Tuesday, November 22, 2011 10:12 AM
During my school years, my university implemented a new email filter. It wasn’t a censor, per se, since you were able to send any message you wished, regardless of swears or sexy words. However, it rated emails by how “hot” they were and a racy message incited a pop-up asking something to the effect of, “Are you sure you want to send this message as is? Your recipient may find some of the language offensive.” A mild message earned one chili pepper, a racier message earned two, and a message with a big gun like the F-word earned three spicy peppers and a more strongly worded caution against sending. It was a whole lot of fun to see what words piqued the attention of the censor program, and we spent hours testing the system with combinations of curses and scandalous language. Vagina, we were outraged to learn, earned a couple of peppers, but penis didn’t set off any alarms. Occasionally it was mystifying to type an ordinary message to a friend or colleague only to have the filter message pop up: “Are you sure you want to send this message as is?” You’d go back and read your email to find the mysterious naughty phrase that had set off the alarm, like I cocked my head or the exam was harder than I thought.
It looks like texters in Pakistan will have a similar hurdle to jump through while composing their mobile phone messages. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has dreamt up 1,500 “obnoxious” words to ban, according to The Guardian (Nov 17, 2011). It must have been quite a brainstorming session coming up with all the no-no words: everything from quickie to deposit to love pistol to flogging the dolphin. So no more asking your friend if she has time for a quickie lunch, your husband if he has made the check deposit yet, or your lover if he is done flogging the dolphin. And unfortunately for users, a flagged message won’t just get a few chili peppers tacked on, it will get the text blocked and, in the event of repeat offenses, service disconnected. “Mobile phone firms were ordered to stop messages including the offending words this week,” reports the London newspaper, “although tests by the Guardian suggested the blocking technology was not 100% effective.” (Just like my classmates and me, it seems Guardian editors couldn’t resist going straight to testing the system and snickering over which words were banned and which weren’t.)
The ban was enacted in response to consumer complaints about offensive texts, says a PTA spokesperson: “Nobody would like this happening to their young boy or girl.” I should think alerting kids to fun new dirty phrases like pocket pool and beat your meat wouldn’t be the most effective way to keep communications clean. But as Mashable (Nov 21, 2011) reports, “Pakistan is no stranger to digital bans from the government. In May 2010, the country blocked Facebook for two weeks after a competition to draw the Prophet Mohammed sparked controversy. YouTube was blocked temporarily in 2008 following news that images from a competition to draw the Prophet Mohammed had leaked onto the site.”
Sources: The Guardian, Mashable
Images by tore_urnes and Emily Rachel Hildebrand, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010 12:37 PM
It’s hard to know what to believe about the book anymore. Bookstores and publishers may be struggling, libraries might be imperiled, and readers are supposedly disappearing (or just hiding behind illuminated screens), yet books—the real, physical objects—just keep appearing in the world. Surely no endangered species has ever bred quite so profligately as does the publishing industry.
I’m certainly not going to complain, even if I might sometimes wish that, given the purportedly uncertain economics of the industry, these characters would stop throwing so much paint at the walls and spend a bit more time (and money) on quality control. Still, this is the time of year when all sorts of people who still love books and reading knuckle down and apply themselves to scouring the Library of Babel for the very best of the newest acquisitions. And no matter how widely you read or how much time you spend in bookstores, there are always plenty of surprises, enticements, obscurities, and genuine curiosities to be found on the best-of lists that proliferate around the holidays. Here are a bunch of the things, and please feel free to quibble or offer up your own suggestions:
The New York Times
10 Books of the Year (Alas, not a single surprise here), and the 100 Notable Books of 2010.
Anis Shivani at the Huffington Post: 10 best books of the year (plenty of surprises).
Five Best Books You Probably Didn’t Read
The Guardian queries a batch of writers on their favorite books of the year. As does The Millions in its sprawling Year in Reading feature. And Bookforum does the same.
asks independent booksellers to name their favorites from 2010.
Chicago’s estimable Seminary Co-opassembles its 20 favorites.
Photographer Alec Soth winnows down the year in photobooks.
For the Yoga folk, Daily Cup of Yoga has the year in Yoga books covered.
And if you still haven’t had enough, head over to Largehearted Boy for a ridiculously exhaustive roundup, and all the evidence anyone should need that books are still hanging around and –at least here and there (here, certainly)—making a dent in the culture.
Source: New York Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Esquire, Seminary Co-op, NPR, Alec Soth, Largehearted Boy, The Millions, Bookforum, Daily Cup of Yoga
Image by dweekly, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 5:30 PM
MIT chooses Facebook over poetry…and one student is pissed. (Thanks, Harriet.)
If Obama won’t defend big government, Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic will.
Flavorpill takes on The Guardian’s claim that essential books have disappeared from our culture, citing The Road, Infinite Jest, White Teeth, and more.
The mad scientist at The Burger Lab investigates the case of the McDonald’s hamburger that refused to die, and we’ll be damned if that burger doesn’t look as good at twelve as it did the day it was born!
Ever wonder what Elvira, August Kleinzahler, Mos Def, or the dudes from the Black Keys might buy on a trip to the record store? The site’s kind of cheesy, but Amoeba Music’s “What’s in Your Bag?” feature is terrific fun.
Steve McCurry, the legendary travel and war photographer, has a blog, and it’s full of his typically lovely and harrowing images.
Lit nerds represent! An abecedarium of book titles.
Out of Print Clothing: Wear your Favorite Book!
Can you still call it a library if there are no books?
Bet you never heard of Maggot Monets. The Scientist reports that a Southeastern Louisiana University researcher uses art made by maggots to attract students to the field of forensic entomology.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 11:29 AM
The British Film Institute has announced a search for the 75 “most wanted” films it would like to have in its archives. Included among them is an early Alfred Hitchcock production, The Mountain Eagle, which was his second effort as a director. The BFI’s full list (with annotations) provides a unique glimpse into a few dusty corners of cinema history. As the The Guardian reports:
The Mountain Eagle is the only missing Hitchcock, but the BFI launches a hunt today for scores more British movies that have also vanished without trace. The list includes Sherlock Holmes's first screen appearance in 1914's A Study in Scarlet; the first H.G. Wells science fiction film, The First Men in the Moon (1919); and The Last Post, made by Dinah Shurey, a rare woman film-maker in the early history of British film, who sued Film Weekly over a column suggesting the movie made it "pathetically obvious" that women could not direct (she was awarded £500 damages).
Source: The Guardian
Image by Kevitivity, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, December 18, 2009 3:18 PM
Mark Graham digs into Wikipedia’s geotags and emerges with a map, published in The Guardian, demonstrating the online encyclopedia’s “highly uneven geography of information”—articles about places and events from Europe and the United States are disproportionately represented, while articles about places and events in developing countries are written in far fewer numbers.
Almost the entire continent of Africa is geographically poorly represented in Wikipedia. Remarkably, there are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica than all but one of the 53 countries in Africa (or perhaps more amazingly, there are more Wikipedia articles written about the fictional places of Middle Earth and Discworld than about many countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas).
There are some countries that are crammed with a dense amount of floating virtual information, such as Germany (with an average of one article tagged for every 65 square km), while others remain as virtual deserts, such as Chad (with an average of one tagged article every 17,000 square km).
It’s possible, Graham writes, that as technology improves in developing countries, new Internet access will mean new editors for Wikipedia—and a lot fewer blank spots on the website’s information map. But, he argues, “it is equally conceivable that as peer-produced projects such as Wikipedia become our primary sources of knowledge, we could begin to see permanent information inequalities between different parts of the world.” Either way, “it is clear that we are far from running out of topics to write about.”
Source: The Guardian
Image by fdecomite, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 2:51 PM
Iraqi-born photojournalist and reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad was released today after being captured last week by armed men in Afghanistan. The happy news of his release (along with two Afghan journalists who requested anonymity) is an opportunity to highlight this man's spectacular work. He's been taking pictures and writing for The Guardian since the earliest days of the occupation in Iraq. His work was featured in Unembedded, a book of Iraq war photographs by photographers who risked all to venture out into Baghdad and other Iraqi cities to document life in a country quaking with violence.
On the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, Abdul-Ahad produced a series of videos, including a profound portrait of Iraq's lost generation.
Last month, the photojournalism site Foto8 posted a short video interview with Abdul-Ahad. In it, he discusses how reporting from Afghanistan differs from reporting from his home country:
In an interview with the Arab media portal Menassat, Abdul-Ahad addressed what he sees as the false categorizing of war journalists into locals and foreigners: "I think there is one kind of journalist. I don't believe in this whole division between local journalists and foreigners. In theory, we should all have the same understanding of the stories. I always give the example of my two biggest heroes: Ryszard Kapuscinski who was Polish and covered Africa and Latin America, and Martha Gellhorn, who was American and who covered all sorts of wars in different places... I think rule number one is that you go to a place and you try to learn."
Source: The Guardian, Foto8, Menassat
Subscribe to the Thousand Yard Stare RSS feed
Follow Thousand Yard Stare on Twitter (@1000yards)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 4:17 PM
For those who want spicier love lives, or at to least read about them, novelist Ewan Morrison has compiled a top ten list of his favorite literary ménages à trois for The Guardian. Writes Morrison:
The ménage à trois is a rich and rarified fictional seam which arose in the 19th century and originated from memoirs or fictionalised accounts of real-life events.The number of ménages à trois (as yet barely documented) which occurred in the lives of artists, writers and leaders from the 19th century to the present day – from DH Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw to Pablo Picasso and Jack Kerouac – is intriguing, and begs the question: was the ménage à trois the ideal (if publicly unacceptable) lifestyle of the modern 'radical'?
His list includes the following high-profile threesomes:
1) Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway. This erotic and allegedly autobiographical novel tells the story of a writer, his wife, and the young woman they share.
2) A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham. Eventually made into a film with Colin Farrell, this novel by the author of The Hours is about a gay man, his female friend, and their bisexual lover in the era of AIDS.
3) Off the Road: Twenty Years with Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg by Carolyn Cassady. The story behind the story of On the Road, as told by the woman who was Neal Cassady’s wife and Jack Kerouac’s lover.
4) Henry and June from the diary of Anaïs Nin. You’ve probably seen the movie, but have you read Nin’s actual accounts of her affair with Henry Miller and his wife June?
5) The Book of Genesis from the Bible. Morrison writes:
In the garden there were not two but three. The temptation of the apple was adultery, and Adam tasted it too. Thus began monogamy and a long history in which couples blamed each other for something involving a third party who was then kept out of the picture. The eradication of the third – this was the original sin.
Source: The Guardian
Image by mthaeg, licensed under Creative Commons
Sunday, December 28, 2008 11:43 AM
Further solidifying Google move towards total world dominance, Australia's newspaper the Age reports that scientists recently discovered hundreds of new species, including new birds, insects, and monkeys, using Google Earth.
The location of the find on Mount Mabu, Mozambique, was originally singled out for a possible conservation project, but researchers decided to take a closer look when they saw previously unexplored patches of vegetation. You can see the gorgeous photos on the Guardian website.
Image courtesy of
, licensed under
Monday, December 22, 2008 1:32 PM
One of the most unpopular administrations in U.S. history will leave office this January, passing the presidency on to Barack Obama, a man millions expect to be a transformative leader. Obama will take the reigns in the midst of a worldwide economic meltdown, with American troops fighting two wars abroad, the climate in crisis, and that’s just the beginning.
The time is ripe for political resolutions to ring in the New Year.
The coming year should be the time we “return to integrity and put pressure on our government and corporate leaders, our employers and colleagues, to do the same,” Courtney E. Martin writes for the American Prospect. It’s time to “hold one another accountable to our highest selves,” she argues.
Taking a global perspective, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon trumpeted a more concrete resolution at his last press conference of the year, the AFP reports: “2009 will be the year of climate change.” He continued, “We must reach a global climate change deal before the end of the year —one that is balanced, comprehensive and ratifiable by all nations.”
Obama is widely expected to heed the call to step-up American leadership on climate change. And he’s already made a slew of other promises for new direction, including pledges to “value science,” create millions of jobs, initiate health care reform in his first year in office, shutter Guantanamo Bay, and restore America’s stature on the world stage. Here’s hoping these New Year’s resolutions aren’t forgotten by March.
Have any political New Year's resolutions of your own? Share them in the Utne Salons, or in the comments section below.
Image by Waldo Jaquith, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 19, 2008 10:44 AM
It turns out heavy traffic isn’t just bad for the atmosphere. It also erodes the social fabric of communities and squashes neighborly relationships, according to a new study out of Great Britain.
The Guardian reports that the study, which looked at three streets in Bristol, England with light, medium, and heavy traffic flow, found that “people who live with high levels of motor traffic are far more likely to be socially disconnected and even ill than people who live in quiet, clean streets.” Residents on the heavily trafficked street had fewer neighborhood friends and acquaintances than those living on the less congested roads, weren’t likely to let their kids play outside, and felt little sense of community.
Researcher Joshua Hart concluded, “The primary influence on social deterioration is the external effect of traffic, not any possible personality differences among residents of the three streets…It seems that community and quality of life have been neglected whilst planning and transport policies have led to a massive growth in motor vehicles in the UK."
Image by Broken Sphere, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 5:19 PM
The British literary magazine Granta recently released its 100th issue, an erudite event chronicled by The Guardian’s Simon Garfield, who reports on how the literary institution—powered by the fedora-clad “inspired ‘lunacy’ ” of impresario Bill Buford—rose from a dusty Cambridge student magazine to a modern literary bellwether.
Since its 1979 launch, Granta discovered Salman Rushie, and has published screeds from Susan Sontag, Doris Lessing, and pretty much anyone else you’d ever want to pick up. It is, in Garfield’s words: “almost always an exciting and rewarding and illuminating thing to read.” His brief history is full of colorful tales of the gargantuan Buford. Here’s a taste:
When Hanif Kureishi met Buford in the mid-Eighties after the success of My Beautiful Laundrette, he found him to be “everything I thought literary people were like— this tough, hard-drinking, eccentric, charismatic, very talented man who knew everyone.” And of course, Kureishi suffered for his art along with the rest. “Bill was a savage editor—he would come round to your house almost at random and start cutting into your stuff. Ed White rang me up one day and said he didn’t realise he was a minimalist until he ran into Buford.”
“How was that experience?” I asked Kureishi. “Was it humiliating, rewarding, enriching, infuriating?”
“Yes,” he replied. “Write all those words down. I wouldn’t stand for it now.”
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!