The Null Device
First there was the extraordinary biodiversity of the Korean no-man's land and the abundance of radioactive wildlife near Chernobyl, and now it emerges that penguins are flourishing in minefields in the Falkland Islands. The mines, laid by Argentine forces during the Falklands War, have rendered pristine beaches and grasslands off-limits to tourists and sheep. (These sanctions are backed up with hefty fines for any tourists afflicted by the warning-signs-are-for-sissies gene.) The penguins, fortunately, are too light to set off the mines, and have the beaches to themselves:
Argentina, which puts the number of remaining mines closer to 15,000, is offering to help clear more fields to adhere to an international treaty on land mines.
Falkland Islanders, however, are not pressing on the issue, and most believe it is better not to fiddle with the fields.
"There is a risk that only 95 percent would be removed," said Falkland Islands Gov. Howard Pearce. "You would bring a sense of complacency to the community and increase rather than reduce the chance of injury."
Besides, he noted, "The environmentalists like them."I wonder how long until someone on the militant fringes of the environmental movement decides to start sowing their own wildlife-friendly landmines in endangered areas of ecological importance.
(via bOING bOING)
Some highlights from a new book of nuance-laden foreign words:
And then there are the numerous Albanian words for types of facial hair, the name of an Inuit party game which literally translates as "frozen walrus carcass", and the Easter Island Pascuense word "tingo", as used in the book's title, which means "to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there's nothing left".
- "backpfeifengesicht" - German for "a face that cries out for a fist in it"
- "bakku-shan" - a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front (Japanese)
- "drachenfutter" - peace offerings made by guilty husbands to their wives (German; literally "dragon fodder")
- "koshatnik" - A seller of stolen cats (Russian)
- "Kummerspeck" - weight gained from emotion-related overeating (German; literally "grief bacon")
- "uitwaaien" - walking in windy weather for fun (Dutch)
(via bOING bOING)
Australia passes new terror laws, which will give the government the power to hold "terror suspects" without charge for 14 days and track them for up to a year. Given the Australian government's record, "terror suspects" presumably include Greenpeace banner-raisers, refugee advocates and anybody who has ever attended a demonstration or voiced an opinion critical of US foreign policy, at the government's discretion.
Faced with a ban on tobacco advertising, cigarette companies are turning to increasingly subtle forms of marketing, such as redesigning bar decor to subliminally suggest their brand identities:
These 'installations', as they were called, created lounge areas by placing comfortable red sofas in front of video screens showing scenes redolent of Wild West 'Marlboro country' to convey the essence of the cigarette brand while circumnavigating sponsorship bans.
'All that former advertising money has to go somewhere,' said one industry insider. 'The tobacco firms are looking to create extensive "design languages" in bars and clubs and other venues through the use of particular types of furniture or material which will make people think of their brands.'