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November 2012

Friday Ephemera

William Shatner wants a deep fried turkey. // “Christmas dinner in a can.” Only £5.99. // Dehydrated boulders and other Acme products. // Now how did that get there? (h/t, Dr Dawg) // Watches of the 1980s. // Perspective, baby. // Because you need a baguette bag. // Bond villains evaluated. // Bond effects. // Parrot loves bunny. (h/t, Elephants Gerald) // Play with your very own nuclear power plant. // Landscapes and mist. // At last, a totally unobtrusive decelerator helmet. // How to house your tree frogs. // Cheetahs in (slow) motion. // Bassett hounds running. (h/t, MeFi) // Eruptions of note. // Playing the Game of Thrones.  

On Fungal Matters

Speaking of identity politics and its befuddling effects, Julia steers us to another classic sentence from the Guardian:  

As a lover of white truffles, a stereotypically upper class food, the rapper [Jay-Z] is bolstering a new kind of black identity. 

That glorious caption is the work of a subeditor, but it’s perfectly attuned to the deep political musings of the article’s author, Ms Kieran Yates, who tells us: 

Jay-Z has shelled out an eye-watering €15,000 on three kilos of white truffles on a recent holiday to Italy.

Before asking the question pressing heavily on no-one’s mind. 

What does this extravagant detail say about the Jay-Z brand? 

And then answering it, excitedly and with tremendous gravitas: 

The term [bling] has always been political… This new kind of spending goes a long way to help his brand while bolstering a new kind of black identity. 

There we go.

This “new kind of spending” - buying overpriced fungus - is much more radical than buying Rolex watches, ostentatious cars or cases of Cristal champagne. It’s a thrilling development in “black identity.” 

Food has always been an issue in working class communities, and one of the first things you learn when you are finally allowed consumer power is that food that you once thought was off limits is in fact accessible. Jay-Z understands the cultural capital of food, and with his purchase he is showing the world that taste is not for the white elite to dictate. 

Note the words allowed and dictate. And indeed white elite. Ms Yates, an English Literature graduate, has evidently learned to regurgitate the kind of airy, tendentious guff her lecturers expected. 

What Jay-Z is in effect saying is that the world of decadent foodstuffs is not off limits – not to him, or to hip-hop culture. Assumptions are slowly being challenged.

See, radical and profound. One Guardian commenter helpfully distils the intellectual heft of this mighty opus: 


The fanciful pseudo-politics of “urban” music and rap paraphernalia are a Guardian staple, obviously, being as they are so daring and transgressive. Readers may recall Lanre Bakare, the recipient of a Scott Trust bursary, who tried to persuade us that “the soundtrack to the credit crunch is being written by hip-hop artists” whose “socially conscious” rapping should be acclaimed for its “focus on harsh economic issues.” Among the insightful thinkers offered as guides was the well-heeled Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy, aka Jay Wayne Jenkins, of whom, Mr Bakare said, 

Jeezy concentrates on his own money issues, with lines like “I’m staring at my stack like where the fuck’s the rest at” and “Looking at my watch like it’s a bad investment,” making it clear that even successful rappers suffer in an economic downturn.

In a later column, Mr Bakare urged us to believe that graffiti is deserving of taxpayer subsidy. Behaviour that our Guardianista would presumably find aggravating and costly to undo if done to him and his belongings should nonetheless be done to others because, well, it’s so edgy and countercultural. And let’s not forget Adam Harper’s apparent belief that “bobbing in time to the wacky syncopated beats and pitch-shifted vocals of Major Lazer’s Pon De Floor” is some kind of radical act, especially when done within fifty yards of a police officer. Wacky, syncopated beats having only been discovered in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Elsewhere (79)

Thomas Sowell on the appetites of unions: 

Many people think of labour unions as organisations to benefit workers, and think of employers who are opposed to unions as just people who don’t want to pay their employees more money. But some employers have made it a point to pay their employees more than the union wages, just to keep them from joining a union. Why would they do that, if it is just a question of not wanting to pay union wages? The Twinkies bankruptcy is a classic example of costs created by labour unions that are not confined to paycheques. The work rules imposed in union contracts required the company that makes Twinkies, which also makes Wonder Bread, to deliver these two products to stores in separate trucks. Moreover, truck drivers were not allowed to load either of these products into their trucks. And the people who did load Twinkies into trucks were not allowed to load Wonder Bread, and vice versa. All of this was obviously intended to create more jobs for the unions’ members. But the needless additional costs that these make-work rules created ended up driving the company into bankruptcy, which can cost 18,500 jobs. The union is killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Mathieu Deflem on “the politics of exclusion”: 

Universities today have lowered their standards of admission and accepted more students regardless of their level of preparation. For example, at the University of South Carolina, where I am presently employed, the number of undergraduates has gone up from about 18,000 in 2006 to 22,000 in 2011. As a result of the increased number of undergraduates, pressures are placed on teaching faculty to accommodate students regardless of intellectual skills… Students of lesser skill-levels are not only admitted, they are also given degrees, and that is the most worrisome trend. Obtaining a college degree has become a matter of justice. The notion that prevails today is not only that access to education is a right, but so is the successful exit thereof. Under these conditions, the very notion of an earned degree has become a mockery. 

And Victor Davis Hanson on the rise (and dishonesty) of identity politics: 

Since the election, some fatalistic Washington conservative elites have accepted — and Obama operatives have rejoiced in — a supposedly new and non-white-male ethnic electorate: Americans will be categorised, and collectively so, on the basis of largely how they look and, to a lesser extent, how they sound… Only in the hyper-racialist America can we take quite distinct Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and Chinese third-generation citizens and create from them the artificial rubric “Asian” in their shared antithesis to “white,” or take disparate Cubans and Mexicans and likewise reinvent them as identical Latinos, or take Jamaicans, Ethiopians, and American blacks and call them all “African-Americans” on the similar logic of not being something equally artificial like white — which I guess covers Americans who used to be Greeks, Irish, Armenians, Jews, Poles, and Danes… Are Asians “overrepresented” at UC Berkeley — or are the 20% of the student body who are white males the ruling establishment? Are blacks “overrepresented” at the U.S. Postal Service, but “underrepresented” at the DMV? Such are the absurd questions that arise in a tribal society where one’s primary allegiances are not to universal values or collective traditions and customs, but are first pledged to those who look most like oneself.

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

More Proof That I Am Not a Thirteen-Year-Old Girl

Victor Luckerson, Time magazine:

Text messaging is on the decline, according to a new study by mobile industry analyst Chetan Sharma… During the third quarter of 2012, the average American sent 678 texts per month. That’s a big number, but it’s actually the first time America’s texting habit has declined, down from a peak of 696 texts per month over the summer. Experts say the decrease is likely a sign of a permanent shift away from SMS messaging carried over the same network we use to make phone calls. “With social networking and other platforms, they really take the messaging feature away from that usual channel,” says Wayne Lam, a wireless communication analyst at IHS Technology. “Consumers are messaging, but text messaging as a whole is competing with other forms of messaging.” 

And remember, phone years are like dog years. If you haven’t upgraded yours in the last 18 months, there’s a good chance you’ll be looked on as some kind of contrarian throwback to the Dark Ages. A couple of months ago I ventured into a popular high street phone shop to get a new SIM. A greasy young man in bad trousers looked at my old BlackBerry as if it had been unearthed in the ruins of Xunantunich. “Wow,” said he with just a hint of amused contempt. “Old school. I haven’t seen one of these in years.” Greasy Teen then struggled in vain to open the casing, as if eager to behold its clockwork innards. The device was indeed four years old, before human history began, so obviously the locking mechanism was inscrutable to him, involving as it did the pushing of one button. Then came the inevitable, shame-inducing question. “Have you thought about upgrading?” 

And since you ask, yes, I did.

Friday Ephemera

Sshhh. This hummingbird is sleeping. // Sonic booms and bending light. Wait for the ripples near the end. // I’m sure that isn’t really the title of the book. // The biodiversity of belly buttons. // The photography of Jay Mark Johnson. (h/t, Dr Dawg) // Collectors and their collections. // At last, a machine that will sort your Skittles by colour. // The rigours of academia. // Origami chair. // Idleness defined. // Edible gum party python. // Panoramic dentistry. // Panoramic washing machine. // Vibrative virtual keyboard. // Tiny violins for when you’re really, really sad. // “This is a visualization of over 100,000 nearby stars.” // The infinite jukebox

Dealing with Impurities

Or, Correcting Wrongthought. Bill Whittle on campus censorship and the narrowing of minds:  

65% of the 392 top colleges surveyed maintain speech codes and other restrictions on expression that violate First Amendment principles… No wonder a study of 24,000 students conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 2010 revealed that only 30.3% of college seniors strongly agreed with the statement that, “It is safe to hold unpopular opinions on campus”… The students were downright optimistic compared to the 9,000 campus professionals surveyed. Only 18.8% strongly agreed that it was safe to hold unpopular opinions on campus... As the sociologist Diana C. Mutz discovered in her 2006 book Hearing the Other Side, those with the highest levels of education had the lowest exposure to people with conflicting points of view, while those who have not graduated from high school can claim the most diverse discussion mates. In other words, the most educated among us are also the most likely to live in the tightest echo chambers. 

Background on three of the incidents mentioned in the video can be found here, here, and here. See also this demonstration of “social justice education” and just how creepy it can get. And if you can, make time to watch this eye-opening lecture by David Horowitz.

Because I’m Glorious, Goddammit

Rummaging through my images files, I found this.

The hubris of moochers

It’s one of the less baffling signs from Zombie’s report on Occupy LA, May 1st, 2012. Zombie’s caption reads, “Narcissistic personality disorder, coupled with delusions of grandeur.” Which seems fair enough. I suppose the placard might have been a little more honest if it had said, “I expect to be paid for a job that doesn’t actually exist and which no-one has asked me to do.” Or, “I’ve decided I’m an artist and therefore you owe me money.” Or, “I’m not prepared to do any of the things that you unenlightened people would be willing to pay me to do, but I’m still going to demand that you give me your earnings anyway because, yes, I’m that important.” Though admittedly the last one might be a little wordy for a slogan. Readers may wish to devise captions of their own.

Elsewhere (78)

Thomas Sowell on some popular misconceptions: 

The media misconception today is that what we need to speed up economic recovery is to end gridlock in Washington and have bipartisan intervention in the economy. However plausible that may sound, it is contradicted repeatedly by history. Unemployment was never in double digits in any of the 12 months following the stock market crash of 1929. Only after politicians started intervening did unemployment reach double digits - and stay in double digits throughout the 1930s. 

There is nothing mysterious about an economy recovering on its own. Employers usually have incentives to employ and workers have incentives to look for jobs. Lenders have incentives to lend and borrowers have incentives to borrow - if politicians do not create needless complications and uncertainties. The Obama administration is in its glory creating complications and uncertainties for business, ranging from runaway regulations to the unknowable future costs of ObamaCare and taxes. Record amounts of idle cash held by businesses and financial institutions are a monument to the counterproductive effects of Barack Obama’s anti-business policies and rhetoric. That idle money could create lots of jobs - net jobs - if politics did not make it risky to invest. 

Complication, regulation and uncertainty – yes, shocker, all of it costs

Via Protein Wisdom, Tyler Durden on Big Government economics: 

Obama has already laid the foundation for his next four years of Presidency – more green jobs, tackle global warming, raise taxes on the rich and create jobs for the poor. That will come at a hefty price of further government spending. In the first four years of his term Obama increased the Federal Debt by more than 45%; however, with more than $5 trillion spent in promoting everything from solar panels to housing, the economy only grew by 7.1% during the same time frame (or a total of $905 billion.) In other words it took more than $5.60 of debt to create $1 of economic growth... The amount of debt required today to create a single dollar’s worth of GDP today is clearly unsustainable. 

Or as Mark Steyn puts it: 

In the course of his first term, Obama increased the federal debt by just shy of $6 trillion and in return grew the economy by $905 billion. So, as Lance Roberts at Street Talk Live pointed out, in order to generate every dollar of economic growth the United States had to borrow about five dollars and 60 cents. There’s no one out there on the planet - whether it’s “the rich” or the Chinese - who can afford to carry on bankrolling that rate of return. 

Meanwhile, tick, tock

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

Friday Ephemera

Golfing interrupted by live shark falling from sky. // Gas masks of yore. // Horse head sculpture. // This clock is still ticking. // Carbon fibre sled of note. // How many BB guns would it take to stop a train? // Rave hell, Antwerp, 1997. // At last, laser tweezers. // Arsenious acid. // Approaching Heathrow. // Over-designed air freshener of note. // Tiny gardens. // Tiny tools. // Fibonacci cabinet. // More Guild of Evil real estate. // Power your iPad by sitting and rocking. // Caterpillar caravan. // Ironic retro drum machine. // A visual history of turntables and loudspeakers. // When mattress jumping is a job. // What’s it to be, bath or walk?

Elsewhere (77)

Via Samizdata, Frank J Fleming ponders the role of President: 

What was the concept of the U.S. government when it was created? That it’s our servant — we’re in charge of it. The president serves at our pleasure. So the president trying to lead us is like your butler dictating your agenda for the day. What would you do if your butler tried that? That’s right: You’d lock him in a small room in the wine cellar for a couple of days to teach him his place. Yet somehow we not only put up with the president trying to lead us, but we’ve come to expect it. 

Related, Jeff Goldstein on two visions of government: 

Either you believe the government owns you, and therefore you owe it tribute which it will then, in its wisdom, distribute as it sees fit; or you believe you own the government, and that while you keep more of your money and the fruits of your labour and allow the bureaucracies to molest you less, the federal government can learn to make do with what we decide to give it in revenue. And if that means, for instance, Big Bird or Planned Parenthood or solar energy companies have to compete in the marketplace with Cartoon Network or Wal-Mart or frakking, oil drilling, coal mining, and natural gas pipelines, then so be it.

Somewhat related, Zombie is compiling a “complete list of Barack Obama’s scandals, misdeeds, crimes and blunders.” It’s an ongoing crowd-sourced project so submissions are welcome. 

And from the vaults, Heather Mac Donald on fatherhood and poverty:  

The premise of the Young Men’s Initiative, like that of its predecessors, is that government has the capacity to produce upstanding, bourgeois citizens - if it just gets all its agencies to act in a coordinated fashion. […] Since Mayor Bloomberg claims to be a fan of managing by information, here are some more data for him to focus on: in the Bronx’s Mott Haven neighbourhood in 2009, 84 percent of births were to unmarried women, according to city health statistics, followed by Brownsville, Brooklyn, at 81.2 percent; Hunts Points, the Bronx, at 80.4 percent; and Morrisania, the Bronx, at 79.1 percent. East Tremont (the Bronx), Bushwick (Brooklyn), and East New York (Brooklyn) all had out-of-wedlock birth rates well above 70 percent. Compare those with the rates in largely white neighbourhoods, such as Battery Park (6.8 percent), the Upper East Side (7.9 percent), and Murray Hill (8.6 percent). 

The breakdown of the family lies behind all other urban dysfunction. Until marriage is restored as the norm for child-rearing in the inner city, black and Hispanic crime rates and education failure will continue to be disproportionate. No government programme can possibly compensate for the absence of fathers in the home and the absence of the cultural expectation that men will be responsible for their children. […] The mayor is eager to talk about marriage for gays and lesbians, but he cannot bring himself to use the word when it comes to black and Hispanic heterosexual couples.

But hey, let’s do what Laurie Penny says instead. Yes, “fuck marriage,” “fuck monogamy” and fuck all of those other “small ugly ambitions.” Because, rather like Laurie herself, it’s all so incredibly radical and defiant. Just don’t look too closely at the practical results. 


Speaking of practical results, or the denial thereof, let’s not overlook the bewildered educator Grover Furr. A Professor of Medieval English and a devout Marxist, Furr has been mentioned here before and readers may recall his indignation at the fact that a few non-leftists still have the temerity to remain in the humanities, despite the professor’s wishes for ideological purity. Well, it seems our unhinged academic is still sharing his wisdom with students.

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