Few stories can capture your mind and soul in a visceral way from the beginning, and never leave you. Berserk is one of them.
Written and illustrated by the legendary manga artist Kentaro Miura, Berserk (ベルセルク) is an epic fantasy saga that knows no time, no boundaries, and has no end. It tells the story of Gatsu (ガッツ), a boy born from the corpse of a woman hung on a battlefield, who struggles to fight his unfortunate destiny. Set in a fictional version of medieval Europe, Gatsu is a young mercenary who travels with no direction nor purpose, swinging his huge sword in merciless fights in order to survive. He buries his blade deep into the flesh of his opponents, fighting like a madmen in battle, reminiscent of the nordic berserks, coming closer and closer to death, maybe to finally feel alive. His life is meaningless, his actions have no honor nor reason, except survival. He strives to escape his nature, that of a man born from a dead body, already between this world and the other, with nothing to lose except his miserable life.
That is, until he meets Griffith, the impossibly beautiful and charismatic leader of the undefeated mercenary band called "the Band of the Hawk" (鷹の団 Taka no Dan). This encounter will forever change his life, and that of everyone else.
Miura began the prototype of Berserk in 1988, releasing the first volume in 1990. Twenty-two years have passed since then, and the saga has been religiously followed by millions of enthusiasts, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful manga series ever written. It has been widely recognised for its excellence in Japan and throughout the world, winning the outstanding award at the sixth installment of Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2002. It should come as no surprise that the manga has been constantly at the top of the best anime list globally.
Beware, Berserk is not an ordinary series. It is hard, violent, and not easy to follow. There are no flashbacks constantly reminding you of what happened before, no fill-in episodes, no sweetening of the pill. It is a solid punch of crude reality hitting you in the stomach, and you have no way of guarding yourself. Miura's genius permeates in each page, down to every minute detail. The themes treated are difficult, and never simplified for the sake of the reader. Reality has no shortcuts, no easy way, and that is reflected in the story. The characters in Berserk are genuine, real, endlessly complicated, troubled. They hold secrets, they cheat, murder, conspire, but they are also capable of great kindness. Friendship, ambition, causality, the supernatural, our ambivalent nature, the struggle for power, love and hate. Twenty-two years in, still going strong, in what is possibly one of the greatest stories ever told.
Last week, Bill Gates previewed his fourth annual letter and invites students around the world to submit their own letters addressing what they think is the world's most pressing issue. Students can submit their letters to email@example.com through February 2nd, 2012.
I'd like for us to set the Microsoft talk aside and focus on this. I'm taking his message seriously, so here's my letter to the foundation.
Dear Bill and Melinda Gates foundation,
my name is Federico Pistono, I'm a computer scientist, author, and social activist.
I think the issues that need to be addressed swiftly are: access to clean water, food sovereignty, and education. All of them are enabled by access to the Internet. Here's a very brief overview of my plan:
- Millions of OLPC ($80 each, http://one.laptop.org) and Raspberry Pi ($25 each, http://www.raspberrypi.org) to developing countries, with OSS software, Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and other educational resources preinstalled/preconfigured.
- Finance Open Source Ecology (http://opensourceecology.org), improve it and fine-tune it according to different locations and resource availability. Scale it and apply worldwide.
- Cost-effective water purification and desalinisation through fresnel lenses and other cheap DIY technology (I'm working on it as we speak). Open Source all designs.
- Free and unrestricted access to the Internet to developing countries through projects such as Buy This Satellite (http://buythissatellite.org) and WiMAX high-power antennas.
- Study, develop, and educate people about permaculture and hydroponics/aquaponics systems. Use each according to resource availability to achieve maximum efficiency. The goal is food sovereignty with as little labour as possible.
These five points require an in-depth thorough examination, which I am happy to explore if I have the chance to. There are also many more ideas that I would like to develop, as I study and learn more about the world.
Thank you for the attention and the work you do, I hope you consider the ideas presented in this letter to make the world a better place.
As you probably know, yesterday was the day of the great Internet blackout, in protest of the upcoming SOPA and PIPA legislations, which instead of protecting the rights of authors and artists, they look more like draconian laws of a dystopian world where websites could be taken down for no reason and people could go to jail for streaming some music. I'm not making this up, it's all in the bill, just read it.
As always, the Khan Academy offers an excellent explanation of what SOPA and PIPA are all about:
And here Kirby Ferguson has an animated version.
Yesterday, this blog, among other 75,000 sites, was blacked out, and not accessible for 24 hours. People were encouraged to call congress and stop this madness. It was a huge success. TorrentFreak reports that SOPA / PIPA Co-Sponsors Drop Like Flies As Millions Protest, millions of people mobilised to keep the Internet free.
This isn't the first time they try to censor the Internet, and it won't be the last.
Stay strong, stay united.
I have always been curious about films and their impact on society. There are many interesting measures and lots of data that one can look up: one above all is the list of highest grossing films of all time. Box Office Mojo offers the official data, but there's a catch. They have a list of all time top grosses worldwide, but it's pretty much useless since it's not adjusted to inflation. The only list that is adjusted to inflation is the all time domestic grosses (domestic meaning USA). So, what if we wanted to compare film grosses at cinemas worldwide, but adjusting the values to take inflation into account? The answer is: you can't. Different countries means different interests rates, different currencies and so on. I googled for a while, but I couldn't find any reliable list that took into account the worldwide gross, adjusted for inflation.
So, I decided to calculate it myself. Precise measurements are almost impossible (for the reasons mentioned above), but we can make an estimate, which is better than nothing.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made $184,925,486 in 1937, but if we adjust for inflation we get a very different number: $867,640,000. Clearly, absolute numbers tell a very partial story. For example, here's a detailed list of average prices over time. We can calculate the average compound interest rate, using this formula:
Were i = interest rate, FV = Future Value, PV = Present Value, and n = number of years. Plug in the numbers, we get i = 0.02947, or 2.947%. Now let's see how the adjusted list of the top 200 highest grossing films of all time looks like.
Here's how to read the table:
- OLD: The original position in the global list, not adjusted for inflation
- NEW: The original position in the global list, adjusted for inflation
- JUMP: Difference in chart position between the old and the new list
- YEAR: The year the film was released
- FILM: Name of the film (original title)
- GROSS ($): Total Lifetime Grosses in theaters
- ADJUSTED ($ 2011): Total Lifetime Grosses in theaters adjusted for inflation up to 2011
- Interactive list on Google docs (downloadable, too)
- List sources
- Methodology for inflation
- How to calculate compound interest
The final list
|JUMP||OLD||NEW||YEAR||FILM||GROSS ($)||ADJUSTED ($ 2011)|
|142||143||1||1939||Gone with the Wind||400,200,000||3,239,389,304|
|29||34||5||1982||E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial||792,900,000||1,840,838,042|
|8||14||6||1994||The Lion King||945,700,000||1,549,480,834|
|-3||5||8||2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||1,119,900,000||1,412,826,417|