Previous month:
October 2009
Next month:
December 2009

November 2009

Go Barefoot for Gaia

In the following BBC clip, lifted from today’s ephemera, the sculptor and artistic luminary Antony Gormley shares his wisdom on matters ecological. “Dispense with your socks,” says he. “This is a time of global warming. Through our feet we can begin to feel it.” This is no doubt because “our feet connect with our brains” and “engage with time.” And what’s more, “through our feet we can begin to be one people, standing through gravity on one Earth.” Yes, standing through gravity, united in our socklessness. Go barefoot for Gaia, people. It’s “an act of solidarity.”

Careful, dear readers. That’s the white heat of insight. It burns mortal flesh.

(h/t, Simen Thoresen.)

Friday Ephemera

The stridulating bird sings with its wings. // Panoramic dentistry. // EyeWriter. // Boneworms. // Beef magazine. “Für Männer mit Geschmack.” // Do not mix beer with oncoming trains. // People on public transport. // Eavesdropping on Apollo 11. // The Spaghetti Western Database. // Barcodes of note. // German TV test patterns. (h/t, Coudal) // Home movie reconstructions, 1974-2004. (h/t, Things) // Hand of the desert. // Stonehenge is rather dull. // What water drops do. // Arachnids. // Antony Gormley is such an arse. (h/t, Simen) // People with fish. // Fruit bats are “enthusiastic fellators.” // Frogs, not so much.

Elsewhere (13)

Heather Mac Donald on racial quotas in school discipline

Schools that suspend or expel Hispanic and black students at higher rates than white students will now get a visit from a district “Equity Team” and will be expected to remedy those disparities by reducing their minority discipline rates. [...] Tucson’s administrators explain their disciplinary quota pressure on the ground that students removed from class lose valuable learning time, exacerbating the already great ethnic academic achievement gap. Such thinking ignores the students who are not disrupting class or threatening teachers and who also lose valuable learning time when unruly or violent students remain in the classroom. Surely those students have a greater claim to “equity” in school resources than gang members do.

Clayton E Cramer on guns, flies and garbage.

Does anyone seriously believe that buying a gun attracts criminal attackers? Or do people buy guns because they perceive that they are in danger of being attacked? [...] Many years ago, I was quite amused by one of the few really clever and thoughtful bumper stickers that I have ever seen. It managed to teach this problem of the direction of causality in a simple phrase: “Guns cause crime the way flies cause garbage.” The presence of garbage attracts flies; high crime rates cause decent people to buy guns. Prohibiting guns will no more prevent crime than spraying for flies will make your garbage disappear.

And on the subject of guns, here’s something to think about

A Handsome Volume

Readers may recall Phil Wolstenholme’s ongoing digital photography project Wide Area Network, in which Sheffield’s surrounding countryside is writ large in a series of enormous, eerily detailed prints. Aesthetes among you may be interested in Wolstenholme’s first book of photographic work, Networks, published by Heavy Everywhere. 92 colour plates in a deluxe hardcover volume.   


Continue reading "A Handsome Volume" »

An Unsustainable Evil

Fell to its knees 20 years ago today.

The Berlin Wall… was an apt symbol of Communism. It represented a historically unprecedented effort to prevent people from “voting with their feet” and leaving a society they rejected. The wall was only the most visible segment of a vast system of obstacles and fortifications: the Iron Curtain, which stretched for thousands of miles along the border of the “Socialist Commonwealth.” […]

There is little public awareness of the large-scale atrocities, killings and human rights violations that occurred in Communist states, especially compared with awareness of the Holocaust and Nazism (which led to far fewer deaths). The number of documentaries, feature films or television programs about Communist societies is minuscule compared with those on Nazi Germany and/or the Holocaust, and few universities offer courses on the remaining or former Communist states…

There are, though, academics making efforts of an altogether different kind. And then there are the mutterings of bedlamites

The different moral responses to Nazism and Communism in the West can be interpreted as a result of the perception of Communist atrocities as byproducts of noble intentions that were hard to realize without resorting to harsh measures. The Nazi outrages, by contrast, are perceived as unmitigated evil lacking in any lofty justification and unsupported by an attractive ideology…

Paul Hollander, quoted here, from this longer essay.

I can’t say I’ve ever found Communism attractive even as a theoretical sketch. The implications of egalitarian utopias aren’t exactly hard to fathom. Unless, that is, one takes care not to notice certain things or think in certain ways, and then goes on not noticing with growing sophistication. Given the monstrous human cost of Communism – estimated at around 110 million lives - it’s worth giving some thought to this proposal

Via Maggie’s Farm. Related: Victims of Communism

Friday Ephemera

Play with the Incredibox. // Anvils and explosives. (h/t, Ace) // The art of noodle making. // Beatniks in Newquay, 1960. // Bath bomb. // Tank chair. (h/t, Steynian) // The iSnort. // Tetris AI. // Stereoviews of yore.  (h/t, Peter) // Sea dragon courtship. // Carnivorous plants. // Cell size and scale. (h/t, Things) // The Astronomer’s Dream. (h/t, Coudal) // The Sun in hydrogen-alpha. // The pentatonic scale. // The real Shaolin. // Robot puppy lamp. // While I was away. // A dangerous substance. // Larry Hagman directs Beware: the Blob! (1972) // And, via The Thin Man, it’s Sel Duncan and his Orchestra.  

An Example to Us All

Yes, I know. You want another of those Classic Sentences from the Guardian. Oh, look. Two stuck together:

Paul McCartney once said: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians.” Well, if people could see the state of war-torn Iraq, we’d all be cyclists.

That’s one of the profound ruminations of Mr Mark Boyle (pictured below), a “social homeopath,” “pro-activist” and advocate of moneyless living.


Those unfamiliar with Mr Boyle and his intensely radical brain can savour not one but two Guardian profiles, in which we follow our hero’s philosophy and everyday travails: 

To be the change I wanted to see in the world, it unfortunately meant I was going to have to give up cash, which I initially decided to do for a year. I got myself a caravan, parked it up on an organic farm where I was volunteering and kitted it out to be off-grid. Cooking would now be outside – rain or shine – on a rocket stove; mobile and laptop would be run off solar; I’d use wood I either coppiced or scavenged to heat my humble abode, and a compost loo for humanure.

If the term “humanure” is new to some readers, the fascinating details of hands-on sewerless composting toilets can be found here. It’s a world of romantic pre-industrial charm.

Continue reading "An Example to Us All " »

Advertise with Flies

To promote their literary works at the Frankfurt Book Fair, publishing company Eichborn deployed 200 flies, each attached temporarily to an ultra-light banner.

The banners, measuring just a few centimetres across, seem to be causing the beleaguered flies a bit of piloting trouble. The weight keeps the flies at a lower altitude and forces them to rest more often, which is a stroke of genius on the part of the marketing creatives: the flies end up at about eye level, and whenever a fly is forced to land and recover, the banner is clearly visible.

The results can be seen below.

Hm. A partial success, I think you’ll agree, but promising. Maybe if the project was scaled up dramatically. Say, with 100 million flies. Or maybe just one enormous mutant mega-fly, rumbling through the skies and casting its shadow across entire city blocks.