Can you hear me now? October 29, 2006Posted by grhomeboy in Mobile Telecoms.
Can you hear me now? Not overseas!
You’ve booked the 10-day forced march from London to Paris to Rome to Athens, and you ask the travel agent, almost as an afterthought, “Can I use my cell phone in Europe?” I hear that all the time. What I advise is calling your cell-phone service provider to see if your mobile phone can handle international calls. Good luck. Few do.
Normally, you can’t use your cell phone abroad, if you are coming from USA or Canada. Some work overseas, but the roaming charges are very expensive. Here’s a simple solution: Get a satellite phone. As long as you can see the sky, it will work.
Americans’ fixation with an omnipresent cell phone as a 21st-century comfort blanket doesn’t have to end at the shoreline. Travelers can buy, rent or lease a cell phone or satellite phone that will work “over there”. Many have done it and used them (rented cell phones).
The reason that your cell phones don’t work abroad is that the bandwidth/frequency of the U.S. and Canadian cellular phone systems differ from networks in more than 200 other countries. Outside the U.S., travelers need a system that uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).
More than 70 percent of the world’s cellular phone owners, 500 million people, use GSM phones. The Internet and travel agents can direct travelers to companies that rent, sell or lease GSM phones. Purchase prices start at about $100. A typical rental is $8 a day, $40 a week or $99 a month, plus air charges for minutes the phone is used. Satellite phones cost about $1,400 to purchase (plus an annual service contract) or $70 a week to rent. Calls are roughly $3 a minute, but who’s counting if you’re on safari or on board the Queen Mary 2?
A tale of two ads October 29, 2006Posted by grhomeboy in Advertising.
Getting down and dirty in political advertising during a pre-election period is by no means unusual, since politicians generally attempt to smear their opponents by any possible way.
Two rather interesting political advertisements recently popped up in the United States in the final run up to the November 7 mid-term elections. The first one, cynically designed or not to tug the heart strings, resulted in a major outrage that hit the headlines. The second, a much more sinister offering, was barely mentioned except among a handful of bloggers and one or two mainstream media outlets.
Appearing in an advertisement for a Missouri democrat, actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and was clearly showing the shaky symptoms of his condition, appealed to voters to choose a candidate that supported stem-cell research, which many doctors believe could hold a cure for Parkinson’s and other diseases.
President George Bush vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which would have expanded stem cell lines that were eligible for federal funding. The furore over the pro-Democrat ad erupted when conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused Fox of faking it. Imitating the actor’s shaking movements on camera, Limbaugh said: “This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting, one of the two.”
Limbaugh half apologised the next day, but the day after that he retracted his half apology. The rest of the Republican media bandwagon, while not going as far as Limbaugh, criticised Fox for “cynically using his condition” to secure votes for the Democrats.
Naturally they all overlooked the real issues; the merits or demerits of stem-cell research and the fact that Michael J. Fox actually has an extremely debilitating disease, and might also be entitled to the “right to life”. Ironically, the fuss made over the ad ensured it received nationwide coverage instead of passing relatively unnoticed in Missouri. Whether or not Fox deliberately exaggerated his condition on air, the ad is neither more or less than what one would expect in a political campaign. Candidates are supposed to offer a vision of a better future to the voters.
Which brings us to our second advertisement. This was no Mickey Mouse effort from a backwater candidate. It was released by the Republican National Committee, a blockbuster if you will. And what better future does it promise in return for voting Republican? Tax cuts, jobs, an Iraq withdrawal? Nope. It promises death and destruction at the hands of al Qaeda if you don’t vote Republican.
According to one description: “The ad dramatically sets quotes from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri against a black background with the sound of a ticking clock. The quotes highlight phrases like “kill the Americans” and “nothing compared to what you see next”. The ad climaxes with a mushroom-esque cloud exploding behind the text. [The words] ‘These are the stakes’ then appear on the screen.”
The only other organisation that produces threatening videos like this is al Qaeda itself. They do it of course to scare Americans. Republicans show suitcase nukes being detonated so that Americans can remember that Osama bin Laden is still out there gunning for them.
No matter how you spin it, like al Qaeda, they too do it to scare Americans, because frankly it’s hard to see how such an ad could make people feel safer, or tempt any thinking person to vote for the administration that has so far failed to catch bin Laden.
Strange how the shadow of bin Laden surfaces at crucial moments for the Bush administration. If it’s not a “timely” video released by al Qaeda, it’s the Republicans producing a video starring bin Laden. What would they do if he was actually caught?
And just in case the public isn’t scared enough by the Osama ad, there is a Plan B. There are reports that Saddam Hussein will be sentenced just two days before the elections. That about covers the length of time the average Fox News viewer can retain information relating to world affairs. Harsh but true. A good number still believe that Iraq was behind 9/11, despite the recent clear admission by Bush that Saddam had nothing to do with it.
The Republicans claim that their scaremongering ad “underscores the high stakes America faces in the global war on terror”, according to a statement.
But MSNBC’s Countdown host Keith Olbermann, one of very few journalists in the US mainstream media who openly criticises the Bush administration on national television, accused the White House of terrorism. He likened the ad to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Citing the dictionary definition of the word “terrorise” as to “fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear”, Olbermann reaches the only logical conclusion that “the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party”.
“This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorising the very people it claims to be protecting from terror. It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and that only you can save them. It’s cynical and barbaric.”
Yes indeed. Where is Rush Limbaugh’s outrage that his government is exploiting its own people’s already ingrained fear of terrorism?
The scare tactics call to mind the 2004 BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares in which British director Adam Curtis argues that during the 20th Century, politicians lost the power to inspire the masses, and that the optimistic visions and ideologies they had offered were perceived to have failed.
Incidentally, the documentary was turned down by the majority of American television stations. One producer tellingly said his station would be “slaughtered” if he allowed it to air. The documentary asserts that politicians, having failed to deliver on their promises of better things, consequently sought a new role that would restore their power and authority. Curtis says in the film’s introduction: “Instead of delivering dreams, politicians instead promise now to protect us from nightmares”. It’s all they have left.
Sounds very much like the Republicans have adopted this philosophy, given their ad. Of course they might also be taking a leaf out of this book: “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. Tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger.”
That might sound like something that Noam Chomsky or some other liberal intellectual might theorise upon. But it’s not. It’s a quote by Herman Goering at the Nuremburg trials, and he should know.
Pompeii’s erotic past revealed October 28, 2006Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology.
Hundreds of tourists have been queuing in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, Italy, to gain entry to one of the city’s most extravagant brothels.
The 2,000-year-old building, featuring erotic fresco paintings, has been re-opened after a costly restoration. The Lupanare, from the Latin word “lupa” for prostitute, is regarded as one of Pompeii’s main attractions.
The town, by the slopes of Mount Vesuvius near Naples, was destroyed by a catastrophic eruption in AD 79. The eruption helped preserve the city, allowing insights into life under the Romans.
Prostitute specialities > In those times, prostitution was not illegal. Sex workers were often slaves, and many came from Greece. Some of their names and those of their clients are still visible, scrawled on the walls of the small cubicles where the sex workers took their customers.
The erotic frescoes painted above each door of the two-storey brothel are believed to suggest the prostitute’s speciality. According to archaeologists, sex workers charged the equivalent of the price at that time of eight glasses of red wine.
The Pompeii site is attracting considerable interest from tourists. One guide said that while there was not much to see in the brothel, there were “a lot of things to imagine”. The restoration has cost $250,000 (200,000 euros; £134,000) and taken one year.
Erotic frescoes put Pompeii brothel on the tourist map October 28, 2006Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology.
A luxurious brothel that once entertained wealthy clients in Pompeii has been opened as a visitor attraction after painstaking restoration.
The two-storey structure, which features erotic frescoes that leave little to the imagination, is expected to become one of the ancient city’s top draws. Officials who unveiled it yesterday emphasised that the year-long restoration had been carried out in the interests of archaeology, and to save the frescoes, rather than prurience. The brothel was named the Lupanare, from lupa (she-wolf), the colloquial Latin term for a prostitute. Prices were posted outside the building, which had three entrances, and the frescoes depict the sexual services on offer.
The Lupanare boasted ten rooms, five on each floor, with the upper floor, which had a balcony, reserved for more important and wealthier clients. Sexual activity took place on stone beds, which would have been covered by mattresses.
Like other parts of pleasure-loving Pompeii, the brothel was overwhelmed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which buried the city in a 6m (19½ft) layer of volcanish ash in AD79. The ash preserved the city as a time capsule until the 18th century, when the first excavations began to bring to light well- preserved houses, shops, frescoes and skeletons of people caught as they tried to flee.
Scholars say that Pompeii had many brothels, but most consisted only of a single room, often above a shop or wine bar. The prostitutes were slaves and were usually of Greek or Oriental origin. Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, superintendent of Pompeii, said that ancient Roman attitudes to sex and obscenity were more relaxed than those of later civilisations.
Erotic objects found during the 18th and 19th-century excavations were considered so salacious they were kept in a “secret cabinet” at the National Archeological Museum in Naples, to which only those deemed to be of “mature age and respected morals” were admitted. The objects include a statuette of the god Pan copulating with a goat, and numerous phallic symbols, considered by the Romans to be good luck or fertility charms.
The stone beds were placed in discreet alcoves. Scholars said that one prostitute, named Myrtis, had a sign outside her room explaining that her speciality was oral sex. Other girls working at the brothel, according to Roman-era graffiti on the walls, were Callidrome, Cressa, Drauca, Fabia, Faustilla, Felicia, Fortunata, Helpis, Mula, Nica, Restituta, Rusatia and Ianuaria.
Luciana Iacobelli, lecturer in Pompeiian antiquities at Bicocca University in Milan, said that not all the prostitutes were slaves. There was even some evidence that Roman women frequented brothels for sex with male prostitutes. “Sex, like death, is always of consuming human interest and has been over the centuries,” she said.
Paris confronts its prejudices October 28, 2006Posted by grhomeboy in Arts, Culture.
Bizarre, startling posters appeared on the walls and street corners of Paris this year. They showed faces, mostly black faces, contorted into outlandish grimaces, with teeth bared, nostrils flared, eyes crossed.
The provocative photos were the work of a Paris street artist who wanted people to confront stereotypes. His giant photos asked passers-by an in-your-face question: When you see a kid from the housing projects, do you see a bogeyman?
Almost exactly a year ago, when riots broke out in France’s troubled suburban housing projects, news reports broadcast countless photos of hooded youths setting fire to cars. French photographer JR, who goes by his initials only, thought about those images, the stereotypes they reinforced and how he could use photography to bring a different message.
“After the riots, Parisians viewed suburban kids as extraterrestrials,” JR said in an interview in his Paris studio. “On television, you always saw them wearing masks. People said, ‘Those kids are all the same. Everybody who comes from those areas took part in the riots.’ Everybody was afraid of them, and so I decided to take pictures of them looking like monsters or extraterrestrials.”
The influential street artist teamed up with an actor and documentary maker named Ladj Ly to recruit subjects at a housing project north of Paris in Clichy-sous-Bois, where France’s unrest started last October 27.
The riots broke out after two youths were electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police, and they were fueled by such problems as racism and unemployment. Many of the rioters were the children of immigrants, and the unrest forced France to confront decades of discrimination against minorities as well as a failure to integrate immigrants and provide opportunities for poor youths.
JR didn’t grow up in the projects, and he says he can’t speak for the teenagers and young adults who appear in his photographs, also published this month in a book, “28 millimetres.” He wants his photographs to speak for themselves. They have had a much wider showing than he envisioned.
The 25-year-old photographer, who has a large following at home and abroad, is also part graffiti artist and performance artist. Usually, he has to hide from police as he plasters his work illegally on buildings at night, which is why he keeps his identity anonymous.
When JR did a similar exhibit in 2004, hanging giant photos on the walls of a suburban housing project, local authorities lodged a complaint against him. But that was before the riots and before France’s soul-searching.
This time, something unusual happened. Officials invited him to hang his work on a community center in the center of the capital. His gallery of faces was pasted on the walls outside Paris’ European House of Photography. And his work helped inspire an exhibit that opened last week in Clichy-sous-Bois. Twelve well-known photographers, including William Klein, Marc Riboud, Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Sarah Moon, took pictures around Clichy, and many of them have been papered on buildings and on billboards.
Sponsored by the town’s city hall, the public relations project is called “Clichy Sans Cliché,” or “Clichy without Cliches.” It is a reaction to the images of burning cars that were flashed around the world, pictures that French media eventually stopped broadcasting, for fear they were encouraging the violence. The project’s Web site asks: “What if we showed life in Clichy the way it is?”
JR’s pictures are on display in a concurrent showing in Clichy-sous-Bois. After its stint in Paris, the art is back where it was born. “The photos have a lot of messages,” JR said. “But the main one is: ‘Look at me, I exist, I’m larger than life.”‘