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August 2007

Friday Ephemera

Brendan Dawes’ distilled films. Taxi Driver, Vertigo, The Conversation; one grab per second, one minute per row, one film per print. More. And. // Via 1+1=3, the making of the Six Feet Under title sequence. Film. // Visualising data. // TV-liquor cabinet combo. A whole new level of kitsch. // Deogolwulf on the wisdom of Richard Rorty. // Mick Hartley on Freud, cocaine and chutzpah. // Shiraz Maher on Hizb ut-Tahrir. “I only hope that our testimonies will encourage those still within Islamist movements to find the moral courage to leave.” // 70,000 Hizb supporters rally in Indonesia. // Man arrested by Saudi religious police for washing car instead of praying. Faints, dies. // Iranian man lashed for possessing Bible. “Security agents accused the man of converting from Islam to Christianity.” // Robert Mugabe inspired to greatness by North Korea. (H/T, Daimnation!) // Life magazine cover browser. 1936 -2007. // The Book Cover Appreciation Gallery. // The Visual Index of Science Fiction Cover Art. (H/T, Coconut Jam.) // Assorted timepieces. // Can a computer keyboard be cleaned in a dishwasher? Apparently so. // Cleaning CDs with a banana. // The Washington Banana Museum. // Via Coudal, the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. // The Museum of Cocaine. // ReacTable tactile synthesiser. More. And. // Via Dr Westerhaus, Aleksandra Domanovic’s low-budget video for Jamie Lidell’s New Me. // Pachelbel’s Canon in D. (1680) Ah, smells classier already.

False Consciousness

Thanks to The Thin Man for directing my attention, via here, to this essay by Bruce Bawer on Johan Galtung and the “peace studies” movement. It’s a long piece, but worth reading in full as it illustrates just how readily reality can be inverted, not least by an unhinged Norwegian Marxist.

“[The] founding father [of the peace studies movement] is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later. Invariably portrayed as a charismatic and grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom. In 1973, he thundered that ‘our time’s grotesque reality’ was - no, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the West’s ‘structural fascism.’ …Though Galtung has opined that the annihilation of Washington, D.C., would be a fair punishment for America’s arrogant view of itself as ‘a model for everyone else,’ he’s long held up certain countries as worthy of emulation - among them Stalin’s USSR, whose economy, he predicted in 1953, would soon overtake the West’s. He’s also a fan of Castro’s Cuba, which he praised in 1972 for ‘break[ing] free of imperialism’s iron grip.’

…In 1973, explaining world politics in a children’s newspaper, he described the U.S. and Western Europe as ‘rich, Western, Christian countries’ that make war to secure materials and markets: ‘Such an economic system is called capitalism, and when it’s spread in this way to other countries it’s called imperialism.’ …His all-time favourite nation? China during the Cultural Revolution. Visiting his Xanadu, Galtung concluded that the Chinese loved life under Mao: after all, they were all ‘nice and smiling.’ While ‘repressive in a certain liberal sense,’ he wrote, Mao’s China was ‘endlessly liberating when seen from many other perspectives that liberal theory has never understood.’ Why, China showed that ‘the whole theory about what an open society is must be rewritten, probably also the theory of democracy - and it will take a long time before the West will be willing to view China as a master teacher in such subjects.’”

Continue reading "False Consciousness" »

Tentacle Pornfest

Browsing this website’s visitor stats, I discovered two posts that continue to attract an unexpected level of interest. One is a short item on the phenomenon of superhero pornface, which remains a search engine favourite. The other involves a fleeting reference to the hilarious controversial subject of Japanese tentacle porn. I do, of course, feel obliged to cater to my readers’ appetites, even the ones they don’t admit to publicly. Thanks to the wonderful people at Coudal, I stumbled across what cephalopod enthusiasts may well regard as a tentacle pornfest: Poulpe Pulps - Vintage Octopus Pulp Covers. The site, hosted by Francesca Myman, is quite possibly the place to find “hard-to-locate images of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure pulp and comic covers featuring the wily octopus.”

Tentacle_porn_6 Tentacle_porn_7 Tentacle_porn_9 Tentacle_porn_10

More tentacles at the Octopia blog. An extensive video archive of cephalopods in action can be found here. Related: this, this and this. Knock yourselves out. You know who you are.

Reason Undone

Here’s an extract from programme one of Richard Dawkins’ Channel 4 series Enemies of Reason, in which he addresses postmodern emotionalism, 9/11 conspiracies and the egalitarian flattening of values.

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The first programme can be viewed in full, in two parts, here and here. The second programme is broadcast on Monday August 20th at 8pm. Of particular interest are the insights of illusionist Derren Brown, the convergence of environmentalism and ‘spirituality’, Dawkins’ encounter with sociologist Steve Fuller and the description of science as “the poetry of reality.”

Professor D uploaded and disseminated by The Thin Man. Update: Part two is online here.

Art of the Brick

Further to recent rumblings about the politics of Lego, this might amuse. Nathan Sawaya’s Art of the Brick exhibition is currently on tour. The exhibit includes over thirty models and mosaics made entirely from standard Lego bricks, almost one million of them. Among Sawaya’s creations are cats, people, polar bears and a close-to-life-size model of Han Solo embedded in carbonite.

Nathan_sawaya_han_solo_2 Nathan_sawaya_han_solo

More here and here.

Cultural Confidence

The following extract might be of interest. It’s from a speech given in May by Theodore Dalrymple, titled The Paradoxes of Cultural Confidence. Dalymple touches on a range of issues, including the absurd denial and fragility inherent to Islamist belief, and the denial within Islam more generally; but I’ve highlighted a few passages that relate to recent discussions here on contrarian posturing and misplaced rebellion.   

“If you believe that the history of your culture is nothing but a catalogue of horror, massacre and the oppression of others, then you will not be very assiduous in its defence once it comes under concerted attack. Among intellectuals, at any rate, the history of crimes and catastrophes is more popular than that of achievement; and this view eventually communicates itself to society at large, to the point when it is not even realized that there is any achievement to record. In any case, there is a natural tendency, at least in the modern world, to take progress for granted the moment it is made, but never to accept problems as being an inevitable part of human life… 

Strangely enough, complete scepticism about the possibility of reaching truth – this denial that there was any truth independent of human interests to be reached – was not incompatible with the strongest moral views, though these moral view were always in diametrical opposition to established moral traditions. The connotation of the notion of transgression changed from negative to positive. It was a moral duty to challenge everything, and to overturn as much as you could.

This resulted in a very odd psychological and philosophical attitude. It was accepted by many intellectuals as an unquestionable assumption that, in its confrontation with the rest of the world, the Western world was always in the wrong, ex officio as it were, because of its superior power; that because there was no such thing as truth, the claims of Western civilization to have developed methods for discovery of the truth, organized science for example, were merely a mask for its greed and power-hunger; and that therefore a sympathy for those outside the Western tradition who claimed to know the truth, moral and religious, was a sign of virtue, provided only that the moral and religious truth they claimed to know was in conflict with Western power. In other words, the test of virtue became the degree to which one was prepared to reject and revile one’s own society…”

The full speech can be read here. More Dalrymple here. Related, on “cultural cringe.” The notion that the ability to defend oneself denotes villainy and that weakness denotes virtue by default is also addressed here.

(H/T, Daimnation!)

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Friday Ephemera

Optical camouflage. Movie. Pdf. // The bold future of the Third Reich. (1941) // Solar lighting by Emi Fujita and Shane Kohatsu. More. (H/T, Xerxes.) // Make your own Eiffel Tower. (H/T, Drawn!) // Very small objects. The Collier Classification System. // Little planets. (H/T 30gms.) // The dunes of Mars. // Zimbabwe issues $200,000 note. Buys one bag of sugar. // 2012 Olympics will be inclusive and equal. Many, many staff will make sure of that. // New York City Councilwoman Darlene Mealy tries to ban the word “bitch”. Proposed ban is unenforceable, but “it would carry symbolic power.” // Miriam Cooke deconstructs the dominant discourse. “Islam is a female-friendly religion; to the extent that Muslim males have engaged in sexist behaviour, Europe, the United States, or Israel are to blame.” // Female novelist criticises treatment of women under Sharia. Islamic lawmakers assault her. “Nasreen backed into a corner as men threw objects at her head and threatened her with a chair.” More. // Mick Hartley on Saudi Arabia’s female-friendly religious police. More. // Science and the Islamic World. “Why is the Islamic world disengaged from science and the process of creating new knowledge?” // Pigman. “Submission? Eat me.” // Fourth-generation pig clones. // Bacon Salt. “Everything should taste like bacon.” And now it will. (H/T, Coudal.) // The Museum of Useful Things. Ballpoint pens, book darts, sponge caddies. // The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. (H/T, Science Made Cool.) // Via Coudal, Dr Strangelove retold with everyday objects. // Air Force recruitment gets fab and groovy, circa 1950s. // Ben Goldacre on cannabis, so to speak. // The Eyeball Clock. The twitching veins are a lovely touch. // X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. (1963) A Corman classic. And, yes, here’s the party scene. // Herbie Hancock. Triangle. (1963)