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July 2013

Reheated (35)

For newcomers, more items from the archives.

Because Socialism is Never About Envy and Spite.

The Guardian’s Michele Hanson wishes fear and misery on people she doesn’t know.

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.

Racist Hair.

Attention dreadlocked honkies. Don’t colonise my black essence with your white racist hair.

Thankfully, the author is determined to make the world a kinder, fairer, fluffier place - a feat that’s to be achieved by everyone else doing exactly as she says. And so, should you encounter a pale person with politically incorrect hair, the author’s suggested response – the “only appropriate thing” - is to deliver a long, un-paragraphed diatribe with fits of random shouting.

Setting Fire to Your Cash Because They can

The Arts Council knows best. So shut the hell up and hand over your wallet. 

And then there’s the remarkably unpopular West Bromwich arts centre, boldly named The Public, which two years after opening had failed to attract a single paying customer. The venue, which promised to “make the arts more accessible,” had nonetheless managed to consume almost £60 million of public money and suffered three insolvencies. Among the aesthetic wonders sadly neglected by locals was a piece by the artist Michael Pinchbeck, a “five year live art project” called The Long and Winding Road. For his mammoth and challenging installation, Mr Pinchbeck “packed a car with the belongings of his brother and drove to Liverpool where his brother died in 1998.” After touring the nation and presenting his car full of rammle to any passers-by who wandered too close and paused fractionally too long, Mr Pinchbeck announced that he would conclude his mighty artistic work by “driving the car into the River Mersey.” The car was subsequently crushed and its fragments displayed for further enrichment of the public. Not to be outdone, the West Bromwich arts centre had its own, no less ambitious announcement regarding the project: “Admission will be on a first-come-first-served basis.”

Bearing Down, Radically.

Artist Mikala Dwyer is “challenging taboos” and “transforming the world” by inviting naked dancers to shit onstage. It’s a “wonderful, powerful work.”

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?

Feel free to cavort through the greatest hits. Donations will only encourage me.

Responding to Semen, Belatedly

Mr Eugenides guides us to another classic sentence from the Guardian. Specifically, a classic subheading:

A year after being sexually abused on a tube train I returned to dance for all women who have been assaulted.

The article in question, by Ellie Cosgrave, is titled I Danced Against Sexual Assault on the Tube to Reclaim it for Women. In it, Ms Cosgrave recounts a revolting incident: 

When a man pressed his erection against me on a crowded tube carriage, it’s hard to describe exactly how I felt. As he started breathing heavily down my neck, my body clenched and I willed the next stop to come so I could untangle myself and get to work. 

I can’t help feeling there’s something missing here. I think it’s where the punching should go. Along with the outrage, the protest, the alerting of other passengers and the summoning of police. 

On arriving in the office I found semen streaked down the back of my legs, and my heart sank. I scuttled off to the toilets to clean myself up before my morning meeting.

Clearly, the encounter was not a happy one. Payback was in order. 

Over the year that followed I became increasingly angry, until eventually it was all I could talk about… On International Women’s Day I went back to the spot where my incident happened. I held a sign explaining what had happened to me, and I danced. I danced my protest, and it felt right. It was petrifying, exhilarating, and soothing all at once, and it was absolutely fitting. 

Because when some creep on the tube whips out his tackle and starts masturbating against you, the best thing to do, the most fitting thing to do, is to wait a year then gyrate like a mad person in front of random strangers, most of whom are trying very hard not to notice. Yes, make a scene. A year later. And if there’s one thing tube masturbators respond to, it’s bad performance art they’ll never get to see. By “dancing loudly,” she tells us, “I feel a unity with all the women across the world who refuse to be silent.”

Amid the various commenters rushing to let others know that they’re “ashamed to be a man,” one Guardian reader adds their support with a review of Ms Cosgrave’s incongruous display:  

I loved the juxtaposition of your dance, cleansing the space and reclaiming it, with the poles of the tube. The image created of the objectification of the female form as a pole dancer and the expressiveness of performing a dance of catharsis. 

It’s difficult to tell whether the comment is sincere or some laser-guided parody. But such is the Guardian and its readership.

The Parody Horizon

Is dry asparagus a racial issue?

A line beyond which there’s little to add. 

A dried-out batch of asparagus has touched off a debate about racial discrimination, grocery stores and the role of citizen-led commissions. It started in May when resident David Olander was perusing the produce section of the University City Schnucks. He noticed the asparagus weren’t resting in a tray of water. “It was just sitting there dried out,” said Olander, a member of the city’s human relations commission. Olander summoned an assistant manager, and then he asked the question: Did the quality of the asparagus have any relationship to the store’s location in a black neighbourhood?

“I certainly hope not,” Olander recalled the manager saying. Olander’s experience prompted him to write a letter to Schnucks CEO Scott Schnuck, and out of that came a meeting with Schnucks employees. But the letter and meeting were tinged with allegations that the St Louis area’s largest grocery chain was discriminating against minority communities — accusations that Schnucks vehemently denies… Most of these events occurred without the knowledge of the City Council — some of whom were upset to learn that someone representing a city commission had levelled racial discrimination accusations against one of the city’s long-standing businesses…. 

Mayor Shelley Welsch, however, doesn’t believe the commission acted outside its authority. The seven-member commission advises the City Council on a variety of matters to prevent discrimination and foster a welcoming environment. “If they perceive something is different, they have the right to ask why,” Welsch said… Olander, meanwhile, stands by his actions. The asparagus he saw back in May was a far cry from the asparagus he had seen at the Schnucks about eight miles away in Ladue, where it sat in water, looking beautiful, he told his fellow commissioners, according to a recording of the meeting. Olander admitted to being in an “ornery mood” the day he visited the store. “I just felt like stirring it up a little bit, letting them know that somebody cares,” he said. 

I will, though, note that if a person’s mission in life and their own claim on piety is to hunt out witches, they will, in time, find witches everywhere.

Via Julia. Related, a Guardian columnist ponders truffles, rap and “a new kind of black identity.” 

Two Balls Bad, No Balls Good

A phrase I borrow from a remarkably sane Guardian reader, responding to this article by Mike Power, a man apparently determined to atone for having such a patriarchal name. First, picture the scene:

All across Britain, the whiff of charred, low-quality sausage meat is hanging in the summer haze. And with it, floating almost indistinguishably in the grease-filled air across the garden fences, is blokey barbecue chat. 

And then, this being the Guardian

If there is anything less compelling but more oppressively penetrating than the conversation of four suburban men discussing how to light and then operate a barbecue, I have yet to hear it.

You heard him, it’s oppressively penetrating. Why so, you ask?

What really drains the joy from the summer breeze is the assumption, and the practice, that this is Man’s Work. All over the UK, probably the world, the barbecue is now one of the last places where even normal blokes become sexist.

Yes, I know. Two for our archive of classic sentences. Mr Power is upset, as all right-thinking people should be, that some heinous “biological determinism” holds sway in the warm weather custom of cooking outdoors. A cultural phenomenon that, we learn, “sees women as salad-spinners and men as the keepers of the grill, the tenders of the flame, lords and masters of the meat.” “It’s a sausage-fest out there,” says Mr Power. “And it’s getting ugly.” Because there’s nothing uglier than the sight of menfolk indulging, often knowingly, in a clichéd male behaviour – cooking for friends and family, and making sure that everyone is having a good time. None of which impedes our slayer of the patriarchy. He has credentials to display and boilerplate to churn: 

The mythology of meat is well marbled with machismo. 

I’ll just leave that one there, shall I? 

Continue reading "Two Balls Bad, No Balls Good" »

Friday Ephemera

Baby bangs. // The clap-off bra. When time is short. // The $6 foot-long black hotdog. // Ways to say “beer.” // A brief history of wiretapping. // Swing of note. // Japanese schoolgirl with an electromechanical exoskeleton. // How to make slime. // Waterspout, Florida. // How clothes should fit. // Cat wedding, 1914. // Alfred Hitchcock explains the MacGuffin. // It’s a law, like gravity. // Attention UFO enthusiasts. // New York’s summer of ’69. // A stylish radiophonograph. // Frank Zappa plays the bicycle. (h/t, Coudal) // Piglet, ice cream and parasol. // And Kate reminds us why San Francisco’s public transport is second to none. 

And Now Some Art

Brace yourselves, people, I’m elevating the tone and it’s a steep incline. Prepare to weep with delight as your very soul is embiggened. Thanks, of course, to our old friend the “much praised” Bulgarian performance artist Mr Ivo Dimchev, whose theatrical stylings, “impressive physical idiom” and “gripping sensitivity” have thrilled us previously. Here, we turn to Mr Dimchev’s epic 75-minute collaboration with sculptor and fellow artistic titan Mr Franz West. The project, titled X-ON, features the bare-breasted gyrations of Yen Yi-Tzu, Veronika Zott, Christian Bakalov and of course Mr Dimchev, who also had a hand in the musical score and whose talents clearly extend beyond mere human measurement. The piece - of which the video below is, sadly, but a small taste - will be featured at the Vienna International Dance Festival on Sunday July 21st, and is summarised thusly

Dressed only in high heels and sumptuously decorated panties, bald-headed and endowed with the voice of an opera singer, the queer diva Lili Handel moves about and manipulates sculptures by the famous Austrian artist Franz West. And three figures, who are tourists at first but then mutate into muse-like creatures, dance with her to the spherical and powerful music by Philipp Quehenberger. According to Ivo Dimchev – alias Lili Handel – the point is not “to find ways to accommodate West’s works to the dancers’ bodies and the stage but to find out in what way ideas of the theatre, of music and of the performative body must adapt and transform themselves to establish contact with these sculptures.” 

Unlike in his previous offering, Mr Dimchev doesn’t masturbate with a wig. He does, however, extract some of his own blood before smearing it on a chair. So there’s that. Yes, I know. You’re champing at the bit, itching to become one with the cultural elite. And stocked up on liquor, I hope. So. On with the show…

Continue reading "And Now Some Art" »

I’m Sorry, But Your Utopia is Just a Little Creepy

Ed Driscoll quotes Rich Lowry on ‘progressive’ parenthood:

As the ultimate private institution, the family is a stubborn obstacle to the great collective effort. Insofar as people invest in their own families, they are holding out on the state and unacceptably privileging their own kids over the children of others. These parents are selfish, small-minded, and backward. “Once it’s everybody’s responsibility,” [MSNBC host, Melissa] Harris-Perry said of child-rearing, “and not just the households, then we start making better investments.”

This impulse toward the state as über-parent is based on a profound fallacy and a profound truth. The fallacy is that anyone can care about someone else’s children as much as his own. The former Texas Republican senator Phil Gramm liked to illustrate the hollowness of such claims with a story. He told a woman, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.” She said, “No, you don’t.” Gramm replied, “Okay: What are their names?” The truth is that parents are one of society’s most incorrigible sources of inequality. If you have two of them who stay married and are invested in your upbringing, you have hit life’s lottery. You will reap untold benefits denied to children who aren’t so lucky. That the family is so essential to the well-being of children has to be a constant source of frustration to the egalitarian statist, a reminder of the limits of his power.

Echoes of this attitude – that your children shouldn’t be privileged in your affections above the children of others - can be found in the pages of the left’s national newspaper. As, for instance, when Arabella Weir insisted that parents must make sacrifices - not for their own children, of course, which would be selfish and irresponsible - but of their own children. For the Greater Good. Children, see, must learn “who to be wary of, who to avoid, how to keep their heads down” by mingling conspicuously with “people of different abilities” and “local roughs,” including local roughs who see bookish children as prey. By Ms Weir’s thinking, if you had a grim and frustrating experience at a state comprehensive school, you should still want to inflict that same experience on your own offspring. Ideally, by sending them to a disreputable school with poor educational standards, demoralised teachers and lots of people for whom English is at best a second language. This, then, is what makes “a good, responsible citizen.”

The notion of children as collective property, something to be distributed for optimal social effect, as determined by the left, isn’t hard to find. Nor is it hard to find the penalties for thinking otherwise. As when the Guardian’s education journalist Janet Murray, who is presumably familiar with the eye-widening surveys of state schooling teaching staff, decided to spare her daughter those same physical and psychological thrills. And was promptly denounced by her readers in no uncertain terms. At least a dozen commenters called Ms Murray “selfish” on grounds that she is paying extra for her child’s education while also paying via taxes for a state system that she doesn’t regard as fit for use. (Paying twice, for her own child and for others, apparently makes her “elitist,” “uncaring” and mean.) Amid the inevitable accusations of racism and moral degeneracy, several readers took comfort, indeed pleasure, in the belief that Ms Murray would soon be fired for her heresy thus leaving her unable to afford her daughter’s tuition. Proof, if more were needed, that the Guardian is read by the nation’s most caring, enlightened and tolerant people. 

Continue reading "I’m Sorry, But Your Utopia is Just a Little Creepy" »