October 13, 2015

Art From The Apocalypse – Otto Dix I WHO DID WHAT IN WW 1

Filed under: Europe, History, Media, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 12 Oct 2015

Otto Dix was a German artist known for his unforgiving depiction of the Great War and the society of Weimar Republic. His works in the series Der Krieg (The War) are among the most well known depictions of the horrors of war. Together with George Grosz and Max Beckmann, he is considered one of the most important artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity).

October 12, 2015

QotD: The inevitable result of the “Arab Spring”

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

When journalists were going nuts a few years ago about the wonders of the wave of ‘revolutions’ that they decided to refer to as an ‘Arab Spring’, I was reminded how few modern academics, let alone journalists, have any understanding of history. None of the political analysts or professional pundits seemed to have much more of a clue about how things would INEVITABLY turn out, than babes in a wood.

Which is ridiculous, because you would imagine that anyone with a pretense of being worth consulting might have at least a clue that there might be historical parallels worth considering. Frankly it is terrifying that our modern ‘chattering classes’ honestly seem to imagine that they are above being able to learn anything from history.

1848 of course saw a wave of ‘revolutions’ all across Europe, which many people at the time hailed as the inevitable downfall of the ancient regimes, and the prelude of the rise of true modern democracy. How sweet.

In fact, of course, the revolutions led to a re-imposition of the ancient regimes, or much worse dictatorships: often with harder edges to prevent such things happening again. In fact it can be credibly argued that the results of this wave of revolutions was to slow down the democratization of Europe by at least 50 years.

I suspect the same thing will result from the Arab Spring.

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

October 11, 2015

Take all the negative aspects of social media … and then tie in your political and financial activities

Filed under: China, Government, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Welcome to China’s idea of the perfect social media environment. Charles Stross describes the proposal and its likely impact on Chinese life:

So, let’s start by synopsizing the Privacy Online News report. It’s basically a state-run universal credit score, where you’re measured on a scale from 350 to 950. But it’s not just about your financial planning ability; it also reflects your political opinions. On the financial side, if you buy products the government approves of your credit score increases: wastes of time (such as video games) cost you points. China’s main social networks feed data into it and you can lose points big-time by expressing political opinions without prior permission, talking about history (where it diverges from the official version — e.g. the events of 1989 in Tiananmen Square — hey, I just earned myself a negative credit score there!), or saying anything that’s politically embarrassing.

The special social network magic comes into play when you learn that if your friends do this, your score also suffers. You can see what they just did to you: are you angry yet? Social pressure is a pervasive force and it’s going to be exerted on participants whether they like it or not, by friends looking for the goodies that come from having a high citizen score: goodies like instant loans for online shopping, car rentals without needing a deposit, or fast-track access to foreign travel visas. Also, everyone’s credit score is visible online, making it easy to ditch those embarrassingly ranty cocktail-party friends who insist on harshing your government credit karma by not conforming.

The gamification of social conformity, overseen by an authoritarian government and mediated by nudge theory, is a thing of beauty and horror; who needs cops with nightsticks to beat up dissidents when their friends and family will give them a tongue-lashing on behalf of the government for the price of a discount off a new fridge?

But don’t worry, I could make it a whole lot worse.

The first notable point about this system is that it’s an oppressive system that runs at a profit. Consider the instant no-collateral loans for online shopping: the Chinese system only grants these to folks who are a good credit bet. The debt will be repaid. Meanwhile it goes into providing a Keynesian stimulus for the productive side of the economy. And it rewards people for political right-thinking. What’s not to like?

Governments love nudge theory because it offers a cheap shortcut to enforcing social policy, even when the social policy in question is utterly broken. Paying a cop costs money — not just their salary and the cost of their uniform, but the station they work out of, the support personnel who keep the police force operating (janitors, human resources, vehicle maintenance), and the far less tangible political cost of being seen to wield a big stick and force people not to do what they want to do (or to do things that you want them to). Using big data to give folks a credit score, then paying them bright and shiny but essentially cost-free bonuses if they do what you want? That’s priceless. You may not be able to track folks who like to toke up directly (if it’s illegal in your jurisdiction), but you can penalize them for hanging out with known cannabis users and buying paraphernalia. More to the point, you can socially isolate users and get their family to give them grief without the unpalatable excesses (and negative headlines) of no-knock raids and cops kicking down the wrong door and shooting children by mistake. One may ask whether the medical marijuana movement and decriminalization pressure would have got off the ground in the United States if a citizenship scoring system with downvotes for pot users was in place. Or whether emancipatory rights movements could exist at all in a society that indirectly penalizes people for “wrong lifestyle choices” rather than relying on imperfectly applied but very visible and hateful boots and nightsticks.

October 10, 2015

Free design advice for Facebook from the kindly folks at The Register

Filed under: Humour, Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Facebook is reportedly rolling out a new button for their users to “dislike” posts they see on their feeds. The helpful souls at The Register offer their free, expert advice on how to go about doing this right:

The Register's Facebook Dislike buttons

  • Like: The classic.
  • Click Bait: For article links that people click on despite themselves and then feel like they’ve let themselves down shortly afterwards. The sort of posts that make you feel society has just got a little worse. Upworthy and BuzzFeed articles will be tagged with this option as a default.
  • Idiot: To confirm that the author of the post is lacking in common sense and/or rational analysis. Most useful for politics and health issues.
  • Umm: A useful passive-aggressive way of letting your friends know that you may want to take this post down or at least edit it heavily before others read it.
  • Fresh Air: A positive, life-affirming choice that says to people: “Maybe it’s time you took a break from your laptop and went out into the real world for a bit.”
  • Privacy: A direct link to the privacy settings for this particular post’s author so you are able to block, unfriend, or report them in one easy tap.
  • Holiday: A “Fresh Air” Superlike. A firm encouragement that perhaps it’s time both you and the author take an extended holiday from Facebook and do something useful with your lives rather than just read others’ mindless thoughts and respond to them with equally mindless comments and emojis.

October 7, 2015


Filed under: Media, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Everyone who knows musicians has heard at least a few drummer jokes. Open Culture attempts to put a bit of science into the casual abuse drummers have been subjected to over the years:

An old musician’s joke goes “there are three kinds of drummers in the world — those who can count and those who can’t.” But perhaps there is an even more global divide. Perhaps there are three kinds of people in the world — those who can drum and those who can’t. Perhaps, as the promotional video above from GE suggests, drummers have fundamentally different brains than the rest of us. Today we highlight the scientific research into drummers’ brains, an expanding area of neuroscience and psychology that disproves a host of dumb drummer jokes.

“Drummers,” writes Jordan Taylor Sloan at Mic, “can actually be smarter than their less rhythmically-focused bandmates.” This according to the findings of a Swedish study (Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm) which shows “a link between intelligence, good timing and the part of the brain used for problem-solving.” As Gary Cleland puts it in The Telegraph, drummers “might actually be natural intellectuals.”

Neuroscientist David Eagleman, a renaissance researcher The New Yorker calls “a man obsessed with time,” found this out in an experiment he conducted with various professional drummers at Brian Eno’s studio. It was Eno who theorized that drummers have a unique mental makeup, and it turns out “Eno was right: drummers do have different brains from the rest.” Eagleman’s test showed “a huge statistical difference between the drummers’ timing and that of test subjects.” Says Eagleman, “Now we know that there is something anatomically different about them.” Their ability to keep time gives them an intuitive understanding of the rhythmic patterns they perceive all around them.

October 1, 2015

“Welcome to the new war on cultural appropriation”

Cathy Young trips over cultural appropriation everywhere:

A few months ago, I read The Orphan’s Tales by Catherynne Valente. The fantasy novel draws on myths and folklore from many cultures, including, to my delight, fairy tales from my Russian childhood. Curious about the author, I looked her up online and was startled to find several social-media discussions bashing her for “cultural appropriation.”

There was a post sneering at “how she totally gets a pass to write about Slavic cultures because her husband is Russian,” with a response noting that her spouse isn’t even a proper Russian, because he has lived in the United States since age 10. In another thread, Valente was denounced for her Japanese-style LiveJournal username, yuki-onna, adopted while she lived in Japan as a military wife. In response to such criticism, a browbeaten Valente eventually dropped the “problematic” moniker.

Welcome to the new war on cultural appropriation. At one time, such critiques were leveled against truly offensive art — work that trafficked in demeaning caricatures, such as blackface, 19th-century minstrel shows or ethnological expositions, which literally put indigenous people on display, often in cages. But these accusations have become a common attack against any artist or artwork that incorporates ideas from another culture, no matter how thoughtfully or positively. A work can reinvent the material or even serve as a tribute, but no matter. If artists dabble outside their own cultural experiences, they’ve committed a creative sin.

To take just a few recent examples: After the 2013 American Music Awards, Katy Perry was criticized for dressing like a geisha while performing her hit single “Unconditionally.” Last year, Arab-American writer Randa Jarrar accused Caucasian women who practice belly dancing of “white appropriation of Eastern dance.” Daily Beast entertainment writer Amy Zimmerman wrote that pop star Iggy Azalea perpetrated “cultural crimes” by imitating African American rap styles.

And this summer, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has been dogged by charges of cultural insensitivity and racism for its “Kimono Wednesdays.” At the event, visitors were invited to try on a replica of the kimono worn by Claude Monet’s wife, Camille, in the painting “La Japonaise.” The historically accurate kimonos were made in Japan for this very purpose. Still, Asian American activists and their supporters besieged the exhibit with signs like “Try on the kimono: Learn what it’s like to be a racist imperialist today!” Others railed against “Yellow-Face @ the MFA” on Facebook. The museum eventually apologized and changed the program so that the kimonos were available for viewing only. Still, activists complained that the display invited a “creepy Orientalist gaze.”

September 28, 2015

Rush | Roll The Bones – R40 Live in Toronto (OFFICIAL AUDIO)

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Sep 2015

Jack, relax. Get busy with the facts…

Rush revealed their first offering from the forthcoming R40 Live concert film – “Roll The Bones”, a song from their fourteenth studio album Roll the Bones, that was originally released in 1991.

This R40 Live version of “Roll The Bones” was recorded in the band’s hometown of Toronto on June 17 & 19th during the sold out shows at the Air Canada Centre on the R40 Live tour and was mixed by David Botrill (Tool, Muse).

“Roll The Bones (R40 Live)” features an array of special guests in the rap part of the song: Jay Baruchel (She’s Out Of My League), Les Claypool (Primus), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), The Trailer Park Boys, and Jason Segel & Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man).

It is the first time the band put the RTB song back in the setlist since the Snakes & Arrows tour in 2007/2008. During the R40 Live tour, “Roll The Bones” gained new life and became a fan-favourite with an arena sing-along to the chorus “Why are we here? Because we’re here – Roll The Bones”.

The Rush R40 Live concert film will be released on November 20th. More details to be revealed soon.

September 27, 2015

P.J. O’Rourke on Ann Coulter’s anti-semitism

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Weekly Standard, P.J. O’Rourke discusses Ann Coulter’s recently expressed anti-semitic remarks during the Republican candidates’ debate:

She is young, scatter-brained, and heedless, but she is not an idiot. She graduated cum laude from Cornell and has a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. But no intelligent hike through the Minotaur’s labyrinth of politics can be made in 140-character baby steps. Especially when you’re walking in clown shoes.

What Ann Coulter tweeted was:

    Cruz, Huckabee Rubio all mentioned ISRAEL in their response to: “What will AMERICA look like after you are president.”


    How many f—ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?

Not anywhere near as many as there would and should be if FDR hadn’t been as much of a jerk about immigration as you are, Ann, you etiolated bean sprout butt trumpet.

As to why Israel is important, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, “Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ikh bin a Ishral.’ ”

And I mean it, even if, pope-kissing Mick that I am, my Yiddish is maybe sketchy.

Partly this is personal, Ann, you jangle-tongue, you all-clapper-and-no-carillon, you crack in the Liberty Bell. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, “It’s not me, it’s you.”

But, first, my contempt is moral. Antisemitism is evil. Per se, as you lawyers like to put it. For the sake of argument, let us “stipulate” that you are not per se an antisemite. Instead of saying that’s true, let us stipulate it with all the snarky lawyer freight that “stipulating” carries.

Being so stipulated, you are damn rude. One does not say, “f—ing Jews.” One does not say “f—ing blacks” or “f—ing Latinos” or even “f—ing relentlessly self-promoting Presbyterian white women from New Canaan.”

Manners are the small change of morality. You, Ann, are nickel and diming yourself. And may all the coins in Scrooge McDuck’s money bin land on you and squash you flat. (Scrooge, by the way, is not a Jew, he’s a duck.)

September 25, 2015

The anti-porn crusaders

Filed under: Law, Media, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

J.R. Ireland on the modern day puritans who lose sleep because someone, somewhere, might possibly be looking at porn:

One thing that I have noticed a lot of advocates of sex-worker rights tend to miss though is the parallel between anti-prostitution arguments and anti-porn arguments. I think that the reason for this is simple — prostitution is still illegal, whereas pornography is not only legal, but very visible. It’s all over our computer screens, in fact, and can be found quickly and easily, provided you have the ability to engage in a simple Google search. That means that most pro-prostitution advocates avoid really talking about the issue of pornography, since it’s assumed that this is an issue we’ve already ‘won’ and which we don’t really need to continue babbling about.

Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that there is a burgeoning anti-porn movement that is coming not from the normal enemies of pornography on the right (i.e. Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, etc. who oppose porn on religious grounds), but from leftists who oppose porn on what are alleged to be left-wing grounds — fear of exploitation, a desire to prevent sex-trafficking, a distaste for the vulgar trappings of sexualized patriarchy, and so on.

Anti-Porn feminism is far more advanced in Britain than it is here since British feminists tend to be, and you’ll have to pardon my language, bug-fuck crazy nightmarish lunatics with fake degrees from mediocre universities and a level of self-loathing and insecurity unknown to the sane. It is from this leftist anti-porn position that the activist Gail Dines has arrived. In 2010, she wrote a book entitled Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality and since then she has been on the leading edge, the spear-tip, the vanguard of leftist opposition to pornography.


First, Dines tries to argue that ‘sexual assault centers in US colleges’ have ‘said that more women are reporting anal rape.’ Which sexual assault centers? Care to name them? Care to give me any sort of citation for this claim? Of course not — facts are for the patriarchy and we’re in the post-fact world of third wave feminism now!

Indeed, I find it somehow unlikely that sexual assault centers in US colleges are reporting an increase in rape given that American rape rates fell substantially between 1990 and the present:

US rape rate 1973-2013

Go look up any statistics on the incidence of rape and you will find them to be broadly similar — a spike in the 70s and 80s (which happened to coincide with a general increase in criminality) followed by a lengthy decline ever since. Now, were porn actually causing an increase in rape rates due to ‘sexualizing violence against women’ and ‘normalizing’ practices like rape, you would not have expected to find such an obvious decline in sexual assault rates, would you?

The second claim Dines makes is regarding the scary normalization of pedophilia which she claims is occurring directly resultant from porn involving teenagers. First of all, ‘teen porn’ does not ‘normalize pedophilia’ since the teenagers in teen porn are supposed to be 18 or 19 — in other words, post-pubescent and fully grown women. This isn’t even taking into consideration the fact that many actresses in teen porn are actually in their 20’s and are just ‘playing young,’ but we’ll ignore the fact that this is all fantasy anyway, since the fact that pornography isn’t based on reality seems to be a constant source of confusion for Gail Dines.

An economic theory of avant garde and popular art

Filed under: Economics, History, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 3 Sep 2015

When do artists sell out and when do they keep their artistic integrity?

September 24, 2015

Al Stewart – “Constantinople”

Filed under: Europe, History, Media, Middle East — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Uploaded on 24 Sep 2010

A song about the fall of Constantinople.

Al Stewart – Constantinople Lyrics

Across the western world
The fights are going down
The gypsy armies of the evening
Have lit their fires across
The nether side of town
They will not pass this way again
So here in the night
Leave your home it’s time for running
Out of the light

I see the hosts of Mohammed coming
The Holy Sister bars her doors against the East
Her house has stood too long divided
The uninvited guests are breaking up the feast
She may not bid them leave again
So here in the night
Leave your home it’s time for running
Out of the light

I see the hosts of Mohammed coming
I dreamed I stood like this before
And I’m sure the words that I heard then
Were much the same
It’s just an old Greek tragedy they’re acting here
Held over by popular acclaim
So here in the night
Leave your home it’s time for running
Out of the light
I see the hosts of Mohammed coming

QotD: Sex trafficking

Filed under: Law, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I am often asked if, by calling “sex trafficking” a myth, I’m saying that there is no such thing as coercion in sex work. The answer, of course, is “not at all”; what I’m saying is 1) that coercion is much rarer than “trafficking” fetishists pretend it is; 2) that the term “trafficking” is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative; and 3) that even situations of genuine coercion rarely bear much resemblance to the familiar masturbatory fantasy of an “innocent” middle-class girl in her early teens abducted by “pimps” from a shopping mall, bus stop or internet chat room.

Maggie McNeill, “The Face of Trafficking”, The Honest Courtesan, 2014-10-10.

September 23, 2015

QotD: The Platonic Ideal of a Guardian column

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Guardian’s Aisha Mirza bemoans the “psychic burden” of living among white people, which is worse than being mugged.

The more I think about it, the more this may exemplify a near-perfect Guardian article, the ideal to which all other Guardian columnists should aspire. It’s haughty and obnoxious, is ignorant of relevant subject matter, is frequently question-begging, and its imagined piety is premised on a rather obvious double standard. Specifically, Ms Mirza’s belief that people who leave London do so, secretly, because they don’t feel comfortable living among people with skin of a darker hue, which is racist and therefore bad, and her own simultaneous preference not to live among people whose skin is paler than hers, which is somehow not racist at all, and is in fact aired as the last word in righteousness.

David Thompson, “Reheated (45)”, davidthompson, 2015-09-08.

September 20, 2015

Perhaps this is the real reason Bruce became Cait

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Dr. Helen Smith may have figured out the key motivation for Bruce Jenner’s decision to become Caitlyn:

Really, Kris is now happy for Caitlyn and didn’t want to talk to her when she was angry? Why wasn’t she that considerate when Caitlyn was Bruce? Even Caitlyn mentions what crap she was treated like in their marriage when he (she) was just Bruce for years. If you doubt me, take a look at the past episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians where Bruce’s opinions were ignored; he pretty much lived in the garage and anger was thrown his way with abandon by the family and Kris in particular. Sound familiar? This is the way many men are treated by families every day, and no one gives a crap. After all, they’re just men and probably have no feelings.

Now that Bruce has come out as a woman, his feelings are treated with care, and everyone, including Kris, is walking on eggshells. Why? It is socially unacceptable to trash talk women, particularly transgender women. Kris must feel angry inside, but can’t really express it. She has to pretend to be happy for Cait. To profess otherwise makes her into the bad guy. Now, if Cait were a man, she could talk with abandon and her anger would be justified. But she has been one-upped by Caitlyn. Maybe more men should transition to women as an act of self-defense as misandry spreads. Bruce joined the winning team and really, who can blame him?

I don’t know how much water this theory holds, but I have to admit that I had to Google search the phrase “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, so perhaps it’s not something I really need to have an opinion on…

September 17, 2015

Megan Geuss watched Star Trek – in order – so you don’t have to

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

By the time I started paying attention to the original Star Trek, it was already in syndication (and aside from the cartoon series, it was the only Star Trek) so I didn’t see the episodes in anything like their original order. Megan Geuss says I (and pretty much everyone else in my age cohort) missed a lot due to this:

Here at Ars Technica, we have Star Trek on the brain. A lot. It’s a thing most of us have strong opinions about, and without a physical office, sometimes the IRC watercooler chat devolves into half-hour-long discussions about the relative merits of such and such a character. That is, until a senior editor implores us to write up our thoughts instead of wasting time arguing idly over chat; we are writers, after all, and writing is what we ought to be doing during the work day.

I, too, have strong opinions about characters in Star Trek, but I came at the show from a much different perspective than most of my peers. My colleagues were astounded when I told them that I’d only seen one episode of Star Trek as a child (I don’t even remember the plot) and my first real exposure had been as an adult, when I watched the entirety of The Original Series and The Next Generation in order, over the course of three years or so.

My colleagues, and in fact almost everyone I meet who I end up talking to about Star Trek, can’t seem to understand why I’d do that. I realized a year ago that this disbelief comes from the fact that almost everyone who did watch Star Trek as a child watched it syndicated on TV, particularly The Original Series. While they may have seen all or close-to-all of the episodes in all the various series, they saw them randomly and sporadically over the course of an entire childhood, with other shows to fill the space in between.

Not I. Thanks to Netflix, I watched The Original Series over a two-year period, with other shows and movies in between, and I watched The Next Generation in a little under one year as my primary after-work TV. From a modern TV viewer’s perspective, the Original Series, with all of its 1960s storytelling quirks and anachronisms, was the hardest entry in Star Trek canon to get through. That’s what I’ll focus on here, because talking about both series from a novice’s point of view would make this article longer than the distance from Earth to the Delta Quadrant.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress