A Koran etched in what now?
It was etched in the blood of a dictator in a ghoulish bid for piety. Over the course of two painstaking years in the late 1990s, Saddam Hussein had sat regularly with a nurse and an Islamic calligrapher; the former drawing 27 litres of his blood and the latter using it as a macabre ink to transcribe a Qur’an. But since the fall of Baghdad, almost eight years ago, it has stayed largely out of sight—locked away behind three vaulted doors. It is the one part of the ousted tyrant’s legacy that Iraq has simply not known what to do with.
Someday, I hope to have a copy of The Wind in the Willows written entirely in my blood. It’d really put passages like “The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home” in their proper light.
Robert Christgau’s 1969 review of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica: “I find it impossible to give this record an A because it is just too weird. But I’d like to. Very great played at high volume when you’re feeling shitty, because you’ll never feel as shitty as this record.”
Fascinating Wall Street Journal piece about the global surrogacy industry:
PlanetHospital’s most affordable package, the “India bundle,” buys an egg donor, four embryo transfers into four separate surrogate mothers, room and board for the surrogate, and a car and driver for the parents-to-be when they travel to India to pick up the baby.
It’s like a big assembly line scattered out over the globe. Alas, things don’t always go so smoothly:
Laws are vague and can conflict from country to country. In 2008, baby Manji was born to an Indian surrogate just weeks after the divorce of her Japanese parents-to-be. (The family wasn’t a PlanetHospital client.) According to a Duke University case study in legal ethics, it led to a tangle of Indian and Japanese law that first prevented the little girl from being issued a birth certificate, and later made it difficult for her father bring her home to Japan.
And then there’s this:
Mr. Rupak says he is vigilant about the risks inherent in a lightly regulated business. He says he stopped using egg donors from Georgia in Eastern Europe, for instance, because a black market for eggs has sprung up in the region. This fall, Greek authorities busted a group of Romanian and Bulgarian men for allegedly forcing poor immigrant women to undergo egg extractions.
And yet anyone who recalls the opening scene of Goldfinger, in which Sean Connery infiltrates a drug baron’s base, peeling off his wetsuit to reveal an impeccable tuxedo, will find the story of Pieter Tazelaar immensely satisfying. Put ashore in Nazi-occupied Holland just before five o’clock in the morning of November 23, 1940, Tazelaar wore full evening dress beneath his specially designed wetsuit, allowing him to walk directly into the seafront casino at Scheveningen. For greater verisimilitude, one of his fellow agents sprinkled him with Hennessy XO brandy beforehand. What happened next—a miraculous triumph at baccarat? an encounter with a mysterious blonde? a gun battle with an assassin who feels no pain?—remains sadly unknown.
—Dominic Sandbrook, “On His Majesty’s Secret Service,” The New Republic
pogonip, n. An ice fog that forms in the mountain valleys of the western U.S. From the Shoshone paγɨnappɨh, or “thunder-fog.”
What’s the biggest problem with cryonics (apart from the fact that it appears to be technologically infeasible)? No one in the future will have any incentive to thaw you out:
And secondly, why would anyone bother to defrost you when you had already paid up and had no possible means of redress. Who would want to resurrect a cluster of damp and out of date individuals, who would merely hang around adding to the world’s population problem?
Demolition Man had all sorts of keen insights into this particular conundrum.
Sometimes when I’m bored I’ll go look at all the mini-Wikipedias in obscure languages that are slowly popping up. Take Igbo: About 25 million people in Nigeria and Cameroon speak it, which means more people in the world speak Igbo than speak Dutch. But De vrije encyclopedie has more than 650,000 entries while the Igbo Wikipedia only has about 100. There are just a small handful of Igbo speakers actually tending to the encyclopedia, so it’s totally random as to what entries have been added so far.
For instance, in addition to the obvious pages (there’s one for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan), there’s an Igbo entry for the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle (the work of a newly situated emigrant, maybe?) and one for Australian actress Miranda Otto. And then there’s an entry for Theoren Fleury, the quart-sized former NHL star—as far as I can tell, he’s the only hockey player in the Igbo Wiki. I wonder if somewhere in southeastern Nigeria there’s a devoted and lonely Calgary Flames fan doing his/her small part to expand the catalogue of human knowledge, bit by bit.