The Palestine Papers

I know, it’s not exactly a slow news day.  Jack LeLanne died after all.  You’d think, though, that they could fit in word of the leak of 1,600 documents relating to Israel-Palestinian Authority negotiations somewhere in between the State of the Union address (Haven’t read the transcript yet but I imagine that he used to words ‘America’ ‘prosper’ and ‘create jobs’ a few times somewhere in there. Just guessing.) and Egypt starting to rip at the seams (Though many news minutes might be needed to explain to viewers that despite having pyramids and mummies, Egypt is realer than both Narnia and Middle Earth). Take a look.  Al Jazeera’s West Bank office has already been smashed up a bit by protesters angry at the black eye this is giving the P.A.  Of course, some of those protesters just might have been policemen working overtime. While I’ve only taken the quickest of […]

Oil Rig Archipelagos: Planning for Catastrophe

As you’re probably aware, the explosion and sinking of the offshore oil platform Deepwater Horizon let loose a stream of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, not too far off from vital waters for fishing and biodiversity.  While the leak spurts out 5,000 barrels of oil a day, attempts to curb the flow of crude have been unsuccessful thus far.  Wells drilled on land can be blown out with explosives or capped with machinery but operating at the frozen, high-pressure depths changes the game significantly. What I found most distressing was that the blowout preventer failed. These offshore wells are required to have such an emergency shutoff valve as a fail-safe. By all accounts, it appears this valve got blown out with the same surge that wrecked the rest of the rig.  Not much of a fail-safe. Suddenly, it’s hard to hear the enthusiastic chanting of “Drill, baby, drill!” […]

Visions of Tehran

One of the most beautiful and useful gifts of the internet is the ability to deflate propaganda and re-humanize our so-called enemies by offering a glimpse of The Other, in this case, the people of Tehran.  These are the people, these laughing, walking, sleeping, eating, breathing, loving and beloved people who would be “civilian casualties” or “collateral damage” were we to start lobbing missiles that way in the name of “stabilizing the Middle East” or “protecting our allies.” Remember McCain? One great window on this part of the world is the Flickr photostream and website of street photographer Kamyar Adl. From his site: Kamyar says, ‘I became obsessed with 35mm cameras when I was a teenager after playing with my Brothers Nikon EL2 and its 50mm 1:1.4 lens.’ Some years later when his brother left Iran for LA, Kamyar and the poor ownerless Nikon became inseparable. After finishing school Kamyar […]

Seasteading That Floats

No way can I claim sole rights to the synergy of ocean trash and floating islands.  Rather than sitting on dry land typing about ‘em, there are folks out there actually building the damn things.  The above video offers a look at Richi Sowa’s original Spiral Island, a  floating habitat made from reused plastic bottles that supports a copse of living mangrove trees, a garden and a private beach.  Food harvested on the island fed its lord and master, who returned the favor with the proceeds of his composting toilet.  After the hurricanes in 2005 wrecked the original, Sowa regrouped and put together Spiral Island II with the help of volunteers.  Here’s a look at the new version. Dutch architects apparently want to take the trash-island idea and bring it to an ARCO pipe-dream scale: Recycled island is a research project on the potential of realizing a habitable floating island […]

Guam Can't Sink But Some Islands Can Swim

About a month ago, the comedic stylings of Georgia Representative Hank Johnson went viral when footage of him questioning the Navy’s plans to expand their Guam base made its way to the YouTube.  In the clip above, you can watch Rep. Johnson take entirely too long to get around to saying “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated it will tip over and capsize.” Yep.  Georgia elected this guy twice. After the snickering ebbed and before the natural tide of depression rolled in, I got to wondering: are there actually floating islands?  Somewhere in the dim reaches of the past, I’d thought I’d heard something about that. The sort of thing we thank the internet for is turning up books like Floating Islands: A Global Bibliography (PDF of the Addenda for that book available for free at that link).  Entires include such gems as: “Attacked […]

What Haiti Looks Like From Far Away

Now, finally, the world looks at Haiti.  The typical disaster storylines are served up, readymade from the bin previously marked “Hurricane Katrina” or “Kashmir Earthquake” or ‘Tsunami ’04”.  There’s the first wave of shock and speculation, an awe of the tragedy’s magnitude and not a little voyeuristic jolt of seeing such a terror from a safe remove.  The actuaries run the numbers and give ranges of deaths and tallies of expense while satellite photos are shot for before and afters.  Then, come the survivor stories and amateur footage from the apocalypse’s dress rehearsal, bookended by grimacing news anchors and wrapped in the networks’ scrolling ribbons of text. As I write this, we’re wading into the judgment stage where the horrors are put into context and the axes that have been grinding all along are revealed.  Survivors become ‘looters’, the victims are ‘impatient’ and the powers who gather with gifts begin […]

NATO Makes Raves Happen

Did you know the North Atlantic Treaty Organization loves ravers? Neither did I, but for 60 years they have been making them happen. What the hell? Get the latest Flash Player to see this player. [Javascript required to view Flash movie, please turn it on and refresh this page] So next time you pop so ecstasy, thank NATO. There are more equally surreal attempts at viral marketing by our forced military alliance overlords on their 60 Years of NATO propaganda public relations site.

China Needs More Gay

Two China-related stories kept coming up in the blog chum bucket today, one sounding like a clear solution for the other. First there was this look at China’s surplus of young men in the Wall Street Journal: Thanks to its 30-year-old population-planning policy and customary preference for boys, China has one of the largest male-to-female ratios in the world. Using data from the 2005 China census — the most recent — a study published in last month’s British Journal of Medicine estimates there was a surplus of 32 million males under the age of 20 at the time the census was taken. That’s roughly the size of Canada’s population. 32 Million males who can’t get laid is a lot of Limp Bizkit concerts. On this point, Kenneth Anderson notes that with such a gender difference, you’ve ended up in a situation similar to polygamous societies, with their accompanying troubles with […]