Friday, December 5, 2008

Hercules: The World's Biggest Dog Ever According to Guinness World Record

Hercules: The World's Biggest Dog Ever According to Guinness World Records. Hercules was recently awarded the honorable distinction of World's Biggest Dog by Guinness World Records. Hercules is an English Mastiff who has a 38-inch neck and weighs 282 pounds.  With "paws the size of softballs" (reports the Boston Herald), the three-year-old monster is far larger and heavier than his breed's standard 200lb. limit. Hercules' owner Mr. Flynn says that Hercules weight is natural and not induced by a bizarre diet: "I fed him normal food and he just "grew" and grew....

The Fastest Turtle in the World: The Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)

Have you ever think of what is fastest turtle species? The Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest of all living turtles. This is the only living species of the genus Dermochelys. As a sea turtle, the leatherback turtle is the largest and heaviest. It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by the absence of a reservoir bone. Instead, the shell of the leatherback turtle is covered by skin and turtle meat fat. Dermochelys coriacea is the only existing member of the family Dermochelyidae. They are also the fastest reptile on record. The 1992 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records has the leatherback turtle as having reached a speed of 9.8 meters per second (35.28 kph or 21.9 mph) in water. Source: Wikipedia

Blog Flux Scramble - Email Encryption and JavaScript Protection
Submit Blog Add to Technorati Favorites Add to Google

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If the Shoe Fits . . ."Just Do it", Nike, Urban Legeng, Folklore

Claim: The Samburu tribesman appearing in a Nike commercial was supposed to say the equivalent of "Just Do It" in his native language, but he said something entirely different instead.
Status: True.

Origins: Everyone loves a good tale of corporate mayhem. Here's a short version of this 1989 news story:
Nike has a television commercial for hiking shoes that was shot in Kenya using Samburu tribesmen.

The camera closes in on the one tribesman who speaks, in native Maa. As he speaks, the Nike slogan "Just do it" appears on the screen.

Lee Cronk, an anthropologist at the University of Cincinnati, says the Kenyan is really saying, "I don't want these. Give me big shoes."

Says Nike's Elizabeth Dolan, "We thought nobody in America would know what he said."
Business blunders delight us in that we like to see the powerful with a bit of egg on their faces. The facts of this story aren't in dispute — there was such a commercial, it was shot in Kenya, and over a subtitle of "Just Do It" the tribesman said "I don't want these. Give me big shoes" in his native Maa. But why did this happen? And was Nike aware of what the man was really saying, or had they been caught flatfooted?

Nike's explanations were contradictory:
Nike spokeswoman Liz Dolan said Cronk is correct. "We knew what he was saying," Dolan said. "It was our line."

She said Nike originally intended to have the commercial end with a joke line in which the tribesman complained that Nike sent him the wrong size. But the editors decided the simple Nike slogan worked better. "It was so lovely and beautiful, we dropped the joke," she said.

Dolan also said the tribesman repeated a phrase that is the Maa equivalent of "Just do it," but the video of the other phrase worked better. "The Maa version of 'Just Do it' was too lengthy" for a 30-second spot, she said.
and Nike contends that an earlier script called for the tribesman's ironic comment, but the company decided in the end to stick with its slogan in the subtitle. So far so good — at this point it sounds like Nike changed the script at the last second, that they knew what the fellow was saying but went with it anyway because this particular string of Maa sounded better to North American ears than an accurate one would have. Bit brainless of them not to realize that someone in the viewing audience was bound to know enough Maa to get the joke, but still a far cry from unintentionally ending up the goat in this story.

Another explanation was surfacing, however:
An embarrassed Nike spokesman admits the film crew had to improvise after having difficulty in obtaining a Maa version of the slogan. "We never really knew what the tribesmen were saying," concedes director Hannah Hempstead.
All spin doctoring attempts aside, I'm inclined to believe the director. Adding to her credibility is this snippet from a 1990 magazine article:
The Samburu tribe was Hempstead's cast for the :30 Nike spot. The Samburu speak the Mah language, and the crew's translator spoke Swahili. This caused a minor communication glitch that was partially remedied by pointing to pictures in a book on the Masai tribe to show the cast what was needed on film.

True or not, tales of inappropriate foreign phrases sneaked into films have been around for many years, as evidenced by this anecdote from the pen of M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr:
I remembered one Saturday night back at the Rivoli in Toledo. Everyone in the neighborhood (including most of the Arab-American community in Toledo) had turned out to see "Sirocco" with Humphrey Bogart [1951], set somewhere in North Africa. There was one scene in a crowded bazaar. As Bogart passed through, and the scene began to fade, one Arab voice rang out, "Ya hallah deen bayak!" That almost brought the house down. "What?" The non-Arabs in the house wanted to know: "What is everybody laughing about?" My buddy, Gregory Morris, decided he would translate . . . "That means, 'Goddamn your father.'"

Okay, so what's the international sign for "Just do it"?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The art of the toilet in Japan

Smart young women at Panasonic show off the latest waresDuncan Bartlett discovers how, when it comes to lavatories, Japan is a step ahead of the rest of the world.
No country takes toilets quite so seriously as Japan.

Machines with heated seats, built-in bidets and a dynamic range of flushing options are almost ubiquitous in homes and public buildings.

A poem recently published by a stressed-out salary man captured their comforting appeal with haiku-like brevity. "The only warmth in my life is the toilet seat," he mourned.
But lavatories here can do much more than keep you warm. One even sends a tiny electrical charge through the user's buttocks to check their body-fat ratio. The master of the modern convenience is the Panasonic Corporation.

Booming market

At its Tokyo showroom, located in a skyscraper near the BBC's office, a group of smart young women, dressed in uniforms resembling flight attendants, showed me the company's latest wares.
The lids lifted up when I approached. If I stood in front of one, it took a guess at my gender and lifted up the seat as well.

There was a loo that glowed in the dark and another that had built-in loudspeakers.
With manicured fingernails, the demonstrator pushed the control panel beside the seat and gentle light classical music began to play. Pleasant enough, I thought, although I preferred a pastoral sound effect that provided the impression one was seated upon a white plastic throne surrounded by songbirds in a springtime meadow.

Japanese people do not see cleaning as a demeaning or shameful jobKyoko Ishii, who heads up the public relations department for Panasonic, explained to me that most of the people who choose luxury loos are older women, so this is a booming market in rapidly ageing Japan.
Kyoko says that for this core customer group, the emphasis now is less on the gadgetry and more on convenience and cleanliness. A new flush has been invented which does away with the need for a tank and saves dramatically on water.

The device costs about £1,950 ($3,000) including installation. But it is not easy to sell outside Japan as bathrooms in other countries are rarely fitted with the right mixture of sophisticated plumbing and electronics.

Clean culture

A visitor to Tokyo recently told me that he was surprised to find Japanese women rather than foreigners cleaning the toilets in his hotel.

Advertisements for toilets are screened on public transportIt is of course often immigrants who take on such jobs in rich countries. But foreign-born workers are rare here as only about 1.5% of the population are made up of non-native Japanese.

However, the low immigration level is only part of the explanation. Japanese people do not see cleaning as a demeaning or shameful job. School children are trained from a young age to sweep their classrooms and scour the playground for litter. Lorry drivers wash their trucks at the end of every day. No restaurant ever serves a meal without first offering the customer a cleansing towel.
Recently, I visited a small technology company in Osaka. The president, Mr Sugimoto, is trying to inspire his staff to work harder as recession takes hold.

The Japanese - like the British - do not seem to mind too much when comedians sink into vulgarity and joke about scatological matters He is noted for his drive and enthusiasm and that came across in a punchy presentation which he showed me on his laptop.

It included photographs of his staff on their knees scrubbing the urinals. His point was that in preparation for a new project, the whole team had mucked in to clean up the workplace and this was clearly a source of pride to be included in the company's publicity.

Source of comfort

But toilets can raise a smile, too. Television comedies sometimes include scenes of pranksters luring people into loos whose walls then collapse, and the embarrassment this causes the victim is a source of great hilarity.

The toilet then appeared to give a welcoming robotic smile and its seat began to glow an inviting orange colour as it heated up, ready for action The Japanese - like the British - do not seem to mind too much when comedians sink into vulgarity and joke about scatological matters. But there is also a dark underground trade in DVDs filmed in ladies' toilets by hidden cameras, and only last week a man was arrested for placing "spycams" in the lavatories of a girls' school. Most of the time, though, the Japanese are happy to think of a toilet as their comfort and their friend.

The other day, while catching a commuter train to work, I found myself transfixed by an advertisement which was being screened on a TV inside the carriage.

A young girl slowly walked towards a loo, which automatically raised its lid to greet her.
The toilet then appeared to give a welcoming robotic smile and its seat began to glow an inviting orange colour as it heated up, ready for action. Fortunately, the advertisement ended there. But not before a broad and appreciative smile broke out across the face of the girl.

Seeking a passport to a new life (China, Chinese, Passport, Citizenship, Migration)

By Jennifer Pak BBC News, Beijing

Many Chinese people were outraged by Gong Li's decision
One of China's most famous actresses has been accused of being unpatriotic after becoming a Singaporean citizen.

Some say Gong Li, star of the film Memoirs of a Geisha, has turned her back on her Chinese fans.
But the actress is not the only Chinese citizen to seek another country's passport.
They do it for convenience, to improve job prospects and as a safety net.
Despite China's increasing economic and political power, a Chinese passport is still seen as restrictive by many of its citizens.

Gong Li, whose husband is from Singapore, is just one of many film stars who have given up their Chinese passport.

According to news reports, Hong Kong film star Jet Li holds US citizenship. And Zhang Ziyi, the star of kung fu movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, holds a Hong Kong residency card.

Gong Li's passport switch led to a commentary in the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper.
"We should think about why our laws, our system and cultural society have churned out so many of these so-called 'super citizens', people who live in China but their hearts are set on being a citizen in another country," it said.

'Still Chinese'

Kong Ting, who was born in China but is now a US citizen, is not surprised that Gong Li switched to a Singaporean passport.

I feel safer when I come back to China and I say certain things that the Chinese government doesn't like Kong Ting"A lot of times when Chinese do things it's for practical reasons, to make life easier and for more financial gain," she said Ms Kong, 36, has lived in the US for 15 years, and became an American citizen two years ago to make travelling to other countries easier. "I don't think getting a US citizenship makes me feel any less Chinese," she said.

With the exception of a few dozen south-east Asian and African countries, Chinese passport holders need to apply for visas in advance to go abroad which are sometimes difficult to get.
Most ordinary Chinese can only go abroad by joining tour groups, sometimes at very high costs.
Some tour companies reportedly charge up to 50,000 yuan ($7,300:£4,880) as a deposit to go to Japan.

This acts as a deterrent for people who are thinking of not returning to China after the trip.
Another reason Ms Kong wanted an American passport was for security reasons.
"Maybe I feel safer when I come back to China and I say certain things that the Chinese government doesn't like," she said. "They can't really hold it against me."

Tax reasons

Wu Hao, from Sichuan Province, has studied and worked in the US, and soon hopes to get his hands on a US passport.

A new passport can bring new freedoms for former Chinese citizensHe said as a student, getting a US passport was the ultimate goal in life.

"For my generation and older, we wanted a foreign passport so bad," said the 36-year-old.
"We grew up in an environment when China was not secure, when things changed so fast in China. Everyone just wanted to get out as soon as we could back in those days," he said.
Mr Wu moved back to China four years ago.

He will be eligible for an American passport in a few years time, but a small part of him hesitates about trading in his Chinese passport.

"I wonder if I really want to abandon my Chinese identity. I don't know," he added.
Mr Wu said many of his friends are much more practical about citizenship.
"I have a friend who recently gave up his American green card status in order not to pay US tax," said Mr Wu.

"A lot of Chinese friends I know who make a decent or relatively high salary in China, they're considering alternatives, trying to evade tax," he said.

Mr Wu said people who were outraged by Gong Li's switch to Singaporean citizenship are blowing it out of proportion. "If they got the chance [to get a foreign passport] they would immediately jump on it."