The Null Device
Scary al-Jazeera piece on Christian Zionism in America:
According to Hal Lindsey, a prominent American Christian Zionist, the valley from Galilee to Eilat (a town in southern Israel) will flow with blood and 144,000 Jews would bow down before Jesus and be saved. The rest of Jewry, millions of them, and presumably all non-Christians, would perish in "the mother of all holocausts".
In 1970, Dr Roy Eckhardt, an American Methodist minister and professor of Religion, told a group of clergy gathering in Houston, Texas, that "the proper place to give Christian witness today is in an Israeli munitions factory".
And these people include among their number many influential figures, including Jerry Falwell. (Hang on: wasn't he the guy who blamed 9/11 on America's tolerance of homosexuals, feminists and abortionists?)
RSF (that's Reporters Sans Frontières, not the I'm Too Sexy mob) release the first worldwide press freedom index. Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands share the first place, while the world's least free press is, unsurprisingly, in North Korea. Australia is at #12, alongside Belgium, and ahead of the US (#17) which is ahead of the UK (#21, jointly with Benin and Uruguay). Italy has the worst ranking in the EU (#40), mostly thanks to the Berlusconi government doing to the state-run media what Alston could only dream of doing to the ABC. (via 1.0)
A Yale professor of music claims that African-American gospel music emerged from Scottish traditions, rather than African ones. Professor Willie Ruff, a renowned jazz musician, claims that the style of religious song that grew in black gospel churches in the American south owes more to Presbyterian traditions brought to the South by emigres from Scottish island communities (who worked as overseers on plantations) than the traditions brought from Africa by slaves.
"I have been to Africa many times in search of my cultural identity, but it was in the Highlands that I found the cultural roots of black America.
"When I finally met Donald, we sat down and I played him music. It was like a wonderful blind test. First I played him some psalms by white congregations, and then by a black one. He then leapt to his feet and shouted: `That's us!' "When I heard Donald and his congregation sing in Stornoway I was in no doubt there was a connection."
I'm not entirely sure how much credence to give this story (on one hand, it seems a bit like the thing about curry being a mediæval English invention; on the other hand, the arguments look superficially very plausible), though it's certainly intriguing. Though if it's true, it may explain the uncanny popularity of gospel-influenced soul music in northern Britain. (via 1.0)
The Onion lays into fanboys: I'll Thank You Not To Call My Collection Of Sequential-Art Erotica 'Dirty Comics'.
Manara -- not that you would be aware of this -- is famed throughout the Continent, though sadly unappreciated on these shores, thanks to the ignorance of philistines like yourself. Are you familiar with Manara's collaborations with a certain Federico Fellini, a man who is seen in Italy as a filmmaker on par with our Lucas?
(I know, it's about as sporting as clubbing helpless baby seals. But it's fun...)
The Onion's commentary about current directions in trademark law: Tanzania loses name to tanning salon chain:
"It was easy to establish that my client's company had a greater vested interest in the Tanzania brand name," said Yeltzer's lawyer, Ben Knowles. "Tanzania, the salon chain, is a rapidly growing business, adding nearly 50 locations each year. Tanzania, the African nation, is lanquishing under a debt of $7 billion."
"When you come to a Tanzania location, you know you're in for an out-of-the-ordinary tanning experience," Yeltzer said. "Our salons are famous for their casual but professional atmosphere. Last year, four million customers visited Tanzania Salons. Can the country of Tanzania make that claim?"
Jenny Everywhere is an attempt at an "open-source" superhero, i.e., a character whom anybody can use in stories. bOING bOING says that this is "like League of Extradorinary Gentlemen without the 75-year copyright interregnum". Which she is, except for the fact that she lacks the makings of a compelling character. She's a little too flawless and politically correct. In fact, some of the Jenny Everywhere comics have the blandly inclusive, committee-designed feel of a community health pamphlet or something.
The Guardian reviews Iraq war memorabilia, from talking President Bush dolls to Saddam Hussein toilet paper, to various items of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf merch. Show your patriotism, or just get your ironic kitsch collection started early.