The Null Device
One possible side-effect of the recent France-vs.-Texas spat: more French villains in Hollywood films, replacing the usual British-accented bad guys.
The news from Beverly Hills is that producers are telling scriptwriters to 'think French'. This is a relief. For years, a British accent in a mainstream movie served as cinematic shorthand for shiftiness or downright evil. Now we can at least hope for a return to an older cinematic tradition in which the British are loyal sidekicks, chirpy corporals or colonels in the mould of David Niven.
For decades, the US love affair with France was sustained by admiration for its culture, food and wine. A visit to Paris has long been the ultimate stamp of sophistication among the US middle classes. It is hard to pinpoint when things began to change. It was certainly before September 11, as populist politics pursued by Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and now his son, sought to link liberalism with elitism and the hint of foreign conspiracy.
Are one in every 200 people on Earth today descended from Genghis Khan? A new population genetics study suggests that may be the case; or perhaps it's some other Mongolian?
Cochran speculated, "You'd need several factors to contend for the record. You'd need to conquer a big empire. You'd need a place where harems are common. So, forget Europe. Charlemagne couldn't have had the same impact. You'd have to be able to organize a big, long-lasting state, so medieval Africa is an unlikely setting. Maybe the founder of a long-lived Chinese dynasty would be in the running. Or the founder of a polygamous religion."
A Valentine's Day card has caused a homeland security alert in Pittsburgh; the man who bought the card for his daughter noticed that it contained the word "Jihad", and the message "It's Time To Be Mine". Could Osama bin Laden be using Valentine's Day cards to communicate with his sleeper agents?
Fun facts about Australia: Did you know that in Australia importing guitars incurs a 5% duty; other instruments are duty free. Could it be one of Bob Menzies' attempts to protect Australia's youth from the harmful influence of Rock'n'Roll?
(I once heard it claimed that the importation of electric guitars was prohibited during the 1950s, presumably because of moral panics about American-style teenage rebellion infecting our youth. I haven't seen any documentation on this though. Can anybody confirm or refute this?) (ta, Graham)