Monday, December 31, 2007


My dear, vast readership,

I apologize for the week long break in blogging (even we bloggers need vacation time), I've actually been driving all over the US delivering vehicles for my dad's drive-away company and doing the holiday thing and visiting family, so I haven't had much time to post...but I promise that starting next year I will start posting again.

If you are feeling insatiably thirsty for entertainment while I am away, I recommend you find the nearest theater to you playing this film, it looks fabulously awful, entertaining in its sheer baaaaahdness, and absolutely, positively hysterical.

Just watch the trailer and I guarantee that you will immediately want to see it.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bacon Topped Cookies

I bet my money that a Canadian is responsible for these...

Panda Bear - "Take Pills"

Today's song of the day is related to a recent Mindhacks post about the recent Nature article on the widespread use of pills. Enjoy:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Getting in the Gift Spirit

Man, how true is this

Dave Barry:
"I never give presents to any of my male friends, and they never give presents to me, and we're all happy as clams. If a guy ever DOES give a present to another guy, it is almost always intended as a joke. For example, just today I received in the mail, from my friend Jeffrey Berkowitz, an electronic yodeling pickle. (Really: You can order one at I did not own one of these, and I am happy to have it. But I know Jeffrey sent it to me because he thought it was funny. He does not expect a gift in return. He would be stunned if, in response, I sent him some cologne, unless of course it was joke cologne, like Eau de Goat Flatulence."

Thus far all of the gift ideas I have considered getting a few of my guy friends have all been humorous or silly. Nothing a guy would need, but something that would definitely make him laugh is pretty much my philosophy for purchasing gifts for other dudes that are friends. Moreover there's not a lot of things that are soo funny that you just have to buy and send to some other guy for christmas, which is why the philosophy is so wonderful--it masks/justifies my animosity towards having to actually go out and waste my time shopping...

Fionn Regan - "Be Good Or Be Gone"

Today's song of the day. Note if you, like me, have horrible ADD, then you will most likely hate the music video Regan made for this song, since all the background noise is incredibly distracting when you're trying to listen to the song, but nevertheless its still an amazing song, a song which I haven't been able to get out of my head all week. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Underwear Communication

I'm not sure which sex these would appeal or sell to more, but I was certainly intrigued by the idea...I thought it would be a hysterical gift to give to my grandparents. I know my grandpa would love it, since my grandma has Alzheimer's...though she probably would, well, she wouldn't know what the hell was going on down there...

Jabberjockeys consist of a pair of underwear (one male, one female) which discreetly inform a partner when the other gets aroused. By sensing subtle changes in temperature, moisture and pressure the undergarments detect arousal. The underwear automatically notifies the partner by activating vibrating motors sewn into the fabric of their underwear, thus enabling them to discreetly share their heightened emotions.

User and a loved one wear their respective pairs of underwear. When one becomes aroused, the other's underwear starts vibrating. This in turn causes arousal in the second party which causes the instigator's underwear to vibrate, causing a feedback loop of excitement.

VCU Study Points Out the Obvious

After all, guys need to use something to trick girls into sleeping with them...if their judgment isn't clouded, it will rarely be persuaded--and not all guys have charms and good looks (to all my feminist viewership I mean this in the most sarcastic of ways, but I definitely think it is perhaps one of the main reasons for the correlation this study says to have found. Guys are douche bags).

Via HealthScout:
For girls, especially, having friends of the opposite sex during adolescence can raise the likelihood for alcohol use.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University analyzed data on 4,700 twins in Finland...

"Our findings suggest that girls may be more susceptible to their friends' drinking and that having opposite-sex friends who drink is also associated with increased drinking," corresponding author Danielle Dick, now of Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a prepared statement.

Snow Flakes & Church Aches

So I decided to spend my last day in Montreal reading in the magnificent chapel of Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde. I had originally planned on spending it in a Starbucks, sipping coffee and reading, but I eventually persuaded myself that a basilique would be far more grand. I picked up two books from my university's library, Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse and Marcel Proust's Swann's Way, and then made my way to the Cathédrale.

Unfortunately the weather was incredibly foul today. The wind was savagely gusty and the snow flakes had worked themselves up into a fury, so the walk was far less pleasant than I had hoped it to be. But I eventually stumbled upon the front steps of the massive facade and looked up at the row of saints, who have a beautiful greenish jade-colored hue, in front of the massive dome of the church. It was certainly a spectacle to behold and the cathédrale looked beautiful and wholly resolute in the swirling fury of snow and wind. I marched up the front steps and laboriously pulled at the heavy Gothic-styled doors. I stepped inside the rectangular corridor and marched another 10 steps to the next set of doors and was finally inside the chapel. It was absolutely herculean in size, the pews were all neatly in a row, the ceiling was arched and mesmerizing, and along the walls were various statues and paintings, the former of saints, and the latter depicting catholic missionaries "nobly" attempting to convert and save the indigenous savages, the Indians (one picture depicted a missionary in a canoe--who looked as if he had been inconveniently taken hostage by Indians--wielding a cross to the sky, while the Indian in front of him had his paddle cocked and ready to prod another Indian who was desperately clinching on to the side of the canoe, in the rough--and assumedly cold--waters). There were also two halves of a giant clam, which held holy water (which was almost unbearably tempting to drink, in my very thirsty state...)

I wandered around the mostly empty chapel, stopping and gawking at a number of items that were so gilded in gold that I sort of felt a self-pitying shame for my own species stupidity.

After wandering around a little more, I eventually claimed a seat in an empty pew among pews, and removed the two novels I had in my bag. Before I opened either one of them, a small yellow plastic bag with something in it, folded neatly on the shelf of the pew in front of me, grabbed my attention. I immediately began to fantasize that it had been left in that particular row, for a particular person, for a particular purpose, and was, therefore, curiously intrigued. I stood up and reached over the pew and grabbed the bag. Inside was a little black book with a very strange, mythical-esque, emblem on the front. A flood of fantasies now splashed against my mind--could this be a Da Vinci code object, with some secret message inside? could it perhaps be a book left by an Opus Dei member, revealing their secret practices?--but were quickly silenced when I opened the first few pages and realized that it was simply a hymnal book written in French... ah c'est la vie, why must anticipation always be better than realization? I slid the black book back into the plastic yellow bag, folded it, and put it back on the shelf of its original pew. I turned and picked up To The Lighthouse, flipped to the first chapter, and soon became wholly unaware of my surroundings, as I continued to read. The chapel was dark and only dimly lit by a few electric lanterns on the side walls and columns. I had to adjust my book in every which way, (like those toys that you have to jiggle around and maneuver in various ways in an effort to get the small metalic ball into the little crater), in order to evade the casted shadows that prevented me from seeing the words. Strangely enough, right as the thought 'Man I wish I had some more light' scrolled through my head, the overhead lights of the chapel flickered on and the entire room became brightly illuminated.

Its only too bad that I'm not a religious person, because if I were I could have entertained the thought that this was an act of God, looking over my shoulder, actually concerned with the amount of light I had to read with...who knows maybe he was.

I went back to reading and got through about 20 pages before I was distracted by an odiously loud and continuously irritating sound. I looked up to see what was responsible for this noise and eyed an old man, in a green, split-tailed coat, pushing a mop and bucket across the tiled floor. When he reached the middle of the chapel he stopped (and thankfully with him the noise) and began swabbing the tiles in an utterly audible silence.

I picked up where I had left off in the book, but was quickly distracted again by signals of discomfort from my derrière. Pews, as I'm sure all church goers are acutely aware, are incredibly uncomfortable (perhaps in order to keep the parishioners awake), especially when you, like me, have absolutely no meat in between the bones in your butt and the wood of the pew. I searched for a comments card in the small shelf on the back of the pew in front of me, because I thought it would be nice of me to inform this magnificent and gorgeous church how it might attract more parishioners: buy comfier seats. The only people that I had noticed wander into the chapel were old women, who were usually of equal height to the head of the pews, and incredibly amusing to watch shuffle by, because you wouldn't see them until they passed your row, and a few old men, who had by now inherited such a hard ass and numb nerves, that they were probably wholly unaware that the seats were uncomfortable. If I had found a comments card I would have also suggested that the church sell just a few of their golden relics (they had so many after all) in order to pay for a few rows of lazy boy chairs (which would be the front 5 rows, for the early comers), a few rows of leather cushioned couches (for the rest), and bean bags (for the children who could sit in the back, as they never pay attention anyways).

After a few more minutes had passed by I decided that it was probably best to relieve my aching arse from the torment of the wooden pew and made my way towards the front doors. The winter wind seemed still and the snow flakes looked weightless as they descended to the ground, it seemed that the weather had taken a turn for the better. I stepped out into the brisk, cold air and immediately learned that the winter wind had simply been waiting patiently for me on the stoop above the entrance, as it soon met my face with all of its excited ferocity.

Tomorrow I'd be home...

The Lady or the Tiger?

Man what a great short story. I highly recommend you click here to read it.

Clear Sign that the Apocalypse is Approaching...

I don't remember much from my readings of Revelation, but I'm sure that this was one of the things mentioned as a sign of the coming final apocalypse.

Paul Anka singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Twelve or Thirteen?

This shifting gif is driving me nuts. I can't figure out the answer, see if you can, and feel free to explain to me why.


Making Your Tattoo 3-DD

Canadian resident Lane Jensen is described as being a 'pretty traditionally manly guy', but after a recent visit to Brian Decker of Pure Body Arts, he has perhaps become physically a little less so. He's definitely the first guy I know of to get breast implants in his leg...

According to Jensen, the procedure was a breeze and his "leg breast implants are doing great one week after the implant was inserted, the one spot where the nipple rubs against my pants is a little sore. It'll callus up and be fine soon."

I have a feeling that many more people will soon be getting breast implants on their tattoos. My room mate was actually thinking about getting a tattoo; I wonder if I could convince him how cool this is and then when he gets it I can make fun of him for the rest of his life, and give him breast punches whenever he disagrees with that would be great. Anyways click on this link to see more photos of the operation.

Huckabee's Vague Past

Journalist David Corn knows a good story when he smells one and recently he's been investigating Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's earlier life and has uncovered some intriguing information thus far, but I am sure that there is probably more to come...

"At Mother Jones, we discovered that that his presidential campaign and the churches where he served as a pastor for twelve years will not provide copies of the sermons he delivered. GIven that Huckabee campaigns as a self-proclaimed "Christian leader," his actions as "Christian leader" are certainly legitimate subjects of examination. Why is he sitting on them?


Yesterday, I posted piece on a 1998 book Huckabee wrote that was filled with inflammatory fundamentalist rhetoric. In that book, Huckabee equated environmentalism with pornography and associated homosexuality with necrophilia. He dismissed those who advocate workplace equality for women. He denounced those Christians who accept a "misguided version of 'tolerance.'" He decried unnamed "modern government-sponsored social engineers" and claimed that "virtually every dollar poured into" government social programs is wasted. He also declared that people who do not believe in God tend to be "immoral" and tend to engage in "destructive behavior."

The book's content was not shocking, coming from a Bible-thumping fundamentalist. But Huckabee is trying to pitch himself as a friendly fellow who, as he claimed in the last debate, can unite a "very polarized country." Huckabee is free to believe whatever he wants, but it's hard to see how a social conservative advocating such extreme views could bring together a divided society.

There's still plenty of digging to be done in the fields of Huckabee. Who knows what will be unearthed? Yesterday, my former co-author Michael Isikoff and a Newsweek colleague of his broke the story that Huckabee, when he was governor in 1998, allegedly blocked a criminal investigation of his then seventeen-year-old son. David Huckabee had been accused of killing a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp, where he was a counselor. The head of the state police at the time told Newsweek that Huckabee's office leaned on him to stop any inquiry. And the FBI chief in Little Rock back then also said Huckabee attempted to stop an investigation of his son. No charges were ever filed. Huckabee denied the accounts of these two men.

The Newsweek story didn't detail the grisly details of the dog-killing incident. But a letter sent to the head of the Boy Scouts in 1998 by the Animal Legal Defense Fund did include the specifics:

It has come to my attention that David Huckabee and Clayton Friday, two scout counselors, have admitted to the brutal killing of a stray dog at Camp Pioneer on July 11, 1998, and have been protected by the Caddo Area Council as well as Camp Pioneer authorities. The two boys allegedly hung a dog by his/her neck, throwing the body over a railing to a twenty foot drop. After realizing that this did not kill the dog, they slit his/her throat, and stoned the dog to death.

The Hush Sound - "The Artist"

Today's song of the day comes from the Indie quartet out of Chicago. I love (in this song, main) vocalist Greta Salpeter's, shall I say, empyreal voice. Anyways they have a bunch of other good songs so make sure you check them out on youtube, or better yet buy one of their cds. Enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hitting the Nail on the Head

This particular gentlemen clearly took this old adage quite literally...

Via Mindhacks:

"I just found this jaw-dropping case study of a man who banged 11 nails into his head while sadly quite distressed and psychotic.

The X-ray images are striking on their own, and what is even more astounding is that he made a full recovery."

Penetrating head injury in planned and repetitive deliberate self-harm.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2007 May;82(5):536.

Demetriades AK, Papadopoulos MC.

44-year-old man presented to his local emergency department wearing a baseball cap and complaining of headaches that had progressively worsened over the preceding 11 weeks. After we provided generous analgesia and performed simple investigations that failed to identify a diagnosis, the patient removed his cap to reveal an assortment of metallic objects embedded in his scalp. Plain radiographs showed 11 nails penetrating into his brain. A detailed history revealed a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, and the patient confirmed that he had hammered a nail into his head each week for the past 11 weeks to rid him of evil. The nails were removed with the patient under general anesthesia, and he made an uncomplicated recovery with no neurological deficits.

Till Death Do Us Part

I had a good laugh over this photo today

I never knew mice had a kinky side...Anyways if you can think of a funny caption for this photo, make sure you post it in the comments section below. = )


PZ Myers thinks so...and I largely agree. It seems that in a capitalist culture the popularity of an idea or in some cases ideology is directly correlated with its material marketability and atheism certainly is not very sellable in that regard (as the above comic pointedly points out).

Via the Las Vegas Weekly:

Look for atheist perfume and you’ll be looking for eternity. You won’t find the works of Bertrand Russell packaged like the latest issue of Self or Cosmo, as the publishing company Thomas Nelson does with the Bible. (“Becoming is the complete New Testament in magazine format, but it wouldn’t be a culture ’zine if it didn’t address men, beauty, fitness and food!”) Look for the atheist equivalent to Christian yo-yos and Christian neckties and you will come up as empty-handed as Mother Teresa passing the plate at Christopher Hitchens’ dinner table.

No doubt the thought of atheist lip balm and atheist jelly beans is hard to reconcile for many freethinkers—one of the virtues of atheism is that not every aspect of one’s life has to be yoked to some clingy deity who feels totally left out if you don’t include Him in everything you do. Plus, there’s simply the logical disconnect: What do jelly beans have to do with atheism? Why not stick with books, rational arguments, reason?

Best AFP Photos of '07

Here are my three favorites:

A little boy faces a professional Sumo athlete, in Hawaii, June 10, 2007.

Sudan's capital Khartoum is attacked by sandstorm, April 29, 2007.

A veterinary's arm dripping in a crocodile's mouth in southern Taiwan, China, April 11, 2007. The veterinary's arm was bitten off while he was treating the injured crocodile.

This last one totally grossed me out...There's a few other pretty grotesque/disturbing photos on the website, so click here at your own discretion.

Kevin Drew - "Lucky Ones"

Today's song of the day. He actually just recently played in Montreal, but I, unfortunately, had an exam that day so I couldn't go watch him play...Anyways enjoy!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Worst Band Names of '07

There's a number of good ones this year: Yo Mamma's Big Fat Booty, Dance Me Pregnant, Pistol Whipping Party Penguins, and my personal favorite, The Asbestos Tampons...

Click here to visit the link.

Insightful Sunday: Quote of the Day

So I decided that I'm going to start posting memorable quotes every Sunday. The merits of a good quote for my selection process require one or more of the following three: eloquence, insight, and humor. I've had a hard time deciding which one to start with, but I finally decided on one that was particularly memorable to me, because I remember at the time, when I discovered it, I felt like it described me to a t.

The man divided against himself looks for excitement and distraction; he loves strong passions, not for sound reasons, but because for the moment they take him outside himself and prevent the painful necessity of thought. Any passion is to him a form of intoxication, and since he cannot conceive of fundamental happiness, all relief from pain appears to him solely possible in the form of intoxication. - Bertrand Russell

Good ol' Bert. Anyways feel free to post a favorite of yours in the comments section below.

Ape-shit Over Possible Ape Ancestry

Blogger over at has an interesting post on his blog making the case for a human ancestor for the apes. Here's the case he makes for the link:

1.)We see the spine anatomy of a hindlimb supported upright ape in Morotopithecus, Pierolapithecus, Oreopithecus. The data is compelling and extensive - and I have
detailed it in technical raw data form in my book: Axial Character Seriation in Mammals, which republishes my Harvard PhD Thesis. The underlying patterns are extracted and synthesized in my recent PLoS ONE paper “Homeotic Evolution of the Mammals, Diversification of Therian Axial Seriation and a Morphogenetic Basis for Human Origins” and in my Neurosurgical Focus article. The context in evolutionary theory is explained in my recent book “The Upright Ape: A New Origin of the Species” which has a foreword by David Pilbeam - currently Dean of Harvard College and certainly one the most knowledgeable and experienced paleoanthropologists in the world.

2.)We have evidence of an upright hindlimb supported Orrorin based on the femur and Sahelanthropus based on the skull.

3.)There is no convincing fossil evidence at all of a non-bipdeal hominoid outside of the proconsulid group.

4.)We have an early outgroup whose infants have innate bipedal walking(see the video Hominiform Progression).The Siamang video is interesting because of the innate bipedalism. As I point out in the video, John Fleagle has seen young siamangs of this age walk bipedally high in the canopy in Malaysia.

Anyways check out his site if you're interested in reading more.

Jeff Buckley - "Lover You Should've Come Over"

Todays song of the day, from one of my favorite musicians (the video the kid made is a little lame, but its the only one that I could find). Anyways enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is A New Wave of Liberalism Returning to the Shores of America?

Matthew Kolut had an interesting article in the Huffington Post recapping the past and current century of American politics, with an interesting interpretation of what factors calculated the 'standard bearer' who would ultimately be elected. The three he picks out were crisis, vision, and charisma ('they arrived on the scene at a crisis point, articulated a new vision of the role of government, and possessed enough personal charisma to make the sale'), which he then uses to measure the current democratic candidates, who Kolut opens by describing thusly:

Barack Obama says he's running for president because "we find ourselves in a moment...that comes along once in a generation." Hillary is running because "we need a fundamentally new direction." John Edwards is running "to end the corrupt system in Washington, and return the power of this government back to the hard-working people of America." All three know one thing for certain: most
Americans feel the country is on the wrong track. Each of them has spent the past year or longer making the case that he or she is uniquely qualified to reverse that trend.
Consider the 2008 presidential front-runners from both parties. Beyond the many possible demographic "firsts" (woman / African-American / Italian-American / Mormon), think about a deeper question: could one of the current crop have the potential to set in motion a lasting transformation of the political landscape? Fifty years from now, will the name of one of today's candidates be used to describe an entire political age?

And later in the article says:

Assuming the public is ready, can one of these candidates articulate a coherent vision to lead the country into a new era? All of them come armed with plans: plans for health care, plans for troop withdrawal from Iraq, plans for restoring the middle class. But standard bearers bring more than an armful of three-ring binders to the Oval Office: they bring an overarching concept of the role government should play to address the challenges of the day. One defining characteristic of the age of insecurity is our interdependence on others. We are tied to a relentlessly competitive global economy that creates winners and losers among us. We face global threats like terrorism, pandemics, and environmental catastrophes. We are at the mercy of increasingly tight global markets for oil and gas. Our insecurities are also home grown, of course, as health care and the subprime mortgage meltdown spell disaster for increasing numbers of Americans. The politician who can synthesize these problems within a big picture and offer a positive way forward is the one who may become the next standard bearer.

And concludes with his opinion that Obama is the only candidate who:

Of the three, [sic] acknowledges the present opportunity in visionary terms: "We find ourselves in a moment that comes along once in a generation." It sounds like the rhetoric of an aspiring standard bearer. If he overcomes the current odds and wins the presidency, he will get his chance to make the most of this moment.

The Warping of Time

I can think of a number of incidents (well, usually accidents) where time itself seemed to slow down. Where something appeared inevitable (like an oncoming car about to make impact), but at the same time it seemed to take forever for that thing to get to the point of contact (the collision). I used to think that the brain just did this to help us make better judgments in life-threating situations, allowing us to avoid accidents because we felt as though we had the time to act. But according to a recent study this is not the case...


Instead, such time warping seems to be a trick played by one's memory. When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain.

"In this way, frightening events are associated with richer and
denser memories," Eagleman explained. "And the more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took."

Eagleman added this illusion "is related to the phenomenon that time seems to speed up as you grow older. When you're a child, you lay down rich memories for all your experiences; when you're older, you've seen it all before and lay down fewer memories. Therefore, when a child looks back at the end of a summer, it seems to have lasted forever; adults think it zoomed by."

Teitur - "Your The Ocean"

Today's song of the day. Also recommend his songs "I was just thinking", which is on youtube, but sharing was disabled so you'll have to visit the video there and "One & Only"(which has a cool peter-pan themed video) and "Josephine". Anyways enjoy!

Injecting Talent

Joel Achenbach offers an amusing solution to the recent baseball steroid use crisis on his blog Achenblog:
Everyone knows that statistics and records are, for baseball fans, even more important than things like world peace. Now they're all in a twist because of the discovery that many of the best players are walking chemistry experiments. The new scouting report says: Throws left, bats left, injects right.

So what do we do with all the stats and records of players who were clearly cheating during the Steroid Era? There is, in fact, an obvious solution to this mess.

Any home run hit by a player on steroids simply will not count -- unless he hit it off a pitcher on steroids.

In other words, if you're a hulking, refrigerator-sized slugger who all but has "Steroid Abuser" stenciled on your uniform, your homers don't count unless you've had to hit a pitch hurled by an equally monstrous, snarling steroid freak.

Similarly, any non-drug-using runner thrown out at home plate by a steroidal outfielder will be recorded as "safe." The run counts. Also stolen bases count even if the freakazoid catcher nails the runner at the bag. Any hit by a clean player that is recorded as a "single" becomes a double if the pitcher is a moose; doubles become triples, triples become home runs, and a home run counts as a "homer-plus-a-single." Again, these bonuses only apply when the player is known to be clean, or looks like a normal, non-human-growth-hormone-injecting person, and has been forced to compete against Godzilla.

Inside The CIA's Rendition Program

Salon has an article featuring Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah's personal account of what it was like to be taken in by the CIA and incarcerated at a "dark site" torture camp.

Dec. 15, 2007 | The CIA held Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah in several different cells when he was incarcerated in its network of secret prisons known as "black sites." But the small cells were all pretty similar, maybe 7 feet wide and 10 feet long. He was sometimes naked, and sometimes handcuffed for weeks at a time. In one cell his ankle was chained to a bolt in the floor. There was a small toilet. In another cell there was just a bucket. Video cameras recorded his every move. The lights always stayed on -- there was no day or night. A speaker blasted him with continuous white noise, or rap music, 24 hours a day.

The guards wore black masks and black clothes. They would not utter a word as they extracted Bashmilah from his cell for interrogation -- one of his few interactions with other human beings during his entire 19 months of imprisonment. Nobody told him where he was, or if he would ever be freed.

It was enough to drive anyone crazy. Bashmilah finally tried to slash his wrists with a small piece of metal, smearing the words "I am innocent" in blood on the walls of his cell. But the CIA patched him up.

So Bashmilah stopped eating. But after his weight dropped to 90 pounds, he was dragged into an interrogation room, where they rammed a tube down his nose and into his stomach. Liquid was pumped in. The CIA would not let him die.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Four Horsemen

The Cold War era and the concomitant development of nuclear weapons is quite possibly mankind's most shining moment of insanity. Whenever I revisit this time period I am immensely depressed and horrified by the fact that mankind was stupid enough to invest trillions of dollars in a weapon that not only promoted proliferation, but insured massive devastation on innocent populations and, potentially, the complete annihilation of the entire human race and planet, 15 times over, in a matter of minutes and in a manner that was more horrific, more barbaric, and more hellish than ever before.

It's almost impossible for me to comprehend, or even understand for that matter, the mindset of this era, but it seems pretty obvious that the hypnotic trance of fear played a huge role in stirring up the passions of the masses, allowing the decisions of the few, who played on this fear, to bring us ever closer to putting the final period in the final chapter of mankind's history.

As Bertrand Russell so applicably put it "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision." The more I have looked back at each war during the 20th and now in the 21st century the more I have noticed a general pattern and, moreover, a particular group of individuals who have consistently and persistently stoked the embers of fear by amplifying some imminent threat that the United States' very existence is threatened by. These dark henchmen of war are individuals who we have become particularly familiar with, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz, who are the most hawkish of hawks and seem to absolutely despise diplomacy and multilateral institutions.

Most people have become intimately aware of how this goon squad managed to get us into Iraq by using the proven methods of fear and intelligence manipulation that they had used in the past dating back to the Cold War, as Richard Rhodes points out in his new book Arsenals of Folly, which he discusses with Joseph Cirincione in the most recent diavlog. I knew that the neocons had been around, prodding past presidents before current president Bush to go to war, like convincing hesitant President Clinton to intervene in Bosnia, but I didn't realize just how far back their influence went.

I highly recommend everyone watch the entire diavlog between Rhodes and Cirincione, because it truly is fascinating to see the consistent techniques used by the neocons and how time and time again their constructed and obviously imagined threats were consistently wrong. Like, for instance, the super-silent soviet submarine that the US didn't have any intelligence on as to its existence, which they then argued proved that it clearly existed because it defied our detection capabilities...Cirincione provides a great quote from Rumsfeld who said "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

That is why I can't stand the fact that three of these dark henchmen are still running our foreign policy. They discredit and dismiss any intelligence or evidence that does not fit into their objectives, they manipulate intelligence to support their objectives, and they amplify the fear of some looming threat, in the past communism, today terrorism, which allows them to take the reigns of American foreign policy in a way that I think does not benefit the United States. When you think about the amount of money we spend on our military budget because of these continually over-hyped and amplified fears of some existential threat--which, ironically enough, usually makes that threat much larger than it had previously been--its absolutely depressing, because you imagine what kinds of things those trillions of dollars could actually be used for. Instead of investing in more war, more instability, and more human devastation, we could use that money to build up our infrastructure at home, improve our crumbling bridges, improve our school systems, and other social and economic programs, which actually benefit the paying tax payers and citizens of America.

I can't wait until the three guys still left retire, because for once the United States might actually get to enjoy the comforts of peace. We might actually get to restore our crumbling country, because we will stop spending millions on our military budget in an effort to fight some over-hyped enemy, which is always fruitless, almost like trying to fight the wind (except we spend billions of dollars developing weapons which attempt to do so). Hopefully the aforementioned 'masters of war' have been outed and realized for who they are and what they are extremely good at doing, and the people who have previously followed their advice (and their own emotions) will start to question their judgment and not fall victim to the perils of group think...Though I guess it's only to unfortunate that it is only now being realized, when they are mere years away from having to leave office anyways. The damage has obviously been done, but perhaps we can make a palliative effort to repair what we can, and accept some of the problems that we deserve, and in this effort we will hopefully be able to recast America's image abroad, and improve our relations amongst our former allies, because the 'go at it alone' approach clearly wasn't very successful.

Sex With Circuits

Blogger John Hawks has a post on his blog which suggests that in the not too distant future electricity will no longer be the only thing that turns robots on...Since it is likely that they will eventually become sexual partners to their creators, us.

[T]here will soon come a day when people fall in love with robots and want them
for companions, friends, love objects and possibly even partners for sex and

That day is imminent, [writer David] Levy writes, especially
the sex part. By the middle of this century, he predicts, "love with robots will
be as normal as love with other humans, while the number of sexual acts and
lovemaking positions commonly practiced between humans will be extended, as
robots teach more than is in all of the world's published sex manuals
I personally don't think I could ever muster up the needed attraction to want to sleep with a robot, but who knows, if robots do one day achieve spitting imitations of human behavior and resemblence, well, it could become a possibility. It would certainly be economically appealing, as it would greatly reduce the amount of money one has to spend on dinners, drinks, gifts, and condoms...

Shirts of Art

I just came across this cool website, which sells plain t-shirts with some pretty aesthetically stunning prints on them. I think the shirt below is my favorite and I just might have to buy it for either myself or a friend for Christmas.

Anyways there's a number of other cool designs, so check out the site.

Top 50 Songs of 2007

Blogger over at Music for Ants has posted his annual list of the best songs of the year. Most of them would have made my top 20, but there were a few songs that unfortunately weren't on there. Anyways its a good list so check it out.

Here were his top 5:

5. Yeasayer - 2080 MP3

4. Los Campesinos! - You! Me! Dancing! MP3

3. Cloud Cult - Take Your Medicine MP3

2. Arcade Fire - No Cars Go MP3

1. LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends MP3

Crinkly The Ugly Swan

For all those who have been closely following Crinkly the crooked neck swan's love life over the past few years, I happily inform you that he has recently found a potential girlfriend!

Via Ananova:

Crinkly the ugly swan has become well-known at a Gloucester bird sanctuary, after flying in from Russia every winter since 2001.

But conservation workers have watched with dismay as Crinkly failed miserably to attract the opposite sex.

"We were worried about Crinkly because he is such a strange-looking bird," said Jools Mackin, spokesperson for Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Until now, none the females at the trust was prepared to mate with him but conservation workers say they can see signs of a budding romance.

"We are delighted because we think Crinkly has finally found a girlfriend," said Ms Mackin.

"He appears to be loosely associating with another Slimbridge Bewick's swan called Taciturn.

"It is too early to say whether or not they are mates, but we'll be monitoring them over the next few days to see. At the moment they are associating on Swan Lake.

"They are flying in and out together and we do hope they will become mates."

Damien Rice - "Coconut Skins" (live)

Todays song of the day. The British sensation Damien Rice. I actually just learned this song on guitar the other day. What I love about Damien Rice is that he has such simple, yet beautiful, guitar riffs and his lyrics are great. Anyways enjoy!

Greinacher Tube

I want one for Christmas...

George Johnson shows his Greinacher tube in action during last weekend's science Saturday segment of (which had a recent re-design that looks very savvy indeed).

Oh and a Ruhmkoff coil would also be cool, another thing that Johnson already has...

Anyways in keeping with electricity theme I'll leave you guys with a few cool videos to check out of home made Tesla coils that people have built. Enjoy:

Video 1, Video 2, Video 3

Living In A Photo

I just came across this awesome website,, which has a number of photos you can select from and then view in a way that will blow your socks off. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Martin Sexton - "Glory Bound"

Today's song of the day (and one of my all time favorites). Though the live version isn't quite as good as the recorded, at least quality wise, hopefully you, not knowing the song, won't be biased and will enjoy it nevertheless. Enjoy!

Revisiting Watson's Remarks

There's been a recent reemerging buzz on Watson's past remarks in various news columns, because Watson recently had his genome decoded which revelead that his DNA has "16 times the number of genes considered to be of African origin than the average white European does — about the same amount of African DNA that would show up if one great-grandparent were African, said Kari Stefansson, the chief executive of deCODE Genetics of Iceland, which did the analysis."

While the revelation is pretty silly in regard to Watson's erred remarks, it is pretty amazing that we are now starting to use people's decoded genome as damning evidence of hypocrisy. I am somewhat inclined to think this is a good thing, because I suspect that as more information is revealed by science about our genes, the more the folk-stereotypes--which are largely socially created--of race will, increasingly, be shelved amongst our past (I'll be nice and say) 'misinformed' beliefs. Or at least that's my hope. The evidence uncovered so far seems to favor my hope, but it certainly can be easily manipulated to fit into the observer's racial stereotypes. We'll just have to hope that scientists will be able to make vertiable statements about race that are denuded of their racist implications. We shouldn't ban scientists from making remarks about race, but we should certainly not let them off the hook when they make judgemental statements directed at a particular race, based on rather flimsy evidence (like, for instance, in Watson's case, IQ studies).

*See my past post on Watson's remarks for more info

On Race & Intelligence

Malcolm Gladwell has a good piece in the New Yorker on why, based on the research we have accumulated over the past few decades, we cannot make any truthful or accurate claims on a correlation between one's IQ and one's race.
The best way to understand why I.Q.s rise, Flynn argues, is to look at one of the most widely used I.Q. tests, the so-called WISC (for Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children). The WISC is composed of ten subtests, each of which measures a different aspect of I.Q. Flynn points out that scores in some of the categories—those measuring general knowledge, say, or vocabulary or the ability to do basic arithmetic—have risen only modestly over time. The big gains on the WISC are largely in the category known as “similarities,” where you get questions such as “In what way are ‘dogs’ and ‘rabbits’ alike?” Today, we tend to give what, for the purposes of I.Q. tests, is the right answer: dogs and rabbits are both mammals. A nineteenth-century American would have said that “you use dogs to hunt rabbits.”

Flynn shows what happens when we recognize that I.Q. is not a freestanding number but a value attached to a specific time and a specific test. When an I.Q. test is created, he reminds us, it is calibrated or “normed” so that the test-takers in the fiftieth percentile—those exactly at the median—are assigned a score of 100. But since I.Q.s are always rising, the only way to keep that hundred-point benchmark is periodically to make the tests more difficult—to “renorm” them. The original WISC was normed in the late nineteen-forties. It was then renormed in the early nineteen-seventies, as the WISC-R; renormed a third time in the late eighties, as the WISC III; and renormed again a few years ago, as the WISC IV—with each version just a little harder than its predecessor. The notion that anyone “has” an I.Q. of a certain number, then, is meaningless unless you know which WISC he took, and when he took it, since there’s a substantial difference between getting a 130 on the WISC IV and getting a 130 on the much easier WISC.
Blogger over at Mindhacks explains why this is relevant to the debate:
IQ is designed so it always has a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. However, during the past decades people have been scoring better on IQ tests, something known as the Flynn effect, meaning the new versions have been re-adjusted to make sure the mean stays at 100.

This is important, because it means that comparing IQ from the 1950s is not a far comparison to IQs from the 2000s, because they use tests with different standards.

Some of the people who argued that certain races are more intelligent than others have failed to include these changes in their calculations, and, as Gladwell points out, when these are accounted for, many of these differences completely disappear.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cloud Cult - "Pretty Voice"

Today's song of the day. Enjoy!

Advertisements That Get Inside Your Head

I feel bad for the recovering schizophrenics who will think that they are relapsing...Via

NEW YORK ( -- New Yorker Alison Wilson was walking down Prince Street in SoHo last week when she heard a woman's voice right in her ear asking, "Who's there? Who's there?" She looked around to find no one in her immediate surroundings. Then the voice said, "It's not your imagination."

Indeed it isn't. It's an ad for "Paranormal State," a ghost-themed series premiering on A&E this week. The billboard uses technology manufactured by Holosonic that transmits an "audio spotlight" from a rooftop speaker so that the sound is contained within your cranium. The technology, ideal for museums and libraries or environments that require a quiet atmosphere for isolated audio slideshows, has rarely been used on such a scale before. For random passersby and residents who have to walk unwittingly through the area where the voice will penetrate their inner peace, it's another story.
I soo want to get in touch with holosonics (the company who manufactures this). I have so many better uses for it than mere advertising. Think about how you could haunt x-girlfriends or even your close friends, by zapping messages into their cranium. I think the first place that I would go, if I had this power, would probably be the St. Joseph Oratory on top of Mount Royal and zap a few votaries, as well as nuns, with messages from the divine. Oh the power.

I wonder how long it will take before they make this technology public....Muwahahaha (that was supposed to be a sinister laugh btw).

Creeping 1984 Alert

This article shockingly didn't surprise me, but it sure did scare me, since I know it's probably only going to get progressively worse as the surveillance era marches onwards. Wake up America!

The image of the friendly firefighter helping rescue a wayward kitten from a tree might need updating. If the federal Department of Homeland Security has its way, firefighters across the country will be armed not only with firefighting equipment, but also issued training materials on how to recognize suspect behavior on the part of citizens and what to look for in peoples' homes that might be "suspicious." In other words, firefighters would become domestic spies. In fact, such training already has begun.

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, in a recent speech to the country's fire chiefs, reminded his audience that in the government's view, a fire or any natural disaster should be seen as no different from a terrorist act. The secretary noted that among the billions of taxpayer dollars that had been distributed to fire departments since the Sept. 11 attacks, were significant sums to develop "fusion centers" in the various states (including Georgia). These strangely named "fusion centers" (officially, "Counter Terrorism Information Centers") already include firefighters. Chertoff did not in his public remarks to the fire chiefs explicitly mention training firefighters to spot "suspicious" activity or items as among the training they do or should receive, but recent news stories are detailing the troubling manner in which the feds are doing just this.

As usual, New York City — training ground for public officials such as former mayor Rudy Giuliani and current mayor Michael Bloomberg who apparently consider surveillance the Holy Grail of modern government — is leading the way. Fire chiefs in the Big Apple, for example, already have been granted federal security clearances to further this "integration" of firefighters into the homeland security. According to published accounts of such training, firefighters are being trained to watch for "hostile" or "uncooperative" individuals, or those "expressing discontent" with our government. They are also trained to watch for and report on things that "seem out of place" in a home or business such as firearms and video recording equipment. Rooms with "little or no furniture" fall within the reportable suspicious activity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Band Of Horses - Ode To LRC

Today's song of the day is from a band that is becoming increasingly popular on the blog-o-sphere, but I have yet, sadly, to hear on the radio. Anyways enjoy!

Giant Spider Attacks Nasa Space Shuttle

Recent and utterly shocking footage released today from a NASA feed television camera revealed a failed plot by an enormous black spider to dismantle and disrupt NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis' scheduled flight. The giant spider, after numerous failed attempts to breach the shuttle's exoskeleton, soon abandoned its malicious attacks and made a quick getaway on, presumably, a hidden strand of webbing. US intelligence is still investigating the matter and the whereabouts of the perpetrator is still, as of yet, unknown.

President Bush, however, made it clear to the American public (once again) that "we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a sticky web." Thus the President has declared an all out war against arachno-fascism and has deployed all of our military resources to all of the states around the world who harbor and are the victims of these 'evil-spinners'. May God be with US.

The Prince & The Magician

I thought I'd share this wonderful short story with you that's in one of my favorite books, John Fowles', The Magus. Enjoy:

Once upon a time there was a young prince, who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in princesses, he did not believe in islands, he did not believe in God. His father, the king, told him that such things did not exist. As there were no princesses or islands in his father’s domains, and no sign of God, the young prince believed his father.
But then, one day, the prince ran away from his palace. He came to the next land. There, to his astonishment, from every coast he saw islands, and on these islands, strange and troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he was searching for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached him along the shore.
‘Are those real islands?’ asked the young prince.
‘Of course they are real islands,’ said the man in the evening dress.
‘And those strange and troubling creatures?’
‘They are all genuine and authentic princesses.’
‘Then God also must exist!’ cried the prince.
‘I am God,’ replied the man in the full evening dress, with a bow.
The young prince returned home as quickly as he could.
‘So you are back,’ said his father, the king.
‘I have seen the islands, I have seen princesses, I have seen God,’ said the prince reproachfully.
The king was unmoved.
‘Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real God, exist.’
‘I saw them!’
‘Tell me how God was dressed.’

‘God was in full evening dress.’
‘Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?’
The prince remembered that they had been. The king smiled.
‘That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived.’
At this, the prince returned to the next land, and went to the same shore, where once again he came upon the man in full evening dress.
‘My father the king has told me who you are,’ said the young prince indignantly. ‘You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real islands and real princesses, because you are a magician.’
The man on the shore smiled.
“It is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father’s kingdom there are many islands and many princesses. But you are under you father’s spell, so you cannot see them.
The prince returned pensively home. When he saw his father, he looked him in the eyes.
‘Father, is it true that you are not a real king, but only a magician?’
The king smiled, and rolled back his sleeves.
‘Yes, my son, I am only a magician.’
‘Then the man on the shore was God.’
‘The man on the shore was another magician.’
‘I must know the real truth, the truth beyond magic.’
‘There is no truth beyond magic,’ said the king.
The prince was full of sadness.
He said, ‘I will kill myself.’
The king by magic caused death to appear. Death stood in the door and beckoned to the prince. The prince shuddered. He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the unreal but beautiful princesses.
‘Very well,’ he said. ‘I can bear it.’
‘You see, my son,’ said the king, ‘you too now begin to be a magician.’

Anyways what are some of your favorite short stories? Share in the comments section below.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Adjusting Love to Fit into Facebook Categories

I had a good laugh when I came across this comic today:

Sunday, December 9, 2007

China In Africa: The Red Cherry in the "Dark Continent's" Coke

In November 2006, a diverse gaggle of heads of states and dignitaries from 48 countries flocked to Beijing, China to attend what would be the largest international summit in the Chinese capital ever held. The Chinese government, eager to shine and bedazzle in the spotlight of the world’s attention, put on an impressive and warm-welcoming display. Bright red banners proclaiming ‘Friendship, Peace, Cooperation and Development’ lined the capital cities’ streets, exotic images—commonly associated with Africa—of giraffes and elephants brazenly roaming the savannahs were posted on all of the one hundred and fifty five giant billboards in the capital’s main streets and squares. According to People’s Daily, a Chinese newspaper, the ‘beautiful scenery and colorful lifestyles of Africa’ that were posted on the billboards inspired long lines to form of people waiting their turn to take a picture and led one observer to passingly declare "I hope I can visit Africa one day, it's really fascinating’.[1] Other aspects of African cultures had also seeped into and flooded the streets of China. As one shop assistant informed the newspaper reporter "The CDs and DVDs on Africa are very popular, and some of the African musical products have been sold out."[2] Another manager, this time of a book shop, reported that on October 31 he had set up a special shelf allocated solely to books about African culture, history, people and tourism. The latter of which appears to be an increasing sector of change in Africa as China has ‘granted tourist destination status to 26 African countries’ which means that Chinese citizens are now permitted and encouraged to travel to these regions, which is shown by the fact that ‘200 tourists registered for the tour to Africa this month, up 30 percent compared with the same period of last year’. The Chinese agency Xinhua reported that ‘In a restaurant of African food in the Chaoyang District, east of Beijing, it [was] hard to find a seat in the recent week. The unique foods and hot African dances [had] attracted many people’. At the National Museum at the east end of Tiananmen Square two exhibitions had been on display, one showing coins and stamps of 48 African countries, and the other artifacts and relics of African handicraft. Thus the People’s Daily would describe the overall experience and feeling of the Chinese impression, from what I gather, quite acutely, when it said that the visitors ‘brought a trend of the mysterious continent to the capital of China’.[3]

I use these examples to illicit the fact that foreign policy, the objectives and practices adopted by and between nations, what often governs their relations, can also have a profound effect on the cultural changes that take place amongst their citizens. However, it is important to emphasize that this effect is not a one way street. Foreign policy does, at times, determine aspects of a people’s culture, (if they live in a culture which has a government that can create and enforce its foreign policy) but aspects of the people’s culture also plays a heavy hand in determining and shaping the foreign policy that the nation ultimately adopts and enacts. The two are often mutually and at times indistinguishably interacting with and affecting one another in myriad and significant ways, which makes the task of determining at a certain moment which, exactly, is influencing which MORE, rather difficult. It is an intriguing question, but because it will most likely never be settled (akin to the nature-nurture or mind-body debates), it seems best to embrace the notion that they are mutually dependent on one another, interacting with one another, at times, in a mutually beneficial manner, (which I measure based on their affects on and from the point of view of the citizens of the nation), but the past record shows that more often than not their interaction is, historically, detrimental.

The continent of Africa, for example, has represented a very many different things to a very many different people, cultures, and civilizations. It has been the ‘dark continent’ of immense mystery, mischievous eroticism, and alluring exoticism; it has been the ‘romantic continent’ of noble ‘savages’, harboring the remnants of some revered past and natural way of life, living on the cusp of the wild, the bosom of Nature; it has been the ‘primitive continent’, underdeveloped, riddled by political corruption and absolutism, stricken by poverty, raped by war, and helplessly plagued by disease; and various other conceptions, which we, today, diligently top with our cherry of the prefix -mis. All of these conceptions of Africa which are, perhaps unfairly, all past ‘Western’ conceptions of Africa, have no doubt lingered, however subtly, as stereotypes in the minds of many. These conceptions of what Africa actually is have grossly misinformed past nations’ foreign policy and often determine how they have dealt with the continent (as the devastating affects of colonialism or more recently, the economic and political realities in Africa today that are far from what Western nations such as the US and a number of European countries want them and are desperately trying to force them to be).

In the West the common conception of Africa is that it is a continent that needs to be helped, and it is up to us, the nations of the capable and the willing, to help fix Africa into a functioning, stable, democratic and socially liberal, open market, and prosperous continent. Obviously three of those things mentioned are unquestionably reasonable and laudable intentions for these states to embrace, but two of them, democracy/social liberalism and open markets, have an almost missionary-esque zeal for the conversion of other citizens to adhere to these principles, when in other cultures they are somewhat ambiguous or different from our own conceptions. Thus our efforts of conversion seem in vain, because not everyone agrees with what we are trying to profess to them. Moreover the West in particular has yet to realize that what has successfully worked in the past for them, will not necessarily work ipso facto for other states in the future. Perhaps the reason the West has yet to realize this secret is because it is so blatantly obvious (like searching for your glasses everywhere when they’re right under your nose): What works for other states is primarily and fundamentally what they find works for them. Culture plays a huge role in this regard, because the foreign policy that nations adopt must adapt to the culture or cultures that exist within their state lines. However some would argue that even state lines desperately fail to represent the cultural and ethnic milieu found in Africa, which is why governments have little control over the boundaries they inherit when they ascend to power.[4] But this question is too large for me to cover sufficiently and address productively, so I will leave it, for now, to the other scholars in African politics to wrestle with and move on to discussing China.

Against the backdrop of failed Western attempts to ‘fix’ Africa, was a growing feeling in some circles (mostly Western) of despair and ‘Afro-pessimism’. Africa was starting to be seen as innately responsible for preventing itself from success and prosperity, incurable to Western prescriptions, because it wouldn’t swallow what we prescribed, and therefore any attempt to try and change Africa seemed historically futile. This grim and pessimistic outlook was even beginning to sink into and be widely accepted by some circles in Africa, until China, the ascending star, with its burgeoning economy, became a faint red glow, slowly glowing brighter and brighter, as people in Africa became more and more convinced that it was here to stay. To perhaps exhaust the metaphor, China was just the right kind of star that Africans had been waiting for to illuminate the terrain and help them navigate over the rough obstacles that had prevented them from achieving their goals and objectives. China’s foreign policy was attractive because it offered assistance without ‘political strings’ or the kinds of conditionalities that had been made mandatory by the West; moreover China was willing to do what past Western states had long ignored: provide trade instead of simply aid. For example, in 2000 trade between China and Africa is reported to have been around US $1 billion, but by 2006 it exploded up to US $40 billion making it Africa’s third largest trading partner (which isn’t bad for a new kid on the economic block). Another attractive aspect of China, from Africa’s perspective, is that China represented a successful alternative to the West’s dogmatic principles of development. China proves, by its very example, that there are other ways to achieve economic success that do not involve the ‘Washington consensus’. This view is shown, for example, by the senior leader of the Nigerian legislature, Ken Nnamani, who in a welcome address entitled ‘China: A Partner and Example of Development and Democracy’, which was hosted for President Hu’s April visit to Nigeria, describes China’s ‘outstanding (economic) performance exclusive of western democracy’ as ‘the paradox of development and democracy’. Nnamani would go on to say:

China has become . . . a good model for Nigeria in its quest for an authentic and stable development ideology . . . China [is] a lesson to Nigeria on the enormous good that a focused and patriotic leadership can do to realize the dreams of prosperity and security for the citizen . . . in embracing China . . . it should not only be in [the] field of economic prosperity since . . . [China’s] steady and gradual democratisation confirms the lesson that no nation can sustain economic development in the long run without democracy.

Thus the ‘China model’ is attractive for two chief reasons in Africa: a) it is an alternative to the political and economic models—roughly encapsulated by the Bretton Woods system—of the West and therefore promising; b) the Chinese model is one of partnership, mutually participatory, emphasizing cooperation, win-win, and south-south relations, and is thus devoid of the political and economic conditionalities that were prescribed and enforced by the West—an outsider, (something that Africans have been all to familiar with, distasteful towards, and suspicious of). Proof of the legitimacy of this latter pole of attraction is clearly shown by some of the documents that have been released by the Chinese government, briefly advertising their foreign policy to the public (though mostly in response to the many criticisms). Chris Alden, who specializes on the topic of Chinese involvement in Africa, points to three quotes in particular which illustrate this cooperation and partnership building, which is at the core of Chinese foreign policy. The first one is a declaration that ‘Sincerity, equality and mutual benefit; solidarity and common development: these are the principles guiding China-Africa exchange and co-operation’.[6] Alden diligently points out that ‘The emphasis on self-interest mingled with shared experiences and developmental aims is seen to be the ‘common project’ that encapsulates the rationale for a renewed engagement between China and Africa’. He then grabs a quote from a notable Chinese scholar on African affairs, He Wenping, who said ‘Common sense about human rights and sovereignty is only one of the common values shared by China and Africa.’[7] This shows an effort to build upon the over lapping layers of consensus in other areas of the China-Africa relationship, instead of focusing solely on those aspects and details that often cause conflict.

While I could bore you with the facts and figures that are so prominent and prolific in the political science discourse of China in Africa I would like to briefly focus on the media’s reaction to this recent development, because the media is often a good bellwether or thermometer of the general sentiments and opinions of the masses, for obvious economically incentivized reasons. In the West the reverberations of China as a growing power and China becoming more involved in Africa, the two main discussions amongst political wonks, could possibly be detected on a Richter scale. The entire discussion primarily revolves around criticisms lauded at China, what is thus aptly termed the ‘discourse of fear’, for whenever someone is not attaining something they want, the first thing they usually do is point the finger of blame at someone or something else. Thus the criticisms by the West directed towards China only exist partly because of the past failures of the West, for which they will never admit. As a result the discourse in media outlets primarily describe China as some monster, solely interested in satisfying its own needs, and nothing else. For example, in The Economist magazine, China’s recent actions are directly attributed to its growing economy:

Its economy has grown by an average of 9% a year over the past ten years, and
foreign trade has increased fivefold. It needs stuff of all sorts—minerals, farm
products, timber and oil, oil, oil. China alone was responsible for 40% of the
global increase in oil demand between 2000 and 2004.[8]

Moreover the topic of China in Africa revolves around the former country and largely neglects the latter’s states. The verbs used in the Western media’s discourse and analysis of China’s actions are mostly associated with actions associated with actors who are greedy or thieves or otherwise generally just actions largely deemed as unwarranted. This can be seen across the board.

From the Washington Post: ‘China's reach into Zimbabwe's economy is equally pervasive . . . China's voracious appetite for raw materials ‘;[9] from the New York Times: ‘China’s hunger for resources’[10]. . . ‘Chasing China in resource rich Africa’[11] ; US conservative media outlet Fox News takes the liberty of going so far as to say ‘Not only has China become an exporting giant, dumping cheap goods and creating enormous trade deficits all over the globe, but it continues to reach out to historically oppressive regimes for trade, economic partnerships and greater influence on the world political stage, policy watchers say’.[12]

The titles in European outlets of media also help stoke these flames of fear and suspicion, though they also have a common theme of colonial oriented questions, which perhaps isn’t surprising. For example the BBC: ‘China’s Long March to Africa’, ‘China’s Hunger for African minerals’, and their most recent Have Your Say Segment , which was entitled ‘Is China Africa’s New Master?’ [13]; The Lemos and Ribeiro article ‘Taking Ownership or Just Changing Owners?; and numerous others. Just today actually the newspapers were abuzz with the recent EU conferences that are addressing and in some regards responding to this very issue of China in Africa. What has been particularly interesting to see, though still to early to tell for sure, is the significant change in course and attitude European countries are adopting as a direct result of China engaging Africa.

The media discourse in China is of course much more optimistic and happy-go-lucky. In fact I joked with my cousin that reading the newspaper articles in China on Africa were, from an Africans point of view, akin to reading sentence after sentence of words picked from the fortunes you read in those little yellow, pig-hoofed shaped cookies. Most of the information that I gleaned over was from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, a forum established in 2000 to develop and enhance relations between the country and continent. All of the texts emphasize the mutual effort aspect of the relationship, a sort of silent head-nod agreement that yes China needs resources, but Africa needs trade and investment too, so both parties have something to gain from the relationship. This has really excited a lot of leaders and governments in Africa who felt that the problems their countries faced were due to outside forces beyond their control (which in many cases is true, though can be exaggerated). Now China is offering the opportunity of trade, government incentivized business investment in Africa, and money with no-strings attached, so that leaders and governments and nations can use it for what ever purposes they see fit. This policy of political non-interference I think will be much more effective in achieving the long term goal of eradicating poverty than the West’s system had been, but I do worry that condoning it is somewhat akin to, in politics, endorsing the famous (among political wonks over 40 at least) Jeane Kirkpatrick policy in the 1980’s that authoritarian dictators are preferable to totalitarian ones, and that the US should support the former when necessary, but never the latter. In other words, although it is clearly hypocritical to support regimes that are clearly not representative of the US’ values and practices, it is permissible because it is a minor and sometimes necessary step in that direction. Ronald Reagen supposedly was heavily influenced by this notion and it really shows in the decisions that his administration made during their time in office. I place my faith in the goodness of mankind and under the hope that leaders who come into power will be held accountable by their people, otherwise face turmoil, conflict, and ousting, and in most cases they usually will want to impress their people or provide for them. This, however, is not always the case, but it is the general trend.

Returning to the topic of foreign policy, I think there are two main obstacles that stand in the way of effective policy in Africa. The first obstacle is the habit of trying to oversimplify things by creating an all-inclusive package or policy that is directed at the continent of Africa, instead of catering to its individual nations and peoples. The second is the tacit thinking that modernity (Westernization) is progress, and therefore the closer one emulates and imitates the west, the more one progresses.

The continent of Africa is often treated as being one single country, when in fact it is not Australia. Africa has an extraordinarily diverse panoply of cultures and peoples, not surprising of a massive continent. All of these cultures have been influenced in different ways by outside peoples and cultures and from cultures and peoples that are close in proximity. It is therefore folly to attempt to create a policy that is directed at the continent and not the individual states within that continent. What works for one country may not work for the next, just as what works for you may not work for another country. Foreign policy must be tailored and fitted to each individual state, much as suits are fitted for each individual man. Its expensive yes, but also successful (and probably cheaper if you consider the costs of the effects of failed policy). Africa proves this truth time and time again.

The second obstacle is easily understood by anyone who has been to, lived in, or studied Africa, because they are intimately aware of the sheer diversity on the continent and even within the states. There are myriad ethnicities, cultures, and styles of life, social systems, and governance structures that are starkly different from ‘our’ (outsiders) modern conceptions. We often assume that these indigenous systems and structures that exist are somehow flawed, ‘backwards’, or primitive, because we are under the impression that our way is the right way. As John McCall accurately points out in his book Social Organization in Africa this notion has significantly influenced the decisions and policies of international development agencies. ‘An assumption that economic development means replacing “traditional” African social systems with “modern” Western ones has led planners to favor the centralized administration of development programs and to ignore the practical efficiency of community-based institutions, which can more accurately identify local needs and are relatively free of the bureaucratic waste and corruption that have plagued projects designed on a Western model’. This has been a huge problem in Africa and around the world (i.e. Afghanistan and Iraq) for the West, because it never uses the useful systems that are already in place in the community, because it thinks that these systems are inherently flawed or inept, but as McCall points out, and it is worth repeating and should be taught to all development agencies: ‘modernization does not necessarily mean Westernization’,[14] (nor, for that matter does ‘modernization’ necessarily mean progress’).

This cultural bias, commonly called ethnocentrism in anthropology circles, stems from the idea that one’s own culture is vastly superior to someone else’s culture. Unfortunately people or states with power can convince through force or appeal, other people or states that this is true. Thus among some people in Africa there is a strong appeal and incentive to adopt the practices of the West, to inherit its technological amenities, and too many, THAT... is modernization; THAT… is progress. I recently saw a funny comic strip that uses humor to jab at this idea. The cartoon portrays an African village with kids running around smiling with sticks and wooden wheeled rings that they whack to keep rolling. A white man in a business suit is looking on at this activity and deplores the primitive conditions that the kids are playing in and takes it upon himself to do something. The next square shows the same village scene, but this time with all the kids playing on laptops, and you see some fighting over whose turn it is, while others are incapable of drawing themselves away from their new toy, because they want to play just one more game. The cartoon accurately portrays that Westernization may not be as good as we often assume it to be, all we can say, with confidence, is that it is just different, not better, not worse, just different. Thus it is wrong for nations to impose their cultural system on other people, through their policies or by other means, because they think that their culture is more advanced and more robust than the culture of the people they are working with. Whether or not that is objectively true is irrelevant, because it is up to the people of that culture to decide, not for us to impose. That’s the point I am trying to make.

I’d like to briefly elaborate on an idea I touched upon earlier, because I think it is an important one. Often indigenous systems are vastly superior and more effective than outside imposed ones. As Eugenia Shanklin in her chapter Family and Kinship illustrates when she briefly shares a story of how she suggested using indigenous systems, instead of western ones, and not surprisingly it was much more effective:

"A number of years ago, while chairing a session at a UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference (the conference was on a Cameroon disaster that killed nearly 2,000 people and left more than 5,000 homeless, including more than 2,000 orphans), I remarked that Western solutions to such problems--psychiatrists and boarding schools--were being offered for African orphans. I added that, since humans had evolved in Africa, it was likely that during eons of evolutionary history, Africans had come up with their own solutions to human problems. The African solution I heard mentioned most often in conference corridors was "family." As it worked out, the best solution to the problems of the orphaned children (and even adult) survivors was to put them into fictive (that is, made-up) families" (Shanklin et al., 2001).

It is solutions such as this, applying local solutions to local problems that need to be capitalized on and used by outside developmental agencies, because they are so much more effective and cheaper to impose, as they already exist and are practiced. Whether to political, social, or economic problems, the solutions are already in place and in practice, they just have to be slightly tweaked to the changing global system that they are entering in to.

To return to the question of China’s policy towards Africa, it is hard to tell what cultural biases they are bringing into the mix, mostly because I am not an expert on Chinese culture, but if non-interference and building relationships for the communal good instead of the individual good are common themes in Chinese culture, then I would say that China has a very high chance of being a successful partner of and beneficial friend to Africa. However as always whenever a major power (in the Realists’ state sense) comes rolling into town looking to satisfy its material interests negative results will occur. These however are all being addressed within African communities and within China itself. Questions concerning fair and equal labor rights, human rights in general, detrimental effects of industry on the environment, political corruption, etc. are all issues that people in both country and continent are addressing and questioning. The important thing to watch is whether or not their voices become loud enough for the powers that be (usually governments) to listen to their concerns and demands. China has an awkward history in this regard, but it consistently shows that it no longer ignores these concerns and is, perhaps grudgingly, but still undeniably, addressing them as they emerge, first usually on the grassroots level, but especially when they bubble up into the general public or civil society level, and as more people demand these rights and protections for the environment, the government usually has to respond in one way or another, and history shows that the successful governments were the ones that catered to its people.

With the upcoming Olympics in Beijing approaching, China is obviously making an enormous effort to shine in front of the international community, impressing not only them, but their own citizens, and making them feel proud. As China’s economy and state status in the international community continues to grow, all eyes will be transfixed on the policies that China adopts, the actions it takes, and the effects that they make. I doubt the world’s attention will be as focused on Africa as it will be on China, but Africa will also be profoundly changed by its relationship with China. The differences amongst African nations are often exalted by Africanists and deeply protected (identity to Afriacanists is what tradition is to traditionalists), and the particular identities of each people are always being wrestled over in an effort to define.[15] But if African nations hope to be prosperous in the future, they will HAVE to settle these differences and historical scores, and unite together in organizations such as the African Union, in order to compete successfully in the new and ever growing globalized world. If they continue to argue and fight amongst themselves about inner issues and concerns they will continue to be taken advantage of by outside forces who are working more collectively and therefore effectively. Whether Africa redivides itself into ethnic based states of territory or whether it will keep the lines that the occupiers assigned is a question for Africans to decide, but I think the most successful route is to keep the state system already imposed and more or less adopted, and organize and establish more multilateral institutes like the AU, so that when they do work collectively, they can, collectively, achieve and benefit from their goals on a more frequent basis than if they go at it alone.

The international system and the global economy is forcing groups of people to organize and form larger groups in order to compete on more or less equal footing, because those groups that stay divided usually end up fighting amongst one another over small local group interests, whereas collective entities or bodies representing big groups, compete over global interests, often playing these local conflicts of interests off of each other in order to attain their objectives. Thus I think the take home message that I would send to Africans, as they think about how they will deal with China and other foreign states in the future of their development, is the old, but true adage: ‘United [you] stand, but divided [you] fall’. We (outsiders) have learned a lot from Africa and Africans and I can only hope that they, too, can learn something from themselves and from us.


[1] People’s Daily Online < >
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] P. Chabal & J. Daloz (1999). Africa Works.
[5] N. Obiorah, (2006) ‘Who’s Afraid of China? Towards An African Civil Society Perspective on China-Africa Relations
[6] Embassy of China, ‘China’s Africa Policy’, January 2006.
[7] Cited in Chris Alden (2006), ‘Through African Eyes: Representations of China on the African continent.’
[8] The Economist (2006) ‘Never too late to scramble’, 26 Oct < >
[9] C Timberg. ‘Asian Giant's Appetite for Raw Materials, Markets Has Some Questioning Its Impact on Continent’. The Washington Post, 13 June 2006. < >
[10] L. Polgreen. ‘China’s Trade in Africa Carries a Pricetag.’ The New York Times, 21 August 2007. < >
[11] S. Sengupta. World Briefing. The New York Times, 10 October 2007. < >
[12] Fox News. <,2933,165695,00.html >
[13] BBC. ‘Is China Africa’s New Master’. Have Your Say. < >
[14] J. McCall. Social Organization in Africa.
[15] P. Chabal & J. Daloz (1999). Africa Works disorder as political instrument.