The Turner prize-winning artist has turned his sights on the survivalist [Bear Grylls] and his exceptionally rugged version of masculinity, arguing that it isn’t fit for the 21st century. “He celebrates a masculinity that is useless,” Perry said… Perry said that the masculine ideal presented by shows such as The Island, in which Grylls is currently putting a third group of hapless contestants through survivalist hell, is making it harder for men to successfully negotiate modern life. “Men might be good at taking the risk of stabbing someone or driving a car very fast, but when it comes to opening up, men are useless,” Perry told the Radio Times in an interview to promote his new series, All Man.
“Masculinity is a decorative feature that is essentially counter-productive.”
Well, it’s true that rafting skills and urine-drinking may be niche concerns and of obvious practical use only to explorers, hardy outdoors types, and people whose package holidays have gone catastrophically wrong. But – and it’s quite a big one - there’s something to be said for seeing people in unfamiliar and rather trying circumstances achieving more – sometimes much more - than they thought they ever could. Which is both the premise and appeal of Mr Grylls’ various, quite popular TV programmes. However, showing people that they may be much more capable than they previously believed, resulting in a sense of great personal satisfaction, is apparently unimportant, a mere “hangover” from more primitive, less Guardian-friendly times.
Regarding the claim that masculinity is functionally obsolete and is now merely decorative, and at risk of seeming unkind, readers are invited to compare the mugshots of Mr Perry and Mr Grylls, these two contrasting expressions of modern masculinity, and ponder which is likely to attract the more widespread and vigorous sexual attention. Or indeed which of them might be more likely to prevail in a more hazardous physical exchange – say, an attempted mugging. And on the supposed uselessness of archetypal masculine skills, Mr Grylls’ lengthy television career, his extensive property portfolio, and his estimated annual earnings from UK merchandising alone of £3.3 million, rather speaks for itself.
Spotted by Chester in the comments - Fintan O’Toole, literary editor of the Irish Times, calls for a “national arts strike” to extort further cash from the taxpayer. “The public has to be reminded that it really does care,” says he. And until more wallets land on the bonfire of publicly funded art, the nation’s creative titans should “close the arts centres” and “hold no poetry readings.”
Twitter is struggling. Its disappointing financial results, mass layoffs and declining user experience show things aren’t well for the little blue bird. And now this: the replacement of the beloved “fav” star with a heart.
The hearts are the final straw: it’s time to nationalise Twitter.
Yes, it’s the Guardian. How did you guess? Specifically, the musings of Mr Osman Faruqi, a “Sydney-based writer and activist” who wants someone else – apparently, taxpayers on the other side of the world – to pay for his leisure activities.
It’s infrastructure for basic communication, which is why people are so upset over the change to hearts: imagine if, instead of saying “OK” on the phone to a relative stranger, you were forced to say “I love you.” It’s that basic.
Such are the horrors facing today’s Twitter user. It’s New Coke all over again.
So how do you monetise an intangible combination of excitement and trepidation sparked by the overwhelming awe of talking to the whole world?
Or perhaps more likely, a vanishingly tiny part of it. With almost half of “users” having never sent a Tweet, and the overwhelming majority of those who have boasting fewer than 200 followers, with the majority of their tweets, around 70%, attracting no acknowledgment whatsoever. However, the stakes are high and according to Mr Faruqi, “casual social interaction,” which is good, is “anathema to the desire for profit,” which is bad, obviously. This is, after all, the Guardian. And as Twitter’s modishness is, it seems, fading, it therefore must be nationalised and paid for by the taxpayer. To keep it hip and happening, and to prevent more icon changes. Until the next thing comes along. And then, presumably, we must nationalise that too.
Sweat-shaming is when someone points out your sweatiness as a way to signal disapproval. Like its counterparts, slut-shaming and fat-shaming, sweat-shaming is aimed mainly at women, who are actually not supposed to sweat at all.
Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had a classic Guardian sentence, let alone a reminder of just how many brickbats and indignities our brave feminists must endure. The sentences above are courtesy of Ms Amy Roe, who, as you’ll see, has been terribly violated (and is therefore heroic and righteous in her ire).
I was ordering coffee when I noticed a well-dressed woman staring at me. “You look like you just did a class,” she said, giving me the once-over. I had no idea what she meant so I said nothing. “Or swimming?” she offered, with a tight smile.
Well-dressed. Tight smile. The bitch.
I’d just run 12 miles and the hair sticking out from under my hat was wet. It took me a moment to formulate an answer. “Um, running,” I mumbled finally… Rather than challenge sweat-shaming, I played right into it, conceding that I “sweat a lot.”
Tight-smiling woman is obviously a hired goon of The Patriarchy. Her mission, to stamp on the self-esteem of hitherto fearless Guardian columnists.
I took the paper cup of drip coffee and hustled past the condiment bar. Screw the half-and-half; I’d drink it black. Once safely inside my car, I threw off my damp running cap and flipped up the hood of my sweatshirt in embarrassment.
Harrowing stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. Ms Roe is what we must henceforth refer to as a sweat-shame survivor.
Happily, however - and despite the misogynist violence of having one’s copious perspiration acknowledged by someone standing next to you, possibly closer than they might wish - Ms Roe’s drama ends on a note of empowerment and feminist defiance:
I’ve got another long run this weekend and afterward, I’m going to sit down with my coffee, all sweaty and transgressive. The stigmas surrounding women’s bodies are powerful, but they’re no match for how powerful I feel after running.
Last weekend, I camped with my family at a barn-raising party on the western foot of the Quantock hills, in Somerset. On Saturday I crept out of the tent at 5am, when the faintest skein of red cloud netted the sky. Below me, mist filled the valley floor. I slipped through the sagging fence at the top of the field and found myself in a steep, broad coomb, covered in bracken. I climbed for a while, as quietly as I could, until a frightful wail shattered my thoughts. I crouched and listened. I could see nothing on the dark hillside. It came again, from about 50 metres to my right, half-shriek, half-bleat, a wild, wrenching, desolate cry, a cry that the Earth might make in mourning for itself.
Walking without a map, I reached the valley floor too soon and found myself on the main road. In some places there were no verges and I had to press myself into the hedge as cars passed. But on such early walks, almost regardless of where you are, there are rewards.
Wait for it.
Just as I was about to turn off the road, on to the track that would take me back to the barn, I found a squirrel hit by a car that must have just passed me, dead but still twitching. It was a male, one of this year’s brood but fully grown. Blood seeped from a wound to the head. I picked it up by its hind feet, and though I had played no part in its death, I was immediately gripped by a sensation so discrete, so distinct from all else we feel, that I believe it requires its own label: hunter’s pride.
Gasp ye at the dark, animal side of a Guardian columnist:
It’s the raw, feral thrill I have experienced only on the occasions when I have picked up a fresh dead animal I intend to eat. It feels to me like the opening of a hidden door, a rent in the mind through which you can glimpse a ghost psyche: vestigial emotional faculties that once helped us to survive.
Ah, the savage romance. Of roadkill.
I showed the squirrel to the small tribe of children that had formed in the campsite, girls and boys between the ages of three and nine, and asked them if they’d like to watch me prepare it.
Creepy man waves dead, twitching squirrel at bewildered children.
Today, the old butches are a dying breed. The veterans of the Gateways [lesbian] club are now as likely to blend in with the rest of us than wear a suit, tie and starched shirt… During a recent trip to Sweden I thought most women I saw in the street were lesbians, and the men sitting around in cafes with their babies, gay dads.
Yes, it’s a bold statement. A classic sentence for our series. The gist of which being that the 53-year-old Ms Bindel, for whom radical lezzer is a profession, is having trouble telling which team a person, a younger person, is batting for. Imagine the indignity.
A number of lesbians I know who are on the butch side have been asked [by other lesbians] when they are transitioning. Being openly and proudly butch has now… become something that many in the lesbian community look down on. At the same time, within gay male culture, being camp or in any way “feminine” is derided.
I don’t follow such things closely, or at all, but apparently bull dykes and mincing nancies are so last century. Affected burliness for gay ladies and girliness for gay gents is no longer deemed fashionable, and the quaint term “straight acting” has all but vanished into history. The donkey jacket dyke, of which Big Grumpy Jules is so fond, is now a museum piece. Well, a lot can change in half a century. However, this lack of enthusiasm for acting like a caricature is for some a source of rancour and rumblings of conspiracy:
This, I would argue, is a product of plain old sexism and misogyny.
This being the Guardian, Ms Bindel doesn’t offer much in the way of actual argument. But as fashions in lesbianism have changed since Julie’s first flush of youth back in the Seventies, this must be the doing of The Patriarchy and its phallic tentacles:
Living in London, the Guardian’s Aisha Mirza is, naturally, unhappy:
I understand there is a psychic toll of living in a place where you have to fight, for space, time, money. But what these Why I am Leaving London articles are missing is that, while the psychic burden of living in the city with the highest living costs in the developed world is very real,
Wait for it.
for a brown person, the cost of living surrounded only by white people is worse.
“Please, no more white people writing smug articles about leaving London,” writes our Guardianista, smugly, before claiming that “the world will validate your beautiful white children,” wherever they are, “forever.”
I feel the comfort of London peel away whenever my train pulls out of King’s Cross and the threat of overt racism is increased...Outside London, I am put immediately into a position of defence. This is something my white counterpart will never understand.
[Arts Council] grants aren’t won down the pub by a dart competition where the bullseye’s a picture of the taxpayer’s face. Of course, I wish they were, because that would save the hours of work it takes to write a grant application. And I’m pretty good at darts.
So writes Zoë Coombs Marr, a writer, comedian and “theatre maker,” and a woman of profound humility, in a piece complaining about the “devastating effects” of modest alterations in taxpayer subsidy for Australia’s commercially unviable artists. Artists who, while unloved by the general public, are nonetheless deserving of money they haven’t earned. “I’m here to bust a few myths,” says Ms Marr. And so begins a sorrowful tale of how bloody hard it is to be an artist whose work is of little interest to the public, and how hard it is to screw other people’s earnings out of other people:
Grant applications are comprehensive proposals that take multiple people and sometimes months to complete. They’re assessed by a panel of professionals (not your mates) employed to pick your application apart, assess it for financial viability and community relevance.
Undaunted, or perhaps oblivious, our unhappy artist continues,
Grant money is pumped back into the economy and employs numerous people.
How much and how many is, sadly, left unspecified. But apparently Australia’s economy will be rendered turgid and engorged by throwing $21,000 that someone else had to earn at “rainforest basketry training programmes,” and another $20,000 at “dance theatre work devised by participants who identify as fat/large/bigger-bodied.” And by surrendering a further $12,000 of taxpayers’ money to “enrich the sensory theatre practice” of one person “with master classes and mentoring in Body Mind Centring praxis.” Yes, you can hear that economy boom from half a world away. These examples, by the way, are among the many cited in the article by Tim Blair, and to which Ms Marr links as somehow helping her case.
Readers unswayed by Ms Marr’s article - in which she says, “I could try to explain to you why we should fund the arts” but doesn’tbother doing so - should note that she is the winner of Australia’s taxpayer-subsidised 2006 National Poetry Slam Championships. So there’s that. A more recent poetic work by Ms Marr can be savoured here. [ Added: ] And thanks to Nikw211 in the comments, Ms Marr’s comedic stylings – the fruits of her “training, skill and hard work” - can be experienced at length here. I should point out it’s quite a slog and you may want a stiff drink to hand. Or a canister of nitrous oxide.
Herself a child of what she generously terms “communal living” – specifically, an “Islington house furnished from skips” – Ms Cosslett allows her mind to drift back, way back, to the heady days of the late Twentieth Century:
My memories are faded but what remains is a picture of a happy, lively household whose ethos was not so far removed from times when children were raised by communities, not individuals.
A faded memory from childhood, when people are generally much less discerning, is perhaps not the soundest footing for an approach to housing policy. And hey, what parent wouldn’t want their child raised collectively by a shifting pile of misfits, losers and unemployable hippies? Or as Ms Cosslett puts it, rather romantically, “art students from Berlin, Portuguese musicians” and, naturally, “miners during the strike.” Yes, all this, and in an environment where six layers of wallpaper – a historical record of sorts - gradually detached themselves from damp plaster walls:
Though the conditions weren’t great, they paid £11 a week rent... Low rents (or if you were squatting, no rents) enabled people to work in the arts, to create music (I was sampled on a Madchester dance record, aged three), write literature and paint.
And working in the arts – I suspect the term “working” is used here loosely – is more than reason enough to squat and not bother with humdrum details like permission or paying rent. That such freewheeling sentiment is less fashionable than it was saddens Ms Cosslett. And so boilerplate ensues:
Our political apathy, our materialistic obsession with property ownership, our disinclination to pursue alternative lifestyles all explain why communes and squats are in decline... Walking through Park Crescent the other day, past impossibly grand houses with their dark interiors… I felt an incredible sadness. It is the disappointment at the abandonment of an experiment… Imagine what you and your friends could do with a crowbar, a guitar, a few sacks of lentils…
Readers of this blog will, over the years, have marvelled at the outpourings of one Polly Toynbee, the Guardian’s foremost social commentator and hand-wringer in chief, a woman voted “the most influential commentator in the UK” and whose views regularly grace the programming of the BBC, for which she was formerly a newsroom social affairs editor. “Polly Toynbee’s influence is perceived to be huge in British public life,” wrote Julia Hobsbawm of the media analysts Editorial Intelligence. “Her columns resonate in Whitehall and beyond.”
From high atop those resonating columns, Ms Toynbee delivers her various pronouncements, including a conviction that “left-wing people are more intelligent and just generally better people,” i.e., better than thee and me, and a demand that taxes must be raised “to pay the state to become the best possible nanny to all babies.” There’s also her belief that “disruptive 16-year-old boys” should be taken out of class to spend a term being taught the finer points of dance, thereby resulting in a “transformation in the whole year group.” When not curing inner-city classroom delinquency with the thrill of modern tap, Polly tells her readers that obesity isn’t chiefly a matter of inactivity and overeating but instead has a more pernicious cause, i.e., a lack of socialism:
It is inequality and disrespect that makes people fat.
To bolster this radical insight Ms Toynbee made a number of further claims regarding economic inequality and expanded waistlines, each of which proved to be either misleading or untrue. And chunkier readers should note that waiting for a socialist revolution probably isn’t the best way to lose those extra pounds.
Our imperious champion of the poor has a famously intermittent relationship with facts, logic and mathematics, such that an entire website, Factchecking Pollyanna, was devoted to providing detailed corrections of each week’s errors and distortions. Sadly, this effort to bring factual accuracy to the finest Guardian journalism became dormant some years ago, its anonymous author possibly having collapsed under the weight of the endeavour.
Happily, however, Tim Worstall has now published the best of that legendary blog in book form, so that another generation may bathe in Ms Toynbee’s blunders and fumbling with numbers. Amid various examples of Polly inverting statistics and misreporting figures by several orders of magnitude, as when she inflated council tax benefit changes by a mere 5,100%, the volume includes such moments of high journalism as Ms Toynbee telling the world that 142% of people were dissatisfied with Tony Blair, and a 21-word sentence containing no fewer than five factual errors.