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November 2013

This Isn’t How My Gran Did It

A “craftivist” is apparently someone who “uses traditional craft techniques for a political or social activism purpose.” Say, when taking a “brave” stand against the patriarchy and our “very gendered” society. As the Australian performance artist Ms Casey Jenkins demonstrates

“When I’m menstruating it makes knitting a hell of a lot harder.” Thank goodness the world’s artists are showing us the way. 

Friday Ephemera

Pig drumming. // Dogs + birds = dirds. // How to fight a baby. // Homeopathic stress mints. They’re vegan and gluten-free. (h/t, Things) // Smell like Mr Takei. (h/t, Elephants Gerald) // An artist’s statement. // Tiny animals on human fingers. // Tin of Soylent Green, circa 1973, sold at auction for $2,250. // Tail lights for horses. // Platypuses in hats. // The Star Trek bathroom set you’ve always wanted. // Everything wrong with Man of Steel. // Winged robot. // What “Che” said. // Have you belly-rubbed your piglet today? 

It’s a Class War Narrative

A few days ago we were talking about critics grafting their own political hang-ups onto early zombie films. As when cineaste Robin Wood informed readers that the zombies’ cannibalistic tendency “represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.” Well. With that in mind, I feel it’s time for a few words from someone close to our hearts:  

I wondered if we could go back to talking about zombies and socialism? Because there is quite a lot of scholarship on this, recently, and a lot of people writing, erm, quite intelligently about the idea of the power of the zombie narrative as a class war narrative. 

See if you can guess who it is before you follow this link

Reheated (37)

For newcomers, more items from the archives. A flavour of what goes on here.

Wolf, They Cried

When there isn’t enough racism to justify her rhetoric and pre-booked outrage, what’s a girl to do?

A psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College slashed her own tyres and defaced her own car with abusive and racist messages. The professor, Kerri Dunn, protested her victimhood to faculty and police despite being seen vandalising the vehicle, thereby setting an example for youngsters everywhere. Meanwhile classes were cancelled in support of Professor Dunn and students held rallies for “tolerance and diversity.” But spare a thought for the professor, our self-imagined heroine. After all, if you’re going to tell students there’s a “crisis of hate” on your campus, as Professor Dunn did, and if the campus you’re talking about doesn’t match that rhetoric at all, then certain measures will have to be taken. And by measures I mean liberties. Like slashing your own tyres then blaming someone in your class. Or walking over to the people who’ve just watched you do this and asking if they’d seen who was responsible.

Not Hearing His Own

The deep socialist wisdom of Mr Owen Hatherley.

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.

Get Them While They’re Soft and Yielding

Shaping young minds for a brighter tomorrow.

Many students of the humanities are entering a world in which adults can behave like Duke’s Wahneema Lubiano, an Associate Professor of African and American Studies who rails against the “hegemony” of “Western rationality,” and whose students learn that she’s “physically traumatised and psychologically assaulted” by global capitalism. This, remember, is a woman tenured at an elite university. For Lubiano, the classroom is a venue for her own political “activism,” i.e., the propagation of obnoxious racial theory, in which guilt depends on pigment, class and gender. Universities, we learn, are “engines of dominance” that should be “sabotaged” by people suitably radical and enlightened. People much like her, in fact. A transformation, incidentally, that one might think had already taken place and hence Lubiano’s license to take such liberties with students and the people paying her salary.

Headdesk, She Replied

Pretentious racial guilt is so hard to wash off.

So remember, if you should be mugged in a part of town where lots of black people happen to live, whatever you do, don’t call the police. That would be proof of your ignorant racism and “white privilege.” And if your refusal to alert the police subsequently results in someone else being robbed by the same mugger, most likely someone who lives in one of those “Black and Indigenous communities,” at least you can take comfort in the fact that you won’t be accused of racism by one dogmatic bonehead.

And I’ve hidden hard liquor in the greatest hits

Don’t Oppress Me With Your Commas

More crushing injustice on campus, this time at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies:

In a letter sent to colleagues in the department after the sit-in, [Professor] Rust said students in the demonstration described grammar and spelling corrections he made on their dissertation proposals as a form of “micro-aggression.” “I have attempted to be rather thorough on the papers and am particularly concerned that they do a good job with their bibliographies and citations, and these students apparently don’t feel that is appropriate,” Rust said in the letter.

You see, by highlighting spelling and punctuation errors, the professor is contributing to an “unsafe climate for students of colour.” Reminding students of the basic rules of English apparently helps to create “a hostile and toxic environment” in Professor Rust’s classroom. Such are the mental and emotional traumas of the modern grad school intellectual. These, remember, are people studying for master’s degrees and doctorates. Advanced learning. For those of you interested in the policing of tiny tragedies, “micro-aggressions” are defined by an official UCLA report as

Subtle verbal and nonverbal insults directed toward non-whites, often done automatically and unconsciously. They are layered insults based on one’s race, gender, class, sexuality, language, immigration status, phenotype, accent, or surname.


It is not clear whether any workable definition of discriminatory conduct is capable of capturing every such microaggression.

The indefinite and strangely unilateral nature of the term does raise one or two problems. As Ricochet’s Tim Groseclose notes, 

I’m pretty sure that by writing this blog post I have engaged in a microaggression.

And by drawing further attention to this story and its comedic possibilities, it’s very likely that your mild-mannered host is also oppressing somebody, somewhere, in ways that aren’t quite clear. And don’t you get all high and mighty either. By reading this you’re almost certainly complicit too. I denounce your wickedness. Now report to the correction booth. Three hours, maximum setting.


Continue reading "Don’t Oppress Me With Your Commas" »

Friday Ephemera

Magpie plays with dog. // Two computers play rock, paper, scissors. // Find the invisible cow, a game to test your patience. // A house made of silk. // Big fin squid. // Blade Runner in watercolours. // A guide to shooting rubber bands. (h/t, MeFi) // Monitor in motion. // Upmarket dog accessories. // How the Doctor Who theme might have sounded without Delia Derbyshire. // Drum kits of yore. (h/t, Coudal) // Factoid of note. // Luxury yacht pod. // Spectrographic handshake. // Diagnostic bee device looks fabulous, detects cancer

When Man-Children Weep

Man paints own building. Graffiti vandals devastated

The owner of a building in Queens used a crew of painters to work overnight and paint over graffiti on a warehouse in Long Island City, wiping clean a canvas that was used by thousands of artists over the years to transform an otherwise nondescript, abandoned brick building in a working-class neighbourhood into 5Pointz, a mecca for street artists from around the world. By morning, the work of some 1,500 artists had been wiped clean, the Brobdingnagian bubble letters and the colourful cartoons spray painted on the building’s brick walls all covered in a fresh coat of white paint. “We are supposed to be the vandals, but this is the biggest rag and disrespect in the history of graffiti,” said Marie Cecile Flageul, an unofficial curator for 5Pointz.

The moral of the story, gentlemen, is buy your own canvas.

Elsewhere (105)

Mark Steyn on America’s throbbingly intellectual Clown-in-Chief:  

As historian Michael Beschloss pronounced the day after his election, he’s “probably the smartest guy ever to become president.” Naturally, Obama shares this assessment. As he assured us five years ago, “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors.” Well, apart from his signature health-care policy. That’s a mystery to him. “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working,” he told us. The buck stops with something called “the executive branch,” which is apparently nothing to do with him. As evidence that he was entirely out of the loop, he offered this: “Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, ‘Boy, this is going to be great.’ You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, ‘This is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,’ a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work.” 

Ooooo-kay. So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.

Tim Worstall on why the advice of Will Hutton should never, ever be taken: 

If we’ve got a cost that is higher than the benefit then this is a signal that we should stop doing this thing. Hutton is indeed arguing that the cost of a university education is higher, for many to most people, than the benefit that comes from having one. This is true whoever is paying the bills. Therefore we would rather like to have fewer people going to university... Hutton is arguing that university does not make sense in terms of value added for most students. He therefore proposes subsidy for those students. Which is ridiculous. If the activity is not value adding we don’t want more of it, we want less of it.

And from 1992, via Instapundit, the late Doris Lessing on language, academia and political correctness: 

A very common way of thinking in literary criticism is not seen as a consequence of communism, but it is. Every writer has the experience of being told that a novel, a story, is “about” something or other. I wrote a story, The Fifth Child, which was at once pigeonholed as being about the Palestinian problem, genetic research, feminism, anti-Semitism and so on. A journalist from France walked into my living room and before she had even sat down said, “Of course The Fifth Child is about AIDS.” An effective conversation stopper, I assure you. But what is interesting is the habit of mind that has to analyse a literary work like this. If you say, “Had I wanted to write about AIDS or the Palestinian problem I would have written a pamphlet,” you tend to get baffled stares. That a work of the imagination has to be “really” about some problem is, again, an heir of Socialist Realism. To write a story for the sake of storytelling is frivolous, not to say reactionary.

It’s remarkable how often some cultural critics see their own preoccupations in unlikely art forms. As when the film historian Sumiko Higashi saw the Vietnam War lurking somewhere among the zombies and wrote that although “there are no Vietnamese in Night of the Living Dead... they constitute an absent presence whose significance can be understood if narrative is construed.” Or when cineaste Robin Wood informed readers that the zombies’ cannibalistic tendency “represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.” Or when a Channel 4 reviewer hailed Danny Boyle’s zombie film 28 Days Later as actually being a “powerful message” about “anger at call-centre queues.”

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.

Because Art is the Fourth Emergency Service

In the culture pages of the Guardian, Charles Firth recounts a tale of exasperation, injustice and heroic suffering. Specifically, his struggle to find funding for an artistic work space:

In 2007, four idiots who thought of themselves as writers scammed an awkwardly inaccessible office in a beautiful old building that had very few tenants… The enlightened trustees were happy to let a group of earnest young writers use the space until a “proper” tenant came along, charging us something like $230 per month.

$230 a month for a large office in the heart of Sydney. A bargain by any measure. One that attracted other Creatives In Need Of Comfort™.

Slowly, other writers came to hear about the space. A well-respected essayist, a proper novelist and a budding popular historian moved in, and the room acquired a certificate of incorporation as a non-profit arts organisation, a set of stern rules (don’t be loud, don’t be messy, don’t interrupt)...

Stern rules regarding mess and noise. I suppose selling out was inevitable. Almost as inevitable as the end of that temporary peppercorn rent.

Meanwhile, the rest of the building had filled to capacity, and the 17 writer-members now had to find $2,300 plus GST per month to cover rent. As I spent increasing amounts of time on administration, my attention turned to arts grants. 

But of course. 

My understanding of the system was that it was there to support those producing cultural works: artists and writers. This proved naïve. The true purpose of arts grants is for one set of arts bureaucrats to provide funding to create a new generation of arts bureaucrats. The qualities most highly valued by funding bodies are the ability to reproduce accurately the funding body’s logo, and to file a report that can be included in their annual report alongside words like “new,” “innovative” and, above all, “successful.” 

Mr Firth, it turns out, isn’t too impressed by socialised arts funding and its box-ticking apparatus - sentiments with which some readers may feel empathy. But those feeling empathetic may want to avoid applauding just yet.

Unfortunately, the Sydney Writers’ Room was none of these things.

Being artistically innovative and successful is something rarely said of office space. Even office space with rules regarding mess.

Its mission was to provide a space that placed no expectation on success or failure. You just had to be quiet and write.

Office space, in short, for those who consider themselves deserving of special favours and perpetual indulgence. Those “legitimately worthy,” as Mr Firth puts it. Not worthy because of what they have produced, but worthy because of what they may produce, possibly, at some point in the future, should muse and ability permit. And so taxpayers must be given the old shakedown, not just for written works they didn’t ask for, but for the potential for works they didn’t ask for, and to ensure the further inflation of Mr Firth’s self-regard. You see, it’s simply impossible to write anything at all unless one has a large office sited in a beautiful old building in the heart of Sydney, all bankrolled indefinitely by the taxpayers of Australia. Bloggers of the world, please take note.

Continue reading "Because Art is the Fourth Emergency Service" »

Friday Ephemera

Cat plays theremin. (h/t, CMJ) // Nazis with cats. // Panoramic ball camera. // The interactive periodic table of swearing. Sound essential. // The sound of arrogant dependency. // What Google would have looked like in the 80s. // 4G trench coat with charger. Coat’s “average download speeds range from 3 to 6 Mbps, with spikes as high as 10 Mbps.” // Make your own gin. // Kitchen of the future, 1964. (h/t, MeFi) // inFORM, an interactive dynamic shape display. // Elk starts trouble. // Village of the Damned, 1960. // Virtual anime robot masturbator. // Dolphin masturbates using decapitated fish. // Re-entry. // An advert for tissues

An Evil Deodorant

Writing in the Guardian, feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez alerts us to another pressing issue of the day:

There’s a new ad on the woman-hating block… I first saw the ad this weekend, and it’s been niggling away at me ever since. 

Time well spent, no doubt. The pressing issue is of course Vagisil deodorant, a tool of the Patriarchy with insidious mind-warping effects. 

It’s partly its insidiousness in presenting Vagisil as if they are on our side – no need to worry girls, this odour is completely normal! The thing is, if this supposed odour… is completely normal, there would be no need for a product to deal with it, would there?

I fear I’m venturing into alien territory here, given my limited knowledge of how ladies smell below the waist - some more than others, apparently. But still, something obvious ought to be said. There are any number of human odours, secretions and emissions that are normal and generated to varying degrees, but this doesn’t mean one would necessarily wish to share them with others. Even as a display of defiant womanhood. Years ago, I worked with a big-boned lady with unusually strong body odour. She was, so far as I could tell, scrupulously clean and, judging by the array of deodorants in her handbag, very much aware of this distinctive characteristic. Her battle with perspiration and pungency was, sadly, being lost, especially during summer, though I and other colleagues were appreciative of her efforts to minimise the social fallout.

What Vagisil does is pretend to be our friend, helping us deal with this smell that’s been plaguing our social life; in reality they are manipulating us into thinking we stink in the first place… adding yet another paranoia to the long list carried around by the 21st century woman trying to survive in a system that teaches them to hate themselves.

Yes, of course. The option to deodorise one’s nethers and render them fragrant – say, before engaging in some intimate beastliness – isn’t a matter of, um, taste or personal judgment, but constitutes “woman-hating.” And the existence of said option not only “attacks and diminishes women’s self-confidence,” it teaches those same women - the ones with no minds of their own, it seems - to “hate themselves.” Because womenfolk simply can’t be trusted to determine whether a product is useful or a complete waste of money. Which, on reflection, is an odd position for a feminist campaigner to take. Should someone think to market Zesty Scrotal Freshness Wipes, I’m pretty sure I’d retain the wherewithal to decide for myself whether to rush out and buy a multipack or stick with showering and a little talc.

After the customary denunciation of the market and its morally corrupting effects, and intimations that women are mere flotsam on an ocean of advertising, Ms Criado-Perez informs us, somewhat triumphantly:

I’m not buying Vagisil. Ever.

The market in action. Problem solved. 


Good news, menfolk! There’s been a miracle breakthrough in male hygiene technology...

Continue reading "An Evil Deodorant" »