Newsweek Presents The Decade In Seven Minutes

Everything you need to know about the first decade of the twenty first century in seven minutes, according to Newsweek:

[Newsweek Presents The Decade In Seven Minutes | Youtube]


The Hippies

I just finished watching “The Hippies”, a made for TV documentary about the Hippie culture of the 60’s and 70’s that aired on the History Channel. Though flawed with its overarching, borderline ridiculous right-wing condemnations of hippie culture, it offers a fascinating glimpse at the drug-fueled, youth-driven counterculture of the era.

Too much time, unfortunately, is wasted on sensationalist, irrelevant side-stories and not enough is spent on the substantive contributions of the hippie aesthetic to the culture at large. There are also a few glaring historical accuracies; for example, one could easily conclude from the film that the Vietnam War ended after 1969 — which would certainly come as a surprise to the soldiers who served there from 1970-1973. But at least the film, at its end, correctly, if only briefly, touches upon some of the many lasting contributions of the hippie ethos to the culture at large; these include the consciousness movement, the environmental movement, and the computer/technological revolution which led to the democratization of information by the Internet.

[The Hippies – YouTube]

The mention of famed “satanist” Aleister Crowley caught my ear, especially when the narrator explained how his image was “featured” on the cover of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Truth be told, Crowley is merely one of the 85 people and objects featured on the cover.

The commentary also claims Sgt. Pepper’s was “the greatest masterpiece of the psychedelic era”. As any Beatles fan will tell you Sgt Pepper’s was Paul’s baby and while Lennon’s Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds* or George’s Within You Without You have that psychedelic sound, Paul didn’t embrace the drug scene in the same way that the others did and while it may truly be a masterpiece of musical genius, I’d venture to say that later albums like Magical Mystery Tour are more psychedelic.

*Fun fact: Lennon always denied Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD despite rumours to the contrary.


backmasking history

Backmasking Text File

Here’s an interesting little text file from 1983 that Jason Scott has in this vast archive of BBS files, backmask.txt, that delves into the history, technology, and social aspects of backmasking.

From the text file by William Poundstone:

TV programs such as PRAISE THE LORD and THE 700 CLUB have propagated rumors of a satanic plot in the recording industry, no less, in which various albums conceal “backward-masked” demonic murmurings. If THAT sounds too spacey to be taken seriously, consider that it was the fundamentalist groups who were behind House Resolution 6363, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Robert K. Dornan (R., Calif.) in 1982 to label all suspect records: “WARNING: THIS RECORD CONTAINS BACKWARD MASKING THAT MAKES A VERBAL STATEMENT WHICH IS AUDIBLE WHEN THIS RECORD IS PLAYED BACKWARD AND WHICH MAY BE PERCEPTIBLE AT A SUBLIMINAL LEVEL WHEN THIS RECORD IS PLAYED FORWARD.”

Many of the original rumours I heard about backmasking when I was a kid are in this file. It’s interesting to note that the claims of what exactly each songs says when played backwards has continued to evolve over the years.


Early Easter

According to an email that has been floating around, Easter is coming particularly early this year, and won’t be this early again for another 220 years.

Do you realize how early Easter is this year? As you may know, Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

Found out a couple of things you might be interested in! Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare.

Here’s the interesting info. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier! Here’s the facts:

1) The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you’re 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

2) The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

I took a look at the dates Easter has fallen on over the last few years:

  • Sunday 23rd April 2000
  • Sunday 15th April 2001
  • Sunday 31st March 2002
  • Sunday 20th April 2003
  • Sunday 11th April 2004
  • Sunday 27th March 2005
  • Sunday 16th April 2006
  • Sunday 8th April 2007

So, it’s not insanely early, just a week or so than the earliest Easters we are accustomed.

Remember, even though the holiday is early, there is still time to buy your chocolates, eat them and get more in time for Easter. Happy hunting.


history religion

Misquoting Jesus

In 1707, a biblical theologian named John Mill was the first to collect and combine the text of some 100 extant New Testament manuscripts. After 30 years of study he noted over 30,000 various major to mostly slight errors in the different versions of the New Testament manuscripts. His discovery brought to light the fact that so many different versions of the New Testament exist and that the book many people think of as the immutable word of God has an uncomfortably long history of changes.

The following video lecture is a tremendously interesting look at some of the discrepancies by world renowned bible scholar and author Dr. Bart D. Ehrman.

“There are places where we don’t know what the authors of the New Testament wrote. […]

The problem of not having the originals of the New Testament, though, is a problem for everyone—not simply for those that believe that the bible was inspired by God.

For all of us, I think, the bible is the most important book in Western Civilization. It continues to be cited in public debates over gay rights, abortion, over whether to go to war with foreign countries, over how to organize and run our society. But how do we interpret the New Testament? It’s hard to know what the words of the New Testament mean, if we don’t know what the words were.

And so in this lecture I’ll be talking about not knowing what the words were and what we might know about the originals of the New Testament, how they got lost and how possibly they might be reconstructed.”

[Misquoting Jesus| Youtube]

history humor

Robert Newman History of Oil

I really liked this Google Youtube Video: Robert Newman History of oil. It hits on so many important themes and ideas in such a brilliant way that all I can say is that if you are remotely interested in world politics/economics and history, then this is required watching. It’s also quite funny.

Robert Newman History of Oil

From the description:

Robert Newman gets to grips with the wars and politics of the last hundred years—but rather than adhering to the history we were fed at school, [he] places oil centre stage as the cause of all commotion. This innovative history programme is based around Robert Newman’s stand-up act and supported by resourceful archive sequences and stills with satirical impersonations of historical figures from Mayan priests to Archduke Ferdinand. Quirky details such as a bicycle powered street lamp on the stage brings home the pertinent question of just how we are going to survive when the world’s oil supplies are finally exhausted.

I’ve come to reconsider my stance on these polished conspiracy theory videos—they are thought provoking but I believe if they are not approached with a critical eye, they can be dangerous.


Eyewitnesses to Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Four witnesses recount their harrowing experiences in Hiroshima and Nagaski in 1945 when the US began dropping the atomic bomb.

Well, it was like a white magnesium flash. I lost consciousness right after or almost at the same time I saw the flash. When I regained consciousness, I found myself in the dark. I heard my friends, Ms. Asami, crying for her mother. Soon after, I found out that we actually had been attacked. Afraid of being caught by a fire, I told Ms. Asami to run out of the building. Ms. Asami, however, just told me to leave her and to try to escape by myself because she thought that she couldn’t make it anywhere. She said she couldn’t move. I said to her that I couldn’t leave her, but she said that she couldn’t even stand up. While we were talking, the sky started to grow lighter. Then, I heard water running in the lavatory. Apparently the water pipes had exploded. So I drew water with my helmet to pour over Ms. Asami’s head again and again. She finally regained consciousness fully and went out of the building with me. We first thought to escape to the parade grounds, but we couldn’t because there was a huge sheet of fire in front of us. So instead, we squatted down in the street next to a big water pool for fighting fires, which was about the size of this table. Since Hiroshima was completely enveloped in flames, we felt terribly hot and could not breathe well at all. After a while, a whirlpool of fire approached us from the south. It was like a big tornado of fire spreading over the full width of the street.”


Enschede Fireworks Disaster

fireworks factory explosionOn May 13, 2000, in the eastern Dutch town of Enschede, a fire broke out in the S.E Fireworks depot. Twenty-two people died and a neighbourhood was destroyed.

Check out the awesome and terrible power of the disaster in the Enschede fireworks disaster video.

Also see the Wikipedia entry on Enschede fireworks disaster.


WWII Soldier Found Frozen in Ice

Two climbers on a Sierra Nevada glacier discovered an ice-encased body believed to be that of an airman whose plane crashed in 1942.

World War II Soldier discovered in ice

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Two climbers on a Sierra Nevada glacier discovered an ice-encased body believed to be that of an airman whose plane crashed in 1942.

The man was wearing a World War II-era U.S. Army Corps parachute when his frozen head, shoulder and arm were spotted on 13,710-foot Mount Mendel in Kings Canyon National Park, park spokeswoman Alex Picavet said Wednesday.

Park rangers and specialists camped on the mountainside in freezing weather for an excavation expected to take several days. The body was 80% encased in ice, Picavet said.

“We’re not going to go fast,” she said. “We want to preserve him as much as possible. He’s pretty intact.”

The excavation crew included an expert from a military unit that identifies and recovers personnel who have been missing for decades.

Park officials believe the serviceman may have been part of the crew of an AT-7 navigational training plane that crashed on Nov. 18, 1942. The wreckage and four bodies were found in 1947 by a climber.

(CNN video)

history life travel

Malaysia – Day 31

The suspicious man from a few days ago approached me again today. This time he was alone, but again he asked me what time it was. I told him I thought it was weird that he kept asking me for the time and that he should stop asking, especially since he has a watch. I knew his watch worked, but it’s not polite to just accuse someone of outright lying, so I tried to catch a glimpse of what time he actually had.

He told me that he “forgot…” (was he implying he forgot how to read it? I’m not sure) which really isn’t the case because when I tried to look at his watch to see if he really had the wrong time he covered the watch’s face with his thumb and then finally he moved it enough for me to read his watch. He asked if it was quarter to nine. It was. I looked at him incredulously and then walked away.

The whole sequence of events struck me as very odd and so I thought about this guy and what he could possibly want. I ran the scenario through my head, “What time is it?” and then it struck me. 4:20. Answering 4:20 is code signifying that I want to buy weed.

That’s the only logical scenario I can come up with, but could it be? The penalty for selling drugs in Malaysia is death. Why would anyone put themselves at such risk?

I read about a girl from Australia the other day that got caught with four kilograms of pot in Indonesia (that’s 8.8 pounds). She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. She’s going to appeal but it doesn’t look promising. Why anyone would take that big of a risk is beyond me.

Sometimes things just don’t go the way you’d like them. This morning for breakfast I apparently failed at getting my order across. I wanted to get a plain roti with butter (just like a scone) some scrambled eggs, and a nice glass of cold water. Instead I got some half boiled eggs still in their brown shells and liquid inside, and some toast with some marmalade like jam. The toast was good anyway but there was no way I could possibly even crack the runny eggs. I thought it was funny that even the ice water that I ordered was hot and particularly sans ice. Apparently if you order water and they don’t hear the “ice” part, they think you want to use it to make tea.

This evening I finished reading my book, “Canadian History for Dummies“. Don’t worry I’m well aware of the irony in coming to Malaysia to learn about Canada. But wow, what a great look into Canada’s astounding past. Some of the things I remember hearing about in school, but most were new facts that I either wasn’t interested in, in school, or that the curriculum didn’t cover.

I found the roles Canada played in the first and second world wars very interesting, and particularly eye opening was the sequence of events involving the French and their huge part in Canadian history and their consequential feelings of being jilted by the rest of Canada. It made a lot more sense when you have the whole story and not just what I remember from the news during the Lyin’ Brian Mulroney years. The true story is a lot more complicated than this idea I got growing up in the west that “French Canadians are just hard to get along with” and “they refuse to be bilingual just on the principle of the matter.” I’d get into it more, but it’s a long story that involves broken promises, back stabbing, political maneuvering, and an attempt by the British to eliminate the French culture from Canada.

I highly recommend this book for anyone with a remote interest in the history of not only Canada but the whole continent of North America. There is a lot of shared history between Canada and the United States. It’s full of things that will make you laugh not to mention a lot of darker history that makes you want to cry. It’s all in there.