyone everyone get in.

Hannah and Gunther
Hannah and her brother Gunther lived in a happy wooden house at the end of a windy road by the forest. Chomping tree-eating machines grinding, halting, grinding the forest destroyed the trees—birches branches Branford—to make end tables and politician luncheon plates, spin spin spin. I can't feel my legs anymore.

Whoopsie the Clumsy Dragon
In the dragon family in the enchanted cave, there lived Mother, Father, Brother, and Whoopsie. Whoopsie tried to be like the other dragons, but anytime he tried to help he ended up making a mess. Diplomats destroy the ozone and waiting, wailing. Crawl in the hole, leap the banshee, and eat the sunlight. Tonight, tomorrow, why bother? Another. Another. I'm a grown monkey wastechain.
Everybody Enjoys Manners!
When we eat, it's fun to have our manners eat with us! Wear your napkin on your lap and don't hit your sister, even if she throws peas at you. Reason your reasons, razors shave the planet clean. Blood fills the rivers, clogs the tubes. I want to die, eat your ice cream.
By David Hart at McSweeneys.


Looking for reliable information? (or: Women and Maths)

The Pew Research Center is a fantastic source of data on every topic imaginable, and according to Russel Brown (a journalist for the NZ Listener), this is a reputable establishment. It describes itself as ‘a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does so by conducting public opinion polling and social science research; by reporting news and analyzing news coverage; and by holding forums and briefings.’ There is something for everyone (except that women might struggle to interpret the numbers). Here's a study that caught my attention:

Women Can't Do Math...Or Can They?
by Richard MorinPew Research CenterAugust 31, 2006

Strange but true: Women score much lower on math tests if they are first asked unrelated questions about gender issues. The phenomenon is known as "stereotype threat" -- a kind of performance anxiety discovered in 1995 when psychologists found that black students at Stanford University did significantly worse on intelligence tests if they were first asked to identify their race on the test form.

Since then, dozens of other experiments have confirmed that subtly cuing women, minorities and other stigmatized groups to think subconsciously about their gender or race causes them do poorly in areas where the general stereotype suggests they are weak.

University of Texas psychologist Matthew S. McGlone wondered if there wasn't another side of the story. What if you prompted people to think about their strengths rather than their stereotypical weaknesses -- would that be enough to improve performance in areas where they weren't supposed to do well?

In a novel set of experiments, McGlone, working with Joshua Aronson of New York University, found that the answer is yes. "The idea that something is immutable due to some biological factor can be trumped," McGlone said.