December 17, 2012

Kim Jong-Un is Time man of the year (with help from 4chan)

Filed under: Asia, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:03

Tim Cushing on 4chan’s latest use of Time as a comedic sidekick:

4chan has returned to the limelight once again to torment reluctant sidekick TIME by voting early and often in its own particular idiom (read: bots, prolly) for Person of the Year. And the winner is none other than North Korean dictator and poster boy for evil, nepotism and ill-fitting grey smocks, Kim Jong-un. Here’s a portion of Time‘s statement on the poll results, which is good naturedly resigned, much in the way parents raising child 7+ are more concerned with keeping the cleaning products, bandages and fire extinguisher close at hand than preventing the feat of daredevilry that is currently being performed using Sharpies, a purloined Zippo and the second floor bannister.

    Kim Jong Un is having a good year. After taking over the leadership of North Korea from his late father Kim Jong Il, at the end of 2011, he’s solidified his control over the country, appeared on TIME‘s cover and he was even named “Sexiest Man Alive.” (OK, that honor was actually bestowed as a spoof in the satirical newspaper, The Onion, but a Chinese news service mistook the Onion piece for real news and the story went global.)

    Now, he’s gotten the most votes in TIME‘s completely unscientific reader Person of the Year Poll with 5.6 million votes. Not bad for a man who didn’t make an official public appearance until 2010.

Camille Paglia on “the shallow derivativeness of so much contemporary art, which has no big ideas left”

Filed under: Books, History, Media, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:23

Emily Esfahani Smith talks to Camille Paglia about her latest book, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars:

For Paglia, the spiritual quest defines all great art — all art that lasts. But in our secular age, the liberal crusade against religion has also taken a toll on art. “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination,” Paglia writes. “Yet that cynical posture has become de rigueur in the art world — simply another reason for the shallow derivativeness of so much contemporary art, which has no big ideas left.” Historically the great art of the West has had religious themes, either explicit or implicit. “The Bible, the basis for so much great art, moves deeper than anything coming out of the culture today,” Paglia says. As a result of its spiritual bankruptcy, art is losing its prominence in our culture. “Art makes news today,” she writes, “only when a painting is stolen or auctioned at a record price.”

[. . .]

More than 20 years ago, Paglia took another journey through art in her breakout book Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. It launched her career as an irrepressible and politically incorrect cultural critic who was suddenly everywhere on the media circuit, speaking on topics ranging from Madonna and Elizabeth Taylor to date rape and educational reform. In the book, Paglia argued that Western culture has been a succession of shifting sexual personae (Mona Lisa is the original dominatrix; Dickinson was Amherst’s Madame de Sade). The book contained all the Paglia hallmarks: an infatuation with sex and beauty, strong prose, and an evisceration of feminism. Needless to say, Sexual Personae raised hackles and branded Paglia as the enfant terrible of academia and feminism.

That was then. While she is still more than willing to dig into what is left of the feminist movement — “feminism today is anti-intellectual” and “defined by paranoia,” she says — these days, she directs the venom of her sharp tongue to the dogmatic champions of secularism, liberals who narrow-mindedly dismiss religion and God. There is one, in particular, whom she cannot stand: the late Christopher Hitchens — like her, a libertarian-minded atheist. The key difference between the two is that he despised religion and God while Paglia respects both and thinks they are funda­mental to Western culture and art. Paglia calls Hitchens “a sybaritic narcissist committed to no real ideas outside his personal advancement.”

H/T to Nick Packwood for the link.

The Hobbit: “The company of Dwarves isn’t the hand-picked band of mighty warriors … but ordinary (if short) blokes united by faith and loyalty”

Filed under: Books, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:05

We went to see The Hobbit on the weekend, with a bit of foreboding thanks to the numerous advance reviews warning us that Jackson had sold out his film-making heritage for shiny 48fps gadgetry that made everything look fake. Thankfully, we didn’t find that to be the case at all: all four of us loved the movie to a greater or lesser extent. I plan on seeing it again while it’s still in the theatres (which I rarely do).

A Very British Dude was also impressed:

Those who loved Sir Peter Jackson’s adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy will love this movie. Those who didn’t, won’t. It’s as simple as that.

[. . .]

There are those critics who will think the movie “plodding” and over-long. That’s a complaint with Tolkien’s utter disregard for narrative arc. Indeed, it’s this lack of tidy endings, and profusion of sub-plot lines that make the mythology so compelling. It’s more like reality than many gritty cop-dramas or action movies today. There may even be purists who may take issue with the additions to the book’s tale, but as these are telling back-stories and tying the Hobbit deeper into the Lord of the Rings narrative, it didn’t bother me. [. . .]

The company of Dwarves isn’t the hand-picked band of mighty warriors that the Fellowship of the Ring was, but ordinary (if short) blokes united by faith and loyalty. This is a thread which runs through all Tolkien’s work: the idea that free people thrust into extraordinary situations will do remarkable things. Tolkien never claimed to have been influenced by his experiences on the Western Front in 1916, but it’s clear he was. He asserted there to be no analogy to the second world war in his books.

Gandalf’s greatest insight is that Hobbits — a sort of idealised rustic Englishman were a better bulwark against evil than the great princes and warriors of greater strength and fame, who’re too easily corrupted by power. This is perhaps the reason the mythological cycle of which the Hobbit forms a part is so appealing to the Anglo-Saxon world: it speaks to a dimly remembered folk-memory of doughty farmers and nascent local democracy dating from the dark-ages. The idea that we’re free, and they’re not.

QotD: Argentina’s little white interest rate lie

Filed under: Americas, Economics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:49

No one gives a toss that Argentina is lying about its inflation rate. Well, except maybe the economists they’ve fined and ruined for calculating the real one. We’ve all put up with Cuba lying about everything for 60 years after all.

Except, except … Argentina has issued index linked bonds as part of the 2001/2 debt restructuring. The interest paid depends on what the inflation rate is. If the government deliberately undercounts inflation then they get away with rooking the holders of those bonds.

That’s what this is about. That’s why anyone cares. It’s not simply that they’re liars it’s that they’re thieves.

Tim Worstall, “I wish people would get it right about Argentina”, Tim Worstall, 2012-12-17

Vikings beat Rams with another stellar Adrian Peterson performance

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:16

This was a do-or-die game for both teams: only the winner would still have playoff aspirations. At 7-6, the Vikings were contending for a wildcard in the NFC North, while St. Louis was in contention in the NFC West with a 6-6-1 record.

The Rams hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in several games and featured strong defensive line performances to clog running lanes and limit opportunities. It worked well: after eight runs, Adrian Peterson had only tallied eight yards. It was the ninth run that broke it open: 82 yards to the end zone for the touchdown (the Vikings never gave up the lead). By the time the Vikings stopped sending Peterson in, he’d gained over 200 yards and was that much closer to breaking Eric Dickerson’s rushing record (2,105 yards, set in 1984). It’s already his best season at 1,812 yards with two games left to play.

The “Blair Walsh Project” continues to prove the wisdom of drafting a kicker: he now owns the Vikings rookie scoring record and made five-of-five of his field goal attempts (53, 50, 42, 38, and 51 yards). It’s the first time a Vikings kicker has hit three field goals from 50 yards or more (and he also tied the NFL record with eight in a season).

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