student | urban planning | revolutionary marxist
dictatorship of the kumquat
Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe
“But thanks to 1066, William of Normandy, and all that, about 75% of the modern English vocabulary comes from French and Latin (ie the Romance languages, in orange) rather than Germanic sources. As a result, English (a Germanic language) and French (a Romance language) are actually closer to each other in lexical terms than Romanian (a Romance language) and French.”
In their annual End of Year survey, Win/Gallup International found that the United States is considered the number one “greatest threat to peace in the world today” by people across the globe. The poll of 67,806 respondents from 65 countries found that the U.S. won this dubious distinction by a landslide, as revealed in the chart above. (x)
Well, when it comes to the digital world, this exact scenario is playing out for Urdu, a South Asian language spoken by anywhere between 100 — 125 million people in Pakistan and India, and one of Pakistan’s two official languages. Urdu is traditionally written in a Perso-Arabic script called nastaliq, a flowy and ornate and hanging script. But when rendered on the web and on smartphones and the entire gamut of digital devices at our disposal, Urdu is getting depicted in naskh, an angular and rather stodgy script that comes from Arabic. Here’s a visual comparison taken from Wikipedia.
Looking at the picture, the discerning eye may immediately realize why naskh trumps nastaliq on digital devices. With its straightness and angularity, naskh is simply easier to code, because unlike nastaliq, it doesn’t move vertically and doesn’t have dots adhering to a strict pattern. Utility had defeated tradition.
There is one more reason why nastaliq matters. It is, literally, calligraphy become language. Until recent decades, young boys and girls in Indian and Pakistani schools carried around rectangular wooden board called a takhti. On these, using a bamboo reed pen and an inkwell filled with a little gauze to make the dipping easier, they practiced writing every letter of the Urdu alphabet with painstaking care. Then when the lesson was over they washed the ink off the board and smoothed the surface with a bar of stucco clay and started on the next lesson. I worked on a takhti when I was living in Pakistan. The earthen smell of a freshly washed and resurfaced board haunts me to this day.
Ali Eteraz, The Death of the Urdu Script
Note: see comments at the source for notes about the depiction of the sun’s scale.
It’s that time of year again! Check out these incredible images of snowflakes under a microscope by Alexey Kljatov.
A happy Friday to our follows - each of them a unique snowflake!
The Insane Story of Russian Mercenaries Fighting for the Syrian Regime.
It’s a story fit for a Hollywood summer blockbuster. A group of roughneck mercenaries are recruited by a private military contractor to guard some expensive assets in a conflict zone. Thinking that their mission was cleared with their own government (these black ops always are), the mercs are told to leave all identifying documents and military gear behind (because the enemy’s spies never sleep) and get on a plane. Upon landing in the warzone, however, nothing is as it seems. Their employers may or may not be who the mercenaries thought they were. They’re not sure what their mission is, but it seems that their mission is far more dangerous than they’ve been told. Furthermore, their weapons and equipment are sub-par, because the nicest gear has been confiscated by the local military. Soon, the soldiers of fortune are ambushed, the chain of command is confused, and when the group starts to take hits from an overwhelming force of religious zealots, the mercenaries flee. In their chaotic retreat, precious identifying documents (which were not supposed to be taken into the warzone, but were anyway) fall into enemy hands. Barely escaping with their lives, the mercenaries finally make it home. But upon arrival, their angry employers refuse to pay them and their own government arrests their leaders.
But this is not a movie script. This actually happened in September and October, when 267 Russian mercenaries, the “Slavonic Corps,” were hired to fight against Syrian rebels between Homs and Deir Ez Zor. Their employer told them that the mission had been cleared by the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB) and they were initially under the impression that the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad, was hiring them to protect oil assets. Upon arrival in Syria, the mercenaries were told that their employers were private individuals, not the Syrian government, and the weapons they were told they’d be given, including T-72 tanks, were replaced by antiquated tanks that didn’t run, and by makeshift armored vehicles with machine guns. Also, they soon learned that instead of guarding oil fields, they were supposed to be recapturing them from jihadists. The mission fell apart during the first sign of combat, and the Russians fled the warzone. When they touched down in Russia, however, the same FSB that they thought had OK’d the plan in the first place denied any knowledge of the operation and arrested two of the businessmen responsible for the operation.
If other planets were at the same distance as our moon
They happened across this hikers’ shelter (complete with shot glass) in Poland near the Slovakian border.
Follow their adventures here.
I lost respect when I learned of Gandhi’s body hatred and even more that he refused to have sex with his wife for the last thirty-eight years of their marriage (in fact he felt that people should have sex only three or four times in their lives) I lost even more [respect] when I found out that in order to test his commitment to celibacy, he had beautiful young women lie next to him naked through the night: evidently his wife - whom he described as looking like a ‘meek cow’ - was no longer desirable enough [to] be a solid test
Yeah, Gandhi was an unbelievably selfish individual. My biggest reason for losing respect for him, though, was that he criticized the Jews for defending themselves against the Holocaust — he insisted that they should have committed public mass suicide in order to “shame” the Germans instead of fighting back.
…. In order to shame the Germans? WTF? The Germans wouldn’t’ve been shamed - they’d’ve been thrilled to get their way so easily!
Gandhi’s exact words were: “But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. As it is, they succumbed anyway in their millions.” He also wrote an open letter to the British people in 1940 telling them to surrender to the Axis even if it meant accepting genocide:
“I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. Let them take possession of your beautiful island, with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these but neither your souls, nor your minds. If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself, man, woman and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”
he was also anti-black (lost all respect for him after reading how he treated sub-saharan africans).
read this. everyone needs to know gandhi’s “true colors”.
Ghandi was a pedophile, to boot.
I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MY ENTIRE LIFE THANK YOU
I CANNOT FUCKING STAND THE WAY HE IS PORTRAYED
HE WAS AN ABUSER WHO HIT HIS WIFE AND HIS DAUGHTERS ALSO
He also refused his wife medication that would have saved her life [for religious reasons], but when he himself was in a similar position decided that it was okay to make an exception.
Book Burning Memorial
'In the center of Bebelplatz, a glass window showing rows and rows of empty bookshelves. The memorial commemorates the night in 1933 when 20,000 “anti-German” books were burned here under the instigation of Goebbels. There's a plaque nearby that says something like “Where they burn books, they will also burn humans in the end.” '
Interesting but rarely mentioned: most of the content burned that night came from the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (institute for the science of sex) headed by Magnus Hirschfeld. The institute and Hirshfeld himself were some of the first to openly campaign for the right to have sex with someone of the same gender, the right to transition if you did not identify with your birth sex and for the general acceptance of queer people. The team had already performed the first SRS operations in Germany and in addition, the institute advocated sex education, contraception, the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and women’s emancipation.
Photographs of the night of the book burning are plastered across history books world wide, but the queer movement that was destroyed that night often goes unmentioned.