Previous month:
June 2011
Next month:
August 2011

July 2011

Friday Ephemera

Because some creeps can never be pummelled enough. // Planet of the Apes Party Fun Time. // Foodstuffs magnified. // Fridge contents photographed. (h/t, MeFi) // Changes in beach user density. // Leisure diving is the new planking. Do keep up. // Black light fingerprints. // The eleven most implanted devices in America. (h/t, Insty) // “At exactly 8:30pm, everyone presses play.” // When “acting persuasive and logical” is a sign of guilt. // Before and after jogging. // An extensive collection of air stewardess uniforms. (h/t, Coudal) // Always be alert for subliminal sex messages. // And finally… Don’t Hold Back, Just Push Things Forward.

Elsewhere (43)

Theodore Dalrymple on austerity in the UK and the swelling of the state:

For some politicians, running up deficits is not a problem but a benefit, since doing so creates a population permanently in thrall to them for the favours by which it lives. The politicians are thus like drug dealers, profiting from their clientele’s dependence, yet on a scale incomparably larger. The Swedish Social Democrats understood long ago that if more than half of the population became economically dependent on government, either directly or indirectly, no government of any party could easily change the arrangement. It was not a crude one-party system that the Social Democrats sought but a one-policy system, and they almost succeeded. […]

During [Gordon] Brown’s years in office… three-quarters of Britain’s new employment was in the public sector, a fifth of it in the National Health Service alone. Educational and health-care spending skyrocketed. The economy of many areas of the country grew so dependent on public expenditure that they became like the Soviet Union with supermarkets. 

As usual with Dalrymple, it’s worth reading in full. There’s plenty to chew on. Not least his comments on the NHS, on what student protesters took care not to complain about – a subject discussed here - and the image of people taking to the streets “in solidarity with themselves.” 

Related to the above, Mark Bauerlein on pathological grade inflation

The most common grade given to students, by far, is the highest one - an A. […] What used to be a distinctive honour is now the most frequent result. Anything less than a B has become a humiliation. When you have a scale with five measures and the top two scores are nine times more common than the bottom two scores, that scale isn’t working. Without a bell-curve range, grades don’t do what they’re supposed to do, which is distinguish students by their performance and certify to others (such as employers) that students have or have not learned the course material.

Heather Mac Donald on the remarkable imperviousness of  academic “diversity” programmes: 

California’s budget crisis has reduced the University of California to near-penury, claim its spokesmen. “Our campuses and the UC Office of the President already have cut to the bone,” the university system’s vice president for budget and capital resources warned earlier this month... Well, not exactly to the bone. Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine.

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Centre, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Centre, and the Women’s Centre.

And William Briggs ponders research on a matter of enormous, throbbing import:

Tatu Westling, a doctoral student in economics from the University of Helsinki, has written Male Organ and Economic Growth: Does Size Matter?, a paper meant, in his own words, “to fill [a] scholarly gap with the male organ.” Westling’s paper joins the comedy trend started by the Korean team of Choi, Kim, Jung, Yoon, Kim, & Kim — sounds more like a law firm than a collective of scientists — in their masterwork, Second to fourth digit ratio: a predictor of adult penile length

As usual, feel free to add your own in the comments.

Friday Ephemera

Vaudeville ventriloquist dummy portraits. You heard me. // Animals with two heads. // World’s largest shark tank. // Decommissioned cooling tower. // Feminist economics. Oh yes. Be afraid. // Former dissident Yuri Yarim-Agaev on the nature and memory of communism. Parts 2, 345. // Quote of note. // Assorted cinemagraphs. // Notable science videos. Includes Nature by Numbers and Touring the Earth from Space. // An illustrated list of suspicious vans. (h/t, Coudal) // The technology of the pizza box. // Spider-Man rebooted. Already? // Light painting. // Mushroom cloud lamp. // “And what is your message, Mr Miliband?”

Meanwhile, in the Arts...

Simen Thoresen alerts us to the existence of Preparatio Mortis, a new work unveiled at the Vienna International Dance Festival and aimed at the discerning aesthete. Guided by Belgian artist and choreographer Jan Fabre, dancer Annabelle Chambon “tackles the still effective taboo ‘death’ and her body enter[s] into a transformation process,” while Bernard Foccroule elevates our minds with his “intensive” and “spherical” organ stylings. As will no doubt be obvious to everyone, Ms Chambon’s “assignment” is nothing less than “an attempt to reconcile life and death.”

The video above is of course a mere glimpse of the project’s artistic highlights. Happily, the full performance lasts for 50 minutes.

Update, with added nudity:

Continue reading "Meanwhile, in the Arts..." »

Elsewhere (42)

Janet Daley ponders media hegemonies:

It was a broadcasters’ event some years ago. I had been invited to speak on a favourite subject: the BBC hegemony in broadcast news and the risk that its own package of tendentious assumptions – that Euroscepticism was a lunatic fringe irrelevance, that anyone who expressed concern about immigration was a bigot, etc – was going unchallenged in the mass media. After I had said my piece, a BBC producer in the audience asked whether, since I was so concerned about the dangers of large media organisations, I did not have the same objection to the existence of the “Murdoch empire.”

“No-o-o,” I replied patiently, I did not have the same objection. If I did not wish to support Mr Murdoch’s enterprises I could refrain from buying his newspapers or subscribing to his television service – and no one could threaten me with arrest and imprisonment for so doing. This was, I suggested, a rather significant difference between the two media corporations.

Tim Blair shows us why,

It’s always a good thing when politicians become involved in the workings of the free press.

And Heresy Corner basks in the radiance of Sunny Hundal, a titan among men:

The Liberal Conspiracy supremo is agonising - agonising, I tell you - over his tactics. Should he mobilise his online army and - gulp - declare a boycott of the Sun? People have been urging such a decisive course of action. “Several readers,” he notes, “keep asking when the boycott of the Sun newspaper or the whole of News International will take place.” But like any good general, Sunny knows that timing is everything: “Look, I’m not fan of the Sun newspaper by any stretch of the imagination, but this isn’t going to happen any time soon. If we do strike, it would have to be at the right time. That isn’t to say a group of us haven’t discussed this already. The problem is, for a boycott to work would require a big scandal that motivates lots of people outside the usual suspects.”

Because if a handful of people who don’t buy the Sun anyway declare that henceforward they’re not going to buy the Sun, the effect on News International’s global domination might be less than catastrophic, however psychologically satisfying.

Regular readers will be familiar with Mr Hundal, who in 2009 announced his “hard-line stance on environmental issues” along with his support for Plane Stupid, an activist group who “occupy” airport runways, stranding thousands of passengers, and who denounce air travel as “mostly unnecessary.” “Honestly,” said Mr Hundal, “I love these guys.” Though perhaps not as much as he loved flying halfway around the planet, twice, to India then California, weeks before declaring his eco-radical credentials. Readers may also recall Sunny’s admiration  for John Pilger, whom he hailed as a “voice of conscience” for the left. Albeit one who described American and Australian troops as “legitimate targets” and who predicted a NeoCon attack on China “within a decade.”

As usual, feel free to add your own.

Friday Ephemera

How to deactivate a cat. (h/t, rjmadden) // Weighing orphaned owls. // Migration flows across the world. // Meat forks of note. // Notable trees. (h/t, MeFi) // Teller (minus Penn) on making magic. // Tiny things in tiny bottles. // Cardboard giant. // Cities at night. // Do San Francisco by Zeppelin. // Artificially dyed frogs. It’s a thing in China. // Space shuttle flight deck. I see no cup holder. // Storms on Saturn. // Sand magnified. // Your tax dollars at work. “Social justice.” // Tetris alarm clock. Clear four lines to switch it off. // The Museum of Useful Things. // Video coat for the ravers of tomorrow. // Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Reheated (19)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives.

New Tyranny Detected.

Lara Pawson rails against “heteronormative privilege” and “the tyranny of coupledom.”

“I want to divorce the man I love and he wants to divorce me,” says Pawson. “We do not wish to separate – simply to end our seven-year marriage… We are both fed up with being part of the hetero-husband-and-wife brigade that is accorded so much status and privilege.” Such are the terrible burdens of those who go out of their way (and then some) in order to invent problems and thereby become interesting. Behold: fake divorce - it’s a bold political statement. Ms Pawson is of course indulging in a spot of overlording, which is to say, using pretentious egalitarian hand-wringing to signal her own moral, social and intellectual superiority: “See how sensitive, radical and intriguing I am - so much more enlightened than those lumpen married couples and their heteronormativity.”

Dissident Academic Feels the Warmth of Social Justice.

Or, “if you expose our student indoctrination policy we will punish you.”

Looking through various teacher-training outlines, the familiar leftist buzzwords appear repeatedly. “Diversity” and identity politics feature prominently and teachers-to-be are referred to as “critical thinking change agents.” These “agents” will use the classroom “to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture” and will “speak on behalf of identified constituent groups,” becoming “advocates for those on the margins of society.” Evidently, “critical thinking” should be taken to mean leftist thinking – critical of capitalism, individualism and bourgeois values - not thinking that might also be critical of the left, its methods and its assorted conceits. And one wonders how many liberties will be taken while speaking on behalf of “groups” deemed marginal and oppressed.

Ignorant Teachers, a New Socialist Ideal.

Knowledge and competence are outmoded and unfair, says incompetent philosopher.

Natural variations in cognitive ability, unlike those in musicality or athleticism, are a thorn in the paw of devout egalitarians. Avid readers of the Guardian’s arts and music pages would no doubt feel free to delight in the prowess of, say, Helen Mirren or Pinchas Zukerman without believing that everyone they passed on the street could with training do the same. It seems that only intelligence attracts contrarian manoeuvring. The latest example of which comes via Fabian Tassano, author of Mediocracy: Inversions and Deceptions in an Egalitarian Culture. Tassano steers us to the claims of senior philosophy lecturer and Guardian contributor Dr Nina Power, who insists, apparently based on nothing, that “everyone has the potential to understand everything,” and that equality of intelligence is “something to be presupposed” because – well, just because - “everyone is equally intelligent.”

And by all means take a shovel to the greatest hits. There may be puppies trapped inside. 

Friday Ephemera

Cymbals don’t behave quite how you’d imagine. // Nor does water, for that matter. // Toast mosaic, made of toast. // The unmade trains of tomorrow. (h/t, Mr Eugenides) // The video time machine. // Necklaces of human hair. // Harryhausen monsters. // Emergency underpants dispenser. // Marlon Brrando: percussionist and inventor. // Faces of note. // Face projection by the chap who did this. // How Pac-Man sees the world. // Dust storm. // Resonance. // Squidlings. // Statistic of note. // Theodore Dalrymple: Murder Most Academic. // Angry people in local newspapers; includes student rubbish anger and noisy cock anger.

Ambient Truth

One for our collection, care of Zoe Williams:

I think she [Margaret Thatcher] almost certainly didn’t say it (the bus thing). It’s just ambiently true, because she seems like a person who hates buses.

The alleged comment in question - “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus, can count himself a failure” - is difficult to verify and somewhat implausible but is nonetheless repeated by Thatcher’s critics, including the BBC. Its repetition seems to exist independently of a reliable source, possibly because so many would like to believe that it’s true. What’s interesting, though, is the notion that this claim, and by extension any number of others, is ambiently true. Which is to say, it’s assumed as somehow typical - accurate or not - and fits a chosen narrative. Presuming the particulars of what so-and-so might as well have said (or done) – whether or not they did – is ripe with potential. It’s therefore no great surprise that others have taken this strategy much further - to its predictable conclusion.

As when Johnathan Perkins, a black law student, told the University of Virginia’s student newspaper that while walking home he’d been taunted and intimidated by two white police officers. Perkins’ letter claimed that “most Americans are raised in racially sterilised environments,” and that “black people are accused of… playing the victim.” The student’s stated hope was that, “sharing this experience will provide this community with some much needed awareness of the lives that many of their black classmates are forced to lead.” A subsequent investigation, involving dispatch records, police tapes and surveillance video from nearby businesses, revealed the student’s story to be entirely fabricated. In a written statement, Perkins admitted, “I wrote the article to bring attention to the topic of police misconduct... The events in the article did not occur.”

As Mark Bauerlein noted recently, Perkins’ dishonesty was oddly free of consequences, for him at least, and not without precedent. Previously, a 19-year-old freshman ransacked her own room and scrawled racial slurs across its walls before curling into a foetal ball, supposedly in shock. When this “hate crime” was revealed as a hoax, Otis Smith, a regional president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, was remarkably untroubled. That the events had been staged and then lied about was, he said, “largely irrelevant.” He added, “It doesn’t matter to me whether she did it or not because of all the pressure these black students are under at these predominantly white schools. If this will highlight it, if it will bring it to the attention of the public, I have no problem with that.”

Similar instances of students fabricating “hate crimes,” rape and “hate speech” aren’t exactly hard to find. Maybe what we’re seeing is, at least in part, a kind of activism, albeit one with an unhinged postmodern twist. Perhaps Mr Perkins and his fellow dissemblers believe themselves to be righteous in illustrating some greater truth – an, as it were, ambient one – in the service of which lies can be told, proudly, repeatedly and in good conscience.