FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #425 | On Phobos & Deimos, The Two Martian Moons

“The Moons of Mars Explained — Phobos & Deimos” is a pretty self-explanatory short video about the past, present, and future of the two, potato-shaped (and ultimately doomed) moons of Mars. It was created by the science nerds at Munich-based Kurzgesagt.


FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #424 | What Venice Would Look Like With Frozen Canals


(via) Combining a mix of photographs with some serious editing savvy, photographer Robert Jahns created a convincing set of images depicting the city of Venice with its famous canals frozen solid. He posted one of the pictures to Twitter two months ago and it went viral (before being debunked as a fake two days later). Pliable ice sheets formed on the canals back in 2012 for the first time in two decades, but the picturesque waterways have never frozen completely solid, as imagined so invitingly (for skating) above.


FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #423 | On Old Bombs And Shaking Hands Like A Goof


Monsieur, you’re totally doing it wrong: The President of France, François Hollande, needs a remedial course in shaking world leaders’ hands.

Enjoy the sunny day in Vancouver and be glad that we aren’t in Chicago, New York, Boston, or anywhere else in the wintry wrath path of the storm the Weather Channel is now calling Hercules. Side bonus: the ice and snow and low visibility makes Niagara Falls look much cooler. Side side bonus: ditto the cover of The New Yorker. Side side side bonus: these snow-shovelling nipples.

New film asks if backpackers are destroying the world (trailer).

We’ve always liked Kentucky, but it’s about to get even better: “On February 4, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” will debate Ken Ham, Creation Museum founder and Answers In Genesis president/CEO, at The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.” Advantage: Nye.

World War II is still killing people in Germany.

The first day of retail marijuana sales in the state of Colorado – where the use/sale of recreational weed is now legal – exceeded $1 million. You don’t say!

The origins story of Carl Sagan’s awesome humanity communications plaque on the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which was the first ever man-made object to leave the solar system.


FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #422 | New Unpublished Stories By JD Salinger Leaked

November 28, 2013 


A few weeks ago I watched a fascinating documentary about the reclusive American writer, J.D. Salinger (he of The Catcher In The Rye fame). The very end of the film was a shocker for me (watch the trailer above), because it came with the revelation that Salinger, who died in 2010, had never stopped writing (even though he hadn’t published a work since 1965), and that he had left instructions for five hitherto unknown new books of his to be released between 2015 and 2020. These include a World War II novel (Salinger was a veteran) and a sequel to The Catcher In The Rye.

As we await those diamonds to drop, there are other infamous Salinger works that have been known to exist but have stayed unpublished. Several of these have long been in possession of the Princeton Library, with Salinger stipulating that they couldn’t be published until 50 years after his death.

Which brings us to today’s shocking news. The library’s security was just breached and a manuscript – Three Stories – has been leaked to an invite-only file-sharing site. It has since found its way to the public net and pirated “first edition” copies are already being uploaded to eBay. Read it and weep.


FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #421 | On Pepper Spraying To Collect A Pay Cheque

October 25, 2013 


It was nearly two years ago when UC Davis policeman Lt. John Pike calmly walked down a line of prone, peacefully protesting students and pepper sprayed each one of them in the face like he was refreshing so many hydrangeas on a Sunday morning. Well, he’s just received over $38,000 in worker’s compensation for the suffering that followed his actions (the poor dear received a lot of angry emails). The protestors settled their lawsuit against the university for a $1 million. After paying off their lawyers, each of them received $30,000, less than the “traumatized” Pike. Go justice!


FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #420 | On Pizza Cocktails And Blowing Up On The TV

October 14, 2013 

Icy veins of the day: Syrian state TV was in the midst of interviewing political analyst Hussam Shuaib yesterday when two huge car bombs went off within seconds of eachother, nearly blowing him out of his chair (see above). His reaction? “Please continue your question…”

Terribly fascinating: a day in the life of an American drone pilot.

The pizza cocktail, aka the latest death knell of Western Civilisation, sounds loud and clear in Pasadena, California. It’s “a scarily accurate drink that tastes as if your slice jumped into a Vitamix with a bottle of vodka. Tomato water, basil-infused vodka, ghost pepper–infused vodka, porcini powder and muddled basil are shaken together and topped with a Parmesan and mozzarella foam.” Shudder.

Brand-tweaking: How the The New Yorker went about getting a typeface upgrade.

It’s a huge surprise that gamers are doing some heinous things in the new GTA V, said nobody ever. Our favourite: “Shit happens, bro.”

Inside architect Norman Foster’s gorgeous, futuristic Philologische Bibliothek library in Berlin.

Schadenfreude of the day: Apple invites Blackberry workers to recruitment party.

This is what happens when the world’s most famous street artist, Banksy, hires an old man to sell his works – about $1 million worth of them – for $60 apiece from an unannounced, unmarked stall outside Central Park? Total sales for the day: $420. Estimated value of said sales: $225,000. When asked to comment, every New Yorker said “Go the fuck back to England you Limey jerk.”

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #419 | On Fake Elections & Especially Lonely Planets

October 10, 2013 


So the presidential election went down in Azerbaijan yesterday, but before the people even woke up to cast their ballots, the country’s Central Election Commission accidentally released the “results”. President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his dictator daddy President Heydar Aliye in 2003, won in a landslide “decision” with 72% of the vote. After excusing for the mishap, the embarrassed Election Commission raised Aliyev’s vote total to 80% like the gentlemen they are. True story.

The most curious exo-planet imaginable has just been discovered by an international team of astronomers (rendering shown above). What makes planet “PSO J318.5-22″ so fascinating isn’t that it’s six times the mass of Jupiter (that’s effing huge) or that it has a woefully unimaginative name, but rather that it’s not orbiting a star. It’s just floating out there, 80 light-years away from Earth, all alone, the first known “Lonely Planet” in a universe that doesn’t care.

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been convicted of 24 federal charges – you know, racketeering, extortion…the usual – and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Meanwhile, our Mayor walks free after asking “Which is better, Jazz or Jay Z?”

Sunscreen alert: In a new report cited by The New York Times, scientists say that by 2047, the world’s coldest years could be hotter than than hottest years of the past. Think about that for a moment…

Biblioporn in The New Yorker: Paris, City Of Bookstores. “Everywhere in the world may look more and more like everywhere else, but there are still a few proudly Gallic institutions that you can count on spotting in any city or town in France: cafés that thrive in spite of Starbucks, bakeries with their total indifference to things gluten-free, tabacs that keep hanging on as smokers turn to e-cigarettes. Most pleasing of all, in this age of Amazon, are the independent bookstores—around two thousand five hundred of them, all told.”

A group of major Japanese architects are rallying against Zaha Hadid’s design for Tokyo’s massive 2020 Olympic Stadium, which begs the question: where were our architects when Yaletown, False Creek and Coal Harbour were re-built?

“The Art of Improbable Coincidence” – some phenomenal travel and street photography by Mumbai-based Maciej Dakowicz. Bonus: the computer science PhD turned professional wanderer has one of the best Flickr collections – 5,500+ images – ever amassed.

And finally, here are some notes on possible endgames for the government shutdown in the USA. The American public’s attitude remains unchanged.

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #418 | On Syria And Eating Ramen Out Of Your Beard

September 27, 2013 


The full body umbrella pictured above was recently spotted in Japan. It keeps the holder dry enough to text and takes up most of the sidewalk, so expect to hate them as soon as they appear on West Georgia.

A new United Nations report came out this morning that has scientists 95% certain that “driving cars, running power plants on coal and oil, torching swathes of forestland and debris; anything involving burning carbon-based fuels and emitting greenhouse gases” is bad for the planet. The 2,500 page report, which was not titled Yeah, We Know Already, saw the work of 1,000 researchers peer reviewed by nearly 1,000 more. They were only “90% sure” of their findings in their 2007 report (seriously not making that up), which means our responsibility for climate change won’t be inarguable until 2019. Good work, everyone!

Related: the incoming right-wing Christian prime minister of Australia – who once called climate change “absolute crap” – can’t move into his official residence because it is infested with urinating possums. Well, Abbott once said it himself, “Jesus knew that there was a place for everything.”

Actually, that quote is misleading. Abbott wasn’t talking about possums or climate change, but rather immigration: “Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.” He won by landslide. G’day!


NASA’s Earth observatory shows us how last week’s 7.8 earthquake in Pakistan caused an island to form in the Arabian Sea.

Meanwhile, in Syria, the loose coalition of 11 opposition groups fighting Assad’s regime predictably splinters with potentially un-awesome results (hey, haven’t we seen this movie before?).

Film director J.J. Abrams gets some animated guidance from die hard fans on how not to fuck up the new Star Wars film slated for release in 2015.

Fascinating: why Russians drink too much and their government doesn’t give a damn. Spoiler: it’s because the state’s alcohol tax revenues are so high that to combat alcoholism (because 1 in 5 Russian men die of alcohol-related disease) would be to cripple the economy.

Check out this shoebox 182 sqft subterranean micro apartment in Seattle. That’s very clever. Instead of building up in Yaletown, we should have built down.

Is the West End ready for beard ramen? No? That’s cool, I guess [sad face]. As to why Kris Krug dyed his beard brown we’ll never know.

Sir David Attenborough ably narrates a violent brawl between rival groups of drunken European football hooligans. Best line ever: “Now, where are those females?”


FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #417 | Who Wants To Plan An Expedition To Morocco?

September 6, 2013 

by Andrew Morrison | North Africa remains the expedition of my dreams, especially the stretch from Mali and Mauritania to Morocco and the Mediterranean. The idea of a trip to those parts has simmered on the backburner of my brain for years, and this jaw-dropper of a travel film from Vimeo user Vincent Urban has brought it up to a full boil. He and some friends spent three weeks in Morocco earlier this year, driving in a well-kitted-out Land Rover and filming as they went from the coast, through the medinas of Fez and Marrakech, across the Atlas Mountains, and into the Sahara Desert.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #416: And So We Examine The Many Facets Of Swedishness

I don’t know if this amusing, David Attenborough-esque short film explains why the Sedins can’t score for the Canucks in the NHL playoffs but they can for Team Sweden seemingly any time they feel like it, but it’s pretty illuminating just the same (and there are others to blame, anyway).

Foreign Intelligence Brief #415: Stunning Panorama Of Mars’ Landscape Via Curiosity

February 22, 2013 

Have some fun exploring this mind-blowing Martian panorama made from hundreds of separate photos taken from the Curiosity rover. When I stare at the rain outside right now, Mars doesn’t look half bad, because Summer also feels 225 million km away.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #414: A Quick Tutorial On How To Become The Next Pope

February 19, 2013 

By our read of this timely instructional video, it involves having a penis (sorry ladies), being celibate (wait…what?), getting a university degree (blessed are the debtors), believing in the eucharist (Christ was 60% Sangiovese), and hot-boxing the Sistine Chapel with 200 other dudes until they all agree that you should be Pope Awesome the First (or something). It’s actually pretty straightforward.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #413: On The End Of Caviar And The Last Roll Of Kodachrome

January 18, 2013 

Got 30 minutes? Good. Press play above to watch what legendary photographer Steve McCurry did with the last roll of Kodachrome film (spoiler alert: he took good pictures with it).

Options he smartly dismissed: salt and pepper shakersmagnetspaper towel holders.

If anyone ever asks you if analog can hold a candle to digital in the internet age, there any number of correct responses, but the coolest is always going to be Banana Drawings.

Counterpoint: these Gothic/Islamic architecture-inspired stained glass window designs that were made from 100 sheets of laser cut paper.

Aw, a sweet home movie starring Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the Blue House in Mexico City.

Facebook introduces free telephone calls for iPhone users. The service is not available in Canada, though. Because Canada.

The New Yorker wonders what it would be like if Facebook worked like Yelp. Because The New Yorker.

After (maybe) going on a donkey killing spree in Africa, Google files patent for a virtual keyboard.

How mainstream has marijuana become? I don’t know, man. What?

Related: Dude, I think I just saw an 80 ton bird nest in South Carolina.

Unrelated: the future of green architecture (exists mostly on design and architecture blogs).

Real science: Americans, British, Russians, and The New York Times race to find life under Antarctica’s ice.

Not so much science: Hey! This off the shelf breakfast cereal actually is freakishly rich in iron.

It’s the end of wild caviar as we know it, and I feel fine.

So there’s a cross-dressing meth priest who digs cathedral sex in Connecticut. The local paper writes of how he liked it in the “rectory”. For serious.

Head scratcher: The elfven hero of the American Left, Dennis Kucinich, has joined the cast of Fox News.

Bonus: How the Hobbit should have ended.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #412: On Holland And The Netherlands Not Being The Same

OK. It still doesn’t explain why they can use words like begiftigd and vliegtuig when our languages are governed by the same alphabet, but I get it. Sort of.

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