The Null Device
The Guardian's Timothy Garton Ash ponders the question of why America thinks of itself as at war, while Britain doesn't, despite having been attacked by terrorists more recently:
The evocation of war is omnipresent in the US. Turn on Fox News and you find a war veteran recounting his experiences on Hill 805 in Vietnam. At one point he says: "I had the privilege of storming the machine gun". The privilege. Walk into the Stanford University bookstore and you find a special display marked "Salute Our Heroes. 20% Off Select Patriotic Titles". Imagine that in your local Waterstone's.(Australian bookshops, meanwhile, have displays labelled "Salute Our Heroes. 20% Off Select Sports Titles"; but I digress.)
When I wrote in this column a few weeks ago about the conundrum of suicide-bombers, the eminent military historian Michael Howard dropped me a line to remind me that European soldiers had been sent into battle in the first world war with the message that there was no higher honour than to die for your country. Not to live, to fight, to kill for your country - to die for it. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. In this respect, conservative Americans are closer to the mental world of pre-1914 Europeans or ancient Romans than they are to that of most contemporary Europeans.
Cambodians are making the most of their country's dilapidated, partly disused railways by building and running their own trains. The "bamboo trains", comprised of little more than bamboo platforms on wheels, have been running up and down the decaying tracks, helping locals get around.
A tiny electric generator engine provides the power, and the passenger accommodation is a bamboo platform that rests on top of two sets of wheels. A dried-grass mat to sit on counts as a luxury. It would be a white-knuckle ride - if there were actually anything to hold on to.
Low fares add to the appeal, but the service is not without its quirks. There is only one track - so if two trains meet, the one with the lightest load has to be taken off the rails so the other can pass.The authorities have been discouraging this unorthodox form of transport, though without frequent proper train services (Cambodia's tracks are often in too poor quality to support heavy trains and/or rolling stock is in short supply), there is little they can do to stop it.
I wonder whether the model could be adapted to other countries; what if happened if someone in a rural community in, say, Britain or Australia, campaigning for the reopening of passenger rail lines, took the law into their own hands and run guerilla very-light-rail services over the rusting tracks. They'd probably get shut down by the police in short order, though it could make an amusing story.
(via Boing Boing)
You can do a lot of things with a Commodore 64. Some people make music with them. Meanwhile, in the mid-1980s, the Italians adapted this versatile workhorse of a computer to the task of making a cup of coffee:
From what I gather, the Commocoffee 64 was basically a coffee maker without a built-in timer, which could be plugged into the cartridge port of a C64, using the machine to do the timing. Which, of course, is not the most efficient use of a then expensive computer which could only do one thing at once, though that was probably not the point.
(via Boing Boing)
This past Fourth of July, a megachurch pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, has given the Statue of Liberty a faith-based makeover:
As the congregation of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church looked on and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, presided, a brown shroud much like a burqa was pulled away to reveal a giant statue of the Lady, but with the Ten Commandments under one arm and "Jehovah" inscribed on her crown. And in place of a torch, she held aloft a large gold cross, as if to ward off the pawnshops, the car dealerships and the discount furniture outlets at the busy corner of Kirby Parkway and Winchester that is her home. A single tear graced her cheek.
In "The Meaning of the Statue of Liberation Through Christ: Reconnecting Patriotism With Christianity," he explains that the teardrop on his Lady is God's response to what he calls the nation's ills, including legalized abortion, a lack of prayer in schools and the country's "promotion of expressions of New Age, Wicca, secularism and humanism." In another book, he said Hurricane Katrina was retribution for New Orleans's embrace of sin.On a tangent: I am amused to read that, apparently, atheists in the US are technically a "fringe religion" alongside Satanists, Scientologists and Druids.