Previous month:
May 2008
Next month:
July 2008

June 2008

A Simpler Time

Ravishing Beasts is a site devoted to taxidermy through the ages. Of particular interest is the section on theatrical taxidermy, which includes such antiquated marvels as the Kitten Tea Party and Kitten Wedding. The latter is described thus:

Completed in 1898, “The Kitten Wedding” was Walter Potter’s last large work (although he was working on squirrel court scene before his stroke in 1914) and the only one in which the animals are dressed. The lady kittens have cream brocade gowns, frilly knickers, gaudy beads and earrings. The bride has a brass ring on her finger, and the groomsmen sport wild woolly heads and morning suits. The whole scene includes eighteen kittens with enormous, bulging eyes, a parson, an altar, and a rail.

Other oddities of note include boxing squirrels, hedonistic chipmunks and a menagerie of fraudulent beasts.

(h/t, Coudal.)

Friday Ephemera

Dr Wei Sheng has a thing for decorative needles. // The stop-motion graphic equaliser. // More views from above. (h/t, 1+1=3.) // Cloud formations, seen from space. // V-2 meets the stratosphere, films curvature of the Earth. (1946) // Peter Risdon on photons, sofas and creating the world. // Your very own galaxy. 80,000 stars in a 12cm cube. // 55 metre photo of the Milky Way, viewed in infrared. // Solar System. (1977) // Mystery of levitation “solved”. // 10 scientists killed or injured by their experiments. Radiation, poisoning, staring at the Sun. // The Kneale Tapes. From Quatermass to Year of the Sex Olympics. Part 2, 3, 4. // TV “detector vans” through the ages. // An illustrated history of the Roman Empire. // The joys of fire gel. // The Glo Pillow. // What ovulation looks like. // Los Simpson. // Blu: Muto. A tale of animated paint. (h/t, Dr Westerhaus.) // Fun will balls. (h/t, Cookslaw.) // How tennis will be. // Fishing, for kids and idiots. // Tree houses of note. (h/t, Coudal.) // Things found inside old books. // A collection of unscratched lottery tickets. // The Japanese calculator museum. // And, via The Thin Man, it’s Kraftwerk, of course.

Vending Rage

Ronnie Yarisal and Katja Kublitz’s coin-operated Passive Aggressive Anger Release Machine allows the user to select a china plate, a glass or an item of porcelain kitsch and reduce it, violently, to fragments and dust. “All you have to do is insert a coin, and a piece of china will slowly move forwards and fall into the bottom of the machine, breaking, and leaving you happy and relieved of anger.”

Anger_release_machine Anger_release_machine_4

I suppose there’s always a chance the preferred item will be out of stock, or will fail to break on impact, or that the machine will jam when needed most and fail to refund a coin, prompting the frustrated user to shake and kick the machine, possibly to destruction. On reflection, that may prove an even better way of relieving stress. Or indeed of commenting on the duo’s art.

Via Quipsologies.

Insufficiently Fearful

Further to the Guardian’s Jakob Illeborg and his apparent belief that freethinking societies are best defended by doing a lot less of that freethinking business, at least with regard to Islam, it seems he’s not alone.

First, there’s the Pakistani ambassador to Denmark, Fauzia Mufti Abbas:

“It isn’t just the people of Pakistan that feel they have been harassed by what [Jyllands-Posten] has begun,” she said. “I’d like to know if your newspaper is satisfied with what it has done and what it has unleashed?” The matter of the cartoons, she said, was something Danes needed to reflect on. 

I’m sure readers will spot the familiar supremacist assumptions and the consequent moral inversion. The deaths, riots and violence were, apparently, “unleashed” by infidels who drew cartoons satirising previous threats and violence by belligerent Muslims. Things of which we must not speak. Those actually doing the murdering, threatening and rioting are, it seems, “harassed”. Poor them. Thus, by the ambassador’s thinking, the fits of emotional incontinence and attempts to cow dissent become our responsibility and, conveniently, no-one else’s. And those who need to “reflect” on what has happened - and what will no doubt happen again – are infidels who are, as yet, insufficiently fearful. And, by the same logic, we must learn to pacify and accommodate people who are prideful, malevolent and insane. Or else.

Then there’s Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, who told an audience in Kuala Lumpur,

Mere condemnation or distancing from the acts of the perpetrators of Islamophobia will not resolve the issue, as long as they remain free to carry on with their campaign of incitement and provocation on the plea of freedom of expression.

Set aside for a moment the absurdly tendentious terms “Islamophobia,” “incitement” and “provocation” – remember we’re talking about cartoons here – and note the phrase, “as long as they remain free” – i.e. free to criticise Islam and say unflattering things. Even things that are both unflattering and true. According to Professor Ihsanoglu such things must be stopped:

“It requires a strong and determined collective political will to address the challenge,” Ihsanoglu said. “It is now high time for concrete actions to stem the rot before it aggravates (the situation) any further.” Ihsanoglu did not suggest what action should be taken.

No, he didn’t offer particulars, but he’s made his feeling clear. He wants “concrete action” and the “issue” will be “resolved” when criticism of Islam stops, or at least is made illegal and thus punishable. Perhaps Ihsanoglu is waiting for others to connect the dots and do exactly as they’re told, just as Mr Illeborg seems all too keen to do.

Others, however, are more specific in their demands.

Pakistan will ask the European Union countries to amend laws regarding freedom of expression in order to prevent offensive incidents such as the printing of blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad… The delegation, headed by an additional secretary of the Interior Ministry, will meet the leaders of the EU countries in a bid to convince them that the recent attack on the Danish Embassy in Pakistan could be a reaction against the blasphemous campaign, sources said.

They said that the delegation would also tell the EU that if such acts against Islam are not controlled, more attacks on the EU diplomatic missions abroad could not be ruled out.

Peace, then, will materialise when infidels know their place.

Friday Ephemera

Samurai katana versus tomato. // How to advertise Japanese pasta sauce. // Magnetism, visualised. // John Wyndham: The Invisible Man of Science Fiction. Part 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. // Vintage Japanese robots. // 19th century scientific instruments. (h/t, Coudal.) // Diseases and genes, an interactive graph. // Typographic mishaps #231. // A history of photo tampering. // How to make a pop-up photograph. // The photography of Dennis Stock. // The hexomniscope and other unusual cameras. // Good and bad ad hominem. // Matthew Sinclair on the decline of the traditional family. // Greg Lukianoff on the creep of campus speech codes. // Pulp of the Day. // The Weener Kleener. (h/t, The Thin Man.) // Torpedo rooms of note. // Road trip from LA to New York, compressed into 4 minutes. // Geometry town. Canberra, from above. // Paris in the Fifties. // A gallery of wine labels. // The virtual corkscrew museum. // And, by The Lovers, La Dégustation.

The Guardian Position

Regular readers may remember the Danish journalist, Jakob Illeborg, and his rhetorical contortions. In February, following the republication of the Muhammad cartoons, while Muslim youths were burning down Danish schools on a nightly basis, Mr Illeborg went to enormous lengths to convince Guardian readers that,

The Danes could, with some justification, be seen as fire starters.

This claim is, it seems, based on a belief that to exercise and defend, even belatedly, the most basic values of a free society is actually to “rock the boat” and invite upon oneself a week of rioting, violence and murderous intimidation. When the 73-year-old cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was forced into hiding following a plot to murder him, several Danish papers republished Westergaard’s cartoon as both an affirmation of free speech and an expression of solidarity. This was, according to Illeborg,

A headstrong idealistic response.

Given Mr Illeborg’s articles appear on a website named Comment is Free, one might find this disapproval a tad peculiar. Though perhaps not quite as peculiar as his willingness to denounce as “headstrong” a perfectly legal activity, while carefully avoiding any such pejoratives when referring to those making death threats and setting fire to schools. Mr Illborg is, however, quite skilled at double standards and juggling contradiction, as demonstrated by his dual assertion that,

The fire starters are frustrated young Muslim men who claim that their action is sparked by the re-publication of one of the prophet cartoons –


although it probably has little to do with religion.

Illeborg’s most recent article, titled Denmark Loses Tolerance, once again demonstrates a craven doublethink that has come to define much of the Guardian’s commentary on the subject of Islam. In an attempt to illustrate “how far Denmark has moved from the liberal values it was once proud of,” Illeborg highlights, of all things, Monday’s suicide bomb attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad. Just pause for a moment. Think about that. A claim that Danes are “losing tolerance” is illustrated with an Islamist attack on a Danish embassy in which 6 people died and burned body parts were left strewn across the road.

Ever since the prophet cartoon crises of 2006 and 2008, Islamist extremists around the world have been threatening bloody revenge on Denmark.

Ah, bloody revenge. For a cartoon. Note that the intolerance which most troubles Mr Illeborg is that of “headstrong” Danes who wish to retain a freethinking culture, and not the rather more emphatic intolerance of men so vain they blow off people’s limbs and burn them to death. At this point one might reflect on how it is that some among us have come to accept the idea that an unflattering cartoon is a comprehensible “cause” of death threats and dismemberment. The cause is not, it seems, lunatic pride cultivated in the name of piety.

Continue reading "The Guardian Position" »

World of Pig

At last, bacon in a can.   

Canned_bacon_2 Canned_bacon_3 Canned_bacon_4 Canned_bacon_5

Each can is 9 ounces of fully cooked and drained bacon. Between 2-3/4 and 3-1/4 pounds of raw bacon go into each can. Each can is the highest quality fresh #1 bacon slices. Cured to our specifications, cooked and then hand wrapped, rolled and packed in the U.S. We cook this bacon down for you prior to canning, so you won’t pay for all of the natural shrinkage that occurs whenever you cook bacon. Then we carefully drain all of the fat and liquid off and can it fresh so it will taste as good out of the can as it would right out of the refrigerator.

If the packaging and description doesn’t quite convince you, perhaps you’ll be swayed by the product’s near-indestructibility.

With a shelf life in excess of 10 years, this bacon makes a perfect addition to your food storage program and it is great for every day use.

See also: bacon salt, bacon mints and, of course, the bacon air freshener. Via Coudal.

A Flattering Consensus

NeoNeocon highlights an article by Crispin Sartwell in the LA Times, titled The Smog of Academic Consensus. In it, Sartwell notes the overwhelming political bias among faculty, especially in the humanities, and points to its self-reinforcing nature.

And because there’s a consensus, there is precious little self-examination; a slant that we all share becomes invisible… Academic consensus is a particularly irritating variety of groupthink. First of all, the fact that everyone agrees and everyone has a doctorate leads to the occasionally explicit idea that all intelligent people think the same thing - that no one could disagree with, say, Obama-ism, without being an idiot… [A] professor has been educated, often for a decade or more, by the very institutions that harbor this unanimity. Every new generation of professors has been steeped in an atmosphere in which the authorities all agree and in which they associate agreement with intelligence - and with degrees, jobs, tenure and so on. If you’ve been taught that conservatives are evil idiots, then conservatism itself justifies a decision not to hire or tenure one. Every new leftist minted by graduate programs is an act of self-praise, a confirmation of the intelligence of the professors.

For vivid illustrations of this phenomenon in action, Indoctrinate U is a good place to start. See also this, this and this.


This interview with Indoctrinate U’s director, Evan Maloney, may also be of interest. Here’s a taste.

If we look at it today, it appears that in academia, the long march has succeeded. The ideology of the Frankfurt School now seems to be the default position among academics. But even though the roots of the movement may go back that far, it really was in the late 1960s when today’s crop of academics became politically active. Anti-war activists in the late 1960s ran the risk of getting drafted for Vietnam. And because they opposed that war, they naturally wanted to stay out of the fighting. So a lot of them worked around the draft by going into academic programs that would allow them to avoid the war. And finding an environment that they found friendly to their views, they stayed. And their presence served as an advertisement to like-minded people who may not have wanted to go work for ‘the man’ in the private sector. This attracted more fellow travellers into academia.

By the late 1970s, there was enough of a critical mass of ideologically-driven academics that they began to amass power within academic institutions. By controlling hiring committees, they were able to ensure that their colleagues were as ‘ideologically pure’ as they were. And by attaining power within school administrations, they were able to institute policies such as speech codes that tried to ensure that same ideological purity from their students. By the mid-1980s, we started seeing political correctness dictate the intellectual environment on campuses, and people started facing academic retribution for saying things that were ‘incorrect’ and for thinking things that ran counter to the dominant thinking. Groupthink set in, and the group became more extreme in the conformity that it demanded from people.

If students and faculty are spared serious, thoughtful contact with opposing arguments, their own views can easily become lazy, reflexive and glib. One can simply feel one is right, or ought to be, and that may be the end of the process. This should matter irrespective of one’s political leanings. If a person wants to be right about a given issue, it helps to know why their ideas are sound, if indeed they are. And knowing why an idea is sound generally arises from that idea being tested, vigorously, by people who disagree.

Hyper, Indeed

A while ago, the Liberal Conspiracy website inadvertently entertained us with the musings of Zohra Moosa, who was, sadly, “tired of spending so much of my time defending the most basic principles of what I stand for,” and, worse, “justifying why social and environmental justice are worth spending a lot of society’s money on.” Instead, Ms Moosa longed for “a space where these ideas are a given and the debate is about how best to actualize them.” As we’ve discussed elsewhere, radical socialist principles are so much easier to have if one isn’t obliged to defend them or explain how they might work. Explaining what “social and environmental justice” entails and why it should command “a lot of society’s money” is, it seems, an enormously fatiguing business and would, according to Ms Moosa, only “serve to distract.”

A more recent article, by Red Pepper contributor Laurie Penny, adopts a similar approach with a passionate rumination on “hypermasculinity” and “the madness of young men.” Ms Penny describes herself as a “socialist, feminist, deviant, reprobate, queer, addict, literature student, journalist and sometime blogger.” Her article begins thus,

Hypermasculinity, like hyperfemininity, is a pose of the powerless. There is a reason you don’t see gangs of City bankers stalking Moorgate and Maylebone with long knives and hoods pulled down over their heads - and it’s not because they’ve been better brought up.

Adamant stuff, if not entirely convincing. You’ll notice there’s no mention of the considerable number of working class youths who don’t roam the streets armed with knives intent on looking menacing. Instead, it is simply asserted that criminality and thuggish posturing are “poses of the powerless” and nothing at all to do with how children are raised. Or indeed with whether they’re raised in any meaningful sense of the word. 

When you’ve got money and status and class and education and power, you don’t need to act out physical prowess and aggression because it’s not all you’ve got.

Well, perhaps; though this assertion is somewhat at odds with the very next sentence. 

The hard-working ladies at Spearmint Rhino might well testify to the fact that City lads too are prone to the odd bout of gibbon-like strutting and howling.

At this point one might wonder why it is that some boys from very humble beginnings nevertheless go on to achieve varying degrees of “status, class, education and power” – perhaps even as City bankers - while others from similar backgrounds do not. One might think this a subject worthy of mulling, perhaps even research. Though, clearly, Ms Penny doesn’t. Instead, such details are brushed aside in favour of a statement that is much less intriguing but undoubtedly true. 

Finer minds than mine have discussed this function of the culture of young male violence.

Continue reading "Hyper, Indeed" »