logo Ming the Mechanic - Category: Culture
An old rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open, free and exciting is waking up.

Thursday, April 8, 2004day link 

picture On the previously mentioned subject of "naked sushi", a Japanese restaurant in the conservative Chinese city of Kunming has gotten in a bit of trouble from offering a promotional "feast on a beauty's body" for local journalists.
Known as "Nyotai Mori" in Japan, the feasts date back to ancient times and are often offered in special hotspring resorts today, but are generally left off menus. They are offered to aficionados on request.
Yeah, maybe its wiser to leave it off the menu, if the local community doesn't exactly love the idea. Not that it is any of their business. Anyway, here's a French page that explains in quite some detail how it is done correctly. You need a virgin, for one thing.
[ | 2004-04-08 09:02 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, March 30, 2004day link 

picture picture picture Looking at FunHi, I don't even get what it is. I must be getting old. The Wired article explains it better. Or at least they talk about the more interesting feature: the ability to give others virtual gifts that cost real money. So, first of all, FunHi is an online community and hangout place. It is social networking software. It seems to target people around 20 who like to talk like gangstas all the time.

There is a gift store, which allows people to buy gifts for people they like. Which mostly means that guys will try to attract the attention of the girls who've uploaded the most enjoyable bikini pictures. The gifts are simply a small GIF file with a picture of something. Like flowers or a private jet. The gifts start at 1 cent. And there's nothing wrong with the gifts that cost 1 or 5 cents. But, somehow, the social dynamic of showing a list of who gave what gifts to what person, and them being listed in reverse price order, means that some people will be very motivated to buy the expensive gifts. Like the $14.99 jet plane or the $30 credit card. Remember, they're just GIF pictures. You don't even download them. And, remember, you pay for them with a real credit card.

Now, why didn't I think of that? I must be too honest.
[ | 2004-03-30 18:25 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, March 27, 2004day link 

picture Just heard somebody mention "toothing" in an IRC chat in relation to a conference, and I really had no clue what they meant. But then I just notice that Judith Meskill has a nice introduction on The Social Software Weblog. Ah... I'm shocked! ;-)
There’s the Toothing Blog — A blog all about Toothing - finding partners for sex using bluetooth mobile phones. And then there’s the Toothing FAQ — which encourages the utilization of public places and safe sex practices. There’s even a Toothing Forum to discuss location, location, location. And now there is a story today in Wired News — Brits Going at It Tooth and Nail. Daniel Terdiman starts out with “The Brits sure are randy.” Anyone watch Coupling?

So… Is this Social Software? If one factors in the exhibitionist aspect of these Toothing encounters, the experience does have the potential to take on a ‘group’ perspective. Oh, wait a sec, the Brits have already done that with Dogging. And to think, all thanks to the wireless technology — Bluetooth.
Well, yeah, that's social software alright. I just still don't get how it can be practical. Bluetooth reaches about 10 meters if you're lucky. About one car in a train. And you'd have to sit and manually message one person at a time. Of course it would make sense if it were automatic, and your phone would alert you only when it had found a person of appropriate gender who for some inscrutable reason would be happy to meet you in the bathroom. Shouldn't be that hard to make.

Anyway, there could be many other legitimate uses of being able to chat with people close by through your phones. Here's a short intro to Bluechat, as that phenomenon is called, when done over bluetooth. In a meeting, in a conference, at school.
[ | 2004-03-27 06:11 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

 Gothic Lolitas
picture Japanese youth culture and alternative fashions are always fascinating. Here's one I hadn't heard about before:
An Elegant Gothic Lolita, EGL or Gothic Lolita for short, is a Japanese teen or young adult who dresses in amazingly elaborate Gothic looking babydoll costumes. On the weekends these women walk the streets of Tokyo and Osaka and fill Yoyogi Park and Harajuku neighborhood where they pose for tourist’s pictures and sit around looking pretty. They are beautiful, glamorous, doll-like manifestations of their favorite Visual Rock stars.
This subculture’s physical look began around the fall of 1999 as a sort of French Maid meets Alice in Wonderland style and has expanded gradually to encompass many nuances in a Victorian Gothic look.
That was from Morbid Outlook.
[ | 2004-03-27 05:22 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, March 17, 2004day link 

 The Leisure Society
picture When I was a kid I was very interested in the future. One thing that was pretty obvious, other than flying cars and space stations, would be that by now we'd really not have to work, per se. It was sort of self-evident, even when I was ten. Of course, if we keep being able to do things better and better, more and more efficiently, more and more bang for the buck, more and more automation - then there would be less and less of an actual need for work. It is a simple calculation. The stuff we need could be produced by a smaller and smaller percentage of the population. Which would allow us to spend our time being creative and having a good time.

The reason that didn't happen might be in the same category as why a brand new 3GHz PC isn't any faster than a 4.77MHz IBM PC from 20 years ago. In principle it should be a thousand times faster, and it is, technically speaking. But it doesn't do anything more. It takes longer to start up Word on it than to start WordStar on that ancient relic. And there are many more things that can go wrong, and more one needs to learn in order to use it.

Maybe the reason is in the same category as why my household budget looks about the same, no matter how much or how little I make. There's not quite enough for what I need, and I tend to pay things late. If somebody came along and gave me $10,000 extra per month, I would at first feel rich, and pay all my bills, and put some aside. But gradually I would come to think I needed a bigger version of everything, and I'd invest in some things I wouldn't otherwise have. And pretty soon I would have used it up, and have more regular expenses, and I'd again be a little behind. While still living essentially the same way. You know, in a house, eating food, driving vehicles, wearing clothes, breathing air.

You can probably draw a nice systems diagram of how there are several self-reinforcing loops involved in these scenarios. If there's capacity to make more stuff or do more things, they will be done, and they will create new needs and new ideas about new things that need to be done. The PC of today would indeed run WordStar like lightning, but I'd be missing the graphics, and would quickly look around for other things it ought to do. Voids will be filled. And there's the influence from all the other folks who have some new gadget or feature. If my neighbor has 3D displays on his walls, I'll feel a little left out, even if I was doing great with a monochrome screen at some other point in time.

So, what would it take for progress to actually add up to progress, rather than to staying in the same spot with some slightly different gear?

I think the main limiting factor is not the envy of my neighbor's stuff, but the economics of production. It doesn't have to be that way, but with the way business is currently structured economically, it is quite natural. Economic rewards flow to those who keep the wheels churning, rather than necessarily to those who solve the biggest problems in the most efficient way. There's no economic incentive to constructing the machinery that would give everybody in the world food to eat every day, without them having to work. Even though it would be fairly easy and comparatively cheap to do. But it wouldn't turn a profit. People who aren't working don't make money to buy stuff, so they aren't good consumers. People who aren't working is a problem in the current scheme of things. Something that requires the financing of unemployement payments, which requires that the wheels are churning faster somewhere else, creating profits that can be diverted for that purpose. It is all pretty insane of course.

If you can formulate an economic scheme that clearly measures the actual costs of various approaches, and the value people perceive in them, and which which allows easy financing of the permanent solving of big problems, and gives little value to wasteful and unnecessary work - then it can all change rather quickly. No, I'm not talking about communism. Rather about a free market with a good enough flow of high quality of information, using a different kind of currency. A currency that is built on quality of life, and which doesn't have a built-in accelerating corrosion that encourages fake productivity for its own sake. Rather, a system the encourages the optimization and maximization of free time and creativity.

It is not too late. The future is yet to come.
[ | 2004-03-17 05:55 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, March 5, 2004day link 

 Cheap Audio Books
Telltale Weekly offers audio books online for less than a dollar, and without stupid copy protection schemes. They have very few titles so far, but it looks promising.
[ | 2004-03-05 13:11 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

OK, karaoke can be fun, but now there's Movioke. Play the parts you want in your favorite movies. Well, it sounds like you just speak along with the characters on the screen, over the soundtrack. But what would be cool would be if, like in karaoke, the real actor and his voice was digitally edited out of the film, and you were superimposed in there instead. Of course that's a bit of a hard trick at this point. Anyway, I'll start off myself in the small:
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
It is an easy one, but guess where it is from.
[ | 2004-03-05 13:11 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Radio Vox Populi
Via Bird on the Moon, listen to the strange Radio Vox Populi.
Radio Vox Populi is a realization of the people's voice, taking the content of the weblogs and broadcasting it back to the world. As weblog authors update their sites their writing is collected, synthesized into speech, and streamed to listeners as an Internet radio station. Live from the commons 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You hear snippets from recently updated weblogs, read aloud by robot voices, and complete with the effect of changing from one radio station to another on the dial. A bit hard to hear, but it is an intriguing experience.
[ | 2004-03-05 13:10 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Thursday, March 4, 2004day link 

 Interactive Fiction
picture Excellent article, Magic Words: Interactive Fiction and the 21st Century, about, well, Interactive Fiction. Which is the kind of text adventure games that were quite popular in the 80s. I first played the classic "Adventure" game in 1975. I still have my map of Colossal Cave lying around here somewhere, and remember a lot of the rooms. Another well-known series of adventures is Zork, which starts like this:
You are in an open field west of a big white house with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
And then you can essentially move in different directions by typing commands in very simple English. "Go West", "Open mailbox", "Pick up sword" and that kind of thing. And you explore various creepy and strange places and solve riddles and meet strange creatures. Or whatever the scenario might be.

Interactive text games might seem really ancient for kids today who are used to full motion 3D virtual reality. But it is an intriguing world of its own, stimulating other faculties of imagination. And it is in no ways dead, even though no games makers are making money on it. The article illustrates that well. There are thousands of titles, often made by enthusiasts just for the joy of it. They're often not really games, but more like stories you can walk around in and explore.

Now, if I actually had too much time on my hands, I wouldn't mind writing some interactive fiction. Or how about the possibilities of combining the Interactive Fiction style with navigating around a blog or a WIKI. Like hinted at on that site.
"You are at the title page of an Interactive Fiction feature. In the left sidebar you see a selection of text links which will lead to other pages within the article. A blinking cursor prompts you to make your selection."
Navigating the web might be more stimulating if you're at risk of being eaten by a grue in the dark.
[ | 2004-03-04 07:15 | 6 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, February 24, 2004day link 

picture Paul Hughes has started a new collaborative futurist blog FutureHi - Celebrating the Rebirth of Psychedelic Futurism. Which I'm also lined up to contribute to, which I hopefully get into shortly. Paul has set an exciting tone for the site already, and made it look really pretty too. Here's from a recent article:
One of the primary inspirations behind this new site is that turning on higher intelligence is not only fun and joyous, it is absolutely necessary if we and our intelligent civilization are to survive the coming decades and expand out into the cosmos. By higher intelligence I mean the whole enchilada, whatever that is - not just greater intellect, but greater everything, greater emotional sanity, more love, compassion, creativity, inspiration, and most especially the transcendent experience itself and it's infinite expanse so raved about by psychonauts, shamans and eastern/yogic practioners.
Yeah, there are some important things that really ought to converge more. If we need to avoid killing ourselves and the planet very effectively with the rapidly accelerating wonders of technology, we need to get a whole lot smarter and wiser very quickly as well.
[ | 2004-02-24 11:11 | 11 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, February 18, 2004day link 

 The downside to living your life publically
picture Alexandra Polier got involved in a potential looming scandal for leading U.S. democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Somebody thought he'd been having an affair with her, and he denied it. And so does she, and there probably wasn't anything to it. She once dated one of his staff members, and it was all a big misunderstanding, probably. And so what if it wasn't? But journalists and political opponents are looking hard for anything incriminating. So now look at something like this article. Somebody found her profile in Friendster. OK, seems like it has been pruned a bit since then, but when they looked at it, it was a Friendster profile like thousands of others, saying things like:
"About Me: just another hot piece of ass with a philosophy degree and a love for old movies. I'm afraid of death, hospitals and insects. I can't spell. I like old people. I want to travel the world reporting on injustices while taking the time to enjoy an umbrella drink when appropriate."
And it lists her being in an open relationship (gasp!) and stuff like that. Nothing special. Except for when the world press is scrutinizing your life looking for any sign that would indicate you to be some kind of loose woman who would be likely to have an affair with some important politician. Stupid moralizing hypocricy on the side of such journalists and the people who pretend to be shocked at reading about it.

But 100s of thousands of people are very publically posting stuff like that in online networks or on their blogs or other webpages or forums or discussion groups. People like me, who're generally open to living your life fairly out in the open, and who feel that the advantages of open networking outweighs the downsides. At least until you suddenly are put particularly in the spotlight, and any little comment you might have made can be greatly misconstrued and taken out of context, painting a picture of you that isn't really true.

I've had a bit of a taste of that recently myself. I unfortunately can't post the full story, because it is causing some other people much bigger problems than it is causing me. I found it kind of hilarious and entertaining, even if it is very mean-spirited. In brief, a friend of mine has an organization in Germany inspiring young people to choose positive directions in their lives. Somewhere on the website there's a quote from me and a link to one or more of my websites. An investigating journalist was bent on finding some dirt on this organization, to bring it down, for some reason that isn't entirely clear, other than that it is somehow "alternative". So, he started investigating anything he could find on me and anybody else linked from the site that could possibly be a good target. And, well, there's a wealth of material on the net about me, both what I've written, and references to things I've done in other parts of my life. Taking some of those references out of context, and forgetting to look at the date, the guy decided I am some kind of top Scientology cult leader. Scientology is a very bad word in a number of European countries, so any kind of association is about at the same level as being a Nazi or a Satanist. And I used to be a scientologist. To be precise, I was kicked out and excommunicated 22 years ago, quite thoroughly. Scientologists are forbidden from even speaking to me. And, sure, I've been friends with people who used to be top scientologists. And, sure I've practiced various alternative therapies and written books. A good scientologist wouldn't recognize any of that as being scientology, but if you don't look too closely, you might quickly conclude that it must all be the same kind of weird occult brainwashing type of stuff.

This journalist also found my blog, which told him I had moved from the U.S. to France recently. And he searched the net and found my profile in OpenBC, an online business network with a European focus. Which happens to have its company headquarters in Germany. And he sort of added these things - badly - together, and concluded that I am a top Scientologist who's about to invade Germany in order to corrupt young people's minds.

So, while I'm just sitting around here, in France, minding my own business, trying to survive - there I suddenly am, last month, on the front page of a minor German business newspaper. Big color picture of me, taken from my blog. And this whole harebrained story, painted in rather threatening terms, guessing heavy-handedly at my possible hidden motives for establishing a "business presence" in Germany. You know, that OpenBC profile! It is all kind of funny, and doesn't really bother me personally. For that matter I'm kind of flattered. But it is bad for my friend who actually is trying to do some good things, and who's name gets smeared by his association with unscrupulous and sinister characters such as me, however fanciful the story is.

I don't think I personally want to change anything about how open I am with posting things. I believe the answer generally is MORE communication, not less. Sure, you can come and take one thing out of context, but there's plenty of other material that can balance the picture, if an intelligent person bothers to look. And if there's anything in particular I think might easily be misunderstood, I'd rather be the first one to write about it myself, before anybody else gets a scoop out of revealing it.

There's always a bit of a danger in being a multi-facetted, open-minded person with varied interests and years of colorful experiences exploring different things. ANY part of it might pop up out of context anywhere. Your sexual preferences, your history of drug use, something you said sometime when you were really depressed, something you thought was said to a closed group of friendly people, those pictures your ex-boyfriend took of you - anything. But in the long run, I think that's a good thing. It makes it much harder to claim that any of us are just one-dimensional perfect people without a spot on their record. If we all have lots of varied spots, it no longer is such a good weapon to come along and discredit you by bringing out one little controversial piece of information from your past, which just happens to play well in a soundbite.
[ | 2004-02-18 10:16 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Global Annonymity
picture One thing that puzzles me is the big holes there are in the systems for keeping track of people in most places. You know, almost every country in the world are a bit of an authoritarian police state that would like to force all its citizens to pay taxes and not be criminals or terrorists or child molesters, or whatever else they shouldn't be. And most citizens in those countries probably feel like they're thoroughly registered and tracked by their governments. But yet it is done so badly that one should almost think it is completely intentional.

It shouldn't be a hard problem to make an all-pervasive register of the citizens in a certain country. For that matter, it shouldn't be all that hard to make a rather complete centralized register of the six billion plus people on the planet. Hey, I could design the database if I had to, without too much trouble. Give everybody a unique identifier that one can only have one of, and catch any unregistered births the moment they show up at the doctor or in school or in a bank or at a border, and get them into the system. It would make it much easier to make sure that people paid their taxes and that they could be tracked if they did something "bad".

I'm rather content with it not being that way, as I don't trust authoritarian governments, particularly the ones with some kind of moral or religious agenda, but I don't thoroughly understand why it isn't that way. Despite what it might feel like, the tracking is very sloppy or non-existent in most places.

In the U.S. the ID number is the Social Security Number. There are first of all ways of not having one at all, even though that's cumbersome. But you can also quite easily get one by showing a few pieces of paper. And nothing serious stops you from having several. In many situations you can just make up a number or use somebody else's. In the U.S. the IRS only seems to pay much attention to you if you've volunteered by starting to file tax returns. If you don't start, or you get lost a little bit by changing your name, they probably lose track of you. If you just stop filing your tax return and move somewhere else, nothing much happens either. I was an illegal alien in the U.S. for years, and it didn't make much difference. I'm sure there are several million.

And here I am in France. Did I tell the U.S. that I moved? Not particularly. And there isn't any very official way of doing so anyway. I changed address to some friends who check my mail. I haven't decided if I will bother to keep filing U.S. tax returns, or whether I want to attempt to keep my greencard status. If I just forgot about it, nothing much would happen. And did I tell France that I now live here? Well, I rent a house, opened bank accounts. And the previous rule was that within 3 months you need to go and apply for a Carte de Sejour residence permit. But that system got cancelled, and so far not replaced with anything else. So, we're here, obviously, and have a right to be here, but we're not particularly in the system in any significant way. Showing our Danish passports works fine as ID and opens most doors. "Oh, you're Danish, that's in the EU, right? Then pas de probleme!" Likewise we can freely travel to any other EU country, and nobody's even going to look at us at the border. But we haven't lived in Denmark for 19 years. Denmark has practically forgotten all about us. Oh, we could go right back any time, and start acting Danish. But at this point we're sort of in-between countries, without being clearly identified as fitting in one place or the other.

Now the thought is that maybe that's the ideal. And maybe these loopholes are quite deliberate, to pave the way for the free global movement of capital. I'm sure it isn't meant for me, but probably rather for people who have large vested interests in being a bit outside the system, and able to move their money and their interests around without anybody noticing very much. There are of course more range of freedom if you have a complicated network of companies in different countries, off-shore trusts, anonymous banking, and citizenship in multiple countries. And your holdings are in the name of all sorts of different entities that can't easily be tracked. And you yourself are perpetually on vacation, moving around between your homes in different countries, or hanging out on your yacht.

The close scrutiny of people seems to apply mostly to people who volunteer to be good local national citizens. You get a job, a local bank account, buy a house, get a phone, all in your own name. And you stay put, and get busy watching TV and going to work and paying your bills.

Or you somehow fall into the large cracks in the system, temporarily or permanently, accidentally or deliberately. You might have no paperwork, or phoney paperwork. You might be a criminal who deliberately cover your tracks. You might have carefully removed yourself from the system by studying the basis for the laws and revoked your agreement with various implicit contracts. Or you might just be in a country where nobody expects you or looks for you. Or you have an army of lawyers and accountants who do everything for you, administering your holdings of wealth, but vigorously keeping you out of the obvious picture. I suspect it is for the latter that the loop holes are allowed to exist, and even be expanded.
[ | 2004-02-18 08:39 | 6 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, February 7, 2004day link 

 Visited Countries
picture At world66 you can quickly make a map of what countries you've visited. Simple and kind of obvious, but cool. I feel a little ashamed that I haven't seen more of the world yet, but it still added up to 17 countries.
[ | 2004-02-07 19:24 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 3D side-walk paintings
picture Some cool 3D trompe l'oeil pictures drawn on sidewalks here. They seem to not be the work of L.A. artist Kurt Wenner as claimed, but some unidentified British artist. But Kurt Wenner has an equally impressive gallery of similar pictures here.
[ | 2004-02-07 18:07 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, February 6, 2004day link 

 The Pink Tank
picture Via The Green Man. If you're in London and you get off the tube at Elephant and Castle station you might like to make a small detour to Old Kent Road to see a more creative approach to tank camouflage. The project is the brainchild of Aleksandra Mir who, with some assistance, has recently completed the paint job. See the work in progress here.
[ | 2004-02-06 17:00 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, January 31, 2004day link 

 English is hard
English speakers might think it is hard to learn other languages, full of inconsistent rules for how one needs to pronounce things. But English is certainly no better. I got an e-mail with great examples, roughly what you find in this page.
  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  • Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  • At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  • I did not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
Why, oh why? Just the way it is, I guess.
[ | 2004-01-31 17:01 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 The value of endangered languages
picture Via BoingBoing, an interesting interview with linguist Alexandra Aikhenvald, in New Scientist about the study of languages that are going extinct:
"If these so-called "exotic" languages die, we'll be left with just one world view. This won't be very interesting, and we'll have lost a vast amount of information about human nature and how people perceive the world. (...) [W]ithout their language and its structure, people are rootless. In recording it you are also getting down the stories and folklore. If those are lost a huge part of a people's history goes. These stories often have a common root that speaks of a real event, not just a myth. For example, every Amazonian society ever studied has a legend about a great flood.

"...In English I can tell my son: "Today I talked to Adrian", and he won't ask: "How do you know you talked to Adrian?" But in some languages, including Tariana, you always have to put a little suffix onto your verb saying how you know something - we call it "evidentiality". I would have to say: "I talked to Adrian, non-visual," if we had talked on the phone. And if my son told someone else, he would say: "She talked to Adrian, visual, reported." In that language, if you don't say how you know things, they think you are a liar. This is a very nice and useful tool. Imagine if, in the argument about weapons of mass destruction, people had had to say how they knew about whatever they said. That would have saved us quite a lot of breath..."
Yeah, I think government officials and all journalists and scientists should be ordered to speak that language. Or something like it.

Tariana is still spoken by some natives in the Amazon, and they now have a full dictionary thanks to Alexandra Aikhenvald. Other languages are not so lucky. About 60-70% of linguistic diversity in the north-western region of Brazil has gone in the last 100 years. On the Atlantic coast of Brazil it's about 99%. Around the world 60-70% have disappeared.
[ | 2004-01-31 07:02 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, January 27, 2004day link 

 No Demand for Messages
Jay Rosen from Davos: "There is No Demand for Messages" via Doc Searls, who's been saying that kind of thing for some time:
Beginning in the mid 19th century, and all through the 20th, seeing people as masses could be industrially sustained. There were only so many channels, so many ways or reaching people en masse, and this convinced the message senders that there was an audience out there. But now being a bulk message sender via the media is like the guy in the street trying to get you to take a handbill. He may have motivation for delivering the message, you have none to take it.

They are the people formerly known as the audience. And they do not want your message.
They're right. If you're thinking in terms of "getting your message out" to as many people as possible, chances are that a lot of them will consider it unwanted spam, whatever the medium might be. Better think about what you can do together WITH all those individuals, that they're likely to voluntarily want to participate in.
[ | 2004-01-27 17:15 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, January 24, 2004day link 

 No Water? Drink Coke!
picture Via Sounding Circle, a story about Coca Cola using up valuable groundwater in various parts of India, and leaving a mess.
Another dark spot is Mehdiganj (UP), where Coke built a bottling plant in 1995. Two tube wells draw hundreds of thousands of liters of ground water each day. Geologists have estimated that the company's voracious consumption may have lowered the groundwater level as much as 40 feet. The area's water crisis was further aggravated by the World Bank-funded Golden Quadrangle superhighway project, which shut off the water pipeline from a neighboring area. The Coke plant's proximity to the holy city of Benares has created further controversy. The factory's waste product was being disposed in a nearby canal that emptied into the holy Ganges River.

Local Indians were enraged when they discovered that polluted waste was being dumped into the Ganges. Until recently, there was no clear way to test for Coke-related pollution in the vast Ganges. But in order to make way for the superhighway, construction workers dislodged Coke's waste disposal canal. The company then began disposing its waste products into neighboring fields and mango groves. At this point, the level of toxic waste became readily obvious to local residents.
Coca Cola is denying everything and claiming it is the "target of a handful of extremist protesters". More on the shadey world of Coca Cola business here
[ | 2004-01-24 19:47 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Tuesday, January 20, 2004day link 

 Unusual Suspects
picture picture Thomas mentions Russian art group AES that produces interesting and usually controversial pieces. Like the Islamic Statue of Liberty on the left. More here. The picture on the right is from a piece called "Suspects". There are 14 pictures of young Russian girls. 7 of them are in prison, convicted of brutal and unnecessary murders. 7 of them are normal students. Can you see which ones are which? And if you can't, what does that mean? I can give you my guess, but chances are I'm off by a few.
[ | 2004-01-20 09:05 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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