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August 2013

Friday Ephemera

Velociraptor prank. // A herd of deer relaxes in Japan. // Pig head cake. Nummy nummy num. // Unused Bond themes, including Johnny Cash’s Thunderball and Alice Cooper’s Man with the Golden Gun. // Narrow apartments squeezed between buildings. // Self-balancing robot sofa. // Llama therapy. // Fritz Lang’s M. // Mongolian hotel. // Oh, Firefly, we miss you. // Chick fight. // Infuse your vodka. // Unused Avengers intros, 1 and 2. // Tiny and spinning fast in search of quantum friction. // The whereabouts of snails. // SR-71. // Cloud, Alberta. // Control panels of note. // And why are there always trainers hanging from phone lines? 

Moloch is Hungry

Slate’s Allison Benedikt stands at the altar and demands sacrifice:

You are a bad person if you send your children to private school… I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental… If every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.

Yes, I know. We’ve been here before

Via Jeff Guinn.

Improving Us From Above

The academic Robert Skidelsky - that’s Baron Skidelsky, of Tilton - shares with Observer readers his vision of the good life. Or, more accurately, his vision of How Other People Should Be Made To Live™:

Society would be organised so the average person only has to work for a living three hours a day. For one thing, it is possible that person might enjoy his work so much he would want to work longer at it without more pay. There would I think be a huge proliferation of hobbies and adult education. A big expansion in travel. These things would fill many of the hours.

Quizzed, albeit briefly, on the practical implications of this time-rich, low-budget, very organised utopia – implications that include closed borders, consumption taxes, an end to economic growth and of course boredom - Mr Skideslsky replies,

It would require some restriction, I suppose. 

The exact nature of this “restriction” is left oddly unexplored. This, after all, is an Observer interview. However, we do learn that, 

Advertising… could be limited to a certain number of hours a week. 

And someone, someone much wiser than the herd, would have to be put in charge of all that organising and limiting - of advertising and pretty much everything else. After all, says our deep thinker, “a change in philosophy would have to come first.” Hm. Why does that sound familiar? Perhaps Mr Skideslsky, like the Guardian’s George Monbiot, imagines a publicly subsidised “class of intellectuals” – people much like himself, in fact – who would correct the public’s preferences and guide us to “the good life.” (The same Mr Monbiot, incidentally, who thinks “wealth causes misery” and therefore “we” should be more like the peasants of Southern Ethiopia, who “smile more often” than we do and whose fields “crackle with laughter.”)

“Why don’t more people aspire to living a good life?” asks our architect of tomorrow, before blaming Margaret Thatcher. Why doesn’t the rabble want what he knows is good for us? And what’s good for us, apparently, is not earning more than Mr Skidesky deems “enough.” It seems we shouldn’t want to travel the world, as Mr Skidelsky does, or sunbathe by the pool at the Caracas Hilton, as Mr Skidelsky did, or own a house as comfortable and spacious as his. “Keynes never owned a house in his life,” says he, “neither for that matter did Virginia Woolf.” And so why should we, the little people? Mr Skidelsky imagines his inferiors “living good lives, surrounding themselves with beauty.” It’s just that he’d rather we didn’t get to own much of it, or have enough money to make more of it happen. Utopia, you see, will “require some restriction.”

Robert Skidelsky is the father of Edward Skidelsky, a sociology lecturer and Guardian contributor who also wants the state to make “us” embrace “less acquisitive modes of living,” thereby saving us from the morally corrupting horror of expensive cars, sushi boxes and pre-washed salad

Friday Ephemera

Admit it, he’s cooler than you. // Cleaning windows in New York City. // The owl and the pussycat. // Carnivorous caterpillar of note. // Things taken apart. // 100,000 digits of Pi. // The U.K.’s power grid. // Youthifying exercise mask. // Shittens. And yes, there’s a jingle. // Interactive timelines of slang terms for male and female genitalia. // It’s a good-news-bad-news story. // Hot dog legs. (h/t, Iowahawk) // An awful lot of history in one big chart. // Bambi abducted by aliens. // Dog feeds baby goats with customised milk pants. // Dolly Parton, slowed down. (h/t, Kurt) // And via Dr Westerhaus, can you do what Miyoko Shida does

Another Blow to the Patriarchy

Giant 12-metre screaming vagina installed in women’s prison

Joburgers have a chance to stroll through a huge walk-in vagina thanks to an art installation erected at the old Women’s Jail in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, the Sunday Times reported. “By creating this vagina which you walk into, it contains you as the viewer, but also screams and laughs, almost like a battle cry which revolts against the prison,” the artist Reshma Chhiba told the newspaper. The walkway - installed in section two of the jail - is 12 metres long and made up of red velvet and cotton. A soundtrack of laughter and screaming plays throughout.

“Not many people – men or women – are unfazed about walking through this vaginal canal,” said Chhiba. She said that despite the fact the work was linked to the Hindu goddess Kali, she did not want herself to be seen as someone only making Indian art. “It’s a global vagina,” said Chhiba. The walkthrough is part of a larger project – ‘The Two Talking Yonis’ (Yoni is Sanskrit for vulva) – in which photographs and paintings are exhibited at two other venues. “It’s scary to people raised with certain patriarchal values,” she told the Sunday Times.

The artist discusses her giant and empowering vagina here

Three Snippets from One Paper

Author and doomsayer Hal Niedzviecki highlights a gathering of great import:

This weekend the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire will be home to Uncivilisation 2013, which describes itself as “a gathering of people searching for answers to questions about our collective future in a rapidly changing and depleting world.” About 400 people are expected to attend sessions including a wild-food foraging workshop, a talk on moving beyond a monetary-based economy, and a ceremony of singers and storytellers leading the group in a “liturgy of loss.” 

And who here could resist a congregation of climate catastrophists and unemployed poets – sorry, “artists and thinkers” - who tell us their words “will be elemental” and will “weave reality,” and who also tell us they will write these elemental, reality-weaving words “with dirt under our fingernails.” These brave People Of Tomorrow™ will gather in tepees and fiddle with twigs, while awaiting the end of capitalism and bourgeois decadence. They will dine on halloumi burgers and Fair Trade carrot cake. Women will blossom in a “creative making and conversation space.” Men will be helped to “reconcile their polarities.” Oh, and there’ll also be a scything workshop. Poetry and scything is clearly the way forward.

Meanwhile, the BBC’s Newsnight economics editor and former Workers’ Power enthusiast Paul Mason asks the big questions

Which do I leave first: Facebook or Twitter? I’ve been mulling that question for about a year now, but it always seemed theoretical. 

You see, users of Twitter include some obnoxious idiots and “it will be a disaster if Twitter becomes dysfunctional.” Yes, “the stakes are high.” And so something must be done. Something “radical and collective.”

And then there’s Mr George Monbiot, whose insights have thrilled us previously. Today he rails against the “machismo” of fracking and other “manly extractive industries”

Who wants to make speeches about sewage when you can stride manfully around drilling rigs in a hard hat and a yellow jacket?

Fracking, it turns out, “is not about jobs. It’s not about securing energy supplies. It’s not even about the money.” Brace yourselves, readers. The truth is shocking: “The government’s enthusiasm for fracking arises from something it shares with politicians the world over: a macho fixation with extractive industries.” Yes, “extraction is an ideology, gendered and gendering” and “wherever there are resources to be extracted, you can see this testeria at work.” Damn those alpha males and their strutting and extracting, ruggedly impressing the womenfolk with their “stiff backs and jutting jaws.” And their testeria. Don’t they understand that the world could be saved if all men were more like George?

Yes, I know. It’s almost a miniature psych profile.

Friday Ephemera

The cat in a shark costume riding a vacuum cleaner returns. In night vision mode. // Pond water inhabitants. // Your very own drinking horn. // Nazis on the Moon? // Quote of note. Explained in detail here. // Stool of note. // Sweets sorted by colour. // Streetmix. // One day all actors will have compressed faces. // Forests from above. // First issues of famous magazines. // Fight like Shatner. I dare you. // Ocean floor cams. // For Julia, the evolution of Wolverine’s wardrobe. // Avengers sex toys. // Europe’s architecture by night. (h/t, Tim) // Architecture and abseiling. (h/t, Dr Westerhaus) // Minding the gap in Singapore. // Layering paper

Not Hearing His Own

While we’re on the subject of odd Guardian articles - odder than usual, I mean - here’s another. Owen Hatherley, formerly a contributor to the Socialist Worker and Socialist Review, is today telling his readers that “capitalism is altering our language” in dastardly ways that must be resisted. He knows this because he regards unique, individual and choose as “particularly acquisitive words.” For him, it seems, the words unique, individual and choose signify first and foremost avarice and rapaciousness - nasty things like that. So no tendentious altering of language there. As you might expect, Mr Hatherley is also unhappy about the word consumer, which, he says, is “a word we now use entirely unthinkingly to describe the ‘consumption’ of everything from shoes to food to health care.” Note the use of we, by which of course he means you’re the ones “unthinkingly” talking about consumers, unlike our mentally nimble class warrior, who wishes to “reveal the pernicious assumptions behind these professedly innocuous words.” 

Mr Hatherley previously enlightened us with his belief that making vaguely alternative pop music is all but impossible without an Arts Council grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a bohemian squat. And so leftwing musicians must be subsidised by the taxpayer until they become sufficiently “class conscious.” Our self-described Marxist also wants us to share a toilet and kitchen with people we may not like, and thereby “look beyond our obsession with private space.” Wanting your own living space, a little freedom from the tribe, is apparently an obsession, i.e., something bad and unhealthy. Rather than, say, a sign of not being a student or a hippie. Communes are a good thing and “increasingly sensible,” according to Mr Hatherley, while “insularity” – which is to say, privacy and individual territory– is not. “Other ways of living are possible,” says he, though he doesn’t disclose whether this morally improving arrangement is good enough for him.

And of course Mr Hatherley recently shared his sadness that the hammer and sickle is now unfashionable due to its unflattering connotations. Apparently it’s good to have an eye-catching symbol of “class conflict and egalitarianism.” Somehow, Mr Hatherley doesn’t register that those unflattering, indeed monstrous, connotations were an inevitable consequence of a monstrous ideology, i.e., of Marxism, with which presumably he has some sympathy.

Sweating From The Effort

Apparently it’s the duty of every female Guardian contributor to air her feminist credentials at regular intervals and to find a feminist angle for pretty much anything that moves. So you can imagine the pressure bearing down on the paper’s feature writer Sophie Heawood, who, deadline looming, strains heroically to make a feminist point. Any feminist point:

My daughter has recently become obsessed with the size of her poos – and they are all big, according to her, whether they look to me like they came out of a greedy Jack Russell or a sickly church mouse. “Big poo, Mummy,” she says, in awed tones – awed by her own bottom. “Big poo.” 

Stick with it, she’ll get there. And there may be some classic sentences to file along the way. 

I, in turn, have become desperately proud of her pride. I’m so in love with her big poos that I can’t bear the idea of them stopping.

No. Don’t. Bad dog.

Now brace yourselves because here come the guts of the article, the meat of it, wrapped with a single-ply tissue of regulation feminism:

[I can’t bear the idea] of her realising that they aren’t things you want to show off about. Of the day when somebody makes it clear to her, whether by accident or design, that sweet little girls aren’t supposed to describe the massive steaming achievements cruising out of their bums.

Curse the patriarchy, stopping little goddesses finding triumph and validation in the size of their stools.

That curly little blondes such as she should desire to be small, and contained, and clean, and dress up as pink princesses. And shut up about their dirty selves; already, enough. I dread the day those whopper turds have got to go… And I think about how much of what girls do is about making themselves smaller. Wanting to suck their waists in and be thin. To not have said so much in public, with such an impact. To be like Hello Kitty – all smile, no mouth.

Sorrows such as this must be shared with friends.

A friend told me yesterday that her four-year-old announced she had done a poo “like a brown dolphin.” Another friend remembers her little sister sitting on a potty and saying, “Look! It is a beautiful golden sun!” before they all waved it goodbye, discussing the beautiful sunset as they flushed it down the loo. I know I must, but I am resistant. I do not want to flush my daughter’s beautiful sunsets down the loo.

Hey, don’t blame me for lowering the tone. Julia found it.


Continue reading "Sweating From The Effort" »

Friday Ephemera

A cat in a shark costume rides a vacuum cleaner. // Rule the skies with OstrichCopter. (h/t, Julia) // PandaCam, obviously. // A mirror for couples. // How to make Pimms. // The poetry of Mr Eugenides. // The ultimate movie trailer? The art of. And yes, they’re getting faster. // “It records what you heard five minutes ago.” // Kitchen knives of note. // Enormous 15-tonne ‘fatberg’ blocks sewer, brings toilets to a standstill. // How to make a tiny toilet out of a banana. // A brief history of evil clowns. // Stainless steel bass guitar. // And finally, the bathtub interface for “augmented interaction.” Just be careful what pokes above the water.