Fresh Facts, and Opinions, this week: from a robot to the circus, civilization’s clash to Pakistan’s madness

A large crowd, taken just after a Muse concert in Paris. Photo by James Cridland, Creative CommonsAttend to the Real Clash of Civilizations, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda  F&O column

 “Am I my brother’s keeper?” How you answer this question tells a great deal about you as a person and about the kind of society in which you would like to live. And the great clash of civilization is between tolerance and intolerance.

Pakistan’s long road to the Lahore bombing, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs   F&O column

The Easter Sunday suicide bombing in Lahore, which was aimed at Christians but killed and maimed mostly Muslims, is a gruesome metaphor for the religious madness that has consumed Pakistan since the country’s creation in 1947. From the start, Pakistan has been a crippled state and no one seems able or willing to fashion a prosthetic that will allow it to function. Added to the religious turmoil, which is as bloody inside Islamic communities as outside, the political class is overpopulated with craven self-servers, bereft of courage or vision.

Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, gives a command to his life-size robot ''Mark 1'', modelled after a Hollywood star, in his balcony which serves as his workshop in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIESBuilding a humanoid Hollywood Star. By Bobby Yip  Report/Photo-essay

The rise of robots and artificial intelligence are among disruptive labor market changes that the World Economic Forum projects will lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years. Where will they come from? Like innumerable children with imaginations fired by animated films, Hong Kong product and graphic designer Ricky Ma grew up watching cartoons featuring the adventures of robots, and dreamt of building his own one day. Unlike most, Ma realized his childhood dream, by successfully constructing a life-sized robot from scratch on the balcony of his home.

How to write a best-selling novel. By Andy Martin   Expert Witness/Arts

Maybe I shouldn’t be giving this away for free, but, beyond all the caffeine and nicotine, I think there actually is a magic formula. For a long while I thought it could be summed up in two words: sublime confidence. Don’t plan, don’t map it all out in advance, be spontaneous, instinctive. Enjoy the vast emptiness of the blank page. It will fill.

An Indian boy holds a placard during a demonstration in New Delhi June 21, 2004. Bachpan Bachao Andolan or the "Save Childhood Movement" - a non-governmental organization-on Monday staged a protest against trafficked Nepalese children working in a circus in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. REUTERS/B Mathur AH/SHRescued from Slavery, Nepalis Rediscover Circus Magic. By Katie Nguyen  Arts/Publica Report

As a little girl, Doli from Nepal found it hard to resist the thrill of the circus. When scouts came looking, she was captivated. “The circus sounded like a magical place, so I wanted to go, too,” she recalls in a teaser for a documentary about Nepal’s first and only circus, made up of rescued victims of human trafficking. … read more

Recommended, elsewhere on the web:

Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever, by Robert Macfarlane, the Guardian. Macfarlane, a British academic and writer, is always worth a read.

We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?

In Case You Missed It: Our recent stories include:

Last but not least: Were you fooled on April 1? Most of us were, if only for a few seconds.  Jokes work by seeming plausible, or taking us by surprise so that we let our guard down. For example:  The land-locked Canadian province known worldwide for its oil sands announced on Friday  it would ship its oil to markets by zeppelin. Stated Alberta’s premier, “Balloons are a safe and environmentally friendly means of transporting our energy products.” Uh huh ungh …  it took a beat to get the joke, because in in the politicized energy industry, how are balloons less bizarre than pipelines or trains?

And then, sometimes we’re gullible just because we really, really want to believe. Take the April 1st meme about a certain orange-haired contender resigning from his bid to be America’s president. The whole campaign was merely a publicity stunt for a new reality-TV show about politics, he reportedly confessed. But, hahaha.

Meantime, companies of all kinds wrap marketing around April Fools, none slicker than Google:


As one wag said, April Fool’s day may be the only day of the year when we try hard to to think critically about everything we see online. Maybe we should have April Fool’s every day.


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