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09 Dec 18:01

How I Light Tested's In-Studio StandUp Videos

by Joey Fameli


This will be a weekly three-part behind the scenes series: Lighting, Shooting, and Editing.

"Standups" are what I call the solo presented video segments we do at Tested--a term taken from the news industry, in which a reporter addresses the camera, usually to another anchor, or the audience. It's become a common internet video format: one person, in frame, talking to camera (audience) with coverage layered over. We do them with our Makerbot videos, Show and Tells, Product reviews, etc. Everyone approaches the lighting, shooting, and editing of these segments differently; whether it be natural lighting, close-up center frame (ie, webcam), lighting quick hard cuts, etc. Today, I'd like to share my process on how I approach the lighting for these segments, specifically the 12 Days of Tested Christmas video series for 2014.

Let me start off with this amazing illustration of my light direction and placement.

For this shoot I used 5 lights: 2 Background Lights, 1 Rear-Key Back Light, 2 Fills

  • #1 Background Light, 650watt Arri, CTB half, medium flood/spot
  • #2 Background Light, Kino Flo Diva-Light, half-cranked
  • #3 Rear-Key Back Light, 650 Arri, CTB half, full flood
  • #4 Lowel Rifa-Light Softbox, 75%
  • #5 Kino Flo 4' Double

I wanted to stick with traditional omni-lit studio lighting for this shoot, while adding harder lights to help sculpt the subject. We recently redesigned and painted the set with much more color and props, naturally I wanted to show it off with background lights, but still contrast that with the subject.

Above is a short video I put together of each light's specific contribution to the scene. Let's walk through what each of those lights does for the shot.

The first (#1) background light is an Arri that gives a nice splice of hard light over the items in the background, throwing some shadows around, and the Kino (#2) helps fill some of those shadows and adds sparkly bits on the background props.

Throwing the 650 Arri, high and behind, would give me a harder key (#3, the highest value of all the lights in the studio), and help shape the back left of their head. To compliment and even that out, I then added the 4' Kino Bank (#5) to toss a soft even fill to finish that wrap around. I then kicked in the opposite end fill (#4) which is a Lowel Softbox that adds fill to the other side of the subject, and also increases the overall light value of the room.

All the lights were set to tungsten (3200k) except for background light #1, and rear key #3; those have Half-CTB gels (Color Temperature Blue) to cool down those background elements, so that the front facing subjects lights would seem warmer. Warming up the flesh tones while keeping background subjects slightly cool, will separate those two elements just a little bit more.

That's it. Pretty simple--a little more involved than a three-point lighting setup, but not by much. Our studio can go pitch black, so having full control of all lights can give me a chance to play with some nuances. You can see the results in the first 12 Days of Christmas video below.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and your own techniques, so feel free to comment below, or message me on twitter @joeyfameli.

Next week I'll talk about the Blackmagic Pocket Camera rig that I've built to replace our Panasonics for Standups and other field setups!

[This post was originally published on Joey's personal blog]

09 Dec 14:00

Camping - 12/9/2014

by Will Smith

Rough intro from Norm, but the TMNT discussion is good.

Adam, Norm, and Will share camping stories and strategies, after having a surprising discussion about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films.
09 Dec 18:24

Adam's Tour Diaries #14: Indiana Intrigue

by Adam Savage

Ah, confusing place-names.

Dec. 4, 2014: There’s an Indiana in Pennsylvania, you say? Wait, what? They even have an Indiana University of Pennsylvania just to confuse us all. Lest we get uppity, though, remember that Pennsylvania became a state on Dec. 12, 1787. Indiana didn’t become a state until Dec. 11, 1816. So … yeah. Looks like Indiana the state (Jamie’s home state, by the by) is the pretender to the throne here. The town in Pennsylvania predates the state.

Wait a minute. I’m getting some news here (that means I’m checking Wikipedia), and it looks like the town was incorporated the SAME YEAR AS THE STATE OF INDIANA. Ohhhh. Intrigue.

We’re going to have to settle this with some good old-fashioned arm-wrestling.

Anyway. Where was I? Right, Indiana the town. Christmas tree capital of the world. Birthplace of Jimmy Stewart at the location of the Jimmy Stewart museum. Our show was in a stadium, and again, it was sorta hard to hear the audience, but they made up for it by being SUPER LOUD. And awesome.

It looks like a microphone, right?

But before I get to the show, I did get out and do another round of thrift shopping: I headed over to Denise’s Antique Mall to do a little shopping. Wouldn’t you know it I forgot to take a pic of the place? It was quiet but packed with stuff, and I picked up this cool burner that looks like a microphone.

As for dressing rooms, I had a good one.

I think this “Where’s Jamie” is pretty easy, although I tried to get him to lie down on the ground and expose only his head. He refused.

He’s pretty easy to spot, alas.

Ah well. Like I said the crowd was PUMPED. We had a fun show, then I fell asleep on the way to Cleveland.

While on tour for the Behind the Myths stage show, Adam is blogging about his adventures and exploration of each city he visits.

Other Entries:

05 Dec 23:11

Detail from page 351 of Family Man, now online! (psst if you...

Detail from page 351 of Family Man, now online!

(psst if you sign up for the Patreon at $5+, you can read the notes for last week’s page right away instead of waiting, like, three years!)

04 Dec 10:26

Happy international cheetah day ♥

Happy international cheetah day ♥

08 Dec 00:01

The Metamorphosis


I enjoy the enthusiasm on Marten's face in the last panel.

Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad could be here, right now.

Velocipede is a really fun word to say.



07 Dec 14:05



Political Commentary via Comical Pornography

04 Oct 22:49

kittydoom: sickomobb: svllywood: Ben Affleck speaks about...


This kinda surprised me.




Ben Affleck speaks about Islamophobia X


OMG im not mad at him for playing as batman anymore

You go on with your bad self, Ben Affleck.


03 Dec 19:30

"Wanderers" Imagines Human Exploration Through Our Solar System

by Norman Chan

still a better movie than Interstellar.

03 Dec 19:37

Invisible City Life: The Urban Microbiome

by Marina Alberti

A brief (ish) primer on the likely direction my work will be headed.

Microbes play a key role in the function of ecosystems. They contribute to biodiversity (Fierer et al. 2012), nutrient cycling (Fenchel et al. 2012), pollutant detoxification (Kolvenbach et al. 2014), and human health (Gevers et al. 2012). Since they control … Continue reading →
03 Dec 00:43

The Samian Letter

by ateliersisk

Image of portrait bust on the click-thru.

It’s been One of Those Nights in the makeshift studio: the errors/shortcomings outstrip anything that might be working well, the floor is quite slanted, causing the modeling stand to drift, one cannot step back from the work, the persistent dry heat results in a nosebleed, and the garret’s ceiling is so low that even the vertically-challenged risk concussion if forgetful.  And the practice of this clay-mad vocation has been relegated to two or three hours per day (if that) for far too many months, which physically hurts.  So take a breath.  I’m still here.  Working around the clock. Knowing that this level of frustration always precedes a break-through. Remembering what is possible with perseverance.  Daily listing the little things one is grateful for. Admitting that at least the solution for the letters on the clay surface of this piece is approaching.  Trusting in the Unknown in all its forms.

I’m clenching one of the wooden letters so tightly in my fist that it has left its mark on me: Y.  I look down at the Pythagorean or Samian letter, ears burning:

The Pythagoric Letter two ways spread,
Shows the two paths in which Man’s life is led.
The right hand track to sacred Virtue tends,
Though steep and rough at first, in rest it ends;
The other broad and smooth, but from its Crown
On rocks the Traveller is tumbled down.
He who to Virtue by harsh toils aspires,
Subduing pains, worth and renown acquires;
But who seeks slothful luxury, and flies,
The labor of great acts, dishonored dies.
(Fragment attributed to Pythagoras)

Just like the two paths of the letter, ‘Samian’ makes both ‘manias’ and ‘animas’ – a path to illness, and a path to the soul.  Y.  When spoken aloud, isn’t this the most profound letter in the alphabet?  It hovers in wordless – even soundless – cries of grief, but it also echoes through those aching in mind, body, heart and soul for another reason: it is the first letter for the Beloved, for ‘You.’  And at the end of the day, both dwelling places merge as the branches to the trunk of the Samian letter, for one is simply the perceived loss of the other.

02 Dec 01:48

Review: High West A Midwinter Nights Dram Rye Whiskey

by Jason Pyle

Would quite like to try this, but dang, pricey.

High West released “A Midwinter Night’s Dram” Rye Whiskey earlier this year. It has taken some time to hit my area sadly, but I was finally able to procure a bottle. This whiskey is of the same blend of straight rye whiskeys that make up the distillery’s Rendezvous Rye bottling. It consists of a 16 year old rye whiskey from Barton distillery blended with a 6 year old 95% rye grain whiskey from Midwest Grain Products (MGP), formerly LDI. The final blended whiskey is then finished in both Port and French Oak barrels.

HighWestMidwinterNightsDramFront900_grandeHigh West A Midwinter Nights Dram Rye Whiskey, 49.3% abv (98.6 proof), $85/bottle
Color: Medium Amber
Nose: Familiar MGP (Former LDI) Rye rounded with more sweet notes. Mint, cinnamon, and gin botanicals meet dried dark fruits and berry aromas. Vanilla caramel sweetness anchors the nose.
Palate: Caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, raisin, and red berry syrup. Nice oak grip and balanced barrel notes.
Finish: The port finish lingers – dark fruits, caramel, and warm spices.
Overall: A Midwinter Night’s Dram is a delicious mingling of rye whiskeys enhanced by the finishing process, not overcome by it. In this case the fruitier, richer aromas and flavors from the port balance the base rye’s bright notes. In an industry that has seen independent bottlers go from sourcing whiskey and placing their label on it, to sourcing whiskeys and shoving it in a finishing barrel, any barrel, it’s nice to see a deft hand with finishing yield an improved product. Well done!
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.2 (Superb)

01 Dec 21:19

Weird Ecology: On The Southern Reach Trilogy – The Los Angeles...


I am so stoked to be able to finish reading these soon.

Also, I think Weird Ecology might be an emerging field of fiction, and one to which I might be suited.

ON A BITTERLY cold day in January 2013, a dolphin was discovered swimming in the famously noxious waters of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. A crowd soon gathered by the Union and Carroll Street bridges and along the banks of the canal. The NYPD showed up to monitor things; a news helicopter hovered overhead. Living nearby at the time and alerted by a friend’s text, I went over to have a look. The sight was hard to credit. There it was, unmistakably a dolphin, swimming slowly back and forth in one of the most phantasmagorically polluted waterways in the world. Signs of the dolphin’s distress were evident — a bloody dorsal fin, periods of what appeared to be torpor alternating with spells of agitation. After several hours — people standing vigil, snapping pictures with their phones — the dolphin stopped moving. A hush fell on the crowd; even the cops looked stricken. The dolphin bobbed in the grey-green water, inert, manifestly dead. A necropsy later revealed it to have been ill: riddled with tumors, malnourished, its kidneys failing. 

I thought of the Gowanus Canal dolphin while I was reading Annihilation, the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.  At a mid-point in the book, the narrator — she identifies herself only as “the biologist” — spots a pair of dolphins swimming in a canal.

"I knew that the dolphins here sometimes ventured in from the sea, had adapted to the freshwater. But when the mind expects a certain range of possibilities, any explanation that falls outside of that expectation can surprise. Then something more wrenching occurred. As they slid by, the nearest one rolled slightly to the side, and it stared at me with an eye that did not, in that brief flash, resemble a dolphin eye to me. It was painfully human, almost familiar. In an instant that glimpse was gone and they had submerged again, and I had no way to verify what I had seen. I stood there, watched those twinned lines disappear up the canal, back toward the deserted village. I had the unsettling thought that the natural world around me had become a kind of camouflage."

The biologist is several eventful days into an expedition exploring Area X, the mysterious, unpopulated stretch of southern coast where, thirty years ago, an Event occurred. (And here I need to interrupt myself. Area X is a beguiling creation, the riddle at the center of these marvelous books, and I will endeavor not to spill its secrets here. Still, I can describe the basic set-up.) The official explanation for the Event is ecological disaster, but this is a fiction. The truth is weirder (a word I will be resorting to often in this review) — the truth is, no one understands what happened. There was an Event, and after the Event, there was Area X. The Event created a border. The area outside the border is controlled by the Southern Reach, the government agency set up to monitor, investigate, and contain Area X. The Southern Reach has, over the years, launched serial expeditions into Area X. Many of them have ended in disaster. The biologist is participating in the twelfth expedition. By the time she sees the peculiar dolphin, the expedition has already started coming apart.

The biologist is an expert in transitional environments: in-between places, where different ecosystems overlap. What does she make of Area X? It features several transitional zones, moving from cypress swamp to salt marsh to beach and ocean. It appears to be a pristine environment — that is, signs of man seem largely to have been erased: “The air was so clean, so fresh, while the world back beyond the border was what it had always been during the modern era: dirty, tired, imperfect, winding down, at war with itself.” And yet the fauna of Area X displays signs of oddness. There is the dolphin in the canal. A boar behaves strangely. A “moaning creature” lurks miserably in the weeds. Beyond the animals, there is the abandoned village, the old lighthouse on the beach, and the tower, “which was not supposed to be there.” The tower postdates the Event of thirty years ago — it’s an Area X addition to the landscape. If it is a tower, it’s an inverted one, because it rears not up but down into the earth. It seems to be made of stone but really isn’t. Inside the tower is an inscription, a very long inscription, spiraling down the wall as it descends underground, composed of luminescent flora: “Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms…” Deep within the tower, the biologist and her fellow expedition members come to realize, something is creating the inscription. Far below them, someone or something is writing on the wall.

So then, what kind of place is Area X? Most certainly it is a transitional environment. In Area X, one thing turns into another — it’s a site of transformation and transmutation. And Area X is weird — weird as in, “that’s weird,” and weird as in Weird Tales and H.P. Lovecraft’s philosophy of Weird. Lovecraft used the term “Weird” to describe his own work and the work of other writers he liked — tales not necessarily supernatural in intent but that aim to create a sense of dread, awe, terror, and the like. As Lovecraft wrote with characteristic fervor: “Children will always be afraid of the dark, and men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulse will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and moonstruck can glimpse.”

If what VanderMeer creates with the Southern Reach books is a twenty-first-century version of weird fiction — and indeed the Lovecraft influence is clear in the trilogy — it’s a Lovecraft turned on his head, mashed with other influences. The early novels of J.G. Ballard might be one influence (I’m thinking particularly of the way Ballard’s characters psychologically adapt to drastic examples of “climate change”). Andrei Tarkovsky’s films Stalker and perhaps Solaris might be another. And then, interestingly, there is an entirely different heritage that VanderMeer seems to be drawing on: the American naturalist tradition running from Thoreau to Rachel Carson to Annie Dillard to, more recently, David Quammen and Elizabeth Kolbert.

While there are moments of satisfyingly psychedelic Lovecraftian freakout in all three Southern Reach books, VanderMeer is clearly not coming from the same place as poor old benighted H.P., and that’s why I feel he turns Lovecraft on his head. Lovecraft’s tales, effective as they often are, especially when read at a certain age (my adolescent brain was happily scrambled by H.P’s frequent and fearful allusions to “non-Euclidean geometry”), were written in the heyday of eugenics and are full of a shuddering preoccupation with and aversion to interbreeding (actually, any kind of breeding), miscegenation, degeneracy, and devolution. VanderMeer’s books, it seems to me, embrace all these things. His is an ecologically minded Weird fiction. In the books, Area X is not a channel into the primordial ooze where tentacled, bloblike Old Ones lurk (à la Lovecraft). Area X is frightening, yes, but what appears to be happening there is not a reversion to Chaos and Old Night but what we might see as the start of a comprehensive reversal of the Anthropocene Age.

What makes Area X weird exactly? In his recent book Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, Timothy Morton coins the term “hyperobjects” to describe events or systems or processes that are too complex, too massively distributed across space and time, for humans to get a grip on. Black holes are hyperobjects; nuclear materials such as uranium and plutonium, with their deep-time half-lives, are hyperobjects; global warming and mass species extinction are hyperobjects. We know, we live with, the local effects of these phenomena, but mostly they are quite literally beyond our ken. In one sense they are abstractions; in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real. Because they are so massively distributed in terms of causality and consequence, they refute or distort our homely notions of time and space.

In Morton’s terms, then, Area X is a hyperobject. In the books, the Southern Reach’s attempts to theorize and “think” Area X are pitifully inadequate. Area X is beyond all that. It is Weird in a way that transcends concepts of natural or unnatural. Trying to describe what it’s like to live with hyperobjects (to the extent that we can at all), Morton himself invokes Lovecraft:

"Gravity waves from the “beginning of time” are right now passing through my body from the edge of the universe. It is as if we were inside a gigantic octopus.  H.P. Lovecraft imagines the insane god Cthulhu this way. Cthulhu inhabits a non-Euclidean city, just like Gaussian spacetime. By understanding hyperobjects, human thinking has summoned Cthulhu-like entities into social, psychic, and philosophical space. The contemporary philosophical obsession with the monstrous provides a refreshing exit from human-scale thoughts. It is extremely healthy to know not only that there are monstrous beings, but that there are beings that are not purely thinkable, whose being is not directly correlated with whatever thinking is."

Ecological disaster has granted Lovecraft a whole new currency in the twenty-first century. He’s come to resemble one of the lunatic scholars he invented to furnish his tales with a critical apparatus: Ludvig Prinn, the comte d’Erlette, “the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred.” He’s been named as just this sort of disreputable precursor or prophet by the writers and artists affiliated with the Dark Mountain collective in England. In their original “Uncivilisation” manifesto and in the annual anthologies they’ve produced for the past few years, Dark Mountain writers have, like Morton, tried to think ecology after the end of the world. In the words of “Uncivilisation”:

"And so we find ourselves, all of us together, poised trembling on the edge of a change so massive that we have no way of gauging it. None of us knows where to look, but all of us know not to look down. Secretly, we all think we are doomed: even the politicians think this; even the environmentalists. Some of us deal with it by going shopping. Some deal with it by hoping it is true. Some give up in despair. Some work frantically to try and fend off the coming storm. Our question is: what would happen if we looked down? Would it be as bad as we imagine? What might we see? Could it even be good for us? We believe it is time to look down."

The Dark Mountain project offends a lot of people. It gets called defeatist, misanthropic, “collapsitarian.” But surely there is something in the air (and in the soil, and the ocean) these days. It is a very literal kind of Weltschmerz. It is not about (or not just about) apocalypse-mongering or twenty-first-century millenarianism. The hyperobjects are here. Imaginative responses to them (which is to say, to total ecological collapse) can take many forms: Morton’s theory. The testimonies and rites of Dark Mountain. And, in their own way, the Southern Reach books.

In Authority, the second book in the series, VanderMeer steps back from the biologist’s experiences inside Area X and turns his attention to the Southern Reach itself. If Area X can be regarded, from a certain perspective, as a high-functioning ecosystem, then the Southern Reach is the opposite. John Rodriguez, aka Control, is the newly appointed director of the Southern Reach. Much of Authority is given over to Control’s hapless attempts to impose order on the disintegrating conditions he encounters there. The staff is secretive, mutinous, possibly insane; the prevailing mood is a kind of paranoiac cluelessness. Control’s plans are undermined and sabotaged at every turn. For him, the Southern Reach proves to be almost as inscrutable as Area X.

Behind the Southern Reach is Central, the shadowy parent organization. Behind Control is his mother, a high-clearance operative for that parent organization, as her father was before her. Control toils, then, in the family business, and Authority becomes, as it moves along, a kind of family story. The third book in the series, Acceptance, traces this family story further while interweaving other stories set during both the past and present of Area X. We encounter characters from the previous books in a very new light. A bigger picture—a much bigger picture—emerges in fragments and hints. The history of Area X and Central turn out to be intimately intertwined. The family story expands to include basically everyone.

The books themselves operate in a similar way. They draw on multiple genres and blend traditions we’ve come to regard as distinct. They contain all kinds of echoes. For instance, reading them, I sometimes heard Thoreau. In 1846, Thoreau climbed Mount Katahdin in Maine. His account of the ascent in The Maine Woods culminates in a famous passage in which, on reaching the summit, he becomes disoriented and starts thinking wild thoughts:

"This was that Earth of which we have heard, made out of Chaos and Old Night. Here was no man’s garden, but the unhandselled globe. It was not lawn, nor pasture, nor mead, nor woodland, nor lea, nor arable, nor waste land. It was the fresh and natural surface f the planet Earth, as it was made for ever and ever, — to be the dwelling of man, we say,—so Nature made it, and man may use it if he can. Man was not to be associated with it. It was Matter, vast, terrific,—not his Mother Earth that we have heard of, not for him to tread on, or be buried in,—no, it were being too familiar even to let his bones lie there,—the home, this, of Necessity and Fate. There was clearly felt the presence of a force not bound to be kind to man. It was a place for heathenism and superstitious rites,—to be inhabited by men nearer of kin to the rocks and to wild animals than we…. What is it to be admitted to a museum, to see a myriad of particular things, compared with being shown some star’s surface, some hard matter in its home! I stand in awe of my body, this matter to which I am bound has become so strange to me. I fear not spirits, ghosts, of which I am one,—that my body might,—but I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them. What is this Titan that has possession of me? Talk of mysteries!—Think of our life in nature,—daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it,—rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! the actual world! the  common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?"

In A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, written 130 years later, Thoreau’s literary descendant Annie Dillard uneasily contemplates the teeming, spendthrift multiplicity of life:

"The picture of fecundity and its excesses and of the pressures of growth and its accidents is of course no different from the picture I painted before of the world as an intricate texture of a bizarre variety of forms. Only now the shadows are deeper. Extravagance takes on a sinister, wastrel air, and exuberance blithers. When I added the dimension of time to the landscape of the world, I saw how freedom grew the beauties and horrors from the same live branch."

Exuberance blithers. I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them. In these passages the naturalism of Dillard and Thoreau turns into something else, something resembling the feverish, unnatural speculations of Lovecraft. At certain moments, at certain extremes, the naturalist tradition starts to look Weird. And perhaps the reverse is true as well—as noted above, Lovecraft himself has been adopted by some as a kind of deranged, pioneering crypto-ecologist. In the Gowanus Canal, where the ailing dolphin expired, new forms are growing. In that Cthulhoid sludge, fed on a century and more’s worth of raw sewage and toxic chemicals, microbes are mutating and forming white clouds of “biofilm” that float through the depths. Here is a truly Lovecraftian speciation.

This is the moment we find ourselves in now. In the Southern Reach books, VanderMeer imaginatively merges the naturalist and un-naturalist traditions. The biologist (in all her different incarnations) is the perfect representative of this merger. She comes to practice, over the course of the books, a kind of Weird Ecology. It’s an ecology fit for our moment, when we’ve begun to understand that what is happening in the world, to the world, is happening irreversibly. Describing the moment, Timothy Morton echoes Thoreau: “The reality is that hyperobjects were already here, and slowly but surely we understood what they were already saying. They contacted us.”

The Southern Reach books imaginatively figure this contact. The beauty of the books is that they let the other side win. They offer a collapsitarianism in reverse. Area X represents not ecological collapse but rather human collapse — or, better said, human transmutation. Area X cleanses its territory of anthropogenic poisoning, then sets to work on people themselves. As one of the more unhinged employees of the Southern Reach reflects in his notes on Area X:  “Would that not be the final humbling of the human condition? That the trees and birds, the fox and the rabbit, the wolf and the deer… reach a point at which they do not even notice us, as we are transformed.”

David Tompkins is a writer based in Brooklyn.

01 Dec 18:32

"When I was a freshman, my sister was in eighth grade. There was a boy in two of her periods who..."

“When I was a freshman, my sister was in eighth grade. There was a boy in two of her periods who would ask her out every single day. (Third and seventh period, if I remember correctly.) All day during third and seventh she would repeatedly tell him no. She didn’t beat around the bush, she didn’t lie and say she was taken—she just said no.
One day, in third period, after being rejected several times, he said; “I have a gun in my locker. If you don’t say yes, I am going to shoot you in seventh.”
She refused again, but right after class she went to the principal’s office and told them what happened. They searched his locker and there was a gun in his backpack.
When he was arrested, some of my sister’s friends (some female, even) told her that she was selfish for saying no so many times. That because of her, the entire school was in jeopardy. That it wouldn’t have killed her to say yes and give it a try, but because she was so mean to him, he lost his temper. Many of her male friends said it was “girls like her” that made all women seem like cockteases.
Wouldn’t have killed her to say yes? If a man is willing to shoot someone for saying no, what happens to the poor soul who says yes? What happens the first time they disagree? What happens the first time she says she doesn’t want to have sex? That she isn’t in the mood? When they break up?
Years later, when I was a senior, I was the only girl in my Criminal Justice class. The teacher, who used to be a sergeant in the police force, told us a story of something that had happened to a girl he knew when she was in high school. There was a guy who obviously had a crush on her and he made her uncomfortable. One day he finally gathered up the courage to ask her out, and she said no.
The next day, during an assembly, he pulled a gun on her in front of everyone and threatened to kill her if she didn’t date him.
He was tackled to the ground and the gun was taken from him. When my teacher asked the class who was at fault for the crime, I was the only person who said the boy was. All the other kids in the class (who were all boys) said that the girl was, that if she had said yes he would’ve never lost it and brought a gun and tried to kill her. When my teacher said that they were wrong and that this is what is wrong with society, that whenever a white boy commits a crime it’s someone else’s fault (music, television, video games, the victim) one boy raised his hand and literally said; “But if someone were to punch me and I punched him back, who is at fault for the fight? He is, not me. It’s self-defence. She started it, so anything that happens to her is in reaction to her actions .It’s simple cause and effect.”
Even though he spent the rest of the calss period ripping into the boys and saying that you are always responsible for your own actions, and that women are allowed to say no and do not have to date them, they left class laughing about how idiotic he was and that he clearly had no idea how much it hurt to be rejected.
So now we have a new school shooting, based solely on the fact some guy couldn’t get laid, and I see men, boys, applaudin him, or if they’re not applauding him, they’re laying blame on women as a whole. Just like my sister’s friends did. Just like the boys in my Criminal Justice class did.
This isn’t something that’s rare. This isn’t something that never happens, or that a select group of men feel as if they are so entitled to women that saying no is not only the worst possible thing a woman can do, but is considered a form of “defence” when they commit a crime upon them (whether it be rape or murder-as-a-reaction-towards-rejection).
Girls are being killed for saying no to prom invites. Girls are being killed for saying no to men. They are creating an atmosphere where women are too scared to say no, and the worst part is? They are doing it intentionally. They want society to be that way, they want women to say yes entirely out of fear. Even the boys and men who aren’t showing up to schools with guns are saying; “Well, you know, I wouldn’t do that, but you have to admit that if she had just said yes …”
If you are a man and you defend this guys’ actions or try to find an excuse for it, or you denounce what really happened, or in any way lay blame on women, every girl you know, every woman you love, has just now thought to themselves that you might lose your shit and kill them someday for saying no. You have just lost their trust. And you know what? You deserve to lose it.”


cry laugh feel love peace panic:  

"Wouldn’t have killed her to say yes? If a man is willing to shoot someone for saying no, what happens to the poor soul who says yes? What happens the first time they disagree? What happens the first time she says she doesn’t want to have sex? That she isn’t in the mood? When they break up?"


(via feminist-space)


(via stfueverything)

01 Dec 21:09

The Real Mr. Difficult, or Why Cthulhu Threatens to Destroy the...


This is pretty solid.

I MAY AS WELL state my claim in as straightforward a way as possible: H. P. Lovecraft, he of the squamous and eldritch, is wrongly derided as a bad writer. Lovecraft is actually a difficult writer. The previous decade saw a slow-motion dust-up over the notion of difficult writers thanks to Jonathan Franzen’s 2002 New Yorker essay “Mr. Difficult: William Gaddis and the Problem of Hard-to-Read Books” and the 2005 rejoinder by Ben Marcus in Harper’s: “Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life as We Know It.” Franzen suggested an age-old conflict between Contract writers who wanted to offer a “good read” to their audiences, and Status writers who pursued an artistic vision to the very limits of the novel-form. Marcus, in his response, pled a case for high modernism, for writers who “interrogate the assumptions of realism and bend the habitual gestures around new shapes.”

Both essays are harmed by the simple fact that Franzen and Marcus are self-interested: Franzen considers himself “a Contract kind of person” and was put out when he received a letter from a reader who complained that his novel The Corrections contained the word “diurnality.” Marcus was put out by Franzen’s essay, labeling his own piece “a response to an attack” from the real status players of literature: the inappropriately named realists who hold experimental fiction of the sort Marcus prefers to write in disdain.

As it has been nine years, surely it is time to plant another flag: Lovecraftian fiction as experimental fiction — that is, the sort of fiction I’ve been known to write.  I’ve done a bit of actual experiments: what if we triggered nucleic exchange between Lovecraft and the Beats, or Raymond Carver, or David Foster Wallace, or New Narrative, or or or...? (See my The Nickronomicon.) If there’s a difference between the self-interest in this essay and those of Franzen and Marcus, it’s a simple one: you’ve never heard of me. There’s no reason why you should, as I am a Status writer with no status, a Contract writer who has reneged.

No writer of quality would write fiction in the mode of a writer known to be a bad one, but Lovecraft is “known” to be bad. Publishing in the pulps and the amateur press of his day, Lovecraft avoided the critical gaze during his lifetime, but in 1945 the legendary literary critic Edmund Wilson devoted a New Yorker piece to taking Lovecraft apart. “Tales of the Marvellous and the Ridiculous” was reprinted in Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties, which guaranteed that the drubbing would be widely read for decades to come. There’s little actual criticism in the piece, though. Wilson just sniffs that Lovecraft’s prose was verbose and undistinguished, and not a patch on Edgar Allan Poe’s. He then provides zero examples of such inferior sentences, or even a single sentence of any sort from any of Lovecraft’s fiction. Wilson explains that Lovecraft stories frequently contain the words “horrible”, “frightful”, “unholy”, and the like, which he then explains should never appear in a horror story.

Well, unless the horror stories in question are first-person narratives in which the protagonist is just summarizing the claims of another character: 

“Other road experiences had occurred on August 5th and 6th; a shot grazing his car on one occasion, and the barking of the dogs telling of unholy woodland presences on the other.”—“The Whisperer In Darkness”

Or if the word occurs in a snippet of an in-story foreign newspaper:

 “The living man was clutching a horrible stone idol of unknown origin, about foot in height, regarding whose nature authorities at Sydney University, the Royal Society, and the Museum in College Street all profess complete bafflement, and which the survivor says he found in the cabin of the yacht, in a small carved shrine of common pattern.”— “The Call of Cthulhu”

We could go on, but we need not. Lovecraft doesn’t use adjectives to avoid description, or due to a failure of the imagination, or even to persuade the reader that some frightful unholy thing is just that. Lovecraft uses a variety of testimonies and in-story artifacts (newspaper articles, diaries, sound recordings, correspondence) to build a practical case for the cosmic horrors with which he was obsessed.  He had a pretty clear aesthetic and used polyphony well to build authority for the ineffable. His logically-minded characters — scholars, bookish sorts, curious investigators — traveled the road of rationality right up to the dead end where rationality necessarily failed. (And yes, sometimes at the dead end awaits a whistling squid.) One might even say that Lovecraft interrogates the assumptions of realism and bends the habitual gestures around new shapes, to detourn a phrase. For Marcus, fiction is “a hunger for something unknown, the belief that the world and its doings have yet to be fully explored”, which is explicitly a belief held by Lovecraft’s narrators and implicitly by Lovecraft’s readers. That which drives Marcus to read Gaddis led me to read Lovecraft.

Lovecraft is a perfectly capable writer when it comes to pacing, to invention, to story logic, and even when it comes to generating the occasional quotable phrase — all the attributes needed for a successful career in the pulps. Characterization and observation of social realities go right out the window, but Lovecraft had no real interest in the social world or even human beings at all.  Franzen could have been speaking of Lovecraft, and not postmodern fiction, when he wrote, “Characters were feeble, suspect constructs, like the author himself.” Pulp, like postmodernism, offers other, more difficult, pleasures.

But Lovecraft was ultimately ill-suited to the pulps, both in temperament and in his aesthetic project. He was never prolific enough to make a living in the story mines, and his ad hoc “Cthulhu mythos” didn’t appeal to pulp readers the way that recurring protagonists and damsels in distress did. His difficulty was his difficultness. Lovecraft shares many attributes with Franzen’s Status writers, despite writing in the low-status idiom of pulp horror and science fiction.  Franzen, reading Gaddis’s The Recognitions, fumes that “[b]lizzards of obscure references swirled around sheer cliffs of erudition, precipitous discourses on alchemy and Flemish painting, Mithraism and early-Christian theology. The prose came in page-long paragraphs in which oxygen was at a premium, and the emotional temperature of the novel started cold and got colder.” 

The same complaints are made about Lovecraft. Writer Daniel José Older recently complained in a Buzzfeed Books essay that a favorite Lovecraft phrase, “cyclopean”, was nonsensical. “What image are we to take from this? Buildings with a single window at the top? Buildings built by one-eyed giants? It means nothing to me visually, yet it’s clearly one of Lovecraft’s favorite adjectives.”  All Older had to do was look up the word. Cyclopean means gigantic and uneven and rough-hewn—it is both allusive and descriptive. “Cyclopean masonry” is a term of art in archeology.

Why does “cyclopean” appear in, say, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”? The narrator is a student and a declassed part of New England’s elite. (He discovers that he’s a descendent of the wealthy Obed Marsh.) He’d know the word and use it. Would the station agent in the same story use it? No, he’d say something like “Leaves the square-front of Hammond’s Drug Store - at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. unless they’ve changed lately. Looks like a terrible rattletrap — I’ve never been on it.” And he does. Lovecraft’s narrators are often intellectuals — is it really a surprise that Peaslee, a professor of political economy, narrates “The Shadow Out of Time” like so:

“This is a highly important fact in view of the shadow which fell so suddenly upon me from outside sources. It may be that centuries of dark brooding had given to crumbling, whisper-haunted Arkham a peculiar vulnerability as regards such shadows — though even this seems doubtful in the light of those other cases which I later came to study. But the chief point is that my own ancestry and background are altogether normal. What came, came from somewhere else — where, I even now hesitate to assert in plain words.”

Let’s compare it to the rhetoric of an actual political economist:

 “Moved by insane delusion and reckless self-regard, the German people overturned the foundations on which we all lived and built. But the spokesmen of the French and British peoples have run the risk of completing the ruin, which Germany began, by a Peace which, if it is carried into effect, must impair yet further, when it might have restored, the delicate, complicated organization, already shaken and broken by war, through which alone the European peoples can employ themselves and live.”

That’s Keynes, in the introduction to The Economic Consequences of the Peace from 1919. Similar sentence structures, similar free use of figurative language, and a sense of holding court even in the preliminary throat-clearings before a case is being set out. Do a mind-switch between Keynes and an alien Yithian for a few years, and he’d come back nervous and drooling and sounding even more like Peaslee than he already does. 

Lovecraft routinely violates the pulp-fiction contract — no snappy dialogue, no aspirational heroes, no moral instruction, no appeals to a just universe where the good are ultimately rewarded and evil finally banished, no cliffhangers or even suspense. His narrators announce their dooms in their first or second sentences, which helps keep the emotional temperature just above absolute zero to start with. Lovecraft demanded a significant synoptic facility of his readers: he made reference to then-controversial scientific theories like quantum mechanics and plate tectonics, sprinkled his stories with allusions to classical history and languages. When the narrator of “The Whisperer in Darkness” compares the sunny Vermont countryside to the backgrounds of Italian paintings, he’ll throw you a bone and mention Leonardo, but then expect you to also know Il Sodoma.

Lovecraft realized that he was a Status writer, not a Contract writer as well. He concludes his critical study, Supernatural Horror in Literature, by describing weird fiction “as a narrow though essential branch of human expression, and will chiefly appeal as always to a limited audience with keen special sensibilities.” In Franzen’s Status model, the value of a work of fiction “exists independent of how many people are able to appreciate it.”  So, great, we’re all agreed. We just hate one another.

Lovecraft’s quality is obscured by his difficulty, and his difficulty is obscured by his popularity. If Lovecraft isn’t seen as a difficult writer, it is because of the pulp idiom in which he worked. Franzen points to college as the place where people are made to read difficult books, but Lovecraft is an adolescent fascination. Lovecraft demands the careful attention that only a teen boy with little else to do — no high school romances, no sports practice — can muster. Lovecraft’s pulp provenance, and early spike by Edmund Wilson, kept Lovecraft’s work from being taken seriously. Only over the past twenty years, with reprint volumes via Penguin Classics and Library of America, with champions such as Michel Houellebecq and Reza Negarestani has Lovecraft earned a place in what we used to call the canon (while making quotation marks in the air with our fingers, natch).

Sure, his stuff is difficult, but is it any good?  This is a fine question, and the answer is yes. The objections to Lovecraft’s fiction — the flat characters, the Greco-Latinate adjectives, the neurotic emphases on racial degeneration (Lovecraft was a racist clown, not unlike fellow difficult writer Ezra Pound) and the terror of existence as a tiny speck of flesh and time in the face of infinity — essentially boil down to an objection to the Lovecraftian project. Lovecraft is excellent at what he does, which is why his cult following has persisted for three generations, while both the pulp favorites (Seaberry Quinn) and critical darlings (Kenneth Patchen) of his era have faded into obscurity.

Critics and fans can be wrong, both in the 1940s and today. But I’d argue that Lovecraft’s ascension is neither an accident nor a mistake. His semantic and syntactic choices all operate in service to his deep themes of cosmic pessimism and materialism, and his attempts to find the sublime and the terrible in the chicken-wire and papier-mâché ”worlds” of pulp fiction hint broadly at a proto-postmodernism. Literary realism, on the other hand, is suspect because in none of the many books about middle-class foibles has anyone ever realized that the Grand Narratives of the twentieth century are a sham foisted on us by linguistic tyranny...and also that down in the deepest ocean there awaits a whistling squid older than the universe itself.

Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including the Lovecraftian Beat road novel Move Under Ground, the Trotskyist Crowleyite noir novel Love is the Law, and the forthcoming I Am Providence.

18 Nov 10:18




24 Nov 10:52

heatherbat: deerishus: I can’t resist centaurs have been all...



I can’t resist centaurs have been all over my dash lately, so i’m starting a group of teen punk centaurs with dyed tails and bad words shaved into their sides, and studded jackets and spiked horseshoes YEAH. YEAH.

omg punk taur. best.

11 Nov 09:52

dog person: we have a purebred border collie with a bernese twist


Bird person: HAVE U SEEN BERD?

dog person: we have a purebred border collie with a bernese twist
cat person: this is rita we love her she's orange
01 Dec 02:26

Issue 19: That Which Does Not Dream

by Christopher Wright

Story: Christopher Wright
Cover: Pascalle Lepas
Logo: Garth Graham

27 Nov 19:00

Tested Plays #IDARB!

by Joey Fameli

This looks super fun.

30 Nov 22:07

Spring and Youth - As Fast As Possible


This is never what you think it is.

Spring and Youth's video for 'As Fast As Possible' from the album, Between The Irony. Directed by: Filip i Marko Camera: Filip ...
29 Nov 10:05

[Dng] [debianfork] Don't panic and keep forking Debian™!


Welp, this was coming for a while.

Delete this message
Reply to this message

Author: Debianfork majordomo
To: Dng mailinglist
Subject: [Dng] [debianfork] Don't panic and keep forking Debian™!

Dear Init-Freedom lovers,

The Veteran Unix Admin collective salutes you.

As many of you might know already, the Init GR Debian vote promoted by
Ian Jackson wasn't useful to protect Debian's legacy and its users
from the systemd avalanche.

This situation prospects a lock in systemd dependencies which is
de-facto threatening freedom of development and has serious
consequences for Debian, its upstream and its downstream.

The CTTE managed to swap a dependency and gain us time over a subtle
install of systemd over sysvinit, but even this process was exhausting
and full of drama. Ultimately, a week ago, Ian Jackson resigned

The problem is obviously not just technical: the VUAs idea of calling
for a "fork" mostly refers to the lack of common ground between
diverging perceptions of the Debian project, its governance and its
mission. Diverse mediation attempts have failed. Today we can all
peacefully agree on one thing: further negotiations related to systemd
are costing way too much energy for anyone concerned about the cause
of Init Freedom.

We believe this situation is also the result of a longer process
leading to the take-over of Debian by the GNOME project
agenda. Considering how far this has propagated today and the
importance of Debian as a universal OS and base system in the
distribution panorama, what is at stake is the future of GNU/Linux in
a scenario of complete homogeneization and lock-in of all base

Therefore, looking at how the situation stands today: we need to fork.

In appendix to this mail is the message of Roger Leigh, a Debian
Developer and maintainer of many important parts in Debian. We have
his endorsement and that of other 2 anonymous DDs, plus many letters
from concerned professionals upstream and downstream of Debian.

We welcome all Debian Developers intrigued by our plans. The
non-profit foundation has accepted to provide us support and the
administrative framework we need to get up to speed. If we all
struggle for elegance it will be a light and lean effort, think of
channeling the bad energies into creating something new and beautiful
in its simplicity...

# So we will fork!

First of all, our project is called "Devuan". Our home is on Please spread the word.
The Debianfork website and IRC channel stay as the first campfire for
this adventure, but we will be operating under the name "Devuan" from
now on and we invite everyone to use this name when referring to our

Now we need all your support and attention in order to shape this as a
collective and welcoming process for all the people inside and outside
Debian that are willing to contribute to it.

Our fork will grow gradually and step by step, tracing a path that is
different from the one that systemd and the GNOME projects are trying
to impose on everyone. There is space for everyone who wants to
participate, a good channel to start from is #devuan on freenode, the
GitHub issues are the TODO and main topic for that channel, while the
well participated #debianfork stays open for the more general

# So what's the plan?

First mid-term goal is to produce a reliable and minimalist base
distribution that stays away from the homogenization and lock-in
promoted by systemd. This distribution should be ready about the time
Debian Jessie is ready and will constitute a seamless alternative to
its dist-upgrade. As of today, the only ones resisting are the
Slackware and Gentoo distributions, but we need to provide a solid
ground also for apt-get based distributions. All project on the
downstream side of Debian that are concerned by the systemd avalanche
are welcome to keep an eye on our initiative and evaluate it as an
alternative base. We will work carefully to make it a viable
possibility and our primary goal here will be a clean removal of
systemd and its dependencies, rebuilding and patching packages when

There is already an interesting proof of concept for this plan: the
website (by Obri) explains
the pinning method and provides a 64bit installer of Debian testing
free from systemd. We are running a systemd-free pin on our new Devuan
infrastructure already, well ready to eat our own dogfood of
course. If you have greneric experiments to contribute, experiences or
ideas and documention on this and other approaches, feel free to use
the wiki on

We started setting up the first bits of a core infrastructure to host
a website, mailinglists and a dak based package repository (to be
mirrored, soon details!).

We are also uploading materials on the group
which we plan to use as a development platform, at least in this
initial phase.

For those willing to help immediately, we still need to setup a BTS
( which will allow us to inherit a lot of
the useful tools Debian has developed.

At last we plan to have continuous integration of packages from GitHub
to a Jenkins builder ( and then to our
package repositories. Feel free to experiment and let us know

Continuous Integration Pipeline:

Github --> Jenkins --> .oO mirrors

Once this is all set, we will be ready to welcome package maintainers.

Besides the BTS we will use GitHub issues on for task

The first package of Devuan is indeed `devuan-baseconf` which
basically consists of a Debian installer with preseed of sysvinit-core
and a couple of devuan packages containing devuan keyring, devuan
repository list files and pinning out of systemd-sysv. Once installed
and updated this package will avoid the requirement of systemd as PID
1 in any case and will prefer use of systemd-shim when strictly

# More about the vision

This is just a start, as bold as it sounds to call it fork, at a
process that will unfold in time and involve more people, first to
import and change Debian packages and later on to maintain them under
a separate course. To help with this adventure and its growth, we ask
you all to get involved, but also to donate money so that we can cover
the costs of setting the new infrastructure in place.

Devuan aims to be a base distribution whose mission is to put the
freedom of users: to be intended as developers, sysadmins and in
general tech-savvy people, as the majority of Debian users are. Among
the priorities are: enable diversity, interoperability and backward
compatibility for the existing Debian downstream willing to preserve
Init Freedom and avoid the opaque and homogenizing systemd avalanche.

Devuan will derive its own installer and package repositories from
Debian, modifying them where necessary, with the first goal of
removing systemd, still inheriting the Debian development workflow and
continuing it on a different path: free from bloat as a minimalist
base distro should be. Users will be able to switch from Debian 7 to
Devuan smoothly, as if they would dist-upgrade to Jessie.

Devuan will make an effort to rebuild an infrastructure similar to
Debian, but will also take the opportunity to innovate some of its
practices. Devuan developers look at this project as a fresh new start
for a community of interested people and do not intend to enforce the
vexation of hierarchy and bureaucracy that is often opposing
innovation in Debian. We are well conscious this is possible mostly
because of starting small again and we will do our best to not repeat
the same mistakes.

The Devuan distribution will make an effort to improve its
relationship with both upstream and downstream and, particularly in
its gestational phase, will do its best to accomodate needs of those
downstream distributions willing to adopt it as base. We look forward
to statements of interest from such distributions, as well involvement
in this planning phase.

Devuan will do its best to stay minimal and abide to the UNIX
philosophy of "doing one thing and doing it well". It will foster
diversity and freedom of choice among all its components and will
perceive itself not as an end product, but as a a process, a starting
point for developers, a viable base for sysadmins and a stable tool
for people who have enough experience with computers. Devuan will
never compromise for more efficiency at the cost of the the freedom of
its users, rather than leave that and the responsibility for a secure
setup to downstream developers.

# If you need Devuan, then join us and support us now!


Designers and creatives: please contribute logos! we don't have one yet.



Press and contacts: vua@???

General discussion (1st mailinglist):

IRC chat channels on freenode:
#debianfork (generic discussion)
#devuan (focus on development)

- -- We conclude quoting a letter by Roger Leigh


I'm a Debian developer, currently quite disillusioned with what's been
going on with Debian over the last two years. I'd certainly be
interested in getting involved with a fork.

If systemd had just been an interchangeable init system it wouldn't be
so problematic. It's the scope creep and mess of poorly-defined
interdependencies that are truly shocking. Take logind, for example.
When looking at how to implement XDG_RUNTIME_DIR for non-systemd
inits, I couldn't find any actual specification for how to do this.
That's because there isn't one, just some loosely-worded descriptions;
it only exists in the systemd implementation. And the semantics of it
are very poor indeed; it hasn't been developed with safety, security
or flexibility in mind. We'll come to regret adopting this since the
poor design decisions are likely to become entrenched.

And more recently, there have been several reports of unbootable
systems. That's unconscionable, and a serious break with Debian's
traditionally solid support for backward compatibility. Here,
existing supported systems have had that support dropped on the floor.
With sysvinit great effort was taken never to break existing
configurations, and that appears to have been lost. Introducing
dependency-based boot took over two stable cycles; optional in one,
default in the next, mandatory after that. That could have been
reduced certainly, but the point is that time was taken to ensure
its correctness and robustness (and in the beginning, it did need
work, so the wait was worthwhile). This has not occurred with
systemd, which has been made the default yet is still not ready
for production use.

Debian is developed by hundreds of active developers and used by many
times more people. People rely on Debian for their jobs and
businesses, their research and their hobbies. It's not a playground
for such radical experimentation. systemd support was forced in
rapidly and didn't just cause breakage, it caused breakage with our
own past, breaking the reliable upgrades which Debian has been
renowned for. Personally, I'd like to see a much higher regard for
stability and backward compatibility, rather than just ripping out
the old in place of the new without any regard for its true value.
It might not be bleeding edge, but we already have Fedora for people
who value this over a solid and dependable system. It's possible to
be up-to-date without being a Fedora; Debian unstable historically
made a good job of this.

Kind regards,
  .''`.  Roger Leigh
 : :' :  Debian GNU/Linux
 `. `'   schroot and sbuild
   `-    GPG Public Key      F33D 281D 470A B443 6756 147C 07B3 C8BC 4083 E800

29 Nov 09:50

On Civility and Academia


Something I think about a fair bit.
Not least because I have a habit of saying things to my students that will no doubt cause me trouble with the administration, should they surface.

With regard to what is commonly meant by intemperate discussion, namely invective, sarcasm, personality, and the like, the denunciation of these weapons would deserve more sympathy if it were ever proposed to interdict them equally to both sides; but it is only desired to restrain the employment of them against the prevailing opinion; against the unprevailing, they may not only be used without general disapproval, but will be likely to obtain for him who uses them the praise of honest zeal and righteous indignation.

- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

The notion of academic freedom captures several distinct claims. It asserts that academic peers are best placed to judge scholarly competence and accordingly that on all such professional matters they should be granted autonomy. This component of academic freedom is designed to preempt extra-scholarly considerations from tainting employment decisions. Beyond the right to professional autonomy, academic freedom also asserts that pursuit of the life of the mind requires complete liberty of thought. Insofar as the academic community is devoted to attaining truth, its mission cannot be realized if barriers restrict the mind from meandering down paths of inquiry less traveled. The right of an academic to liberty of thought additionally means that outside the professional setting, scholars should enjoy the ordinary rights of a democratic citizen to speak their minds and accordingly that extramural utterances should not bear on the assessment of professional competence. Historically, the great battles over academic freedom in the United States were fought first to free university life from the hold of clerical bias (sponsored by private denominations, American colleges were originally the “ward of religion”), then economic bias (in particular, corporate interference),[i] and then political bias (the periodic Red Scares climaxing in McCarthyism).[ii]

Even if fully redeemed, academic freedom is not quite so unfettered as it might appear prima facie. Insofar as your colleagues decide your competence, you won’t survive the academic vetting process very long if they are of the decided opinion that your speculations, however copiously documented and compellingly advanced, lack scholarly merit. Ruling the roost, successful academics develop a stake in the intellectual status quo. In fields that are highly politicized, these academics, most of whom have reconciled with the reigning orthodoxy, reflexively quash or, at any rate, look askance at dissent.  In practice, professional autonomy and liberty of thought mean that, until gaining admittance to the community of arbiters, you can express heretical ideas in the academy so long as your advisors approve your dissertation; so long as refereed journals approve your articles for publication; so long as expert readers for university presses recommend your manuscripts for publication; and so long as, once entering the marketplace of ideas, your publications are well received among authorities in the field.[iii]

The most urgent problems regarding liberty of speech arise not from what can and can’t be said within the university but what can and can’t be said outside it.

I do not see how a university could function in the absence of such policing, but it would be unworldly naïve to deny that ego and political agendas often make a mockery of professional arbitration and free inquiry. The ultimate consequence of these police functions is that long before a tenure decision is made, most would-be academics have internalized the permissible limits of academic freedom. Consequently, few candidates are denied tenure on explicitly political grounds. However, inferring a high degree of tolerance in the ivory tower from the paucity of politicized tenure cases is an optical illusion born of focusing on the final stage of the socialization process. Such an inference fails to account for how many aspirants to the life of the mind inconspicuously and incrementally accommodate themselves to the rules of the academic game many years before they come up for tenure, or even land a tenure-track job. It also fails to account for how many leave academia from intellectual frustration. It was one of the exhilarating revelations of my graduate school experience at an elite institution how many colleagues in my entering class fancied themselves Marxists—truly The Revolution was imminent if even Princeton was replete with radicals—and one of the sobering revelations how many ceased to be Marxists once going on the job market.

Having said this, it is nonetheless my impression that academia is a relatively freewheeling place so long as one’s opinions are kept within university confines. Rightwing commentators who declaim against liberal bias in many (if politically the most innocuous) departments of higher education are not far off the mark. If you stick to speaking only at academic conferences, publishing only in academic journals, and being formally deferential to your academic colleagues, pretty much anything goes, at any rate, at non-elite academic institutions, where faculty opinions have no public resonance. Just as the number of persons denied tenure each year on political grounds is, in my opinion, greatly exaggerated, so are the allegations of “academic McCarthyism” and assaults on academic freedom. If many choose along the way to forsake the academic track, it is not because they feel intellectually stifled, but because they prudentially decide that the sacrifices are not worth the meager rewards (not least in salary), and because academia is such a petty place rife with cliques and cabals, backbiting and back-stabbing, preening and posturing. Probably the only true thing Henry Kissinger said was, “University politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

The most urgent problems regarding liberty of speech arise not from what can and can’t be said within the university but what can and can’t be said outside it. Apart from the constraints that professional autonomy imposes on intellectual inquiry, the social status conferred on academics may also impose limits on what they might say. Put otherwise, what you utter in your civilian life might be, or appear to be, so offensive to current sensibilities, so unbecoming your professional stature—so uncivil—that it will jeopardize your right to teach. If such a conflict rarely arises nowadays it is because most self-described dissenting academics inhabit a politically correct cocoon world, where the more bizarre one’s personal orientation, the more protected one is, especially if one loudly complains how oppressed one is. But if an academic steps into the public sphere and gives vent to genuinely heterodox opinions, it is at his or her peril.

It is highly improbable that the Israel lobby would have waged such a vicious campaign to deny me tenure had I restricted myself to an academic milieu. In fact, by the current standards of the ivory tower my opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict are quite tame: I do not oppose a two-state settlement, I do not extenuate Palestinian terrorism, and I do not define myself as anti-Zionist. What provoked the national hysteria was my political activism. I wanted and was able to reach a fairly wide audience while, worse still, appearing reasonable. Meanwhile the lobby’s arsenal of conventional smears—“anti-Semite,” “Holocaust denier,” “crackpot”—wouldn’t adhere: I was Jewish, my parents survived the Nazi holocaust, and my professional credentials withstood scrutiny. In an earlier epoch but on a truly grand scale, the eminent British philosopher Bertrand Russell too endured the tribulations of a dissident public intellectual.

The Bertrand Russell Case


In 1940 Russell was appointed to the philosophy department at the College of the City of New York. Almost immediately the Catholic Church and rightwing forces orchestrated a witch-hunt on account of Russell’s heretical opinions on religion and morality expressed in publications geared to a popular audience. A lawsuit was filed against the City of New York to rescind Russell’s appointment on the grounds of his being “lecherous, libidinous, lustful, venerous, erotomaniac, aphrodisiac, irreverent, narrow-minded, untruthful and bereft of moral fiber.”[iv] In short, he was alleged to be a pervert. Despite an outpouring of support from his former students, leading lights of higher education, and the liberal public, the court decided against Russell. “This appointment affects the public health, safety and morals of the community,” the judge stated in his opinion,

“and it is the duty of the court to act. Academic freedom does not mean academic license. It is the freedom to do good and not to teach evil. Academic freedom cannot authorize a teacher to teach that murder or treason are good…The appointment of Dr. Russell is an insult to the people of the city of New York…in effect establishing a chair of indecency.”[v]

Morally serious faculty members feel obliged to justify public statements or actions that appear outrageous rather than wave off criticism as “none of your business.”

Russell’s advocates pursued two seemingly complementary but really contradictory lines of defense. Some, such as John Dewey, mainly argued that the accusations were false and defamatory, Russell’s actual opinions having been grossly distorted by the court.[vi] His advocates said that he was of unimpeachable character in every respect. Others, such as Russell himself, mainly argued that his opinions on religion and morality were beside the point because he was hired to teach mathematics, logic and the philosophy of science. In other words, it was of no account even if his opinions were perverted.

It must be said that, however much the judge might have hyperbolized, Russell’s opinions on sexual mores did—by the public sensibilities of his time—constitute an outrage. The claim of Russell’s defenders that the court lifted all his opinions out of context was disingenuous. “Exhibit A” for the prosecution and the judge was Russell’s book Marriage and Morals (1929; reprinted, New York: 1970). Alongside many lyrical passages on love and sex quoted by his defenders, one could also read:

“this law [barring homosexuality] is the effect of a barbarous and ignorant superstition, in favor of which no rational argument of any sort or kind can be advanced” (pp. 110-11);

“it is good for children to see each other and their parents naked whenever it so happens naturally” (p. 116);

“uninhibited civilized people, whether men or women, are generally polygamous in their instincts” (p. 139);

“where a marriage is fruitful and both parties to it are reasonable and decent the expectation ought to be that it will be lifelong, but not that it will exclude other sex relations” (p. 142);

“I do not think that prostitution can be abolished wholly” (p. 148);

“I think that all sex relations which do not involve children should be regarded as a purely private affair, and that if a man and a woman choose to live together without having children, that should be no one’s business but their own” (pp. 165-66);

“I should not hold it desirable that either a man or a woman should enter upon the serious business of marriage…without having had previous sexual experience” (p. 166);

“No doubt the ideal father is better than none, but many fathers are so far from ideal that their non-existence might be a positive advantage to children” (pp. 196-97);

“Adultery in itself should not, to my mind, be a ground for divorce. Unless people are restrained by inhibitions or strong moral scruples, it is very unlikely that they will go through life without occasionally having strong impulses to adultery” (p. 230).

In addition to these politically incorrect opinions for his time, Russell also expressed many politically incorrect opinions for our time:

“during [the 19th century] the British stock was peopling large parts of the world previously inhabited by a few savages” (p. 245);

“one can generally tell whether a man is a clever man or a fool by the shape of his head” (p. 256);

“The objections to [sterilization] which one naturally feels are, I believe, not justified. Feeble-minded women, as everyone knows, are apt to have enormous numbers of illegitimate children, all, as a rule, wholly worthless to the community….it is quite clear that the number of idiots, imbeciles, and feeble-minded could, by such measures, be enormously diminished” (pp. 258-59);

“In extreme cases there can be little doubt of the superiority of one race to another. North America, Australia and New Zealand certainly contribute more to the civilization of the world than they would do if they were still peopled by aborigines.  It seems on the whole fair to regard negroes as on the average inferior to white men, although for work in the tropics they are indispensable, so that their extermination (apart from questions of humanity) would be highly undesirable” (p. 266).

It must also be noted that, following Dewey’s line of defense, if what was alleged about Russell’s opinions were true, it would be grounds for stripping him of his academic post.[vii] Russell himself could not have been pleased with this inference because it hit too close to home, which is perhaps why he primarily based his defense not on the court’s mangling of his opinions but on their irrelevance to his academic calling:

“I claim two things: 1. that appointments to academic posts should be made by people with some competence to judge a man’s technical qualifications; 2. that in extra-professional hours a teacher should be free to express his opinions, whatever they may be.”[viii]

And yet more emphatically Russell wrote, in a letter to The New York Times that lent him only tepid support, “In a democracy it is necessary that people should learn to endure having their sentiments outraged.”[ix]

How tenable is Russell’s position? In my opinion, not very. A collection of articles in defense of Russell included this sober reflection of a school administrator, which merits lengthy quotation:

As a reductio ad absurdum, think of trying to retain on any faculty teachers who openly advocate … the assassination of the President. …[T]here is always a limit. The teacher who thinks that this limit does not apply to him is not facing reality. The administrator must necessarily take this fact into account in employing and retaining faculty members. He must recognize that neither students nor the public will segregate a man’s teachings in one field from his general teachings, his statements in class from his public pronouncements, his philosophy from his life. He must recognize that, whether or not it ought to be so, students and public consider that the appointment of a teacher places a stamp of approval on him as a whole; it invests him with a prestige which seems to justify youth in considering him an example whom it might be well to follow. The teacher must be considered in his entirety. This does not mean that he must be a plaster saint, but it means that his assets must clearly outweigh his liabilities.[x]

I find it hard to quarrel with this opinion either as a factual statement—for better or worse a professor will not be judged only on his professional competence[xi]—or as a normative one—because students often defer to the moral authority of a professor and because the title professor carries unique moral prestige, a professor ought to acquit himself in a morally responsible fashion.  It cannot be plausibly maintained that a scholar, however gifted, who advocates the desirability of “lynching niggers” would, or should, be granted an academic post. Indeed, ought not professors take pride in the social capital invested in them and conduct themselves in a manner commensurate with this honor? Every responsible professor intuitively understands this. It is why we are embarrassed by a faculty member who in word or deed demeans the stature of the profession—i.e., carries on in public like an ass. It is also why morally serious faculty members feel obliged to justify public statements or actions that appear outrageous rather than wave off criticism as “none of your business.” The realistic and responsible question then becomes: What sorts of conduct should be reckoned unacceptable and accordingly liable to censure and sanction?

Before turning to this question I want to enter a crucial caveat. In the ensuing remarks I will be addressing legitimate constraints on speech outside the classroom. Inside the classroom I am rather old-fashioned on what is and is not proper. A lectern should not serve as a soapbox, a classroom should not be a venue for indoctrination, a professor should not be the conveyer belt for a party/politically correct line. Plato said, “The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful.”[xii] It is not the worst aphorism, although I prefer a slightly amended, less authoritarian version: The object of education is to teach us to love the mind at play—while minds fully realized will probably concur on the beauty of many things. On most topics in the social sciences—really, social ideologies—arguments can be made on both sides and it is nearly always a question of weighing and balancing, of preponderances, not absolutes. There might be consensus on the evil of violent genocide and the inhumanity of chattel slavery, but no such consensus exists on the evil of capitalism, which arguably causes millions to perish each year from hunger and preventable diseases, and the inhumanity of wage slavery, Chaplin’s Modern Times notwithstanding. Although the issue of torture once appeared closed, it has now been reopened. So long as an enduring consensus does not exist on a particular topic, a professor should feel obliged to make the best case for all sides and let students find truth after weighing and balancing for themselves. “The university educates the intellect to reason well in all matters,” John Cardinal Newman wrote, “to reach out towards truth, and to grasp it.”[xiii] And the discovery of this truth “has to be made by the rough process of a struggle between combatants fighting under hostile banners” (Mill).[xiv] A professor must play both combatants—the advocate and the devil’s advocate. Insofar as the human psyche is so contrived that few are capable of playing a full-fledged devil’s advocate (i.e., making the very best case against themselves), it is vital that a student be exposed to those who are willing from conviction to play devil’s advocate. My primary responsibility in the classroom is to stimulate, not to dictate.

If invited to deliver a public lecture, however, I see my task as mainly to present my viewpoint, the results of my own process of weighing and balancing, just as others are invited to present theirs. The distinction might be analogized to the news pages versus the editorial pages of a newspaper.

Incivility in Public Life

I want to look now at varieties of incivility in public life. Consider first statements that might appear uncivil but which are nonetheless factually grounded. On the Charlie Rose television program, investigative journalist Allan Nairn claimed that the assistant secretary of state for Latin America during the Reagan administration, Elliott Abrams, should be prosecuted as a war criminal under the Nuremberg statutes, while Noam Chomsky has asserted that on the basis of the Nuremberg statutes every U.S. president since World War II would have been hung. In and of themselves such statements are no more objectionable than calling Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein war criminals.  It is an altogether separate matter whether the statements are factually accurate: Nairn and Chomsky might be guilty of misrepresentation, recklessness, or libel, but not incivility. Likewise, it is not ad hominem to accuse Jewish organizations and lawyers of turning the Nazi holocaust into a blackmail weapon, as I did in my book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering, or to accuse a professor of being a plagiarist and falsifier of documents, as I did in Beyond Chutzpah. Such allegations denote definite crimes and misdemeanors, the veracity of which is subject to proof or disproof.

Consider next statements which are uncivil but might nonetheless be warranted by the circumstances. I want to emphasize that I am referring to incivilities directed against those wielding power and privilege. I see no virtue in holding up to ridicule and contempt the poor and powerless, the humbled, hungry, and homeless. Again, Chomsky dubbed Jeane Kirkpatrick “chief sadist in residence of the Reagan Administration.”[xv]  Kirkpatrick was serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, where she whitewashed atrocities being committed by the U.S. government and its proxies in Central America. Such a turn of phrase might be uncivil but under the circumstances hardly objectionable. Young people in particular yearn for a respected moral figure to speak the impolite and impolitic truth, to give vent to the purity of moral indignation they feel the occasion warrants. There are moments that might require breaking free of the shackles imposed by polite discourse in order to sound the tocsin that innocent people are being butchered while we speak due to the actions of our government. The problem is not uncivil words but an uncivil reality; and uncivil words might be necessary in order to bring home the uncivil reality. An ad hominem attack should not be a substitute for reasoned thought—and no one would accuse Chomsky of failing to argue his case or footnote it—but neither should a cri de coeur, however astringent, be ruled beyond the ambit of legitimate public discourse.

Beyond being a vehicle to convey moral indignation, incivility might also serve to expose pretense, fatuity, and charlatanry.

It is also pertinent to recall that Chomsky’s caustic phrase appeared in a book pitched to a popular audience. It might be the case that in content and form a publication hovers on the juncture between the civility of the ivory tower and the tempestuousness of the town square, and an author might want to reach these two constituencies at once. There is no necessary contradiction between the stolid scholar who meets the most exigent standards of academic protocol and the scrappy scholar who leaps headlong into the public fray. Karl Marx appraised Das Kapital a “triumph of German science,”[xvi] while even conservative economists such as Joseph Schumpeter reckoned Marx an “economist of top rank.”[xvii] Nonetheless, as Frederick Engels recalled at his comrade’s funeral, Marx wrote not just for “historical science” but also for the “militant proletariat”; he was “the man of science” but “before all else a revolutionary.”[xviii] Indeed, Marx applauded the French publisher’s serialization of Das Kapital, for “in this form the book will be more accessible to the working class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else.”[xix]

It scarcely surprises then that Marx’s magnum opus seamlessly interweaves scholarly detachment and highbrow literary allusion with partisan polemic and lowbrow lampoon—or, in Schumpeter’s colorful phrase, “the cold metal of economic theory is in Marx’s pages immersed in such a wealth of steaming phrases as to acquire a temperature not naturally its own.”[xx] Bastiat is a “dwarf economist,” Young “a rambling, uncritical writer whose reputation is inversely related to his merits,” and MacCulloch “a past master…of pretentious cretinism”; Say’s standpoint is one of “absurdity and triviality,” Roscher “seldom loses the opportunity of rushing into print with ingenious apologetic fantasies,” while Ganilh’s tome is “cretinous,” “miserable,” and “twaddle.”  Even—and, in my opinion, inexcusably—Mill wasn’t spared Marx’s verbal rapier: “On a level plain, simple mounds look like hills; and the insipid flatness of our present bourgeoisie is to be measured by the altitude of its ‘great intellect.’” As for the subject of Marx’s scientific treatise, “Capital is dead labor which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks,” and came into the world “dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”[xxi] On the general question of partisanship and passion in scholarship, it merits quoting a top-rank intellect of vastly different temperament whom we have already encountered. “A man without a bias cannot write interesting history,” Bertrand Russell observed, “if, indeed, such a man exists. I regard it as mere humbug to pretend to lack of bias….Which bias is nearer to the truth must be left to posterity.”[xxii]

Beyond being a vehicle to convey moral indignation, incivility might also serve to expose pretense, fatuity, and charlatanry. Doesn’t the person proclaiming the emperor’s nakedness belong to an honorable tradition? When Steven Katz sets out to demonstrate that The Holocaust was “phenomenologically unique” in a “non-Husserlian, non-Shutzean, non-Schelerian, non-Heideggerian, non-Merleau-Pontyan sense,” it would seem fair game for the tag line, “Translation: The Katz enterprise is phenomenal non-sense.”[xxiii]

It is also cause for wonder why the clever, witty, or erudite putdown that is a staple of academic life should be preferred over incivility of language. Henry Louis Gates juxtaposes a pair of statements hypothetically addressed to a Black freshman at Stanford:

(A) Levon, if you find yourself struggling in your classes here, you should realize it isn’t your fault. It’s simply that you’re the beneficiary of a disruptive policy of affirmative action that places underqualified, underprepared, and often undertalented black students in demanding educational environments like this one. The policy’s egalitarian aims may be well-intentioned but given the fact that aptitude tests place African-Americans almost a full standard deviation below the mean, even controlling for socioeconomic disparities, they are also profoundly misguided. The truth is, you probably don’t belong here, and your college experience will be a long downhill slide.

(B) Out of my face, jungle bunny.

“Surely there is no doubt,” Gates concludes, “which is likely to be more ‘wounding’ and alienating.”[xxiv] He wants to illustrate the inherent inadequacies of politically correct speech codes, but the point might fairly be broadened to embrace the issue of incivility as well. I see no reason to prefer polished insults that, as Gates shows, might be more vicious and hurtful, to blunt language. Indeed, such stylishness is more often than not testament to a self-indulgent verbal pedantry and lack of a moral core.

In this regard the hypocritical use to which the incivility charge is typically put deserves mention. During my tenure battle Professor Alan Dershowitz posted on Harvard Law School’s official website the allegation that my late mother was—or I believed she was—“a kapo” who had been “cooperating with the Nazis during the Holocaust.” For the record, my late mother was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, Maidanek concentration camp and two slave-labor camps. She lost every member of her family during the war and after the war served as a key witness at a Nazi deportation hearing in the U.S. and at the trial of Maidanek concentration camp guards in Germany. In a decent world Dershowitz’s crude and conscious defamation would, I think, be deserving of censure. He not only suffered no sanctions but then-Harvard Law School Dean (and current U.S. Supreme Court Justice) Elena Kagan refused to remove his posting from the HLS website.[xxv]

In a Haaretz interview, Benny Morris called the whole of the Palestinian people “sick, psychotic,” “serial killers,” whom Israel must “imprison” or “execute,” and “barbarians” around whom “something like a cage has to be built.”[xxvi] If directed against any other nationality, it is hard to conceive that Morris would not have suffered professionally. Yet his mainstream reputation as an objective scholar and commentator on the Israel-Palestine conflict survives intact and untarnished. It might be called Holocaust affirmative action whereby Jews wrapped in the mantle of the Nazi holocaust profit from moral immunity and impunity. It was also this affirmative action at work when Alain Finkielkrautin France he is regarded as a philosopher of equal stature to Bernard-Henri Lévy, rightly so—told Haaretz that France’s soccer team “arouses ridicule throughout Europe” because it was “composed almost exclusively of black players,” and that colonialism sought only to “bring civilization to the savages.”[xxvii] It cannot but amuse how the spewing forth of such venomous hatred is seen as courage. Finkielkraut packaged himself in the interview a martyr “striving to maintain the language of truth.”

I have acknowledged that the extramural life of an academic is bound to be, and should be, subject to some constraints. There are forms of incivility that might degrade a position on which society has conferred prestige and on which its principal constituency—students—rightly have higher than normal expectations. However, in nearly all the examples I have adduced—which draw from politics, not the more problematic domain of social mores—I either exculpate or extenuate an alleged incivility.  Indeed, it is my opinion that the supposed incivility of political dissidents pales beside what normally passes for civility in academic life. When you consider that our best universities eagerly recruit indubitable war criminals—Henry Kissinger, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Donald Rumsfeld; when you consider that many professors—as Edward Said put it, referring to the Vietnam War era—“were discovered to be working, sometimes secretly and sometimes openly, on such topics as counterinsurgency and ‘lethal research’ for the State Department, the CIA, or the Pentagon”;[xxviii] when you consider that a professor at one of our best universities advocates torture and the automatic destruction of villages after a terrorist attack: when you consider all this, it becomes clear that, however real, the question of civility—whether or not a dissident academic abides by Emily Post’s rules of etiquette—is by comparison a meaningless sideshow or just a transparent pretext for denying a person the right to teach on account of his or her political beliefs.


***With permission from the author, this article was edited and adapted from an earlier version published in the South Atlantic Quarterly, Fall 2009. It was written after the author’s controversial tenure denial case at DePaul University in Chicago.***

[i] The classic account is Richard Hofstadter and Walter P. Metzger, The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States (New York: 1955) (“ward” at p. 114). The landmark battles to emancipate American higher education from clerical authority unfolded during the Darwinian revolution in the late nineteenth century, and from corporate authority as labor mobilized at the turn of the century. Broadly speaking, the scientific revolution brought home the desiderata of professional autonomy and freedom of inquiry (ibid., chap. vii), while the juggernaut of “big business” brought into sharp relief the precariousness of an academic’s extramural rights as a citizen (ibid., chap. ix, esp. p. 434).

[ii] Ellen W. Schrecker, No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the universities (Oxford: 1986).

[iii] Louis Menand, “The Limits of Academic Freedom,” in Louis Menand (ed), The Future of Academic Freedom (Chicago: 1996), p. 9.

[iv] Horace M. Kallen, “Behind the Bertrand Russell Case,” in John Dewey and Horace M. Kallen (eds), The Bertrand Russell Case (New York: 1972), p. 20.

[v] “Decision of Justice McGeehan,” in ibid., pp. 222, 225.

[vi] John Dewey, “Social Realities versus Police Court Fictions,” in Dewey and Kallen, pp. 57-74.

[vii] Dewey seems to concede this by indirection; see his “Social Realities,” in Dewey and Kallen, esp. pp. 66-67.

[viii] Bertrand Russell, Autobiography (New York: 1998), p. 474.

[ix] Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian, and other essays on religion and related subjects, edited, with an appendix on the “Bertrand Russell Case,” by Paul Edwards (New York: 1957), pp. 252-55.  The New York Times editorialized that Russell “should have had the wisdom to retire from the appointment as soon as its harmful effects became evident.”

[x] Carleton Washburne, “The Case As a School Administrator Sees It,” in Dewey and Kallen, pp. 161-62.

[xi] In part this stems from a peculiarity of American higher education where boards of laymen ultimately govern the university.  See Hofstadter and Metzger, pp. 120ff.

[xii] Plato, The Republic, Book III.

[xiii] Said, “Identity,” in Menand, p. 224.

[xiv] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, edited with an introduction by Gertrude Himmelfarb (New York: 1974), pp. 110-11.

[xv] Noam Chomsky, Turning the Tide: U.S. intervention in Central America and the struggle for peace (Boston: 1985), p. 8.

[xvi] Jerrold Seigel, Marx’s Fate: The shape of a life (Princeton: 1978), p. 329.

[xvii] Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (New York: 1947), p. 44.

[xviii] Philip S. Foner, When Karl Marx Died: Comments in 1883 (New York: 1973), pp. 38-40.

[xix] Karl Marx, Capital: A critique of political economy, volume 1 (New York: 1976), p. 104.

[xxi] Marx, pp. 175n35 (Bastiat), 314n3 (Say, Roscher), 339n13 (Young), 342 (“vampire-like”), 569n37 (MacCulloch), 575 (Ganilh), 654 (Mill), 926 (“dripping”).

[xxii] Russell, Autobiography, pp. 465-66.

[xxiii] Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering, second paperback edition (New York: 2003), pp. 44, 45n8.

[xxiv] Henry Louis Gates, “Critical Race Theory and Free Speech,” in Menand, pp. 146-47.

[xxv] For details and references, see Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. xlv.

[xxviii] Said, “Identity,” in Menand,  p. 224.

26 Nov 16:15

Barbelith - Mirror Unveiled

by (Matt Hinch)

This is a pretty incredible record, I reckon.

Written by Matt Hinch.

Art by Art by A.B. Moore

Regular readers of Metal Bandcamp should know by now that this writer has a bit of a love affair with just about everything coming out of the Grimoire Records camp. They've got a stable full of well-bred stock competing hard in the USBM race. The latest charger to burst out of the gate is Barbelith and Mirror Unveiled.

The horse metaphor comes into play as Barbelith combines unbridled power with an inherent beauty as they marry up blistering black metal with spacious post-rock melodies over the course of four tracks and 27 minutes.

In general, the band dynamic relies on athletic percussive violence, harrowing vocal delivery and guitars that weave amongst themselves in fierce opposition while synchronous at their core. Barbelith's dichotomous nature works to not only scorch the earth to eradicate the negative but cleanse it as well allowing a fresh perspective to take its place.

On the longer tracks a cyclical pattern emerges moving from pure raging fury to serenity and back again while incorporating a mix of tempos. Galloping jaunts, skittering shuffles and a pseudo-groove all find a place alongside the ensuing madness and empyrean melodies. Among the obvious black metal comparisons (WITTR, Bosse-de-Nage) one can hear gentler passages reminiscent of Yakuza, Explosions in the Sky and even Pallbearer.

Most often the emotional cacophony builds to a crescendo as it spirals high to unleash a venom across the astral planes between bursts of energy and recovery. The rage seems necessary to clear clouds of melancholy and let peaceful, healing light bathe the listener. It's the juxtaposition of blasting drums and soaring, intimate melodies that really connect on multiple levels. Such as the anger that follows in the wake of hurt, or the fear that precedes opening up your heart and the relief that results.

One can feel a determination and drive to rise above the despair as Barbelith cycle through emotional states making minor changes along the way as no two experiences are exactly the same. And their tendency towards the mix of scorching black metal hatred and emotional melodies mirrors human nature in that the world is not black and white and nothing is fully understood on the superficial level.

Mirror Unveiled is a convincing and compelling album full of emotions both destructive and passionate. It hits the sweet spot balancing the furious with the halcyon, the raw with the refined. It's quite obvious that a broad palette of influences colour this majestic and triumphant work of art, filling all available space to create a surreal, enveloping and at times transcendent experience.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

23 Nov 11:44

Photo used in the VII drawing 


This artist looks rather a lot like my cellist friend from years ago.

Photo used in the VII drawing 

19 Nov 11:03

floodxland: ash-wednesday: One of the many great things about...


It is indeed a fine and odd film.



One of the many great things about Some Like It Hot is that it totally recognises what it’s like for women to be objectified. The first time you see Sugar, it’s that iconic pan-up jello-on-springs shot, where she is just The Object. But Jerry and Joe almost immediately learn what it’s like to be the object of sexual harassment. And Jerry, who here wants to be “a bull again”, by the end of the film has embraced his Daphne persona and realised that femininity isn’t just something to be either objectified or rejected.

tl;dr this film says more interesting things about gender and sexual politics than most media today.

You don’t know how much I love this movie.

24 Nov 10:49

sluteverxxx: The Big Fat Quiz of the Year discussing the fact...




The Big Fat Quiz of the Year discussing the fact that Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ is the biggest selling song of 2013 in the UK

27 Nov 04:16

jacobin: Various Oxley busts draw in between work; I can’t help...


Various Oxley busts draw in between work; I can’t help but scribble them, they are my baby

26 Nov 07:40

ჯგუფი "მანდილი" - ჯაბუშანურო


There's significantly more where this came from.

05 Nov 20:04

Jupiter 'shepherds' the asteroid belt, preventing the asteroids from falling into the sun or accreting into a new planet.


Via Laszlo. Green dots are Trojans.