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November 2008


I have no idea what, if anything, this piece of CG art by Zeitguised is meant to convey. The obligatory written guff is mercifully short, but guff nonetheless, with references to “six imaginations of disoriented systems” and “the installation of an irreversible axis on a dynamic timeline.” Pseudo-explanations aside, the film itself is worth a squint. It doesn’t seem particularly organised or finished, but some of the animation is dreamlike and oddly suggestive, as though the rendered objects don’t quite fit in the usual three dimensions. 

Peripetics by ZEITGUISED from NotForPaper on Vimeo

A high resolution version can be downloaded here and there’s also a “making of” in which very little is explained. (Via Shape + Colour)

Friday Ephemera

Enhance the moment with a vibrating toilet seat. // Beefcake. Mostly cake. // Knitted frog dissection. (h/t, Coudal) // Biology videos of note. Tissue generation, shrimp on a treadmill. // Robot camera meets magnapinna squid. // When pandas sneeze. // Impressive hair. // Crosswind. // Ships with very large cargo. // Robotuna. // Your very own HAL 9000. // Bit Blob. Hours of fun. (h/t, Dr Westerhaus) // Miniscule revisited. // More microphotography. // Nanofilament fibre doesn’t get wet. // BAM, the ceramic alloy. // Meteor filmed over Edmonton, Canada. // Zeus: the directed energy weapon. // Base jumping in Dubai. (h/t, AC1) // And, via The Thin Man, the return of Ms Valaida Snow.


Readers with an interest in mental hospitals may recall an ephemera item on the Danvers State Insane Asylum, with its decayed interiors and elaborate underground tunnel system.

Danvers_Interior Danvers_Kitchen Danvers_Interior_2         

In a similar vein, Lisa Rinzler has catalogued and photographed items found in the attic of the abandoned Willard Psychiatric Centre in New York’s Finger Lakes. Among the items found are hundreds of suitcases belonging to former residents, with photographs, drawings and notes by staff. One note, regarding a patient named Ethel, reads:

She is a manic of rather neurotic type, who is inclined to pout and grumble and find fault. It was discovered yesterday that she and Miss ___, another patient, had been in the habit of getting into bed together, probably at night, but they were found in bed together in the daytime and said to be having a jolly time. When discovered by Miss McMahon, charge attendant of the ward, they giggled and chuckled and told her there was a place for her if she would like to get in.

The site also includes recordings of recollections by former staff and inmates, spanning the 1940s through to the 1980s, with graphic descriptions of the facilities, treatments and the experience of a typical night shift. If the psychiatry of yore is a subject that intrigues, it’s worth a visit. Though you wouldn’t want to stay.

Maybe Toy Car

This is oddly charming. James May meets an upgraded ASIMO robot – one being trained in object recognition. What struck me about the clip isn’t so much the robot’s ability to discern types of object and note their similarities, though its abilities are impressive. It’s the fact that watching ASIMO in action elicits a distinct urge to treat it as a child

(h/t, The Thin Man)

Temerity Revisited

Further to recent comments on Queen’s University’s “dialogue facilitators,” this may be of interest. The university’s Intergroup Dialogue Programme is outlined here in marvellously woolly and tendentious terms. The preoccupation with “groups,” “social justice” and “social identities” is quite striking, as is the potential for contradiction with “fostering critical knowledge” and “authentic dialogue”. Given the opaquely technocratic language and its numerous assumptions, it’s difficult to be sure what the actual objective is: 

IGD theory and practice has been influenced by both the human relations approach and the social re-constructionist approach, striking a balance between emphasizing positive intergroup relations and critical understanding of social inequalities. Using critical social pedagogies and social justice education theory and practice, IGD integrates content and process in teaching and learning about social justice issues.

Perhaps it’s imagined that “critical knowledge” and “authentic dialogue” are synonymous with deference to some leftist formulation of “social justice” – a term used continually but never quite defined. Sceptics among us may wonder if the objective really is to inhibit the shouting of racist epithets, etc – behaviour quite rare on university campuses and doubtless covered by existing codes of conduct. Some may even suspect that the purpose of the exercise is simply the opportunist propagation of “social justice theory.” Either way, “dialogue facilitators” will be trained in “issues of social identity, power and privilege and social justice” and will “facilitate proactive opportunities” for students to “reflect on intergroup issues.” “Positive spaces and mindsets” will, of course, be created. 

Continue reading "Temerity Revisited " »

Friday Ephemera

Unfortunately ambiguous Christmas decoration. // How to make silver bullets. // Melting steel with sunlight. // “When can I destroy humanity?!” // Magnetic air cars. // Strangely redundant exercise machine. // Plantbot. // Fridgehenge. A thing of beauty. // A history of chili. // Cunning penguin escapes being dinner. // PES: Moth. // Saturn’s northern aurora. // Space station spider’s whereabouts unknown. // More reconstituted Star Trek. // Eyelash blingMore. // Hug your bosons. // Visual thesaurus. // Meat water. // And, via The Thin Man, it’s the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Oh, good grief.


Via TDK, more attitude management for unsuspecting students:

Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, has hired six students whose jobs as “dialogue facilitators” will involve intervening in conversations among students in dining halls and common rooms to encourage discussion of such social justice issues as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability and social class.

Apparently it’s inconceivable that any right-thinking young person could tire of discussing “social justice” – a term that, as so often, remains oddly undefined yet drips with tendentious implications.

“If there's a teachable moment, we’ll take it,” said assistant dean of student affairs Arig Girgrah, who runs the program. “A lot of community building happens around food and dining.” She gave the example of a conversation about a gay character on television as a good example of such a moment. “It is all about creating opportunities to dialogue and reflect on issues of social identity,” Ms. Girgrah said. “This is not about preaching. It’s not about advice giving. It’s about hearing where students are at.”

Oh sweet lord. Hand me the explosives.

Like dons, who serve as student authorities in residence, the six facilitators will receive full room and board and a stipend for the full-year commitment, and will receive regular training.

But of course. Correcting political waywardness is the work of heroes, after all.

“We are trained to interrupt behaviour in a non-blameful and non-judgmental manner, so it’s not like we’re pulling someone aside and reprimanding them about their behaviour. It is honestly trying to get to the root of what they're trying to say - seeing if that can be said in a different manner.”

On what basis do these “dialogue facilitators” presume they have any business policing the private discussions of others, even during lunch breaks, and steering students towards politically modish terminology and opinions? And however coy the language, that is what’s being attempted. Just pause to consider the monumental arrogance and vanity at work. Bask in its glow. Will it, I wonder, occur to such people that their own behaviour and assumptions are intrusive and condescending? Will they dare to be surprised if their presumption meets with emphatic resistance and, one hopes, an occasional fit of violence?

Update: Temerity Revisited.

Old Hatreds

In 2005, Karen Armstrong told Guardian readers what many would like to believe:

Sadly, we have passed our anti-Semitism to the Muslim world. Until the 20th century, anti-Semitism was not part of Islamic culture.

In the same article, she asked:

Why should [Muslims] be impressed by our liberal culture when we persistently cultivate an inaccurate image of Islam that has its roots in the medieval prejudice of the crusaders?

There’s a comical irony here and no small amount of chutzpah, as Armstrong’s own accounts are almost always sanitised, prejudicial and inaccurate, often egregiously so. I’ve highlighted some of her more fanciful distortions elsewhere, so I’ll merely note how eagerly this “provocative and inclusive thinker” steers her readers towards the customary hand-wringing and pretentious guilt.

A much more serious account of Islamic anti-Semitism and its theological roots can be found in Andrew Bostom’s excellent three-part essay linked below. Bostom positions the phenomenon within the broader context of jihad and refutes in detail a number of prevalent fictions - among them, the claim that Islamic anti-Jewish animus began with the creation of Israel and the importing of Nazi sentiment in the mid 20th century: 

Continue reading "Old Hatreds" »