Friday High Five: Guns and Japan, Drone Pilots, and Race and Casting Notices

We collect our favourite links and articles from around the internet this week.

Olympic art: an athletic London bus

Here’s an eye-catching example of Olympic art, via the Atlantic: a London bus that does push-ups. The sculpture, by artist David Cerny, will live outside the Czech Olympic headquarters for the duration of this year’s Games. Cerny bought the 1957 Routemaster bus in the Netherlands and spent six months fitting it with robotic arms, powered by an engine. The motion is accompanied by a recording of sounds evoked during tough physical effort.

Gun-free nation: Why Japan is the opposite of the US

An article in the Atlantic looks at a country on the opposite end of the spectrum from the gun-happy US: in Japan, almost no one owns a firearm (even the notorious Yakuza tend to forgo guns). While in 2008, the US had over 12,000 firearm-related homicides, all of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than at Aurora alone. The country’s murder rate is the second-lowest in the world.

To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

Race, casting and Girls

This year’s breakout hit series Girls came under considerable fire for its predominantly-white casting, as opposed to its ethnically mixed setting of Brooklyn, New York. The latest outbreak of commentary on the issue (from Slate) broadens out into the wider issue of race and casting in general, using the example of some found casting notices for minor role on Girls. How are minor roles cast and how often do they blatantly cater to stereotypes?

One notice sought a ‘pleasantly plump’ Latina co-worker, Chastity, for Hannah; a rainbow group of nannies with accents (including a “sexy” El Salvadoran and an ‘overweight’ African American with a ‘good sense of humor’); and a ‘VERY VERY HANDSOME AND VERY SEXY’ African-American lover for Jessa. The other notice advertised roles including an Asian sake bar waiter; Tako, a ‘tough, tiny’ African-American lesbian; and a female junkie, for which agents were asked to ‘PLEASE SUBMIT ALL ETHNICITIES,’ leading Jezebel writer Cassie Murdoch to quip, ‘Ooh, the junkie can be any ethnicity! How progressive.’ (The junkie was ultimately played by a white actor.)

The scene from *Girls* with the 'rainbow group of nannies with accents'.

The scene from Girls with the 'rainbow group of nannies with accents'.

Drone wars: Inside the mind of a drone pilot

Drone technology, which allows wars to be fought by remote control pilots, while their planes attack targets in Iraq or Afghanistan, has been an increasingly hot topic, when we talk about modern warfare. We often speculate about the impact of fighting wars on screens, like a video game, but rarely hear from those who operate this brave new machinery of warfare. The New York Times recently interviewed a drone pilot, who says it’s nothing like a video game - in fact, the cameras take pilots far closer to their prey than they would ever get flying a plane.

He steps out of a dark room of video screens, his adrenaline still surging after squeezing the trigger, and commutes home past fast-food restaurants and convenience stores to help with homework — but always alone with what he has done.

Colson Whitehead’s Rules for Writing

In the New York Times, Colson Whitehead shares his rules for writing, from ‘show and tell’, to ‘have adventures’, to the intriguing ‘fiction is payback for those who have wronged you’.

Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead

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