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I’ve been reading Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese. It’s a fascinating history of how humans have come to use and rely on the power generated by burning coal. It’s got a bit of an environmentalist bent to it, but I’d highly recommend it!

In my reading, Ms. Freese mentioned something about a ‘killer fog’ event in London during December of 1873. While trying to find information on this event, which is hard, I found something else:

The Killer Fog of ’52

No, I’m not talking about The Fog or its crappy remake!

Between Dec. 5-9th 1952, London was trapped in a fog (or smog, if you will) of epic proportions. Trapped by the inversion layer formed by the dense mass of cold air, the already horrible air pollution became toxic and killed as many as 12,000 people in London.

“The lips of the dying were blue. Heavy smoking and chronic exposure to pollution had already weakened the lungs of those who fell ill during the smog. Particulates and acids in the killer brew finished the job by triggering massive inflammations. In essence, the dead had suffocated.” — NPR: The Great Fog of ’52

Accounts of survivors in a BBC article

A bit more reading from the Met Office file on the Fog of ’52

Fifty years later, people don’t talk much about this event. It’s become a blot in the pages of history. But its impact changed the way people saw the environment and how mankind has polluted it.

Although steps were taken to clean the air in London (and the Earth as a whole, with the Kyoto Protocol) some 20,000 in England alone suffer shortened lives each year do to air pollution.

Just imagine if this happened in Los Angeles. Or New York City. Or Chicago.


As I mentioned in my previous post Solidarity or Statement?, Trent Reznor was shown in the latest video for Nine Inch Nails’ newest single Survivialism wearing what is traditionally called a keffiyeh.

Due to the nature of the video being shot in black and white, you can’t honestly tell if the scarf is really black and white, or what.

Trent in Europe Of course, give it time and a picture will show up.

There you have it. It’s actually a khaki-brown colour with the black design.

Trent’s a sneaky devil.

Since the release of Nine Inch Nails’ Survivalism video, everyone’s probably noticed the scarf Trent’s wearing.

It is a Keffiyeh.

For those not familar, it is a traditional headdress worn by Arab men.

Due to the nature of the video, I can’t tell if there are colours to it, but it seems to be a black and white keffiyeh, which is common to the Levant, aka Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

In other ways, the colours mean something else. The black-and-white is often associated with Fatah. The red-and-white keffiyeh is often associated with Hamas. Did Trent know that?

The thing about this, and we all know Trent Reznor is quite big on political statements lately, especially anti-Bush/anti-war as of late, is the use of this keffiyeh. See, the Urban Outfitters chain was selling keffiyeh scarves, labeling them “anti-war woven scarves”. This blog entry at KABOBfest documented the “craze”, showing American teens and trendsetters wearing the “anti-war scarves”, showing “support and solidarity to Palestine”.

Honestly, I don’t really think any single person who purchased one had any damn idea what it was/represents.

Eventually, the outcry grew loud and Urban Outfitters stopped selling them, saying (quote) “Due to the sensitive nature of this item, we will no longer offer it for sale. We apologize if we offended anyone, this was by no means our intention.”

Morons. This isn’t the first time Urban Outfitters done something idiotic.

This store sells keffiyeh with the statment: “Now, however, it has come to symbolize the Palestinian (and Iraqi) resistance to occupation and injustice, and is worn by men and women worldwide as an expression of solidarity.”

This particular article tells of a student who was dared to wear a keffiyeh through US Customs on his return from Israel.

If we take all this into context, obviously Trent was making a statement. At the end of the Survivalism video, a body with a keffiyeh is dragged around a corner, leaving a trail of blood on the floor.

Whether that was just part of his Year Zero alternative-reality game, or a statement of his views on the War On Terror/Middle East conflict remains to be seen.

Past, Present, & Future

March 2007
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