Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Speaking of Nazis, Let's Discuss Dogs

First, a director sympathized with Hitler in Cannes. Then, a dog nursed baby ligers in a Chinese zoo. Now, in a bizarre instance of synchronicity, a new book reveals that Nazi scientists tried to create an army of talking dogs.

Among his other brilliant initiatives, Hitler opened a number of “animal talking schools” so that dogs could be taught to read, write and speak. Here is an excerpt from a Time article detailing some of the supposed accomplishments of the canine pupils:

An Airedale terrier named Rolf became a mythic figure of the project after teachers said he could spell by tapping his paw on a board (the number of taps represented the various letters of the alphabet). With that skill in hand, he mused on religion, learned foreign languages and even asked a noblewoman, "Can you wag your tail?” Perhaps most outlandish is the claim by his German masters that he asked to serve in the German army because he disliked the French. Another mutt barked "Mein Fuhrer" when asked to describe Hitler. And Don, a German pointer, is said to have imitated a human voice to bark, "Hungry! Give me cakes!" in German.

With respect to the late Terence McKenna, I think these events signified the end of Timewave Zero. As if this dog school business wasn’t enough, the article keeps shelling the reader with mind bombs (yes, mind bombs):

Germany's love of dogs may have blinded the Nazis to the outlandish goals of their project. "Part of the Nazi philosophy was that there was a strong bond between humans and nature. They believed a good Nazi should be an animal friend," Bondeson says. "Indeed, when they started interning Jews, the newspapers were flooded with outraged letters from Germans wondering what had happened to the pets they left behind."

I’ve heard of people liking their dog more than their neighbor, but this just takes the concept of animal favoritism to absurd extremes. It seems the Nazis were kind of like a twisted version of PETA on steroids, although some would argue that no qualifiers are necessary in that comparison.

In its conclusion, the article blasts the reader in the face with a final bizarre factoid:

Hitler, a well-known dog-lover, had two German Shepherds named Blondi and Bella. He killed Blondi shortly before killing himself in 1945.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lars Von Trier

An analysis of Lars Von Trier’s “controversial” press conference remarks

 "I hope you enjoy my film. I will now discuss my thoughts on Adolf Hitler in a lengthy and incoherent tangent - is that a problem?"

Lars Von Trier recently caused an uproar at the Cannes film festival because of statements he made during a press conference. In this post, I will analyze some key statements in an effort to discover the source of the controversy.

“I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, you know, because my family was German.”

Von Trier references the fact that all Germans are Nazis. Nothing controversial yet.

“What can I say, I understand Hitler.”

Proverbs 10:13 says, “Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.” Clearly, Mr. Von Trier is a wise man. Understanding is a positive trait that should be commended, not condemned.

“I think he did some wrong things, but I can see him sitting in his bunker.”

I totally agree with Von Trier here. The fact of the matter is that people sometimes do wrong things. Cursing in traffic, cheating on a boyfriend or girlfriend, starting a world war and systematically murdering millions of innocent people - these examples serve as reminders that people make mistakes.

As for the second part of the statement, I can also see Hitler sitting in his bunker. With so many Downfall parodies gracing the Internet in recent history, I doubt anyone would have a problem imagining this scene.

[Kirsten Dunst laughs uncomfortably] “There will come a point at the end of this.”

This quote is impressive because it suggests that Von Trier may have some precognitive abilities. While he never really arrived at a cogent point in his speech, there was a significant event after the press conference in which organizers banned Von Trier from the Cannes film festival. But still I wonder, why?

“I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit.”

This quote appears controversial at first glance, but upon closer inspection it really isn’t. Von Trier says that he sympathizes with Hitler a little bit. Certainly, at some point in his life, Hitler caught a cold. We all know how annoying it is to suffer through congestion, a runny nose and constant sneezing. Therefore, we can all sympathize with Hitler a little bit.

“I am of course very much for Jews, no not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass.”

I must admit that this quote was a little strange in that there was literally no pause in between “I am of course very much for jews” and “no not too much”. Ultimately however, the quote highlights the obvious point that if one disagrees with the policies of the Israeli government, one must discriminate against all Jews. Like Von Trier’s earlier reminder that all Germans are Nazis, this is simply a statement of fact.
“Ok, I’m a Nazi.”
Another quote that appears controversial, but is at best ambiguous. Remember, Oskar Schindler was a Nazi so clearly not all Nazis are bad. Further questioning would be required to really understand what Von Trier is trying to convey in this highly ambiguous and abstruse statement.

So there you have it, Lars Von Trier’s “controversial” press conference. If anyone figures out what all the fuss was about, please let me know.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

BBC News: Seal Whiskers Sense Fattest Fish...

According to an article from BBC Earth News, seals can track and identify the size of fish using only their whiskers.

In related news, the US Department of the Interior has hired Wilford Brimley* as a consultant on the migratory patterns of salmon.

*mandatory note: Beetus

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BBC Making Liberal Use of Quotes in Headlines

As I was browsing the BBC News headlines, I noticed that many of them included quotations. The following examples constitute my effort to make sense of this odd phenomenon.

Probe after ‘kiwi’ found in Russia

The term ‘kiwi’ <---(legitimate use of quotes) can refer to a bird, a fruit or a person from New Zealand. With quotes added, the meaning of the term becomes virtually inscrutable. Perhaps someone glued lint to a lime. Then again, it may have been a Russian doing a horrendous impression of a New Zealand accent. If referring to a bird, the reporter may have been praising or criticizing a chicken. It’s impossible to know which is the case because I don’t know whether ‘kiwi’ is a complement or a pejorative in the avian world.

France football quota talk ‘not illegal’

Whatever is meant here, it must be the opposite of ‘not legal’, which simply translates to ‘legal’. However, when someone employs quotations in discussing legal matters, it usually suggests that the topic in question is actually illegal.

Example: Invest your money with Drug Bribery Murder Capital and receive a guaranteed 100% return on investment in under a month! All of our operations are completely ‘legal’!

Therefore, it would seem that ‘legal’ refers to something that is, in fact, illegal. But does the same rule hold true for ‘not illegal’? This one is very confusing, but I have one theory on what it could mean. Perhaps the reporter didn’t understand French and therefore didn’t know what to write in the article. Drawing on her resourceful nature, the reporter crafted an article full of ambiguous terms, double negatives and quotes to produce a piece that made no discernible points in an effort to mask her ignorance.

The headlines in question

Japan ‘to review energy policy’

This one is a real accomplishment. If the quotations extended one more word the entire headline would apparently be ironic. As it is, the mention of Japan is the only concrete element.

So, what is Japan actually doing? My top three guesses are playing video games, sumo wrestling or shooting a game show that will blow my mind no less than five times when I eventually watch it.

Egypt tourism minister ‘jailed’

They’re talking about the tourism minister, so maybe this has to do with some kind of tourism promotion.

Possibility #1: A brochure features an image of the tourism minister behind bars along with a photo of the pyramids. A message reads, “Come to Egypt and see a real pyramid scheme!”

I made an 'effort' to create a conceptual image.

Possibility #2: The tourism minister appears in a TV commercial promoting Egypt as a tourist destination. The minister exclaims, “This is the perfect time to visit Egypt. Travel and lodging rates are so low, they are illegal under Sharia law!” The commercial ends with members of the Muslim Brotherhood apprehending the minister and throwing him in prison.

Tanks ‘near’ restive Syria city

This one is peculiar in that it couldn’t be more straightforward, yet quotes still appear. Upon further inspection, it is really an ingenious headline in that it protects the reporter from making an error. ‘Near’ is a relative term. We know for a fact that tanks exist and we also know that Syria exists and that it contains cities.

If tanks are on the border of a Syrian city, everyone would agree that the tanks are near the city. However, what about tanks located in the United States? Are they near a Syrian city? Relative to their distance from Mars, yes. Therefore, there will always be tanks near a Syrian city in some sense for the foreseeable future.