Previous month:
May 2012
Next month:
July 2012

June 2012

Elsewhere (66)

Thomas Sowell takes a look at political rhetoric. Part 1 includes the words “greed” and “compassion”:  

In the political language of today, people who want to keep what they have earned are said to be “greedy,” while those who wish to take their earnings from them and give it to others (who will vote for them in return) show “compassion.”

And so we see people who don’t regard themselves as greedy or selfish demanding a “fair share” – i.e., more - of someone else’s earnings. But who’s the more greedy and selfish - Michael Caine or these people? And what about this guy? Which of them is the exploiter and which the exploited? 

Part 2, on “access”: 

Making a distinction between external and internal reasons for failing to reach one’s goal would clarify the meaning of the word “access.” But clarification would destroy the political usefulness of the word, along with the government programmes that this word is used to justify.

Parts 3 and 4 tackle “welfare,” “choice” and of course “social justice.”

Bill Whittle on the higher education bubble:  

Total student loan debt in America has passed the trillion dollar mark – more than total credit card debt and more than total auto loan debt. But as prices have been going up, learning seems to have been going down. A recent book, Academically Adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, found that 45% of students did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning during the first two years of college, and 36% of students did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning over four years of college. The primary reason, according to the study, is that courses aren’t very rigorous… Simply put, the cost of higher education has far outpaced its actual value. The bubble is going to burst.

And yes, we have a similar problem here. In the UK there are currently around 20,000 students of fine art, 10,000 philosophy students and 27,000 enthusiasts of media studies. But is there a corresponding economic need? If the investment of time, effort and (other people’s) money doesn’t pay off with a lucrative and fascinating career in the private sector and a return via taxation, then how is the process justified in its present form? Is it sustainable?

Finally, via Kate, some lovely racial brotherhood from our leftist betters.

As always, feel free to add your own.

Friday Ephemera

Motion-tracked yo-yo. // Musical kettle. // Wonder sauna hot pants. // Giraffe in a swimming pool. // Japanese moveable type. // Cannabis jam, cannabis honey, cannabis butter. (It’s medicinal.) // How to pronounce Uranus. // The best US states to start a new business. // Transparent crisps. // A history of tape recording. // Alternative Star Trek titles. // Hundreds of vintage car accidents. (h/t, Sam) // Stanley Kubrick interviews, 1965-66. // “Transformers-style wine rack, $7000.” // Fifty documents of note. // O (Omicron). // 1950s Vegas. // 3D pavement art. // Self-healing plastics. // And finally, why Prometheus is a terrible, terrible film

Occupy Fights Patriarchy, Defends Child Molestation

Once again, Zombie reports from Occupy’s moral wasteland. This time, the object of the protestors’ umbrage was a conference on how to combat child sex trafficking: 

If there’s one issue that unites Americans of all political stripes, it’s the sexual enslavement of children. Whatever our opinions on other issues, we all agree that sex trafficking and the prostituting of children is an outrage and a tragedy. Thus, conference attendees included liberal, moderate and conservative politicians; progressive non-profit organisations; law enforcement groups; religious leaders; and (according to the conference website) “social services, medical providers, mental health, education, probation, and community-based organisations.” In short: Everybody. Everybody, that is, except Occupy Wall Street, who somehow found a way to oppose the abolition of child sexual slavery.

This being Occupy, their thinking on this issue is knotty, dogmatic and a little confused:

Sex work, like all forms of work, can only exist within a society based on hierarchical economic systems like capitalism, which are protected by the police and patronising reformist organisations that keep exploited people from revolting. The pigs are the enemies of sex workers, and of all workers.

In the last nine years, the FBI – sorry, “the pigs” – have rescued over 2,100 children from coerced prostitution. But apparently we are all being “subjugated by the continued existence of capital.” And so, for the sake of the glorious revolution, no-one should object to the sexual molestation of thirteen-year-old girls. Or something

As Zombie notes,

The protesters’ main banner said “Fucking to survive is life under capitalism.” This sums up the nearly incomprehensible cognitive dissonance at the core of the Occupy Oakland Patriarchy philosophy. They manage to hold two mutually exclusive thoughts simultaneously: 1. We are sex workers and proud of it, and there is nothing wrong with prostitution, so stop oppressing us with your prudish laws; And, 2. The only reason we are compelled to have this degrading and unpleasant profession is that capitalism forces people to exchange labour for money - only a total anti-capitalist revolution can put an end to prostitution.

The Occupiers attempted to stop the conference topple the capitalist patriarchy with air-horns and the obligatory “bum rush” – i.e., scuffles and vandalism. Nothing in particular was achieved, of course, but the Occupiers seemed happy with their efforts. It was, they say, “one hell of a performance.” Their own post-protest report, which is truly a thing to behold, includes such gems as this:

We set out with the intentions of shutting the fucker down and started the event with the distribution of some dope literature, some inflammatory speeches, the harassment of mainstream media and of course the all-out taunting of the police. It got taken a step further when the crowd attempted to enter the lobby of the Marriott Convention Centre. This all resulted in a rumble with the pigs, the vandalised facade of the convention centre entrance with eggs and paint, and a march to and from Oscar Grant Plaza. We would say that this was a nice way to spend an afternoon and, for a brief moment, fulfilled our goal of shutting the fucker down.

Yes, “dope literature” and “a rumble with the pigs.” Now get with the hipster’s moral vanguard, you patriarchal squares.

Friday Ephemera

If Mrs Doubtfire were a horror film. // There’s a boat at the end of the road. // A short film about a man and his big wooden balls. // Monkey orchids. // Autonomous lawnmower. // Painting a whale. // Your weight in outer space. (h/t, Coudal) // A catalogue of cigarette rolling papers. // Taken apart. // A photographic record of the Great Depression. (h/t, Anna) // Prepared face. // Storage for the slightly obsessive. // Ray Bradbury sits in a time machine. // A detailed look at cutting through steel. (h/t, MeFi) // Franklin’s oils. // Watermelons need vodka. // Dining at altitude. // Kuwaiti cleric explains buggery and other works of the devil

Reheated (26)

For newcomers and the nostalgic, three more items from the archives.

Above Them, Only Sky.

The Guardian pines for radical pop stars who “threaten” the establishment. Like the peacenik who bankrolled the IRA.

Lennon also found time to lend his pop star gravitas to the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, a Trotskyist cult apparently financed by those moral colossi Muammar al-Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, and which entranced such artistic luminaries as Corin and Vanessa Redgrave. The WRP’s ambitions included socialist revolution, the overthrow of private property and the replacement of the police by a “workers militia.” Imagine that. And hey, who wouldn’t feel threatened by a millionaire pop star sprawled on his peace bed high above Manhattan, singing a hymn to global totalitarianism and a world with “no possessions,” while his sidekick Yoko collected fur coats? 

Socialist Hearts Are Just Bigger Than Ours.

Zoe Williams denounces charity fundraiser and spits at people who don’t have “normal salaries.” 

Normal salaries won’t of course cut much ice at an Ark Gala, where ticket sales alone raise millions of pounds. Even Zoe, whose former school sends well-heeled little socialists on trips to Rome, Morocco and Barbados, would be out of her league. Still, Zoe’s personal resentments are the important thing and these “obscenely” rich people should stop “creating inequality” while giving money away. Given time, the orphans of Romania will doubtless learn to do without while sharing in Ms Williams’ moral satisfaction.

Don’t Bother Me With Details

Diversity hustler Linda Bellos, a thinker for our times. 

It’s always good to see moral one-upmanship and complaints of “the same sad old stereotypes” coming from a woman who abandoned her own children to live in a separatist lesbian commune. 

There’s more of course in the greatest hits

Elsewhere (65)

John Ellis on cultivated victimhood and the Angry Studies racket

Just as Pinocchio went off to school with high hopes, only to be waylaid by J. Worthington Foulfellow, minority students are met on the way to campus by hard-left radicals who claim to have the interests of the newcomers at heart but in reality prey on them to advance their own selfish interests. Of course, what black students need is the same solid traditional education that had raised Irish, Italians, and Jews to full equality. But that would not serve the campus radicals’ purpose. Disaffected radicals wanted to swell the ranks of the disaffected, not the ranks of the cheerfully upward mobile. Genuine progress for minority students would mean their joining and thus strengthening the mainstream of American society - the mainstream that campus radicals loathe… 

As thinkers, campus radicals are poor role models for students. Their ideas are simple and rigid, and they rely heavily on conspiracy thinking that infers far too much from too little. They are powered by emotional commitments that are highly resistant to the lessons of experience. As a result, their cherished ideas are now virtually obsolete, and strike any reasonably well-informed observer as downright silly. The minority students that they attract into their orbit are dragged down to this low intellectual level.

Which may explain why disagreeing with Obama is, for some, always, always racist

And I’m sure it’s purely coincidental that Laurie Penny rails against the “small, ugly ambitions” of bourgeois advancement, and shrieks “fuck social mobility,” while so many of her leftist colleagues want to block off escape routes on ideological grounds. Because they care so very, very much.

For more on cultivated grievance and its degrading effects, see this lecture by David Horowitz.

Kay Hymowitz on social mobility and feedback loops

You can’t grasp what’s happening at the lower end of the income scale without talking about family breakdown. In fact, the single-mother revolution, as I’ll call it, takes us a long way toward understanding the socioeconomic problems on everyone’s mind these days: poverty, inequality, and the inability of those at the bottom to move up… As of 1970, 11 percent of births were to unmarried mothers; by 1990, that number had risen to 28 percent. Today, 41 percent of all births are non-marital. And for mothers under 30, the number is 53 percent… 

The single-mother revolution has left us with the following reality. At the top of the social order is a positive feedback loop, with kids raised in stable, high-investment and relatively affluent homes going to college, finding similar mates, and raising their own children in stable, high-investment and relatively affluent homes. At the bottom is a negative feedback loop, with kids raised by single mothers in unstable, low-investment homes finding themselves unable to adapt to today’s economy and going on to create more unstable, single-mother homes.

See also Heather Mac Donald on poverty and behaviour

And Fabian Tassano on being labelled right-wing:  

I do not think of this blog as right-wing, though others may. If I had to file it under anything, it would be under {critique, genuine}. This in contrast with {critique, phoney}, meaning the kind of critique you currently get from the cultural establishment (e.g. Britart is “challenging,” literary theory is “deeply questioning,” contemporary sociology “analyses prejudices”), in which the original sense of the word critique has become inverted. […] To pretend the cultural landscape is not at present utterly dominated by leftist sentiment (pro-state, pseudo-egalitarian, anti-capitalist) is just silly. The fact that such sentiment tends no longer to be referred to as leftist is merely a sign of how hegemonic it has become. 

See, for instance, these intellectuals of tomorrow, their educators, and almost anything here tagged ‘academia.’ And then of course there’s “ourartistic and cultural establishment, whose “debates,” “critiques” and “interrogations” have entertained us no end. 

By all means add your own.

Friday Ephemera

Chicken footstools. You heard me. // Deboning chickens with robots. // Distil your own sugar beet vodka. // Avengers tech design. // The plumes of Enceladus. // Underpants of note. // Photographs by Shikhei Goh. // Fun with Photoshop. // Flavoured envelopes. // From tadpole to toadlet. // The Sun is not your friend. // Sunlight in Europe. (h/t, rjmadden) // Venus and the Sun. // In Search of Steve Ditko. // This is one of these. // This is Coffee, 1961. // Coping with loss in Wisconsin. // When the answer to narcissism is even more narcissism. (h/t, dicentra) // And remember, folks. Aaron Sorkin does not have a political agenda. 

Why Prometheus is Inexcusably Bad

Noomi Rapace tries to escape from a really shit film.

Spectacular digital effects, of which there are plenty in Prometheus, are complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Likewise, impressive sets and cinematic hardware cost money. Orchestral scores and booming sound design aren’t cheap either. Had Ridley Scott dropped the ball in these departments, it might at least have been understandable, given the number of people to be coordinated and the sums of money involved. But the script, on which everything else in a film has to hang, is one of the cheapest parts to get right. It typically involves a handful of people, not hundreds of technicians racing against the clock. Not getting the basic story and dialogue presentable, or even close to presentable, is much harder to excuse. 

And yes, this applies to any number of other films. 

Update:  The particulars of its badness can be found in the comments. Spoilers, obviously.

Friday Ephemera

Tokyo transsexual cooks and serves own genitals. // Self-stirring saucepan. // Assorted rattlesnakes. // Fly ablutions. // Robot spiders coming soon to hazardous environs. // Unmade beds and sailing boats. // Essential beach accessory. // Stop-motion crochet portrait. // The museum of endangered sounds. // Coin-operated mortuary. // Zombie gnomes. // The mysteries of Guinness. // Gummi bears infused with chilli. // British newspaper archive. // Fugu & Tako. // Found in Lapland. // Parked 747 encounters quite strong winds. // And for those who haven’t seen it, and you should, all eight episodes of The Planets (1999).