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July 2008

Friday Ephemera

At last. David Cronenberg’s The Fly is now an opera. Get those tickets booked. // The Danvers State Insane Asylum. (h/t, Coudal.) // Tentacles. // Behold the amazing Shit Box™. Oh, don’t look so indignant. // Bubble-wrap calendar. Imagine the fun. // TomTom hidden features. (h/t, Andy.) // Ideal wheels. (h/t, Vloody Cloody.) // Indian comics from the 1970s. (h/t, 1+1=3.) // Off-duty superheroes. // Chess + boxing = chess boxing. // There are waves on Saturn’s rings. // Satellite imagery as art. // The art of the tracking shot. From Touch of Evil to Boogie Nights. // Das Rad. // The abbreviated Plan 9 from Outer Space. (h/t, Matt.) // PES: Western Spaghetti. // Caffeine usage, visualised. // Avoid cramping at crucial moments. // If you’re tunnelling to the other side of the Earth, you’ll be needing a map. // Neo-NeoCon on arguing politics. // Fabian Tassano on academic “progress”. // The art of Chris Appelhans. // The colour of money. // Translucent creatures. // Robot calligraphy. // And, via The Thin Man, it’s Mr Ray Charles

House Rules

Some guidelines for comments, for newcomers.

I ask only that people are reasonably civil – despite appearances, this is a classy joint. The “reasonably” bit allows plenty of leeway for barbs and pith, but needlessly vile personal remarks will be deleted. As a general rule, address the writing, not the writer, and bear in mind I have a low boredom threshold. Spitting, biting and heavy petting are ill advised, and if anyone is caught dealing drugs, the house takes 20%.


The Harry’s Place blog is being sued by Mohammed Sawalha, President of the British Muslim Initiative.

Mr Sawalha says that the attribution of the phrase “Evil Jew” to him implies that he is “anti-semitic and hateful”. Notably, he does not take issue with our reporting of the revelation, made in a Panorama documentary in 2006, that he is a senior activist in the clerical fascist terrorist organisation, Hamas. The BBC report disclosed that Mr Sawalha “master minded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy” and in London “is alleged to have directed funds, both for Hamas’ armed wing, and for spreading its missionary dawah”…

Mr Sawalha is a man who prefers to conduct political debate by means of litigation. He hopes to bully those who oppose his vicious theocratic politics with threats of writs. I suppose that I should be relieved. Hamas’ usual technique is to murder those with whom it disagrees.

If you can help out, please do.

Female Privilege

Update: Bearing in mind the house rules, the comments are now open again.

Readers of this blog may be familiar with the Guardian’s Julie Bindel, who thinks “[get] men off the streets” is “a fabulous slogan” and then wonders why some male readers find her rather stupid and objectionable. Ms Bindel insists on “naming men as the problem” and believes that “sexual violence is the only thing in the world that affects all women.” She also thinks that “male violence towards women and children… is pandemic” and “all women know that if we have not been raped, we are lucky.” Nuance of thought is not, it seems, Ms Bindel’s strongest suit, or an obvious aspiration.

As a riposte of sorts to such adamant idiocy, and to broader claims of “male privilege,” Ballgame has produced a Female Privilege Checklist, which highlights some of the less remarked benefits of being female. Among them,

My chance of suffering a work-related injury or illness is significantly lower than a man’s.

If I shy away from fights, it is unlikely that this will damage my standing in my peer group or call into question my worthiness as a sex partner.

If I attempt to hug a friend in joy, it’s much less likely that my friend will wonder about my sexuality or pull away in unease.

If I interact with other people’s children - particularly people I don’t know very well - I do not have to worry much about the interaction being misinterpreted.

Continue reading "Female Privilege" »

The Thrill of Costume

Steve Schofield photographs British science fiction fans who like to dress up.

Schofield Schofield_3 Schofield_4_2

Schofield_6 Schofield_7 Schofield_5

I rather like the images, the discomfort and the hint of tragicomedy. But I’m less convinced by the predictable spiel about “globalisation and America’s ongoing ability to infiltrate all cultures via various channels of media.” Are we supposed to believe that these people are in some way being oppressed by international mass culture? Why don’t artists fret quite so much about the globalisation of, say, Chinese restaurants? Or doesn’t that count? And why does no-one want to dress up as Naomi Klein?

Via Coudal.

Second Childhood

Some time ago, in discussing multicultural ideology and its effects, I wrote

During a conversation about the ‘cartoon jihad’ uproar, I used the phrase “emotional incontinence.” This did not go down well. I was promptly told, in no uncertain terms, that I mustn’t “impose” my own cultural values. Apparently, to do so would be a form of “cultural imperialism,” an archaic colonial hangover, and therefore unspeakably evil. I was, apparently, being “arrogantly ethnocentric” in considering Western secular society broadly preferable to a culture in which rioting, murder and genocidal threats can be prompted by the publication of a cartoon.

I was informed that to regard one set of cultural values as preferable to another was “racist” and “oppressive”. Indeed, even the attempt to make any such determination was itself a heinous act. I was further assailed with a list of examples of “Western arrogance, decadence, irreverence, and downright nastiness.” And I was reminded that, above all, I “must respect deeply held beliefs.” When I asked if this respect for deeply held beliefs extended to white supremacists, cannibals and ultra-conservative Republicans, a deafening silence ensued.

At some point, I made reference to migration and the marked tendency of families to move from Islamic societies to secular ones, and not the other way round. “This seems rather important,” I suggested. “If you want to evaluate which society is preferred to another by any given group, migration patterns are an obvious yardstick to use. Broadly speaking, people don’t relocate their families to cultures they find wholly inferior to their own.” Alas, this fairly self-evident suggestion did not meet with approval. No rebuttal was forthcoming, but the litany of Western wickedness resumed, more loudly than before.


In terms of leftist political rhetoric, cultural equivalence has broadly come to mean than no objective judgment should be made as to whether [a given set of] practices and beliefs are better or worse than any other, or have consequences that are measurably detrimental given certain criteria. The actual moral and practical content of a given worldview is, of course, to be studiously ignored, as this would imply some kind of judgment might be made. In common usage, this assumption reduces analysis to mere opinion and is corrosive to critical thought for fairly obvious reasons. In order to maintain a pretence of ‘fairness’ and non-judgmental equivalence, there are any number of things one simply cannot allow oneself to think about, at least in certain ways.

Diana West, author of The Death of the Grown-Up, was recently interviewed by the National Review. The following extract seems relevant to the above:

I would describe PC life in a multiculti world as being marked in part by self-censorship based in fear - fear of professional failure, opprobrium or social ostracism. I would also describe this same self-censorship as a form of childishness… The fact is, buying into multiculturalism - the outlook that sees all cultures as being of equal value (except the West, which is essentially vile) - requires us to repress our faculties of logic, and this in itself is an infantilising act. I mean, it’s patently illogical to accept and teach our children the notion that a culture that has brought liberty and penicillin to the masses is of no greater value than others that haven’t. In accepting the multicultural worldview, we deceive ourselves into inhabiting a world of pretend where certain truths are out of bounds and remain unspoken - even verboten.


Friday Ephemera

The American Family Association experiences technical difficulties. // Sweden’s classroom esteem police. // Excuse me, sir - do you have any cigarette in your marijuana? // Medical mannequins. // Kubrick. // Abandoned hotels. (h/t, Things.) // Impressive swimming pools. (h/t, Coudal.) // Pencil sculptures. // A very large drawing. (h/t, 1+1=3.) // The Metzo School, Doetinchem. // Undersea internet cables. // The Amazon bookstore browser. With virtual shelves and everything. // Vintage comic book covers. // Vintage gay paperback covers. // Porn for the blind. (sfw) // Two decades of party flyers, 1987 - 2007. // Hey, mobile DJ. // 120 years of electronic music. // Faces and pocket contents, scanned. (h/t, Quipsologies.) // Octopus jewellery. Precious tentacles. // And, via The Thin Man, it’s Ms Greta Keller.

The Cost of Piety

In revisiting the recent saga involving the Muslim hairstylist, Bushra Noah, and her award of £4000 in damages for “injured feelings,” Mary Jackson touches on an important point.

[Salon owner, Sarah] Desrosiers railed against this injustice:

I’ve worked hard all my life - how can it be possible that someone can come into my shop, talk to me for ten minutes, and then sue me for £34,000? How is that possibly fair?

It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair because the balance of risk and reward has been cruelly inverted. Desrosiers risked, sacrificed, and lost. Noah risked nothing, sacrificed nothing, and won.

Desrosiers risked. She risked her savings and her security, and was punished for refusing to risk still more. Significantly, the employment tribunal overrode her judgment, concluding that “there was no specific evidence before us as to what would (for sure) have been the actual impact of the claimant working in her salon,” and that it “doubted whether the risk was as severe as the owner believed.” That is easy for them to say. They do not bear the risk. The only way to provide the required “specific evidence” would be for Desrosiers to employ Noah, lose business, and perhaps go bankrupt. The time spent preparing her defense cost Desrosiers an estimated £40,000 of the salon’s income and many sleepless nights. The case cost Noah, who, being unemployed, must have received legal aid from the British taxpayer, nothing at all. Desrosiers risked and Noah was rewarded.

And here’s the bigger issue:

Likewise, Desrosiers made sacrifices and was punished for not sacrificing still more - for someone else’s freely chosen religious convictions. Most religions require conservative dress, particularly of women. Conservative dress is not compatible with a “funky” workplace, but why should a devoutly religious woman mind? Forgoing the opportunity to work in an “urban and edgy” salon would seem a small price to pay for God’s approval. Wouldn’t God prefer Noah to work in a more traditional salon? And shouldn’t Noah accept this sacrifice as part of the deal?

Indeed. Isn’t the cost of piety meant to be borne exclusively by the pious? Isn’t that the whole point, such as it is? If a believer chooses to forgo certain pleasures and opportunities, isn’t that meant to be a metaphysical test of some kind – a matter of self-denial - one of supposedly cosmic importance? And isn’t demanding exemptions and compensation simply cheating to gain the approval of one’s hypothetical deity? If a person avoids certain foodstuffs or swimming with infidels because he believes avoiding those things will please God for some strange reason, then that’s a pretty mad formulation. But attempting to circumvent those self-imposed restrictions by imposing on others seems somewhat dubious even on its own, mad, terms. Or doesn’t God mind if someone else is forced to pick up the tab? And how convenient is that?

Broadly speaking, I don’t particularly care what metaphysical hang-ups a person has, provided those mental ticks are, as it were, kept off my lawn. If people wish to be a little bonkers and neurotic, that doesn’t usually trouble me. But expecting others to indulge those neuroses or defer to them - and then cheerily subsidise them too - is, well, pushing it a little. That isn’t piety or anything close to piety; that’s just parasitic arrogance.

Too Much Democracy

Over the last week or so there’s been some discussion about the nation state and democracy. Chris Dillow asked,

If nation states did not exist, would we these days feel a pressing need to invent them?

To which Shuggy replied,

What problems are best solved by national political systems? The problem of who governs and what the people can do if they want a change in government. In other words, the ‘nation-state’ has historically been the theatre of democracy and there is, in my view, absolutely no evidence to suggest that trans-national institutions like the UN or the EU are capable of answering these questions better than nations for the simple reason that neither of them can be considered democratic in any meaningful sense.

Matthew Sinclair added,

[Supranational] organisations lack legitimacy as they lack history and have, instead, been superimposed on better established communities. A nation state’s legitimacy is rooted in its history and, usually, a common stand against some adversity (wars build nations as well as destroying them). Supranational institutions never have that as they are superimposed and never command enough loyalty to take a serious common stand against serious adversity.

Rooting through the archives, I unearthed this gem, in which Deogolwulf tackles George Monbiot’s erotic dreams of global government:

George Monbiot calls for a world-government with direct popular representation. For a moment, even he is aware of the problem that such a system would bring, but then madness takes him once more:

Global democracy has a special problem — the scale on which it must operate. The bigger the electorate, the less democratic a parliamentary body will be. True democracy could exist only in the village, where representatives are subject to constant oversight by their electorate. But an imperfect system is better than no system at all.

He is not quite right even when he senses the problem; for the bigger the electorate, the less the vote of a single person matters, which is more democratic, not less. A tolerable, even decent, democracy can exist in a small society because the individual is not dwarfed by the vastness of demotic power. But let us imagine something at the other end of the scale: a world-democracy. The world-population is about 6.5 billion, and perhaps 4 billion are of voting-age. If there were a representative for, say, every 100,000 of such persons, as is broadly comparable with the representation-ratio of the British House of Commons, then there would have to be 40,000 representatives in the world-parliament. If, on the other hand, we wished the world-parliament to be of manageable size, then we would have to reduce the number of representatives, such that, if we had, say, 1,000 representatives, then each would represent 4 million people.

It is rather odd, therefore, that a man who complains about the smallness of his representation on a national scale - a reasonable complaint in a large democratic state - should then seek representation on a global one; for however such “representation” is instituted, a single man’s vote would count for even less than it already does in a large democratic nation-state of today, and anyone bothering to get out of bed to vote in a global election would be doing so quite irrationally; for the chances of his having any appreciable effect on the outcome would be far less than the chances of his tripping over a discarded first-edition of Probability for Dummies on the way to the polling-station and plunging head-first in front of a bus driven by a hard-up student of political statistics.

The whole thing is well worth reading.