In his ‘Seen Elsewhere’ section, top right, Guido is today linking to a piece entitled An Anarcho-Capitalist Defence of the Royal Family. Sounds like fun, and it is.
For me, the most amazing bit is not any bit in this piece, but the bit at the bottom where it says who wrote it:
Christina Annesley is a 21 year old anarcho-capitalist and the founder of Leeds Liberty League. She has a BA in History from the University of Leeds and is currently writing a dystopian fantasy novel.
There are just so many things that are great about that.
I regularly read David Thompson’s blog, and like many of his postings, this recent one pokes fun at a Guardian article, this time a piece by Mike Power, complaining about the alleged sexism of barbecues. The outdoor cooking of meat is bad, because men think that this is men’s stuff!
Thompson copies and pastes Power asking the following:
But, as several thousand years have passed since men had to kill our protein, make a fire, cook it and eat it, why is barbecuing seen as something women don’t or can’t – or, more accurately, shouldn’t – do? How – and why – do men continue to claim this sacred fire-space as a male-owned sanctuary where women are not permitted?
My immediate reaction to reading this quote at Thompson’s was that Mike Power was confusing a comedy routine with a seriously held idea.
I recall enjoying a TV show that happened on ITV4 TV a couple of years back, called Richard Bacon’s Beer and Pizza Club. Series 1 was particularly good, I thought. Series 2 got a bit above itself and happened in a bigger studio and with a bigger budget, and the guests became less quirky and amusing, and I didn’t enjoy it so much, but it was still great fun. The basic agenda was a bunch of blokes sitting around discussing their man-ness, with a mixture of genuine pleasure at often decidedly daft male rituals but also a healthy dose of self-mockery.
I recently caught a repeat of one of these shows, in which comedian Rufus Hound described how a typical male stunt, namely doing something that looked dangerous but wasn’t actually that dangerous, had become truly dangerous. It involved him putting a small puddle of something flammable in his hand and setting fire to it. His story of how this had all gone very wrong, on account of him making the puddle too big and then the setting of it on fire being delayed until the fluid had seeped between his fingers, won Hound the round where they were taking it in turns to recount their worst injuries. That his injury was self-inflicted while pursuing manly fun was central to why Hound was victorious. Doing it to yourself trumps anything that merely happens to you. How manly is that? In both a good way, and a ridiculous way.
The Beer and Pizza Club regularly featured shots of women in the audience, creasing up with laughter at the various masculinities that were being thus both enjoyed and mocked. Ah, men.
And, getting to back to the original point of this posting, I recall another Rufus Hound fire-based comedy moment on the B&P Club, when they were each describing their idea of a perfect day. Hound’s perfect day involved him cooking meat out on his patio and inviting the neighbours round. He said something like: “Nothing says manliness like cooking meat, out of doors, over a naked flame.” Much audience laughter, from both men and women. And from me. “Bacon” being a good name for the man genially presiding over this meaty mirth.
This is the kind of thing Power was on about. But what he misses, probably on purpose because he’s such a puritan, is that … it’s a joke! No, says Power. It’s not funny, I tell you! Stop enjoying yourselves!
And guess what, David Thompson agrees with me, although really he said it first and I am agreeing with him.
He quotes Power again:
This grilled-food gender split is ubiquitous, odd and unacknowledged.
And he responds thus:
This may strike readers as a bold, indeed preposterous, claim to make. One of the rituals of the barbecues I’ve attended is the good-natured parodying – one might say acknowledgment – of precisely those conventions. “Man make fire. Man cook meat,” etc. But perhaps we’re to imagine that only the keen social observers who write for the Guardian have ever noticed such things or found them worthy of amused comment. More to the point, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Mr Power that quite a few people, male and female, actually enjoy the role-play opportunity of the barbecue – the theatre, the ritual, the fun. Even – heresy! – gendered fun.
Gendered fun. Spot on. Can’t have that.
I particular like Thompson’s invention of:
The Plastic Spatula of Oppression.
Not that men oppressing women is always and everywhere such a joke. That other favourite blogger of mine, Mick Hartley, recently did a posting about how a woman in Pakistan was stoned to death by her male relatives for the crime of possessing a mobile phone. What does Mike Power make of that, I wonder? My guess (please prove this wrong if you can) is … nothing, on account of him being (I further guess) an anti-anti-Islamist. It’s not that stoning women to death for having mobile phones is right, you understand. Merely that complaining about it is wrong.
Taylor Dinerman, a long time member of the Samizdata Commentariat, who also on occasion writes for some minor paper called the Wall Street Journal, has just published a book of humor shorts written during his New York Subway travels. I suspect more than one of our regular readers will enjoy it… and besides which, he needs the money to pay for the subway tickets and bar tabs.
This one, for Gordon’s gin.
The link may not work for everyone, so let me summarise the story. The scene is a garden party. A willowy wine connoisseur is holding forth with wine-connoisseur talk to a small group of guests. There is no evidence that his spiel is unwelcome to his hearers; one of them can be heard responding in kind. Then the camera moves to where a woman is talking to a man a few feet away. Both are drinking Gordon’s. The man, played by Philip Glenister who played Gene Hunt in Life on Mars, is more manly and less posh than the wine connoisseur. The woman overhears the wine man and praises Gordon’s gin to her companion in terms that are presumably meant to echo the connoisseur’s while being less pretentious, i.e. such as to actually make the audience want to drink Gordon’s gin. Meanwhile gin-drinking man has also been eavesdropping on wine-drinking man and starts to get visibly enraged. DCI Hunt usually had the excuse that a crime had been committed but this character simply doesn’t like anyone talking lah-di-dah in his hearing. Unprovoked, he loudly insults the wine connoisseur and finishes up with a disingenuous pretence that he does not know why everyone is looking at him.
The message is meant to be that drinking Gordon’s shows you to be plain-spoken and heterosexual. The message it sent me was that drinking Gordon’s makes you an obnoxious jerk.
The above was only the second most annoying advert of all time. There was a commercial many years ago, also for booze, that would have caused me to boycott whatever it was for forever if I could ever remember whatever it was. It might have been lager, bitter, or a mixture of water, urea, uric acid, creatinine and various organic and inorganic compounds. The advertisement was set in a gym. A young woman sprains her leg. A young man steps forward authoritatively, saying “let me look at that”, examines her leg and squeezes it here and there in a professional manner. She thanks him and says how fortunate it was that he was a doctor. “I’m not a doctor,” he replies with a leer and all his mates laugh at how he had managed to get himself a grope of someone in pain. Drink our Alcohol Product and you too will be emboldened to try this!
As I said, no moral. I just want whoever scripted these adverts (the “Bartle Bogle Hegarty Creative Team” for the gin one, apparently), and even more whoever paid for them, to read this one day and suffer torments. Well, maybe not actual torments. Not even one little torment, like an infestation of microscopic nanoyeast monsters making their ears smell of hangover. But definitely significant embarrassment.
Plebs is a sitcom set in ancient Rome. They showed the sixth and last of (the first?) six episodes of it last night on ITV2 TV, and they’ll be showing this again tonight.
I’ve been recording Plebs. In the opening scene of this latest episode, the three leading characters, Marcus (who wants to be more successful while still being nice about it, the voice of concerned normality), Stylax (more of a Jack the Lad type), and Grumio (their slave), are out and about in the town, watching the ancient Roman version of the media, i.e. people orating and/or selling in the market place.
Mad Soothsayer Woman: “The seas will rise up and drown the people living in the lowlands …”
Doughnut Salesman: “Doughnuts!”
Mad Soothsayer Woman: “… and the sun shall beat down and burn all those people living in the hills!”
Doughnut Salesman: “Doughnuts!”
Mad Soothsayer Woman: “And those people living on the lands that are neither high nor low will also die through a combination of burning and drowning! None of you are safe! The end is nigh!!!”
Doughnut Salesman: “Come get your doughnuts!”
Stylax: “So, when’s the world ending?”
Grumio: “I dunno, I were listening to that doughnut guy.”
Marcus: “Nigh, apparently.”
Stylax: “Alright, nigh. Hang on, doesn’t that mean soon?”
Marcus: “To the people that say it, it means soon. To everyone else it means you’re a nutter, talking shit.”
Grumio: “I’m going to get a doughnut just in case.”
Sam Leifer and Tom Basden, the two man team who wrote, produced and directed Plebs, are either climate non-alarmists themselves, or at the very least they reckon that a lot of us now are, and that we’re ready for comedy which takes the piss out of our mad soothsayer tendency.
My original title for this was: “Are the plebs starting to see sense about climate alarmism?”, but I reckon our plebs have been sussing this out for quite a while now. Britain’s telly comedians are following public opinion on this rather than shaping it. Until a couple of years ago or so, they were constantly going on about how stupid climate non-alarmists were. Then they went quiet on the subject. Are they beginning seriously to see sense?
I have been interested in Frank Turner, who is a popular singer, ever since he performed at the London Olympics opening ceremony, and a Labour MP got angry about that:
Turns out his libertarianism and belief in the power of the people to resist oppression aren’t of the leftist sort. They’re of the rightist sort.
Oh dear. Not allowed. Can’t be a popular pop singer and even think things like that, let alone say them.
And just now, things on the Frank Turner front are getting rather interesting. NME have done an intereview with him. The NME website reports:
“David Cameron is a twat,” he says. ” He carries himself with the attitude that he’s Prime Minister because he thinks he should be, which is a deeply unpleasant trait. I wouldn’t vote for that c**t. But I’m amused when people spout that ‘Nick Clegg stabbed me in the back’ stuff, because the Lib Dems have always been a deeply unprincipled mish-mash of unrealistic bullshit. They’re all politicians at the end of the day – so fuck ‘em all.”
If that had been the only Frank Turner quote in this report worth requoting, that would have been today’s SQotD. But there is more. Turner also spoke about that Guardian piece (here‘s the link again):
The troubadour, who is set to release his fifth album ‘Tape Deck Heart’ on April 22, also spoke about his political beliefs, after apparently being “outed” by The Guardian as right wing last year. “That article was a misrepresentation of my politics, which are 100 per cent based in punk rock; freedom, independence, self-reliance and voluntary co-operation between people. Broadly speaking, I’m a classical liberal. What riled people was that I’m an economic liberal as well,” he said. Read the full interview with Frank Turner in this week’s NME.
Today, I intend to be doing exactly that.
“William Shakespeare evaded tax and illegally stockpiled food during times of shortage so he could sell it at high prices, academics have claimed“.
One many significant dividing lines between, on the one hand, enthusiasts for free economies and free societies, and on the other hand those who favour a large role for the state in directing and energising society, concerns where you think art and science come from.
Those looking for an excuse to expand the role of the state tend to assume that art and science come from the thoughts and actions of an educated and powerful elite, and then flow downwards, bestowing their blessings upon the worlds of technology and entertainment, and upon the world generally. Science gives rise to new technology. Art likewise leads the way in new forms of entertainment, communication, and so on.
While channel surfing a while back, I heard Dr Sheldon Cooper, the presiding monster of the hit US sitcom The Big Bang Theory, describe engineering as the “dull younger brother” (or some such dismissive phrase) of physics. The BBT gang were trying to improve their fighting robot, and in the absence of the one true engineer in their group (Howard Wolowitz), Sheldon tries to seize the initiative. “Watch and learn” says Sheldon. Sheldon’s attitude concerning the relationship between science and technology is the dominant one these days, because it explains why the government must pay for science on the scale that it now does. Either governments fund science, or science will stop. Luckily governments do now fund science, so science proceeds, and technology trundles along in its wake. Hence modern industrial civilisation.
If the above model of how science and art work was completely wrong, it would not be so widely believed in. There is some truth to it. Science does often give rise to new technology, especially nowadays. Some artists are indeed pioneers in more than art. But how do science and art arise in the first place?
Howard Wolowitz is the only one of The Big Bang Theory gang of four who does not have a “Dr” at the front of his name. But he is the one who goes into space. He builds space toilets. He was the one who actually built the fighting robot. Dr Sheldon Cooper, though very clever about physics, is wrong about technology, and it was good to see a bunch of comedy sitcom writers acknowledging this. After “Watch and learn”, Sheldon Cooper’s next words, greeted by much studio audience mirth, are “Does anyone know how to open this toolbox?”
→ Continue reading: Some thoughts about where science and art come from (and about why governments don’t need to pay for either of them)
This news item about the anatomy drawings of Leonardo da Vinci looks like a good excuse to go to Edinburgh in August:
In a series of 30 pictures, the Royal Collection Trust will show da Vinci’s distinctive anatomical drawings alongside a newly-taken MRI or CT scan. The comparison is intended to show just how accurate da Vinci was, despite his limited technology and lack of contemporary medical knowledge.
The Edinburgh Festival is mainly about the arts, rather than sciences, although in a way this exhibition transcends both. I hear mixed things about the Festival: it is, apparently, great fun but it can be a pain getting accomodation. My wife has never been to Scotland – an omission that needs to be sorted out soon.
And of course the da Vinci exhibition in this beautiful Scottish city is a reminder of the grand tradition of medicine in that part of the world.
I like two recent postings by Mick Hartley, both in connection with art exhibitions in London, Lichtenstein at the Tate, and Duchamp (and others) at the Barbican.
Of Lichstenstein, Hartley says, among much else that is worth reading in full:
So yes, it’s easy to see him as glib, compared to the great names of New York Abstract Expressionism, like, say Mark Rothko, whose brown and purple splodges of colour were seemingly dragged agonisingly from deep within his soul; who couldn’t bear for his Seagram works to be displayed in a restaurant; who finally killed himself in his studio. Compared to Rothko, yes, Lichtenstein does seem a bit of a light-weight.
Also, there’s the fact that Lichtenstein’s easy to get. Just about anyone can see what it’s about. And critics hate that. What they want is to be given the opportunity to demonstrate why they’re art critics and you’re just some dumb schmuck who doesn’t know much about art but knows what he likes. If they started lecturing us about how Lichtenstein is commenting on mass reproduction and popular culture, we’d say, well of course he is.
That’s one mark against the man. Another may be that, despite all the attempts to portray his art as somehow critical of the popular culture of the times, and by extension of the rampant greedy capitalism of post-war America etc. etc. together with the sexual stereotypes of those ditsy romantic blondes and macho soldiers from the comic books, it’s fairly clear that Lichtenstein, far from mounting a biting critique of US imperialism, was in fact celebrating rather than condemning the sheer vibrancy and energy of the visual world he lived in – of New York in the Sixties. Of course he maintained an ironic distance, but he was no revolutionary, no radical subversive – except in the sense that he saw popular culture as a suitable subject for high art.
The Lichtenstein exhibition is a popular hit, but, Hartley reports, the Duchamp etc. show is provoking no such mass enthusiasm.
In 1917, Duchamp grabbed a urinal, signed it, and stuck it in an exhibition, to the delight of art critics ever since. Says Hartley, at the end of his Duchamp posting:
The logical conclusion to this line of thinking would be that if anything can be art if its maker wishes it to be art, then anything or everything can be art – and we don’t need artists any more. Curiously this is an argument that artists themselves seem reluctant to make.
So yes, the urinal was funny; yes, it was subversive; yes, it was probably the kind of kick-up-the-arse that the art establishment needed at the time. But can’t we move on? It’s not as if the art establishment now isn’t in need of a kick up the arse. But it’s not going to come from repeating the same old tricks of 100 years ago. The urinal lovers now are the art establishment.
For fans of Juche (and who reading this blog wouldn’t be a fan of Juche), Michael Malice, a libertarian who is a professional ghostwriter, has a new kickstarter project: “Kim Jong Il: The Unauthorized Autobiography”, as taken almost entirely from North Korean propaganda pamphlets.
“Kim Jong Il: The Unauthorized Autobiography” Kickstarter Page
It is always interesting that when newspapers cover Chinese news, mentions of history’s most prolific mass murderer just get reported baldly without much comment:
Players won points for acts of selfless Communist spirit and the winners were greeted, on screen, by Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square. Points were deducted, however, each time a player had to be taken aside by his local Party secretary for a “corrective chat”.
- China embraces online gamers
Yet somehow if a German videogame maker (let alone a government sponsored one) were to feature that also-ran mass murderer Adolf Hitler ‘greeting’ players on screen in a video game, I suspect the reportage might be… a tad different.