One of my favorite webcomics is xkcd.com, the author of whom is a self-described geek and apparently a fan of Wikipedia as well (such as the infamous "citation needed" strip). One of his recent strips referenced the amazingly cool List of common misconceptions article, which is a hell of a good read. It's amazing to think of the crap we've been taught since we were little, some of which I learned in school! Granted, I attended a public school, but damn, we were one of the best in the northeast, and state funding requires a certain amount of vetting on classroom content. But the innocence of youth cannot last forever: we have more than five senses, Napoleon wasn't really all that short, the Pilgrims didn't wear buckles on their hats, and most educated men knew the Earth was round long before Columbus made his voyage.
|The panel from xkcd by Randall Munroe|
I recently saw the movie Downfall on Netflix, and enjoyed it. I had known that Hitler owned a German Shepherd, a breed I admire (having one myself). However, I became a bit more curious about their relationship, and looked up the article Blondi. Turns out she wasn't just a political status symbol (by owning a "Germanischer Urhund"), but he held an actual affection for his beloved pet. And then he goes and tests his suicide pills on the poor thing in the final days... tragic.
Now, few Americans are big fans of North Korea. To the average westerner, they are crazy, unpredictable, and incomprehensible. So I feel safe making fun of them a bit. Case in point is Sŏn'gun, the "military-first" policy. Essentially, it's an extreme practice of the guns vs. butter model (which I though was a joke when I first saw the title) in that all available national resources are at the military's disposal, even at the expense of the population's basic necessities. So, bravo, Mr. Kim Jong-il, your wisdom that nuclear weapons are a bigger priority than food and basic sanitation is truly awe-inspiring.
More fun is an image found in the Pyongyang Museum of Victory of the Fatherland Liberation War (that would fit on a business card, no?). The display claims that four North Korean torpedo boats sunk the cruiser USS Baltimore (CA-68) on July 2 1950. That would be a pretty good accomplishment, except for one thing: the Baltimore was never at Korea. She was decommissioned at the time in the ghost fleet in Bremerton, and was reactivated in 1951 to serve in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In the referenced battle, Chumonchin Chan, the UN flotilla of 2 cruisers and a frigate sunk a few North Korean torpedo boats and chased off the remaining gunboats and ammunition ships.
See? We have a picture to prove it!
South Korea also provides amusement in the form of an urban myth about death by fans. The fear of being killed by being in a closed room with a running fan persist to the point that the government insists they be sold with timers, so as to not run unattended while sleeping. Despite the government's safety warnings, the phenomenon is not possible according to the laws of physics.
The next post should have some more military fun for you. Happy reading!