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June 2015

Elsewhere (169)

Kevin Williamson on being the wrong kind of brown person: 

For his political conservatism, Governor [Bobby] Jindal, like Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina and conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza, also Republicans of Indian origin, is savaged as an Uncle Tamas — an Indian guilty of acting white. The charge has been led by the New Republic, the former political journal turned vanity press owned by Facebook millionaire Chris Hughes, one of the whitest white men in the history of whiteness, an argyle sock of a man… Jindal, D’Souza, and Haley stand accused of the worst sort of heresy: being members of an ethnic minority group who neither present nor understand themselves as the white man’s victims, whose stance toward the country in which they all reside and in which two of them were born — the country they love — is not one of opposition. The Left needs neediness, and these three aren’t offering up much of that.

Tim Blair explores the subtle, compassionate mind of Clementine Ford, a writer of “feminist social analyses” who tells us “abuse is not a joke.” 

And Brendan O’Neill on austerity and its champions: 

Before they developed their new-found emotional attachment to describing everything they don’t like as ‘austerity’, [leftist critics] were openly calling for austerity. George Monbiot is one of the Guardian’s chief complainers about Tory austerity — the same George Monbiot who in 2006 proudly described environmentalism as a “campaign not for abundance but for austerity” and who inspired the radical group Riot 4 Austerity. His colleague Zoe Williams likewise complains about “austerity” yet a few years ago she was dreaming of introducing Second World War-style food rationing, because “the lesson from the 40s is that to fix a public-health problem… you need big government.”

Yes, the chronically unhappy and tormented George Monbiot, who one week claims that austerity is crushing the poor and is “an assault on public life,” and then another week calls for his readers to “riot for austerity. Riot for less.” Because, says he, economic growth is “a political sedative,” a tool of false consciousness, “snuffing out protest” in our dulled, befuddled minds. And so Mr Monbiot denounces “the blackened waste of consumer frenzy,” by which he means shopping, and instead wants “a campaign not for more freedom but for less… a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves.” “Unpleasant as it will be,” says George, and while “some people [will] lose their jobs and homes,” austerity and recession will avert “ecological collapse,” while saving us from those jet skis and diamond saucepans that we’re all intent on buying, and the mere existence of which robs him of sleep.

For more of Mr Monbiot’s strange mental adventures, see herehere and here

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

Friday Ephemera

Attempting flight. // Tooth, claw and torpedoes. // About 40 seconds in you’ll spot what’s gone wrong. // Trees and fog. // A bunk bed for dogs. // “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Jaws, short version. // Jazz computer. Full-fat cheesy noodling. // Caterpillars, baby. // Abandoned Chinese fishing village could use a woman’s touch. // Jellyfishies. // Caution, wet floor. // Students, check your leftist privilege. // Up, up and away. // To lift a big helicopter you need a bigger helicopter. (h/t, drb) // First swim. // Leafcutter ant farming. “They’re using the leaves to grow something else.” // Maps on demand. // Dickens World and other theme parks. // Vertical turntables. // And finally, “obtain alluring slim loveliness” with bust-reducing cream. Works in weeks. Also enlarges bust. 

It’s the Hard Knock Life

You just don't understand.

What, you didn’t know

Remember, Laurie is a fearless feminist warrior, a Wadham College “riot girl,” a communist, a revolutionary, a self-described “rebel” and “troublemaker.” One whose world is “on fire.” She and her radical friends are going to bring the whole patriarchal capitalist system crashing down

But life without Facebook isn’t worth living. 

An Art Critic Speaks

The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones has been busy enthusing about the new mascot for Partick Thistle Football Club, created by Turner Prize nominee David Shrigley. The mascot, funded privately and described by Mr Jones as the creation of “a tough and honest artist” and “art at its best,” can be seen and studied here, no doubt at great length. However, in championing Mr Shrigley’s handiwork, the Guardian’s art critic inadvertently makes an argument for ending taxpayer subsidy of so-called “public” art: 

Populism and good art are incompatible… Good artists… don’t please crowds… That is why most public art in modern Britain is awful… Good artists cannot and will not provide what the public wants. They need to be edgy, challenging, otherwise they will become sell-outs.

Note Mr Jones’ unironic use of the word edgy

An example of Mr Jones’ idea of that rare thing - great, edgy public art – i.e., paid for coercively by extorting the taxpayer, in this case to the tune of £95,000 - can be found here. Mr Jones described said object as “a very elegant work… redemptive, joyous, liberating.”

Elsewhere (168)

Katherine Timpf on a “white privilege” conference for teachers and school administrators: 

“Many white people in Oregon have no idea that our schools and state are immersed in white culture and are uncomfortable and harmful to our students of colour, while also reinforcing the dominant nature of white culture in our white students and families,” one of the conference documents explains. The manual defines this “white culture” with a list of values, such as “promoting independence, self-expression, personal choice, individual thinking and achievement,” because apparently those are strictly “white” concepts and not emphasised in black communities.

Educators of pallor are being told, at public expense, that in order to become “anti-racist white allies,” they must first embrace the conceit that “All white people are racist. [Therefore] I am racist.” If that sounds not only absurd but a little sinister, practically Maoist, that’s because it is.

Here’s one of the many reasons why the leftist website Salon gets laughed at quite a lot

And Fraser Nelson agrees with Charlotte Church and Polly Toynbee, perhaps more than they would like: 

At the end of our tax returns, we declare how much tax we owe. [George] Osborne can introduce a new line in the tax return saying: if you think this isn’t enough, how much extra would you like to pay? People like Ms Toynbee and Ms Church can then fill in the extra so they can pay 50 per cent, or even 70 per cent, if they like. This ‘nudge’ tax reform would be consistent with the liberal principles of a Conservative government while allowing left-wingers to act along with their conscience and hand over more of their income to the government. So next time, rather than complain that they would be happy to pay 70 per cent tax, such people can proudly claim that they do pay 70 per cent tax. And they will have the tax return to prove it.

However, as we’ve seen, Polly is much more troubled by what you earn and keep than by what she earns and keeps - which, given her six-figure Guardian income, plus appearance fees, royalties and property portfolio, is quite a feat. Like many of her peers, Ms Toynbee thinks that voting for the state to confiscate even more of other people’s earnings is somehow an act of altruism. It’s also, conveniently, presented as an excuse for not using her own considerable resources personally, directly, to help those she deems deserving. And if a well-heeled leftist bangs on week after week about how terrible unequal incomes are and how something must be done urgently - and then says she won’t do what she insists is morally imperative unless the state forces her to do it - this isn’t a resounding affirmation of her professed principles.

Feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments. It’s what these posts are for. 

Friday Ephemera

And then you notice the pigtails. (h/t, Mr Eugenides) // Sexed-up grand piano. // At last, stain-repelling shirts. “Discover what living stain-free feels like.” // Eruption. // The Samsung safety truck. It seems obvious now. // Man with some old vinyl and an electron microscope. // Free Hayek. // Customer feedback of note. (h/t, PootBlog) // Arrive refreshed with this in-flight posture apparatus. Works on any desk top surface. // Assorted gifs and photos from an organic chemistry lab. // He brings greetings from his home world. // Owl café, Ikebukuro, Japan. // Wooden keyboard of note. // Test your colour vision. // All six Star Wars films superimposed. // Four-year-old girl copes quite well with dad’s stunt flying. // And finally, office chair plus leaf blower equals good times.  

How Dare You Hold on to Your Wallet

Meanwhile, in the Guardian:

[Arts Council] grants aren’t won down the pub by a dart competition where the bullseye’s a picture of the taxpayer’s face. Of course, I wish they were, because that would save the hours of work it takes to write a grant application. And I’m pretty good at darts.

So writes Zoë Coombs Marr, a writer, comedian and “theatre maker,” and a woman of profound humility, in a piece complaining about the “devastating effects” of modest alterations in taxpayer subsidy for Australia’s commercially unviable artists. Artists who, while unloved by the general public, are nonetheless deserving of money they haven’t earned. “I’m here to bust a few myths,” says Ms Marr. And so begins a sorrowful tale of how bloody hard it is to be an artist whose work is of little interest to the public, and how hard it is to screw other people’s earnings out of other people:

Grant applications are comprehensive proposals that take multiple people and sometimes months to complete. They’re assessed by a panel of professionals (not your mates) employed to pick your application apart, assess it for financial viability and community relevance.

At this point, rather bafflingly, Ms Marr links to an article – this one here, by Tim Blair - which is part of a series of pieces by Blair and Andrew Bolt on arts funding cronyism and the ludicrous misspending of public money. A series that actually reveals her claim of funding integrity and aesthetic high-mindedness as – how shall I put this? – less than convincing. Not your mates, indeed

Undaunted, or perhaps oblivious, our unhappy artist continues,

Grant money is pumped back into the economy and employs numerous people. 

How much and how many is, sadly, left unspecified. But apparently Australia’s economy will be rendered turgid and engorged by throwing $21,000 that someone else had to earn at “rainforest basketry training programmes,” and another $20,000 at “dance theatre work devised by participants who identify as fat/large/bigger-bodied.” And by surrendering a further $12,000 of taxpayers’ money to “enrich the sensory theatre practice” of one person “with master classes and mentoring in Body Mind Centring praxis.” Yes, you can hear that economy boom from half a world away. These examples, by the way, are among the many cited in the article by Tim Blair, and to which Ms Marr links as somehow helping her case.

Readers unswayed by Ms Marr’s article - in which she says, “I could try to explain to you why we should fund the arts” but doesn’t bother doing so - should note that she is the winner of Australia’s taxpayer-subsidised 2006 National Poetry Slam Championships. So there’s that. A more recent poetic work by Ms Marr can be savoured here. [ Added: ] And thanks to Nikw211 in the comments, Ms Marr’s comedic stylings – the fruits of her “training, skill and hard work” - can be experienced at length here. I should point out it’s quite a slog and you may want a stiff drink to hand. Or a canister of nitrous oxide.

Elsewhere (167)

Eugene Volokh on the now-official “microaggression” of criticising leftist assumptions:  

I’m happy to say that I’m just going to keep on microaggressing. I like to think that I’m generally polite, so I won’t express these views rudely. And I try not to inject my own irrelevant opinions into classes I teach, so there are many situations in which I won’t bring up these views simply because it’s not my job to express my views in those contexts. But the document that I quote isn’t about keeping classes on-topic or preventing personal insults — it’s about suppressing particular viewpoints. And what’s tenure for, if not to resist these attempts to stop the expression of unpopular views?

If, for example, you don’t regard a person’s melanin level as both a fascinating detail of their being and an inexhaustible license to invoke victimhood and deference, then you’re probably committing a microaggression. And the publicly-funded University of California thinks you may be “sending denigrating messages” and “creating a hostile learning environment” because you aren’t awed and enthralled by how brown a person is.

Charles C W Cooke finds a modern echo of an old George Orwell quote: 

“We don’t want to hear about these bourgeois writers like Shakespeare,” says [Californian school teacher, Dana] Disbiber. “Worry not, teaching him helps the progressive cause,” replies [New Republic columnist, Elizabeth Stoker] Bruenig… When politics is everything and everything is politics, nothing escapes the commissar’s judgment. It is one thing to analyse art for its political content — critically necessary even – but it is quite another to subjugate one’s view of that art to one’s politics.

Of course Orwell, like Shakespeare, is - to use Disbiber’s parlance - a dead white male, and worse, a critic of piously narrow attitudes like those of Dana Disbiber. We must therefore regard both authors as insufficiently progressive and entirely devoid of relevance.  

And in other thrilling academic news

Utah Valley University, with an enrolment of about 34,000 students, is trying out a staircase with lanes. Lane one is for walkers, two for runners and three for texters.

Feel free to share your own links and snippets below. It’s what these posts are for. 

You May Clap When Moved

I know, I know. I’ve been starving you of updates from the world of performance art. By way of apology, here’s a short yet challenging piece by a gentleman named Reed Altemus, captured for posterity at the Mobius art collective’s Something Else Fest in Cambridge, Massachusetts, earlier this month. Mr Altemus, who “lives with his cat, Clyde, in Portland Maine,” describes himself as a “polyartist working in visual poetry, performance art, noise music and small press publishing.” Quizzed on the importance of his radical craft, he explains

Traditional forms have failed us: they produce the same kinds of social situations as have ever been: we have poverty, wars, corporate imperialism, neocolonialism, racism, religious clashes of all kinds, homophobia, etc… Beethovan [sic] and Mahler have not solved the problem of violence in society; Tennyson and Poe have not given us answers to the problem of fascist dictatorships in the world. It is obvious to me that to change the world as a poet one must subvert entrenched assumptions which underlie oppressive or coercive discourses.

Yes, Mr Altemus is putting an end to war, dictatorship, violence and poverty by subverting our entrenched assumptions and oppressive discourses. See, for instance, here. He’s literally saving the world with his art. For reasons that will doubtless become clear, the following life-transforming, poverty-solving, dictator-toppling piece is called Amplifying My Clothes

Continue reading "You May Clap When Moved" »

Elsewhere (166)

Kevin Williamson on cultural critic Lee Siegel and other student loan deadbeats: 

The justifications are piled high: [Siegel] comes from a modest background and finds it unfair that other people have had advantages denied him. He declares it “absurd” — making no case, only the declaration — that he could “amass crippling debt as a result, not of drug addiction or reckless borrowing and spending, but of going to college.” Never mind that his borrowing and spending was, in fact, reckless, and that an Ivy League degree or three is every bit an item of conspicuous consumption and a status symbol as a Lamborghini.

To default on a loan because you do not wish to pay it back is theft, in this case theft from all of us, since the federal government is on the hook for the loans in question… We hear variations on Siegel’s argument that education is a social good, that we should be glad to have spent whatever sum we spent in order to avail ourselves of his “particular usefulness to society.” This is an example of the special-snowflake philosophy of social organisation: Yes, your feminist slam-poetry collective is very, very impressive — but even T. S. Eliot went to the office six days a week when literary life wasn’t paying the bills.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy for someone - a grown man in his fifties, writing in the New York Times - who believes that paying his debts as agreed, as millions of others do, would entail wasting his life, due to his enormously artistic “usefulness to society,” i.e., his self-imagined talent as a profound and insightful writer. A claim somewhat undermined by his own self-flattering article and its thin rationalisations. The short version of Mr Siegel’s article would be, “Fuck you, taxpayers. I’m an artist and intellectual.” But that wouldn’t present him in the all-important and very much expected Heroic Victim Light.

On the subject of student loans and baffling choices, see also this and this

Ed Driscoll probes the mental fever swamp of Ms Naomi Wolf. Including her theory that American troops building field hospitals in Liberia were actually there to secretly take Ebola back to the U.S., and thereby justify “emergency measures” and “quarantining Americans.”

Theodore Dalrymple shares a tale of underclass moral squalor and the role played by the state: 

Never in the book is there any recognition that a mother whose children meant “the world” to her should not leave them in the care of an obvious psychopath or go to bed so drunk that she does not even realise that she has vomited in her sleep.

Needless to say, it’s not a happy tale and not for the squeamish.

Continue reading "Elsewhere (166)" »

Friday Ephemera

A mirror made of penguins. // PlayScanner, a toy CT scanner for children. Easy to clean, ideal for waiting rooms. // Gadgets from a parallel world. // Rotary hydroponic herb garden. // Vietnamese cave panoramas. // Caves of ice and snow. (h/t, Dr W) // Tunnelling under London. // Deep Blue is a big chap. // At last, your own 3D-printed exoskeleton hand. // 3D-print a section, any section, of New York City. // Drawing Manhattan. Keep the coffee coming. // “Man washing monster truck mistaken for plane crash.” It is a big truck. // It’s a truck, it’s a dog, it’s a truck. // In sporting news. // A map of UFO sightings, 1925-2014. Now we have smartphones they don’t seem to visit. // Office furniture of note. // Your children are filthy. // And finally, a photographer and his dog.

Answers On a Postcard, Please

The Guardian’s Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett – she of the ill-fitting hair - asks, 

Are we too selfish to live like hippies?

Herself a child of what she generously terms “communal living” – specifically, an “Islington house furnished from skips” – Ms Cosslett allows her mind to drift back, way back, to the heady days of the late Twentieth Century:  

My memories are faded but what remains is a picture of a happy, lively household whose ethos was not so far removed from times when children were raised by communities, not individuals.

A faded memory from childhood, when people are generally much less discerning, is perhaps not the soundest footing for an approach to housing policy. And hey, what parent wouldn’t want their child raised collectively by a shifting pile of misfits, losers and unemployable hippies? Or as Ms Cosslett puts it, rather romantically, “art students from Berlin, Portuguese musicians” and, naturally, “miners during the strike.” Yes, all this, and in an environment where six layers of wallpaper – a historical record of sorts - gradually detached themselves from damp plaster walls:

Though the conditions weren’t great, they paid £11 a week rent... Low rents (or if you were squatting, no rents) enabled people to work in the arts, to create music (I was sampled on a Madchester dance record, aged three), write literature and paint. 

And working in the arts – I suspect the term “working” is used here loosely – is more than reason enough to squat and not bother with humdrum details like permission or paying rent. That such freewheeling sentiment is less fashionable than it was saddens Ms Cosslett. And so boilerplate ensues:

Our political apathy, our materialistic obsession with property ownership, our disinclination to pursue alternative lifestyles all explain why communes and squats are in decline... Walking through Park Crescent the other day, past impossibly grand houses with their dark interiors… I felt an incredible sadness. It is the disappointment at the abandonment of an experiment… Imagine what you and your friends could do with a crowbar, a guitar, a few sacks of lentils…

And someone else’s property.

Continue reading "Answers On a Postcard, Please" »