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December 2015

The Year Reheated

In which we marvel at the mental entanglements of our self-imagined betters.

Our year began in academia with a discussion panel of stern and pious ladies. Among them, Professor Judy Haiven, who believes that male students mustn’t speak first and must always defer to women, until the menfolk learn their place in the ‘progressive’ pecking order. Professor Haiven denounced the evils of an alleged male “monopoly” in a campus environment where women outnumber men, and while sitting on a panel with no male participants, and with no-one present to argue a substantively different view. Days later, and while reminding the world that she’s “a Journalism Fellow at Harvard,” our dear friend Laurie Penny struggled with the thought that printed newspapers tend to have an even number of pages. And artists Eames Armstrong and Matthew Ryan Rossetti showed us how to improve Shakespeare by “transgressing conventions,” “destabilising visibility,” and shrieking incoherently in various states of undress.

In February, Professor Janice Fiamengo, a critic of campus feminism, illustrated just how readily feminist “activism” blurs into sadism and sociopathy, while exposing how leftist groups are indulged by administrators with what amounts to a unilateral license for thuggery, disruption and physical violence. A sort of light relief came via an introduction to mukbang, the South Korean phenomenon of watching strangers eat, prodigiously and at length, on the internet. Further distraction was offered by the world of performance art, students of which shook our tiny minds with “intersectional meaning,” “the politics of identity” and three whole hours of radical pavement mopping

The rise of the hipster breakfast alarmed us in March, as did the more disastrous pretensions of ‘progressive’ education policy, in which classroom aggression was excused on grounds of race and imagined group victimhood, resulting in a widespread surge in violent assaults against staff and other students. As students’ hair was set on fire and female teachers were repeatedly punched in the face and hospitalised, “restorative justice co-ordinator” Eric Butler boasted, “I don’t blame, I don’t punish.” Adding insult to very real injury, white teachers who found themselves being beaten in class were subsequently asked not to press charges, because of the difficulties facing young black thugs burdened with criminal records.

April brought us the exquisitely tiny dramas of students at Harvard, where the emotional perils of a radical poetry slam became all too apparent, resulting in one student’s claim of fearing imminent death. Meanwhile, students at Stevenson College were left “harmed” and traumatised by an insufficiently sensitive buffet. Thankfully, saner voices prevailed in the pages of the Guardian, where Deborah Orr explained, or rather asserted, that the only vital qualification for presidential office is the possession of a vagina, the “symbolic power” of which “transcends all else.”

In May, we witnessed the intellectual heft of the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, including her belief that obesity isn’t chiefly a matter of inactivity and overeating but instead has a more pernicious cause, i.e., a lack of socialism: “It is inequality and disrespect,” we learned, “that makes people fat.” Though chunkier readers should note that waiting for a socialist revolution probably isn’t the best way to lose those extra pounds. We also pondered the deep ruminations of Marxist philosopher Adam Swift, who insists that reading to your children causes “unfair disadvantage” to the children of parents who are negligent and stupid, and should therefore induce feelings of guilt and discomfort. To our Marxist intellectual, being a competent, caring parent is something to atone for, being as it is an act of class oppression

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Tidings (9)

Some festive fingering courtesy of Ms Luna Lee and her mighty gayageum:  

As is the custom here, posting will be intermittent over the holidays and readers are advised to subscribe to the blog feed, which will alert you to anything new as and when it materialises. Thanks for over a million visits this year and thousands of comments, many of which prompted discussions that are much more interesting than the actual posts. And particular thanks to all those who’ve made PayPal donations to keep this rickety barge above water. Ditto those who’ve done shopping via the Amazon UK widget, top right, or via this Amazon US link, which results in a small fee for your host at no extra cost to you. It’s what keeps this place here and is much appreciated. Curious newcomers and those with nothing better to do are welcome to rummage through the reheated series.

To you and yours, a very good one. 

And Yet They Want to Teach Us

This letter [from the Communication Graduate Caucus and the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Student Union] is a textbook illustration of the typical logical fallacies that first year university students are supposed to learn to avoid… [It] was presented as a joint effort and was presumably the result of collective deliberation, with sufficient time to craft and reconsider. That it is so muddled suggests in my opinion something about the arrested intellectual development induced by the feminist worldview.

Janice Fiamengo pokes through the mental wreckage of some standard feminist boilerplate, in which facts are either absent or inverted, questions are begged at a rate of knots, and criticism of feminist assumptions is equated with both racism and “co-ordinated campaigns of terror.” 

Friday Ephemera

The smell of cat foreheads, in a spray. // Cat fight. // At last, a mind-controlled car. // The anti-earthquake bed you’ve always wanted. // Tea bag rocket. // Teaching robots. // Bluetooth talking glove. // Tiny plasters for teeny boo-boos. // Best played with headphones in a darkened room. // Over the holidays I’ll be drinking a bottle or two of this. // Header table tennis is the sport of kings. // The octopus and the coconut. // He plays the pedalboard faster than you do. // “This is not a Monty Python sketch.” // It’s not about feelings and sensitivity, they just like telling you what to do. // Sexy men of the synthesizer. For certain values of sexy. // Surf the old web. // Test tube dwellings. // The weather where you are. (h/t, Dr W) // And finally, inevitably, Star Wars minus Star Wars.

It’s Best To Keep Busy

Yes, dear readers. It’s time to revisit the mental dumpster fire that is performance art. Specifically, the unliftable talents of Ms Sandrine Schaefer, whose piece Wandering with the Horizon – No. 1, Acclimating to Horizontal Movement was created for the 2015 Foster Prize Exhibition at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and performed in April of this year. During this six-hour performance, Ms Schaefer “investigates notions of liminality, human scale, and the impact that the external environment has on the body.” As I’m sure will become clear in this, sadly brief, video of edited highlights.

Readers left craving more of Ms Schaefer’s insights can here behold the artist standing inside some tyres, thereby inspiring deep thought on many, many levels. And here we see Ms Schaefer celebrating her weight loss (and her artistic immensity) by attempting to squeeze through a cat flap. Those with a yearning for art of an even higher intellectual gear can marvel at a piece from 2014, in which our fearless transgressor of norms “questions the role memory plays within experiential art mediums, how actions are read on different bodies, and current discource [sic] around documentation, re-performance, and authorship.” By gnawing at a lettuce while sprawling in her underpants

Ms Schaefer’s prize-winning artistic innovations have of course thrilled us previously

Search Your Feelings, Melissa

MSNBC’s race-hustling bedlamite Melissa Harris-Perry wants to tell you about Star Wars

I have a lot [of feelings] about the whole Darth Vader situation. Yeah, like, the part where he was totally a black guy whose name basically was James Earl Jones, who, and we were all, but while he was black, he was terrible and bad and awful and used to cut off white men’s hands, and didn’t, you know, actually claim his son. But as soon as he claims his son and goes over to the good, he takes off his mask and he is white. Yes, I have many, many feelings about that.

She gets quite breathless

Friday Ephemera

Beauty water, $24. // A superconductor levitating on a Möbius strip. // ZX Spectrum emulator. // Grieg in 360 degrees. // Patriarchy caught on camera. (h/t, Liz) // “You can’t move, form memories, or - hopefully - feel pain.” // Period Jewellery. (h/t, Paul) // What does your uvula do? // His interstellar vehicle is bigger than yours. // “Penile disassembly” and other delightful mutilation. (h/t, Paul) // A fence made of bees. It deters elephants. // For detecting radar. // Photography in difficult conditions, 1914-17. // Elgar with a chicken on his head and other composers doing normal shit. // The ultimate executive desk toy is too big for your desk. // Apocalyptic commune lives in homes built from trash. // Your turn to carry the octobass. // Insert card as shown. // Now slap Kirk.

Avoiding Squalor

Isolation almost invariably means poverty and backwardness. You’re not aware of how the basic things of life are done differently in other parts of the world, and so people who are isolated will keep doing things the same way for centuries or thousands of years. For example, when the British landed in Australia, they found the Australian aborigines living at a Stone Age level. The aborigines had no idea of iron. Australia is one of the great sources of iron ore in the world.

Thomas Sowell discusses retrogressive culture, the importance of geography, and leftism versus success: 

Previously. And before that. And Sowell’s book The Vision of the Anointed is pretty much a must-have.  

But I Am Not Androgynous

Let’s call everyone “they”: Gender-neutral language should be the norm, not the exception. 

So writes Silpa Kovvali, an exquisitely progressive she-person, in the pages of Salon

We are forced to… give in and refer to our co-workers, students and friends as “he” or “she.” The result is that our language caps our ability to be progressive in this realm, forces us to immediately characterise people as male or female.

Which is only accurate and expected practically all of the time. And so,

We ought to revert to the gender neutral “they” whenever gender is not explicitly relevant.

You see, Ms Kovvali believes that gendered pronouns and honorifics are an “outdated linguistic tic.” And not a useful, rather concise source of information, a signal of respect, and a way of clarifying who it is we’re talking about.

The effect of elevating gender’s importance is felt by the cis-gendered as well. None of us fit neatly or entirely into a traditional gender binary, with all the expectations of masculinity and femininity that these buckets entail. 

And yet despite this claim, and the somewhat random mention of buckets, almost all of us seem quite happy to be referred to as either male or female, as if it were in fact “relevant,” and the demand for gender-neutral pronouns remains, to say the least, a niche concern. I’d even venture to suggest that some of us might feel slighted by the wilful omission of – diminishing of – our respective maleness or femaleness. However, Ms Kovvali feels a need to inform those less enlightened, i.e., the rest of us, that,

The goal is greater inclusion… to be respectful to those we write about, and to be clear to our readers.

By risking affront on a daily basis and introducing a clumsy and needless ambiguity. Because vagueness is the new clarity.

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