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August 2012

Friday Ephemera

The robots are coming (and they’re made of paper). // Noodle robots. // Because you’ve always wanted to see Stan Lee naked. // Washable keyboard. // Water wigs. (h/t, Dr Dawg) // At last, an underwater wheelchair. // A lens 60 nanometres thick. // Inflatable robotic arm. // The candy wrapper archive. // Why parents rarely want their children to be artists, part 2. // Townhouse of note. // The stealth electric bike. // Jonah Goldberg on being ideological. // Rudimentary bionic eye. // How to beat your wife. // How to display your 5,000 goldfish. // 3-D Pac-Man. // New realms of stupid. // I think this may be an advert for aftershave

Elsewhere (70)

Daniel Greenfield on the death of the printed ‘alternative’ media: 

The real reason that the Village Voice is dead is because the alternative media is dead, and the alternative media is dead because there is nothing for it to be an alternative to. New Yorkers can just as easily read shrill rants about the NYPD in the Daily News, pretentious movie reviews for artsy films at The Onion, and leftist denunciations of the War on Terror in the New York Times. The way that the Village Voice used to cover Republicans is now the way that every media outlet, but the handful that aren’t part of the liberal collective, covers Republicans… When mainstream newspapers give positive reviews to books and movies that envision Bush’s assassination, cheerlead anti-war rallies run by militant Trotskyites and demand unilateral surrender in the War on Terror, what possible territory is left for the alternative media to explore?

Related to the above, the New York TimesArthur Brisbane - the horse’s mouth, as it were - on the paper’s “culture of like minds”:  

Across the paper’s many departments… so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism - for lack of a better term - that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of the NYT. As a result, developments like the Occupy movement… seem almost to erupt in the New York Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

The NYT did indeed champion Occupy – that’s these guys, remember – as a “new progressive movement” for a “new progressive age,” breathlessly insisting that, “The young people in Zuccotti Park… have started America on a path to renewal… A new generation of leaders is just getting started.”

Yes, a new generation of leaders.  

See also this

All of which reminded me of this by Fabian Tassano, written some five years ago: 

I suppose it’s fairly obvious that I’m no great fan of socialism. But what I write in this area is determined by what I experience as being the dominant ideology - every society has one, of course. This happens to be leftist as far as British culture goes, and has been at least as far back as when I was at college (the Eighties). Even in the heyday of Thatcherism it seemed fairly obvious that the intelligentsia was dominated by people who despised the right… The worst sort of dominant ideology is the kind which portrays itself as not dominant but counter-cultural, like the present one… Subversion as counterculture is inspiring, subversion as dogma is obnoxious.

Tassano’s book Mediocracy is well worth a read. And for some of those aforementioned views of the intelligentsia, see, for instance, this

Feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.

Friday Ephemera

Hoverbike, baby. // Nukes near Vegas, 1953. // Red Star in Orbit,1990. (h/t, MeFi) // The making of Aliensxenomorph queen. // Wernher von Braun thinks about Mars (1954). (h/t, Coudal) // There’s a red planet approaching. // When pensioners have guns, part 2. // When pensioners restore art. // Pittsburgh, 1907. (h/t, Mick) // Pill terrariums. // At last, your own Lego desalination plant. // Loving Israel. // Hurricanes since 1851. // Here’s a thing. // Impress the kids with a 3-ton hydraulic triceratops sculpture. // Flying hovercraft, $190,000. // Solar filament. // Big head squirrel feeder. // And finally, meet Teddy, the asshole cat

Back from Beyond

Yay. Peter Risdon has returned to active blogging.  

As some of you will know, he’s the chap who wrote this belter of a piece, often quoted here, on the malice of Polly Toynbee: 

One thing, and one thing only, keeps people trapped in the kind of poverty of mind where they don’t feed their children properly even when they could, and shit in their own stairwells. It’s a lack of ownership; a lack of self-reliance. It’s a lack of the very concept of self-reliance. It’s an idea that the mere thought that they should be self-reliant is immoral, evil, callous and cruel.

His latest is here.  Do pop over and say hello.

Chewing Chomsky

Michael J Totten interviews the author Benjamin Kerstein. He begins with the question, “What possessed you to spend three years writing about Noam Chomsky?”

To which Kerstein answers, 

Chomsky is an absolutely shameless liar. A master of the argument in bad faith. He will say anything in order to get people to believe him. Even worse, he will say anything in order to shut people up who disagree with him. And I’m not necessarily talking about his public critics. If you’ve ever seen how he acts with ordinary students who question what he says, it’s quite horrifying. He simply abuses them in a manner I can only describe as sadistic. That is, he clearly enjoys doing it.

A little elaboration follows:

He is essentially the last totalitarian. Despite his claims otherwise, he’s more or less the last survivor of a group of intellectuals who thought systemic political violence and totalitarian control were essentially good things. He babbles about human rights all the time, but when you look at the regimes and groups he’s supported, it’s a very bloody list indeed.

[ cough ] Hizb’allah, Pol Pot. [ cough ]


He makes people stupid. In this sense, he’s more like a cult leader or a New Age guru than an intellectual… Since he portrays everyone who disagrees with him as evil, if you do agree with him you must be on the side of good and right… I think people come to Chomsky and essentially worship him for precisely that reason. He allows them to feel justified in their refusal to think… His tone is very intellectual, in that he speaks in a very quiet, measured style most of the time. But the content is clearly driven by what can only be called a species of hysteria… He seems to be at heart an extremely angry man, and I would guess that his anger is driven by something that is ultimately not political.

From then on in it gets rather critical.

See also this, by the late Christopher Hitchens. And of course this

Update, via the comments:

Continue reading "Chewing Chomsky" »

Insufficiently Prole

It’s been a while since we’ve had a classic sentence to add to our collection. So here’s one – actually two – from the Observer’s ersatz class warrior Barbara Ellen

Mocking the posh and smirking about silver spoons rammed into gobs is a comic artform honed by the masses as a response to centuries of oppression. Unlike chav-baiting, which was pure bullying, posh-bashing is part of an instinctive protest against inequality that lies at the very core of sociopolitical emancipation.

Actually, it seems to me the word chav, like scrote, is a favoured working class term, typically used to denote the kinds of thoughtless and antisocial people you wouldn’t want housed next door, or next door to your elderly parents, however modest your means. Which is to say, the kinds of people Guardianistas want us to believe don’t in fact exist. Perhaps Ms Ellen, like Ms Toynbee, feels that people who live in the rougher parts of town shouldn’t have a word to describe those whose behaviour, not their income, lowers the tone or makes their lives a misery.


In the comments, Min notes that while any use of the term chav is denounced by Ms Ellen as bullying, “posh-bashing” is considered protest and an artform. This is given the hashtag Guardianlogic. Well, it’s also the logic of identity politics, according to which, you must always treat people as social categories, as examples of some put-upon victim group, or conversely, some notional oppressor group. To which, various contradictory and patronising assumptions must be applied regardless of the particulars in any given instance. By this reckoning, when opportunist oiks at my old comprehensive school picked on a new arrival who was well-spoken, polite and somewhat studious, the people doing the bullying were righteous, entitled and “responding to oppression.” Their shoving and sneering was apparently “an instinctive protest against inequality.” But my calling them oiks for doing so is practically a hate-crime. You see how it works?

Oh, and here’s a third contender:

Which would they prefer – the current culture of mild piss-taking or a full-on bloody revolution, at least a full-on socioeconomic overhaul?

Yes, my prole comrades, my brothers and sisters-in-arms, bitching about Benedict Cumberbatch is the next best thing to full-on socialism - and it too will set you free. Because class prejudice is a good prejudice whenever we say it is. However, one mustn’t aim that self-same bitching at one’s Guardianista colleagues, whose own affairs are not to be discussed and any mention of which will tend to get deleted.

Friday Ephemera

This plane is about to crash. // What to do with a naked male model and 28 cans of shaving cream? // Adorable toy butcher’s shop, circa 1900. // The Xiying rainbow bridge, Taiwan. // Yo-yos in microgravity. // Sea dragon babies. // Fun with strobes and video capture. // Calculating machines of yore. See them calculate. // What government waste? // Why parents rarely want their children to be artists. // Designer axe. // Sound design of The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. For more, see here. // Why Superman Returns is a terrible, terrible film. Will Man of Steel be better? // Chinese bootleg Avengers subtitles leave much to be desired. 

Elsewhere (69)

Via Simen, Daniel Greenfield talks us through the Victim Value Index:

Historical suffering transmuted into guilt is the gold standard of liberalism, but suffering is relative. In our wonderful multi-everything society, there are so many groups with so many claims to pain. Everyone agrees that the Heteronormative Caucasian Patriarchy of Doom is to blame for all of it, but that still leaves the question of dividing up the spoils of the system and all the privileges to be gained from denouncing privilege. A caste system doesn’t work without priority, and calculating the priority of privilege claims by the perpetually underprivileged is complicated. Without the Victim Value Index, understanding how these priorities work can be confusing, even for liberals. It’s particularly confusing for conservatives and libertarians who don’t understand the system and dismiss it as liberal insanity. It is insane, the way all cultural taboos are, but there is a method to the madness.

A. Barton Hinkle on Obama, pencils and who deserves what

A complex society is necessary for the creation of business, but it is not sufficient. Countless people made modern computing and the internet possible. But Elon Musk, not anybody else, made PayPal happen. And even if that were not so – even if Musk’s contribution to the creation of PayPal were no greater than the contribution from Phil, the goateed baristo at Starbucks with the Occupy Everything sticker on his car – Obama’s approach leaves a crucial question unanswered: Why should Phil, rather than Elon, enjoy the proceeds from PayPal’s success? Suppose you sell me a pencil. You didn’t make that. Still, I freely gave my dollar to you. How much right do you have to that dollar? That’s hard to say, but this is not: You have far more right to keep it than any third party has to take it away.

And Glenn Reynolds on two ways to pitch a campaign and Obama’s track record:   

The Obama administration sold its near trillion dollar “stimulus” plan by claiming that without it, unemployment would reach 9% while with it, unemployment would stay below 8%. Despite the bill, unemployment hit 10% and has, in fact, remained more than 8% for the past 42 months. The “stimulus” money, meanwhile, seems to have vanished into a welter of crony-capitalism deals of which the Solyndra debacle is only the most famous. And all that “hope and change” from the administration has turned to “attack and blame” as Obama and his surrogates launch one assault after another in an effort to turn the conversation to anything besides the economy. So much for the promised Bright New Day. With trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and the exploding national debt (which Obama called unconscionable when it was about half as big as it has become under his stewardship), it seems time for a Back To Basics approach. And that’s clearly the direction favoured by Romney, the turnaround artist who specialised in taking mismanaged entities and making them work. His choice of Ryan simply takes it to a new level. As Internet humourist IowaHawk tweeted on Saturday: “Paul Ryan represents Obama’s most horrifying nightmare: Math.”

Yes, it’s often fun to watch bluster collide with maths

Feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.

Reheated (28)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives.

Crotch Funk as Art.

Belgian performance artists nail some culture into us.

Sweat is a performance piece by Peter De Cupere, choreographed by Jan Fabre, in which five narcissists spend fourteen minutes rolling about and jumping up and down - naked, obviously - while attempting to fill their transparent plastic overalls with all manner of body odour. “The intention,” we’re told, “is to catch the sweat from the dancers and to distil it. The concrete of the sweat is sprayed on a wall of the dance lab and protected by a glass box. In the glass is a small hole where visitors can smell the sweat.” Yes, you can smell the sweat. If that’s not a good night out, I don’t know what is.

Just Thwarted Sperm

When being callous and vindictive is a badge of feminist virtue.

Male readers should note that - according to Amanda, her admirers and the ladies at Feministing - you have, and can have, no legitimate feelings on the subject of abortion, even if the images above were of something – or someone – you helped create. Except, that is, for the nasty, misogynist, controlling feelings that Amanda and her peers will assign to you, based solely on your gender. 

Techno, Annotated

Goa/psytrance is being repressed!

Dr St John’s more recent and even more ambitious project is Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. For the heathens among you who don’t already subscribe, and for whom the terms noisecore and bloghouse are just strange and scary words, the Dancecult journal is “a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship on the shifting terrain of electronic dance music cultures (EDMCs) worldwide.” Its concerns are of course numerous and deep. Current gems include Media Studies lecturer Dr Hillegonda Rietveld’s Disco’s Revenge: House Music’s Nomadic Memory, an article rendered lofty by obligatory references to Deleuze, Guattari and de Sade, and which “addresses the role of house music as a nomadic archival institution,” one that is “keeping disco alive through a rhizomic assemblage of its affective memory in the third record of the DJ mix.” Some of you will, I’m sure, feel a strong urge to contribute, thereby helping to expand the boundaries of human knowledge on matters of great and pressing import.

Now pour yourself a stiff one and explore the greatest hits.

First We Get the Groupthink

Then we get the hubris

Psychologists Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers, based at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, surveyed a roughly representative sample of academics and scholars in social psychology and found that “In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists admit that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues.” This finding surprised the researchers. The survey questions “were so blatant that I thought we’d get a much lower rate of agreement,” Mr Inbar said. “Usually you have to be pretty tricky to get people to say they’d discriminate against minorities.”

One question, according to the researchers, “asked whether, in choosing between two equally qualified job candidates for one job opening, they would be inclined to vote for the more liberal candidate (i.e., over the conservative).” More than a third of the respondents said they would discriminate against the conservative candidate. One respondent wrote in that if department members “could figure out who was a conservative, they would be sure not to hire them.” […] Generally speaking, the more liberal the respondent, the more willingness to discriminate and, paradoxically, the higher the assumption that conservatives do not face a hostile climate in the academy.

The incongruity of the term liberal needs no further comment. They’re doing it for the children, obviously.

And speaking of hubris, KC Johnson finds another leftwing academic taking liberties

In the winter 2012 semester, [Professor Shorter] taught a course called “Tribal Worldviews”; the course homepage contained a link called “Boycotting Israel.” The course resources page, meanwhile, featured links to the Goldstone Report, to a site on “US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel,” and (with two different links) to an “Open Letter to Bono Re: Palestinian Rights.” While the Goldstone Report, as vile as it was, at least is an official document, it’s hard to see the course-related relevance of links to an open letter to Bono. And the links to boycott-Israel sites would seem to constitute a clear violation of California regents’ policies that prohibit professors from misusing their courses to engage in “political advocacy.” […] To reiterate: these links appeared on a course webpage for “Tribal Worldviews,” taught by a professor whose academic specialty is a Native American tribe from Arizona.

However, when two dozen current and retired University of California professors enquired as to the propriety of Professor Shorter’s classroom Israel-bashing, they discovered that political activism on the public dime is, for some, perfectly okay. Provided of course it’s activism of a certain political stripe: 

In magisterial terms, the [UCLA Committee on Academic Freedom] proclaimed that “faculty members should be free of such scrutiny and should not have to answer to interest groups outside the university.” UCLA is a public university, supported in part by tax dollars paid by people “outside the university.”

What’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, yes. Fiefdom. As noted previously, more than once, some academics and administrators don’t seem inclined to follow their own stated rules of classroom probity.

In case you’re interested, Professor Shorter received a PhD in the “history of consciousness,” is the author of We Will Dance Our Truth, and is employed by the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. His faculty page tells us

My undergraduate teaching fields include Native American film and video, myths, rituals, symbols, tribal worldviews, ethnographic fieldwork and perhaps my favourite, Aliens, Psychics, and Ghosts.

Friday Ephemera

Why wildebeest don’t rule the Earth. // I hear you still don’t have your very own battle robot. // Bond is coming. // Lullaby versions of alternative pop. // Little people, giant food. // “What factors could increase the survival rate of red-shirted crewmen?” // For people who just have to look at porn in a public library. (h/t, Kate) // Amuse the kids with preserves. // Brown bear cam (with occasional salmon). // What would it cost to be Batman? // “The body in charge of America’s temperature record has systematically exaggerated global warming. In fact, it has doubled it.” // Bill Whittle on Jon Stewart and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. // 

Elsewhere (68)

Daniel Hannan on patriotic feeling:  

The first few days of the Olympics have been accompanied by a clutch of articles about how British patriotism has been rehabilitated, the Union flag reclaimed and so forth. Really? Reclaimed from whom? Other than in the imagination of a tiny metropolitan elite, when was it ever ceded? […] Watching the women’s race at Hampton Court, we were caught in torrential rain. Among the spectators were dozens of orange-shirted Dutchmen, accompanied by a brass band, which played on impressively through the downpour. When the water eventually slackened, the Hollanders struck up Rule Britannia, delighting the natives: true patriots, of course, approve of the national pride of other peoples. The idea that loving your country means scorning someone else’s is downright silly.

Perhaps someone should tell Billy Bragg, who informed Guardian readers that “our imperial instincts” prevent us “relating to our neighbours as equals.” “The English,” wrote Bragg, “are in danger of becoming an insular people, jealously guarding the right to make our own laws.” Mr Bragg - who once told listeners of Radio 4 that he had “learned all of his politics from pop music” - went on to claim that English sports fans dislike their national teams losing because of a “hangover from an imperial past.” More prosaic explanations were not entertained. 

Greg Lukianoff on campus speech codes and uncritical thinking:

I’m trying to make the point that, after 11 years of looking at college censorship, this is starting to have a negative effect on the way our country talks with itself. I think it harms our ability and inclination to debate if the one institution that’s supposed to be making us deeper, more honest, harder thinkers is actually saying “And if you disagree, kind of shut up.” 

When it comes to discipline, apparently schools need racial quotas. I kid you not: 

The state’s board of education established a policy demanding that each racial or ethnic group receive roughly proportional levels of school penalties, regardless of the behaviour by members of each group… “What this means is that whites and Asians will get suspended for things that blacks don’t get suspended for.” 

See also Heather Mac Donald, who shares some striking statistics:

The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined. Such data make no impact on the Obama administration and its orbiting advocates, who apparently believe that the lack of self-control and socialisation that results in this disproportionate criminal violence does not manifest itself in classroom comportment as well.

And Nick Gillespie on Dallas and the downfall of Romanian communism

Dallas was the last Western show allowed during the nightmarish 1980s because President Nicolae Ceausescu thought it showcased all that was wrong with capitalism. In fact, the show provided a luxuriant alternative to a communism that was forcing people to wait more than a decade to buy the most rattletrap communist-produced cars… After the dictator and his wife were shot on Christmas Eve 1989, the pilot episode of Dallas - with a previously censored sex scene spliced back in - was one of the first foreign shows broadcast on liberated Romanian TV.

The Guild of Evil recently started watching some reruns of Dallas, ironically at first. Now the mix of schemes, shoulder pads and ginormous hair is a regular treat. And I’ll thank you not to judge me. 

As always, feel free to add your own.