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24 Nov 11:24

Why I’m not brimming with confidence over Theresa May’s plans to criminalise emotional abuse

by stavvers

Content note: This post discusses emotional abuse

In the latest in a string of policies which sound good and are incredibly cheap to implement, Theresa May will announce plans to put emotional abuse on a par with physical domestic violence. This sounds like nothing to object to, a long-awaited recognition of the seriousness of the coercive dynamics which so often sustain abusive relationships and hit survivors hard.

There is a catch, though, and it’s a catch which means I severely doubt that any perpetrators will find themselves prosecuted for something they have blatantly done: the whole thing hinges on telling the police.

The way the police tend to work is through talking about what happened. You list specific incidents. This happened, and then this happened, and then that happened. Imagine having to do this as a survivor of emotional abuse!

The very clever thing about emotional abuse, the thing that really helps abusers keep things going is how petty it sounds if you recount a blow-by-blow history of what happened to you. I’ve never gone into detail about what I experienced in an emotionally abusive relationship, because under the flicker of gaslight, it all sounds rather ridiculous. I could tell you all about some drama involving a duvet or how I needed to watch what my face was doing during sex, but to be quite honest, I’m embarrassed to speak about these things, because everything would require so much detailed explanation of the entire context, and when boiled down to a story it still all sounds quite trivial.

Emotional abuse is a pattern which is hard to explain, and reinforced by abusers making you feel like everything is silly and you’re overreacting.

I wouldn’t explain what happened to me in an incident-specific format to a friend. Hell, it took a lot of time for me to open up about these things to a therapist because they sounded so probably-nothing to me. So why the fuck would I want to speak to a hostile police officer about all of this? The police are known to suck at talking to vulnerable women at the best of times, and this is a situation which is so intrinsically delicate that I cannot imagine any survivors wanting to take the leap and report to the cops. The effects and mechanisms of emotional abuse just present too much of a barrier to this happening.

What would actually help survivors of emotional abuse a lot more is one of the strongest weapons against abusers: knowledge for everyone. Emotional abuse is so little-understood, and that needs to change. An informed populace, with the level of knowledge about what emotional abuse is and the understanding that sometimes what sounds trivial and petty is anything but, could join forces with survivors against abusers. It would be so much easier to fight emotional abuse if we started from a position of supporting and believing survivors, knowing that what might sound like nothing is probably something, especially if she’s taken the step of speaking out.

It would all be so much easier if we could see the difference between little squabbles and emotional abuse, but the problem is that our culture normalises coercive control in relationships to the point that these things are indistinguishable to us. Survivors know the difference, and we should listen to them.

I don’t expect the government to get working on tackling emotional abuse in a way that would actually work, any more than they tackle other forms of violence against women. I have no faith in them; they’re not the route. So we must hack around them, supporting survivors in the way that they want us to.


21 Nov 15:33

Empty Vitrines at British Institutions Call for Copyright Reform

by Benjamin Sutton
An empty display case at the National Library of Scotland (image courtesy National Library of Scotland, via Flickr)

An empty display case at the National Library of Scotland (image courtesy National Library of Scotland, via Flickr)

Museums and libraries in the United Kingdom are demanding copyright reform by leaving exhibits and display cases conspicuously empty in protest. The institutions are taking a stand against a law that prevents them from showing millions of unpublished documents, particularly those dating from World War I. The campaign has been dubbed “Catch 2039” by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) because, under current British copyright law, any works by unknown authors or by authors who were born before 1969 and that were not published by August 1, 1989, are subject to copyright through 2039. According to a 2009 report cited by CILIP, as much as 50% of documents currently held in British archives are orphan works. The Imperial War Museums alone count some 1.75 million orphan works in the collections, according to CILIP.

An empty display case at the Leeds University Library Reading Room (image courtesy Leeds University, via Flickr)

An empty display case at the Leeds University Library Reading Room (image courtesy Leeds University, via Flickr) (click to enlarge)

Among the institutions taking part in the Britain-wide protest are the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Leeds University Library. Other groups, including the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance and the Collections Trust, have pledged their support for “Catch 2039.” Many of them came up against the copyright provision while searching for archival documents to display on the occasion of this year’s WWI centennial.

Though a recent licensing initiative by the British government would allow institutions to reproduce and display orphan works for which provenance research has been carried out and a fee has been paid, the organizations behind the 2039 campaign are calling for the lifting of copyrights on orphan artworks, letters, and engravings 70 years after the author’s death. By those terms, the unpublished wartime correspondence of a military nurse who served during WWI and died in 1935 would have been available for public display beginning in 2005.

Institutions taking part in the protest are including descriptions of the missing documents along with a text that reads:

We would have liked to show you a letter from a First World War soldier here. But due to current copyright laws we are unable to display the original. Those laws mean that some of the most powerful diaries and letters in our collections cannot be displayed.

All that we ask is that copyright law is changed so that the duration of copyright in certain unpublished works lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years, rather than until the end of the year 2039.

This would help us to give voice to more of the men, women and children who lived through some of the most turbulent times in our history. We want to tell their stories. Join the campaign to Free Our History by signing a petition at www.cilip.org.uk/freeourhistory and by tweeting your support using #catch2039.

h/t The Art Newspaper

21 Nov 18:17

Inadmissible Testimony

by tomocarroll

I always knew my lengthy interview in July for an upcoming TV documentary might go unused, even though the company making it, Testimony Films, made a considerable investment in my appearance. They gave me two nights’ hotel accommodation and other expenses, and committed a five-strong production crew to an entire day’s filming and studio hire in London, over 100 miles from their Bristol base, solely for my input.

A couple of weeks ago, as briefly reported here in response to a request for a progress report, I said I had received an email from Testimony saying “As this is such a difficult and controversial subject it is taking a very long time to make – and to go through the [name of TV channel] system. There have been several discussions with the [name of TV channel] lawyer over the content. The final shape of the programme still hasn’t been decided. There is no transmission date as yet.”

I was under a commitment not to name the TV channel until the last week before transmission. That time is now up. I now know that the programme, titled The Paedophile Next Door, is to be aired next Tuesday, 25 November, at 9pm on Britain’s Channel 4. I have been informed it will not contain any footage of the interview I gave, which lasted around two and a half hours.

This is disappointing, but I would not be particularly upset if I thought it was going to be a good programme anyway. I always hoped that if my contribution proved a bit too controversial for Channel 4 they might nevertheless be willing to give a platform to someone like Judith Levine, or Bruce Rind, or a British academic such as Glenn Wilson, who put up a spirited if all-too-brief showing on the same channel’s news output recently: PIE spy, with my tabloid eye…

All the signs are, though, that the programme will not be good. From a heretical standpoint it looks like being far worse than I had expected, indeed such an utter disaster I am feeling totally gutted even before seeing it. Am I prejudging too much? We’ll soon see.

I suspect Testimony are embarrassed. It seems they wanted to keep me in the dark as long as possible in case I went public too early and tried to derail things. Unbeknown to me, Channel 4 issued a bulletin about the upcoming programme on the 7th of this month, including its release date. But on the 10th, three days later, in response to my enquiries, Testimony were telling me there was still no release date and did not give me C4’s programme information.

The Testimony people have been very friendly and they definitely did not set out with the cynical intention of setting me up as a pantomime villain. Director Steve Humphries has a strong reputation as a documentary maker with an interest in a diversity of voices. He gives every impression of being a man of broad sympathies; his interview style is empathetic.

It is possible Channel 4 insisted on taking the production in another direction from the one first envisaged by Humphries. It may be significant that a second director’s name is now on the credits: Rudolph Herzog, son of the world renowned Werner Herzog. Herzog fils appears to be based in Germany, with no obvious connection to Testimony. His location, however, would make him well placed to explore Germany’s Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, highlighted in Jon Henley’s feature article on paedophilia for the Guardian last year.

Channel 4’s programme information begins thus:

With almost every passing week a new child sex abuse scandal breaks. In this sobering and thought-provoking film, historian and acclaimed social documentary maker Steve Humphries sets out to discover why all the elaborate policies and legislation put in place to protect children from sexual abuse have failed.

He discovers some radical new solutions proposed by an increasing number of child protection experts which challenge our deep-rooted attitudes and emotional reactions to paedophiles. They tell Humphries that many paedophiles live in our midst and go completely undetected. “They’re not monsters with horns and tails, but ordinary blokes,” says senior lecturer Dr Sarah Goode – and this makes them so dangerous and difficult to identify. Controversially, Dr Goode believes that the most promising way to reduce the number of child abuse cases is to encourage paedophiles who have not yet targeted children to “come out” and receive treatment.

This theory is supported by an extraordinary interview in which Humphries meets a man face-to-face who confesses, on camera, to his strong sexual attraction for children as young as five. He claims that he has not interfered with a child, nor could ever imagining doing so. He is so desperate for help that he is prepared to ‘out’ himself in the hope that men like him will be more readily offered support to manage their unwanted desires.

Paedophiles are the most vilified of all criminals – invoking universal hatred and disgust. Humphries hears from experts who explain that, as a result, the fear, self-loathing and stress paedophiles will associate with their desires makes them actually more likely to offend. Humphries explores pioneering schemes and initiatives designed to help paedophiles before they might hurt children. These ground-breaking schemes aim to educate families and encourage men to seek help – some of them provide residential support and treatment confidentially. Supporters of these initiatives believe they will keep children safe and are far more effective – rather than engaging with them only after they become offenders…

You get the picture. It looks as if this will be “virtuous” shit from start to finish. If I feel gutted, it is because the ideology of repression has won decisively in a direct contest with that of self-determination. I am gutted because I spilled my guts out for that interview and I know it was a good one, after a lot of preparation and an emotionally draining encounter with Humphries. It was all the tougher, oddly, thanks to his gently searching style. His kindness was killing. My answers could only come from the heart, at times painfully so when the questions reached deeply into the personal realm, – a place no aggressive inquisitor could touch; the defences would be up.

I’m not putting it too strongly when I say I feel betrayed, especially by the apparently central role given to Sarah Goode and her piss-poor thinking, which I believe I adequately demolished in my review of her book Paedophiles in Society and its predecessor – a review Humphries certainly knew about because I alerted him to it in an email back in May.

But to claim I have been betrayed by Testimony, or by Steve Humphries in particular, would be grossly unfair. I am confident Steve fought as hard as he could for my inclusion. That does not mean he shares my views, though, and I probably underestimated the extent to which he was keeping his cards close to his chest on that.

As for whether I really had performed strongly, was this just an illusion? Here’s the relevant part of what Steve emailed the next day:

I just wanted to say thanks so much for coming down for the filmed interview, which was as excellent and as powerful as I’d hoped it would be. I thought you told your personal story and stated your case as strongly as anyone could. I know the team…really enjoyed meeting you too and found it a moving and hugely interesting day…

A few days ago, “Bloom” wrote in the comments here “It would be interesting to get your take on the controversy over contact vs non-contact. Not so much on the question itself, which is somewhat abstract, but on how you see it affecting the overall struggle for greater tolerance and acceptance.”

First of all, I agree with another commentator, “Stephen6000”, that “pro-choice” is a better expression than “pro-contact”, although, it will be seen that I have opted above for “self-determination”, which avoids confusion with abortion. Also, I don’t think self-determination is too abstract, but what Bloom perhaps meant to say was too academic, as in the expression “it’s all a bit academic” i.e. it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon, so why bother talking about it?

If that was the intended meaning it undeniably amounts to a strong argument, not least in view of this Channel 4 programme: I tried to talk about sexual self-determination but who was listening? No one ever does these days. So what’s the point of banging on about it?

Presumably Bloom is pleased to see controversy over self-determination taken out of the equation by Channel 4. That leaves The Paedophile Next Door, and any similar presentation of MAPs, free to focus on “tolerance and acceptance”, right?

Well, sure, and that would be a good thing if it were taking us in the right direction. Politics is often characterised as the art of the possible. The way to reach an ultimate goal is to focus on small, incremental achievements. You don’t frighten the horses by seeming to be insanely radical.

I understand that. But what if those small steps are heading in the wrong direction, leading away from one’s ultimate objective? The “tolerance and acceptance” aimed at in VP efforts is not tolerance and acceptance of sexual self-determination, after all, but it’s exact opposite i.e. an outcome that cements intolerance and non-acceptance of sexual self-determination permanently in place and depends upon brainwashing and coercing MAPs into submission.

This represents a repudiation of all I believe in and I cannot support it.

I will watch the programme, though, through gritted teeth. As long as I am publicly engaged in blogging and such like, I feel I have a duty to keep myself informed. It will not be easy. One of those taking part, unless I am greatly mistaken, is Ian McFadyen, who is fast becoming a full-time professional victim. I don’t relish the thought of having to watch this self-righteous bully’s “dignified exchange”, as the programme info puts it, with a paedophilic self-sacrificial lamb.

McFadyen, to be sure, was genuinely the victim of a sadistic rapist on the staff of Caldicott Preparatory School if his story is true, and I have no particular reason to doubt it. As a result, it seems, he is now determined to victimise anyone who crosses him, including his old school pal Nick Clegg – yes, that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat MP who has been deputy prime minister of the UK since 2010. McFadyen was recently quoted as saying, “I’m definitely really angry with Nick Clegg… he’s been a real disappointment. I’m actually ashamed to have gone to school with him.”

Gosh, you might wonder, what’s poor old Cleggie been up to now? Nothing illegal, it turns out, though it might be thought so from McFadyen’s wrath. It’s just that Clegg had failed to back McFadyen’s demand for a massive inquiry into historic sexual abuse. See what I mean about the “bully” thing?

McFadyen has plenty of reason to feel traumatised and angry, of course, and it behoves us heretics to advocate for a more open society (including more accountability in schools) so that dreadful experiences like his are not repeated. But it is characteristic of so-called sympathetic programmes, including this latest Channel 4 one, that their purported sympathy for non-active paedophiles tends to be yoked together with truly extreme and appalling cases of abuse. Far from increasing sympathy for the average paedophile, the likely outcome of this pairing is to crank up the fear of paedophilia to a heightened extreme, so that even the most virtuous VP will come under ever more intense suspicion and scrutiny – and insistence that they do not go anywhere near kids.

For a bit of realistic balance, we could do worse than turn to some recent revelations by TV personality and former Tory MP Gyles Brandreth. He told the Daily Mail a couple of months ago he had been “abused” by a choir master at his prep school.

“I suppose I liked him,” said Brandreth. “At least, I was flattered by his attention. I think I felt it was my due. I was 11, 12 and 13 when this was happening, and quite full of myself. Mr Harkness took lots of photographs of me. We both admired the results.”

Also:

“Has this experience of being a victim of child abuse had a lasting effect on me? I certainly don’t feel traumatised by it, nor even resentful. I did not complain then, and I am not complaining now.”

It is no accident, I feel, that neither Brandreth, nor anyone with a comparable experience, is being featured on the Channel 4 programme so far as I can tell. They wouldn’t want to spoil their “misery memoir” narrative with any happiness, would they?


22 Nov 00:13

Great Balls of Ire: Oil Company Rips Off Brooklyn Artist

by Mostafa Heddaya
RedBall_Project_Portland

Kurt Perschke’s ‘RedBall Project’ in Portland, Oregon (2007) (image via Wikimedia)

An advertising campaign for Shell featuring a giant red ball has one artist feeling blue. The Guardian reported that Kurt Perschke is alleging the petrochemical giant lifted the idea for their recent campaign from his RedBall Project. Big balls are Perschke’s bailiwick: the man has been depositing his sanguine spheres in public places the world over for 13 years, with the effort documented in photographs posted on his website.

Shell advert

The Shell advertisement (click to enlarge)

Shell denied the similarities were tantamount to theft, or even inspired by the artist’s work. Through a spokesperson, the company told the Guardian that their “campaign uses imagined illustrations of a red sphere in iconic locations. They are not actual or physical installations of red balls, which is the focus of the artist’s installations.” The company further pointed out that the use of inflated spheres to represent carbon dioxide is a common practice.

But Perschke is adamant that the advertisement in question, which is set in London’s Trafalgar Square, is derivative, even following on the heels of his work’s recent appearance in the city. “They could have done it a lot of ways, it could have been a balloon or a kickball or a football or whatever but it’s not, it’s spot on and because we were in London so recently it is frustrating and disheartening,” he told the Guardian.

The courts have sided with Perschke in the past: Last year, the Guardian notes, Perschke successfully obtained a settlement from French logistics company Edenred over their apparent copyright-infringing use of red balls in ads. (That case was filed in New York’s Eastern District court; it’s unclear if Perschke has access to a jurisdiction in which he could file against Shell.)

A small critical footnote: If you make art that is easily duplicated as generic corporate messaging, you should worry more about the possibility of your art being terrible and less about getting ripped off in an advertisement.

22 Nov 02:06

Rebooting the Legacy of a Woman Who Made Video Games for Girls

by Allison Meier
GIF from Theresa Duncan's "Smarty" (1996) game (via Rhizome)

GIF from Theresa Duncan’s ‘Smarty’ (1996) game (via Rhizome)

Theresa Duncan made a series of CD-ROM games in the 1990s aimed at young girls, encouraging imagination and adventure through playfully drawn, dreamlike narratives. But operating systems evolved, gaming moved to different platforms, and her work is now unplayable and overlooked. A new project from Rhizome is reviving this piece of digital history by making three of her games freely accessible online.

Currently crowdfunding an ambitious $20,000 on Kickstarter, the Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs: Visionary Videogames for Girls campaign is part of Rhizome’s greater initiative to preserve digital work in a way that lets it be experienced in its original “environment,” in this case the Windows 98 operating system. Three games by Duncan — Chop Suey (1995, which she co-created with Monica Gesue), Smarty (1996), and Zero Zero (1997) — will be playable in any modern browser through the use of “emulation software” that simulates the original, intended system.

Duncan’s games offered wonder through a digital world that combined daydreams and the everyday, and they were majorly influential on digital art and gaming history. Sometimes collaborating with her boyfriend, digital artist Jeremy Blake (they both tragically died in apparent suicides in 2007), Duncan fostered a unique aesthetic that invited girls to explore. As Rhizome explains on Kickstarter:

Confronting a videogame culture lacking diversity of digital experience (shoot-em-ups and fantasy adventures for boys, prom role-play and dress-up for girls), Theresa Duncan’s CD-ROM work was something markedly different: uniquely personal, passionately invested in the creative possibilities of her medium, and daring (in the words of critic Jenn Frank) to “represent the criminally underrepresented: that is, the wild imagination of some girl aged 7 to 12.”

Rhizome adds that part of the goal is “contextualizing [Duncan’s work] within feminist gaming history.” There are still major voids in gaming for girls (see this week’s Barbie fiasco), and in particular how women are represented in video games, beyond just static objects or incentives for male protagonists. Adding Duncan’s voice back into the narrative in a way that lets people experience it firsthand is a valuable initiative as much for the current gaming landscape as its history. Rhizome plans to collaborate with the New Museum, where the nonprofit is in residence, to make Duncan’s work part of the First Look online series and hold an event in the spring of 2015.

Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs: Visionary Videogames for Girls is fundraising on Kickstarter through December 18. 

22 Nov 08:18

LOOP- Sleek Kegel Exerciser ISO Funds!

by kittystryker

I’ve been thinking a lot about fitness and health and muscles and frankly it’s really hard to dig out useful advice and tools from the snake oil being peddled. I’m reasonably fit, but I’m not what anyone would call to get workout tips, either.

But kegels? This is the kind of fitness I know something about.

LOOP, which is running an IndieGoGo campaign right now, is one of the new not-a-sex-toy cunt toys in this increasing trend of pelvic exercisers. We’ve had ben wa balls or Betty Dodson’s barbell for exercising these muscles, but nothing that provides direct feedback about how we’re doing. Knowing how strong those muscles are, and if I’m getting stronger or weaker, really helps keep me on track to keep on it.

Plus if I can’t rip someone’s dick off with my cunt, I’m just not trying hard enough right?

The LOOP comes with a little bamboo bag, and you download an app in order to save the data you receive. That data allows you to train in ways that work for you, as well as seeing if you can beat your own scores. All this for $90 if you pay into their IndieGoGo campaign- not too shabby, considering similar ones cost over $150. Betty’s Barbell is $125, and doesn’t even give you feedback, so there we go!

I love kegel exercising because I love when I can clamp down on a lover’s cock and see them shudder. I love having control over letting someone’s fist into my cunt. Also I enjoy that by having all these fun sexy inspirations to keep up with my kegelcising, I also won’t be as likely to struggle with incontinence later in life, but that’s not nearly as fun an incentive as the shudder my lover gets when I can grip their cock or hand with my cunt muscles.

I like that LOOP isn’t designed to go double duty as a vibrator, actually. I think focusing on it as a health tool makes more sense- the expectation that a data extraction implement will also get you off often seems to end up in a product that doesn’t do either particularly well. I do want to point out that not all owners of cunts are women, and that not all women have cunts, and I hope the creators will consider editing their copy to reflect that.

I’m curious to try this out when it’s ready. I for one welcome our cataloguing of data relating to sexuality… it’s about damn time, to be frank, and I’m glad to see it becoming more accessible!

Do you do kegels? What works for you? Have you noticed a difference?

22 Nov 14:24

Taylor Swift, Picture-Perfect

by Lucas Fagen

1989

Taylor Swift is a profoundly sentimental artist. She is also, of course, a gifted songwriter, a clear, convincing singer, a striking melodist, a hook machine as irresistible as any to grace Top 40 radio, a celebrity about as benevolent as they come, and, let us not forget, a role model worth obsessing over. But before any of that we Taylor Swift fans must acknowledge her penchant for schmaltz, as this earnest young woman who writes directly and openly about her feelings has a saccharine streak about a mile wide. When asked why one loves Taylor Swift, it is easy to mumble some excuse about expert craft or formal mastery. The reason we fans adore her is much more specific, more thematic. We adore her because she falls in love with guys when they hold the door open for her, which anybody else would interpret as a meaningless act of common courtesy. We adore her because when she meets her new lover in a café and he tells her about the movies he watches with his family every single Christmas she feels all warm and fuzzy inside. We adore her because she projects an innocent, radiant delight in the world that could make you believe in faith and magic.

Whether Taylor Swift the real-life human being is actually like this is somewhat implausible, nor does it particularly matter. Swift has become a megaplatinum superstar largely through the construction of an artificial but rather appealing character. To call her the girl next door would downplay the dizzy self-involvement and feisty autonomy that made her a star in the first place; no girl next door is that thin or dresses that well. But as epitomized in “You Belong With Me,” in which she positions herself as the more downhome, easygoing darling in sharp contrast with her high-maintenance romantic rival, Swift has consistently played throughout her career an intriguing cross between Everygirl and Ingenue. Few have put this much effort into such a shimmering illusion of normalcy. However naturalistic the detail in her well-plotted love stories, her turns of phrase come rather close to familiar cliché, and ultimately her narratives trade in idealized archetypes rather than individual instance, especially the ones that deal specifically with high school or life in a small town — from “White Horse” to “Last Kiss” to “How You Get the Girl,” from the song where she and her boyfriend are Romeo and Juliet to the song where she and her boyfriend fall in love over the summer listening to Tim McGraw. She is modest, ordinary, and picture-perfect; she is much less sexual than most female pop singers, but she’s also in touch with her feelings and she takes them seriously. And although her new album has been marketed as a mature, adult move away from girly vulnerability as well as a radical musical reinvention where glitzy synth-pop replaces mild country-rock, listen twice to 1989 and you’ll hear the same wholesome voice, the same hopeless romantic getting excited and angry and blissfully happy.

Possibly the hookiest and most immediate album she’s ever made, 1989 culminates a career that started with roots in the homely comforts of country and/or mall music and slowly gained the universal power of the best masspop as Swift sharpened her writing and fed her insatiable ambition. It’s not her artistic peak, I don’t think; that would be 2012’s Red, an unequivocally great album that snuck up on me months after I had mentally filed it away and that I now love as much as anybody ever. Red sold a million copies in its first week, too, just like 1989. But unless she returns to country and/or mall music after her present electroexperiment, which might not be such a bad career move, the new album seals a formal progression that seems inevitable in retrospect and leaves her with plenty of places to go. Complete with feigned drawl and aching pedal steel, 2006’s self-titled debut Taylor Swift was a fairly predictable corporate country record, yet you can already hear her toying with the teen-nostalgia theme as of the first song and lead single, “Tim McGraw.” 2008’s megacrossover breakout Fearless and 2010’s somewhat overproduced Speak Now streamline her product, subsuming the twangy elements into a slick, flavorful country-tinged pop vehicle that equaled radio gold. Red perfected the aesthetic, in which that same pop vehicle expanded to include sugary keyboards, plucked banjo riffs, calm acoustic strumming, intensely defiant kissoffs and heartbreakingly sad ballads, emotional hormonal giddiness all over the place, its homely comforts so reassuring and pleasurable, its masspop reach so punchy and fierce. 1989, cannily marketed as her first real pop album when in fact she’s never done anything but, strips down her sound to a light blend of synthetic beats and automated drum machines. Gone are the warm, cozy songs that you could curl up to on a rainy day with a cup of tea and a blanket. This is urban dance music through and through.

Swift’s songwriting has remained expressive, passionate, amazingly heartfelt and romantic. She continues to specialize in sketching spectacularly entertaining relationship catastrophe, and her narrative tropes are no less conventional. “Out of the Woods” especially hits you with the kind of broad emotional force that has always been her gift. But on the whole her lyrics have become more concise and less specific, and her melodies bounce along with a spare elegance she’s never approached before. She’s cheerier than usual, thrilled by her fresh popstar power and less inclined toward introspection. Where she used to hammer her choruses home with the energy of a natural arena-rocker, now she glides and soars on the liquid momentum of her bubblegum beat. Her strummed guitar riffs have been almost completely excised, replaced by a snowballing procession of chewy keyboard hooks. This music seems coated in polish, gleaming even more brightly than most Top 40 material, defined by a glossy surface the artificiality of which is barely diminished by the depth underneath, and her tunes slip into your head more easily than ever. She announces her newfound commitment to electropop with the opening “Welcome to New York,” which has nothing to do with New York and everything to do with those magnificent, glittering synthesizers that open the album with a bang.

Music Review Taylor Swift

As with so much commercial pop music, everything on 1989 is deliberate. Each chiming keyboard figure, every click of the drum machine, all the breathy sighs in her voice, these have been fanatically labored over by Swift and her production team. Each moment on the album has been calculated to push your buttons, and in this 1989 is perhaps not so different from her earlier work after all. Taylor Swift’s schmaltzy side, more readily apparent in her country-identified music but nevertheless always there deep down, toys with your feelings the same way her tightly constructed melodic pop songs toy with your pleasure receptors. Her music is manipulative in the technical sense of the term: engineered to make you feel specific and premeditated things. Swift shares this knack with dozens of lesser songpoets and cheesy Hollywood screenwriters, and she is shockingly good at it. To listen to a song like “All Too Well” and follow the protagonist, identifying with her at every turn, celebrating her joy and shaking your head in solidarity when the world lets her down, feeling the exact tones of winsome nostalgia that she does, at the same time grinning at the verses before beaming at the chorus, this is to embark on a sentimental journey whose path has already been mapped out for you. Both the heartsongs of her Nashville period and the mechanical machinations of her newly dominant synthpop work like this. For some impossible number of reasons — her friendly, ordinary yet distinct persona, her embrace of young romantic mythology, her honest emotional immediacy — Swift can somehow turn this kind of kitsch into something enchanted and beautiful.

And if you allow yourself to be manipulated by her superb craft, she will take you to special places indeed. Because of its plastic surface and jingly one-dimensionality, 1989 admittedly severs all connections with her previous country and/or mall music phase; no longer is she an artist who would release The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection. But Swift’s personality, energy, and tendency to write songs like confessional diary entries have by no means changed along with the music, and the overall effect is much the same. Just like Red, just like Fearless, 1989 paints a sweet, escapist fantasy of adolescence as an idyllic time. She puts on a nice dress and stares at the sunset, she falls for a guy with that James Dean daydream look in his eye, she gets drawn into young and reckless love affairs. She dances to her beat forevermore, she waxes lyrical about her love, she lives her wildest dreams. This is what both teenpop and so much country music are about, and her attraction to both genres and ability to fuse them makes perfect sense. Always the songs she sings are so glowing, so elegantly conventional, so rosy and romantic, it’s like she lives in a fairytale world right around the corner, which adds to the emotional impact; these songs tug on your heartstrings and make you long for the paradise they depict in such heavenly detail. They actually achieve the eternal youth that rock & rollers have forever been chasing, not to mention the delightful melodicism and surefire hook power that pop aesthetes crave.

1989 will sell a million more copies before the year ends, “Shake It Off” will stick in everybody’s heads for months after that, and Swift will once again have triumphed on a masspop scale. Bitter cynics and the militantly anticommercial will hold out as long as they can, gritting their teeth, desperately trying to resist the musical pleasure they know awaits them. Everybody else will just shrug and enjoy the record. By the standards of a Taylor Swift album, 1989 is simpler and less rich than her norm, both musically and thematically. But there’s a neat, fascinating beauty to its simplicity that’s surprisingly persistent and easy to listen to. Clear as day, its melodies ring out brightly through the air.

1989 and Red are available from Amazon and other retailers.

20 Nov 05:00

November 20, 2014


Whee!
19 Nov 04:51

Photo



18 Nov 08:01

A Good Day to Die

by Doug
20 Nov 06:05

gadaboutgreen: celestialallegorist: thinkinghurts321: celestia...

















gadaboutgreen:

celestialallegorist:

thinkinghurts321:

celestialallegorist:

Okay but check out this on-point campaign my schools starting
((Lone Mountain is one of the buildings on campus and there’s a ridiculous set of stairs to get up to it))

Um whoa, how cool. The school is seriously doing this? This makes me want to visit again haha. 

Do you know what started it?

I’m actually not sure, but the posters say it’s a couple professors from the psych department, design department, and school of management working together on it. The posters should be up next week, I’m stoked

cesarconacento

17 Nov 19:14

drst: deeeeaaan: feng-huang: tastefullyoffensive: Life and...















drst:

deeeeaaan:

feng-huang:

tastefullyoffensive:

Life and Donuts by Pablo Stanley

I need to say this is one of the most uplifting things I’ve seen.

well that’s my existential crisis sorted out

seriously though its nice to have that kind of comfort written out like that

"What connects us to life?"
"Right now? I’m going with donuts"

19 Nov 09:38

Sandwich Bored?

by Anna Raccoon

Post image for Sandwich Bored?

How long does it take you to open the fridge, scrape up some ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ and apply it to two pieces of bread? A minute? Less than a minute? You’ve still got time to spare! Throw a ready-cut slice of cheese between the two pieces of bread – and head out the door to catch your train. You can dispense with putting the result in a polythene bag if you like – think of the environment. Just chuck it in your briefcase; it will still fill your stomach at lunchtime – even squashed flat it will transform into stomach-shaped once it has travelled down your gullet – doesn’t need to start life perfectly triangular. The wonders of the human body!

The cost? 40p would be generous.

What’s that you say? You’re rushed in the morning? Busy people; pressure of modern life?

Then how come, four hours later, you can find that same two entire minutes to lean over a chill counter as you dither between ‘Camembert and ripe Forest berries’ or ‘Cheddar with organic red onion’ in Marks and Spencer – and that’s not counting the time spent queuing up to pay your £4.

*Sigh*. Ms Raccoon has been reading ‘sandwich statistics‘. More interesting than it might seem at first sight.

Did you know that 300,000 people get up every morning, catch that train, and then spend all day, their entire day, applying ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ to two slices of bread on your behalf, and don’t even throw the slice of cheese in between? Nope, that’s someone else’s full time employment; professional cheese slice chucker…

300,000 people! That’s ten times the number employed in the entire wind farm industry; and we spend enough time complaining about what a useless waste of space that is. 300,000 people – that’s ten times the number of people who come into Britain ever year from non-EU countries that we are having a major political row over at the moment. That’s ten times the  number of people as were required to run the entire 2012 Olympics.

300,000 people who manage to pay their mortgage, their child care bills, feed their family, claim their top up benefits, buy new knickers, feed the cat – doing nothing more than spread pretendy butter on two slices of bread all because you can find two minutes at lunch-time to dither over their handiwork, but you can’t find those two minutes before you leave the house in the morning!

I’m not counting the number of people who spend at least an hour a day saying “White or brown” to you, or “That’ll be £7.20″ should you have stupidly stepped into Starbucks sandwich emporium. Nor the expensively trained journalists who uncomplainingly spend their working week writing about sandwich fillings for ‘International Snack and Sandwich News‘; nor the experts involved in judging ‘British Sandwich Designer of the Year ‘ – Oh well done Catherine!

It was, of course, the news from the Greencore factory in Northampton that they were to search for an additional 300 eastern Europeans to butter those slices of bread for us that sent me nose-diving into the sandwich sub-culture. Despite over 500 bread butterers in Corby, a mere 50 miles away, having lost their jobs, only 50 of them applied for the new jobs in Northampton. Greencore decided that the British were simply not ‘hungry enough’ for work – and so went to Hungary, where they are. So to speak. Or summit like that.

Up in sunny Bradford, you will find ‘Love Bites’, a major sandwich making empire. Richard Smith started making sandwiches in his kitchen and flogging them out of the back of a van in 1991. Now he has a fleet of refrigerated lorries that can each carry 56,000 sandwiches charging round the country.

In the Midlands, you will find Iwona Zilinskas – she came here in 2004 as an illegal immigrant, buttering slices of bread for us – but now has legal status and runs an employment agency making sure that the mainly Albanians, Latvians and Poles 300,000 people who know which side our bread should be buttered are paid minimum wage and not exploited.

It is a £7bn industry. 7,000,000,000 quid a year – and 300,000 people. 3.5bn sandwiches every day.

We could solve overcrowding on this beleaguered isles at a stroke here – and if my maths is right, I’ve just put an extra £5.5bn in your pocket for cat food. I must take a week off writing more often – I could solve the entire problems of the world if I took a month off….

Shift that two minutes you find at lunchtime to 7am – and discover which side your bread is buttered!

18 Nov 13:34

Oh no! Teenagers learning the truth about sex!

by PZ Myers

I recieved this breathless email that reveals the ghastly truth about liberal Oregon and their evil sex education plans.

KOIN, the CBS affiliate in Portland, is set to air its special investigative report “Triple X-Rated Education” Tuesday at 11pm. This report will expose the Oregon Adolescent Sexuality Conference and its pornographic sex education forced on area children. Planned Parenthood is on the steering committee of the annual Oregon ASC.

“I felt really horrified and unsettled by it all,” says a student on the KOIN report trailer. “A conference intended to teach kids as young as 11 about safe sex, but you won’t believe what they’re learning,” the commentator continues.

A local watchdog group, Parents’ Rights in Education, has had its eye on the Oregon Adolescent Sexuality Conference and the XXX-rated presentations and materials being peddled to and by schoolchildren there for several years. In 2013, the group asked Rita Diller, director of American Life League’s STOPP Planned Parenthood International, to attend the conference and see for herself what was being promoted to children. Diller says she came away scarred. “I monitor Planned Parenthood sex education on a regular basis and I have seen some unbelievably horrifying situations that young people are put in because of the abortion giant’s fixation with sexualizing children, but never have I seen so many adults work so hard to defile young people than at this conference,” she said. “It is blatant child abuse.”

Several parents attended on behalf of the investigative effort and brought out materials that matched and expanded on the cache that Diller brought out in 2013. Those materials are now up on the website of Parents’ Rights in Education for the world to see.

Also on the website are some videos from the 2014 conference. One of them shows a presentation where a teen boy blows up a condom, lubricates it, and performs a simulated sex act with it while adult sponsors and teens laugh. The trailer for the KOIN exposé is also linked on the website.
American Life League president, Judie Brown, stated, “Planned Parenthood continues to receive funding at taxpayer expense and uses this money to shove pornographic material down the throats of our children. Congress must defund Planned Parenthood immediately.”

Media inquiries, please contact Rob Gasper at 540.659.4171 or RGasper@all.org.

You think they’d learn someday that the “shove X down their throats” cliche is really inappropriate.

But of course this all made me curious — what horrifying things are these radicals at Planned Parenthood telling kids that defiles them? So I dug up some videos that are apparently excerpts from this exposé.

This is a video about Dangerous Sex Advice for Kids.

So it’s about a 15 year old going into a Planned Parenthood and asking for sex advice — she wants to talk about kink. And what she gets is a frank discussion about the facts: that some people like to role play, that they play dominance/submissive games, that you should use a safe word. I looked at a couple of videos, and rather than being horrifying or sexualizing children, they are telling these kids that their desires are perfectly normal, urging them to learn more (they recommend The Joy of Sex, oh horrors), and emphasizing the importance of consent.

These are the tamest sex talks imaginable: non-judgmental, informative, reassuring, and professional. All I can say after seeing them is…good job, Planned Parenthood. I hope a lot of kids see this ‘documentary’ and learn that if they want honest answers, they should just visit their local Planned Parenthood office, because I was really impressed with how nice they were in the clips.

And contra these conservative wackaloons, the real blatant child abuse is keeping kids ignorant and afraid.

18 Nov 21:01

With Apologies To Baron Macaulay

by Ken White

XXVII

Then out spake prim Horatius,
The Censor of the Gate:
"To every persyn upon this earth
Butthurt cometh soon or late.
And how can we do better
When facing fearful speech,
Than shut down all discussion,
And stop the crimethink's reach?

XXVIII

"As for the tender mother
Who knits a woolen toy,
Best send the cops to brace her
Although it gives her joy
,
It matters not what we think,
We privileged with some sense,
Call the cops if anyone
May somehow take offense.

XXIX

"Haul down the books, Oh Councils,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with the state to help me,
Will halt bad speech in play.
If the people won't obey us
And alter all their norms,
Then force of law we'll bring to bear,
and stop extremism in all its forms.

With Apologies To Baron Macaulay © 2007-2014 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.

19 Nov 03:04

The Economic Divide in Video Games

by Haniya Rae
Pages from In Real Life (al images courtesy the publisher)

Pages from In Real Life (al images courtesy the publisher)

It’s all fun and games until the thinly veiled artifice of a virtual world becomes all too real. In the case of young Anda, the main character of In Real Life, a graphic novel written by Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow and illustrated by Jen Wang, she must reconcile that the distinction between good and bad isn’t always clear cut in the multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) she plays known as Coarsegold. In Real Life is spun out of “Anda’s Game,” a short story, also written by Doctorow.

inreallife-cover-640Each page of In Real Life showcases Jen Wang’s thoughtfully illustrated panels, which easily pull you into the story. Her drawings are loosely rendered — some areas appear to be drawn playfully with a crayon-like texture — and are reminiscent of popular comic book illustrator Jillian Tamaki. Wang does a great job of keeping the real world in boring neutral colors to describe Anda’s suburban Arizona life, while the virtual world is either a series of warm yellows and oranges during fight scenes, or cool blues and greens when Anda is contemplative and about to come to a realization about in-game ethics. It feels like a necessary accompaniment to Doctorow’s original story — Anda is portrayed as a plain, stocky teenager, far from the beautiful comic characters that typically grace the pages of major superhero comics. Her idealized self in the virtual world of Coarsegold is known as “Kalidestroyer,” an athletic redhead that can kick ass. Anda gains confidence through playing as “Kalidestroyer,” and soon she’s accompanying another character, Lucy, on missions that pay cash — not in-game currency, but real dollars. Her missions are essentially to raid other player’s houses and kill gold sellers for money.

InRealLife-COMBINED_100-681280111

An ethical dilemma arises when Anda learns that these gold sellers aren’t just robots — they’re real people from impoverished nations that are trying to make money through the game. They collect gold and artifacts within the game to sell back to more wealthy players — a common practice within MMORPG games. Upon realizing this, Anda befriends a young gold seller who, in real life, is a Chinese boy who goes by his English name, Raymond. Anda begins to question Raymond about his practices in an effort to figure out why he is gaming the system. Eventually, he divulges that this is the easiest way for him to make money without working in a factory.

With this knowledge, Anda begins to advocate for Raymond to stand up to his cruel employer, which has numerous consequences.

InRealLife-COMBINED_100-651280-111280

Interestingly, Raymond has been changed from a gold-farmer of Mexican heritage in the original “Anda’s Game” to a Chinese one, perhaps as a reflection of current working conditions for many of China’s poor, a nod to the spread of MMORPG gold-seller sweatshops, and the proliferation of internet access. As all games, especially MMORPGs, can mirror aspects of the real world, In Real Life asks important questions about how assets are controlled, how prejudice is carried into a virtual world, as well as the ethics involved in online gaming. It also forces us to think about the implications of selling off precious artifacts to wealthier patrons in order to support oneself or one’s family — a practice all too common in impoverished countries.

“When you contemplate the microscale phenomenon of a world-in-a-bottle like an MMO and the toy economy within it, it equips you with a graspable metaphor for understanding the macroscale world of monetary policy. In other words: thinking about gold farming is a gateway drug to thinking about money itself,” Doctorow explains in an interview with Kotaku about the novel.

Though these are the broad ideas Doctorow aims at with In Real Life, it does feel like more of an introduction to moral issues within virtual societies and a simplistic look into broader problems. Some of the original criticism of sexism and gender in video games that was present in “Anda’s Game” is noticeably missing. For example, “Sensible boobs, sensible armour, and a sword the size of the world” is an epithet used a few times in “Anda’s Game,” but there is no mention of this in In Real Life. There is, however, a nod early on in In Real Life that there are more female gamers today and that more should start playing. But if Doctorow’s primary audience for the book is adolescent players easily indignant over the economics within an MMORPG, there’s definitely a lesson or two to be learned.

In Real Life, a graphic novel written by Cory Doctorow and illustrated by Jen Wang, is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

19 Nov 05:46

archangel-abdiel: satan-is-salmon: psychara: onlylolgifs: X ...





















archangel-abdiel:

satan-is-salmon:

psychara:

onlylolgifs:

X

THIS IS THE BEST COMMERCIAL EVER

I’ve reblogged this so many times because I truly think every parent should involve themselves with what their child enjoys. 

YIPPE YIPPE YEET

This is how I imagine zhinxy's childhood.  So I've been led to believe.  Except the hair was bigger.  And it was more 90s.  And she summoned zombies or something.

19 Nov 06:09

carryonlordof221b: This is exactly what snapchat was created...



















carryonlordof221b:

This is exactly what snapchat was created for

Just mail it to Mordor addressed to “Mr. [Whatever], 25 In the Lava Pit Blvd, Mordor, M.E.”  With special instructions to just drop it in the Lava Pit if nobody’s home.

19 Nov 07:26

zhinxy: Rei!  Actually, by definition, her future is always...









zhinxy:

Rei! 

Actually, by definition, her future is always starting now since if it didn’t proceed from the present it would by definition not be the future.

15 Nov 18:22

blazepress: Fireworks designed for daytime.



blazepress:

Fireworks designed for daytime.

16 Nov 05:00

November 16, 2014


Have I mentioned that GULPO IS BACK?!
17 Nov 05:55

flowisaconstruct: onceuponamirror: lwyllastorch: tsundeanre: ...



flowisaconstruct:

onceuponamirror:

lwyllastorch:

tsundeanre:

thealycorn:

revstrychninetwitch:

ineffable-hufflepuff:

booksandwildthings:

backdoorteenmom:

regiinamills:

xxmickeydxx:

This is how many children that died in their Hunger Games, without even being mentioned throughout the three books. All these children were under 18. All these children had parents. All these parents’ hearts sank to their knees during their child’s reaping. All these parents saw their terrified child off at the train station. All these parents heard the sound that signified their child’s death. All these parents received their cold, dead child in a wooden box. All these parents’ lives ended there. All these parents could say or do nothing. All these parents were merely thanked that they gave up their child. Thanked.

And the media focuses on the love triangle.

All these children and all these parents aren’t real

Yeah, sure, I guess that’s true. None of these people were real.

But let’s focus on what this series, and this fact, say about our society.

In the series, the Capitol’s media focuses entirely on the ‘fun’ of the Games- the fashion, the plot twists, the favorites, the strategies, the romance. And the entire time, they completely overlook the fact that 1,678 children between the ages of 12 and 18 have died. Usually brutally murdered by other 12 to 18 year old children.

And how does our real-life media react to this story when news of a movie adaptation reaches them? They talk about the romance. This tragic story of a girl who must choose between her long-time best friend and her new love. Even if she chooses Peeta, they still must fight to the death. The star-crossed lovers of District 12. And many readers of the original novels saw the books through the same lens. You would tell them that you read/ were reading the books and their first reaction was, “Are you Team Gale or Team Peeta?”

Meanwhile, children are fighting to the death.

The fact that our media, and many every-day people reacted to the Hunger Games the same as the Capitol media scares me.

I don’t want this world to be anything like the Capitol. I don’t think any of us do.

And the fact that most of us (including myself) never really considered how many children had died in the games also scares me. But, hey, it didn’t happen now/ in the current story, so it doesn’t matter, right?

I’m not sure about that math though. I think it’s MORE.

Let’s talk about just the first 73 games, ok? Every year before Katniss and Peta. 

24 Tributes (1 girl + 1 boy x 12 districts)= 1 Victor + 23 Dead Every year

23 x 73 = 1,697

EXCEPT, the 50th games (The games Haymitch competed in) had DOUBLE the number of tributes. An extra 24 kids died that year.

1,703. 

Now, 22 kids died in Katniss and Peeta’s first game, because they both live.

1,725. 

In 74 years, the brutal, violent murders of 1,725 children aired on TV in Panem, and in both the Capitol, and on the red carpet in our world, the first question people want to ask it “Team Peeta?” Damn.

i’m not even in this fandom, but damn, that’s scary

And here we have people who GET the hunger games.

#until this moment#i didn’t realize there were still people who haven’t figured out that our reactions to media are an important indicator of our values#it doesn’t matter that they aren’t real#our reaction on a story primarily about children killing each other#was to focus on the romance#it wasn’t a romance#it’s a story about a tyrannical governemt sentencing children to death as a means of intimidating the sectors into submission#and we reacted to the games exactly the same way the capitol did

you can be as meta as you can but you can never be this meta

this is why not the media’s focus on JUST the love triangle is important—because it goes beyond that. Maybelline released a “Hunger Games” themed make up campaign. Barbie dolls were made of Katniss. T shirts. Plastic jewelry.

This is the real lesson.

The movie does a good job of using the capitol as a stand-in for the empty stupidity of some of our own current culture. That’s on purpose. The fact that someone decided to sell merchandising rights that completely subverted the message is just typical movie studio greed, and I’m sure nobody in the business of making these toys a reality cared one whit for the message of the film.

17 Nov 09:11

Project ‘Emancipation Proclamation’

by AddictionMyth

The following document was procured from the desk of Stanford psychiatrist Dr. Keith Humphreys by an undercover AddictionMyth operative posing as a patient seeking treatment for a substance use disorder.  

Project ‘Emancipation Proclamation’
A Progress Report on Our Plan to Take Over the World

Dear Mr.  Soros,

The following is a progress report as of November 2014 on our top secret plan to take over the world and enslave the masses.  The conspiracy requires convincing people that addiction is a brain disease and then we will institute universal random drug testing with a zero tolerance policy and this will be followed by swift and certain sanctions of rapidly increasing penalties and require lifetime 12 Step attendance for anyone who has at any point tested positive for detectable levels of non-prescribed drugs or alcohol in their system.  In these groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) they will be abused and exploited for sex, money and labor, and then the ones who are noncompliant or no longer useful will be brainwashed into suicide.  The remaining thugs and psychopaths will operate as a group at your whim.  I am pleased to report we have already made great progress on all fronts.

Of course our plan requires that children be deprived of any kind of moral or religious education so that they are unable to distinguish between right and wrong and believe that all truths are relative.  Great progress has already been made:

  • 78% of college students now believe that “2 + 2 = 4″ is simply a “social convention agreed upon by old white men”.
  • 82% believe that a typical mass murderer has an untreated ‘mental illness’ or ‘drug addiction’ and their crimes can be prevented by greater access to mental health services and ‘drug treatment’.
  • 77% of parents withhold judgment and discipline from their children at all costs to befriend them and protect their fragile self-esteem.
  • 62% of the population believes that all religions are fundamentally destructive and pose a grave threat to peaceful civilization and progress and people who still believe in ‘God’ are dangerous extremist fanatics.

I congratulate you and your agents in Hollywood for your achievements in this area over the last 40 years without which our plan would be unworkable.

George Koob, Arthur Caplan, Robert DuPont,  Angela Hawken and I have been working hard to legitimize science and public policy to realize your dream.  Here is a summary of our progress:

George Koob – NIAAA

Dr Koob has been publishing beautifully illustrated science fiction speculation about how the disease of addiction might actually work in the brain to produce a reward feedback loop that makes the victim have anonymous sex and rob drug stores for Oxy without realizing that they are doing anything wrong (or even worse, realizing that they are doing wrong but being completely unable to stop themselves).  This ‘zombification’ strategy has been incorporated into propaganda published by NIDA and SAMHSA to convince children that if they do drugs they will do things they regret even if they seem like fun at the time but will eventually turn into a disease before they know it and that they can always claim ‘blackout’ if they really don’t want to remember their shenanigans and that most kids who have the disease are in total denial about it as proven by his extensive research on drunken rats.

Arthur Caplan – NYU

Art has been working hard to provide a bioethical justification for enforced drug compliance by arguing that the addict is enslaved to their drug of choice and therefore we are setting them free with coercive treatment.  Arthur notes that most drug users are too stupid to be able to decide for themselves whether they want treatment as proven by the fact that they took drugs or alcohol in the first place.  Arthur notes that most drug users are even less intelligent than the average American voter.  Arthur’s work inspired the title of our project: Emancipation Proclamation.

Robert DuPont – NIDA, ONDCP

Dr DuPont has a long career of institutionalizing drug testing and his extensive experience includes a financial stake in drug testing companies.  He has already made great strides with state level physician oversight programs that have destroyed the careers of many physicians who were suspected or falsely accused of using drugs or alcohol by requiring them to submit to onerous conditions such as 5 year biweekly AA attendance and frequent random drug testing and referrals to expensive rehab programs run by the oversight committees themselves.  He believes these programs can be expanded to all states and then into schools and finally to healthcare facilities.  He recommends that everyone be required to undergo a randomly scheduled yearly check-up (free under Obamacare) at which time they will be tested for drugs using only testing kits approved by him personally to ensure greater compliance and reliability.  Rob reminds us that this is the “American Way” to health and prosperity, and any follow-up testing required after a positive result will be offered at a ‘nominal charge’ to the patient and can be taken at numerous secure locations such as local police stations, county hospitals and correctional facilities where immediate treatment can be provided in the event of a confirming result.

Angela Hawken – Pepperdine

Angela has published well respected research showing that ‘swift and certain’ sanctions for drug use (e.g. short term jail stays) greatly reduces drug use in parolees.   They are much less likely to use drugs when they know they can be tested at any time, and a positive test will result in an immediate punishment.  This result comes as a surprise since behavioral modification is not considered effective treatment for most diseases, but evidently ‘drug addiction’ is an exception to that rule.  Angela advocates for expanding these sanctions to other jurisdictions as well as testing their effectiveness on other diseases such as asthma and cancer.  Angela recommends increasing sanctions on repeated violations such as higher fines and longer jail stays.  She does not recommend amputation of body parts however I believe I am making progress with her on medically supervised sterile detachment as long as ‘best efforts’ are made to maintain the parts securely for reattachment upon successful completion of the prescribed treatment regimen.

Keith Humphreys – Stanford

I have been working hard to convince government agencies that effective public policy does not require scientific justification.  This way we can promote the ‘clubhouse model’ of addiction treatment where anyone who has tested positive for any drugs or alcohol (or has been suspected by work or school administrators of using drugs) can be sent for enforced compliance with anti-craving medications like Vivitrol and can be introduced to 12 Step programs where they can find spiritual fulfillment through a higher power of their choice.  They will be required to attend on a daily basis for the rest of their lives but will be allowed to meet with the fellowship outside the clubhouse after they have shown mastery of Big Book theology as demonstrated by the suicide of a sponsee, which will also serve as a reminder for everyone of the danger of ‘drug addiction’ and that ‘some must die so that others can live’ and provide the epidemiological justification for the program.

God 2.0

We are very excited by our achievements so far and look forward to continued progress.  Very soon you will have armies of recovery-addicted zombies that you can control to enforce goodness and fairness around the world so you can ‘one-up’ the failed god who did nothing as you accompanied the Nazis while they looted, raped and killed countless people including members of your own family.

Your Trusted Servant,
Keith H

P.S.   Absolutely no one suspects a thing.  Just for fun I left out this information for one patient who is particularly nosy.  But don’t worry he’s a paranoid schizophrenic with persistent florid psychosis usually involving intricate government conspiracy fantasies and delusions of grandeur.  Plus he’s a confabulator and has treatment resistant scabies (which he consistently denies) so he is isolated from the other patients and everyone just ignores or ridicules everything he says!

References:
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18 Nov 06:28

Not allowing comments is not censorship or anti democracy. If I publish a book, I don’t need to...

Not allowing comments is not censorship or anti democracy. If I publish a book, I don’t need to publish a 2nd one with your complaints about me.

— Ami Angelwings (@ami_angelwings)
November 1, 2014

A thing I wrote on Twitter is on tumblr now, apparently O:

18 Nov 08:01

Here Be Dragons

by Sunisa Nardone

On one of the world’s oldest maps, off the coast of Southeast Asia the phrase “here be dragons” is written in Latin. Asia—the Orient—the exotic other. Dragons signpost: “Beware, civilized person. Beyond this boundary, different rules apply.”

*

I was born and raised in Bangkok by a Thai mother and an American father. My parents met working at a tech company in the early ’80s. They are equally educated. My mother’s career took her from Thailand to Singapore, Ireland, Australia, back to Ireland. When she lived in Singapore, my mom was one of the few Thai women Singaporeans encountered who wasn’t cleaning their houses, which is to say that Thai women in Singapore are often maids. So sometimes my mother was treated as a maid. That was frustrating, maddening, but the fact that she put up with that, in her suit going to work each day, meant that maybe the next Thai woman a Singaporean met was less likely to be typed so easily.

My father’s career kept him in Thailand. He is an anomalous foreigner who stayed in the Kingdom, not rotating in and out on an expat package, or coming to the country to retire.

Growing up, I attended a British school. I met my American husband when we were undergraduates at Brown University; the two of us moved to Thailand, then Australia, working our way through my inherited need to travel. Now we live in the Bay Area where he works for a Kenyan company. Ours is a global family, but one that is constantly explaining our unions and countries of residence.

People in the US are usually surprised when I say that my Thai mother lives in Ireland. “How did that happen? That’s so strange.” Strange, and their little laugh that accompanies the statement, are code for their assumptions about the education and mobility of this foreign woman of color, who in this case is my mom. She most recently worked for Salesforce, a fast growing tech company headquartered in San Francisco. When she moved to Singapore it was to work for Intel, another large tech company. She is ambitious and accomplished. She defies the stereotypes.

My dad runs up against a different stereotype. That he, a white American man, lives in Thailand is not unusual. White American Men have more world-conquering powers according to a general, Western, Here be dragons 1unexamined assumption of normalcy. But when my parents were first married, in 1984, they spent a night in Bangkok at the Oriental Hotel, considered to be the epitome of class and elegance. It must have cost my dad more than he could afford at the time to get a room there. He must have been so proud.

As my parents approached the elevator, they were stopped by hotel staff who informed my dad that women like my mom weren’t welcome in their establishment. A White man with a Thai woman could only mean one thing: he is rich and she is a prostitute. My dad corrected the hotel staff, and my parents rode the lift up to their room

My dad never related the Oriental Hotel story to me. My mom did, shaking with remembered humiliation. Growing up, it became part of my vocabulary of inherited family wrongs to be righted. I was not sure that I would be able to fix this. I am only half Thai, and my white half protects me from their condescension. It is only in the West that I am seen as the lascivious Thai woman stereotype. But when my now-husband and I got engaged, my dad insisted on one thing: that we get married at the Oriental Hotel.

*

I am writing here around the weight of a stereotype that trumps all others, and best explained in Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s TED talk, The Danger Of A Single Story. In that speech Chimamanda, who is Nigerian, tells us about her American college roommate’s shock that Mariah Carey, and not some “tribal music”, was Chimamanda’s CD of choice. She says that the single story of Africa is one of catastrophe. It reduces potentially complex understandings of people and place to one-dimensional pity. In her speech, Chimamanda says she’s looking for the possibility of equal human connection.

For anyone from the global fringe, the flattening expectation created by a cultural stereotype is pervasive and familiar. There is, of course, a single story of Thailand. It is what my parents confronted in the hotel, the stereotype of the foreign man seeking a Thai woman. People unfamiliar with the country won’t know that shorthand for a wife who is twenty years her foreign husband’s junior, who speaks broken English, who is from the countryside, who may have met her husband while working at a “bar”—that woman is called a “Thai wife.”

Bangkok bookstores are full of this reductive narrative. On my last trip home I stood in front of the bookshelf for “Thai literature”, a category that mostly consists of crime thrillers written by white men capitalizing on the little they know about the Thailand. The books are formulaic: white male meets Thai female in the exotic Kingdom, land of smiles. They fall in love. She is sweeter, kinder, and easier to please than any foreign woman he has been with. The myth of the exotic Asian female is upheld. Then he finds he’s been duped: his Thai wife, who is inevitably from a poor family in the country, turns out to be in it for his money. Interwoven with tales of drug users, gang members, Muay Thai fighters, and monks, and the story is a predictable series of plot twists with the white male hero struggling to navigate a country more frightening and less friendly than it initially appeared.

Here is an example: the blurb of the novel, My Thai Girl and I:

This is about how Andrew Hicks met Cat, a ‘Thai girl’ half his age and how they set up home together in her village out in the rice fields of North Eastern Thailand. He’ll tell you of toads in the toilet, of ants’ eggs for breakfast, how they took up frog farming and how he got married without really meaning to.

The single story of Thai wives is insulting to every Thai union, even if the woman is from a village where they do eat ants’ eggs. Exotifying hardship and cultural norm serves no one but the spectator. There is a crisis of education and upward mobility in Thailand, which begins to account for the prevalence of willing Thai women and our recent political turbulence. But in the same way that Africa is more than a continent ridden with catastrophe, even given the current Ebola outbreak, Thailand is more than a country where one kind of woman marries one kind of foreign man. As Chimamanda would point out, there is no possibility in that singular narrative for Thai women who are educated, financially self-sufficient, uninterested in foreign men, or not in need of rescue. It should go without saying that too many of the current stories are from the perspective of the white male foreigner.

Now, my lineage is different. My mother is educated and my parents met at work. I was careful to say that I met my husband when we were both in college. So even despite the story that my parents have, and the story that my husband and I have, “Thai wife” is an insult I’m anxious to skirt. It’s a stereotype that overwrites complexity. Despite my efforts though, I have been introduced as my husband’s “Thai wife.” Although I recoil at the phrase, I recognize that if I’m not willing to widen and reclaim the definition of a Thai wife, who will?

*

For the last few years, I’ve been writing fiction about Thailand. A big influence on my work has been Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, whose truth-telling career and electrifying latest novel, Americanah, has been the lodestar by which I try to navigate. Chimamanda came into my Here Be Dragons 2life as one of the writers who showed me how much I didn’t know about Nigeria, and made me realize how much more needs to be told about Thailand.

Americanah is notable for how it traces an immigrant arc from Lagos to the US and back. Ifemelu, the protagonist of Americanah, grows up in Lagos, and yearns to be educated in the US. She succeeds in coming to study here. The reader experiences the excruciating journey of integration with Ifemelu, struggling to find a job, to understand Americans and our habits. After some years, Ifemelu adapts to life in the US. She maintains a blog on racism in America that has some of the best modern commentary on the issue that I’ve read, even though the blog is embedded in the novel as something written by a fictional character. Ifemelu wins a fellowship at Princeton; she dates a Black American academic. Then she gets homesick. This is not the homesickness of one who has “failed”, whatever that means, to gain a foothold in their new society. Ifemelu decides to go back to Lagos. Unlike a typical immigration story where America is the destination, a pinnacle of achievement, Adichie gives us a global arc; her protagonist returns to a developing country. Americanah is exciting because it depicts the world I live in, a world that has moved past one-way immigrations. That world demands a literature that reaches beyond the single story.

*

As an undergraduate, I took a seminar on African women writers with the Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo. Each week Aidoo placed a blank map of Africa with national boundaries drawn in front of us. Pacing between our desks, Aidoo said that Africa is a continent, not a country, and we were to learn that fact. We had five minutes on the clock to map the countries and their capitals. To my embarrassment, I discovered places I’d never known existed: Burkina Faso, Togo, Djibouti. This made me sympathetic to people who confused Thailand and Taiwan, or asked if I speak Japanese.

One day after our obligatory test, Aidoo announced that she’d been on a panel of judges who granted an exciting new writer the Orange Prize. Who was that writer?  Of course it was Chimamanda Adichie, who won the prize for her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. When I learnt about Biafra reading Half of a Yellow Sun, I started thinking about the untold stories of Thailand. I imagined writing in English about why Thailand was never colonized, about the effect of the US bases in the country during the Vietnam War, which was where the demand for sex tourism came from.

Before I took that class with Ama Ata Aidoo, I had a failure of curiosity about Africa. I was guilty of many of the assumptions that Binyavanga Wainana named in his satire, “How to Write About Africa,” which went viral. Wainana nailed the expectations of people like me when he wrote:

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or “safari’ in your title.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these.

Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving.

Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.

The burden of stereotype is heavy. Once when I waited for my husband in a restaurant in San Francisco, a city of many Asians, a husband and wife starting talking to me. The husband perked up when he heard that I’m Thai. “I know some Thai,” he told me. “Just the naughty words.” It comes as a surprise, how lascivious a grown adult male can be to my face, even though I speak fluent English, even though this guy was in front of his wife, even though I was waiting for my husband. The single story of Thailand reaches far and deep. I was inspired to write a list like Wainana’s.

How to Endear Yourself to an Asian Woman Writer:

1. Tell her you love her eyes—they make her look smart.

2. Inquire at a shout about her English language skills. Congratulate her on her fluency.

3. Underestimate her age by ten to fifteen years. When you find that the petite girl you’ve been calling “sweetie” and “honey” is a woman older than you, older than you thought, has a partner, and you stand corrected, tell her she’ll be glad to look so young some day. Continue to call her “sweetie.”

4. Ask her where she’s from. Ask her where she’s from from.

5. When she says Japan/Vietnam/Laos, say you were once in Bali. Smile broadly. Congratulate yourself on your worldliness.

6. Announce that she writes real well for “someone her age,” despite having no inkling about the breadth and depth of where her life has taken her.

7. Put your hands on her shoulders, on her head. Touch her, stroke her like a pet, like a plaything, like she’s so cute, you just can’t resist; all women, but especially Asian women, are pliant.

8. When she tells you to stop, ask why she has to be angry. Tell your friends about the angry Asian chick. Warn them to stay away.

9. Commend her on her writing, then ask why she’s featuring another Burmese/South Korean/Filipina character. If she asks why you’re writing about another American one, see number 8, angry. Don’t forget to notify your friends.

10. Most of all, if you’re the type to be attracted to women, when she tells you she’s from Thailand, give her a smile that lets her know you like Thai women, you get the code, you’re on the inside, and you want some too.

*

My encounter with the work of Chimamanda and other incredible global writers tells me that there is a rising generation of people who call many continents home. I don’t mean only immigrants, transplanted, yearning for somewhere as they fit themselves to the rhythm of their new country. What is it to be both, to exist in multiple cultural-linguistic dimensions, with traits from one culture that glare in relief in the other?

I’ve worked in Thailand as an adult and struggled because I have dared to disagree with men and with older people in meetings. At the same time, now that I live in the US, I find it bold and boggling when Americans state what they need with ease; I’m not used to individuals asserting “I want” with such authority. Here be dragons 3As a writer, I can fall between the cracks. I have been told by Americans and Thais that I don’t have the authority to write about either place.

But these are examples of a dated paradigm. My parents are cheerleaders of my global identity; they know that authenticity can encompass many-pronged belonging. I take heart that people like Chimamanda Adichie write about the fluid movement between Nigeria and the US. The writers who inspire me have been global: Nadine Gordimer (South African), Rohinton Mistry (Indian, Canadian), Leo Tolstoy (Russian), and Michael Ondaatje (Canadian, Sri Lankan). There are writers who’ve just published their first collections like Krys Lee (Korean, American) and Chinelo Okparanta (Nigerian), whose quiet, charged sentences speak to me about the way Thai culture seems muted on the surface but is fierce and elaborate underneath. I learn from them too.

I hope that what I do as a global writer will help to dispel stereotypes of Thailand the way that Chimamanda’s work has been a vehicle for demystifying Nigeria and upending the norm of one-way immigration stories. That every time I say, “Yes, I really lived in Bangkok until I was eighteen,” and “Yes, my English is fluent,” that I will be helping to expand the possibility that Thai wives and Thai women can be capable, self-sufficient, and complex humans. That by living my own multi-faceted, global life, I am complicating the idea of a single story. In this way, the globe is mapped, the regions lit, until there are no othered peoples, no dragons lurking at the edge of the unknown world.

***

Rumpus original art by Max Winter.

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18 Nov 06:09

Fucking in Formalwear

by kittystryker

When I started the Ladies High Tea and Pornography Society, my girlfriend A and I always joked that the unofficial rule was that while hats and gloves were required, everything else was optional. While we said it often enough, the truth was that Ladies High Tea was a pretty casual get together, and rarely did it become even slightly sexual, even with a slight tendency towards vintage fashion.

I’ve always had an erotic draw towards formalwear, however. One of the hottest fictional characters in the world to me is Jeeves, because a competent man in a suit is basically my pornography. I mean, part of it is that I’m reasonably high femme, and seeing a partner dress up for me tickles my senses in some indescribable ways. The layers upon layers, carefully applied, and the orderly way they all come together is just sensual, as I imagine the time it took to meticulously structure the outfit. And the accessories, especially for mens wear! Suspenders, waistcoat, pocket square, cufflinks- so many little ways to show off a sense of style and uniqueness, and men don’t get many opportunities to get creative with their clothing. It just gets me so fucking wet when they do. I love that P and N are both super into letting me dress them in short shorts and glitter, or bow ties and shiny shoes.

I love to be dressed up too, of course. The stockings, the heels, the carefully chosen jewelry, the dress I need a lover to zip onto my body… it’s a ritual, and one where the dressing is as hot as the undressing. As I swoop my eyeliner over my lids, as I apply my lipstick and twirl mascara over my lashes, I shiver to think about that makeup running down my face later from sweat, spit, and happy tears. I dress this way as a challenge, and perhaps as a promise. I may not be fit for public consumption, but I can play the part.

I was reminded of how sexy formalwear is recently, when I went to a wedding with N. It wasn’t a typical wedding, mainly as it involved friends of mine and therefore was highly likely to be populated by perverts and nerds. Also, because the bride had asked to see my date naked, preferably having sex, presumably with me, during the reception. She’s an artist and had enjoyed his body from afar before, and I was a little surprised but happy to oblige, if he was down. So I slipped on a nice dress, making sure to wear black lingerie that was ready to be cut off, just in case… and I made sure to tell him how much I was looking forward to the ripping of fishnets and lace under his hands.

Well, N and I got dressed way before we needed to, as I misread the invite and had us fancied up hours ahead of time. It didn’t take much suggestion for us to start to make out, you know, to take up some time. We got to that point of hot and bothered where we definitely wanted to fuck, but… it took us an hour to get ready, and every minute spent putting ourselves back together would be another minute not having teh sexx.

So we kept all our clothes on. No rolled down tights, but right through a hole already ripped through the crotch of the fishnets (carefully, because we didn’t want to destroy these until it was the right time). No pulling down of pants, either, but pulling his cock out from the fly. He kept his jacket on. I kept my jewelry on. It was all very elegant, if not necessarily in line with our usual “wholesomeness” kink (which is a whole ‘nother blog entry).

At first, it was delicate, trying not to catch cufflinks on lace. Soon, I didn’t care if I squirted all over my tulle skirt, I just wanted him inside me as quickly and roughly as possible. N, being quite a giver, obliged me with one hell of a fucking. I remember thinking to myself “I wonder if his tux is going to be smeared with my come, will it need dry cleaning” for a split second before deciding that I hoped it was, and also, fuck it. I have scratched on my upper arm from where he braced himself, his cuff link digging into my flesh. Even better, with his flatmate entertaining in the other room, we had to be incredibly quiet, whispering sweet and filthy dirty talk, whimpering in pleasure, biting knuckles as we came.

While I wrapped my mouth around his post-orgasmic cock, savoring the taste, N grinned down at me and told me that this tux may not have been washed since the last time he wore it. Apparently it gets most of its use at sex parties. This is probably part of why we’re dating… I have a thing for the sort of man who wears a cummerbund and nail polish to an orgy, what can I say. And we went to that wedding, smelling of sex instead of perfume, my hair “styled” by our vigorous pounding and a touch of hairspray. It was only right, I think. Later he ripped my bra, panties, and tights off my body as we rolled around on the soft fur of the Liberator faux fur throe. Pure, extravagant luxury, grabbing handfuls of silky fur as your lover grabs handfuls of you. Mmm.

Now I’m kind of aching for another reason to see N in a tux, to be honest. Dry cleaned or not. What can I say, I like the gutter, it’s nice there.

“Solidarity is created by shared discomforts, which is caused in part by the civic-minded desire to be pleasing in the eyes of one’s fellow citizens,” says Lord Whimsy in one of my favourite essays, “The Perils of Sportswear“. “Comfort isolates us from one another, and should be seen in the clear light of day for what it is: a killer of nations.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I certainly feel that dressing up for one another indicates a bit of care for what others think, and I find that hot.

I want my lovers to show off for me, as I show off for them.

Wearing a full tuxedo, or an evening gown, suggests a sacrifice for fashion… a masochism I can get behind.

14 Nov 17:19

From 1 to 1,000,000

by Tim Urban

Look. I don’t know what you’re over there thinking about. It could be simple or sophisticated, mundane or whimsical, practical or creepy.

But I’m over here thinking about numbers. Again.

I’ve never been especially impressed by words. They’re mushy and sometimes pleasant and sometimes annoying. They’re subtle and subjective and rambly and flowy. Words are okay. Whatever.

But numbers. Numbers are fascinating and precise and satisfying and delicious and whatever it is you’re thinking about at any given time, there’s at least a 60% chance that I’m over here thinking about numbers.

So I’ve decided to do not one, but two consecutive posts on numbers, during which we’ll start at 1 and end up in a very scary place. Today, we’ll keep things in the realm of the ordinary and the conceivable, capping ourselves at a million.

The numbers between 1 and 1,000,000 are everywhere in daily life. 1, 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000 are our friends—we get them, they get us, and in this post, we’re basically gonna just hang out with them and catch up, since you probably haven’t been good at keeping in touch.

Let’s start at the beginning—

One-Digit Numbers

We’ll lead off with the extraordinarily dull 1.

1 dot

1 likes to masquerade as this poetic and profound thing, getting used in sentences I don’t really understand, like “the oneness of all” or something annoying like that. But then anytime you actually spend time with 1, you end up bored.

1 is also no fun to play with. Multiplying or dividing things by it is an incredibly underwhelming experience, and it manages to be such a dud that somehow, it’s not a prime number even though it only has one factor.

As for the rest of the one-digit numbers, I enjoy 2, 4, and 8 because when I was seven I became obsessed with saying “2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1,024, 2,048, 4,096″ before hitting a wall,1 and I have an affinity for prime numbers, naturally, so 3, 5, and 7 fall into my favor. Not thrilled with 9, but at least it’s a perfect square. The only thing 6 offers my life is annoying the shit out of me every time I have to tell someone my phone number—(xxx)-666-xxxx—and they can’t help but have some reaction to that and then we end up in this little song-and-dance interaction about it.2

Let’s move on.

Two-Digit Numbers

10 dots

Getting to the two-digit numbers, interesting things finally start happening. 10 itself is a big one, because our entire base ten existence stems from it. Why did we end up in base ten (instead of something like base 8, which would go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, etc.)? Because we have 10 fingers. It seems intuitive that only with base 10 could you multiply and divide so easily and simply add zeros or move a decimal point when shifting by multiples of 10, but that would be the case with any number system.3 Let’s look at some bigger numbers—

12 has the dozen thing going which is something, as well as factors up the dick. It’s also the number of people who have been on the moon.

Moon

Let’s pause for a second to acknowledge how ridiculously impressive it is that humans got humans onto the moon and safely back. And how lucky are those 12 guys? Could any life experience be more desirable than getting to bounce around the moon while looking at the Earth hovering out there in space?

Continuing along, I don’t know whose sister 13 slept with, but somewhere along the way it pissed off the wrong person and managed to become the only number with a legitimately bad reputation.

20’s worth mentioning just because I read during my research that only about 1 in 20 men in the US is 6’2″ or taller. So if you’re 6’2″ or taller, you’re the tallest of this average sampling of 20 American men—4

1 in 20

33 is relevant because of Larry Bird and because that’s what I turned on Wednesday thanks for wishing me a happy birthday none of you.

You might be surprised to know that only 1/43 Americans openly identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but that when asked in an anonymous and veiled survey, that number jumps to 8/43:

gay lesbian bisexual

There are 41 Disney princesses and 48 real-life princesses, none of whom is Kate Middleton.

princesses

Not much else happening with the two-digit numbers until we arrive at sleazy 99, the price tag whore who’s made its whole living being the guy next to 100.

Three-Digit Numbers

100 dots

100 is a big deal and clearly knows it, but that’s fair. It’s the first three-digit number, but in our world, 100’s main role is being the overlord of the one and two-digit groups—it’s a century of years, the official “okay you win” age to reach, and the whole concept of percent is just comparing a part of 100 to all of 100. 100 is also a perfect square of another one of these fundamental numbers (i.e. 10, 100, 1,000, etc.), which is satisfying.

Being in the top 100th of a group in some way is also a thing. It looks like this:

1:100th

If you’re in the red dot when it comes to wealth, you’re the notorious 1 percent and a lot of people will make signs that are mean to you. To be in the red dot among Americans, you need to make almost $400,000/year, but only about a tenth of that ($39,000 in 2011) to be in the red dot worldwide.

On the SAT, you’d be the red dot if you scored a 1480 out of 1600 or a 2200 out of 2400, and on the ACT, you’d need a 33. A Stanford-Binet IQ of 137 will make you the red dot too and would mean 99% of people are stupider than you.5

After 100, we’re about to get into superbly random number territory, but first we hit 101, a C-list number celebrity for a handful of small claims to fame, like 101 Dalmations and beginner courses and the West Coast US highway.

Continuing along, while about exactly 1 out of every 100 dots speaks sign language (70 million people worldwide),6 1 of every 179 living humans (39 million) is blind:

blind

There are 444 Apple retail stores in the world:

apple

If you deal five cards 508 times, you’ll average one flush:

flush

And there are 12 million US dollar millionaires in the world, or 1 out of every 583 people. If your total assets (in excess of your total liabilities) add up to over $1,000,000, you’re the red dot in this diagram:

millionaires

Four Digit Numbers

1,000 dots

1,000 is also a huge deal in our world and has a bunch of nicknames, like a grand, a G, a kilo, and k. It’s also part of the elite chain of numbers in the “order-of-magnitude” chain, which we know as million, billion, trillion, etc. Million is actually the third number in that chain, with the dud 1 as the first number and 1,000 as the second number. And 1,000 is the key multiplier that defines the whole chain.

That said, 1,000’s dirty secret is that it’s a fraud like 10 and can’t be made into a square. The square root of 1,000 is an embarrassing 31.62277660168 etcetera without even a vinculum.7

Anyway, let’s look at some four-digit numbers and odds:

Here’s how many times a neutron star spins around every second:

neutron star

And here’s how many minutes there are in each day:

minutes in a day

A genius-level IQ of 150 will earn you red dot status on the thousand-dot intelligence diagram, but that doesn’t mean you got a perfect 1600 on the SAT—only the red dot in a 1,489-dot sample aces the SAT:

perfect SAT

There are 1,811 large US corporations (over 10,000 employees), and astronomers have identified 1,849 planets outside our solar system:

exoplanets

On a perfectly clear night, we can see about 2,500 stars in the night sky:

stars

And there may be only 2,800 living people over 7 feet tall (213cm), but they each have a 17% chance of making the NBA.

Here are all the seconds in an hour:

seconds in an hour

And here’s the number of religions in the world:

religions in the world

So there are more religions than the stars we see in the night sky, and you could name a religion every second and it would take you over an hour to name them all.

We’ve identified over 400,000 species of beetle in the world, but only 5,416 mammal species.

And here’s how many living languages there are in the world:

languages

Finally, this is how many medium-sized (.5mm in diameter) grains of sand you could fit in a cubic centimeter box:

sand

Five-Digit Numbers

10,000 dots

If 1,000 is a little overrated, 10,000 is underrated. No one talks about 10,000, but unlike the square rootless 1,000, 10,000 a perfect square of 100 100s, and 1% of a million.

Stephen Hawking’s IQ is supposedly 160, which would just qualify him to be the red dot in a 10,000 dot average sample of human intelligence. And just so you know, in an average group of 17,000 people, one will be an albino.

This is how many people fit in a sold-out Fenway Park:

Fenway

Larger than the number of people in Fenway are both the 41,821 airports in the world and the number of buildings in manhattan:

manhattan buildings

The 55,030 Google employees would fill up a large stadium, as would Apple’s 50,250. Facebook is considerably smaller, with a staff of 8,348, while Wikipedia is running with only 208 people. You could fit the Craigslist team in a small bus:

Craigslist

And here’s how many seconds tick by every day:

seconds in a day

Six-Digit Numbers

100,000 dots

100,000 is the most random main category number of this post. In life, it mostly comes up as a salary most people would really like to be making. It’s also getting very close to the largest number of people I can actually picture all together in one place. Michigan Stadium (The Big House) is just under 110,000, and the largest stadium in the world is India’s Salt Lake Stadium, with a capacity of 120,000. North Korea claims that its Rungnado May First Stadium holds 150,000 people, but North Korea also says that Kim Jong Il shot 11 holes-in-one on his first time trying golf so we’ll be sticking with Salt Lake Stadium as the world’s largest.8

Equal to the capacity of the world’s largest stadium is the number of abortions that happen in the world every day, on average:

abortions

That’s about 1/3 the amount of worldwide births per day, meaning a quarter of all pregnancies that don’t end in miscarriage end in abortion. That’s about the same as the rate in the US, but in New York City, 41 of every 100 non-miscarried pregnancies are aborted. And no, this isn’t meant to be a political statement of any kind, just an interesting (and to me, surprising) statistic, so just settle down.

One Million

Good luck. See you at the bottom—

Million Dots

Sorry. A million dots is a lot of dots.

And how small are one-in-a-million odds? How much of a long shot is one-in-a-million? Just try to find the red dot in the million dots above.

This image is the only way I can think of to visualize what a million or what one-in-a million actually means.

A million is interesting because it’s huge—but it’s also the smallest of the big boys, just small enough that you can still picture it or depict it on a diagram. It’s right on the border between the world we can wrap our heads around and the world of the totally inconceivable.

That red dot, if you found it, is a good thing to keep in mind next time you buy a 1-in-146 million Powerball ticket, or anytime you hear facts like one out of every 11 million airplane flights crashes. A one-in-a-million long shot is the same as rolling three 100-sided dice and trying to hit the number 63 with all three of them in one roll.

If you want to play around with taking a one-in-a-million shot at something, pick a number between 1 and 1,000,000, say it out loud, and then click Generate below and try to hit it (or two other ways to do it: 1) Change the max number to 1,000 and try to hit the number you say with the next two clicks; 2) Change the max number to 100 and try to hit a chosen number three times in a row):


The numbers generated by this widget come from RANDOM.ORG’s true random number generator.

The Million-Dot Poster

I like both the number 1,000,000 and the number 1/1,000,000, and I love any chance to visualize them. A blog post that can only fit 200 dots horizontally isn’t an ideal way to visualize a million because it makes a 1 x 25 rectangle you have to scroll down for an hour to see all of. So we’ve made a million-dot poster.

The poster is, satisfyingly, a square. A 24″ x 24″ (61cm x 61cm) poster with a 1,000 dot x 1,000 dot square of a million total dots. This allows you to most effectively visualize the number one million (it also helps to visualize 5 or 10 or 100 million, or even a billion, by picturing multiple posters next to each other).

And, of course, one of the dots is red. It takes a hunt to find it,9 but once you do, you can understand exactly what 1/1,000,000 means. So one poster, two extreme numbers to visualize.

There’s a plain poster, and we also made other versions that have a WBW drawing behind them. You can check them all out here.

Here’s what the plain one looks like:

Full poster:

million-poster_large

A closer shot, showing the red dot in the middle:

Closer up

And a close up shot, showing the red dot:

Up close

 

And here’s numbers post #2: From 1,000,000 to Graham’s Number


  1. The other children were playing outside.

  2. At least at some point I’ll have a new phone number—oh wait, whatever your first smartphone number was is now your number for eternity.

  3. And other systems have been used, like when the Mayans used a base 20 system.

  4. Yes, that was kind of a random fact to have brought into this—get used to it cause this whole post is just gonna be me throwing haphazard shit at you.

  5. IQ is kind of a fake concept, but quantifying everyone’s intelligence with a number is fun anyway.

  6. I’m not sure how many of those people are deaf, but there are 600,000 functionally deaf people in the US, or 1 out of every 454 people.

  7. The WordPress spellchecker underlined vinculum even though it’s a word, because WordPress is appalled by where I’ve gone with this post.

  8. I’ve also been in that North Korea stadium (where I took this video), and it seemed about the same size as a typical NFL stadium. I originally had this note as part of that last sentence, but it seemed one notch too braggy for a non-footnote.

  9. Bonus points to anyone who can figure out why the dot is where it is on the grid.

The post From 1 to 1,000,000 appeared first on Wait But Why.

31 Oct 23:07

The Dark Secrets of the Bird World

by Tim Urban

66 million years ago, a large asteroid about six miles in diameter smashed into what is present-day Mexico. It was the most unpleasant thing you can imagine for everyone here at the time, and it ended up causing the extinction of over 75% of species, including all the dinosaurs.

Right?

It killed off all the dinosaurs—that’s how the story goes. Right?

The thing is, when we picture dinosaurs, we picture large, reptile-looking guys tramping about on land being dicks. And yes, those guys you’re picturing went extinct.

But there were also a lot of other kinds of dinosaurs, including some with feathers who could fly. While no non-flying dinosaurs survived the mass extinction, some of their avian cousins did survive, and they’re still surviving today. Which leaves us with the surprising fact:

Birds aren’t just the descendants of dinosaurs, they are dinosaurs.

Birds are close relatives of the notorious Velociraptor1—they share a common ancestor with it from the Jurassic period.2

So there dinosaurs were, ruling the Earth, when a big rock changed everything, setting mammals on a new course to dominate the world and sending the mighty dinosaur off to the periphery to watch from the sidelines. And today, most of our attention is on the mammals of the world—ourselves in particular, but also on our dogs and cats and elephants and bears and whales and cows and monkeys and sheep.

But what about our planet’s flying dinosaurs over on the sideline? Have any of us thought to see what’s going on with them?

Sometimes, when a big, popular circus loses its appeal and another, new form of entertainment takes over, and then a bunch of time passes, it’s better not to see what those old, forgotten circus performers are doing these days. Sometimes, you don’t want to know. Because sometimes, it turns out that what’s going on behind the doors of the old, broken down circus caravan is a bunch of weird, dark shit.

This week, I decided to pull back the curtain on the bird world and see what was happening there. Here’s a report on what I found:

Identity Fraud: Ordinary Birds Pretending to Be Exotic

There’s no less glamorous animal than the pigeon, so it’s understandable why so many pigeons are trying to pass off as other, less stigmatized types of birds—but come on:

pigeon-concours-beaute-champion-oiseau-12

It’s just not working:

pigtumblr_mly4tzqcQw1s6o0gdo1_500-Copy

Growing a mustache and calling yourself the Inca Tern is clearly not fooling anyone:

faz1082119420

The best pigeon-hiding effort I’ve seen is by a group of white pigeons who spent millions of dollars on PR and rebranded itself as “the dove,” locking down a partnership with the Catholic church and plastering the internet with images and drawings like this:

dove composite

It gets worse. Here’s a vulture that grew a beard to try to escape all the baggage of being a vulture, which might have worked had it come up with a cleverer name for itself than the bearded vulture:

fabeard vulture

Here are two skinny-headed anhingas who are pretending not to be birds by posing as the hind legs of a deer or a dog:

faz3793anhinga

Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised when the anhinga is unimpressive, given that this is how it plays hide and seek.

An even more ridiculous move is some normal yellow and black bird gluing a clearly-fake plastic beak onto its face and calling itself the toucan:

fatoucans

Then there’s the harpy eagle trying to pose as a fucking panda bear of all things:

panda

But the most blatant identity fraud cases are happening throughout the chicken world. I get that no one wants to be a chicken.3 A chicken is a tweaky, paranoid joke of an animal. A chicken doesn’t fly, it spazzes into a brief flutter—and it can’t chirp, settling instead for the absurd “bawk.” And while we have the courtesy to call cow and pig meat euphemisms like “beef” and “pork,” we just call chicken meat “chicken,” because nobody respects the chicken. I understand why you’d wish you were a different type of bird. But that’s no excuse for doing psychotic things like painting yourself black:

facemani-chickens-03

Or getting a transparent makeover:

fachickens-yokohama_1834737i

Or getting a ridiculous haircut:

fatolbunt8

Or fluffing out your feathers and calling yourself the silkie hen:

hybrid puff chicken

I also discovered a new fad that’s gotten hot—impersonating humans.

Here’s a bird pretending to be a makeup-y 53-year-old woman:

hybrid makeup-y woman

And here’s a bird trying to be a human grandmother:

humabirds-paradise-lorentz-national-park-papua-indonesia

Here are birds posing as human old men:

hybrid old man

And it’s apparently become trendy to grow stylish human hair:

hybrid hair

The irony of all these ordinary birds going to insane lengths to try to be more exotic is that what’s going on in the world of exotic birds is far worse:

Sadistic Psychological Abuse of Male Birds By Females

What humans don’t realize is that exotic birds are only exotic for one reason—women abusing their power of sexual selection to force horny men to go through tremendous shame and indignity at their whim. The females in a species of birds can get together and decide to evolutionarily turn the men of their species into literally whatever absurd creatures they want just by agreeing to all “select” for it. Like female peacocks getting together and colluding to only sleep with the men who turn themselves into the biggest, prettiest fans—which leaves the men with no choice but to spend the next hundred million years evolving into big, pretty fans:

Peacock_With_Fanned_Tail_600

And you’d think it would be bad enough that the female mallard thought it would be fun to turn the male mallard’s head bright green, but the much more twisted female mandarin duck has made her man into a piece of full-blown abstract art:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And this is nothing compared to the sick practice by some species of female birds to turn their males into “birds of paradise”—like the tanager females, who got together and decided to have sex with only the fuzziest, most neon men, resulting in this tragedy:

mdtanager

And just look at the shame on the face of the male Wilson’s bird of paradise:

hybrid Wilson

One set of females forced their males to change species altogether into an orange fuzz ball and renamed them “the cock of the rock” because they found it fucking hilarious:

hybrid cock of rock

You’d think turning men into clowns would be enough, but the women aren’t done. They make their clowns put on mortifying dance performances:

Meanwhile, many birds have bigger things to worry about than whether they’re exotic or not:

Birds With Proportional Difficulties

There are birds out there going through physical hell and no one has any idea. Like this bird who has the head of a duck but the body of a sparrow:

prozridiculous-looking-bird-weird-3

Or this bird who has a miniature pair of human legs instead of normal bird legs:

prozmadeleine___secretary_bird_by_skarkdahn-d5iqi89

This bird has no head:

proz

And this bird is only a head:

projust a head

These birds didn’t realize you were supposed to be a body with feathers on it, not just feathers and nothing else:4

profea16397-funny_white_owl_28_9_2012

profeasnowy-egret-defending-nest-site-against-Cattle-Egret-St-Aug-FL-279T0696

And this bird forgot to not be just a fuzzy sphere:

prozfat-fluffy-bird

Widespread Facial Rotting

One of the more disturbing findings of my investigation was the large number of birds out there who are actively decaying even though they’re not dead yet. The most well-known example is the gruesome turkey, whose facial gummies—which are delicious-looking on other birds—have horribly rotted:

hybrid turkey

And it gets worse. The wood stork’s head is fully decomposing:

gruesome

Some have tumor or mold-ridden beaks:

hybrid growths

And others have replaced their head entirely with that of a tiny bludgeoned-to-death llama:

grllama

Creatures Out in the Open Who Are Clearly Supposed to Still Be in The Egg

The elephant in the room whenever you’re in the presence of a newborn human baby is that it very obviously belongs in the womb for another month. But in the bird world, this phenomenon is far more extreme. Some upsetting examples:

hybrid baby

Most alarmingly, many of these fetuses are in a constant state of agony, with every passing moment being the new worst moment of their life:

hybrid agony

Birds Who Forgot to Go Extinct When They Were Supposed To

There are a number of birds currently living who were obviously supposed to go extinct a long time ago and just forgot. Most notably, the shoebill:

hybrid shoebill

And the helmeted hornbill:

exhelmeted-hornbill01

Rampant Narcissism

The golden pheasant is a prime offender:

behumigolden-pheasant21

As is this strapping eagle, who needs to rein it in a notch and remember that he’s still a bird:

behumi7586_728x

As is this chicken, who doesn’t even have clothes on, let alone a fashion runway and an audience:

behumichicken1_300

But for Americans, we don’t have to look very hard to find avian narcissism at its worst. This is what the bald eagle looked like before 1776:

hybrid bald eagle humble

Just an ordinary, low-confidence bird. But ever since signing a deal with the US to serve as its national emblem, the bald eagle has let the whole thing go to his head, strutting around with this absurd look on his face:

hybrid bald eagle cocky

Little does he know how close he was to being ousted in favor of the turkey of all animals.5

Rank Racism

indpájaros exóticos zoom diseño y fotografía (4)

Outrage at Nothing in Particular

There’s an odd fetish in the bird world with being outraged about what seems like nothing in particular.

outmain-qimg-fa588af8ff7247d3867a48950485e047

outchicken-closeup

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outz3 - Southern Cassowary

The Biggest Asshole in the Animal Kingdom

If you know the animal kingdom, you know that’s saying a lot. And no, I’m not talking about the ostrich, nature’s terrible personality on a stick:

humiostfunny-ostrich

I’m talking about the goose.

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Outside of the heinous world of insects, I can’t think of a creature that has literally no redeeming qualities. Except for the goose.

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You know when you have some bread and you decide to feed some birds, and there’s one piece of shit who’s bigger than everyone else and shoves the other birds out of the way, taking literally every piece of bread, and you have to cleverly strategize in order to throw bread to the rest of the birds, and even then it’s hard? Well the goose is the quintessential feed-the-birds-bully.

geangry_goose

The goose is perpetually unpleasant to be around, and the second something happens that doesn’t go his way, he has a fit and makes this appalling face:

ge1goose

geimg_0980-lr2

ge2ASIeendjesgroot_36

That’s about plenty of the goose.

Delusion

The bald eagle isn’t the only bird with a hero’s complex. Steller’s sea-eagle seems to be convinced that he’s that Disney character who’s all hardened and low-voiced and gruff and doesn’t want to talk about his past but then ends up having a heart of gold and agrees to mentor the protagonist and ends up sacrificing himself to save the day:

hybrid stellers

On the other side of things, it appears that the vulture has taken his reputation to heart and become a caricature of himself, overexaggerating his sinister, menacing stereotype in a bad-guy-in-a-kids-movie way:

hybrid vulture

And just when you thought we had our hands full with these real birds thinking they’re fictional, the puffin, who is fictional, is out there living his life in the three-dimensional real world as if he’s an actual creature:

Taken on my trip to Machias Seal Island in July 2010

Odd so far, and a bit grim. But as my investigation grew deeper and I asked more questions, I began to uncover more disturbing things going on in the darkest corners of the bird world:

Legitimately Psychotic Behavior in the Pigeon World

The identity fraud pigeon cases mentioned above were just the tip of the iceberg of the strange things going on with pigeons. On the streets of your city, you’d have no idea, but as I explored, I was shocked by what I found. It started with certain pigeons looking kind of abnormal:

pigberlin-short-faced-muffed-tumbler-pigeon-3

Something wasn’t right. I dug deeper, and an entire perverted world began to reveal itself:

Pigmy_Pouter_Pigeon_11

pig4525204838

pigJacobin-CH-Jim-Ecker-640x426

pigeons-champion4[3]

After that last one, I decided I had dug deep enough. I still don’t know what the fuck is going on with those pigeons.

And my darkest findings were still yet to come—

The Rapey White Parrot That’s Terrorizing the Planet

I’m not talking about normal parrots, or even this overly-segmented fuck:

patCute-Colourful-Parrot

I’m talking very specifically about the white parrot:

par

Here’s what I want you to do. Look at the above photo and form an opinion about his motive at the moment the picture was taken.

Now watch this video:

Now look at this picture again:

par

Not okay, right?

A Ghostly Sociopath Who Watches You at Night

Owls are creepy. Everyone knows that. But when most people think of an owl, they picture this handsome, potentially-wise, only-scary-in-a-cartoonish-way owl:

owEagle_Owl_face

Or maybe they picture the low self-esteem owl:

owzSad_Owl_3_by_distasty

They might even picture the genuinely eerie round-headed owl:

owbarred-owl

What they probably don’t picture is the ghostly sociopath owl who watches you at night:

owIMG_12047_EasternBarnOwl

Let’s just discuss the situation here. First of all, he doesn’t have a face, he has an anti-face, which is unsettling as fuck. Secondly, he’s a predator who makes his living silently murdering unsuspecting living things. Thirdly, he’s nocturnal. Of course. Fourthly, most of the time, he’s just standing there by himself, perfectly still, with wide eyes. Fifthly, he says “hoo.” All the normal birds “chirp,” and this creepy fuck says “hoo.” And finally, add on to all of that that his head swivels around and even flips completely upside down:

ow£££-Owl-with-an-upside-down-head

Then—then—I come across this GIF:

Owls_ed00f0_190655

And this GIF:

owtumblr_lxaep0heFK1r02we9

Nothing about this GIF is okay. The guy on the left is manically devouring some kind of rat alive, the two guys on the right are slinking around like the grudge lady coming down the stairs, and those three manage to be the three least disturbing owls in the GIF.

Moving on—

Complete Mental Breakdowns

We all know that the flamingo lost his mind a long time ago:

csfl

And the potoo’s snap is well-documented:

csjopotIK8Rh03

cs98722_686

csjopottumblr_msxrfwYOo11qewacoo5_1280

But as I reached the farthest fringes of society, I saw more and more cases that seemed beyond hope.

Like the arctic tern and its inexplicable migration habits. In general, I’ve always wondered what birds’ issue is and why they need to migrate such absurd distances, and then I read about the arctic tern and found this:

Arctic terns are true champions in the bird world. They fly about 11,000 miles from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to their winter home in Antarctica.

Champions? Champions of what—horrible decision-making? The North Pole is 6,000 miles away from the equator. Every climate possible exists in between. Whatever climate difference they’re finding on the other pole could be achieved by flying 1,000 miles of latitude away from the pole. There’s no explanation for going farther than 6,000 miles. And if the arctic tern claims there’s some key subtle factor that makes the far pole better than somewhere on their current hemisphere, that’s like commuting every day from your home in Boston to an office in San Francisco because you found a slightly better deal on office rent there.

csArctic_Tern_m17-45-163_l_0

An atrocious decision-maker

Then there’s the California condor, who at some point began shaving his whole head and face for no apparent reason:

csfleGymnogyps_californianus_-San_Diego_Zoo-8a

csfleo-CALIFORNIA-CONDOR-facebook

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And there’s this lunatic:

cszfunny-pic-bird

And this chicken, whose family hasn’t heard from him in over a year:

cs4620368516_a5bd544df5_b

And these chickens, who look like walking food:

chfeatherless_chicken1

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And these birds, who are non-ironically and permanently impersonating Big Bird:

cornflakes151948

And this parakeet, for whom we need no comment:

cs걸레_~1

Birds Who Apparently Think This is All a Big Joke

If there’s one takeaway from all this, it’s that the state of the bird world should not be taken lightly, especially by birds. And yet, in the midst of everything I found, there were a bunch of birds who couldn’t give a fuck either way. Like the dimwitted spoonbill:

jozTX10 roseate spoonbill 111_0742

Or this incredibly immature pelican:

jope1

Or the blue-footed booby—

jobooSmoqslr

—who seemed more intent on dancing than doing anything to help:

jo8423-footofan_com

I’ll wrap up with a bird who should be concerned about both the wider bird world and his own bizarre situation and seems apparently worried about neither:

jozenormes-ojos-buho-paloma-budapest-L-2CRO80

So there you go. Next time you’re outside and you see your neighborhood crow or sparrow or pigeon, just remember: A) it’s a dinosaur, B) it may have secrets, and C) leave it at that—some things are better left unexplored.

0ingif-birds-goal-tortoise-899814

____________

More Wait But Why investigative journalism into the animal world:
The Bunny Manifesto
The Primate Awards
Why Bugs Ruin Everything

Note: We changed over to Disqus for comments. Annoying that it makes you create an account, but it only takes 2 seconds and it’s much more interactive with upvoting and downvoting. Facebook comment section is the same as it was. If you have feedback, we’d love to hear it—contact@waitbutwhy.com.


  1. who the movie Jurassic Park lied to you a lot about—they were around the size of a turkey, feathered, and not especially intelligent.

  2. I have a billion things to say about dinosaurs and this extinction event, but I’m going to cut myself off here and save it for a post all about it.

  3. Weirdly, the currently-living creature whose DNA is most closely-related to that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex? The chicken. I picture what happened is that T-Rexes started having these disappointing sons and the fathers would be like, “You’re not my son” and then those sons would have even more disappointing sons and disown them, and then it happened again and again each generation and 65 million years later, this is where we are.

  4. I’ve been informed by a reader that the first of these two birds is, in fact, much more of a Christmas tree ornament and much less of a living bird. On one hand, I should probably take it off the post. On the other hand, I’m going to leave it up as commentary about how ridiculous-looking real birds are that I couldn’t tell that this was fake.

  5. Before settling on the bald eagle, Ben Franklin suggested that the US choose the turkey as its national emblem. He thought the turkey made more sense because it was aggressive and mean, while the bald eagle was a lazy scavenger.

The post The Dark Secrets of the Bird World appeared first on Wait But Why.

17 Nov 08:01

The Big Idea #10: Eula Biss

by Suzanne Koven

The cover art for Eula Biss’s new book, On Immunity: An Inoculation, surprised me at first. I’d expected something stark and edgy—maybe a shiny hypodermic needle against a blank background—to illustrate an exploration of modern vaccine phobia by a young writer known for her understated style.

Instead, the jacket of On Immunity features a detail from an early seventeenth century painting, Achilles Dipped in the River Styx by Peter Paul Rubens. The image is lush and nuanced and drenched in allusion to myth and history and the body and motherhood and love and fear—like Biss’s argument, as it turns out.

Today’s anti-vaccine movement, whose most visible leader is talk show host Jenny McCarthy, has deep roots and broad ramifications. Fear of inoculation has existed for centuries, beginning with the earliest versions of the practice. Over time, fear of vaccines themselves have become inseparable from larger fears, both real and metaphorical: of contamination by the “other,” of having one’s personal integrity compromised, of being forced surrender to one’s individuality for the common good.

In 2009, Biss began delving into these fears as she grappled with her own discomfort about having her infant son vaccinated. Using her personal experience as a narrative thread, Biss draws in subjects as diverse as Voltaire, vampire lit, and the BP oil spill. The openness of her inquiry makes On Immunity an important contribution to a dialogue about vaccination currently dominated by those certain that vaccines are toxic and those equally certain that those who hold this belief are morons.

Biss lives in Chicago and teaches at Northwestern. She is the author of two previous books, The Balloonists, a prose poem about divorce, and Notes From No Man’s Land, a collection of essays about race, for which she won the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

I spoke with her recently about On Immunity, about her literary influences, and about whether we really are, as the New York Times suggested recently, in “a golden age for women essayists.”

***

The Rumpus: In all of your books you’ve come at big subjects from very personal points of entry. With On Immunity, how far was the leap from the personal decision about whether to vaccinate your son to writing a book about vaccination?

Eula Biss: Most of my essays begin with a question that I want to work out for myself, primarily. And often in the course of working that question out I produce a document that feels like it could be made available to other readers. Sometimes that’s not the case, though. Sometimes I embark on a draft and I do clarify something for myself, but I don’t produce something that I think is readable or necessary for other people.

Rumpus: So it’s possible that you could have worked through your decision on paper but not necessarily have moved beyond that?

On Immunity

Biss: Yes, definitely. Especially if I hadn’t run into anything that I thought was interesting or surprising. Actually, when I began doing research I did not intend to write a book or even an essay. I really was just trying to solve my own problem, which was that I was encouraged to vaccinate my son, and I knew I should, but that I’d also heard that many mothers had hesitations, and I didn’t know a lot about those hesitations. So I had to find out more before I moved forward with my decision. And, really, in the grand scope of this project, it didn’t take me very long to answer the biggest one of my personal questions, which was: should I vaccinate this kid on schedule or not? By the time my son was two months old I had read enough to feel comfortable vaccinating him and vaccinating him on schedule.

I had made the decision to follow the schedule, but I also wondered what does this say about my relationship with the government? Does this mean that I’m following government recommendations blindly? What does this mean about my relationship with pharmaceutical companies and the medical system? Does this mean that I accept everything that happens in those realms?

So I was just struggling with what my decision meant, and that’s when the essay began to emerge. And at first it was just going to be an essay, but it got bigger and bigger, and then for a while I thought it would be a very long essay. Then it became clear that it was going to be a book.

Rumpus: Do you remember the moment when you were researching this to sort out your own discomfort and you said: “Whoa! This is about more than me. This is a topic”?

Biss: There were a few moments like that. The research really escalated for me in that I read a number of books that made me think differently.

The first was Bodily Matters by Nadja Durbach, who’s a historian. I read her history of the anti-vaccine movement in Victorian England. The moment I said, “Whoa!” was when I was reading this history of an anti-vaccine movement over a hundred years ago. The fears and anxieties that propelled that movement forward were so similar to my own fears and anxieties that I had to step back and look at my own concerns in a historical context. That was really interesting to me. The actual technology has changed considerably, but the fears have remained, in many ways, static over a very long period of time and in fairly different political contexts. So that’s the moment when I thought, Okay, there’s a lot more going on here than I ever saw or realized and I’m going to have to dig quite a bit deeper into this subject.

Rumpus: Is there something specific about vaccines—about having your body punctured and having foreign material injected into you—that causes more fear and suspicion than other medical treatments? I have patients who have fewer hesitations about heart surgery than about flu shots.

Biss: I can believe that. I do think there is something emblematic about it—and this goes back to before we used needles, right? The smallpox vaccine that was given in the 1800s was not given with a needle but was an incision.

It’s this breaking of the skin paired with the introduction of foreign matter into the body that sets off something that is almost archetypical. It’s part of why I reached back into mythology to begin my discussion of this because I felt that just the act of vaccination was triggering a fear that wasn’t necessarily about that act so much as it was about what it represented to the mind; the metaphors behind it.

The skin is a really powerful metaphor for our protection against all that is outside, a division between external and internal. So to have that protection penetrated becomes metaphorically meaningful. That’s why I picked up I Is An Other by James Geary. His book is all about metaphor, but he has a really illuminating chapter about metaphors that are sourced from the body, about how many of our most basic metaphors, our most often repeated metaphors, are sourced from our bodies.

You can tell from the metaphors that we use that the body is our primary locus of understanding. In some ways we understand everything around us in terms of our own bodies. That made me look at this act as an act that was opening up a metaphorical space for people—to a greater degree than heart surgery, right? When you approach people saying, “You’re going to need heart surgery,” in many cases they’re going to interact with that information literally. There probably is some metaphoric stuff going on there, around the heart. But when I examined my own reservations about vaccination I found that they were almost all based in metaphor. And the more I learned about the actual act and the actual technology, the more comfortable I felt, because almost all my fears and hesitations were about what vaccination symbolized to me, not what it actually was.

Rumpus: Metaphors are important in On Immunity—the vampire motif, for example—but so are concepts that are very real: race and class and feminism and motherhood. What is the relationship between the conceptual and the metaphorical when you’re drilling deeper and deeper into a subject?

Biss: I think part of how this book became so interested in metaphor is that I began to discover that some of the metaphors were masking either really important realities or really important concepts. Issues of race and class, for instance, I felt were getting completely erased or masked by the metaphors that were in use around vaccination.

There are a lot of metaphors around vaccination that involve power, but very few of them acknowledge what I think is one of the more interesting and disturbing power relationships in the situation, which is the relationship between a healthy, middle-class, white person with very good access to medical care who’s chosen not to vaccinate and a poor, lower-class person of color who doesn’t have excellent access to medical care and may not be fully vaccinated because of issues of access rather than philosophical issues.

Rumpus: To clarify, the power differential exists because poor people who are not vaccinating due to access are vulnerable to outbreaks caused by people who choose not to vaccinate.

Notes from No Man's Land NEW

Biss: Yes. That’s a power relationship that’s, to my eye, very problematic. But when I began writing this book, when people talked about power and corruption around vaccination they were always talking about the power that pharmaceutical companies have or the power that the government has or the power that pediatricians and health care workers have. They weren’t necessarily looking at the power of the unvaccinated body, that kind of social power.

I got into the metaphors in part because I wanted to expose them as flawed or problematic metaphors. And this goes back to Susan Sontag who made the point that if we’re thinking about something through a metaphor that’s flawed, our thinking is going to be flawed. And so I wanted to expose some of these metaphors as inaccurate and bad tools.

Rumpus: The anti-vaccine movement has created some strange bedfellows on the left and on the right, aligning so-called “Whole Foods parents” and Tea Partiers. Why do you think that is? Is this simply about suspicion of authority, of experts?

Biss: I think it’s partly that, but I also think it exposes something about liberal politics. It exposes the libertarian vein that can run through liberal politics. This is an issue where you see people who call themselves liberal and say that they’re concerned with social justice joining the same movement as people who are actually libertarians and more on the far right side of things or part of the Christian right.

I think it has less to do with the suspicion of experts than it has to do with this thing that we treasure and nurture in America, individualism, which can actually be quite damaging if it’s taken to political extremes. And we can see it both on the right and the left.

Rumpus: Have you gotten any feedback that you changed minds of people who were anti-vaccine?

Biss: I got feedback from a friend who read a draft. She mentioned after she read it—and she pushed back on a lot of things and had quite a hearty critique of the book—that she vaccinated her son against hepatitis B. I’ve had a couple of interactions like that, where I’ve learned that it has changed the mind of someone who was vaccine-hesitant or delaying vaccines.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the more extreme position, people who are dedicated to not vaccinating at all. There have been some studies recently that have shown that it’s very, very hard to get someone in that position to change their mind, and that has been my experience in conversations.

Rumpus: As you read the news these last few weeks about Ebola, do you see themes emerge that came up in your research about vaccines?

Biss: Quite a bit. Both of my last two books have been interested in fear, in our tendency to fear things that don’t pose us a threat and interested in where fear intersects with other attitudes, like racism—where fear is a product of racism or an extension of racism or a complement to racism. Just the other evening I was having a conversation with my husband and he said: “I really don’t think people would be reacting the way they’re reacting to Ebola if it had originated in Sweden.” If most of the victims were blond and light-skinned—I think in some ways the fear is about disease, but the fear is also giving people an opportunity to exercise their fear of otherness.

Rumpus: I have no doubt.

Biss: I have no doubt, either. There might still be a reaction, but the reaction would look really different.

Another thing that it’s brought up for me is thinking about quarantine. How awkward and difficult and problematic it is to have quarantine be one of your primary preventative health measures. Recently I was on a radio program, and a listener called in, and she said, “I think that you’re over-emphasizing the role of vaccination in disease prevention.” But Ebola is actually a reminder of how messy and awkward and difficult it is to deal with a disease without vaccination. Quarantine is a pre-modern method for controlling the spread of disease, and we have to go back to this pre-modern strategy when we don’t have vaccination. Which doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use it. It can be a be a useful and necessary complement to vaccination.

I’ll say just one last thing about quarantine: People make civil rights arguments around vaccination, like, “Oh, my right to my body is being violated,” but I think that many people would find that quarantine feels much more like a violation of civil rights than vaccination. Given the choice, we might actually prefer vaccination.

Rumpus: I’d like to talk a little about your beginnings as a writer. In On Immunity you mention the influence of your dad, a doctor.

Biss: Yes. I wanted him to be the voice of the best of medicine, a reminder to everyone that doctors aren’t all evil arbiters of the establishment

Rumpus: And you also mention your mom, an artist,

Biss: She’s a visual artist, a poet, and a nonfiction writer.

Rumpus: Reading about them I found myself thinking of the surgeon-writer Richard Selzer, who described how his father practiced medicine in an office on the first floor of

his childhood home while his mother, an amateur opera singer, belted out arias upstairs, about how these were the two poles of his young imagination: science and art. Was it like that for you?

Biss: I think that’s true, though at this point in my life and development I’m no longer inclined to think of them as two poles. I think of them much more as two different modes. The driving interests and concerns of both are quite similar. And I do think medicine practiced well is an art. That’s obvious, especially when you read the words of one of these really masterful doctor-writers.

Rumpus: You’ve written many medically-themed essays: “The Pain Scale” and “Relations” (in part about in-vitro fertilization), and, of course, the essays that became On Immunity. Did having this particular combination of parents set the stage for you to think about medical issues in a literary way?

Biss: I do think it gave me access. I remember when I turned twenty-one I went to a fortune teller with my sister, and the fortune teller looked at my palm, and she said: “Ah! You’re interested in medicine! You’re going to be a doctor or a nurse!” and my sister and I fell over laughing. It was so absurd, so out of the range of my interests. Really, though, the way my trajectory of interests has progressed, maybe the palm reader was seeing farther into my future than I knew.

I think that having my father be a doctor, I’m not afraid of medical terminology. A lot of it is familiar to me. My father talked in that terminology. I think that’s a barrier for some people, the language of medicine. The language of medicine doesn’t intimidate me.

Rumpus: I read that in researching On Immunity you slogged through an immunology textbook. I was impressed.

Biss: It took, like, six months. I had to look almost everything up.

Rumpus: You earned an MFA in nonfiction at Iowa. How did your understanding of what nonfiction could be evolve there?

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Biss: It helped that I entered nonfiction through poetry. My first book, The Balloonists, which can absolutely be read as an essay, I was thinking of at the time as poetry, just because I didn’t know enough yet about the tradition of the personal essay. I didn’t know that you were allowed to do that in nonfiction. So even though it doesn’t look like poetry in a number of ways, I was calling it poetry because poetry was the only genre I knew of where I’d seen anything like that happening.

I had studied prose poetry quite extensively as an undergraduate. I was lucky to be exposed to Anne Carson early in my career. Anne Carson is so great in terms of giving permission. That sense of “I didn’t know you were allowed to do this”—I had that with every book I read by Anne Carson. I started reading her as an undergraduate, and she just blew a lot of doors open. I loved what she was doing with ideas, but I also loved what she was doing with form. She has a number of pieces which have “essay” in the title but are in fact written in lines like most poems are. And she has work that has the word “poem” in the title and looks a lot like an essay. She’s moving very freely between these genres, making them collide and collapse into each other. I think she’s done a lot for all of us who write, in terms of blowing apart the boxes that genre can become.

Rumpus: You’ve said that your own work straddles poetry and nonfiction, is a hybrid of the two. The usual connotation of “hybrid” is mixing memoir with researched information, perhaps what might have once been called “New Journalism.” How would you characterize your nonfiction? Do you simply think of yourself as an essayist—or is yours a new genre?

Biss: The quick answer is that yes, I usually do think of myself as an essayist. But that category is so broad. Contemporaneously and historically it contains things that are aesthetically incredibly different. And I think that’s part of why I’m comfortable thinking of myself a an essayist. There’s a lot of room within that category to go in a lot of aesthetic directions.

But to get into the more pointed part of your question, the New Journalists have been really important to me, especially Joan Didion, but the other group of writers that have been important to me have been the confessional poets, people like Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath. The assertion in their work—and which was truly radical at the time—is that the personal is political, that one can write from one’s life, about one’s life, about one’s body, as a way of way of addressing a political situation or a political idea or problem. That’s an old idea now, but it’s an idea that is still challenging to people, surprisingly. It still can be kind of disorienting for someone to see highly personal material on the page with highly political material. We still like to think of these things as belonging in different spheres.

I think my hybridity has a lot of sources of inspiration. I don’t think it’s brand new. I’m drawing heavily on Didion. I’m drawing heavily on Rich and Plath and other writers. In this latest book I was thinking about and engaging with Sontag. So I’m definitely not striking out alone.

Rumpus: I can’t help but notice that all of the literary influences you’ve mentioned are women: Carson, Plath, Rich, Sontag, Didion. This leads me to ask your reaction to the piece a few weeks ago in the New York Times Book Review, in which Cheryl Strayed and Benjamin Moser were asked whether we are in “a golden age of women essayists.” Both objected to the qualifier “women.” You are being compared with Didion and Sontag and being grouped with other young female essayists like Leslie Jamison, Lia Purpura, Maggie Nelson, and Sarah Manguso. Would it be just as accurate to say that you come out of the tradition of, say, Orwell and to group you with today’s young male essayists? Is there anything particularly female about the modern essay, or is this something we’ve invented as a way of marginalizing young women who write essays?

Biss: That’s a really interesting question. For me it depends on the moment you catch me. I could’ve just as easily have given you a list of writers who have influenced me that would be heavier on the men. And every once in a while people ask me for a list and I provide one, and I realize it’s all authors who are men, and I feel a little chagrined about it. There are men in there for sure. James Baldwin is probably the biggest one. Orwell is, for me, less important. Hemingway was really important to me as a young writer.

Speaking of a “golden age,” I’d be reluctant to say there’s something fundamentally different about a woman essayist than a man essayist. But there have been times, historically, when it certainly wasn’t a golden age for women essayists. For example, I admire the work of Sei Shonagon, a tenth-century Japanese writer. But that wasn’t a great time or place to be a woman writer. There were a lot of barriers.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t barriers now. One of the things that I’ve been surprised by, actually, in the weeks since my book has come out, is how many of even the positive reviews are laced with sexism. That’s been a reminder to me that this world of writing is, in some ways, different for us women.

Rumpus: Is that on the record, what you just said?

Biss: Yes. I’m happy to say it because most of the reviews have been positive, so this isn’t sour grapes. It’s an observation. A number of the positive reviews have been quite sexist. I wrote about mothers, and I think we reserve a special kind of sexism for women who are mothers. I definitely saw that appearing in much of the coverage of the book.

The “hysterical mom” was the stereotype that was showing up in the reviews. I’m talking about fear and anxiety in my book, and talking about it through myself, so I necessarily showcase some of my own anxiety. But in certain reviews that showcasing of my anxiety is referred to in such a way that it makes me look very much like a hysterical woman.

Rumpus: Some of the emotions you express—your fears for your son’s well-being—are very moving. But it should be remembered, you did explore those emotions with years of research—and a book!

Biss: I’m focusing on my anxiety as part of a cultural critique, but all of that gets lost if a reader is so excited by the fact that a mother has fulfilled their sexist expectations of a mother that they can’t see any further into that moment in the text.

In trying to talk about fear and anxiety I’m coming close to a prejudice that people have about women, and once you get close to that, people cease to be able to see clearly, and the prejudice consumes whatever is happening on the page.

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15 Nov 02:39

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There are no Jack Kerouacs or Holden Caulfields for girls. Literary girls don’t take road-trips to find themselves; they take trips to find men.

"Great" books, as defined by the Western canon, didn’t contain female protagonists I could admire. In fact, they barely contained female protagonists at all.



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It’s Frustratingly Rare to Find a Novel About Women That’s Not About Love - Kelsey McKinney - The Atlantic (via okaywork)

MY FAVOURITE QUOTE I’ve been looking for it! I identify with this so much.

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