Previous month:
December 2009
Next month:
February 2010

January 2010

Friday Ephemera

Owls in flight. // Cheese or font? A game for all the family. // Fabric in a can. // Shockwave cannon. // The Hulc exoskeleton. // Steampunk Gameboy. // The clever bottlenose. // Bear versus cat. // Mouse versus leopard. // Nun versus shark. // On the Sherlock Holmes title sequence. // Little Italy, circa 1900. // Bacon beer. (h/t, Mr Eugenides) // Brain slug cupcakes. // Tibetan sky burials. (h/t, MeFi) // A tree house for the kids. // The redefinition of greed. // The mysteries of pinball. // Utah panoramas. // Porn for the blind. (audio nsfw)

Here, Let Me Lick Those Tears

I’ve previously noted an air of default entitlement among the UK’s arts practitioners and commentariat, but for those in need of further illustration here’s the Guardian’s Laura Barnett, alerting us to another crushing injustice.

Right now, the economic climate for artists in this country looks particularly bleak... Unlike some European and Scandinavian countries, the British government makes no specific social provision for artists,

Oh, say it isn’t so.

unless through the publicly funded regional arts councils.

Ah. So the government does in fact make special provision for artists. To the tune of almost half a billion a year. And as we know, arts councils can be counted on to spend your money wisely for the betterment of mankind.

In Denmark, for instance, 275 artists are granted an annual stipend of between 15,000 and 149,000 Danish krone (£1,750 to £17,000) every year for the rest of their lives.

Readers will no doubt recall the Danish artist Bettina Camilla Vestergaard, whose benefactors include the Danish Arts Council, the Arts Grants Committee Sweden, the Danish Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Council of Aarhus. Ms Vestergaard used her government stipend to spend six months in Los Angeles pondering “identity and gender” and working on an “intervention in public space”:

My first three months primarily consisted of passing time in residential Hollywood, sitting alone in my car, shopping and getting fuel.

The results of Ms Vestergaard’s lengthy, publicly subsidised musings can be appreciated more fully here

But in this country, for artists without a lucky early break, rich parents or benefactors, a day job is often the only way to survive. [...] What a day job inevitably means, of course, is spending the majority of your waking hours not doing the thing you love: making art.

It’s an outrage, I tell you. Thankfully, some businesses are sensitive to the arts community and its special needs.

For the last four years, [actor, Lainy] Scott has been working at RSVP, a call centre in east London that employs only artists, taking calls for Which? magazine and WeightWatchers. Shifts are available in the day, evening, or at weekends, allowing artists to plan their work around shows, rehearsals or auditions.

Some comfort, then. However,

“There are people who get very bogged down by having to do non-acting stuff,” Scott says.

Update: An artistic Guardianista adds,

When I left college in the early 80s after finishing my Fine Art degree, I went and lived in Holland for 6 months as some artist friends of ours had been allowed to live in an old disused warehouse by Leiden council. They had electricity paid and were allowed to claim the equivalent of the dole to just be artists. We put on experimental theatre, lived and worked in the same place... This was an investment in the economy... Why have artists take up jobs that people rely on in a time of recession. Why not allow them to claim benefit but not have to job search?

“Just to be artists.” Oh, I like that. And don’t dismiss all that experimental theatre, which is after all an investment in the economy. Taxpayers can’t get enough experimental theatre.

Earthquake Machines

Here’s a thing.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the United States of causing the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, which killed possibly 200,000 people. Chavez believes the U.S. was testing a tectonic weapon to produce eco-type devastations.

Blimey. One wonders how this revelation will go down among the Great Man’s admirers here in the UK.

But I’m confused. I thought only “The Jews” had such diabolical technology. As revealed in December 2007 when Hamas MP Ahmad Abu Halabiya informed Al-Aqsa TV that,

It is not impossible for the Jews to generate an artificial earthquake... in order to accomplish their goal of destroying the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Needless to say, The Guild of Evil™ has been conducting research of its own with this mobile apparatus.

Update: Not what it seems, it seems.

Friday Ephemera

Meat hand. // Double jeopardy. // Cute things falling asleep. // First, position your molecules. // Photo manipulation of yore. // Murphy’s Law calculator. // Places you cannot go. // A pleasing sofa. // Thumbthing. // I’d like my ice in a sphere, please. // At last, a space cannon. // Professor Alexander’s botanical vasculum. // Blown metal. // Build your own working phaser. // Shatner meets Winkler, feelings ensue. // A radical breakthrough in the world of rock. // Tourism in Croatia. // Power plant time lapse. // Japanese jetpack.

Elsewhere (17)

Heather Mac Donald on juvenile violence and absent fathers. (Mac Donald discusses the issue further here. The statistics are extraordinary.)

The official silence about illegitimacy and its relation to youth violence remains as carefully preserved in today’s Chicago as it was during Obama’s organizing time there. A fleeting reference to “parental” responsibility for children is allowed, before the speaker quickly moves on to society’s more important role. [...] Press coverage of teen shootings may mention a participant’s mother, but the shooter and victim may as well be the product of a virgin birth, for all the media’s curiosity about where their fathers are. I asked John Paul Jones of Obama’s old Alinskyite outfit, the Developing Communities Project, if anyone ever tries to track down the father of a teen accused of a shooting. The question threw him. “Does anyone ever ask: ‘Where are the fathers?’” he paraphrased me. A brief silence. “That’s a good point.”

Victor Davis Hanson on affirmative action.

The concept was noble, but now antiquated and mostly absurd. It requires the logic of the Old Confederacy to determine racial purity among the intermarried citizenry. Jet-black Punjabis get no preferences. Light-skinned Mexican-Americans of the fourth-generation claim privilege. Poor whites from Tulare don’t rank. The children of black dentists do. I see very little logic here.

And Darleen Click on why the humanities stay so leftist.

Anyone weighing their career options doesn’t just look at their own interests and strengths, they also assess their chances in that particular career based on the people who are already there. If a non-leftist and/or religious student is observing, daily, the clannish, hyper-political intolerance of the people in charge of “educating” him/her, s/he might be hesitant to pursue a career in academia where their success is dependent on people already hostile to them.

As usual, feel free to add your own.

A Great Big Socialist Heart

Time for another Classic Sentence from the Guardian. Or rather the Guardian’s Sunday sister paper, the Observer, where Kevin McKenna attempts to convince readers that a one-size-fits-all comprehensive education is all that any young person could possibly want. Indeed, should Mr McKenna get his way, it’s all they’d be permitted to have:  

The ultimate iniquity, though, is that independent, fee-paying schools are allowed to exist at all.

Savour that for a moment. Ponder the big, generous heart behind those sentiments. It offends Mr McKenna that private education should be allowed to exist. How dare some parents want the best for their children when the best is something not everyone can have, or indeed benefit from? Notice that smell? It’s the funk of socialist arrogance and nasty urges to control. By Mr McKenna’s reckoning, it would be less iniquitous to deny parents the right to use their own money to benefit their own offspring in a private and legal transaction of their own choosing. According to this moral calculus, parents who view the comprehensive system as inadequate – perhaps because of their own first-hand experiences – are by implication wicked. And so they should be stopped. Sadly, the details of how private education would no longer be permitted remain mysterious. Would parents daring to venture outside the state sector be imprisoned or merely fined? Would private education become a black market phenomenon? Nor is it clear whether these totalitarian urges would extend to after-hours tuition, home coaching or the punctual doing of homework.

However, McKenna does convey to us the full horror of the private schooling he “narrowly escaped”:

The school occupies a lofty position in Glasgow education, sitting atop one of the highest of the hills in the heart of the city. It is where affluent and aspirational Catholics send their children and as you wander around the city centre of a lunchtime, little Sebastians and Julias in their lovely green blazers traipse desultorily among Sauchiehall Street’s gaudy emporiums.

Truly the stuff of nightmares, I think you’ll agree.

But let me share with you a flavour of my own, more recent comprehensive education at a school where aspiration was less common than graffiti and no Sebastians dare set foot. The school blazers weren’t green or particularly lovely, but they were a routine target of vandalism and theft, along with any other belongings of small but discernable value. My other half, whose state education was similar to my own, has shared a number of stories in which students who were not called Sebastian or Julia would attack each other’s uniforms with razor blades. It was quite the thing, apparently. While Sebastians were in short supply at my local comprehensive, there were plenty of teachers whose egalitarian leanings were at least as pronounced as those of Kevin McKenna, resulting in a conviction that the teaching of grammar was insufficiently progressive and therefore superfluous. (This ideological omission made the learning of German and French rather challenging, especially when confronted with alien things called subordinate clauses.) I’ve previously mentioned the unusual skills I developed during my secondary education, including some proficiency in throwing chairs in order to deter random lunchtime assaults. And I recently learned that one of the school’s two main buildings had been burned to the ground, possibly by a disaffected student.  

Continue reading "A Great Big Socialist Heart " »

Friday Ephemera

First-person Tetris. // Pong reinvented. // Print your own 3-D objects. // Turn any flat surface into a touch screen. // News Update! One of these. (h/t, Coudal) // The Museum of Useful Things. // Permanent glasses. // Tape installations. // The possessions of William Burroughs. // A spot of Armstrong & Miller. // Alligator bread. // The Grand Canyon. // A database of dreams. // The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. (h/t, MeFi) // Enhance grid 17. // Sushi etiquette. // Will it waffle? // The modern way to stun your lobster. // And, sadly, this never got built.