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May 2013

Friday Ephemera

Home-made giant Kinder Surprise goes horribly, horribly wrong. (h/t, Mr Eugenides) // Made of pipe-cleaners. (h/t, Julia) // Polar bear, Singapore. // Pacific Rim. Embrace your inner seven-year-old. // “Recursive circulated phone photo loop.” // Sweden: An Apology. // At last, Sharknado. // Beetle sphere. // Correlation is not causation. // Duet for leaves and turntable. // Things inside old televisions. // Ultrasounding a Giant African Land Snail. // A gallery of quality literature. // When artists aren’t original. // Reading underground, New York City. (h/t, Coudal) // Hong Kong high-rise living. // Metropolis mayhem. // Dogs at warp speed.

Bearing Down, Radically

After that unpleasantness, let’s elevate the tone with some art, shall we? Cleanse the palate, as it were. A reader, Don Frese, has found just the thing

Difficult territory is a cornerstone of the visual arts - so artist Mikala Dwyer knew it would be confronting last night when she invited Balletlab dancers to empty their bowels as part of a performance at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

There we go. 

The two-hour act saw the six dancers, masked but naked beneath sheer garments, move around a room in the gallery before sitting on transparent stools and performing - only if they were moved to do so - what is usually one of our most private and rarely discussed daily acts.

Now take a deep breath and steady yourself because it’s all very daring, what with all the transparency and nakedness and bodily functions. We’ve never seen anything like that before. Never. Not ever. And you can tell how daring Ms Dwyer’s art is because the venue director says so:  

ACCA director Juliana Engberg said the centre exists to support each exhibiting artist’s vision. “Of course, contemporary art is sometimes very challenging, but ACCA’s role is to work with challenging ideas,” she said. 

Yes, it’s challenging, very challenging. After all, it must be challenging - otherwise it would just be, erm, fatuous and juvenile. And that can’t be the case. Heavens, no. Being, as she is, so enlightened and so much better than the herd, Ms Dwyer’s excremental transgression will no doubt rattle the bourgeois rube and blow his tiny mind. Though in an age when just about anyone, even a bourgeois rube, can watch Two Girls One Cup on their smartphone while at work, eating lunch, inducing those fits of pearl-clutching ain’t as easy as it was. What’s a challenging artist to do? Well, she must tunnel even deeper into the aesthetic fundament: 

“When Mikala brought this idea of a performance and film dealing with material transformation and ritual to us, we evaluated it as a key and bold move in her practice, one that links to a long artistic legacy looking at alchemical transformation and magical performance. The work, while challenging taboos, never becomes sensational or gratuitous. It’s wonderful, powerful work.”

Of course it’s not just about being bold and challenging, or those “alchemical transformations.” It’s about politics too:

Dwyer said the one-off performance was not designed as a mere shock tactic. Rather, she hoped ACCA visitors would think and talk about something we have been socialised to consider dirty and shameful, and have historically hidden from view, even though it is perfectly natural. In turn, they might transform other institutionalised ideas about the world.

Yes, transforming the world. By watching people shit.

Ms Dwyer’s mighty work can be savoured in full at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, until July 28. 

Because Socialism is Never About Envy and Spite

It has long since past the time [sic] when aggressive redistribution of wealth were [sic] government policy.

So writes Guardian reader StevenMD, fuming on cue to a tale of sin and woe told by the paper’s Michele Hanson. Ms Hanson is upset because,

Manchester’s stunningly beautiful Victoria Baths… built in 1906 for thousands of ordinary people… [has been] closed since 1993. Manchester couldn’t afford to keep it open.

Oh cruel, unfeeling world. Where will all those ordinary Mancunians swim? Oh wait. It turns out that Manchester is hardly short of public swimming pools, having over twenty in fact, half of which offer free sessions for children and OAPs. Among them, the world-class Manchester Aquatics Centre, built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

Ah yes, but - but - Ms Hanson is also upset - and more upset - that someone who lives 200 miles away from Manchester has nicer things than she does:

On the edge of Hampstead Heath, north London, is one new, almost completed steel and glass house, costing squillions. Enormous silver chutes twirl down its outside, into this one family’s very own private basement pool.

Of all the things one might conceivably find scandalous and indecent, a house with an indoor pool is, I think it’s fair to say, not the most obvious. Ms Hanson is, however, determined to be outraged anyway:  

Shove your ostentatious wealth up our noses, why don’t you? The owners could probably save the Victoria Baths with their pocket money. Were I Empress of England, I would order them, and their show-off neighbours, to do so. Sadly, it won’t happen.

Despite the fact that confiscating other people’s earnings is the highest possible goal of all good-hearted people.

We aren’t told anything at all about the homeowners whose wealth so offends Ms Hanson and so animates her rage, though one doesn’t have to reach far to find the implication. Being no less pious than Ms Hanson herself, Guardian readers should assume that these ungodly types with their big house and heathen indoor swimming pool can’t have done anything, anything at all, to earn, deserve or justify their personal comforts, and they can’t have employed dozens of people, perhaps less wealthy people, to build the home that so infuriates our columnist. Indeed, there must be something wrong with the owners even to want such things. Unlike the loftier, more moral beings who seethe indignantly in the pages of the Guardian:

Last week, in a foaming temper, I was moaning on about it to another dog-walker, hoping, at least, that the super-rich were stuck at Freud’s anal stage and secretly miserable as sin. “Wrong,” says she. “I have a very wealthy friend. She lives in another world, which you can barely imagine. And she’s very happy indeed.”

Yes, Ms Hanson is hoping that all those awful people who earn more than she does are at least miserable. Piety, you see. The taste is a little bitter, I grant you, but you’ll soon get used to it. Judging by her closing comment, Ms Hanson certainly has:

You surely can’t trample people into the dirt forever. Eventually, they blow. Then the very wealthy friend will be not so happy. Can’t wait.

Ms Hanson is a socialist and therefore, like all socialists, is possessed of a big benevolent heart. That’s why she’s looking forward to misery being inflicted on people she knows nothing about, beyond the amenities of their home.

Via Julia

Friday Ephemera

A good snooze interrupted. Sound essential. // Kneel before Zod. // A door impersonates Miles Davis. (h/t, MeFi) // Dog sack. A sack for dogs. // Beethoven’s hair. // Before NASA. // Microscopic crystal flowers. // Old London in colour. // Cappuccino froth. // Nine film frames. // In case of fire. // Roam the highways with Hovertrax. // Memorial in the desert. (h/t, Metrolander) // Socialism and toilet paper. (h/t, Andrew Rowe) // Carjacker justice. // The joys of parenthood. (h/t, Jeff) // The joys of parenthood part 2. // An illustrated history of the gas mask. // Those goddamn foreigners. // Lair. (h/t, TDK) // And Jen O’Shea has an unusual leg

Elsewhere (93)

Mark Steyn on the loveliness that is Obama’s Big Government:

In April last year, the Obama campaign identified by name eight Romney donors as “a group of wealthy individuals with less than reputable records. Quite a few have been on the wrong side of the law, others have made profits at the expense of so many Americans, and still others are donating to help ensure Romney puts beneficial policies in place for them.” That week, Kimberley Strassel began her Wall Street Journal column thus: “Try this thought experiment: You decide to donate money to Mitt Romney. You want change in the Oval Office, so you engage in your democratic right to send a cheque. Several days later, President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, singles you out by name… The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money.”

Miss Strassel wrote that on April 26, 2012. Five weeks later, one of the named individuals, Frank VanderSloot, was informed by the IRS that he and his wife were being audited. In July, he was told by the Department of Labour of an additional audit over the guest workers on his cattle ranch in Idaho. In September, he was notified that one of his other businesses was to be audited. Mr VanderSloot, who had never previously been audited, attracted three in the four months after being publicly named by el Presidente.

Worth reading in full. Some links regarding the IRS scandal can be found here, here, here and here. Somewhat related, more lovely government for your own good. And some fans of big government.

Thomas Sowell on words that replace thought:

You don’t need a speck of evidence, or a single step of logic, when you rhapsodise about the supposed benefits of diversity. The very idea of testing this wonderful, magical word against something as ugly as reality seems almost sordid. To ask whether institutions that promote diversity 24/7 end up with better or worse relations between the races than institutions that pay no attention to it is only to get yourself regarded as a bad person. To cite hard evidence that places obsessed with diversity have worse race relations is to risk getting yourself labelled an incorrigible racist. Free thinking is not free.

And Cathy Young on standards of academic feminism:

No scholarly text is ever error-free. But in the case of Kimmel’s book, there is a consistent pattern of using selective evidence and even pseudo-facts to stress women’s victimisation and paint males (particularly American males) in the worst light. The fictitious claim that most boys would choose death over girlhood – which will undoubtedly live on the internet after it’s gone from future editions of the book – fits seamlessly into the big picture. Internet myths aside, The Gender Society is widely used in college courses. And if it is indeed the most balanced gender studies textbook available – which may well be true – that says a lot about the rest.

Tsk. Questioning the accuracy of feminist textbooks is like hunting blind orphans for sport. It’s frowned upon, to say the least.

[ Added via the comments: ]

Guido Fawkes and Tim Blair note the superb leftwing credentials of the BBC’s latest Newsnight editor:

Fair, balanced and impartial Ian Katz will have no trouble fitting in… He is reunited with former Guardian colleague Allegra Stratton and, in Paul Mason, he has an ex-Trotskyist Workers’ Power group member as his Economics Editor.

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

Reheated (34)

For newcomers, more items from the archives.

Like Fun, But Less So.

Bonfire Night is insufficiently glum. Something must be done.

An earlier Guardian poll - Should Fireworks be Banned on Environmental Grounds? - was a close-run thing, with a narrow majority willing to permit an evening of explosive hedonism. The Guardian’s Felicity Carus suggested a possible compromise in the form of “green fireworks,” a quieter, less colourful, less explosive alternative made from sawdust and rice chaff.

Behold My Virtue.

The colossal self-awareness of Mr Sunny Hundal.

Some people weigh their activist credentials by the annoyance they arouse, often deliberately, while dismissing the irritation as symptomatic of exposure to the Daily Mail. The degree of inconvenience and subsequent hostility can then be taken as evidence of one’s own righteousness and a cause for satisfaction. As if on cue, Sunny Hundal tells us: “Environmental issues is one area where I don’t yield much, and frankly when people snort angrily about [anti-air travel activists] Plane Stupid, that gives me even more pleasure.” Though not, I suspect, quite as much pleasure as Mr Hundal’s own extensive air travel adventures, which were excitedly announced shortly before his declaration of support for Plane Stupid: “Honestly, I love these guys.” Now I’ve no objection at all to people flying halfway around the planet, twice, as Mr Hundal did, to India then California, but I’m not the one declaring my “hard-line” green credentials.

The Master’s Tools.

Marxoid lesbianism, where the party never stops.

Margaret Jamison is a lesbian feminist who defines rape as “all penile intercourse” on grounds that, “there is something wrong with this notion that a woman’s ‘consent’ is what separates a rapist from a non-rapist.” When not insisting that “all heterosex is rape,” Jamison’s thoughts turn a little too readily to the subject of harming children: “I believe male infanticide to be a better option than the current circumstances. I think it’s better than what we’ve got.”

Our Brightest Minds.

Meet Arun Smith, the ideal self-satisfied product of a leftist education.

Despite his extensive commentary on the subject, Arun Smith still hasn’t specified any actual remark that offended him sufficiently to vandalise the university’s free speech wall then boast about it online. However, he does tell us that expectations of free speech are “structurally oppressive.” Quizzed on his presumed entitlement to violence, Mr Smith replies, “You forget that writing can be violence. Resistance to violence is not violence.” And so he, being heroic, must resist and intervene to save some (again unspecified and exquisitely precious) potential victim. In this case, presumably, he’s saving them from the psychological hazard of passing by the statement “traditional marriage is awesome.” Four words that would obviously shatter the self-esteem of any vulnerable student already on the verge of weeping. Such are the dramas to be enacted in the modern Canadian university, one of the most indulgent and cossetting environments in the history of the world.

Sombre Jeans, Radical Bag.

The Guardian’s fashion guru Charlie Porter has a bag that’s much too daring for Canary Wharf security.

“I heard someone behind me. I turned and saw a man in jeans and a plain top. ‘Security,’ he said quietly but firmly, showing me some ID. ‘Can I have a word?’ He asked to see my bag. ‘Is it yours?’ I said yes, incredulous. This felt like a parallel universe. ‘It’s just that we’ve had a lot of women’s handbag thefts. You can’t be too careful.’”

For more, grab a torch and waders and explore the greatest hits

He’s So Liberal, You See

In today’s Guardian, George Monbiot is stressing a pressing need. Specifically,

The need for a disinterested class of intellectuals which acts as a counterweight to prevailing mores.

And without which, 

Racism, nationalism and war are only three of the many hazards to which society is exposed. 

For George, these superior intellects must be free of dirty commerce, even corporate donations for new buildings and scholarships, in order to denounce - and thereby correct - the public’s general preference for free markets and lower taxes. The state may spend more of our earnings and regulate more of our affairs than at any time in living memory, but it still isn’t big enough for George. And so someone must save the lower orders from “neoliberal economists,” “imperialist historians” and “war-mongering philosophers,” all of whom would otherwise warp our tiny, undeveloped minds. An arrangement of the kind Mr Monbiot envisions, presumably funded by the taxpayer and in which our self-anointed betters denounce “economic growth and the forces that drive it,” is a disinterested one, see, and thus pure of motive. Just like socialism. Plus, this enlightened “class of intellectuals” – which is to say, people very much like George – is all that will save us from racism, nationalism and even war. 

Like his ideological peers in the world of art, Mr Monbiot regards money from companies, given freely, as a distilled wickedness that corrupts all it touches; while money extracted from taxpayers, forcibly, is morally hygienic and apparently without limit. All very humble and egalitarian. Not at all like the fantasy of yet another would-be socialist overlord. George, after all, is known for his immense modesty, as when he expressed his contempt for those who dare to disagree with him, all of whom were waved aside as dullard conservatives struggling with racial phobias. “The other side,” he announced, is “on average more stupid than our own.” Guardian readers - known far and wide as The Great Thinkers Of Our Era™ - were told in no uncertain terms that “conservatism thrives on low intelligence” and “appeals to stupidity.” “Conservative ideology,” said George, “is the critical pathway from low intelligence to racism.” And all of this in contrast with liberals such as himself, who are apparently “self-deprecating” and “too liberal for their own good.” 

Readers who wish to sup more wisdom from Mr Monbiot’s milky teats can do so here, here and here

Elsewhere (92)

Kevin Williamson on innovation versus the state:

We treat technological progress as though it were a natural process, and we speak of Moore’s law — computers’ processing power doubles every two years — as though it were one of the laws of thermodynamics. But it is not an inevitable, natural process. It is the outcome of a particular social order. When I am speaking to students, I like to show them a still from the Oliver Stone movie Wall Street in which the masterful financier Gordon Gekko is talking on his cell phone, a Motorola DynaTac 8000X. The students always — always — laugh: The ridiculous thing is more than a foot long and weighs a couple of pounds. But the revelatory fact that takes a while to sink in is this: You had to be a millionaire to have one. The phone cost the equivalent of nearly $10,000, it cost about $1,000 a month to operate, and you couldn’t text or play Angry Birds on it… By comparison, an iPhone 5 is a wonder, a commonplace miracle. 

My question for the students is: How is it that the cell phones in your pockets get better and cheaper every year, but your schools get more expensive and less effective? How is it that Gordon Gekko’s ultimate status symbol looks to our eyes as ridiculous as Molly Ringwald’s Reagan-era wardrobe and asymmetrical hairdos? That didn’t just happen.

Heather Mac Donald on the self-destruction of the humanities:

In the summer of 2012, as the University of California reeled from one piece of bad budget news to another, a veteran political columnist sounded an alarm. Cuts in state funding were jeopardising the university’s mission of preserving the “cultural legacy essential to any great society,” Peter Schrag warned in the Sacramento Bee: “Would we know who we are without knowing our common history and culture, without knowing Madison and Jefferson and Melville and Dickinson and Hawthorne; without Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer; without Dante and Cervantes; without Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen; without Goethe and Molière; without Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; without Mozart, Rembrandt and Michelangelo; without the Old Testament; without the Gospels; without Plato and Aristotle, without Homer and Sophocles and Euripides, without Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky; without Gabriel García Márquez and Toni Morrison?”

Schrag’s appeal to the value of humanistic study was unimpeachable. It just happened to be laughably ignorant about the condition of such study at the University of California. Stingy state taxpayers aren’t endangering the transmission of great literature, philosophy, and art; the university itself is. No UC administrator would dare to invoke Schrag’s list of mostly white, mostly male thinkers as an essential element of a UC education; no UC campus has sought to ensure that its undergraduates get any exposure to even one of Schrag’s seminal thinkers (with the possible exception of Toni Morrison), much less to America’s founding ideas or history.

Related to the above, Jennifer Kabbany on not taking notice:

Leaders of the University of California system have agreed to disagree with – and outright dismiss without discussion – a lengthy report that details examples of leftist bias by professors and within social science curriculums throughout the 10-campus system.

John Murtagh on when terrorism is a credential among leftist academics:

Forty-three years ago last month, Kathy Boudin, now a professor at Columbia but then a member of the Weather Underground, escaped an explosion at a bomb factory operated in a townhouse in Greenwich Village. The story is familiar to people of a certain age. Three weeks earlier, Boudin’s Weathermen had firebombed a private home in Upper Manhattan with Molotov cocktails. Their target was my father, a New York state Supreme Court justice. The rest of the family was, presumably, an afterthought. I was 9 at the time, only a year older than the youngest victim in Boston. One of Boudin’s colleagues, Cathy Wilkerson, related in her memoir that the Weathermen were disappointed with the minimal effects of the bombs at my home. They decided to use dynamite the next time and bought a large quantity along with fuses, metal pipes and, yes, nails.

Given recent events in Boston, this may not have been the best time for Robert Redford to release his film hagiography of that same leftwing terrorist group. And it may surprise readers to learn just how many former terrorists have been beckoned to the bosom of academia. Must be all that “social justice” and “speaking truth to power” we hear so much about.

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

Friday Ephemera

Dexter the baby duck tries to stay awake. // Bohemian Rhapsody in Blue. // Scientomology. // Lovely amphibians. // A visual history of meteorite impacts. // Crashed planes, the passengers of which survived. // Essential for new parents, the Huggies TweetPee. // Tiny goat rides horse. // Here is today. Context matters. // Music genre map. From baroque through chillwave to doo-wop and beyond. // “Delivering a dinosaur to the Boston Museum of Science, 1984.” // Some “affordable” apartments in New York City. (h/t, Rafi) // Records made of wood not entirely successful. // The sound of learned stupidity. // The sound of fartscroll

Deadly, Deadly Biscuits

So deadly, in fact, we must be steered away from biscuits deemed too substantial:

Biscuits could be made smaller under plans to cut obesity rates by reducing the amount of fat in the nation’s diet. Ministers are set to demand that food manufacturers, cafes and supermarkets reduce the portion size of items high in saturated fat, such as biscuits, doughnuts, milky coffees and cakes. Under the plans, seen by the Telegraph, customers could be encouraged to buy low-fat options by restricting the availability of less healthy food in restaurants and shops. 

Making it more difficult to buy certain popular items is encouragement, see? The concern for us is touching. Thank goodness The Clever Ones are in charge. 

However, Department of Health officials have suggested there is a risk that smaller portions of items such as biscuits and cakes will simply lead to customers buying more and could fail to reduce their fat intake overall. Customers could also find themselves at risk of being ripped off if retailers charge the same price for less generous portions.

It’s not just biscuits of course. There’s always a list. 

Officials suggested actions that companies could take to help reduce the amount of fat that customers consume, including coffee shops using “low fat milks” as the “default option.” Caterers and shops could also use reduced fat cheese and spreads as standard.

If the Department of Health has time to fret about our use of undiluted milk and the size of our biscuits, perhaps it’s time to rethink the scope, staffing and budget of the Department of Health. A much slimmer one seems in order.

Friday Ephemera

Kyukyoku!! Hentai Kamen!” Oh yes, it’s real. (h/t, Simen) // Hong Kong inflatables. // Kittens and fish. // Finger tripods for eating messy food. // Paper birds. // Animated atoms. // These nanoparticles are assembling themselves in real time. // Science and bogies, together at last. // The best bit of Iron Man 3. // New York 360. //Further to this, Batman villains reimagined as 1920s mugshots. // A cathode-ray TV and a magnet. // Films and their colour palettes. //Films with smoking in them (and how much). (h/t, Chris Snowdon) // Do not screw with Helen Mirren. // “Women who wear revealing clothing are to blame for earthquakes.” // Panama City murals. // The newspaper’s long goodbye. // Liu Bolin is difficult to see. (h/t, Andrew Grichting) // Indoor clouds. (h/t, Dr Westerhaus) // How much cocaine could you fit inside your body? No, the other end.