Archive for September, 2017
17 Sep 2017

Dancing

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Without music, life would be a mistake.

-–Nietzsche

17 Sep 2017

“Clown Was Delicious”

16 Sep 2017

Inadvertent Irony

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16 Sep 2017

CNN’s Brooke Baldwin Freaks Out Over Clay Travis’ “Boobs” Reference

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15 Sep 2017

Eat ‘Em All

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Fox News reports that a reporter for a prestigious newspaper was eaten by a crocodile.

A Financial Times journalist was killed by a crocodile while washing his hands at a lagoon in Sri Lanka during a holiday with pals.

Paul McClean, 25, an Oxford University graduate, is understood to have wandered away from his group of friends to find a toilet when he was attacked.

The British victim is believed to have been dragged under water at a lagoon called Crocodile Rock near a popular surf spot after being ambushed by the reptile.

McClean graduated from Oxford with a First class honors degree in French in 2015 before joining the Financial Times later that year.

He had covered Brexit and the European Union for the newspaper and had recently returned to London after living in Brussels for a couple of months.

The lagoon, known to be crawling with crocodiles, is yards away from popular surf spot Elephant Rock near Arugam Bay on the southeast coast.

Sri Lankan police and the army are said to be searching the shore surrounding the area.

Locals claimed the victim had been staying at the East Beach Surf Resort – located just minutes away from the surfing area he went missing from.

Fawas Lafeer, owner of Safa Surf School, located up the coast from where the incident happened, said: “A local fisherman witnessed a man being dragged into a river, set back from the beach, by a crocodile. The fisherman was on the opposite side of the river and downstream of the incident location.”

RTWT

15 Sep 2017

Ikea Humans

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Samuel Biagetti finds an important parallel between the youthful middle-class community of fashion’s preference in furniture and its inner life.

Suppose for the moment that our young couple of today… Jennifer and Jason, are members of the upper middle class, living off their smarts and social connections rather than manual work. They live in the Sun Belt, in some newly gentrifying neighborhood of Queens, or in its equivalent in Montreal or Melbourne. They have college degrees and, even more importantly, college friends, which help to pull them up the slippery slope of middle-class employment. They are part of a scrambled white-collar workforce, drawn from all parts of the country and abroad, a lumpenbourgeoisie squeezing itself into selected wards of a few expensive cities. They follow trends in food, and music, and long-form television. Their politics are probably (but not definitely) liberal.

Let us further entertain the idea that in our time as in Dickens’, life imitates furniture, and that we will learn something about our young couple if we consider where they house their underwear. If we picture Jennifer and Jason’s bedroom, it is not hard to guess what we would see there: a good deal of IKEA. Their IKEA dressers are probably black or white, or maybe covered in a veneer — something light but earthy, such as birch. Beneath the veneer, however, is not a cheaper wood like local poplar, but particle board — a material that would befuddle Dickens and his contemporaries.

Consider more closely where this IKEA dresser and its underlying substance came from. That story begins at a logging camp somewhere in the world — quite possibly in an illegally harvested old-growth forest in Russia or China. (It is impossible to say exactly, since IKEA has torpedoed laws that would require them to disclose their sources.) The loggers in this mystery forest fell trees of various sorts and pass them on to a logging company that might manage scores of camps. The logging company then sells the trees to a sawmill which gathers material from several dozen logging companies and cuts them into boards. Several sawmills in a region then supply the lumber to a larger board-mill that cuts the wood into even smaller pieces. Small suppliers buy the board from several board-mills and transport a portion of it to large suppliers, which in turn gather and pulverize the various materials in a chemical soup and press it into lighter, cheaper chunks. IKEA then buys this “composite material” to cut into the components of a Malm or Hemnes, sorts it into boxes, and distributes it to over 300 stores around the world, leaving the final assembly to the customers. Even a simple desk or dresser contains, by IKEA’s own admission, at least 26 different species of wood from at least 18 different countries — and usually far more. The result is a sleek but crumbly piece of furniture, sure to camouflage into any new apartment. Jennifer and Jason use their dressers every day without a thought as to the work or the materials that made them.

We must not sneer at Jennifer and Jason, many readers are sure to point out, for choosing IKEA. Their incomes, though high in the global scale, are likely to be lower than their parents’ were, and they often have to move in order to climb the employment ladder. It is only reasonable for them to buy something inexpensive, transportable, and replaceable. IKEA fulfills an important niche in the middle-class market — for cheap furniture that still retains a semblance of respectability. The company has exploited this market to become the global empire that Sweden never had, a kind of Viking revenge on the modern age.

Still, there is a good chance that Jennifer and Jason actually like their IKEA dressers, and prefer them to the old oak chest that their grandparents tried to foist on them. Indeed, the extraordinary popularity of IKEA testifies not only to its convenience but to its ability to appeal to the middle-class self-image. Jennifer and Jason are drawn to IKEA because it reflects who they are: they too are modern, movable, and interchangeable, their wants satisfiable in any neighborhood with a food co-op and a coffee shop. More fundamentally, Jennifer and Jason are untraceable, a “composite material” made from numberless scraps and pieces. They have a long catalog of home towns, and their accents are NPR neutral. They can probably rattle off the various nationalities in their family trees — Dutch, Norwegian, Greek, and Jewish, maybe some Venezuelan or Honduran for a little color. From these backgrounds they retain no more than a humorous word or phrase, a recipe, or an Ellis Island anecdote, if that. They grew up amidst a scramble of white-collar professionals and went to college with a scramble of white-collar professionals’ kids. Their values are defined mainly by mass media, their tastes adorably quirky but never straying too far from their peers’, and like the IKEA furniture that they buy in boxes, they too cut themselves into manageable, packaged pieces and market themselves online. They are probably “spiritual but not religious.” They have no pattern or model of life that bears any relation to the past before the internet. For all intents and purposes, they sprang up de novo in the modern city. Whereas the Veneerings’ high fashion covered over an essential vulgarity, Jennifer’s and Jason’s urbane style masks a hollowness.

It may be tempting to call Jennifer and Jason, and the the group of people whom they represent, “cosmopolitans.” ( And indeed, IKEA, with its vaguely exotic Swedish names, provides a dash of cosmopolitanism on the cheap.) However, Jennifer and Jason are something newer and more bizarre than cosmopolitans: as Ross Douthat aptly pointed out in the wake of the Trump election, the increasingly insulated college-educated classes of the coastal cities do not grapple with real, substantive differences in beliefs and values, associating instead with cliques of like-minded classmates. …

Conversely, we must also avoid cheap epithets. The word “cosmopolitan” is a double-edged sword – long a shibboleth for worldly sophistication, it has lately turned upon its makers, serving as a political weapon against urban liberals; it is not surprising that a Trump spokesman recently attacked the “cosmopolitan bias” of a journalist who questioned the White House’s immigration policies. There is nothing particularly new or insightful about attacking urbanites tainted by association with the foreign, like the Judean exiles railing against the silken whores of Babylon. Still, as shallow and hackneyed as this rhetorical strategy might be, it packs a populist punch because the very concept of “cosmopolitan” is purely relative: since no one, legally speaking, is a citizen of the world, one can be “cosmopolitan” only in contrast to someone else – a “provincial” in the Victorian terminology, or a “xenophobe” in contemporary talk. In other words, the idea of cosmopolitanism carries an unavoidable subtext of class superiority.

Therefore, to be precise, the class of people of whom I am speaking are “cosmopolitan” neither in the idealized nor in the demonized sense of the word. They neither bridge deep social differences in search of the best in human experience, nor debase themselves with exotic foreign pleasures. Rather, they have no concept of foreignness at all, because they have no native traditions against which to compare. Indeed, the very idea of a life shaped by inherited custom is alien to our young couple. When Jennifer and Jason try to choose a restaurant for dinner, one of them invariably complains, “I don’t want Italian, because I had Italian last night.” It does not occur to them that in Italy, most people have Italian every night. For Jennifer and Jason, cuisines, musical styles, meditative practices, and other long-developed customs are not threads in a comprehensive or enduring way of life, but accessories like cheap sunglasses, to be casually picked up and discarded from day to day. Unmoored, undefined, and unaware of any other way of being, Jennifer and Jason are no one. They are the living equivalents of the particle board that makes up the IKEA dressers and IKEA nightstands next to their IKEA beds. In short, they are IKEA humans.

RTWT

HT: Vanderleun.

13 Sep 2017

“Of Course Hillary Clinton Identifies with Cersei Lannister. They Are the Same Person.”

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Robby Soave, in Reason, nails it,

What’s the difference between Game of Thrones character Cersei Lannister and failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton? One is an entitled narcissist who quietly supported her lecherous husband (whom she clearly loathed) when it was politically convenient, then insisted it was her turn to rule (even though it wasn’t), chose boot-lickers, ass-kissers, and elitist bankers as her advisors while alienating more competent and better-liked people who might have helped her, exacted petty vengeance on imagined enemies, escaped justice and the judgment of the people by destroying her main rival—the charismatic, income-inequality obsessed populist—with an explosive cheat, and was left confused why so many people in her country would rather be ruled by a complete political unknown who tells it like it is.

The other fucks her twin brother.

RTWT

13 Sep 2017

Silphium, the Lost Roman Herb

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Coin from Cyrene bearing the image of Silphium.

The BBC reported recently on the greatest botanical mystery of Antiquity: what was Silphium exactly, and what happened to it?

Long ago, in the ancient city of Cyrene, there was a herb called silphium. It didn’t look like much – with stout roots, stumpy leaves and bunches of small yellow flowers – but it oozed with an odiferous sap that was so delicious and useful, the plant was eventually worth its weight in gold.

To list its uses would be an endless task. Its crunchable stalks were roasted, sauteed or boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Its roots were eaten fresh, dipped in vinegar. It was an excellent preservative for lentils and when it was fed to sheep, their flesh became delectably tender.

Perfume was coaxed from its delicate blooms, while its sap was dried and grated liberally over dishes from brains to braised flamingo. Known as “laser”, the condiment was as fundamental to Roman haute cuisine as eating your food horizontally in a toga.

Then there were the medical applications. Silphium was a veritable wonder herb, a panacea for all manner of ailments, including growths of the anus (the Roman author Pliny the Elder recommends repeated fumigations with the root) and the bites of feral dogs (simply rub into the affected area, though Pliny warns his readers never, ever to try this with a tooth cavity, after a man who did so threw himself off a house).

Finally, silphium was required in the bedroom, where its juice was drunk as an aphrodisiac or applied “to purge the uterus”. It may have been the first genuinely effective birth control; its heart-shaped seeds are thought to be the reason we associate the symbol with romance to this day.

Indeed, the Romans loved it so much, they referenced their darling herb in poems and songs, and wrote it into great works of literature. For centuries, local kings held a monopoly on the plant, which made the city of Cyrene, at modern Shahhat, Libya, the richest in Africa. Before they gave it away to the Romans, the Greek inhabitants even put it on their money. Julius Caesar went so far as to store a cache (1,500lbs or 680kg) in the official treasury.

But today, silphium has vanished – possibly just from the region, possibly from our planet altogether. Pliny wrote that within his lifetime, only a single stalk was discovered. It was plucked and sent to the emperor Nero as a curiosity sometime around 54-68AD.

With just a handful of stylised images and the accounts of ancient naturalists to go on, the true identity of the Romans’ favourite herb is a mystery. Some think it was driven to extinction, others that it’s still hiding in plain sight as a Mediterranean weed. How did this happen? And could we bring it back?

RTWT

13 Sep 2017

For Sale: Possible Tourist Attraction in 6400 Acres

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Stonehenge sold in 1915 for £6,600, with a pretty decent house thrown in. Today, they get almost 1.4 million visitors a year, many of whom pay the full £16.50 admission price.

From the archives of Country Life.

Obviously you and I were unable to bid, not yet having been born. My father was one-year-old, so he, too, was out of luck. But what were my useless grandparents doing?

12 Sep 2017

Revenge in Pink

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Smithsonian:

Anish Kapoor has long been known for his large-scale, intensely colored artworks, but his penchant for being proprietary has long irked others in the art world.

But then came Vantablack.

Earlier this year, Kapoor sparked outrage from artists all over the world with the announcement that he had made a deal to become the only person in the world allowed to use the blackest pigment of black paint ever developed. Known as Vantablack, the unique carbon nanotube-based pigment is produced solely by a British company called NanoSystem, and was originally developed for military technologies. However, Kapoor made an agreement with the company that he is the only person allowed to use it for artistic purposes.

Needless to say, that made plenty of other artists furious.

“When I first heard that Anish had the exclusive rights to the blackest black I was really disappointed,” artist Stuart Semple tells Kevin Holmes for The Creators Project. “I was desperate to have a play with it in my own work and I knew lots of other artists who wanted to use it too. It just seemed really mean-spirited and against the spirit of generosity that most artists who make and share their work are driven by.”

Like Kapoor, Semple’s work often uses vivid shades of color, and for years he had worked with scientists to develop increasingly intense pigments to use in his artwork. So as a response to Kapoor’s exclusive deal with Vantablack, Semple decided to release his own special pigment, known simply as “Pink,” the Irish Examiner reports.

While “Pink” isn’t based on nanotechnology, like Vantablack, Semple says it is the pinkest pink pigment ever created. Now, in an effort to thumb his nose at Kapoor, Semple is making it for sale to everyone in the world—except Kapoor.

RTWT

12 Sep 2017

That’s What I Say

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12 Sep 2017

Elk Noises & a Party Crasher

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11 Sep 2017

Out With Lafayette, Too (Dirty Slave-Owner)

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WRAL reports on just how all-encompassing the wrath of the righteous has become.

Fayetteville, N.C. — Cumberland County’s interim schools superintendent this week canceled a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a school environmental initiative because the program’s mascot, Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette, owned slaves.

“I think in lieu of what’s going on around the nation and the sensitivity to issues concerning the history of slavery in the country, there was concern there that it may be offensive to some members of our community,” Superintendent Tim Kinlaw said, citing recent protests and violence surrounding Confederate Civil War monuments.

Biographers say Lafayette, a Frenchman who was a major general in the Continental Army, was an abolitionist who purchased slaves with the intent of freeing them. In 1783, Fayetteville was the first of several towns in America to be named for him.

RTWT

11 Sep 2017

Oh, No! Yale’s Philosophy Department Lacks “Diversity”

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Detail, Raphael, The School of Athens, 1509-1511, Apostolic Palace, Vatican. Seriously lacking in Diversity.

The OCD is reporting on another crucial problem at Yale.

Yale’s Philosophy Department… has historically been majority white and male.

Philosophy has struggled as a discipline to attract students from diverse backgrounds, and faculty and students within Yale’s Philosophy Department told the News that while the department is not as diverse as it could be in terms of racial and gender makeup or curricular offerings, ongoing efforts to remedy the problem are a cause for optimism.

“[Lack of diversity] has inspired a lot of soul-searching in the discipline in recent years,” said Joanna Demaree-Cotton GRD ’21, co-coordinator of Yale’s chapter of Minorities and Philosophy which works to combat issues faced by minorities in academia. “Lots of departments, including ours at Yale, have started asking tough questions about the cause of this drop-off in the representation of women and racial minorities, and how we might go about ameliorating the problem.” …

“There is no question that as a field, philosophy is significantly less diverse nationally in terms of race and gender than we would like it be,” said Stephen Darwall, philosophy professor and former department chair.

He said that 2 percent of philosophy graduate students at Yale are black, and that there are no black faculty members currently in the department. …

Gender disparities also persist at the faculty level. Darwall said that five out of 18 philosophy ladder faculty, or 28 percent, are women. He added that the department focuses on identifying and recruiting talented women and philosophers of color to the doctoral program.

RTWT

For a Philosophy Department anywhere to fail to conform to contemporary notions of “Diversity” ought not to be surprising in the least.

In the first place, anyone sufficiently intellectually competent to study Philosophy could not possibly avoid noticing that Diversity as presently defined is a purely arbitrary and fundamentally bogus concept. Only identity groups identified with political grievances count toward Diversity. Nobody cares how many Appalachian hillbillies, Swedes, Belgians, Corsicans, Lithuanians, Eskimos, or Tibetans are studying Philosophy at Yale. Only identity groups with a litany of complaints and power-seeking political agendas count.

Many students of Philosophy these days take a particular interest in the philosophical thought of Friedrich Nietszche. Anyone adequately read in Nietszche cannot possibly avoid recognizing in “Diversity” what the great philosopher identified as “the slave revolt in morality,” the inversion of values, and the cynical and calculating attempt of the base and unworthy to gain power over their betters through the exploitation of their charity and benevolence. Anyone familiar with Zur Genealogie der Moral (1887) can hardly avoid identifing “Diversity” as nothing other than Ressentiment deceptively packaged for purposes of marketing.

(Disclosure: NYM’s proprietor was a white, male Philosophy major at Yale.)

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