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August 2007

Friday Ephemera

The Shimafuji 2” cube PC. // The properties of cone snail venom. Cone snail venom in action. // SeaPhantom. “Helicopter speed. Powerboat price.” // Flying car, sort of. (H/T, Dr Westerhaus.) // Perry Mason book covers. // Perry Mason title sequence, from The Case of the Negligent Nymph. (H/T, Vitruvius.) // Perry Mason board game. More. Instructions. // How to catch a cold. (1951) // What to do on a date. (1951) // Personal ads in China. (H/T, Instapundit.) // Via Coconut Jam, paper condom envelopes of the 30s and 40s. // Beautiful specimens. (H/T, Coudal.) // Iran closes “un-Islamic” barber shops. “Police say barbers should not pluck customers’ eyebrows.” // Theodore Dalrymple on percentages, fear and self-inflicted misery. “Unemployment and lower levels of educational achievement have much to do with the ideas of Muslim immigrants themselves.” // The perils of “affirmative action.” // Soy sauce and ice cream, together at last. // Ice cream flavours from around the world. Octopus, spinach and ox tongue. // Geographical Rubik Cube. // Calculate pi in hyperspace. You know you want to. // Enormous hole found in Universe. “The void is nearly one billion light years across.” (H/T, An Insomniac.) // Tunnel House. More. // Bedside table. Ideal for greeting uninvited guests. // How to be a cult leader. “Join us and be special.” (H/T, Vitruvius.) // Frank says something stupid.

Smart Resizing

A form of ‘content-aware’ image manipulation has been developed by Shai Avidan and Ariel Shamir of Israel’s Efi Arazi School of Computer Science. Their prototype software allows images to be dramatically resized without scaling or cropping. By assigning levels of importance to component parts of an image, the software is able to shrink or stretch images while leaving key features intact and in proportion, and all in real time.

More. And. Related. Also. (H/T, Protein Wisdom and The Thin Man.) 

Period Piece

Thanks to the A/V Geeks, here’s Disney’s 1946 educational short, The Story of Menstruation. It’s replete with dos and don’ts on hygiene and grooming, though sexuality is oddly unmentioned. That said, and no less oddly, there does appear to be a baby wearing lipstick.

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Review. The instructional booklet mentioned in the film, Very Personally Yours, can be found here.

Foucault’s Suit

An extract from Roger Kimball’s long, amusing essay, The Perversions of Michel Foucault, in which he casts an eye over Foucault’s pretensions, and those of his biographer, James Miller:

“In some ways, The Passion of Michel Foucault is a revival of [Miller’s] earlier book [Democracy is in the Streets], done over with a French theme and plenty of black leather. Hence it is not surprising that when Mr. Miller gets around to the student riots of 1968, his prose waxes dithyrambic as gratified nostalgia fires his imagination. It is as if he were reliving his lost - or maybe not-so-lost - childhood.

‘The disorder was intoxicating. Billboards were ripped apart, sign posts uprooted, scaffolding and barbed wire pulled down, parked cars tipped over… The mood was giddy, the atmosphere festive. ‘Everyone instantly recognized the reality of their desires,’ one participant wrote shortly afterward, summing up the prevailing spirit. ‘Never had the passion for destruction been shown to be more creative.’

Foucault himself, unfortunately, had to miss out on the first wave of riots, since he was teaching at the University of Tunis. But his lover Daniel Defert was in Paris and kept him abreast of developments by holding a transistor radio up to the telephone receiver for hours on end. Later that year, Foucault was named head of the department of philosophy at the University of Vincennes outside Paris. The forty-three-year-old professor of philosophy then got a chance to abandon himself to the intoxication. In January 1969, a group of five hundred students seized the administration building and amphitheatre, ostensibly to signal solidarity with their brave colleagues who had occupied the Sorbonne earlier that day. In fact, as Mr. Miller suggests, the real point was ‘to explore, again, the creative potential of disorder.’ Mr. Miller is very big on ‘the creative potential of disorder.’ Foucault was one of the few faculty who joined the students. When the police arrived, he followed the recalcitrant core to the roof in order to ‘resist.’ Mr. Miller reports proudly that while Foucault ‘gleefully’ hurled stones at the police, he was nonetheless ‘careful not to dirty his beautiful black velour suit.’

It was shortly after this encouraging episode that Foucault shaved his skull and emerged as a ubiquitous countercultural spokesman. His ‘politics’ were consistently foolish, a combination of solemn chatter about ‘transgression,’ power, and surveillance, leavened by an extraordinary obtuseness about the responsible exercise of power in everyday life… Foucault posed as a passionate partisan of liberty. At the same time, he never met a revolutionary piety he didn’t like. He championed various extreme forms of Marxism, including Maoism; he supported the Ayatollah Khomeini, even when the Ayatollah’s fundamentalist cadres set about murdering thousands of Iranian citizens. In 1978, looking back to the postwar period, he asked: ‘What could politics mean when it was a question of choosing between Stalin’s USSR and Truman’s America?’ It tells us a great deal that Foucault found this question difficult to answer.”

Spot the resonance. More. Related. And. Plus. Also.

Time Capsule

As a companion piece to Vanessa Engle’s Lefties documentary, The Thin Man has created a short trailer for the three-part series, Tory! Tory! Tory!, broadcast by BBC4 in March 2006. The series traces the history and ideas behind Thatcherism - and how Britain was transformed, painfully. It’s not as outlandish as Lefties, but it’s interesting to revisit the dark days of Britain in the late Seventies, with power cuts, unburied dead and ossified state-run monopolies somehow billions in debt. Brave souls may even try to imagine exactly how wrecked and demoralised the country would have been in the care of devout Socialist Neil Kinnock, or those even more devout, who openly spoke of “the class enemy.”

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The three episodes, Outsiders, The Path to Power and The Exercise of Power, can be viewed here.

I have enemies of my own. Help me crush them underfoot.

Friday Ephemera

The museum of mid-20th century illustration. Spacemen, sweater girls, and bacon dogs too. // Singing Science. Includes What is Gravity?, It’s a Scientific Fact and other stirring ditties. (Circa 1950s) // Pooh in Russian. // Russian metro art. Posters, stamps, matchbooks. // Vintage cigarette ads. “Guard against throat scratch.” // Women in art. 500 years in under three minutes. More. (H/T, Stephen Hicks.) // MTV interlude. Floating leafy giraffes. More. // Via Chastity Darling, ZoomQuilt 2. // The complete Calvin & Hobbes. 1985-1995. // 25 Calvin & Hobbes highlights. // Batman onomatopoeia. // Robin looks on, shocked. // Hayek’s Road to Serfdom in cartoon form, circa 1950. (H/T, The Thin Man.) // Found grocery lists. Hundreds of them. // Jeff Lieberman’s levitating light bulb. Movie. // Landsat-7 satellite images. Geology seen from space. // Alien and salad. Together at last. More. // William Burroughs book covers. // Bosch. // How to hack slow motion in QuickTime Pro. // How to brew beer in a coffee pot. (H/T, Coudal.) // A chronology of mathematics. // A gallery of vintage calculators. // Woman bends down. House explodes. // And Carole King is sad.

MilneWorld (2)

Oh boy. On today’s Comment is Free, the incorrigible Seumus Milne takes umbrage with Andrew Anthony, whom he denounces as a “cheerleader of the wider US NeoCon project”, along with his book, The Fall-Out: How a Guilty Liberal Lost His Innocence. (Extract here.) Milne’s railing against the apostate is typically evasive and distressing to the moral senses, so I’ll highlight only one of his remarkable statements.

“Anthony is in a fury with liberals and leftwingers… for supposedly appeasing terror and Islamism and abandoning Enlightenment values in pursuit of a blind and guilt-ridden anti-Americanism… His political life seems mainly to be a series of angry breakfast-time reactions to newspaper columnists, and Guardian writers in particular…”

Supposedly? Seumas, if you’re listening, this is one of your Guardian colleagues, Madeleine Bunting, denouncing Enlightenment values as “imperialistic” and “an ideology of superiority that is profoundly old-fashioned.” Then doing it again. This is that same colleague rhetorically fellating the ‘spiritual leader’ of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi - a man who endorses suicide bombing, the murder of homosexuals and the beating of disobedient women as matters of piety. And whom Ms Bunting saw fit to praise for his “horror of immorality”, his “independence of mind” and his mastery of the internet.

And, Seumas, this is you appeasing Islamism and wilfully misleading your readers. Three years in a row.

More on MilneWorld here.

Totalitarian Chic

Following this post and subsequent comments, here are some brief extracts from Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s article on the improbable “social justice” icon, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

“It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real life story of their hero, the historical truth. It is not surprising that Guevara’s contemporary followers, his new post-communist admirers, also delude themselves by clinging to a myth - except the young Argentines who have come up with an expression that rhymes perfectly in Spanish: ‘Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué,’ or ‘I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why.’”

On killing and boredom:

“Guevara might have been enamoured of his own death, but he was much more enamoured of other people’s deaths. In April 1967, speaking from experience, he summed up his homicidal idea of justice in his Message to the Tricontinental: ‘Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine’... In a letter to his mother in 1954, written in Guatemala, where he witnessed the overthrow of the revolutionary government of Jacobo Arbenz, he wrote: ‘It was all a lot of fun, what with the bombs, speeches, and other distractions to break the monotony I was living in’...”

On vanity economics:

“His stint as head of the National Bank, during which he printed bills signed ‘Che’, has been summarized by his deputy, Ernesto Betancourt: ‘[He] was ignorant of the most elementary economic principles.’ Guevara’s powers of perception regarding the world economy were famously expressed in 1961, at a hemispheric conference in Uruguay, where he predicted a 10 percent rate of growth for Cuba ‘without the slightest fear,’ and, by 1980, a per capita income greater than that of ‘the U.S. today.’ In fact, by 1997, the thirtieth anniversary of his death, Cubans were dieting on a ration of five pounds of rice and one pound of beans per month; four ounces of meat twice a year; four ounces of soybean paste per week; and four eggs per month.”

Carlos Santana, please take note.

Read the whole shebang. Alvaro Vargas Llosa is the author of The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty.   

More. Related. Some true believers. (H/T, Daimnation!)