New site, new life. Now at www.souloftheant.com

A quick note to let anyone happening across this now defunct site – you can now keep up with my random rants and musings over here: www.souloftheant.com.

Bless,

JD

Gizmodo’s Zuck-laptop headline vs. every other

In the last 24 hours or so every tech- and Zuck-following blogger worth his pallid complexion has written a version of the “Mark Zuckerberg tapes over his laptop camera and mic” story.

Chris Olson first spotted the ‘news’ in a picture on Twitter.

Most did plain ol’ straight covers of the post with plain ol’ straight-ish headlines. Let’s look at a few:

From The Next Web:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 3.01.40 pm.png

From Mashable:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 3.06.23 pm.png

From Business Insider:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 3.06.33 pm.png

From The Verge:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 3.06.58 pm.png

 

And then we get Gizmodo, the Gawker Media owned blog, an organization that also owns Gawker, which recently filed for bankruptcy due to losing a law suit vs Hulk Hogan for releasing his sex tape to the world, a suit that was financially backed by a guy called Peter Thiel who was an early Facebook investor who Gawker outed as being gay and who has bankrolled several other anti-Gawker lawsuits in recent years because of their outing, and who Zuck recently retained on the board at Facebook:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 3.01.50 pm.png

These cats have sharp claws.

 

Mumbai: City of ‘dins’

A honking, twanging, whistling firecracker of a city is a fine way to describe Mumbai. But while the city’s daily cacophonies may appear beyond method, the acoustical madness is not totally without form.

Here’s my auditory guide to India’s City of Sound, researched during my stint as a managing editor in a small publishing company in the city.

The honk, the beep and the tootle

Not an invitation for 'fun on the back seat.'

Not an invitation for ‘fun on the back seat.’

Common across most of Asia, vehicular sound is the overriding ear-drum basher in Mumbai. In various forms and volumes, they mean one thing – get out the way.

While the constant noise may be up there with screaming children and nails on a blackboard for its acoustical pleasure quotient, the message is worth listening to. India’s traffic follows the rules of flowing water before any highway code.

It takes the path of least resistance, even if it means tearing up the sidewalk or hanging a u-turn in the middle of a highway. So the honks could just save your life, even if they turn you insane in the process.

The whistle

Pheeeeeep! Pheeep pheeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

Pheeeeeep! Pheeep pheeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

For some reason the whistle has been adopted around the globe as the auditory weapon of choice by anyone with any form of authority.

Sports referees, policemen, security personnel, life guards; take away their whistles and you are left with nothing but a person in some well cut clothes, frantically waving their arms to get your attention as their puny yells can’t be heard above the honks, beeps and tootles.

If you hear a whistle, it means Stop What You Are Doing! The security guards of residential blocks are particularly keen whistlers, to drive away anything from stray dogs, to beggars, to inharmoniously parked rickshaws.

The happy jingle

Once you pop, it's actually pretty easy to stop. Just close your mouth.

Once you pop, it’s actually pretty easy to stop. Just close your mouth.

More common in the North, but if you hear a cheerful melody come seeping through your walls, it doesn’t mean the ice cream van is outside, as it does in so many Western movies, but it does mean the popcorn wallah is outside.

Dragging his portable popcorn cart through the lanes of the city’s residential blocks, the popcorn wallah is one for the Easy Listening fans out there, more aligned with Simon & Garfunkel than Rage Against The Machine.

You may even want to buy a bag of the popped stuff just because you like his tune.

The firecracker

Safety not a huge concern then.

Safety not a huge concern then.

During the festival period, which are scattered throughout the year but take place mainly in the last few months, troops of joyous, painted, celebrating dancers can be seen behind trucks filled with color and light, carrying statues of various Hindu Gods and blaring uplifting tunes from huge speakers.

These crawl their way up the main arterial roads in the city, blocking traffic and causing general mayhem for anyone trying to travel.

But just in case you didn’t notice them, they will make sure you do by setting off firecrackers every few minutes. The firecracker; it means let’s party.

The bell

Aww what a sweetie.

Aww what a sweetie.

In direct competition with the popcorn wallah’s happy jingle, the candyfloss wallah had to come up with a far more direct sales call. His answer – a small bell.

With bags of the fluffy, pink, spun sugar attached to a pole, candyfloss wallah will wander the paths trod earlier by popcorn wallah, hoping to entice you with his simplistic, but admittedly sweeter-sounding signature.

Perhaps after all that salty popcorn a touch of the sweet stuff would go down well.

The yell

Tomatoes, lettuce and weird red carrots, oh my.

Tomatoes, lettuce and weird red carrots, oh my.

The vegetable wallahs meanwhile have no time for fancy gimmicks.

Often appearing early every morning with cartloads of gourds, carrots, broccoli and whatever other in-season delicacies they have picked up from the wholesaler, these stalwarts of the door-to-door sale will call out “sabsiiiiii” (“vegetables”) stopping only to transact or discuss the day’s fare with other sabsi wallahs.

Finally: The strange twang

If anything highlights the need Mumbaikers have to create noise, it is the man with the big pole with a string attached, which he twangs as he wanders the roads. I’ve never worked out what his call is for.

I heard he’ll collect old newspapers to recycle, or will come and do odd jobs.

But how that involves a long wooden pole-plus-string, I have no idea.

In time we’re sure it will become clear. As the above examples show, Mumbai may be a maddening mix of un-muffled mayhem, but each noise has its roots in a very deliberate quest to communicate.

Why Russell Brand should not be believed

Image

Russell Brand has turned sloppy estuary English into an art form.

Under his supervision, dropping Ts and abbreviating – sorry, perhaps that should be “abbrevia’ing” – ideas have become a new medium in which today’s cosmo-hipster-naughtie generation communica’es.

I’s no longer any good to simply revolt – we must “revol’.”

And similarly it’s no longer any good to debate, we must not even deba’e, we must simply state a fundamental law of human society – that revolutions are always a good thing – and leave our wiser, more sensible, more intelligent elders to thrash out the details.

Brand’s call for a “socialist utopian revolution” is nothing more than a lazy, lackadaisical attempt to keep this wave on which he has been riding for a few years now from breaking.

He is eloquent and articulate and he has become, in recent newspaper articles and appearances as a TV pundit, the mouthpiece for a beleaguered, weary generation tired of being lied to and neglected by a political class that favors cronyism, corporatism and capitalism.

And that says a terrible, woeful thing about the generation coming up in Brand’s shadow.

If Brand’s empty, lazy utterances – they should not be called arguments – are so convincing to this crowd, it suggests this crowd is in trouble.

No one should be convinced by Brand, and if you are you are allowing yourself to be convinced purely by presentation.

Brand is a showman, and an orator, and a stylist and a performer. He is not an intellectual and is certainly not a man we should be looking to for political or social reform.

I have been glad to see a mini backlash in the wake of his Paxman performance.

It’s about time we stopped valuing gloss over content, something Brand’s own vocalizations suggest he agrees with.

Jesus’ face seen in SF crash site

I felt the same as everyone I guess, about the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco recently – shocked, upset, relieved there weren’t more casualties. Not that that’s any consolation to the families of the three teenage girls who died.

But having seen the reports and examined the pictures, I have also found startling evidence of another kind.

I present it here, for you to look over yourself and draw your own conclusions.

At the bottom of this post I present my own conclusion, drawn from many hours of looking at this image and other images of the crash site, and of research into other examples of this kind of phenomena.

People will say what they will.

I think the proof here is unquestionable. Please look for yourself, then read my conclusion at the bottom.

——————————-

The picture below is a bird’s-eye image of the crash site taken by Getty Images photographer Ezra Shaw on July 6, 2013.

Clearly visible are the area of initial impact, the debris from the fuselage and the path and termination point of the plane during and after its slide along the runway.

But take a bit more time, look a bit closer, and there can be no doubt that there are many other interesting things in this photo.

plane_crash_asiana

1. The face of Jesus

Yes, it sounds fanciful, maybe even crazy, but I think once you look at the picture below you have to agree. The face of Jesus is clearly apparent in this picture. Did all the prayers being uttered at the moment of the crisis bring forth Jesus to this scene?

Was he there to help the plane as it careened out of control across the tarmacadam? Who knows. But he was there. Look for yourself:

jesus face asiana

2. The face of Shrek

This may sound like an even crazier assertion, but I maintain that one can also see the face of the Dreamworks, animated troll, Shrek.

Shrek was one of the movies available on flight 214 – perhaps in some Twilight-Zone-esque manifesting of imagination, dozens of people, especially dozens of kids, were all thinking of Shrek at the moment of impact.

We all know how powerful kids’ imaginations can be – perhaps all the power of their thoughts in this life-or-death situation, the emotional rush that occurred, the adrenalin and the terror, conjured the visage that was most prominent in their memories at the time, and laid it down into the soil.

shrek face asiana

3. The face of Snowy, Tintin’s dog

Even more fantastical, but the face of Tintin’s fox terrier, Snowy, can also be seen. I can only speculate again on why this might have occurred, but perhaps, like the reasoning for Shrek’s appearance, the power of thought, accompanied by the highly emotional and adrenalin-fueled situation, forced the objects of people’s imaginations to manifest themselves in the real world.

snowy face asiana

4. Various other faces

I cannot identify them, but there are clearly numerous other faces embedded into the ground at the site of the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214.

Perhaps these are the faces of loved ones of the passengers, those their thoughts turned to in the moment of crisis, and the power of their imaginations and the emotional trauma they went through, in so short a space of time, forced those inner imaginings into the real world.

See these other faces here:

unknown 123 asiana

Conclusion

Clearly this not a coincidence. This is not false. This is a real picture, not manipulated in any way other than to highlight the faces with red circles, taken by a professional photographer on the day of the crash.

The faces are clearly visible, and there is one absolute, indisputable, unmitigated conclusion one has to draw from the presence of these phenomena:

IF YOU LOOK HARD ENOUGH, YOU CAN SEE FACES IN PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING.

Thank you.

jesus, shrek, snowy

Why you shouldn’t think about jokes

Image

Seth McFarlane may be a sexist, racist, ****ist whatever, but here’s an observation I have about comedy:

Too many people laugh at the jokes, then go home, think about it, and decide they were offended. That suggests the joke isn’t the problem, the analysis is.

I say comedy is contained in the moment; if you laughed at the time, the joke was good.

Feeling offended later corrupts the entire process. Comedy is not designed to be considered or evaluated. It’s a momentary, ephemeral connection, between comedian, audience and subject.

So yeh, you may have hated McFarlane’s Oscar performance in hindsight, you may be swayed by the newspaper critics who need to come up with an opinion quickly, but probably, if you’re not a total curmudgeon, you laughed, you tittered, you guffawed at his gags while they were happening – and that’s the important time.

White man survives Chinese New Year. But only just

Image

Baijiu. China’s answer to meth.

Two 15-hour train rides; baijiu slams; wrecking Michael Jackson on karaoke; some more baijiu slams; more food than some cities eat in a week; more baijiu slams.

That about sums up my three days in Jiujiang, a city in China, home to my Chinese girlfriend and host to me during Chinese New Year.

I had met her parents already. Now I had to meet the rest of the family.

There was “Bob” (my substituted name), cousin 1, a huge, barrel-chested ox of a man, with a constitution to match.

There was “Paul McCartney,” cousin 2, floppy-haired and quiet, except when he was REALLY REALLY LOUD.

There was uncle 1, skinny, constantly taking photos and obsessed with pouring baijiu down my neck.

There were other cousins, other uncles, aunts and of course mum and dad.

There were serious meals every day. Plates upon plates of food arrived, were eaten, were removed. Toasts were made. Most of which were directed at me, and all of which involved slamming a glass of baijiu.

Except when they involved slamming three glasses of baijiu. Yep, one evening Bob decided he would show me “the ultimate respect” by toasting me and then forcing me to slam three glasses of this pungent, nasal-cavity-searing liquid, possibly used elsewhere to clean exhausts.

The first night we ended up in a karaoke den. Perhaps afflicted by the bottle-and-a-half of baijiu I had consumed at dinner, perhaps also due to my inability to make good decisions when being force-fed cigarettes and blatantly robbed of cash in a game of liar’s dice, I decided Michael Jackson’s “Ben” would make a good choice.

It was not.

But no one cared. I certainly sounded no worse that “Paul,” who appeared to make the rookie mistake of confusing volume with tunefulness.

More dinners. More baijiu. More wondering how long a three-day holiday could last.

One morning R’s mother bursts into our hotel room. I just have time to slide into the bathrobe. She pretends not to notice my red, weeping eyes and stinking, sweaty underwear hanging on the door handle, and proceeds to feed me breakfast.

Another day we are out climbing the local mountain. I came back with 130 pictures of me and R in front of valley-fuls of mist. Luckily there were photo touts around with their displays of previous customers, to show us the resplendent views that we were missing.

Going home we took the train – 15 hours of comparative comfort. Uneventful, except for when I spilt a full can of Fanta over the head, pillow, bed and Mac Air of our sleeping compartment buddy.

He didn’t wake, so no harm done.

I don’t want to sound snobbish or ungrateful. It was an amazing experience.

But it was intense. It felt as if the last 20 years of my drinking life had all been in preparation for these three days of alco-overdose.

Perhaps it was.

Love you babe.  x

There is a new “world’s cutest thing” and it lives in Hong Kong

Image

There is a new “cutest thing in the world.”

Laughing babies in the tub, you had your time.

Charlie of “Charlie bit me” fame, you’ve been usurped.

Cats playing with iPads, you’re so 2010.

The cutest thing in the world from now on and forever, is and must be, Chinese grandmas.

There is no cuter thing than a Chinese grandma.

Their wizened faces scream with old-fashioned wisdom – the kind of wisdom that entails putting a piece of jade under your pillow before a big exam.

Their smiles, pushing dimple upon soft, wrinkly dimple into their cheeks, project an irresistible softness – the kind of softness that makes you wonder why you were so upset when HE dumped YOU.

Their homes smell of powder and incense and the best stomach-settling congee you ever knew – the kinds of powder and incense and congee that you search to rediscover for the rest of your life.

Above all, their demeanor – aura, if you like – projects a kind of worldly love that, if you were never to visit China or Hong Kong, you might mistake for being a Hollywood invention.

I was walking in Central last week, and I passed an old Chinese grandma, sitting on her stool as she always is, selling bananas as she always does.

I’ve passed her many times, wondering how she makes a living selling small bunches of bananas every day.

But this day she noticed me too, she looked up, she smiled, and I was transported into her world.

I saw her sitting at home, grandkids at her feet, giving firm but kindly admonitions for unruly behavior.

I saw her grandkids sulking, but loving her all the same.

I saw her own children, the mother and father of her grandchildren, being subconsciously thankful they had such a rock to fall back on.

And when I bought her bananas she touched my hand, and her leathery skin, hard bone and soft, supple flesh, in just her fingers, suggested more life to me than I had seen or felt in many other physical interactions in Hong Kong.

But she’ll be dead soon. She was 90 years old, at least.

But I’ll always remember her, as the cutest thing in the world.

The one thing I don’t understand about the American gun push

Be careful what you wish for.

Be careful what you wish for.

I understand that guns, in large part, created modern America.

I understand that an armed citizenry was a fundamental aspect of American independence.

I understand that an armed citizenry is a final defense against an oppressive State.

I understand that if there is even a 1 percent chance of your kids or wife being accosted by an armed person, you want them to be able to defend themselves.

I understand that gun ownership is part of the fabric of American freedom.

I understand that gun ownership rights are written into the Constitution.

I understand that America is a fearful country, that it feels terrorized on multiple fronts, and that owning a gun is one way to dissipate that fear.

I understand that if an enemy has a gun, you would want a gun too.

I understand that guns have always played a significant role in American history, particularly during Independence, during the push into the American Frontier, during the Civil War and during America’s modern invasions into other nations.

I understand that it is hard, perhaps impossible, to ignore all these factors and the impact they have on individual and collective emotions, particularly fear.

But there’s one thing I do not understand.

I do not understand how the NRA’s and many others’ aim to arm every individual in the country would lead to a safer state.

Consider the situation: you are walking down a busy road in New York, or through a neighborhood, where everybody, every single person around you, has a loaded weapon somewhere on their person.

The check out girls in the supermarket. The bus drivers and taxi drivers. The office suits taking lunch. The guys just hanging out on the curb. The mothers walking with their babies. The daughters shopping for earrings. The sons going to the movies.

All armed. All carrying loaded weapons. All “protected.”

And just as important as their weapon is their attitude — each individual knows he is armed, each knows everyone else is armed, and each knows that if it comes to it, they have the right to shoot first and ask questions later.

I ask: would you feel safer or less safe in this situation?

Would you be happy hanging out, or allowing your son or daughter to hang out, in a neighborhood like this?

If an event does occur that gives some of these individuals the impulse to pull out their weapon, are fewer people likely to get hurt, or more?

Now ask the same questions about a neighborhood where nobody in the street is armed.

Over to you, America.

Saturday: So much better than Sunday

Image

Sunday – day of rest, day of barbecues, day off work, day of sloth.

We have long been conditioned in the West to relish Sunday as a day free from the stresses and headaches and meetings and politics of the usual Monday-Friday grind.

Sunday is a lot like a special offer on beers – buy six get one free.

Except that it’s not.

I would like to argue that Saturday is actually the day we should cherish and enjoy, for one excellent reason: we know we have another one tomorrow.

For all of Sunday’s restful pleasures, they are tarnished with the knowledge, certain, however hard we try to relegate it into our unconscious, that tomorrow it’s all over, this day of lounging and lazing, of doing the stuff we really want to do in life, will be gone, that in 24 hours we’ll be back at work, confined physically and mentally within four dour walls, and that that’s going to last for at least five days until the glories of Sunday return once again.

It’s like cracking open that free beer, anticipating the sparkling fizz as the boozy liquid hits your tongue, only to find you’ve been fobbed off with an insipid, flavorless beer lite freebie.

With Saturday, you get all the pros of Sunday, without that one glaring fact hovering like a giant cloud of doom on the horizon.

Clearly there are historical reasons at play here. Christians, Protestants specifically, turned the Jewish Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.

I’m not going to debate which it should be – that’s for more Biblically knowledgeable people than me.

But I will state that I’m with the Jews on this one, simply because a day of rest, if you’re doing it properly, should not be lined with the fear of imminent work.

Of course, this applies in a society in which we only get two days off each week, a social abomination if ever there was one.

For those of us not lucky enough to be spending five days a week, 40 hours a day, doing what they believe they were born to do, this is nothing short of slave labor – however “voluntary” it may be.

(Of course it is not voluntary if you want to have any kind of disposable income)

In short let’s all start looking forward to Saturday a bit more, can we? Let’s start planning our barbecues and parties and family occasions and day trips to the beach on Saturday.

There’s nothing better, I find, than doing what you love doing, knowing you can still do it all again tomorrow.

%d bloggers like this: