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June 2016

But I’m So Much Slimmer In My Mind

Retail giant Hammerson is now taking down mirrors from its Birmingham Bullring, Bristol Cabot Circus and Croydon Centrale malls in a bid to boost the confidence of female shoppers. Alex Thomas, regional marketing manager for Hammerson, said: “One of the main reasons people come to our shopping centres is to buy clothes, whether that be a brand new wardrobe or a one off item for a special occasion. We want to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and confident when trying on clothes, so that’s why we’re trialling banning the mirrors.”

Yes, you read that correctly

Reheated (46)

For newcomers, more items from the archives:

Today’s Word Is Chutzpah

Living in Glasgow for a year is art, says taxpayer-funded artist who lives in Glasgow.

Writing in the Guardian, Liam Hainey rushes to defend Ms Harrison’s low-effort art project, denouncing “budget butchers” and asking his readers to “look at the bigger picture.” All while carefully ignoring anything that might trouble the assumptions of the freeloading arts community. Mr Hainey, a former Green councillor, dismisses the widespread mockery of Ms Harrison’s hustle as “predictable.” But he doesn’t seem to grasp that much of the mockery occurs because hustles of this type are themselves so predictable – that what we’re seeing, yet again, is a display of arrogant presumption, one that’s routine among a socially and politically narrow subsidy-seeking caste. And so Mr Hainey tells us, triumphantly, that the money isn’t in fact being wasted because it was already earmarked for art that would probably be unpopular and which nobody asked for.

Lofty Beings

Feminist “creative” Katherine Garcia attempts to justify her sub-optimal life choices. Things go badly wrong.

In financial terms, the lifetime return on an arts degree is very often negative and there’s something to be said for practicality, especially if your background is a modest one. Social mobility presupposes a certain realism, a pragmatism, and making choices accordingly – say, with regard to the costs and benefits of tertiary education, which is for most an expensive one-time opportunity. I’m inclined to suggest that getting into further debt for a grad school degree in Women and Gender Studies, as Ms Garcia did, is possibly not an ideal way to help one’s family economically, or indeed oneself.

Slacking for Social Justice

Riyad A Shahjahan says we must “disrupt Eurocentric notions of time.” Because punctuality is racist and oppressive.

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. However, armed with postcolonial theorising, 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. Yes, we must “contest the insertion of the body into the market.”  

There’s more to poke at in the updated greatest hits. And tickling the tip jar makes my phone go ping. Which is nice.

Friday Ephemera

Hey, bear.” // A brief history of beehive hair-dos. // A brief history of horror films. // A brief history of urbanisation and the building of cities, 3700 BC – 2000 AD. // Batteries of yore. // There’s a loud buzzing noise in the garden. // Great questions of our time. // The secret world of foley. // So you know. // Illusions of note. // I’m doing it with my mind. // Casting Marvel’s Avengers, then and now. // Enhance grid 17. // Go deep. // HBO’s Westworld. // What could possibly go wrong? // Ladies and their electronic music. // Cats on amps. // Las Vegas in infrared. // And finally, voyeuristically, some passions are best left unseen.

Update: Much Brexit rumbling in the comments.

Elsewhere (204)

Nicholas Casey on Venezuela’s end-stage socialism: 

Hundreds of people here in the city of Cumaná… marched on a supermarket, screaming for food. They forced open a large metal gate and poured inside. They snatched water, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, potatoes, anything they could find, leaving behind only broken freezers and overturned shelves. They showed that even in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, it is possible for people to riot because there is not enough food… Economists say years of economic mismanagement… have shattered the food supply. Sugar fields in the country’s agricultural centre lie fallow for lack of fertilisers. Unused machinery rots in shuttered state-owned factories…

In response, President Nicolás Maduro has tightened his grip over the food supply. Using emergency decrees he signed this year, the president put most food distribution in the hands of a group of citizen brigades loyal to leftists, a measure critics say is reminiscent of food rationing in Cuba. “They’re saying, in other words, you get food if you’re my friend, if you’re my sympathizer,” said Roberto Briceño-León, the director of the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a human rights group.

Readers may recall this video of a Moscow supermarket circa 1990, in which shoppers are clearly both thrilled and morally elevated by the egalitarian retail experience. Taking turns to smell the one piece of grey meat available, and then leaving it where it is, was, I’m assured, a way for the proletariat to celebrate the obvious superiority of socialism.

Meanwhile, in North Korea

About a third of the students who go to the farms [for a month of state-mandated rice-planting duty] get out of about half the work because they work as informers for the government.

And Douglas Murray on Europe’s migrant avalanche: 

Most of the people coming to Europe who came in the last year are not refugees, they are economic migrants; they are seeking a better life. Now, Europe cannot be the place where everybody in the world who wants to seek a better life is allowed to come and settle. It’s not possible for economic reasons; it’s not possible for geographical reasons; it’s not possible for housing and welfare reasons, and it’s not possible for cultural reasons… How do we know that most of the people who are coming are not even legitimate refugees? We know it because no less a source than the European Commission itself has now told us as much. Earlier this year in an interview, Frans Timmermans, the European Commission Vice President, admitted that in his estimate at least sixty percent of the people who came to Europe last year have no more right to be here than anybody else.

Feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.

The State Doesn’t Love You

The classic concern that marriage was a patriarchal institution that held women back needs to be revised, maybe even dramatically revised in 2016… What we see, basically, is that daughters are more likely to flourish educationally and even later on in life professionally, across class lines, when they’ve had an involved dad who’s engaged with them in their lives. And so there’s a way in which both fatherhood and marriage, done right, are, I think, acting in service of women’s progress.

As a riposte of sorts to Laurie Penny’s recent blathering on the evils of monogamy and family stability and the alleged thrills of single motherhood and “uncoupled women,” here’s Christina Hoff Sommers interviewing Brad Wilcox of the Institute for Family Studies, in which the advantages of marriage are discussed, with data and correlations, along with the consequences of its abandonment.  

Part 1

Part 2

Continue reading "The State Doesn’t Love You" »

Friday Ephemera

Why foxes don’t rule the Earth. // The origins of dubstep. (h/t, Elephants Gerald) // Sleep with the bees. // Sci-fi background noise generator. // The names of colours. // Where flight attendants chill. (h/t, drb) // Forbidden images. // Captured motion. // Gad Saad chats with Robert Spencer. Somewhat related. // On thinking about gears. // Little bug gears. // Vertical forest, Milan. // At last, a seven-person tricycle, only $20,000. // “A man is being sought by police after a discussion about the shape of the earth got out of hand.” // The chemistry of dentistry. // “No other bite kills more humans.” // Blimps. // A brief history of sending children through the mail. // How to straighten the curly tail of a pig. // And finally, I think we can safely say that their marriage had its problems.

Elsewhere (203)

Kevin D Williamson on entrepreneurship and its obstacles: 

[Alexandra Scott] launched, with her brother’s help, a lemonade stand, with the intention of using her profits to help other children with cancer. They raised $2,000, which is a fair amount of money for a lemonade stand… Once her story hit the headlines — we do sometimes forget that the press can be an awesome instrument for good — that $2,000 became $1 million, and that $1 million became a movement, with children around the country opening their own summer lemonade stands in tribute to Alex and, later, in tribute to her memory. Alex died of cancer at age eight… As the idea of [children] selling lemonade for charitable purposes caught on, police around the country and the turbocharged bureaucracies behind them found themselves faced with an unexpected public menace: outlaw lemonade

Ed West on classroom indoctrination and the whitewashing of leftist history:

[Dennis Sewell] quotes from the exam board Edexcel “on the subject of Conservative ideology” in its most recent A-level Government and Politics syllabus, which he describes as “downright scandalous.” It defined conservatism as “fear of diversity” and support for “social and state authoritarianism.” Conservatism views people as “limited, dependent and security-seeking creatures” and supports “resurgent nationalism… insularity and xenophobia.” The entry on socialism, however, describes it as defined by “social stability and cohesion, social justice, happiness and personal development” and the worst thing that can be said about it is an allusion to “conflict as a motor of history.” Sewell writes: “The actual marking schemes, used in real exams and deciding students’ real results, are even worse.”

And Rich Lowry on English literature degrees and The Great White Horror: 

In a petition to the English Department, Yale undergraduates declare that a required two-semester seminar on Major English Poets is a danger to their well-being. Never mind that the offending poets — Shakespeare, Chaucer, Donne, Milton, Wordsworth, et al. — are the foundational writers in the English language. It is as if chemistry students objected to learning the periodic table of elements or math students rose up against the teaching of differential calculus… The petition’s implicit contention is that the major poets are too circumscribed by their race and gender to speak to today’s socially aware students, when, in fact, it is the students who are too blinkered by race and gender to marvel at great works of art. It takes a deeply impoverished imagination to read Shakespeare and regard him simply as an agent of the patriarchy. 

Continue reading "Elsewhere (203)" »

Lifestyle Advice

Laurie Penny – yes, ‘tis shewants to expand our minds with her deep knowledge of marriage:  

More women are living alone or without a partner than ever before, and the question on the table once again is not how to have a better marriage, but whether to have one at all. 

I suppose there’s also the question of whether those living alone, perhaps in the name of feminism, are happier than they otherwise might be, more satisfied, and more prepared for later life. Sadly, Laurie waves aside the, as she puts it, “vanishing amount of security offered by coupledom” - coupledom which she assumes must be antithetical to “personal autonomy.” The notion that a person’s sense of freedom – say, from doubt, isolation or poverty - might be enhanced by the practical and emotional support of a lifelong exclusive relationship, is oddly unexplored. The advantages of a second income, shared labour, shared troubles and an expanded circle of relatives on whom one might call for support - and above all, a sense of personal commitment through thick and thin – these things are apparently much too bourgeois and conformist, and so unworthy of attention.

Instead, Ms Penny thrills to the “growing power of uncoupled women” and “the threat this poses to the socioeconomic status quo.” Posing threats to the status quo is, for Laurie, a thing of great importance, something to be championed, seemingly regardless of what that challenge might realistically entail. This, after all, is someone whose pronouncements often suggest a pretentious teenager hoping to scandalise elderly relatives, and who believes, or pretends to believe, that “romantic love is a systemic lie designed to manipulate women into lifelong emotional labour.” As so often, Laurie’s sincerity is somewhat in question, and either way, one has to wonder how this dark conspiracy, this “systemic lie,” might explain the romantic feelings of gay couples, or those who are fairly sure that their partnership is not in fact a sham, an idle reflex or the result of subtle brainwashing.

This being a Laurie Penny article, the spotlight soon shifts to her glorious self:

I had been struggling to find language for my growing anxiety over the fact that, at almost 30, I still have no desire to settle down and form a traditional family. I’ve been waiting, as open-mindedly as possible, for a sudden neo-Darwinian impulse to pair up and reproduce. And yet here I am, and it hasn’t happened. Despite no small amount of social pressure, I am happy as I am.

Which would explain all those cheery, contended articles she churns out

I am quite content with the fact that my work, my politics, my community and my books are just as important to me as anyone I happen to be dating… I live in a commune, I date multiple people, and I’m focused on my career.  

Potential suitors please take note. You are but one of many, and of no more importance than Laurie’s books.

Continue reading "Lifestyle Advice" »

Friday Ephemera

Stalker. (h/t, Damian) // Chores. // Horse yoga. // The wrong sperm. // Clothes-folding robot steams and de-wrinkles. // Ravel conducts Boléro, 1930. // On the distribution of lions. // We three. // Robotic bee. // Christopher Snowdon debunks some myths. // Who earns what (maybe) in a hypothetical $200M blockbuster movie. // It is difficult to overcook mushrooms. // Discuss. // An oldie but a goodie. // The strange story of Tetris. // “On September 3, 1967, all traffic in Sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right.” // Levitating plant rotator. // This. // “The heart has already formed.” // Concentrated coffee. // Attack of the clams. // Picasso meets Kubrick. // “The largest private residential ship on the planet.” // The crushing patriarchy.

The Great Unravelling

A footnote of sorts, lifted from the thread following this and in reply to Ben’s comment: “The only thing that’s shocking about any of this stuff is how fucking awful it is.”

Watching these things – almost any of them - you have to wonder, was there ever a time when the people involved looked at what they were doing, at each other, at any of their peers, and thought, “Hm. We’re a bit shit at this, aren’t we?” Was there ever a brief flickering of shame or humility, or even just frustration at their own inadequacy? Was that thread ever pulled at?

Answers on a postcard, please.

The Dunning-Kruger Diaries

I bring you art. Twelve minutes of it. In which Ms Eames Armstrong and Matthew Ryan Rossetti thrill onlookers at the 2015 MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival with a terribly radical rendition of music from Les Misérables. As readers will no doubt be aware, the MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival is where gathered artistic juggernauts “create queer experimental media through an ever-changing constellation of means.” The participants, we’re told, “make art for ourselves and our community, not for markets or museums.” Consequently, the festival is a “decisive launching pad for emerging talents.”

No skipping ahead to the good bits.

The festival, including the soul-engorging splendour of the piece featured above, was sponsored by both the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. An earlier performance by Ms Armstrong and Mr Rossetti, in which Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, um, enhanced and made transgressive, can be found here. You lucky, lucky people.