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January 2014

Friday Ephemera

Jamiroquai redubbed. // Rats with teddy bears. // I knew someone would build one eventually. // Hamster butts. // Ugly Renaissance babies. // Bluetooth enabled retro radio. // Bird feeder of note. // Beer meets hot skillet. // The cheese slicer you’ve always wanted. // Silence your windows. // Go supersonic, sideways. // Pot-bellied seahorses. // Teeny tiny quadcopter. // Terrariums. // The theremin you’ve always wanted. // And via MeFi, cooking gone awry, from unhappy fajitas and ectoplasm borscht to delicious ham water.

In Farming News

Methane gas released by dairy cows has caused an explosion in a cow shed in Germany, police said.

Oh, don’t act like you’re above these things. We both know different.

The roof was damaged and one of the cows was injured in the blast in the central German town of Rasdorf. Thanks to the belches and flatulence of the 90 dairy cows in the shed, high levels of the gas had built up. Then “a static electric charge caused the gas to explode with flashes of flames,” the force said in a statement quoted by Reuters news agency. Emergency services attended the farm and took gas readings to test for the risk of further blasts, said local media.

Via the BBC

Friday Ephemera

The differing teaching methods of dogs and cats. // The flight paths of birds. // BarBacon, where the menu is all cured meat. (h/t, Kurt) // Batman wanders the American Southwest. // This match is burning. // Because skydiving is dull without it. // Alarm clock app wakes you early if snow has fallen. // Aquascaping. // Driftwood horses. // DrumPants. “For your mobile lifestyle.” // Speaker of note. // 1980s Japan. // CouchBunker. Bulletproof cushions optional. (h/t, Instapundit) // Carved from wood, then painted. // When Quentin Tarantino appeared on The Golden Girls as an Elvis impersonator. // Milky the cow. // Einstein’s little Einstein. // And last but not least, the thrilling adventures of Chief O’Brien.

Elsewhere (109)

Jim Goad on girth, grievance and the politics of rotundity

The results are in [according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology]: Fat people overeat because our fat-fearing society “fat-shames” them, which then causes them to overeat. This doesn’t explain how they got fat in the first place, but let’s not get picky… The “fat acceptance” movement - AKA “fat power,” “body acceptance,” “size acceptance” and “weight diversity” - provides a waistband-busting cornucopia of unintentional humour. It is identity politics for the adipose, that odd, contradictory demand that society shouldn’t define them by their designated victim category even though that’s apparently the only way that these self-designated victims are able to define themselves. The movement goes all the way back to the 1960s, when “fat activists” staged a Central Park “fat-in” and the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was founded.

Thomas Sowell on the forgetful left, parts one and two

Words seem to carry far more weight than facts among those liberals who argue as if rent control laws actually control rents and gun control laws actually control guns. It does no good to point out to them that the two American cities where rent control laws have existed longest and strongest - New York and San Francisco - are also the two cities with the highest average rents. Nor does it make a dent on them when you point out evidence, from both sides of the Atlantic, that tightening gun control laws does not reduce gun crimes, including murder. It is not uncommon for gun crimes to rise when gun control laws are tightened. Apparently armed criminals prefer unarmed victims.

Hans Bader on racial quotas in school discipline:  

The Education Department wrote that a school could be liable for punishing students for an offense like tardiness if more students of one race than another were tardy… Creating de facto racial quotas in school discipline will also increase violence and disorder in the schools. At a widely-read education blog, a teacher describes the violence and disorder that occurred when her school adopted racial quotas in discipline: “I was in a school that tried to implement just this criteria for discipline. One kid (scrawny 7th grader) had the crap beaten out of him by a 6-foot, fully-muscled 7th grader - two different races. The little kid was suspended before his copious blood had been cleaned up off the floor. The big kid never did have ANY punishment - that particular ethnic group had been disciplined too many times. Need I mention that it was a tough month, as word quickly spread that violence against the ‘under-disciplined’ ethnic group was treated as a freebie?”

Ah, but nothing says fairness like dishing out excuses according to how brown a student is rather than their behaviour. And attempting to reduce disruption and violence by punishing it less when racial quotas have been reached is clearly a recipe for everyone’s educational success. What could possibly go wrong? More on the same from Heather Mac Donald here and here

And on a lighter note, something tells me one or two of you may find this amusing

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

The Humble Among Us

The perennial question among most creative people I know is not what to create, but how to create: how am I going to write this book/play/polemic and also pay the rent? It’s a tricky balance. Apart from a lucky few writers who get big advances or grants, most novelists cannot live off their work. They need a second (or even third) job to keep on writing.

This admission, by novelist Brigid Delaney in the Guardian, may prompt readers to wonder whether we have a surplus of such “creative people,” more than the market can support. More than is required. Certainly, the career prospects of being a novelist, playwright or unspecified creative person don’t sound terribly good:

Last year, the Sydney Morning Herald published a fairly depressing article on Australian writers’ income. It reported authors earn on average $11,000 a year – approximately one-sixth of average annual income. And these are the lucky writers – the ones getting published. 

And as we’ve seen, the situation is very similar in other areas of the arts. Again, I can’t help feeling there’s a message here about supply and demand, dreary things like that. Something to bear in mind when, say, leaving school or choosing your degree course. The glamour of the artistic and literary life is, I fear, beginning to look quite thin:

The question of where to live on such a low income while trying to write becomes crucial: in the middle of nowhere with cheap rent, or in the city where day jobs help pay for housing? Compromise clouds every decision.

And this simply will not do. You see, creative people, that’s people like Ms Delaney, must live in locales befitting their importance, not their budget. You, taxpayer, come hither. And bring your wallet. 

The city of Sydney recently tried to address the problem of artists being priced out by introducing six rent-subsidised studio spaces in Darlinghurst. Those chosen get a year-lease and pay reduced rent of $250 a week on a one-bedroom with work studio.

Creative people, being so creative, deserve nothing less than special treatment. I mean, you can’t expect a creative person to write at any old desk in any old room in any old part of town. What’s needed is a lifestyle at some other sucker’s expense. And so that garret has to be in a fashionable suburb or somewhere happening, where the creative vibrations are at their strongest and genius will surely follow. And that pad of choice has to come before the publishing deal and film rights and the swimming pool full of cash. Indeed, it has to materialise before the book itself, or any part thereof. How else can their brilliance flourish, as it most surely will, what with all that creativity. Our betters just need a little cake before they eat those damn vegetables. And possibly ice cream. Here’s some money that other, less glamorous people had to actually earn. You fabulous creature, you.

Continue reading "The Humble Among Us" »

Bush Derangement Syndrome

The Guardian’s Emer O’Toole returns to a subject she apparently finds compelling and tells us, 

The capitalist drive to convince us that female body hair is unnatural and unclean has been alarmingly successful. The removal industry is worth millions, and uncountable women are ashamed of and distressed by their post-pubescent hair.

Sadly, Ms O’Toole doesn’t pause to ponder how an industry generally becomes successful – say, by offering a product that people are willing to pay for, having made a choice and sought out said product. This being a Guardian article, its basic tone is patronising and womenfolk are once again assumed to be mere dupes, entirely at the mercy of diabolical forces and trembling with insecurities. And so readers are presented with a cloud of implications involving “greedy” industries, sheepish consumers and the shame and distress wrought by pubic hair. A kind of false consciousness for the underpants area, from which one must “wake up,” and in which feelings of inadequacy are “heaped on hairy privates” by persons unknown. 

While many details of this drama are left oddly undefined or simply ignored – among them, the agency of the people buying hair-removal products - readers are, however, told, “We resent the pressure, and we resent being made to feel ashamed.” Once again, that Guardian staple - the paranormal we. Because what a Guardian columnist frets about in order to fill space is what all women fret about. How could it not be?

Mercifully, there is light at the end of the tunnel:  

I think 2014 might just be the year of the bush. In an unlikely about-face, Cameron Diaz has proclaimed that pubic hair is there for a reason, and to remove it is tantamount to saying, “I don’t need my nose.”

Needless to say, the subsequent comments may also be of interest. There, you’ll find readers affirming the aesthetic and practical merits of various styling techniques - “a landing strip or modest bit of tailored fluff” - while others warn of the hazards of choking on pubic hair in a darkened room. Ms O’Toole’s previous contributions to human knowledge include her belief that not shaving one’s armpits is “the necessary and important work of challenging stupid, arbitrary, gendered bullshit.” Ms O’Toole also managed to mention, several times, that her boyfriends have thought her “brave” for daring to have armpit hair. Yes, fear not, dear reader. A moral titan walks among us.  

Friday Ephemera

Replace your face. // Ceramics that look like inflatables. // Roger Corman’s unreleased 1994 “cult” film, Fantastic Four. // “Scientists at the National Ignition Facility are trying to create a miniature star on Earth.” // Scale revisited. // Make your own music box. // Another Tate Modern triumph. // Drawn with pastels. // Pet deli, Germany. // Geometric candies, 3D printed. // At last, autoluminescent plants. // Little girl meets father’s twin. // Vintage HiFi. (h/t, MeFi) // The future of exam invigilation. // 13 arguments for liberal capitalism. // Motorhomes of yore. (h/t, Things) // Textile creatures. // How stone cutting is done. // Subway timestretch. // And finally, an inevitable use of thermal imaging

Old School Thinking

Following this piece on the self-destruction of the humanities, Heather Mac Donald responds to accusations of “neoconservative pearl-clutching” by Slate’s education columnist Rebecca Schuman:

Is Schuman content with a situation in which a Columbia student rails against having been asked merely to listen to Mozart because Mozart is a dead white male? Where might that student have picked up that attitude if not from the academy and its offshoots? Whiteness studies, black studies, feminist studies, and queer studies are not a fever dream of the “neocons.” For decades now, students have been taught to search for an echo of their own “voices” in the books they read and to reject those works that they believe “exclude” them, a remarkably narrow approach to the arts. I don’t want to hear my own “voice” in what I read; it bores me.

As noted previously, you do have to marvel at a humanities student whose decisive criteria for music appreciation – criteria affirmed by her lecturers - are the composer’s pigmentation and the configuration of his genitals. As with many articles by Ms Mac Donald, there are several quotable passages, of which the following is a taste: 

Schuman concludes by revealing the unbridgeable abyss between the academic hothouse and the outside world. Purporting to turn the tables on academia’s critics, she maintains that it is they who are playing the victim card: “Their gesture [of criticism] is itself a triumphant co-opting of the very manufactured, hyperbolic narratives of oppression they oppose.” Huh? Is Schuman admitting that academic “oppression narratives” are “manufactured” and “hyperbolic”? Who knows? Moreover, her purported gotcha is without any logical grounding: To criticise a trend is not, in itself, a claim of victimisation. Schuman then suggests the real motive for concern about the humanistic tradition: “It’s the [conservative] Manhattan Institute against a rising tide of literate poors who dare question the politics of privilege.” Schuman thus confirms the adolescent political pretensions that she claims conservatives are simply making up.

Readers who doubt the existence of self-destructive tendencies in the modern humanities may wish to consider our own Dr Nina Power, a philosophy lecturer, Guardian regular and champion of “social justice,” and whose deep thoughts have entertained us on more than one occasion. As, for instance, when our self-described Marxist railed against cuts in public funding for philosophy lecturers and what she regards as the “ideological devastation of the education system,” while claiming that she and her peers no longer need to be knowledgeable or competent in any conventional sense

Heather Mac Donald is interviewed about her article in this Ricochet podcast. You may want to skip the first four minutes of gushing introduction.

Via Franklin at Artblog