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January 2016

Friday Ephemera

Levitating Bonsai trees. You heard me. // Large scale snow drawings. // Polish priests blessing things, a Tumblr. // Badland is a game. // Beat box of note. // How to build your very own electronic bee counter. // Sampulator. // Waffle poots. // An actual oasis. // Manhattan snow. // New York Public Library menu collection, from the 1850s to the modern day. // Spherical Droste videos explained. // Wall-mounted drawing robot. // For display purposes only. // Action figures. (h/t, Damian) // Filmmaker trolls censors. (h/t, Franklin) // Text tone analyser. // Is titanium bulletproof? // Intelligent headlights. (h/t, Elephants Gerald) // Darwin awards, a compendium of dumb and acts of an angry god. // You want one very badly. // And finally, erotically, some of that good lovin’.

At All Times, Dignity

California State University, Los Angeles, where the life of the mind is a thing to behold

It all started when CSULA’s branch of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth organisation, announced that [conservative author Ben] Shapiro would be appearing for a lecture titled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.” The lecture will discuss topics like Black Lives Matter, microaggressions and trigger warnings, and whether they pose a threat to freedom of speech. Ironically, several students and faculty have reacted to the notion they want to stifle free speech by savagely attacking the event, with some of them arguing it should be shut down.

In short, the standard obliviousness. But then things got a little heated:

One of those aggressively denouncing the event is Robert Weide, an assistant professor of sociology at the school. Weide posted a comment on the event’s Facebook page accusing “Young Americans for Liberty” [sic] of being a group of “white supremacists” looking to intimidate “POC” (people of colour), and predicted they would need police protection at their event to protect themselves from mob violence.

Yes, it turns out that if you dare to question the premise of microaggressions, you will be called names and there will be shoving and punching. 

Weide became enmeshed in a long-running, extremely bitter argument with supporters of the event, both on-campus and off. In the process, he repeatedly accused his opponents of “white supremacy,” and at one point suggested they show up at CSULA’s campus gym for a fight. But they had best be careful before accepting the challenge, he warned, saying “I lift bro.”

If we’re doing the whole chest-puffing thing with lecturers in sociology picking fights with students who happen to disagree - and apparently we are - why settle for just punching each other? So uncouth. Pistols at dawn, I say.


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Feminist Life Skills

I am a truth-teller, if nothing else.

So says Meghan Murphy, whose frankness and modesty entertained us quite recently. Not least with her belief that the world needs “a feminist revolution… an end to masculinity,” and that “it’s time to consider a curfew for men.” Our self-effacing Amazon and speaker of truths, and editor of “Canada’s leading feminist website,” is once again sharing her wisdom with the world’s downtrodden womenfolk, with “Ten things every woman should know by the time she’s 36.” The nuggets on offer cover a spectrum of womanly woes, from the prosaic - buying shoes that fit as opposed to ones that don’t - to matters more profound:  

(3) Love, marriage, and heterosexual couplings will not complete you or make you happy.


I’m not saying that having positive, loving relationships with men is impossible. But it’s very hard.


First of all, most men are men… They are men who have been socialised as men in a world that teaches them male entitlement… As much as a man might be good and kind and loving, he’s still going to exhibit certain behaviours that will remind you that, oh right, I’m a woman living with a person who has spent their whole life in a position of power over me and my sisters and he will never fully understand what that’s like. 

You see,

Patriarchy makes heterosexual love next to impossible. Do your best to live the life you want regardless of whether or not there is a man in it and remember that having a man in it won’t necessarily make your life any better… Often, in fact, it makes it worse.

At which point readers may wonder if this severely jaundiced view of men - in which masculinity is something to “end” as a matter of urgency, and in which a male presence in one’s life is deemed likely to make it worse - is an obvious aid to success in the world of heterosexual romance. With heterosexual love being “next to impossible,” despite it occurring frequently across much of the planet’s surface. And some of you may be wondering whether the wholesale regurgitation of radfem boilerplate, including demands for male curfews, may give potential suitors the impression of being seated with a woman in need of medication. A perception unlikely to enhance any hopes of contented lifelong coupling.

However, if attempts to attract a male life partner fail – possibly as a result of explaining to him, at length, why he and other men are so ignorant, oppressive and dysfunctional – there is a consolation prize:

(10) You should get a dog.

So. Not a total loss.

Elsewhere (187)

Christopher Snowdon on Tory paternalism: 

[Conservative MP, Dr Sarah] Wollaston wants the government to ‘tackle’ the alleged problem of cheap food. She also wants to tell shopkeepers where to position their goods, explaining her reasons in words so pathetic it almost makes me weep: “Do I want to have a kilogram of chocolate for almost nothing when I buy my newspaper? Of course I do but please don’t offer it to me, please don’t make me pass the chicanes of sugar at the checkout while queuing to pay for petrol.” Younger readers may not know this, but at one time the Conservatives were reputed to be the party of free markets and personal responsibility. In 2016, however, it is a party for people – grown, adult human beings, mind – begging to have sweets put out of their reach on other people’s property and pleading with petrol station attendants to put wine gums on the top shelf.

Kevin Williamson on the return of politically correct subprime mortgages: 

Under its new and cynically misnamed “HomeReady” programme, borrowers with subprime credit don’t need to show that they have enough income to qualify for the mortgage they’re after — they simply have to show that all the people residing in their household put together have enough income to qualify for that mortgage. We’re not talking just about husbands and wives here, but any group of people who happen to share a roof and a mailing address. And some non-residents can be added, too, such as your parents. That would be one thing if all these people were applying for a mortgage together, and were jointly on the hook for the mortgage payments. But that isn’t the case. HomeReady will permit borrowers to claim other people’s income for the purpose for qualifying for a mortgage, but will not give mortgage lenders any actual claim against that additional income. This is madness.

Remember, citizens. Standards must be eroded for the sake of “social justice.” 

And Toby Young on a modern heresy: 

[Dr Adam] Perkins published his findings last November in a book called The Welfare Trait, but you won’t have heard about it or seen it reviewed in any UK newspaper anywhere because his research has been judged to be off limits by the self-appointed guardians of the academic establishment and their outriders in the media. A senior editor of Nature, one of the leading academic journals, refused to consider it for review because she regards scientific research into the personalities of the long-term unemployed as “unethical,” and a sociology professor whom the publishers had asked to peer-review the book refused to do so on the grounds that any book linking benefit dependency to personality must be nonsense because personality is a “capitalist construct.”

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

Clown Quarter Chronicles

Those of you with a taste for academic papers that actively resist human comprehension may wish to follow the tweets of Amir Sariaslan, who catalogues some of the more challenging items in supposedly scholarly publishing

It’s an acquired taste, I know, but there’s a grim fun to be had in spotting the ostentatious and apparently random use of the word “neoliberal,” as, for instance, when pondering “neoliberal” orgasms and the “technology of sexiness.” Alternatively, music lovers can mull the pressing need for hip-hop to “escape from false consciousness and resist hegemony,” and some of you may be seduced by “queer architecture theory,” specifically, a “theatrical queer feminist interpretation of architecture.” Others may wish to while away their lunch hour with a paper “using straight and white teeth as a metaphor for straight and White identity,” thereby revealing how “straight White identities” are “arrogant and ignorant” and “often problematic.

No, please. There’s no need to thank me.

And This Is Your Brain On Feminism

Feminist Current is apparently “Canada’s leading feminist website.” Its editor Meghan Murphy tells us that “female students are under constant threat” and that all women everywhere live in a state of unending terror:

And who is it we fear? Is it other women? No. It is a male. A male with a penis that he may or may not use as a weapon.

Armed with a mind of infinite subtlety, Ms Murphy has more than a few ideas on how to combat this throbbing phallocratic menace:

There are solutions: a feminist revolution… an end to masculinity… all of that would help. 

An end to masculinity. Yes, I know, it’s quite a project. But first, baby steps:

It’s time to consider a curfew for men.

One more time: 

While a curfew would not resolve the problem of patriarchy and male violence against women, it does, in a way, address entitlement and privilege… The more I consider the idea of a curfew for men, the more it makes sense.

Why, it almost sounds like a gratuitous power fantasy, the product of an unwell mind. Of course a curfew will make dating rather difficult if you’re not a lesbian, and overnight motorway maintenance will have to be done exclusively by ladies. And there’ll be no more working nights to support your family, you indecently privileged patriarchal shitlord. Happily, however, our collective punishment as menfolk may not be eternal: 

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Literary World Unveils Doomsday Machine

The only power we have as authors is if we unionise and go on strike.

Amanda Craig, novelist, mouthing what I fear may be another classic sentence for our series.

Via Tim Worstall, who has more.


Spotted by Chester in the comments - Fintan O’Toole, literary editor of the Irish Times, calls for a “national arts strike” to extort further cash from the taxpayer. “The public has to be reminded that it really does care,” says he. And until more wallets land on the bonfire of publicly funded art, the nation’s creative titans should “close the arts centres” and “hold no poetry readings.

Friday Ephemera

It’s probably best to charge it before you set off. // Cheese heists in the Netherlands. // I think it’s called comeuppance. // Because Paris isn’t real. // The properties of lenses. // A library of pigments. // They disentangle yarn. // Tiny snack, eaten whole. // Whiskey glass of note, $50. // Avatar verisimilitude. // The loveliness of bee puke. // The product manual archive. (h/t, Things) // Siberian ice percussion. // Alphorn in a parking lot. // Hearing loss simulator. // Model of note, 1964. // HTML 909. // Every Batman fight scene onomatopoeia in one alphabetical gif. // The shelf lives of single-serving condiment sachets. (h/t, Coudal) // When a famous footballer turns on his Instagram notifications. // And finally, via Damian, some children really are very hard to please.

Slacking for Social Justice

It’s the latest thing, according to Riyad A Shahjahan, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, and whose areas of expertise include “social justice theory” and “pedagogies of dissent.”

In recent years, scholars have critiqued norms of neoliberal higher education by calling for embodied and anti-oppressive teaching and learning. Implicit in these accounts, but lacking elaboration, is a concern with reformulating the notion of ‘time’ and temporalities of academic life. Employing a coloniality perspective, this article argues that in order to reconnect our minds to our bodies and centre embodied pedagogy in the classroom, we should disrupt Eurocentric notions of time that colonise our academic lives. I show how this entails slowing down and ‘being lazy’.

Yes, comrades. We must “disrupt Eurocentric notions of time.” And temporalities, obviously. Postcolonial theorising is the only way to challenge the “neoliberal higher education climate” – hold that thought - and those “colonial binaries such as superior/inferior.” We must “dislodge higher education from neoliberal personhood.” As the exact nature of Dr Shahjahan’s problem has been buried under rhetorical rubble, I’ll translate as best I can. You see, being expected to keep up with the pace of lessons and deliver course work on time can induce feelings of discomfort and inferiority in those less able and conscientious, thereby resulting in “exclusionary effects,” which, it turns out, are oppressive and unjust:

These internalised temporalities may have especially exclusionary effects on bodies and selves. For example, Brandt (2008) found that the hurried pace of homework, exams and research associated with molecular biology laboratory class conflicted with a Navajo student’s sense of time. Thus, Navajo students internalised a sense of ‘being less than’ and felt guilty.

However, armed with our postcolonial theorising and postmodern bafflegab, and by stressing the mystical exoticness of people with browner skin, we shall set the people free from the “dominant culture of disembodiment” and the “temporal colonisation of our bodies” – i.e., expectations of punctuality, attentiveness and general competence:  

To undo this colonisation of our bodies, we should strive to ‘embody’ ourselves: inhabit our bodies fully, acknowledge the interconnection between mind, body, spirit, and contest the insertion of the body into the market.

Yes, we must contest the insertion.

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She Does All This For Us, You Know

As it’s Monday, I thought I’d cheer you with another chance to marvel at the mind-shattering talents of Ms Sandrine Schaefer, a performance artist whose adventures with lettuce and underwear have previously entertained us. Being as she is so fearless and uncompromising, her latest work entails,

A series of research based actions in public spaces that explore automated systems that are triggered by human movement.

Specifically, Ms Schaefer is filmed walking past automatic doors, repeatedly and radically, and much to the indifference of passers-by: 

Says she:

Through this enquiry, I hope to discover new possibilities for collaborations with these everyday machines.

So there’s that to look forward to.

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