It seems that at Columbia University a rat pack of nursery feminists have got their skivvies in a knot because the library, Butler, is named for an, ugh!, man. Yes. It cannot be denied. In protest, these girls, apparently having nothing more important to do, have filmed “feminist pornography” in the library.
Indeed they have. It’s a “guerrilla action” response to “gender tension” and “male-centricity.” And “of course, it is a feminist statement.”
Anyway, one of these drab libertines, a Sara Grace Powell, says, “Butler is an extremely charged space - the names emblazoned on the stone facade are, for me, a stimulant for resistance.” A stimulant to grow up might be more to the point. She means “stimulus,” of course, but why would a child at an Ivy university be expected to know English? To an extent I have to sympathise with Sara. I grant that seeing a horrible male name “emblazoned” would send me into a decline also. Wouldn’t it you? Never mind that if the man thus emblazoned had not made the money to donate the library, Sara wouldn’t have one in which to make pornography, presumably the purpose of libraries.
As some readers may be intrigued by the notion of all-female feminist pornography, here’s a brief description:
It begins with a group of girls sitting around a library table taking their shirts off. As the film progresses, the girls engage in activities including kissing, rubbing eggs on their bodies and twerking around a chicken carcass.
The finished political opus, starring the aforementioned Ms Powell and titled Initiation, also features the somewhat lacklustre use of a riding crop, extended scenes of floor-wiping and what feels like an eternity of general aimlessness. It can be savoured at length here. Those hoping for red-blooded boi-oing fuel may, however, be disappointed. One of the film’s makers, Coco Young, has stressed the intent to transgress rather than titillate:
She was happy to see one commenter note that it was “hard to masturbate to this.” After all, the girls aimed to “create a repulsion”; there were naked women onscreen, but “they’re not there to make you sexually aroused.”
Despite dashed hopes and the sheer radicalness of it all, I trust readers will somehow get over it and get on with their lives.
Seven years, good grief. As is the custom here, posting will be intermittent over the holidays and readers are advised to subscribe to the blog feed, which will alert you to anything new as and when it materialises. Thanks for another million or so visits this year and another six thousand comments, many of which prompted threads that are much more interesting than the actual posts. Which is kind of the idea. And particular thanks to all those who’ve made PayPal donations to help keep this rickety barge above water. It’s much appreciated. Newcomers and people with nothing better to do are welcome to rummage through the reheated series and greatest hits. There you’ll find, among other things, great feats of artistry, an ongoing catalogue of leftwing agonies, the bewilderment of George Monbiot, the mind-blunting effects of pretentious racial guilt, and a righteous denunciation of the barbecue patriarchy.
A few days ago we were talking about critics grafting their own political hang-ups onto early zombie films. As when cineaste Robin Wood informed readers that the zombies’ cannibalistic tendency “represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.” Well. With that in mind, I feel it’s time for a few words from someone close to our hearts:
I wondered if we could go back to talking about zombies and socialism? Because there is quite a lot of scholarship on this, recently, and a lot of people writing, erm, quite intelligently about the idea of the power of the zombie narrative as a class war narrative.
Mark Steyn on America’s throbbingly intellectual Clown-in-Chief:
As historian Michael Beschloss pronounced the day after his election, he’s “probably the smartest guy ever to become president.” Naturally, Obama shares this assessment. As he assured us five years ago, “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors.” Well, apart from his signature health-care policy. That’s a mystery to him. “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working,” he told us. The buck stops with something called “the executive branch,” which is apparently nothing to do with him. As evidence that he was entirely out of the loop, he offered this: “Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, ‘Boy, this is going to be great.’ You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, ‘This is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,’ a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work.”
Ooooo-kay. So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.
Tim Worstall on why the advice of Will Hutton should never, ever be taken:
If we’ve got a cost that is higher than the benefit then this is a signal that we should stop doing this thing. Hutton is indeed arguing that the cost of a university education is higher, for many to most people, than the benefit that comes from having one. This is true whoever is paying the bills. Therefore we would rather like to have fewer people going to university... Hutton is arguing that university does not make sense in terms of value added for most students. He therefore proposes subsidy for those students. Which is ridiculous. If the activity is not value adding we don’t want more of it, we want less of it.
A very common way of thinking in literary criticism is not seen as a consequence of communism, but it is. Every writer has the experience of being told that a novel, a story, is “about” something or other. I wrote a story, The Fifth Child, which was at once pigeonholed as being about the Palestinian problem, genetic research, feminism, anti-Semitism and so on. A journalist from France walked into my living room and before she had even sat down said, “Of course The Fifth Child is about AIDS.” An effective conversation stopper, I assure you. But what is interesting is the habit of mind that has to analyse a literary work like this. If you say, “Had I wanted to write about AIDS or the Palestinian problem I would have written a pamphlet,” you tend to get baffled stares. That a work of the imagination has to be “really” about some problem is, again, an heir of Socialist Realism. To write a story for the sake of storytelling is frivolous, not to say reactionary.
It’s remarkable how often some cultural critics see their own preoccupations in unlikely art forms. As when the film historian Sumiko Higashi saw the Vietnam War lurking somewhere among the zombies and wrote that although “there are no Vietnamese in Night of the Living Dead... they constitute an absent presence whose significance can be understood if narrative is construed.” Or when cineaste Robin Wood informed readers that the zombies’ cannibalistic tendency “represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.” Or when a Channel 4 reviewer hailed Danny Boyle’s zombie film 28 Days Later as actually being a “powerful message” about “anger at call-centre queues.”
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
If reviewaggregators are anything to go by, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel has offended professional critics much more than cinemagoers. Quite a few critics, perhaps those of a certain age, seem to be pining for Richard Donner’s decidedly non-threatening film from 1978. A film I also remembered fondly from childhood - until, that is, I watched it again a few years ago - and whose gentle tone Bryan Singer tried to recapture, resulting in the dull and horribly misconceived Superman Returns. So. Which version, if any, floats your boat? Richard Donner’s whimsical Superman: The Movie, with Christopher Reeve, turning back time and kittens stuck in trees, or Zack Snyder’s rather more earnest Man of Steel, with Henry Cavill, alarming first contact and 3D megadestruction? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. And spoilers, obviously.
We treat technological progress as though it were a natural process, and we speak of Moore’s law — computers’ processing power doubles every two years — as though it were one of the laws of thermodynamics. But it is not an inevitable, natural process. It is the outcome of a particular social order. When I am speaking to students, I like to show them a still from the Oliver Stone movie Wall Street in which the masterful financier Gordon Gekko is talking on his cell phone, a Motorola DynaTac 8000X. The students always — always — laugh: The ridiculous thing is more than a foot long and weighs a couple of pounds. But the revelatory fact that takes a while to sink in is this: You had to be a millionaire to have one. The phone cost the equivalent of nearly $10,000, it cost about $1,000 a month to operate, and you couldn’t text or play Angry Birds on it… By comparison, an iPhone 5 is a wonder, a commonplace miracle.
My question for the students is: How is it that the cell phones in your pockets get better and cheaper every year, but your schools get more expensive and less effective? How is it that Gordon Gekko’s ultimate status symbol looks to our eyes as ridiculous as Molly Ringwald’s Reagan-era wardrobe and asymmetrical hairdos? That didn’t just happen.
In the summer of 2012, as the University of California reeled from one piece of bad budget news to another, a veteran political columnist sounded an alarm. Cuts in state funding were jeopardising the university’s mission of preserving the “cultural legacy essential to any great society,” Peter Schrag warned in the Sacramento Bee: “Would we know who we are without knowing our common history and culture, without knowing Madison and Jefferson and Melville and Dickinson and Hawthorne; without Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer; without Dante and Cervantes; without Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen; without Goethe and Molière; without Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; without Mozart, Rembrandt and Michelangelo; without the Old Testament; without the Gospels; without Plato and Aristotle, without Homer and Sophocles and Euripides, without Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky; without Gabriel García Márquez and Toni Morrison?”
Schrag’s appeal to the value of humanistic study was unimpeachable. It just happened to be laughably ignorant about the condition of such study at the University of California. Stingy state taxpayers aren’t endangering the transmission of great literature, philosophy, and art; the university itself is. No UC administrator would dare to invoke Schrag’s list of mostly white, mostly male thinkers as an essential element of a UC education; no UC campus has sought to ensure that its undergraduates get any exposure to even one of Schrag’s seminal thinkers (with the possible exception of Toni Morrison), much less to America’s founding ideas or history.
Leaders of the University of California system have agreed to disagree with – and outright dismiss without discussion – a lengthy report that details examples of leftist bias by professors and within social science curriculums throughout the 10-campus system.
John Murtagh on when terrorism is a credential among leftist academics:
Forty-three years ago last month, Kathy Boudin, now a professor at Columbia but then a member of the Weather Underground, escaped an explosion at a bomb factory operated in a townhouse in Greenwich Village. The story is familiar to people of a certain age. Three weeks earlier, Boudin’s Weathermen had firebombed a private home in Upper Manhattan with Molotov cocktails. Their target was my father, a New York state Supreme Court justice. The rest of the family was, presumably, an afterthought. I was 9 at the time, only a year older than the youngest victim in Boston. One of Boudin’s colleagues, Cathy Wilkerson, related in her memoir that the Weathermen were disappointed with the minimal effects of the bombs at my home. They decided to use dynamite the next time and bought a large quantity along with fuses, metal pipes and, yes, nails.
A mistake that the Institute for Centrifugal Research works tirelessly to correct. The ICR’s “pioneering achievements in the realms of brain manipulation, excessive G-Force and prenatal simulations” are illustrated, quite vividly, in Till Nowak’s short documentary, presented below. I beg you, please, wait for the ‘wedding cake’ amusement ride.