On What Defines a People


“What defines a people is not race, not tradition, not geography, but the free choice of a group of human beings to live together as fellow citizens.”

– Thomas G. West

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The US Library of Congress


The United States Library of Congress was founded in 1800, making it the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation. It is also the largest library in the world, with more than 164 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves.

The Library receives some 15,000 items each working day and adds approximately 12,000 items to the collections daily. The majority of the collections are received through the Copyright registration process, as the Library is home to the U.S. Copyright Office. It is no surprise therefore that its collection is impressive. The Library houses: Continue reading

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In 1995, the number of TV programmes in Britain watched by over 15 million people was 225. By 2004, this had fallen to six.

Biologists cannot agree on definitions for the words ‘species’, ‘organism’ or ‘life’.

Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo all mean ‘capital’, in their respective languages.

Dildos are illegal in Texas.

The amount of water on Earth is constant, and continually recycled over time: some of the water you drink, will have passed through a dinosaur.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Kippumjo


The Kippumjo, which translates as ‘Pleasure Squad’, is a group of approximately 2,000 North Korean women who are recruited by the head of state to serve in a private harem. Although most women are believed to retire in their twenties, there is evidence to suggest that the age of Kippumjo members ranges between 13 and 40.

‘Although Kim Il-sung appears to have been at least in part a feminist, in that he sought to bring women’s education up to scratch and elevate their status by involving them in the workforce, he nonetheless possessed a virtual harem of young women selected purely for the purposes of entertaining him and Kim Jong-il. Kim Il-sung’s interest in young women was not just for pleasure, but for rejuvenating himself through absorbing a young virgin’s ki, or life-force, during sex. As such, it was extremely difficult being an attractive teenage girl in North Korea, lest the authorities (schools, in practice) recommend her to recruiters of the so-called “happy corps” (entertainers), or “satisfaction corps” (sexual services). Remarkably, parents were often happy for their daughters to be selected for these corps, for it would confer on them enhanced status, and therefore money. Pleasure girls retired from the corps at 22, after which they were often married off to other members of the elite. The two Kims’ easy-going sex lives were in sharp contrast to the stricter social mores of North Korea’s conservative society, yet another example of the leaders not practicing what they preached.’

– “The Kims’ North Korea. Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K. Martin (Bookreview by Yoel Sano)” Asia Times, 4 June 2005

Recycling Ideas in the American Film Industry


Even though remakes are as old as the movie industry, the recycling of ideas in the American film landscape is getting more prevalent.

In the 1930s, the storylines of 16 percent of the 500 most successful films were recycled. Films such as Dracula and Frankenstein were made several times. Treasure Island (1934) and A Tale of Two Cities (1935) had been produced previously as silent films.

In the 1980s, the percentage of rehashed storylines increased to 22 percent. The 80s became the decade in which the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series were continued. It was also the time of the Scarface remakes (1983) and the creation of franchises such as Die Hard, Police Academy and Rambo.

In the first ten years of the 21st century, no less than 36 percent of the 500 most popular films are either a remake, sequel, spin-off or part of a franchise. Harry Potter, Pirates of The Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, and (again) Star Wars – to name a few – are turned into film series. Other examples include the Disney remakes of the Marvel superhero films, and the modern takes on Starsky & Hutch (2004) and Miami Vice (2006).

“We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.” – Michael Eisner, Disney CEO (1984-2005)

In other words, there has been a 20 percent increase over 80 years since the 1930s in the number of major American films whose storylines is either a remake, sequel or spin-off. The number of mainstraim American films which can be labelled “recycled” according to these criteria was 36 percent in the 2000s.

Operation Bernhard


Operation Bernhard was the name of a secret German plan devised during World War II to destabilise the British economy by flooding the country with forged Bank of England £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes.

The plan was directed by, and named after, SS Major (Sturmbannführer) Bernhard Krüger, who set up a team of 142 counterfeiters from among inmates at Sachsenhausen concentration camp at first, and then from others, especially Auschwitz.

Beginning in 1942, the work of engraving the complex printing plates, developing the appropriate rag-based paper with the correct watermarks, and breaking the code to generate valid serial numbers was extremely difficult, but by the time Sachsenhausen was evacuated in April 1945, the printing press there had produced 8,965,080 banknotes with a total value of £134,610,810. The notes are considered among the most perfect counterfeits ever produced, being extremely difficult although not impossible to distinguish from the real thing.

Although the initial plan was to destabilise the British economy by dropping the notes from aircraft, on the assumption that while some honest people would hand them in most people would keep the notes, in practice this plan was not put into effect.

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If all the salt in the sea were spread evenly over the land, it would be 500 feet thick.

Sweden makes biofuel from dead rabbits.

Nine species have been named after Barack Obama – more than any other US President.

Volkswagen has changed its official language from German to English.

Almost two-thirds of the 33,000 annual gun deaths in America are suicides.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

On Waking up in Science Fiction


“Imagine waking up one day and realizing you were born on a completely different planet; and everything you learned was a lie, and your country’s history was so fabricated, and everyone around you was so brainwashed, and the heroes of your worship were actually monsters, villains.

This is like the plot to a science fiction novel, but it’s the insane reality for North Koreans, like me. From the moment I was born I was indoctrinated towards the first dictator Kim Il-sung and I always used to bow to his pictures, which hangs in every North Korean home.

To us he was a Santa Claus and God who is delivering presents on holidays and performing numerous miracles. When he was fighting our enemy he made bombs from pine cones and turned sent into rice and crossed a river on tree leaves, and he even walked across the rainbow. So that’s why, when I was young, I used to believe that I could also work across the rainbow.”

– Hyeonseo Lee