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December 2016

The Year Reheated

In which we glimpse the world through the eyes of our self-imagined betters.

The year began with news that living in Glasgow is now to be considered a work of art, according to Ellie Harrison, a taxpayer-funded artist who, coincidentally, lives in Glasgow. We also witnessed the talents of Sandrine Schaeffer, who teaches the subtleties of performance art to those less gifted than herself, and who unveiled “a series of research based actions in public spaces” – i.e., walking repeatedly past automatic doors. Gorged on art, our attention then turned to academic matters and the ruminations of Dr Riyad A Shahjahan, an exponent of “social justice theory” and “pedagogies of dissent.” Dr Shahjahan wished to impress on us that “the norms of neoliberal higher education” – specifically, expectations of punctuality and academic competence – are both racist and oppressive.

February saw a multi-million-dollar experiment in progressive crime prevention – a project that was as bold as it was unsuccessful - namely, bribing known criminals to not commit further crimes. And Ms Celia Edell, a “24-year-old feminist philosopher interested in social justice,” explored the thorny conundrum of whether feminism is compatible with the eating of bacon sandwiches

In March, we beheld the artistic work of Sandrine Schaeffer’s students - feats that included drooling, doomed horticulture and masochistic thigh-scarring. And feminist “creative” Katherine Garcia attempted to justify her sub-optimal life choices. Ms Garcia, who describes herself as a “multi-dimensional creature” doing “enlightening work,” was shocked to discover that getting heavily into debt to pursue a grad school degree in Women and Gender Studies isn’t a sure-fire path to status and prosperity.

April was enlivened by the highly-wound students at Edinburgh University, whose meetings forbid expressions and gestures that “denote disagreement,” and where even quietly shaking one’s head is a scandalous transgression. In the pages of Everyday Feminism, Ms Kai Cheng Tom bemoaned the fact that “disorders like violent psychopathy” are “generally considered unlikeable,” and that “compassion for psychopaths, pathological liars, or narcissists” – people such as herself – is hard to come by. And over at the Guardian, Grayson Perry, a part-time transvestite and maker of unattractive pottery, disdained masculinity as “useless” and “counter-productive,” a mere “hangover” from more primitive, less Guardian-friendly times.

In May, the “social justice” juggernaut Hari Ziyad railed against conformism and idle stereotypes, while denouncing the “white supremacist cisheteropatriarchal capitalistic gaze,” and exhorting us to spend more time fretting about “gender non-conforming Indigenous people with disabilities.” And the no less non-conformist Laurie Penny announced that she “leans towards anarcho-communism,” which, rather conveniently, means that your money actually belongs to her.

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Tidings (10)

Frozen soap bubbles by ZALUSKArt

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 well 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 in search of entertainment. Or you could rehearse this little party piece for any impending social gathering.

To you and yours, a very good one. 

An Eighteen-Year Project

In the Sydney Morning Herald, proud feminist and former educator Polly Dunning shares her experience of motherhood:

I’ve always been a feminist. I’m lucky. My mother, Jane Caro, is a feminist, as is my grandmother, and both always have been. It’s something I’ve never questioned and always felt confident and strident about. Just ask me about it at a dinner party (if you dare...)

Setting aside the prospect of some horrendous dinner parties, note Ms Dunning’s satisfaction with a set of assumptions that are stridently voiced and “never questioned.”

Motherhood has been quite a confronting experience for my feminism so far, and I'm sure it will continue to be. Ever since discovering I was pregnant it’s been a process of adjusting and reconciling my biology with my ideology, particularly when I discovered that my baby, my most-beloved Alfred, would be a boy.

That little red light is a warning sign.

I had never wanted a son. In fact, I had decidedly not wanted one. I wanted daughters, probably because I am one of two daughters and six granddaughters, no sons or grandsons. This seemed altogether to fit in with my feminism better… There were dark moments in the middle of the night (when all those dark thoughts come), when I felt sick at the thought of something male growing inside me.

Yes, I know. The little red light is flashing now. Best cover it with a towel.

In this patriarchal world, this world where even the best men (and women, for that matter) engage in casual and ingrained sexism, how will I raise a son who respects me the way a daughter would?

Oh sweet naïveté. But thank goodness that Ms Dunning, who “felt sick” at even the thought of “something male” growing inside her, is totally opposed to all that “casual and ingrained sexism.”

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If Only She Could Get Over Her Vagina

Annette Messager’s show À mon seul désir has a relaxed, unfussed immediacy that screams veracity.

Yes, we’re visiting the art world, the pages of Hyperallergic – “a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about art in the world today.”

The white walls of the space are copiously hung, salon style, with a mélange of disquieting drawings and small, black, figurative sculptures.

Oh dear. Never go full mélange.

[T]he artist really delivered the feminist mayhem she is known for, presenting a series of fresh and topical works that may just as well have come from the mind and hand of an artist half her (73) years.

Or even, as we’ll see, some fraction smaller than that. Readers curious as to what form this “feminist mayhem” takes will be thrilled to hear that Ms Messager has “created an eccentric menagerie of mythologies suggestive of the complexity of the female body, therein exploring concepts of the feminine.” Specifically,

Messager takes as subject free-flowing breasts, uteruses, and menstruation, pushing her ongoing artistic probe of the female body from outside and within... Perhaps the strongest works here are the loosely-drawn, menstruation-based pieces. “Mon Ketchup” (“My Ketchup”) focuses on the red menstrual flow of a seated woman with her panties around her ankles. 

Behold, ye mortals, and tremble.

This, then, is the high point of the exhibition. Or put another way, it’s all downhill from here. And so we arrive at an artistic feat titled “Mon utérus à mon désir” (“My Uterus to My Desire”) and which, we’re told, “depicts an anthropomorphised, left-handed uterus, flipping the bird.”

Again, feast thine eyes

The reviewer, an artist and author named Joseph Nechvatal, is rendered breathless by this endeavour. For him, it “sums up the intensity of the show… female flesh enacting insolence.” Well, the disdain is hard to miss. Though, given the hackneyed themes and general incompetence, which we’re expected to find both sufficient and compelling, perhaps while rubbing our chins, I can’t help wondering at whom said disdain is actually being aimed. 

Indignation And Its Perks

In progressive academia, you must watch what you say, even in jest:

“I decided I’d try something a little different, but maybe it was a little too outside… I apologise if I offended anyone, that certainly wasn’t my intention,” [café operator Sandor] Dosman said. “I wouldn’t have done it if I knew this was going to happen. I have no job now.”

The details of Mr Dosman’s unforgivable transgression can be found here

Readers may wonder whether Mr Dosman’s sudden unemployment was the result of students actually being offended on account of their improbably delicate sensibilities. Or more to do with the thrill of exerting power over an easy target, and the kinds of personalities attracted to such things.

Via RTW.

Friday Ephemera

Don’t let Santa eat your children. // Curveball. // Christmas yet to come. // Soho striptease clubs, 1958. // The random Burroughs. // Made of balloons. // Bug-eating utensils. For when you want to look stylish while chewing on that scorpion. // I guess Picasso didn’t age well. // Why parents rarely want their children to be artists, part 17. // His disco glitter ball is bigger than yours. // Government. (h/t, Peter) // Radio garden. Browse stations of the world. // Handwriting robot. // These guys mimic animatronics better than you do. // Finger pillory, for mischievous urchins and the generally obstreperous. // Tiny paper engine. // The appeal of leaves. // Be like Hank. (h/t, Ben) // Wrinkled rocks. // And finally, gustatorily, it turns out that it’s possible to taste garlic with your feet.


Newcomers and the nostalgic will be thrilled to hear that the greatest hits archive has (finally) been updated. Among the additions are Laurie Penny’s not-at-all-disastrous lifestyle advice, how not being fat makes you an oppressor, why your erotic preferences are in need of egalitarian correction, and the Guardian’s Sarah Marsh on the traumatising horror of being offered free cake

Not Quite Grasping The Irony

So here’s a thing. A leftist anthropology professor named Mark Zajac - noted on the Rate My Professors website for being politically “opinionated” and “often going off on tangents about political topics which have no relation to the course” - discovered the existence of a website that advises parents and alumni of leftist professors whose views and behaviour are somewhat questionable. For instance, educators describing white people as “the face of the oppressor,” or calling conservative students “white supremacists,” or assaulting a student and then blaming their own behaviour on the “cultural legacy of slavery,” or repeatedly using the classroom as a political pulpit. 

Unhappy at this discovery, said professor then proceeded to use his classroom, and class time, to indulge in half an hour of factually dubious leftist sermonising. As the student who recorded Dr Zajac noted, “It’s unacceptable this is happening in a class where I’m supposed to be learning about ancient humans and how they painted caves and used tools.”

Totes Hardcore

From the ‘style’ pages of Mic magazine, where the young and left-leaning can find “news to help you rethink the world”:

On election night, like so many, 26-year-old Nicole Narvaez’s feelings “kind of exploded.” “I went to bed in tears and woke up to the final news hysterical,” Narvaez recalled.

Hysterical. Her words.

“I cried on the train to work, at work, after work and many days since. Following the election I decided I wanted and needed to do something for myself that also meant something bigger.” And how she’d do that, she thought, was with a tattoo. “I needed to remind myself that our new president-elect and all the horrible things he has said and represents isn’t a representation of humanity, and to not let it eat me up entirely,” Narvaez said. “I needed something to remind myself of how strong I can be.”

Because the way to keep things in proportion and not be eaten up entirely by an election result is to have your body marked with a permanent reminder of it. And the strength-asserting tattoo chosen by the not-at-all-unstable Ms Narvaez?  

That night, after doing some research online, she walked into a tattoo parlour and got “GRL PWR” on her wrist and the Venus sign commonly associated with feminism on her pointer finger. “The two tattoos work in tandem when my hand is in a fist straight into the air,” Narvaez explained. “They work off one another.”

Tremble, ye patriarchs. This lady means business. Presumably, that fist-and-index-finger combo will be on display quite a lot in the post-election End Times.

The article, by Rachel Lubitz, goes on to inform its readers that Ms Narvaez is “not alone in feeling an urge to get something permanent on her body after the election,” that “feminist messages have been hugely popular,” and that this constitutes a “true insurgence.” Rather than, say, a display of impulse-control issues and possibly future regret. As illustrated, inadvertently, by a young feminist who wished to tell the world about her “belief in women’s rights” via the subtle medium of a large forearm tattoo. Specifically, one featuring “a coat hanger encircled in flowers with the words ‘We deserve better’ written below it.”

Friday Ephemera

And it falls from the sky. (h/t, Damian) // The great animal orchestra. // Cardboard cat ark. // I think there’s a story here. // Whatever you do, don’t push the button. // A brief history of sea monkeys and instant fish. // Big determined cat fits in a small mixing bowl. // Jim LeBlanc’s bad day in a NASA vacuum chamber. // Perhaps not. // Radium suppositories. // Good parents don’t let their children waste money on a gender studies course. // 3D-printed pancakes. SD card compatible. // The Amazon grocery store has no queues and no checkout. // He stacks coins better than you do. // A brief history of human population growth. // Stay tuned for deer and the odd raccoon. // And finally, their first mistake was marketing the drink as “bottled spunk.” Then things went downhill.

It’s Called A Shakedown, Baby

Attention, rubes, dupes and suckers. Do you pretend to experience crippling racial guilt in order to appear pious and fit in? Is “white supremacy,” “white privilege” and all that other pretentious angst weighing on your shoulders, harshing your buzz? Do you want to empower, or at least enrich, some “black femme freedom fighters”? Do you require monthly “tasks” - and a monthly bill of $100 – to atone for your pallor and “pay reparations” - to prove that, despite being white, you’re not a terrible person, unlike all those other awful white people? 

Then this is for you

Via dicentra, who reminds us that the above is not a work of satire