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.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #411: Turning Murderous Twats Into Nihilistic Pin-Up Boys

In 2009, in the wake of the Winnenden school shooting in Germany that killed 15, Charlie Brooker reminded us of the mechanics of the mainstream press in such tragic days by quoting Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz. “We’ve had 20 years of mass murders throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media, if you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. Do localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.” 2009 was a long time ago, and there have been so many mass shootings since that the Brooker clip and Dietz’s quote have sadly become regular rebukes. Will news networks and newspapers ever take it upon themselves to heed the words of the experts, or does the need to sensationalize for ratings and hits make larger societal considerations laughably quaint?

PS. If you think wall to wall coverage of this kind of carnage is a sickness exclusive to the American media, the British are just as bad, and so are we. The screenshots after the jump are from Vancouver’s mainstream media, taken this afternoon… Read more

Foreign Intelligence Brief #410: Tell Merkel That This Is How We Respond To The Crisis

(via) Belgian photographer Nick Hannes was in Patras, Greece when he came across a family facing the expense of a wedding in the midst of the EU’s financial tight-fistery. Fortunately, the groom owned a gas station, so…

“This is how we respond to the crisis. Please show these pictures to [German chancellor Angela] Merkel. A Greek keeps on laughing and celebrating, even when his money is being taken away”


Foreign Intelligence Brief #409: “Never In The Field Of Human Conflict…” Et Cetera

September 15, 2012 

Today, lest we forget, is Battle of Britain Day. The date of remembrance commemorates the defence of the British Isles by the Royal Air Force against the German Luftwaffe throughout the summer of 1940. Some background: Hitler needed to wipe the RAF out in order to invade England, something he was unable to do despite overwhelming superiority in both pilot experience and numbers of aircraft.

On Sunday, 15 September 1940, the Luftwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack against London in the hope of drawing out the RAF into a battle of annihilation. Around 1,500 aircraft took part in the air battles which lasted until dusk. The action was the climax of the Battle of Britain.

It’s hard to imagine swarms of planes advancing across the English Channel day after day for months on end to do their very worst, but it happened, 72 years ago. Canada’s contribution to the battle was significant. Our top scoring ace was one Flt Lt H. C. Upton, who shot down 10+ German planes. Over 100 Canadian pilots flew Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes in “defence of the realm” during this time. 23 of these were killed in action. Our country officially commemorates the battle on the 3rd Sunday of September (tomorrow), but since Scout seldom publishes on Sundays, we’re doffing our caps now and raising a glass.

The clip above is from a film called First Light, adapted from a wonderful memoir by former Spitfire pilot and Battle of Britain veteran Geoffrey Wellum (language NSFW).

Bonus: chills courtesy of Winston Churchill.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #408: Prince Ea On Smoking Weed With The US President

September 7, 2012 

(via Laughing Squid) ”Smoking Weed With the President is a conscious rap song and recently launched fundraising campaign by Richard Williams (aka Prince Ea) of Make Smart Cool that aims to bring awareness to the marijuana legalization issue. Funds raised in the campaign will go to making a ‘professional and educational music video’ of the song.” It’s still a tidy effort. It would probably have more traction if it was’s follow-up to “Yes We Can”, but that dude is probably busy being a hologram somewhere. Note that Harper hates hip hop and thinks marijuana was created by the devil on a Sunday, so don’t expect the powers to be convinced up here.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #407: On White House Beer & The Appeal Of Diner En Blanc

September 2, 2012 

The greatest thing about the American election cycle? It’s the return of Get Your War On! Press play on the video above for a fantastical taste of two lovers theoretically entwined at the Republican National Convention.

And what a god awful sham it was, Clint Eastwood’s bizarre antics notwithstanding.

These three buttoned-up dudes explaining the dangers of masturbation to deaf Jehovah’s Witnesses are really feelin’ it. What’s missing is a sexy soundtrack, not to mention a woman.

Cute as fuck: when skateboarding first arrived in New York City in the 1960′s.

Venice is sinking: Terrence Malick’s new film To The Wonder booed by critics at Venice Film Festival.

A comedic history of internet spam.

The latest marketing initiative from Absolut is a limited edition vodka bottle (a run of 4 million). The new product packaging will become available at airport bars (and other shit holes) around the world this October.

Covers of Where magazine subtly reveal the publication’s ethos.

In Singapore, the Diner en Blanc mass secret supper organisers went too far with their control-freakiness by disinviting local bloggers and telling people what they could and couldn’t bring to eat. Still, from a business perspective and as a social experiment in population control, it remains a wonderful idea: let’s make it ridiculously exclusive, host it in a sterile environment, have everyone dress up head-to-toe in white, subject their enjoyment to a bunch of stupid restrictions, have them pay good money to bring their own food (seriously), and get them to ejaculate in unison with sparklers at the end of it all to celebrate their participation in a masturbatory spectacle that has no meaning. Ka-ching! Pure genius, and we (together with our media) fell for it hard.

Unrelated: the why of not wearing white after Labour Day:

By the 1880s, in order to tell who was acceptable and who wasn’t, the women who were already “in” felt it necessary to create dozens of fashion rules that everyone in the know had to follow. That way, if a woman showed up at the opera in a dress that cost more than most Americans made in a year, but it had the wrong sleeve length, other women would know not to give her the time of day.

Ever been stirred by Jack Kerouac’s reading of Old Angel Midnight? His collected poems have just been published by the Library of America.

Barack Obama becomes the first President to make alcohol in The White House. His kitchen crew releases its beer brewing secrets and recipes.

Bonus: new JPL panorama images put you in driver’s seat on Mars.

Foreign Intelligence Brief #406: Kiwi Troops Welcome Home Dead With Big Haka

The government of New Zealand has announced that it will withdraw its small troop contingent (145) from Afghanistan as rapidly as possible after three soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack outside Bamiyan last week. This chilling video shows members of the 2/1 RNZIR Battalion acknowledging the return of their comrades’ bodies to their parade grounds with a traditional Haka war dance.

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