Exactly thirty years ago today, a large gathering of students took place in the South Western Townships of Johannesburg: then and still now, one of the most miserable place you could ever set a sight on. On that day, a few thousands black students were protesting yet another humiliating law passed by the pro-apartheid government, when armed policemen started firing real bullets at the crowd.

The resulting mayhem and deaths of many children had for indirect consequence to force the world into reconsidering its fairly lenient take on the Afrikaners’ quasi-aryan policies. The international community slowly but surely issued official condemnations and accompanying trade cutbacks. Although it should be noted that, until 1986, any UN attempt at imposing worldwide economic sanctions against South Africa was promptly vetoed by both US and UK.

Indeed, neither Maggie nor Ronnie ever deemed it necessary to have any lower an opinion of their South African (white) friends over such trifling details. I’ll let you guess which of the two, in 1987, labeled the ANC a “terrorist organization” and equalled the chances of it ever gaining power to “living in cloud cuckoo land”… though I must say the flowery language is kinda giving it away.

Worry not yourself, you may have done your part to help teenage-shooting, citizen-torturing, white-supremacist pro-Apartheid government of South Africa survive through most of the 20th century: all you had to do was getting engaged more than a dozen years ago.

Eventually, beside internal Black resistance and increasingly disadvantaging demographics, the fall of the apartheid system would seem to hang more on South Africa’s loss of credit on the financial market and ensuing economic turmoils, than any concerted efforts from so-called civilized nations to put significant pressure on its leaders. As it was, these countries were in no rush to lose their privileged trade relations with the ever courteous and oh-so-exquisitely well-mannered good old fair-skinned boys leading South Africa at the time. You know, the same countries who will jump on the first occasion to bomb moustachioed dictators back to the stone-age, out of their deeper concern for the well-being of the people and the advancement of freedom and democracy throughout the world.

Happy Soweto Riots Day.

Not long after I arrived in Japan, I was introduced to an older gentleman, who shared a keen interests in some European authors and was altogether a pleasure to converse with. That man spoke extremely little English, but was practically fluent in both German and French, while I was, on my end, doing my best to start conveying meaningful sentences through the 15 words of Japanese I had mastered at the time.

I have been in the past ironically referring to “my Japanese lawyer“, and people naturally always assumed I was joking… Well, he is a lawyer. While he should probably have hit retirement a few years ago now, he seems well intent on pleading cases until the very last day. He has, on rare occasions, given me some pro bono advices, repaid in old whiskey and binded european books, which, I suppose, makes him my Japanese lawyer after all.

We once had a conversation about his youth: growing up in Japan during and immediately after the war. The bombing over Tokyo, where his parents lived, got extremely intensive during the last two years. Most of his childhood neighbourhood burnt down before the end of the war. He and his older sister had therefore been sent to some relatives’ house in the country, near a smaller city that had been so far spared from most of the bombings.

As often, this entry started as a comment on one of my own entry, specifically addressing Mark’s comment… Then I realized it may as well become its own entry. Consider this the heady and serious counterpart that had to follow last week’s joke…

Mark,

Where do I begin…

No, I do not think poverty exists in African countries just because they need to be freed from their despots and embrace the market.

All these despots, like about every other plague that’s befallen Africa over the past few centuries can be, without a hint of exaggeration, directly traced to one western nation or another. Sure, there are lots of Africans killing and oppressing other Africans. There are bad people in Africa, like anywhere else. But the people manipulating these dictators and benefitting ultimately from the insane amount of corruption and plundering that is underway: they are most definitely not Africans.

Africa is not “dependent”: it currently provides most of the oil that’s running your SUV, my friend. Can you tell me what it gets in return? Beside funding and weapons to whatever warlord agrees to give the best protection for Oil companies, that is.

Entire African countries are currently run, without any pretense at hiding it, by US and European corporations. Countries lucky enough to be devoid of valuable resources (or whose wealth was exhausted in the previous decades) usually have to deal with impossibly stupid artificial borders that make tribal wars a given.

Believe me, it would be a while before whatever money the IMF “invests” in African countries comes any close to even-out what is simultaneously being pumped out of the continent straight into the hands of private corporate interests. And talking about these investments, I hope you do realize that we aren’t even talking about “financial help” here: the debt some of these countries have, was loaned at such rates that the mere interests sometimes overcome their GNP, making it practically impossible to pay back. That is, unless they’d do something like repossess national resources and re-negotiate actual trade agreements that do not just give it away to foreign companies… And I’ll let you count how many government have survived to tell their successful tale of taking on such enterprise (cf. South America).

So in the end, I’ll tell you why that half of the world slowly dying from its excess of fat and junk food, ought to do something for the other half:

Not just out of simple human decency, not just because of that Book they love to flaunt whenever it’s time to burn or stone a sinner but conveniently forget when it comes to the part about human life over material possessions and such other Nazarethian hippy nonsense, not just because even the most raging capitalist ought to realize that there is a problem in a system where people die daily for lack of 5 c. worth of food, while others accumulate more wealth than they could possibly spend in a lifetime…

Accordion Guy picked up this tragi-grotesque list of “Most Harmful” books of the century on Human Events Online, a site that panting hardcore conservatives usually browse with a single hand…

Hmmn, awright… I’m not even sure why I bother discussing a list that places Darwins, Kinsey, Beauvoir and overall, any socio-political thought somewhat left of fundamentalist wingnutry as “harmful”…

Yet… I thought I would point out that these “19th and 20th century” contributions all but pale in comparison to a certain piece of writing from twenty centuries ago.

Now, I am serious here: assuming somebody can give me anything other than “They don’t agree with us” as a systematic criterion for inclusion, I presume we would have to take in account killing and massacring of innocents as an important part of the selection process. In which case, call me biased, but I would dare venture that 2000 years of bloody history all seem to point at that bestseller featuring the life and teaching of that famous bearded hippie.

Not only was the man a dangerous subversive commie with strong anti-capitalist positions and a heavy past as a free-trade obstructionist, but his book went on to justify a good half of all blood baths that took place in recorded history… Tell me about harmful liberal propaganda…

Picture faceanalysis.png Yuki recently blogged her experiments with FaceAnalyzer.com. It sounded fun, I decided to go see for myself.

FaceAnalyzer is a website that claims to be able to give you, from a mere picture, an automated breakdown of your “race” (which, may I remind you people, in the case of humans, is mostly a social construct, with hardly any ground in biology), along with an estimate of your “Intelligence”, “Ambition”, “Risk” (whatever the hell that may be), “Gay Factor”… complete with, I kid you not: Income bracket

Now I know what you think: quite a bit of pseudoscience, mixed in with a whole lot of outright quackiness…

Only one way to know, right?

Upon submitting a fairly broad sample of my likeness, in various states of drug-induced haze, hair color and cheekiness, the results were rather mitigated:
While I can certainly accept the possibility that I may have a fair share of East-Indian or Chinese blood in me (please no “ever had some [insert ethnicity] in you?” joke here), I find it a bit harder to accept that I’d be a woman (as the system insisted on pointing out, in every single case)… Although that would explain a certain fascination for lace undergarments and a secret passion for knitting I always attributed to my deviant morals… But in that case, wouldn’t all the lesbian action give me a “Gay Factor” at least somewhat above average?

Obviously not very conclusive. But science makes mistakes… One should not draw hasty conclusions and bluntly discard such breakthrough technology as “money-making snake’s oil scheme” without at least a second chance…

So I bravely submitted a picture of my brother’s cat, and I must say the results are troubling.

  • Indeed, the cat is FEMALE! Most definitely has a good deal of middle-eastern ancestry, in fact, her lineage can probably be traced to every other urban slum of the Eurasian continent, with the odd pedigreed tomcat here and there…
  • Frankly not sure about that “Low Promiscuity” rate: I mean, before she got spayed, the girl could be quite a little trollop around the neighbourhood.
  • It is a bit disappointing that she only displays “Average” ambition, but I guess we will have to find solace in the fact that she is destined to make at least $30,000 a year… not bad for a cat who doesn’t even have her high-school degree.

I’ll be contacting my brother shortly and urge him to stop wasting her talent on stupid things like chasing rats and rummaging around the neighbourhood: that cat has potential (Beta Academic potential!), she needs to be put to work!

By the way, physiognomy is not a new idea. It hasn’t been given the slightest bit of scientific credibility over the past 50 years, though.

As for how the website gets its “uncanny” success rate regarding geographical phenotypes: any first-year computer science student can get the same results with a big-enough sample database and some very low-grade face-matching algorithm. Any rating merely suggest a match with existing pictures of a certain ethnicity, which is well below the crease of scientific procedure, hence the wild margin of error. In fact a properly trained neural network would probably give vastly superior results on some criteria (such as gender, for example).

Needless to say that detection of personality traits such as “Gay Factor”, “Promiscuity” or even “Intelligence”, through face analysis, is complete and utter bullcrap. The last people with an academic background to have given it some sort of scientific credence ended up cracking capsules of cyanide in their mouth, approximately sixty years ago.

I recently explained my decision to start packaging and distributing my own version of WordPress in order to make my life simpler, as to the distribution of Spam Karma 2.

Simultaneously, I had to deal with an outbreak of issues (or more exactly vocalizations on these issues: it’s unlikely the issues have been any more common than before. They were just given more attention on these pages) with Spam Karma 1.

I have taken the time to write a very detailed response to cover all aspects of the False Positives problem, and provide anybody coming to me with a comment denied by Spam Karma, with the Why?, How? and What Now? of their problem. The bottom line being that, while I’m sincerely sorry about these, I am not responsible in the slightest for the use people make of this program (especially considering how easy it is to screw up the install when you hold yourself too smart to read the docs) and even less so now that there is an upgrade available.

But I care, and think I have proven it in the past, to whoever bothered contacting me without resorting to death threats immediately.

There is, however, one way to make me not care about your problem… It goes a little bit like this:

It is usually pointless to pay any attention to whatever offensive comment Shintaro Ishihara manage to spew with regularity, seeing how he makes little secret of his goal to alienate about every single non-Japanese human being on the planet. The fact that he is the Governor of the greater Tokyo area makes it all the more pathetic.

His last display of xenophobic moronism, though, did manage to make me laugh in disbelief quite a bit.

Everybody has, I’m sure, heard of how painful it is to rent an apartment in Tokyo.
If you or anybody you know has ever looked for a place to live in Tokyo, then you know all about the race prejudice, the vertiginous deposits, ludicrous requirements, real estate agent mandatory commission and above all the two or three months gift money to the landlord, for the privilege of moving into their slum.

If you needed any more proof, here is one:

Among the many horrific experiments conducted by the nazis on their prisoners during WWII, a whole set of them focused on hypothermia: hapless Russian POW were put into icy water baths until they collapsed, then attempts to reanimate them using more or less scientific means were made.

Unlike most of their other pseudo-scientific experiments, this one actually had some kind of vaguely reachable goal: improve the life expectancy of the average Luftwaffe pilot forced into a sudden scuba-diving trip in the English Channel. Quite a problem at the time, especially among German tourists returning home from a leisure flight over London.