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21 Nov 19:30

If history repeats itself, Cosby’s legacy will be fine and his accusers forgotten

by Robyn Pennacchia
If history repeats itself, Cosby’s legacy will be fine and his accusers forgotten

If there is anything the internet loves to do, it is offer its opinion on what qualifies someone as a “real” rape victim.

“Real” rape victims, of course, always immediately report their rapes to the police, who are always extremely helpful and non-judgmental Olivia Benson-types. Their attackers–who can be clearly identified as bad-seeming people–have defensive wounds because the victim fought and fought to preserve her chastity–which was ideally perfectly intact prior to the incident. They were sober, of course.

If they don’t come forward to identify themselves, it’s because they’re hiding something, if they do, it’s because they want attention, delicious attention. And probably the imagined fabulous riches and major career boost that comes with outing oneself as a victim of rape. If only one victim comes forward it’s “well, if he was such a rapist, he probably wouldn’t have only raped that one woman.” If one victim comes out and then several others do, they’re just all making shit up in hopes of riding that sweet rape train to stardom.

It’s funny how people immediately assumed Janice Dickinson was lying. Janice Dickinson is a woman who has essentially built her reputation and personal identity on on being a bad-ass bitch. To come forward as a rape victim is to come forward as vulnerable–which is one of the hardest things about it. Think about that for a second. Do you think this is something she is enjoying?

Janice Dickinson, like Cosby’s many other accusers, had come forward about him before. It’s just, well, no one really gave a flying shit.  That’s usually the case, you know, when these things come out. Maybe people get angry for a bit, but usually that eventually subsides, and they forget. It is then only brought up by the evil feminists who just “won’t let anything go.”

Currently, many are furiously angry at the idea that poor, 70 year-old Bill Cosby’s legacy and career will be destroyed. Ostensibly by evil, selfish succubi, who will surely profit immensely off the destruction of this poor, innocent man’s life’s work.

Except, that’s not usually what happens. In fact, that is not what has ever happened, in the entire history of male celebrities being accused or convicted of rape or violence against women.

Even in the cases where the male celebrity actually went to jail? When they were actually convicted of a crime? It rarely affects their career or legacy.

Mike Tyson went to jail for raping Desiree Washington.

Tupac Shakur spent time in jail for orchestrating the gang rape of Ayanna Jackson.

Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary spent three months in jail for taking “sexual liberties” with a 14 year-old girl. He was later given an official Presidential pardon by Jimmy Carter!

Roman Polanski plead down to “unlawful sexual intercourse” with the then 13 year-old Samantha Geimer at the home of of Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston. He never went to jail, but he sure did win an Oscar, and pretty much every celebrity you know and love has come forward to defend him. By the way, he was also accused of sexually assaulting then 16 year-old English actress Charlotte Lewis.

People sometimes bring up Sean Penn’s arrest for domestic violence against Madonna. Surprise! This involved tying her to a chair, leaving there, and then refusing to untie her until she agreed to sexually service him.

Rob Lowe made a sex tape with a 16 year-old girl.

These are just some “confirmed” incidents. This is just the sexual assault. Tell me. Would you have known the names Desiree Washington or Ayanna Jackson if I didn’t just lay them out for you? Does it seem like these women achieved some glorious amount of fame for having accused a celebrity man of sexual assault? Are you aware that even though these men were convicted that their victims are still called liars?

Now onto the murkier stuff.

R. Kelly–somehow not convicted of sexually assaulting a 14 year-old girl despite their being video of it.

Ted Nugent adopted a teenage girl so he could legally have sex with her. He wrote a song called “Jailbait” in which he describes his lust for a 13 year-old girl. Also, in that song, he suggests to the cop arresting him that he use his handcuffs on her instead so they can both take turns on her. Courtney Love stated that when she was 12 years-old, she performed oral sex on Nugent, but she is, of course, definitely a liar. Nugent later went on to campaign for Mitt Romney, and has a plethora of conservative, “pro-family” admirers, like Sarah Palin and whatnot.

Jimmy Page essentially kidnapped 14 year-old Lori Maddox and kept her locked up at his place in order to essentially keep her as a sex-slave for a while.

Charlie Chaplin married 16 year-old Lita Grey in order to avoid being charged with statutory rape.

John Phillips raped his own daughter.

Woody Allen.

Darren Sharper.

CeeLo Green.

Zsa Zsa Gabor accused Frank Sinatra of raping her.

NFL star Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of rape by three separate women.

Kobe Bryant, accused of rape and according to one sportscaster, it gave him “sizzle” and actually improved his reputation.

Errol Flynn was accused of statutory rape by two underage girls. During a much publicized trial, a group of prominent men, including William F. Buckley, Jr, formed “The American Boys Club for the Defense of Errol Flynn.” He was acquitted, and it is thought that this trial actually helped revive his career rather than destroy it. You have probably never heard the names Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee.

William Kennedy Smith, of the illustrious Kennedy family, was accused of rape by Patricia Bowman and found “not guilty” after a rather suspect trial. Her name was dragged through the mud, she was called a social climber and a slut, and he got away with it.

To boot, there are male celebrities with serious domestic violence charges whose career and legacy were not hampered in the slightest by beating the crap out of women.

John Lennon, Bill Murray, Axl Rose. Tommy Lee, Michael Fassbender, Chris Brown, Jackson Browne, Dr. Dre, Glen Campbell knocked out Tanya Tucker’s teeth, Joe Dimaggio beat Marilyn Monroe, Miles Davis abused Cicely Tyson for years, Norman Mailer stabbed his wife at least twice in front of a large group of people.

No one really gave a shit about the horrific abuse Phil Spector inflicted on Ronnie Spector until he actually managed to kill someone.

Charlie Sheen, Dennis Rodman, Nicolas Cage, Gary Oldman, Christian Bale, Steven Seagall, Mickey Rourke, James Brown, Christian Slater, Pablo Picasso, Eminem.

I can only think of one male celebrity whose legacy has at all been hampered by domestic violence, and that is, of course, Ike Turner. Took long enough, though.

I could probably go on for much longer than I’d like.

The point is, a crime against a woman is not a crime punishable by losing your career in this country. Pretty much all of these men have done just fine after sexually or physically assaulting a woman. Unless the victims were celebrities themselves, they have been largely forgotten–their short time in the “sun” having largely consisted of being slut-shamed, called a liar, and told they were just looking for “attention” and “money.”

So, hey. If you want, tell me the story of a woman whose career and life has benefited from accusing a major public figure of rape, or statutory rape, or sexual assault, or sexual harassment. I’d be really interested in hearing it. Then, I will be happy to tell you all about how only 3% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail, and you can explain to me what that you are so much less hung up on that than you are on your unfounded theories that the women who accuse public figures of rape are always “lying to get attention.” I think it will be a lovely conversation.

I get it. We think so little of women in general and so very much of these male celebrities, that it is either more comfortable to forget or to believe that they are only in it for the “attention” and the “money.” Because after all, that’s all women want anyway, right? At least the evil kind, the kind who would try to take all your nice memories of Bill Cosby away for their own avaricious gain. Because a few think pieces here and there are worth your dignity, your privacy and your entire reputation.

Coming forward about this kind of thing is not an easy thing to do. It is not a fun thing to do. It does not result in fame or fortune. It results in being called a slut, a liar who just wants attention, a greedy whore, a vindictive bitch, crazy, or a just conniving hussy out to ruin some poor man’s life because he didn’t call her back, or just for shits and giggles. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a poor time to me.

**Would just like to issue a special thank you to everyone on the Facebook thread that inspired this post!**

21 Nov 16:02

How the Web Was Won

by Matt Buchanan

The Web is a Millennial. It was first proposed twenty-five years ago, in 1989. Six years later, Netscape’s I.P.O. kicked off the Silicon Valley circus. When the Web was brand new, many computer-savvy people despised it—compared to other hypertext-publishing systems, it was a primitive technology. For example, you could link from your Web page to any other page, but you couldn’t know when someone linked to your Web page. Nor did the Web allow you to edit pages in your browser. To élite hypertext thinkers and programmers, these were serious flaws.

— Paul Ford on the history of the Web and HTML5, the “markup we deserve”

17 Nov 10:05

There’s A Hotel In Brussels That Lets You Sleep In Your Favorite Pantone Colors

by Low Lai Chow

In Brussels, there’s actually the Pantone Hotel, which offers eyepopping colorful sleeps starting from just 179€ ($223) a night. You can crash in a room with any one of seven color palettes offered by the hotel. Each color scheme swallows up one entire floor.

Opened in 2010 and designed by Michel Penneman and Olivier Hannaert, the boutique hotel is the architectural extension of the Pantone Universe line that includes modestly-sized lifestyle products like watches and storage boxes.

The colorful treatment comes down to even the smallest details, such as snaps by photographer Victor Levy that are suitably hued to match the room’s color scheme and Pantone coffee mugs. As one reviewer wryly noted on TripAdvisor, “it feels like you’re inside a 12-year-old’s pencil case” and “there’s nothing quite like wiping yourself with fluorescent orange 2 ply (toilet paper)“.

Colored pajamas not included – so bring your own to unlock the room’s hide and seek feature.

More info: pantonehotel.com (h/t: fastcodesign.com)

pantone-hotel-brussels-1

 

18 Nov 17:45

German town pranks neo-Nazis, ruins their parade

by Alex Moore
German town pranks neo-Nazis, ruins their parade

Every year for the past few decades in the small town of Wunsiedel, neo-Nazis have convened to hold an annual march for their cause much to the town’s chagrin. The location was selected by neo-Nazis because it was the burial spot of Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess, and hundreds of Germans from all over the country descend on Wunsiedel to hold their Nazi march every year.

This year, however, the town fought back.

Before the march, local businesses and residents got together and decided to turn the Nazi march into an anti-Nazi charity walkathon: They’d sponsor the the marchers, and for every meter they walked the town would donate about $20 to a charity called EXIT Deutschland, an anti-extremism non-profit that helps people transition out of neo-Nazism and other hate groups.

The town let the parade proceed as planned, but instead of keeping their distance like they’d done in the past, they greeted the marchers with rainbow confetti, banners for EXIT Deutschland, and markers painted along the parade route letting marchers know how much they’d raised for the anti-Nazi charity by marching.

 German town pranks neo Nazis, ruins their parade

The neo-Nazis were completely caught off guard—you can see their deer-in-headlights expression in the Washington Post video below. But instead of calling the whole thing off mid-march they completed the parade route with somber expressions and in the end wound up raising nearly $50,000 for EXIT Deutschland.

Suckers. It might just be the greatest Nazi troll in history.

17 Nov 11:00

News: Artist on Artist: Beaches vs Little Ugly Girls

by Mess+Noise

Artist on Artist: Beaches vs Little Ugly Girls

Ahead of sharing the stage at Chapterfest 22, ANTONIA SELLBACH (Beaches, Love of Diagrams) and LINDA JOHNSTON (pictured) of cult Tasmanian band Little Ugly Girls discuss musical catharsis, a feminine voice, developing a stage persona and much more. Photo by ROBERT CARBONE.

Linda: “I shall speak about women’s writing: about what it will do. Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing ... Woman must put herself into the text – as into the world and into history – by her own movement.” – Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa

I’ve been listening to Beaches’ second album She Beats, and these descriptions come to mind: sonic/swirl, seductive, energising, hypnotic. And to my ears your music emanates a strong feminine quality. The Cixous quote is in reference to the idea of Écriture feminine (women writing), a feminist philosophy that stresses the importance of writing purposefully to create a new language that is able to describe female experiences. Although she is referring to literature, I think her ideas translate to writing music, both lyrically and in terms of form and structure.

Do you think there are male rock ‘n’ roll tropes that your bands deliberately avoids? Is there a discourse in your bands about these ideas when you write?

Antonia: I really like that Cixous quote. I think maintaining a female voice is important. We need to get better at historicising female voices and making sure that we are heard. Yet alongside this, I also quite like the idea of freeing language to the point where we can allow qualities to ‘just be’.

The qualities you mention are also qualities I can hear with Beaches. I don’t think we deliberately set out to have these qualities, it was more a case of them emerging and then we fostered the ones we found most interesting. If there was one thing that I was consciously aware of with She Beats, it was that I wanted it to be immersive and I wanted it to sound powerful. I don’t want to sound like a pushover. Yet although I see a power in representing our femininity and selves in way that is real and not prescribed, I also don’t think of gender as something that must always define us.

When discussing gender and music making, I have noticed that gender can often mean ‘everything and nothing’ all at once. I think this is an important point – we need to allow the issue of gender to be everything (I am female; there are experiences unique to my gender that are important and will always inform my practice) and also nothing (music can sometimes be so abstract that it frees us from the boundaries of gender and opens up a world of humanness existing outside of gender). I oscillate between these views and whilst polar opposites in many ways, they can also inform each other and provide a healthy standpoint. Perhaps this makes things complicated to speak about, but it also makes things interesting.’'Everything and nothing’, all at once. I like the plasticity of that idea.

My first question for you: I started watching Little Ugly Girls in Hobart in the late ’90s and also caught your last shows in Melbourne in the early 2000s. I found your band hugely inspiring. As a younger woman, watching you perform made me feel like I could do it too. You seemed to draw on something – perhaps personal, perhaps external (I am not sure) – that appeared immensely cathartic. Having been in the audience, I can say it was cathartic for us too.

As a performer you have a really wild, amazing, strong and quite forward female presence. How did this evolve for you? Was it a reaction to dealing with the dynamic between performer/audience? Was it thought out or did it emerge intuitively? What are your thoughts on catharsis as an element of performance?

Linda: It’s a heartfelt pleasure to know that people have been inspired or emboldened by my music. It gives me a feeling of becoming part of an artistic history of which I am proud.

My first appearance on stage singing was as a teenager playing the part of Columbia from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and while this may induce cringing, her character embodied a wild unruly sexuality that I realised was incredible fun to play and held people captive. Around the same time, watching R-rated films on my black-and-white TV late at night in my room, I saw Glenda Jackson playing Tchaikovsky’s spurned wife driven to insanity in Ken Russell’s film The Music Lovers. Glenda Jackson oozed a crazed energy that I thought was brilliant. I’m lounging in the gold velour beanbags at home in 1980 when David Byrne sang/spoke “This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife” and danced those peculiar jarring gestures; I thought it was unnerving, unsettling and its irregularity intrigued me. On Countdown in 1979, I watched Chrissie Amphlett performing “I am just a red brassiere for all the boys in town”, with her neon pole mic stand and her stripper school uniform and I thought she was tough, slutty and awesome.

Fast forward 10 years. By the time LUGs formed in the early ’90s, I’d accrued considerable anger and sadness, growing up in a shitty small town surrounded by dysfunctional people in destructive relationships. By the time I started performing with LUGs I already had stage confidence. I worked as a professional actor in a theatre company for a year and I’d done various amateur things, so it was never a big deal to sing on stage. So I had my inspirations, confidence, buckets of anger, and all I had to do was deliver that energy. I had a formidable band which drew that energy from me. I’m never free from consciousness of being on stage, so there is always a stage persona. I think mine evolved from combinations; there are the influences you consciously choose but I’m sure there are people and events that are unknowing, festering in your subconscious. Sometimes writing songs illuminates your subconscious, revealing yourself to yourself. There is also my attitude towards performance, and that is I take it seriously and I feel a responsibility on stage to be true and generous to the audience.

There was a period in Hobart with LUGs I really didn’t enjoy and I developed a cold and tough stage persona that was combative because our music caused a frenzy that was too aggressive for me. It was really upsetting for me to make music that caused such a violent reaction. (No fun getting the microphone constantly smashed into your mouth.) It may have be that my own cathartic expression had manifested to something that repelled me. Perhaps my own anger was being reflected back. Growing pains!

The songs LUGs perform now were written in the late ’90s and later, and much of the vitriol of earlier years was lost. These songs are more poetic expressions which allow for the exuberance I feel when performing these days.

In the mid-’90s I discovered the RE/Search series Angry Women and Angry Women in Rock, which became my bible. In one interview with Diamanda Galas, she says that when she performs she sings for the gods, and I believe that you don’t need to be an opera singer to share this ethos. Writing and performing for me was without a doubt hugely cathartic and I’m fortunate I was given the chance to pursue this avenue (Thanks LUGs). I was proof that the personal is political, purging the hurt and anger I’d experienced and voicing the injustices and suffering of others I had witnessed. It became a compounding element in my life. It built my confidence, it fed my work (at art school), encouraged my political activities and gave me a sense of belonging within the music community.

I don’t think all catharsis in music is going to be something enjoyable, palatable or entertaining, but I would rather see something shocking than something trite and fake. And if someone howling or ranting on stage saves them from self-destructing, then more power to them. I think catharsis is one thing and self-indulgence another. We seem to suffer and tolerate the latter more often than not. It’s even encouraged as talent. Catharsis, on the other hand, has the potential to be shared. It can reveal overwhelming, powerful emotions that we all experience: anger, confusion, regret, embarrassment, mania, fear, sorrow. Cathartic expression is shared when their is courage in vulnerability. Saudade, the Portuguese songs of longing, loss and sorrow are to me a form of beautiful catharsis. I’d love to write a song that makes people cry.

Here’s my next question for you: I’ve been reading your blogs, listening to your bands and looking at your fantastic paintings ... Thanks Antonia, it’s been great cyber-stalking you! I can see that you are incredibly busy, tour extensively, write blogs and are generally hard-working and self-motivated. I read that you were a grant writer and have been an assessor on the Australia Council Music Board. I was wondering: in all your travels, have you experienced any positive cultural differences in the way bands are perceived or supported? Are you aware of governmental support in any overseas countries that facilitate bands in different ways than Australia?

Melbourne is a fantastic mecca for music and yet we all know it’s difficult to survive financially from a musician’s income. Given the world access the internet provides, do you think self-motivation and imagination are the only barriers to creating a sustainable life playing music?

Antonia: Touring in America, I’ve found people to be fascinated that there are funding bodies that give out grants in Australia. Nothing like that exists for them. Perhaps though, on the flipside, bands coming to Australia from overseas have a kind of ‘cultural currency’ that allow them to charge more for ticket sales and that enables them to successfully tour in a way that Australian bands overseas would really struggle to do. In Australia we seem to view bands from overseas as existing almost in another category than our own ... we raise them up, admire them and generally we will also pay a lot to see them. So it’s not exactly a level playing field – just different.

You get to have a peek into other scenes as you travel and at first I expected everywhere I went to have really robust, comparable music scenes to Australia. Some places do: our friend Allison Woolfe (Bratmobile, Partyline) introduced us to the whole D.C. scene when we first started touring around the US in the mid-2000s. There is a pretty amazing history to D.C.: the influx of musicians coming in from Portland and Olympia in the ’90s and the new bands that were created, riot grrrl in general, the Dischord label ... That specific track of history is palpable but more importantly also still active when you go there to play. We felt instantly accepted there and have made great lifelong friends there. Touring has also made me really appreciate the strength of the music that we have locally. I haven’t come close to seeing anything quite like what we have in Australia elsewhere, but perhaps that partially has something to do with only glimpsing small bits of scenes that you travel through at any time.

RE: self-motivation and imagination, those qualities are important but it is damn hard to make money out of music. I only really know how to make the music that I make and I am aware that it is probably not particularly commercially appealing. I’ve been inspired by the self-taught/‘DIY attitude’ of bands like Siousxie and the Banshees, The Slits, The Raincoats, Young Marble Giants, Pylon etc., whose singers have a powerful but slightly unpolished type of discordance. Perhaps this forever locates us on the border, the outskirts, but this sense of minority also locates us within an underground that we identify with and love. It also means we largely exist outside of the world of commercial viability/marketability/money-making, so rather than make a living solely out of music, I aim for the bands that I am in to maintain their own financial independence. That way the money we make is fed back into the band and we are able to do most of what we want whilst also maintaining creative and financial control.

OK, last question. It has been so great chatting with you, Linda. I feel like some of the stuff we’ve talked about doesn’t get spoken of that much and it’s rad we are having this conversation. It’s so amazing to read about how your stage ‘persona’ formed over time. I also really identify with your thoughts on catharsis, strength and vulnerability. I know for me, playing live has been a massive outlet for anger, confusion, sadness, anxiety/nervous energy ... it’s been really integral to my health.

Have you ever gone for stretches of time where you don’t play music? Or is music something that you can’t ‘live without’? Also, I’m so excited that Chapter are finally going to release the album. I’ve waited so many years!! When can we expect it?

Linda: I’ve loved talking to you too, and especially since we’re both from Tassie and still playing music now in Melbourne. We share lots of ideas and attitudes. Thank you! As we used to say in Hobart ... “not scared.” Looking forward to seeing you and Beaches at the gig on the 22nd.

There was a time I didn’t play or write and eventually I became quite lost and agitated. From memory, LUGs disbanded in 2002, and for the next three years I just held down a 9-to-5 job, drank a lot and yelled at talking heads on the TV. Eventually I figured out that singing is a vital force for me, a pressure-valve release on many levels.

I’d only ever written lyrics and melody so I was not confident in writing songs alone. Bean [Johnston, her brother] went off and formed a new fantastic band Keith’s Yard, so I lost my main writing partner. As time passed and drinking increased, my confidence waned. Eventually I hired a piano and took lessons, which I really loved. Sloth and I started a project called Oko Yono, which was a new approach to writing and from memory pretty cool, but circumstances meant that it didn’t come to fruition.

I know much of my identity was attached to being a singer in a band, and without it I was floundering. Perhaps there is a “well balanced” school of thought that thinks that unhealthy but my solution is to just find a way to sing. It’s part of our culture that if something doesn’t reward you financially then it’s relegated to hobby status. Music is not my hobby. I have hobbies and they are very relaxing. Writing and playing music is not relaxing.

I was temporarily saved by Legends of Motorsport, who asked me to write with them and record a song in 2002. It was released on their Beef With Cheese album. That was actually a big deal for me because I flew to Sydney and recorded with Jonathan Burnside, which was a big confidence boost. Initially I felt fairly intimidated, having previously very little experience in the studio, but I nailed it. What this whole period taught me was I needed to build on my abilities; so I started playing guitar. Bean was keen to play drums. We were both novices on our instruments and I have to say that jamming in those early months of The Dacios was the best fun I’d ever had writing music. I haven’t been playing live as much in the last year, but The Dacios have started recording another album, which we’ll launch next year.

The Little Ugly Girls’ long, long lost album is in the process of being retrieved. The unmixed songs were lost many years ago when a computer containing them crashed. Recently Sloth had them recovered; however, there is a mammoth task of wading through 7000 unnamed files to piece the songs back together. I think there are going to be many nights spent together for this project! I’m not sure how complex this task is going to be, so I’m unsure of a timeframe – the aim is to release the album next year on Chapter Music.

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Beaches and Little Ugly Girls will both play at Chapterfest 22 this Saturday (Nov 22) at Queen Victoria Markets as part of Melbourne Music Week, along with Laura Jean, Pikelet, Minimum Chips and The Backstabbers. It runs from midday to 5pm, with tickets here. Beaches’ latest album is last year’s ‘She Beats’; read Steph Kretowicz’s review. Check out Robert Carbone’s photo gallery of Little Ugly Girls playing at The Tote for the venue’s 30th anniversary celebration in 2011.

18 Nov 02:02

First Contact Is One Of The Most Important Australian TV Shows Of The Year

by Chad Parkhill

How much contact have you personally had with Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Australian culture? If you’re anything like six out of ten Australians – the majority of us – the answer is little to none.

This lack of contact between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia is not only a shame for non-Indigenous Australians, who know little about the world’s oldest continuous culture, but it also helps contribute to a pattern of cultural relationships that oppresses Indigenous people. That oppression, in turn, has real material effects on Indigenous people around Australia, who experience higher rates of infant mortality, illiteracy and innumeracy, unemployment, and have shorter life expectancies than their non-Indigenous peers – in addition to having to bear the brunt of the misconceptions and out-and-out racism fostered by this lack of cross-cultural communication. Clearly, if we are serious about closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, part of the solution is to familiarise non-Indigenous Australians with Indigenous people and Indigenous culture.

SBS’s new three-part reality series First Contact – which premieres at 8:30pm this evening on SBS ONE and NITV – takes six Australians who have had little to no prior contact with Indigenous culture or Indigenous people on a remarkable road trip around the country. The six participants are tested in extraordinary situations, and they find their beliefs about Indigenous people and culture radically reshaped as they come face-to-face with the beauty of Indigenous Australia, the tragedy of its post-1770 history, and the lived effects of Australia’s racial  inequality in the present day. Hosted by Ray Martin and narrated by Hugo Weaving, the result is a television series that is both powerful and confronting.

We spoke to Darren Dale, producer of First Contact, and Bo-Dene, one of the show’s participants.

Darren Dale, producer

Junkee: What was the genesis of First Contact, and how did it develop from that point?

Darren Dale: It all started when we made First Australians, which was a historical documentary series, and some other films for SBS. But really the starting point was: how do you make something that will engage an audience about Indigenous issues? And how do we do something that will get a new audience, not just speak to the people we’ve spoken to before. So we did some research and we came across the fact that six out of ten Australians have had little to no contact with Indigenous people. And we thought, that’s such a simple idea, but a really great idea to test – to get six Australians who had little to no contact and take them to meet and see Aboriginal people, and immerse themselves in Aboriginal people’s lives.

The six participants represent a real diversity of opinions – it’s not just six people who are ignorant of Indigenous Australia, but people with loads of different preconceptions. You’ve got people, for example, who really fetishise and idealise Indigenous culture, which they can do precisely because they haven’t had prior contact.

DD: Having that diversity in the group – like having Bo-Dene, who’s 25 years old – was important, because that will also represent what people at home think. So the idea behind the show, really, is that you can identify with the participants – you can go, ‘Oh, I thought that!’ or ‘Don’t Aboriginal people get more welfare than we get?’ So what we wanted was that people could confront some of their own misguided stereotypes about Aboriginal people from the comfort of their own lounge room. And they can engage with those stereotypes. There are a lot of misconceptions about Aboriginal people, and lots of misinformation, too.

Having Alice on the show is interesting, too – she appears to be so progressive, so politically correct, and so on board with Indigenous identity. But the experiences she has on the road are actually quite confronting.

DD: The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is fuelled by many different things, isn’t it? It’s not just that people don’t know, or that people are ignorant, or that people have misinformation. Alice is someone at the other end of the spectrum, who has bookish knowledge: she knows about blackfellas, she identifies with them, but actually the reality on the ground is very different.

So I think with all those views – from having ignorance to feeling an affinity with Aboriginal people – there’s something for us to learn through having that human contact.

Nyinyikay_megwhite-27

First Contact comes at a pretty interesting time, in terms the push for Indigenous recognition in the constitution, and less welcome news such as the number of Indigenous deaths in custody recently, in Western Australia. What do you think First Contact has to say to these current issues?

DD: There’s a conversation that needs to be had, and I think that conversation absolutely involves Aboriginal people as well. As a nation, we have an appetite to engage with Indigenous people – a friend of mine says that our nation has reached maturity and is entering its twenties, euphemistically speaking. It’s grown up, the terrible teens are now over, and we can start to engage with these pertinent issues.

In that conversation, there are lots of Aboriginal people looking for different ways to go forward. So I think it is a really interesting time for us as a country to address Indigenous issues, but a lot of that conversation is taking place amongst Indigenous people themselves: trying to take responsibility for issues that are in our community, and trying to move ahead with those.

Say you are one of those six out of ten Australians who have had little or no contact with Indigenous Australians – what kind of practical actions might you do to overcome that?

DD: I think, as Australians, it would great if we could get to the point where we see Indigenous culture as all Australian’s cultural inheritance. It isn’t just for Aboriginal people; we’re all Australians.

In New Zealand, for instance, lots of people know Māori language, lots of people know Māori culture. It would be great if we could see that Indigenous culture and Indigenous people are part of our nation’s rich cultural inheritance, as opposed to seeing it as just a black and a white culture.

Bo-Dene, participant

Bo-Dene

Junkee: Why did you sign up for First Contact, and how did you find out about it?

Bo-Dene: When I first saw the notice for the show, I wasn’t aware that it would involve Aboriginal Australia – it was just advertising a road trip. Then when I found out that it would involve going to Aboriginal communities, I thought, ‘Wow, this is an amazing opportunity’ – I’d never had the chance to do anything like that before.

It’s interesting that you saw it as an opportunity, because at the very start of the series there is some footage of you saying some relatively unkind things about Indigenous Australians, like “Aboriginal people saying that they’re disadvantaged compared to other people and that they need extra help is crap”. What was your thought process going from feeling that way, to deciding that you’d like to experience Indigenous Australia?

BD: I think that when I watch the series back I’m going to be a bit shocked at some of the things I said, because they were very ignorant views. I wouldn’t classify myself as a racist, it’s just that, growing up, I always had negative views about Aboriginal people. That annoyed me in the sense that I hadn’t had much interaction with them, so my views were pretty unfounded – shaped by people around me and the media, I guess. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some first-hand experience – living with Aboriginal people and learning about their traditions.

I have a lot of friends from overseas, and that made me realise that I just wasn’t happy with my view of Aboriginal people – I had a really negative view of them.

How do you think the trip changed those views?

BD: Living with so many different families taught me that Aboriginal people are very much like everybody else – I guess I was really thinking there would be a divide. It’s weird that there were so many things I could relate to with a lot of the people I met. There’s a lot of issues that Aboriginal people face that mainstream Australia wouldn’t understand, and you wouldn’t even begin to start the thought processes about why that’s happening unless you got the opportunity to have the amazing experience we did.

In Fitzroy Crossing, we met June [Oscar] and Emily [Carter] – they started an alcohol ban in that community, it was the first in Australia. I think meeting people like that, who are actually trying to change the bad cycles that are happening in Aboriginal communities, was amazing. Fitzroy Crossing really started to change my opinion of Aboriginal people from what I was thinking prior to the trip – it was amazing, and those ladies showed so much determination for the community.

FirstContact.MR-1332

What was the most difficult part of your First Contact experience?

BD: For me, the hardest part was when we went to Elcho Island. That was really upsetting, because I didn’t think that places like that could exist in Australia. I was born in Ipswich and then moved to Melbourne – I think I just always assumed that Australia was nice everywhere.

The first night we stayed in Elcho Island was so scary, it was the worst night of my life – the houses, the way it was so isolated from everything. It was so confronting to think that Aboriginal people can live in a community like that and no-one … well, personally, I’d never even heard of Elcho Island before the trip.

Now that you’ve done this trip, and had this life-changing experience, how do you personally plan to maintain that engagement with Indigenous Australia?

I would love to go back to the communities again to work, because I made some really good friends on the trip. Fitzroy Crossing was amazing with the work they’re doing there, and I hope some of the other communities we visited before that can take some advice from places like that, which are really starting to turn around. I’d love to help out in those communities again.

The first episode of First Contact screens tonight (Tuesday 18 November) at 8:30 on SBS ONE and NITV, and replays on SBS 2 at 9:30. Episodes two and three will screen on Wednesday 19 November and Thursday 20 November.

Chad Parkhill is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. He has written for The Australian, Kill Your Darlings, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin, The Quietus, and Spook. He tweets at @ChadParkhill.

17 Nov 14:57

Russian Miner Spends His Breaks Taking Photos Of Foxes In The Arctic Circle

by Skirmantė

Russia’s remote north-eastern Chukotka region is an inhospitable arctic tundra, but even in this brutal landscape, Russian photographer Ivan Kislov can find beautiful signs of life among the foxes that live and hunt here in the wild. He agreed to talk to Bored Panda and tell us more about his amazing photos.

Kislov, who lives in the north-eastern port city of Magadan, works in Chukotka as a mining engineer. When he has time during his long shifts, he looks to photography for “relaxation from routine.” He likes to go on “hikes to inaccessible places, raftings,” or just simple walking tours to “observe the wildlife.

Though he takes pictures of everything from bears and reindeer to wolves and stoats, Kislov says the foxes are often very willing models: “Foxes are curious and can come very close, and I shoot with wide angle and telephoto lenses.

More info: ivankislov.ru | 500px | Facebook

 

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We’d like to thank Ivan Kislov for talking to Bored Panda about his work and letting us use his photos. Good luck taking more amazing photos!

15 Nov 06:19

Karl Stefanovic Has Worn the Same Suit Every Day for a Year Because Sexism

by Meg Watson

For more stories like this, Like Junkee on Facebook.

Karl Stefanovic is a lot of things. He’s a manchild with an acute sensitivity to sexual puns. He’s one of the few people in the world to tell the Dalai Lama a joke. He’s a true blue hero who doesn’t mind going on air after a few bevvies, a totally hilarious prankster, and one of the nation’s few professional cat journalists. But now we can add one more line to his already stellar CV — Karl Stefanovic is a feminist.

Seriously.

According to a report from The AgeKarl has spent the last 12 months of his life dedicated to a super secret mission to expose sexism in Australian society. Again — this is not a joke. After becoming frustrated with the superficial standards his female co-workers were held to in regards to the way they dress, Karl embarked on an experiment to test these standards on himself. He wore the same blue suit every day. First for a week, then for a month, then for a year.

A FUCKING YEAR.

“Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear,” Stefanovic told Fairfax. “I’ve worn the same suit on air for a year — except for a couple of times because of circumstance — to make a point [and] no one has noticed; no one gives a shit.”

The only people who knew about the experiment aside from Stefanovic were his co-host Lisa Wilkinson and Sunrise host Samantha Armytage — the women who seemed to inspire Karl to take up the cause. Both Wilkinson and Armytage have been the target of unfair criticism about their appearance in recent times. The latter even suffered a rough onslaught of bullshit from The Daily Telegraph for dressing in seemingly regular clothes while doing normal, everyday activities.

armytage

This just in: woman wears jeans and a jumper. #comfywomfygate

“I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour — on how I do my job, basically,” said Stefanovic. “Whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is … that’s [what I wanted to test].”

Now, it seems the test was well worth his time. Though men’s suits are admittedly more difficult to tell apart than the varied cuts and styles of women’s usual dress, he’s got a point. The fact no one noticed proves that no one really cares. And, while that’s totally fine — there’s no real reason we should care what the host of a daily news-peppered infomercial chooses to put on his body — that standard should be applied across the board.

And, though every sane person in the world knows this, it’s exciting to see the point coming from such a prominent figure in the mainstream media. As Clementine Ford said this week following the movements against the socially exiled Redfoo, and the actually exiled Julien Blanc, it seems more and more people are confidently speaking out against this kind of injustice.

Maybe all of Karl’s pranks have been insightful comments on contemporary Australia? Have we been missing something? Someone please decipher his point in the video below. Please. Someone. Give meaning to the world again.

For more stories like this, Like Junkee on Facebook.

05 Nov 05:11

Noel Pearson Gave One Of Australia’s Greatest Speeches In Honour Of Gough Whitlam Today

by Alex McKinnon

First thing’s first: all the footage in this article comes via the ABC. They filmed it, and they’re the reason you’re able to watch it. We just saw it and thought it was cool to share. Credit where credit is due.

Cate Blanchett’s tribute to Gough Whitlam, which she gave at his memorial service earlier today, has already gone viral, and for good reason: it was a fantastic speech that a lot of people have identified with. But immediately after Blanchett finished her tribute, lawyer, academic and Aboriginal lands rights activist Noel Pearson gave a tribute of his own, and it may genuinely be one of the greatest speeches ever heard in Australian public life.

Pearson has a great deal of influence with the government over policy-making on Aboriginal issues, and is a divisive and often controversial figure; last year he called for Aboriginal Australia to embrace mainstream Australian economic values, and his support for the 2007 Northern Territory intervention has drawn strong criticism from the likes of Labor NT Senator Nova Peris. The two are frequently at odds over issues like income management and government intervention in Aboriginal communities.

But people seem united in praise of Pearson’s speech today; Twitter is losing its mind even more than usual, and glowing tributes to Pearson’s glowing tribute are already starting to flow. Having watched it as it happened, I can testify: it was fucking magnificent.

Here’s an excerpt to give you an idea; reading it loses the power of Pearson’s voice, which is half the reason it’s such a great speech in the first place, but it gives you a jumping-off point.

“Thirty-eight years later, we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin’s Jewish insurgents ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding: ‘And what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?’

“Apart from Medibank? And the Trade Practices Act? Cutting tariff protections, and no-fault divorce, and the Family Law Act? The Australia Council? The Federal Court? The Order of Australia? Federal legal aid? The Racial Discrimination Act? Needs-based schools funding? The recognition of China? The abolition of conscription? The Law Reform Commission? Student financial assistance? The Heritage Commission? Non-discriminatory immigration rules? Community health clinics? Aboriginal land rights? Paid maternity leave for public servants? Lowering the minimum voting age to 18 years, and fair electoral boundaries and Senate representation for the Territories? 

“Apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us?”

Now watch that snippet,with Pearson’s voice and all, and you’ll get it.

The whole thing is below; it’s eighteen minutes long, but it is genuinely worth those eighteen minutes. There hasn’t been a speech like this in a really long time.

05 Nov 02:39

Cate Blanchett Made It SUPER Uncomfortable For Tony Abbott At Gough Whitlam’s Memorial Service

by Alex McKinnon

For more stories like this, Like Junkee on Facebook.

Cate Blanchett was invited to speak at Gough Whitlam’s memorial service at Sydney Town Hall earlier today. If the thinking was that she’d be a harmless, crowd-pleasing celebrity guest, old m8 Cate didn’t get the memo; she came out swinging but good. Right off the bat, she highlighted free education and healthcare as two of the things she wouldn’t have succeeded without, which most of the crowd loved and made for some pretty fantastic shots of various government ministers looking deeply unimpressed.

Here are some highlights from her intro:

“When I heard that Gough Whitlam had died, I was filled with an inordinate sadness, a great sorrow.

“The loss I felt came down to something very deep and very simple: I am the beneficiary of free tertiary education.

“When I went to university, I could explore different courses and engage with the student union in extra-curricular activities. It was through that that I discovered acting.

“I am the beneficiary of good, free healthcare that meant that the little I earned after tax and rent could go towards seeing shows, bands, and living inside my generation’s expression.

“I am the product of an Australia that engages with the globe, and engages honestly with its history and its Indigenous peoples.

“I am a small part of Australia’s coming of age, and so many of those initiatives were enacted when I was three.

Tony Abbott’s whole row just kind of sat awkwardly during that bit while everyone else clapped. It was great.

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Here’s how George Brandis looked during that bit about little healthcare bit, incidentally. He’s next to Bill Shorten, for some bizarre reason:

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Here are some other highlights from Blanchett’s speech, which was pretty killer all round:

 

“Speaking of exhausting, I am a working mother of three, and when I took on the role in Little Fish [in 2004] I had just my second child. no one batted an eyelid. No one passed judgment and no one deemed me incapable because the culture around women, and the right of women to work as equals in Australia had also been addressed significantly by Gough Whitlam.

“Before 1973, only widows were entitled to pensions, and thus the new benefit created choice for single mothers in how they raised their children, and began combating some of the stigmas surrounding single motherhood itself.

“He established the Family Court, a cornerstone reform, and in the Family Law Act of 1975, he made the space for fault-free divorce, which allowed women to exit from abusive relationships and re-engage with society with dignity and with equality.

“But there is so much to say, even from my own, small, tiny, irrelevant experience, that what I would actually love to do at this memorial is pretend to be Gough Whitlam for a minute. Don’t worry, I’m not going to imitate him. No-one could. 

“He said of his government: ‘In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be seen as remote from everyday life. Of all the objectives of my government, none had a higher priority than the encouragement of the arts; the preservation and enrichment of our cultural and intellectual heritage. Indeed, I would argue that all other objectives of a Labor government — social reform, justice and equity in the provision of welfare services and educational opportunities — have as their goal the creation of a society in which the arts and the appreciation of spiritual and intellectual values can flourish.

“‘Our other objectives are all means to an end. The enjoyment of the arts is an end in itself.’

“I was but three when he passed by, but I shall be grateful ’til the day I die.”

You can watch the speech in full here, courtesy of the ABC:

For more stories like this, Like Junkee on Facebook.

Feature image via ABC News/YouTube.

19 Sep 19:00

Hail Satan, Tonight: John Darnielle's Wolf in White Van

by Emily M. Keeler
by Emily M. Keeler

whitevan

When you punish a person for dreaming his dream

Don't expect him to thank or forgive you

The best ever death metal band out of Denton

Will in time both outpace and outlive you

Hail Satan!

Hail Satan tonight!

Hail Satan!
Hail hail!

-The Mountain Goats, Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton

Wolf in White Van is the first novel from the man who might've been the Poet Laureate of the United States of America, despite having only really written songs about lonely people and monsters. As the sole founder of the beloved indie folk band The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle is no stranger to touching people with his words—in The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones once called him “America's best non-hip-hop lyricist.”

In October 2012, a few thousand people signed a petition for the White House to bestow on him the same honors once held by Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mark Strand, and Louise Gluck. The power of Darnielle's lyrics are such that it's not hard to envision his name on the historic list of our most highly honored poets.

More than the lyricism of his work, Darnielle is known for the power of storytelling and myth-making in his songs, and has crafted characters that live on in the hearts of fans the world over. Consider, by way of example, Jeff and Cyrus, “a couple of guys who’d been friends since grade school,” who are the subjects of the first song on The Mountain Goat's 2002 album All Hail West Texas. Once you've heard the fuzzy, tape recorded voice of John Darnielle hissing “Hail Satan” over his single, forcefully strummed acoustic guitar a few dozen times, the hopes of young Jeff and Cyrus will become a part of you, no matter how you feel about pentagrams. As Martin Seay wrote in his recent article on the power of this one single song, for The Believer, “Here, as elsewhere, Darnielle’s angry, earnest, defiantly uncool project is to reclaim for awkward adolescence—which has no escape route, no better option than to stand its ground and reject what would assimilate it—the moral authority that is its rightful due.”

* * *

Wolf in White Van is a novel that unspools rather than reads. Told in a tricky, deftly structured reverse chronology, the narrator, Sean Phillips, backtracks to a traumatic teenaged event: the gun incident that sets him up for life as a dramatically disfigured recluse. As an adult, he participates in the world primarily as the master and inventor of an elaborate choose-your-own-adventure game, Trace Italian, that people play through the mail.

Sean's injury limits his ability to perform some tasks and he lives in chronic pain. His disfigurement is so severe that other people are intensely unnerved when they set sights on what is left of the face he was born with; at one point he walks by a group of young men in a liquor store parking lot. “People like me prefer teenagers to other people,” Sean narrates. “They are not afraid to stare.” One of the teens, across the expanse of the parking lot, lobs an opening conversational salvo: “Dude, your face.” In another scene, Sean is required to meet a group of people in an official capacity. He worries if the people he's required to meet with have been adequately prepared to behold his face: “[U]nless you work in the medical field somewhere, you can't really be prepared to meet me, I don't think. It is always a surprise.” Having suffered the injury at seventeen, Sean has been unemployable for the entirety of his adult life, and supplements his meagre insurance payout with the subscriptions he sells for his role-playing game.

Darneille has a masterful way of putting the reader in the position of reverse engineer. Sean's voice, which can turn toward the lyrical when he's relaying his impressionistic fantasies as a child of being an all powerful demon (a somewhat darker version, perhaps, of Maurice Sendak's Max among his Wildthings), initially seems reticent, private. We see the iceberg in the distance, and are permitted to work very slowly from the bracing surface down into his dark depths.

The official goal of Trace Italian is to get inside of a large fortress, the Trace, but no matter how optimal a strategy a player might devise, it takes thousands of moves to get even to the perimeter. The game has an almost infinite number of near-meaningless consequences; you may choose your moves and they will lead to more choices, more moves. Sometimes a player will make a choice that leads to a months-long detour, sometimes they will choose moves that streamline the journey. The game is a story that people pay to have a part in the telling of, an exercise more in narrative than agency.

The novel foregrounded a recent event in Sean's life: two teenagers tried to map the game onto the plane of real life. One turn presents two options: to lie in the cold overnight, or to press on and find shelter. The options seemed equally dangerous, and the teens write back to say they're choosing a third option of their own invention. They choose to dig. The move cannot be contained by the logic of the game. Sean has no previously devised outcome for the action. Not that it matters—the teens were out in a real field and they literally dug into the actual earth. It was a cold night, and one of them died. The other sustained cold-related injuries.

Sean is beside himself; he's initially unsure how to figure his role in the tragedy—the game, a work of art, had repercussions he could not have known or predicted. “Trying to express the feeling I had [when the one teen died] is like trying to describe what you see when your eyes are bandaged: it's not impossible, but it's different from describing something you can actually look at…It's trying to describe something at which you are unable to look directly.”

When the dead teen's family tries to sue, he sees for himself his lack of legal culpability; but Darnielle isn't quite making the same argument. In fact, he's just this side of asking a question: the experience of art, of music, narrative, can entangle so tantalizingly with a troubled consciousness…how can we separate art from feeling, feeling from action?

* * *

Just before Christmas in 1985, two teenage boys were somewhat drunk and slightly high when they decided to go to a park and shoot themselves in the face.

They had spent the afternoon listening to a Judas Priest's record, Stained Class. One of the boys, Ray Belknap, died immediately. His best friend, James Vance, survived pulling the trigger, slippery with Belknap's blood, of a twelve-gauge shotgun he had placed beneath his own chin. He decimated his jaw, tongue, and cheekbones. Part of his trachea imploded. But he lived.

As a lawyer would later point out in court, because his life didn't end, a lawsuit was made possible; the mothers of both Belkan and Vance went on to sue the members of Judas Priest, and CBS for distributing the material that Vance believed “mesmerized” the boys into a suicidal stupor, through subliminal messages embedded into the music.

The lawsuit was dismissed in August 1990 after only two weeks in court. In Dream Deceivers, a documentary that follows the high profile trial, filmmaker David Van Taylor has several brief interviews with Vance. The footage is hard to watch; Vance's face is a grotesque image of human frailty—his eyes seem recessed into a haphazard slap of putty, his nose an asymmetrical bulb that clearly balloons into his field of vision. He has no lips. He looks like a caricature of a ghoul, the uneven features of an incongruous puppet animated by alarmingly human eyes. Looking at him, it is impossible not to be aware that you are looking directly at pain.

“People don't know what it's like to have to open your whole life after you've had a horrible experience like this,” Vance says into the camera. It's not clear if he's talking about his life being opened as a byproduct of the sensational nature of the case, or if he means simply that his life was just getting started—he was 19 years old on the day he watched his friend die, shortly before he ruined his own life. “The music,” he tells us, “was just beautiful. We would get power from it, and our emotions would just soar with the music.”

Vance died from a methadone overdose just before the case went to court, though it was statements taken from his three depositions which formed the backbone of his family's case against Judas Priest. He said he believed both he and his friend were acting under the influence of alcohol and coded messages in the music on Stained Class. Vance and Balknap both experienced plenty of pain before they came to heavy metal—each had survived a childhood colored by having at least one addict parent, abuse, and restrictive, born-again Christian ideologies.

In the documentary, one Judas Priest fan wonders if heavy metal only draws fuck-ups. In the courtroom, Vivian Lynch, representing the family of Jay Vance, says that heavy metal—not the gritty, unstable, traumatic conditions of each boy's life—was to blame for the suicide. “Following the defence’s logic,” she argues, “I should have killed myself ten times over.” Her personal history of escaping an abusive relative, growing up in an orphanage on Long Island, being stabbed in the back while she was several months pregnant, made it into her court room remarks. She survived all this, she survived to tell her story.

* * *

John Darnielle is a writer and musician who distills so beautifully the alienation that comes with deep feeling. Fans and critics love him for the simplicity and inventiveness he brings to buildng a bridge across the traumatic chasm of being alive. He can make the psychic rupture of a divorce into a drinking dirge, and he can imbue Jimi Hendix's tragic death with the special pathos of the banal. And he is the man who wrote and recorded the album that enables me, whenever I listen to it, to open a window on the most painful part of my life; he is the man who graced my life with The Sunset Tree, and so he is the man who let the air in.

Darneille's music touches people—his fans are especially ardent. They create Tumblrs, crowd-sourced lyric sheets, longstanding discussion forums. They get lonely together and at shows they act as though they've been found. Over his decades-long career, which he began by making low-fi tapes in a bathroom, he's sung songs about troubled kids starting death metal bands, Remus and Romulan, golden boy peanuts, wolves and mythical creatures. He sings about abandon and abandonment—his is an art that spins pain into gold.

It's Darnielle's particular facility with narrative and language that draws me, and, I imagine, so many others, to his work. Like many of the Mountain Goats albums, The Sunset Tree is populated with characters, and it tells a story. This one is about a child growing up with an abusive, alcoholic parent. It's a story I know well enough, myself, having survived, just barely, my own stepfather's alcoholic rage. One of the reasons I've become, over the years, so invested in narrative is because the story of what happened to me is so overwhelming and frightening that I have trouble remembering that I outlived it.

A promise in the spare liner notes of The Sunset Tree: “you are going to make it out of there alive/ you will live to tell your story.” Read in a certain mood, it feels like a threat rather than a reason to hang one's hope on.

* * *

When I was a child, I wanted to die. And with some frequency, I almost did.

When I was six I drowned myself on a public beach, rescued at the last minute by a life guard who pulled me to shore on a boogie board. I nearly choked to death at eight, and it would have been the end of me had my step-father not hoisted me up just under my ribs, dislodging what might have been a very fateful piece of shake-n-baked chicken. At 11 I would lie awake at night, wondering if there was enough Tylenol in the bathroom to take care of this whole business of being alive. Or I would imagine what it would be like to slit my wrists, wonder if I would have enough time and wherewithal to use some of my own blood to leave a message behind on the wall. So tacky, but I was young enough, I suppose, to be entirely unconcerned with the matter of good taste; I wanted to make a exit, sure, but I knew nothing about grace.

* * *

There is a theory that the self is the story one tells about their life, that the soul more or less unfolds according to narrative. Traumatic wounds transform the person who experiences them, but it's through narrative that we begin to piece back together something resembling a life.

The Sunset Tree tells a story of a kid who is made into a monster by the abuse he's suffered at the hands of his alcoholic step-father. But for some details, this is my story too. At the end of the record, both the kid and the step-father find some kind of fledgling peace. But in the tumultuous middle, Darnielle cites references as diverse as the myth of Rome's founding and the fatally collapsed lung of reggae legend Dennis Brown. In appropriating so many imagined worlds into one story about an oringinary trauma, Darnielle manages to transform the isolation of abuse into a greater sense of connectivity; simply put, you may feel alone with your troubles, and perhaps you are, but that extraordinary amount of feeling is a source of power. The intensity of your suffering can be understood, can be touched, by someone else, in fact might tie you to the pantheon of legendary, even mythical survivors.

The narrator that carries through The Sunset Tree is made into a fractal assemblage of a whole world-history of suffering—and the listener, or this one, anyhow, gets to feel the thrill of becoming part of a larger cosmos. To have known trauma is to have known that the world has never imposed order on chaos; humans are the sense-making animal, but we only fool ourselves in thinking there is any sense to be made. Our nature is hinged on a cosmic contradiction: we tell ourselves stories in order to live, goes the oft-cited Didion quotation. But to be alive is nothing like a story.

* * *

Speaking in Sean's voice, in Wolf in White Van, Darnielle puts it like this:

“It's hard to overstate how deep the need can get for things to make sense.”

And like this:

“It is a little strange to me, to be defending something that was supposed to have been a place where nothing ever really happens except inside our heads.”

* * *

Trace Italian, the game with near-infinite moves and elaborate imagined terrain, is the story within the story of Wolf in White Van. It mirrors life in a few crucial ways: the expression of a player's agency within the game is simultaneously the best part of it, and a total illusion. All the outcomes are predetermined; “There are only two stories: either you go forward or you die. But it's very hard to die, because all the turns pointing that way open up onto new ones, and you have to make the wrong choice enough times to really mean it. You have to stay focused.”

Sean Phillips seems in many ways to be based on James Vance; the disfiguring gun injury, the contemplative appeals to a larger narrative, be it from rock music, religion, or childhood fantasies of terrible power. Things happening primarily inside of heads, then. Stories.

In a short introductory interview to a particular TV-showing of his documentary, David Van Taylor gives his reasoning for making Dream Deceivers: “People in America have a hard time taking responsibility for their own actions, and feeling like they have power over their own lives.”

* * *

Look, I no longer want to die. Stories, like the many folded into Wolf in White Van, have allowed me to find peace with the senselessness of being alive.

James Vance and the fictional teens of Wolf in White Van insert their lives into stories and try to draw the bad things out—narratives in Trace Italian or heavy metal records can't fit the internal experience of having been hurt or angry, so the kids explode the stories onto life; trauma begets more trauma. But in truth, there is no narrative to make any of it less or more real, less or more easily explained. “It is a terrible thing”, Darnielle has Sean tell us, “to feel trapped within a movie whose plot twists are senseless. This why people cry at the movies: because everybody's doomed.”

Darnielle has written a book about the dangers of over-identifying with art, about the kind of terrible, all-consuming feelings that make life unbearable. He is also the artist who gave me, at least, the tools to come partly through the other side of all this senseless trauma; The Sunset Tree promised kids like me that there was something more than all that powerless hurt, something more to being alive than fear and anger. One's self can be rematerialized through other narratives. Something traumatic might undo you, and while life is not a story, or a game, the choices nonetheless multiply. The self does not need to be made up solely of experiences but can be reformed through art.

When you get to the end of the book, you arrive at the moment Sean began to become who he is for all that follows; while I'm hesitant to outright spoil it for you, by now you might've pieced it together, and the way this particular narrative unfurls it'd be pretty difficult to say you never saw it coming. Like Vance and Balknap, it turns out that Sean was once a teenaged boy who listened to music as a conduit for feeling more, or perhaps just differently than he thought he was capable of; like Vance and Belknap, he shot himself in the face. Darnielle seems to be imagining what might've happened had Vance found a more forgiving way of being alive, of being alone.

It's hard not to be swept up in the world that exists so clearly in the mind's eye, when what is real can be such shit. Losing yourself in art, in an album, a game, is more attractive when you feel like you're already, in some sense, lost; we turn to the worlds in our heads when we feel apart from the world outside of it.

Wolf in White Van, with disfigured, traumatized Sean at its center, is all the more powerful for the anxieties it stirs—we are affected, yes, by the stories we tell and the ones we seek out, but at base each person is free only insofar as what we can create. There is no sense to be made, only worlds to be imagined.

Emily M. Keeler was once a teenager. Now she's the editor of Little Brother, a literary magazine out of Toronto.

2 Comments
09 Sep 17:00

Unsatisfied Women In Western Art History

by Mallory Ortberg

cleopatra

babe what is it
what’s wrong
nothing
are there not enough leopard skins
i mean
if you call just two enough

cleopatra3

and here is your royal chair
no furs on it i see
just linens and gold
that’s fine, that’s fine

is that a problem?
well you clearly didnt think it was a problem
so i guess it’s not a problem
is it

cleopatra4

why do i only have a stone lion for my LEFT HAND
what am i supposed to do with my right hand
besides BE DISAPPOINTED

cleopatra5

okay now shut up and give me that leopard skin

cleopatra7

if i had ENOUGH leopard skins right now then i would have TOLD YOU TO STOP BRINGING THEM
so unless you hear me say i have enough
keep fucking piling them on me

cleopatra8

i don’t know
they died really fast
can you bring me someone who doesn’t die so fast when you put knives in them

or something with noodles
honestly i would fucking kill for something with noodles in it right now

cleopatra9

no i’m fucking thrilled to be pouring your mead
i went to Bryn Mawr so this is a perfectly appropriate use of my skillset
i think all queens should moonlight as barmaids
the crown makes us so easy to spot in the feasting-hall

cleopatra10

keep ‘em coming

cleopatra12

yeah that’s
that’s nice i guess
do you have anything bigger or more diamond-y
like this, but a giant diamond?

cleopatra14

darling
why is this man talking to me
he doesn’t have any jewels on
i like his furs but he doesn’t have any jewels on
so why is he talking at me

cleopatra18

so this is your whole kingdom
yeah?
there’s not
more of it
that i missed seeing?
just statues of lions instead of regular lions, i see
no it’s good
it’s good
it’s good you only have that

cleopatra19

I CAN STILL SEE PART OF MY FACE
WHAT PART OF “I WANT MY ENTIRE BODY COATED IN GOLD” WAS UNCLEAR TO YOU

cleopatra20

fine, kill the harpist
we’ll still be bored after he’s dead and then there won’t be anyone left to play the harp
but go for it, maybe it’ll cheer us up

cleopatra21

oh my goddd thank god you’re here
turns out the amount of actual time you can enjoy yourself on a “pleasure barge” is like
three days, max
also i think everyone else is dead now
let’s get out of here

cleopatra22

i like dont want to be rude or anything
but me and this dog are kind of hanging out right now
so

cleopatra23

I NEED MORE PELTS
I COULD BE WEARING SO MANY MORE PELTS

cleopatra24

if someone doesnt move this crown on my lap to my head right now im going to fucking scream 

cleopatra25

i thought we were going to cover the whole harp in roses
but if these were all the roses you could find
i guess that doesn’t have to ruin everything

cleopatra26

hey girls i have a fun idea
try playing something good
just for a change
just to see what it would be like

cleopatra27

god
i fucking hate reading

cleopatra28

this isn’t really doing it for me anymore
do you want me to tell them to dance faster
no
i want them to dance better
jesus
this is a nightmare
i didnt say stop

cleopatra29

youre the only one i can trust
you and this leopard skin on the floor
the only ones i can trust

Read more Unsatisfied Women In Western Art History at The Toast.

30 Oct 13:50

Anita Sarkeesian on Colbert: Gamergate Is 'Terrorizing Women'

by Anna Merlan

Anita Sarkeesian on Colbert: Gamergate Is 'Terrorizing Women'

On Wednesday night, the Colbert Report became the first late-night show to really tackle the soupy pile of weeks-old vomit that is Gamergate, when Colbert hosted feminist video game critic and conquering badass Anita Sarkeesian. She talked briefly about the most recent death threat she received , and, more broadly, about creating a better and more inclusive gaming culture. She did not mince words.

Read more...

29 Sep 17:00

Overapologizing in The Modern Age

by Meaghan O'Connell
by Meaghan O'Connell

5137935272_2d404cceb6_zSaying ‘I’m sorry’ too much, especially at work, gets a bad rap. It’s meek; it’s feminine, overly accommodating, self-deprecating; it’s fake. As a chronic over-apologizer in social interactions, if not in the big ways when it matters (for better or worse!), I really loved Clay Risen’s essay about empathy and the different kinds of sorry:

I’m not actually sorry for being five minutes late to a meeting, or brushing against someone’s shoe. Rather, I’m showing empathy—but not too much, because everyone involved knows these are pretty low-level incidents. I understand that contact with my shoe might have disturbed you—but I also figure that you probably didn’t even notice, on a crowded train. I’m sorry I’m late to the meeting, even though I know you started without me, and that I could have just played hooky and no one would have cared.

It’s what a psychologist would call a “low-cost interpersonal strategy”—on the off chance that you might have been offended by something I did, I’ll defuse it with a two-syllable word, and show that I’m attuned to your troubles, however minor. It’s a social lubricant, a little bit of which helps reduce the need for major repairs later on.

YES. Is it cheating to say sorry when you aren’t sorry? Or are you just attuned to the possibility that you have inconvenienced people?

Sometimes I wonder if apologizing all the time is actually selfish — I’ve potentially bothered you, so now not only did I inconvenience you, but you have to listen to my apology and do the emotional work to assure me that it’s fine. You do even more work, and I get away with a clear conscience.

This is fascinating, though:

And for all the column inches spent denouncing casual sorrys, this sort of new twist on the old apology is widely used and, I would argue, well understood, part of a general turn toward a more empathetic everyday English. The linguist John McWhorter argues that, far from degrading the language, many of the interjections that have crept into everyday speech in recent decades—“like,” “totally,” “LOL”—are signs that we’re becoming more sensitive, as a society, to others.

I want to believe we live in a world that is getting more empathetic every day. And I want to live in a world that lets me use the couched language that is supposedly feminine, weak, etc. I love my “kind ofs” and my “likes” and my “I feels.” Who is truly sure of anything?

Photo via flickr

2 Comments
22 Oct 02:43

Andrew Wilkie Has Written To The ICC Requesting That Tony Abbott Be Charged With Crimes Against Humanity

by Alex McKinnon

Goodness gracious me, this is exciting. Earlier this morning, independent MP for the Tasmanian seat of Denison Andrew Wilkie released a public letter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, requesting that Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and the Australian cabinet be charged with crimes against humanity over the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

In the letter, addressed to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor, Wilkie asks “that you initiate a proprio motu investigation in accordance with Article 15(1) of the Rome Statute”, the treaty establishing the ICC, claiming there is “evidence that members of the Australian Government are committing” crimes against people seeking asylum from persecution, including “imprisonment and other severe deprivation of individual liberty”, “deportation and other forcible transfer of population”, and “other intentional acts causing great suffering, or serious injury to body and mental and physical health”.

Wilkie writes that “members of the Australian Government are pursuing policies that are designed to deter persons arriving by boat from seeking protection in Australia”, name-dropping the government’s current Manus Island and Nauru resettlement policies. He also notes that “members of the Australian Government are putting large numbers of asylum seekers at risk by forcibly returning some of them to the countries from which they have fled”, and that the government is committing breaches of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. You can read the full thing here.

In a press release sent out to media earlier today, Wilkie said “the actions of the Prime Minister and members of his Government against asylum seekers are criminal”, and that “the ICC clearly has jurisdiction in relation to the Abbott Government’s systematic mistreatment of asylum seekers”.

According to Article 15(1), which Wilkie cites as the basis under which the ICC can prosecute the government, “the Prosecutor shall analyse the seriousness of the information received” and “shall submit to the Pre-Trial Chamber a request for authorization of an investigation” if they determine that “there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an
investigation”. If the Pre-Trial Chamber, in turn, decides the Prosecutor has a case and it falls within the Court’s jurisdiction, it will authorise a full investigation by the ICC itself.

Wilkie, who won election in 2010 as an independent, is a former army officer. He was member of the Young Liberals in his youth, before becoming a vocal opponent of the 2003 Iraq War and running as the Greens candidate against John Howard in the seat of Bennelong in 2004. A few months ago he called for a Royal Commission into the 2003 Iraq War, and spoke out strongly against Australia’s new involvement.

Feature image via Andrew Wilkie/YouTube.

20 Oct 23:06

There Is A New ‘Marcel The Shell With Shoes On’

by Steph Harmon

Everybody’s favourite tiny shell with shoes is back, and as ridiculously adorable/occasionally philosophical/endearingly weak-voiced as ever.

‘Marcel The Shell With Shoes On’ — a joint effort between actor/comedian Jenny Slate, some place deep in the back of her throat, and Jenny Slate’s husband, director Dean Fleischer-Camp — was a viral hit when the first video was released in 2010. The three-and-a-half minute stop-motion film, revolving around a character developed one day by accident, clocked up over 23.5 million hits on Youtube, resulting in a best-selling coffee table book and a second short-film in 2011.

And now, in the aftermath of Slate’s debut film release — the sweet, sad and  wonderful Obvious Child, that’s about loads more than just abortion – comes the third in the series, released in conjunction with a second hardcover book: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been.

Marcel has been locked outside, in a storm.

Maybe we are all locked outside in a storm.

Part of the videos’ charm lies in the way they are constructed: Fleischer-Camp fires questions at Slate, who adopts the persona to answer them, completely off the cuff. “We started doing it in our house as something just to do together, during a time when I was just starting in the entertainment industry,” she told Slate’s Culture Gabfest earlier this month. “I was overwhelmed, was about to get fired from a job, and really just needed to get back to the mindset that was — and is, especially with the internet but in general in the world — that nobody can stop you from being creative.”

Here’s the first from Marcel The Shell:

And here’s the second:

02 Oct 15:05

12 Before-And-After Photos Of Autumn’s Beautiful Transformations

by Lina D.

Without stopping to take a look around, we can sometimes miss the transition of our surroundings from summer to autumn. But just in case you’ve been watching the trees change colors, here’s a list of photos that compare various locations before and after they change into their autumn colors.

Besides the nip in the air, the scarves, and the delicious autumn fruits and vegetables, the changing leaves are probably the greatest sign of autumn that there is. Chlorophyll, which is the green pigment in leaves that produces energy for trees, gradually breaks down in the fall, revealing the many other colors that also exist in leaves. That’s where we get the rich browns, oranges, yellows and reds that we associate with the season.

Tu Hwnt I’r Bont Tearoom in Llanrwst, North Wales

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Image credits: unicorn81

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Image credits: g7preston

Gapstow Bridge, New York, USA

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Image credits:  Jessica Jenney

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Image credits: BooRad0859

Japanese Maple

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Image credits: Kadek Susanto

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Image credits: Pete Wongkongkathep

Apartment Building Facade

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Image credits: imgur.com

Forest Lake In Poland

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Image credits:  Kacper Kowalski

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Image credits:  Kacper Kowalski

Poet’s Walk, Central Park, New York, USA

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Image credits: Eddie Crimmins

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Image credits: Vivienne Gucwa

Hitachi Seaside Park, Japan

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Image credits: 影 武者

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Image credits: nipomen2

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

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Image credits: Martin Molcan

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Image credits: Andrew Shaland

Lake Island, Poland

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Image credits: Kacper Kowalski

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Image credits: Kacper Kowalski

Capitol Creek Valley

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Image credits: Wayne Boland

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Image credits: Alex Burke

Kilchurn Castle, Scotland

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Image credits: Mathieu Noel

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Image credits: fen_snapz

Grand Island East Channel Light House, Michigan, USA

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Image credits: Jim Liestman

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Image credits: Ajay Thakur

10 Oct 19:00

Interpreting the Animal Choices on the World’s Most Popular Programming Books

by Amanda Pickering
by Amanda Pickering

If you are a software engineer, or work in an office with software engineers, or have ever been near more than one software engineer, you’ve seen the O’Reilly programming books with the animals. A bit of digging on the company website reveals that each book’s cover animal is selected not by the author but by O’Reilly’s creative director, Edie Freedman, who goes on to state: “I never reveal the reasons behind my choices, but I can assure all interested parties that there is always a reason.” So in the end, it’s up to you to figure out how a Mexican agouti, tarsier, or axolotl will guide you on your programming journey. For now, I did my best to decipher a few myself.

Learning Python
Cover Animal: Wood Rat
Meaning: Python, the programming language, was named in reference to Monty Python, not the snake. But this isn’t a snake. Not even a baby snake, still learning how to snake. It’s an animal that a python would probably eat, which is a huge bummer.
DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE: OK so maybe the wood rat has to learn about pythons to avoid death? Still sad.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: No, but you should probably learn python, it’s fun!

Programming Python
Cover Animal: Actual Python
Meaning: While you're learning Python you're just a rat about to be eaten by what you're trying to learn, but once you know what you're doing you go on to eating those who are still learning.
DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE: A lot, actually, though it’s kind of evil.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: This is the only O’Reilly book that chooses such an obvious cover, so they’re probably trying to trick you. Pass.

cat (2)Python for Data Analysis
Cover Animal: Golden-Tailed Tree Shrew
Meaning: The golden-tailed tree shrew is known for how much alcohol it consumes by drinking fermented palm nectar without ever getting drunk, since its body is designed to process ethanol super efficiently. Maybe you can analyze as much data as the golden-tailed tree shrew can drink alcohol, but you will possibly never get anything out of it?
DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE: Suuuure.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: Yes. It's cute. Would learn again.

Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, CSS & HTML5
Cover Animal: Sugar Gliders
Meaning: Look at those huge, adorable eyes. Don’t you want to learn all the web things? Oh but wait, according to the book's colophon about the cover choice, "One male will assert his dominance by marking the group’s territory with his saliva and then by marking all group members with a distinctive scent produced from his forehead and chest glands." Men being obnoxious and overbearing? Highly relevant, A+ choice. Sugar gliders, who knew.
DOES THIS MAKE SENSE: BUT THOSE EYES.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: Obviously.

Clojure Cookbook
Cover Animal: Aardwolf
Meaning: A fucking AARDWOLF this is AWESOME I'm going to go learn Clojure right now since without it I wouldn't know that Aardwolves are real.
DOES THIS MAKE SENSE: I have no idea.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: Absolutely.

Mastering Regular Expressions
Cover Animal: Some owls
Meaning: Owls. Known in folklore for being wise, but also silent killing machines of small, cute woodland animals. Kind of like computer programmers?
DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE: Maybe? A bit ruthless but so is the tech world.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: Go for it.

Becoming Functional
Cover Animal: Sheldrake Duck
Meaning: Ducks are pretty functional–their feet are webbed for swimming, but they can also waddle around on land, and they can fly! So functional. Definitely want to become this duck.
DOES THIS MAKE SENSE: A lot, actually.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: Yes, unless you don’t like being functional, but maybe you’re into that and that’s cool, the duck isn’t judging you nearly as hard as Regular Expressions Owls.

cat (6)Understanding Computation
Cover Animal: ???
Meaning: At first I thought this was a rock, which isn’t an animal, what is going on O’Reilly? Or was it maybe coral, which is technically alive. The wavy bits could be some sort of seaweed, which is also alive, but none of these books have plants on the cover. The ocean is huge, dark, scary, and full of all kinds of mysterious animals like that fish with the light on its head and sea cucumbers. This animal must be mysterious and complicated, much like computation. But actually it’s just a bear paw clam. (Not to harsh on clams.)
DOES THIS MAKE SENSE: The book is supposed to teach programmers without a formal computer science background more complicated computing stuff, kind of like figuring out what that clam even is, so yeah.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: Sorry but clams are still really boring, some of these books have Aardwolves on the cover. No.

JavaScript: The Good Parts
Cover Animal: Monarch Butterfly
Meaning: O’Reilly’s definitive guide to all of Javascript is 600+ pages long and has a appropriately giant rhino on the cover. No one is going to actually read it all the way through when they can just read the 100-page “good parts” of the language with a beautiful, graceful Monarch butterfly on the cover.
DOES THIS MAKE SENSE: So butterflies are a lot smaller than rhinos, but who says they are better, hmm? Monarch larvae is also poisonous to birds, and so many of these books have birds on the cover.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: I don’t trust this butterfly. No.

Learning Java
Cover Animal: Tigers
Meaning: Did you know that in the next ten years, 1.4 million programming jobs will be created in the forest, but only 400,000 tiger cubs will study computer science at tiger school?
DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE: Yes :’(
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: Definitely.

Amanda Pickering Learns to Code in Brooklyn.

2 Comments

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06 Oct 15:15

Woman can sing multiple notes at the same time

by Alex Moore
Woman can sing multiple notes at the same time

Singer Anna-Maria Hefele as honed the art of what’s called polyphonic overtone signing—a skill that allows her to sing two notes at the same time. And these aren’t just two notes that move in parallel, like when you try to whistle and hum at the same time—Hefele can move the notes completely independent of each other.

It’s easiest heard listening on headphones as computer speakers can drop the high-range of some of her overtones, but if you’re listening on a laptop jump to 3:25 for a jaw-droppingly impressive run that comes through loud and clear.

h/t: iO9

25 Sep 00:18

Slate.com Just Called Australia “The Dirtiest Country In The Developed World”

by Steph Harmon

Another day, another global humiliation.

Overnight, Slate’s emerging technology blog, Future Tense, published an article whose title will make your stomach clench up in a tiny little knot. ‘The Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific; How Australia became the dirtiest polluter in the developed world‘.

Written by Ariel Bogle and Will Oremus, the 1700-word piece reads like a comprehensive listing of everything that’s wrong with our climate policy, led by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and “a prime minister who once declared that ‘the climate argument is absolute crap.'”

The country’s landmark carbon tax has been repealed. The position of science minister has been eliminated. A man who warns of “global cooling” is now the country’s top business adviser. In November, Australia will host the G-20 economic summit; it plans to use its power as host to keep climate change off the official agenda.

And from there, it gets worse.

Two months after it struck down the carbon tax, the government forged a deal with a fringe party led by a mining tycoon to repeal a tax on mining profits. It appointed a noted climate-change skeptic—yes, another one—to review its renewable energy targets. Surprise: He’s expected to slash them. Independent modeling in a study commissioned by the Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation, and WWF-Australia finds that the cuts to renewable energy won’t reduce Australians’ energy bills. They will, however, gift the country’s coal and gas industry another $8.8 billion U.S.

At a time when solar power is booming worldwide, sunny Australia is rolling back its state-level subsidies (despite domestic success) and canceling major solar projects. Meanwhile, the government has given the go-ahead to build the nation’s largest coal mine, with an eye toward boosting coal exports to India.

Did we mention that Australians’ per-capita carbon emissions are the highest of any major developed country in the world? Welcome to the Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific.

The authors go on to list the Great Barrier Reef dredge-‘n-dump, the government’s pledge to open the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area to commercial logging, and the destruction of the outback by the mining, nuclear and military industries. “‘Let’s see,’ Australian leaders must wake up wondering every morning: ‘What natural wonder could we trash today?'”

They pull out reams of quotes to highlight the Government and News Corp’s persistent campaign to “turn the public against environmental regulations with threats of economic doom”, and to “shake the public’s trust in climate science … by comparing environmentalists to religious kooks”. (For examples, see John Howard’s description of climate change action as “a substitute religion“, and this quote from Tony Abbott in 2010: “I am not as evangelical about this as Prime Minister Rudd is. I am not theological about this the way Prime Minister Rudd is.”)

Surprising nobody, it doesn’t end on a hopeful note. “If the Australian people cannot recover some of their earlier regard for their environment, they may find in time that their great land is no longer merely apathetic toward their residence there, but openly hostile.”

So yeah. Take that.

To read the full piece on Slate, head here.

To watch The Roast skewer Abbott’s climate policy and absence from the UN Climate Summit, press play:

Feature image of Sunday’s climate rally in Melbourne by Takver, under a Creative Commons license. This image was resized from the original.

23 Sep 14:39

21 Photos Of Nature Winning The Battle Against Civilization

by Lina D.

As solid and unshakable as we think our civilization is, its grip on nature is tenuous at best. If any cracks appear in the faces of our buildings or our machines, nature is quick to move in and take over. With this in mind, here are 21 photos of places and things that nature is in the process of reclaiming.

Quite a bit of thought has been given to the idea of what Earth might look like once we’re gone. Indeed, many books and TV shows on the topic have found that nature would take our places fairly quickly. Many cities would be re-colonized within a year or two, and many of our buildings would begin crumbling soon after without human maintenance or energy sources. The Life After People series on the History Channel has a comprehensive timeline of collapses detailing when various famous landmarks of human civilization throughout the world might give way to nature.

The Old Piano Tree, California

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Image credits: Crackoala

Trees Winning Against Concrete In Hong Kong

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Image credits: Romain JL

Abandoned Inner City Railway In Paris

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Image credits: messynessychic.com

Bicycle Eaten by A Tree On Vashon Island, Washington

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Image credits: Ethan Welty

Abandoned Shopping Mall Taken Over By Fish In Bangkok

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Image credits: Jesse Rockwell

Old Abandoned Mill In Sorrento, Italy

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Image credits: Jason Wallace

Abandoned Ferris Wheel

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Image credits: Kyle Telechan

Vintage Automobile Graveyard, Belgium

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Image credits: Rosanne de Lange

Abandoned Mining Town, Namibia

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Image credits: Marsel Van Oosten

Abandoned 160-Year-Old Railway In Paris

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Image credits: Pierre Folk

102-Year-Old Abandoned Ship In Sydney, Australia

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Image credits: AndyBrii

Tree Roots Overcoming Brick Sidewalk

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Image credits: worldbeyondyourown

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Image credits: Wei-Feng Xue

Abandoned Mansion Near Kilgarvan, Ireland

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Image credits: Sam Abell

Abandoned Train Station In Abkhazia, Georgia

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Image credits: Ilya Varlamov

I.M. Cooling Tower, Belgium

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Image credits: brokenview

Abandoned Fishermen’s Town In Kamchatka, Russia

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Image credits: englishrussia.com

Angkor, Cambodia

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Image credits: Pietro Bevilacqua

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Image credits: Brad Grove

Abandoned Hotel Room

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Image credits: Matthias Haker

The Radioactive Ghost City Of Pripyat, Ukraine

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Image credits: castlemaineindependent.org

19 Sep 09:58

The Reykjavik Police Have An Instagram Full Of Puppies, Kittens And Ice Cream

by Dovas

Most police departments have a strenuous relationship with the people that they are charged to protect, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, judging by the good-looking officers and good times on their Instagram.

Obviously, their Instagram probably isn’t the best way to honestly gauge the Icelandic police force’s relationship with regular citizens, but they’ve still got one record to be proud of – their first-ever shooting death occurred in 2013, when they shot an armed man who had opened fire on two officers.

More info: Instagram | Facebook | logreglan.is (h/t: InsideLight)

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18 Sep 23:01

Here’s The Perfect Indie Soundtrack To The Scottish Referendum

by Alex McKinnon

Polling has closed in the Scottish independence referendum, and all throughout the day (our time) the would-be country’s 32 counties will be reporting results as they’re counted to see whether Scotland becomes the world’s newest nation and splits from the United Kingdom. As is mandatory in all democratic elections, ABC election analyst Antony Green has been awakened from his eternal slumber to provide thoughtful background analysis, live updates and a series of aesthetically-pleasing maps and graphs, although a plan to fly him over to Glasgow, get him drunk and unleash him on a touchscreen the size of a pool table sadly fell through.

The Scots are clearly giving 110% to become independent. #ScotlandDecides pic.twitter.com/rHB8DUy1t3

— Prince Charles (@Charles_HRH) September 18, 2014

For more visually stimulating if less scientifically accurate info-porn, this Twitter Trendsmap showing the prevalance of ‘Yes’ and ‘No‘ tweets is a must. Besides clearly showing that Scottish people on Twitter are *way* more pro-independence than people who aren’t, a happy bug in the map lets you zoom out and see what people all over the world think of the referendum. Catalonia in Spain, a region with separation anxiety of its own, is particularly vocal in its support for the ‘Yes’ vote, while the east coast of the US is a bit more divided.

But while you’re gorging on all that sweet, sweet data, you’re going to need some good tunes that fit the theme, and thankfully Scotland has good music in spades. Music’s played a huge part in the referendum campaign; a bunch of big-name Scottish bands like Franz Ferdinand and Frightened Rabbit headlined a pro-Yes music festival earlier this week to get the youth vote out, and Scotland has patriotic songs bursting out of its ears even without a national election. While Scotland decides its future, here’s a playlist to keep you in the mood.

CHVRCHES — ‘The Mother We Share’/’Recover’

The Glasgow trio keeping their opinions on independence to themselves, but their Emotions-based brand of electro is perfect for rocky relationships and break-ups, which could come in handy later depending on which way you swing. ‘The Mother We Share’ is an important reminder of England and Scotland’s mutual heritage, while ‘Recover’ is going to be very relevant to everyone in the morning as they work off their post-election hangovers.

We Were Promised Jetpacks — ‘Quiet Little Voices’/’I Keep It Composed’

Scottish bands, no matter what genre, are extremely good at having Feelings, and no one has Feelings like Edinburgh rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks. Angst sounds especially authentic when it’s in a squeaky Scottish brogue and has some heavy guitars thrashing along in the background, so a WWPJ soundtrack will be crucial to whichever side ends up losing. As a bonus, they’ve just released a new single, ‘I Keep It Composed’, and have a new album in the works, so there’s plenty of loud insecurity to go around.

Frightened Rabbit — ‘The Loneliness & The Scream’/’Swim Until You Can’t See Land’

This is some Scottish-as-hell shit right here. Frightened Rabbit are probably the biggest practitioners of Scottish miserableism in existence, and definitely the best at turning mid-twenties disillusionment and anxiety into bangin’ tunes. They’ve been hugely supportive of the ‘Yes’ campaign and their songs are chock-full of references to things the Firth of Forth and the North Sea. ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ might’ve been written for the hopes and fears swirling around the referendum, and is a massive hit besides.

Mogwai — ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’/’I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’

I wasn’t kidding about the Scottish-bands-have-Feelings thing. Mogwai is the soundtrack to staring glumly out a window, staring glumly at your cereal, staring glumly in the supermarket, or staring glumly at a snowy television while drinking something brown.

Franz Ferdinand — ‘Take Me Out’/’Do You Want To?’

Get it? ‘Take Me Out’ of this obsolete 307-year-old geopolitical union that no longer represents my country’s interests? Also, ‘Do You Want To’ stay in the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or try and make our way in the world as a free and sovereign nation? That’s…that’s probably what these songs are about.

The Proclaimers — ‘500 Miles’/’I’m On My Way’

Besides being the most Scottish song to ever Scotch, this is kind of reminiscent of the “please baby don’t go I can change” pleas UK Prime Minister David Cameron and other English pro-unionists have begun resorting to in recent days. Hopefully, like the Proclaimers’ other big hit, Scotland is on its way from misery to happiness today, uh huh uh huh uh huh uh huh.

15 Sep 14:30

Confused about the Scotland vote? Let John Oliver explain

by Alex Moore
Confused about the Scotland vote? Let John Oliver explain

Scotland’s independence vote is coming up on Thursday, in which Scotland will decide whether to break away from Great Britain as an independent nation for the first time since 1707. We Americans are pretty confused about this since as John Oliver points out our primary Scottish association is “Braveheart,” and “nothing screams Scottish independence like a millionaire Australian anti-Semite on horseback.” So Oliver kindly gave explainer on “Last Week Tonight.”

Perhaps more interesting than the basic facts—Scotland wants independence because England is mean to them, England wants them to stay to hang on to some semblance of the British Empire—is the story around the dueling campaigns.

Funding the “No” vote is JK Rowling, with a campaign targeted at women who it suggests are too dumb to really grasp the importance of the vote and should therefore vote to keep things as they are. Funding the “Yes” vote are a pair of Scottish lottery winners who look like such rags-to-riches underdogs as to make JK Rowling look like the Evil Empire, pushing a platform of dignity and self-respect.

It’s not looking good for England, and even Oliver knows it. “In 1746 we banned the Kilt, just because we knew they liked it,” he says. Plus, the Scots sound kind of awesome: “When it came time to pick a national animal, they chose the unicorn.”

Bottom line, it sounds like the biggest practical challenge of independence will be that Scotland will have to transition from the pound to the euro, and that their key natural resource (oil) may dwindle to half over the next 25 years. Oliver makes it sound like independence is all but inevitable.

11 Sep 21:45

Artist fakes entire trip to Southeast Asia on Facebook

by Joe Veix
Artist fakes entire trip to Southeast Asia on Facebook

Zilla van den Born, an artist in Amsterdam, took a five-week trip through Southeast Asia. Like anyone else traveling, she kept her friends updated via Facebook, with the kind of cliche travel posts and photos you usually see on the site. The thing is, she never even went.

The artist faked the whole thing as a school project, staying home, and uploading Photoshopped images to the service. The work is part social media performance art, part travel by approximation.

artist fakes trip 585x351 Artist fakes entire trip to Southeast Asia on Facebook

According to van den Born, “I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media, and that we create an online world which reality can no longer meet.”

None of her friends caught on. This is in part because of her keen Photoshop skills, but it’s also partly because she didn’t deviate from anyone’s expectations. More than a few of her pictures weren’t even Photoshopped—like the Buddhist temple she visited above, and the sushi restaurant below. Both were in Amsterdam. She just uploaded them and let context do the rest.

artist fakes trip 2 Artist fakes entire trip to Southeast Asia on Facebook

Traveling in the age of social media means following a socially internalized set script: You post about buying tickets a month ahead of time; you take photos of the airport, your hotel and its view, yourself smiling at a few tourist hotspots, exotic food, small foreign children, and a sea at sunset. You discuss a local you met while waiting for the bus, who provided a cliche platitude that sounded wise because it was delivered in an unusual accent. You take one last snapshot of a plane wing at sunset. In a sense, largely due to social media, traveling has become an empty commodity, something merely to be posted and consumed.

“My goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality,” van der Born elaborates. “Everybody knows that pictures of models are manipulated. But we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives.”

Plus, faking a trip is cheaper than getting plane tickets.

11 Sep 23:57

You Need To Watch Maggie Gyllenhaal In ‘The Honourable Woman’

by Nic Holas

“Who do you trust?”

They’re the first four words of every episode of The Honourable Woman. You spend all eight episodes unable to answer the question.

Part family drama, part political thriller, and part spy game, this mini-series — which comes Foxtel’s BBC First on Monday night — might just be the pinnacle of short-form TV drama.

Played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Baroness Nessa Stein is the lead character: a British-Israeli businesswoman who has just ascended to the House of Lords. When she’s not stomping the hallways of Parliament in her red cape, she’s the smooth-talking head of the Stein Group. The family business made its fortune arming Israel during the formation of the Jewish state. But Nessa’s in charge now, along with her brother Ephra (Andrew Buchan), and has peace in the Middle East in her sights.

Art Mirrors Life

The Honourable Woman aired in the UK in the midst of the recent flare-up between Israel and Palestine, with such good timing that you could be forgiven for casting a suspicious eye at BBC Two and Sundance Channel, who co-produced the series. While an understanding of the ongoing conflict is useful, it is by no means essential; like any truly riveting drama, the conflict here isn’t purely political. The series illuminates some factors of life in Israel and Palestine that no news cycle can humanise (soz, Fox News), and the personal dramas of the Stein family, despite their wealth and prestige, are universal: grief, filial responsibility, loyalty. tension and fidelity.

Gyllenhaal is perfect as Nessa Stein. Publicly composed, charming as hell behind a lectern, and completely unimpressed by male corporate bullies, she is the stuff protagonists are made of. In private though, when Nessa cries, you feel the pain of every contorted muscle in her face.

A refreshing contrast to Homeland‘s Carrie, Stein is a formidable, savvy leader, consciously using everything at her disposal to make good on the fact that her family’s fortune came at the expense of others’ lives.

Expertly crafted by writer/director Hugo Blick, female characters fiercely drive the drama of THW.  Running Thelma to Nessa’s Louise is Atika Halabi, the Stein family staffer of Palestinian origins. Played brilliantly by Lubna Azabal, Atika maintains a secretive connection between the Israeli businesswoman and the Palestinian nanny, which make the personal political, and vice versa.

But to reduce the political conflict to a tale of two women doesn’t do it justice. Early on, we learn that Nessa’s mantra is “We cannot be compromised”, and it is repeated to such a degree that you wonder just how compromised she will become to achieve her goal. As Blick points out, “You can’t observe something unobserved. You can’t do something without an effect.”

Observation is a recurring theme throughout THW. Circling (and at times intersecting) the Stein family drama is intelligence agency MI5, charged with keeping Nessa and her interests safe (or are they?). Stephen Rae gives one of the performances of his career as quintessentially British spy Hugh Hayden-Hoyle, slowly and methodically unpacking the numerous intrigues that surround the Steins. Meanwhile, his superior Dame Julia Walsh (Janet McTeer) has some of the best lines of the series and, along with upwardly mobile spy Monica Chatwin (Eve Best), continues THW praise-worthy depiction of women in power.

Monica Chatwin (Eve Best) and Julia Walsh (Janet McTeer)

Monica Chatwin (Eve Best) and Julia Walsh (Janet McTeer)

Part of what makes THW so wonderfully nail-biting is the knowledge that these eight episodes are all we get. There will be no “six seasons and a movie”; it’s a return to the classic BBC mini-series, married with the big budget and star power of HBO-style marquee TV.

With Blick, Gyllenhaal and the rest of the cast, you are in the hands of expert storytellers, with no time for THW to become stale or drawn out. Each episode is so thick with tension that the now-“old school” weekly serialisation is almost essential; anyone planning to binge-watch THW should ensure nearby heart medication and a support group. If the show were a movie, it couldn’t achieve this depth; and if it were a classic US 22 episode per season series, it would quickly lose its way. It’s a terrific example of dramatic economy, and restraint.

One day, when we look back at the moment that television stole the best writers and actors and left cinema for the likes of Michael Bay and some sass-mouthed pixels, I’d wager that The Honourable Woman would be a series we use as an example of why. It’s hard work, but rewarding; compelling and intriguing; and portrays (demands, even) an overdue respect for female characterisation. This writer hates you all for getting to watch it with fresh eyes.

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The Honourable Woman premieres on Foxtel’s BBC First at 8.30pm, on Monday September 15.

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Nic Holas has written for Hello Mr Magazine, Star Observer, The Needle Prick Project, and Cosmopolitan. You can find him on Twitter @nicheholas, or in his role as co-founder of HIV social umbrella The Institute of Many.

10 Sep 14:36

The Replacements make first TV appearance in 25 years on ‘The Tonight Show’

by Alex Moore
The Replacements make first TV appearance in 25 years on ‘The Tonight Show’

The Replacements were banned from NBC after a drunken “Saturday Night Live” performance in 1989. Like Elvis Costello, who was also banned for playing “Radio Radio” on “SNL” despite explicit orders not to, The Replacements seemed fine with it. They were already icons, and to the extent anyone noticed getting banned from NBC’s late-ngiht circuit only added to their credibility.

But like Elvis Costello they finally broke the NBC curse decades later with a “Tonight Show” appearance. The band showed up to play “Alex Chilton” on Tuesday. And they sounded great. Tighter than you remember them—the signature sloppiness is more refined these days. And Paul Westerberg hits every note just like it’s 1989 all over again. Watch below.

h/t: Stereogum

22 Jul 19:00

The Judgement of Paris

by Mallory Ortberg

The Judgement of Paris, as I assume you are aware, is one of the most popular and also the best themes in classical European painting, because it’s based on a legend where three supremely powerful goddesses asked a worthless male mortal to rank them in order of attractiveness in order to win a sculpture of a fruit. Which says so much in such a short amount of time about ancient Greek sexual politics, I think; Yes definitely the Queen of Heaven wants to know if some Trojan shepherd thinks she’s still hot.

(An aside: the correct thing to do when three murder-eyed, placid-lipped, notoriously temperamental immortals show up on your doorstep in the nude and ask you to rank them in order of beauty is to BEG OFF. “You’re all so lovely! I couldn’t possibly decide! Who am I, a mere mortal, to declare all three of you anything less than perfect? You’ll notice I sacrificed three flawless bulls to all of you this morning, please do not decimate my flocks or level my city, goodbye, worship you tomorrow.” NOT: “Sure, okay. Turn around, let me get the full picture.”)

Anyhow, it’s a great story, and pretty much every dude born between the years 1100 and 1850 with an ounce of sprezzatura and a brush tried his hand at painting it at least once. Recurring motifs include: Aphrodite’s son Eros hanging about her feet, sometimes shooting arrows; Hera’s companion the peacock; Athena’s war helmet; a smirking Hermes; ostentatious hats. Expect to see Hera turning away from the viewer and starting to put her robe back on in about a third of them, because Hera tires of losing quickly. Aphrodite will be naked 1000% of the time — occasionally she will have a useless gossamer string around her hips — and about a 50/50 chance of Hera and Athena being naked too.

paris

hi
hi hi hi
hi we noticed you had an apple there
why don’t you just give it to whichever one of us you think is the prettiest
no consequences or anything
just pick one

paris2

you wont get mad or anything
haha oh my god
mad about what?
like if i choose one of you
which you have to!!
yeah you have to do that
the other two wont get mad at me
no not at all
its totally objective
no repercussions at all
of any kind

paris3

so theres no catch
haha
you keep asking us
so many questions
like about your personal safety
instead of just telling us which one of us is the prettiest once and for all

paris4

oh wow interesting choice
her hat has only one feather on it while other peoples hats have like five or six feathers
some people might say thats a little hasty, that maybe you didnt really get a good look at all the hats
but not me

paris5

i kind of cant move
well you dont need to move
you just need to pick
well let you get up after you pick

paris6

Okay, I don’t want to pass value judgments on other cultures, and also all beauty standards are oppressive, probably, but this particular beauty ideal is MESSED UP. “What makes a woman beautiful? A hat, a necklace, a horrifying smirk, and a neck that can bend 140 degrees.”

paris7

just let me hold it ok
ill give it right back

paris17oh look at that
your picking
youre making your pick
what a good idea!!!
you still have a minute to change your mind though
yeah if you want to change your mind you could still do that


paris10

oh wow look at that
im holding the golden apple of beauty
which i guess technically
and also officially
and also in every other sense
makes me the most beautiful

paris11

ahahaha
not so fast

paris14

oh fuck this im getting dressed 

paris15

oh sorry are we starting
did you pick someone already
hang on im fixing my shoe
i dont even notice how beautiful i am
which i guess is sort of attractive in its own awy, how much i dont even notice, im just carelessly but beautifully (i guess, i wouldnt know) fixing my shoe

paris16

are you mad
what?
you look mad
why would i look mad
i dont know your face just looks mad
no
this isnt what my mad face looks like
ok good
youll know my mad face when you see it 

paris18

ahhh sorry ahaha this is so unexpected
i cant even believe it
my whole dress fell off is how surprising this is

paris19

you said no consequences right
what?
you said i could just pick and then youd go home and it would be over
sorry i cant hear you with this helmet on
with this war helmet on

Read more The Judgement of Paris at The Toast.

05 Sep 22:00

Jemaine Clement's Vampire Mocumentary Is Coming to a Theater Near You

by Madeleine Davies

If you're still recovering from the emotional whiplash of thinking Flight of the Conchords was coming back, then being informed that no, it definitely isn't, look upon the trailer for Jemaine Clement's vampire mocumentary What We Do In the Shadows and be healed!

Read more...

04 Sep 17:10

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds release feel-good song of the summer, ‘Give Us A Kiss’

by Alex Moore
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds release feel-good song of the summer, ‘Give Us A Kiss’

As summer officially ends and we begin yet another inexorable slide into the black, frozen heart of winter, it’s as good a time as any for a new song from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Called “Give Us A Kiss,” the new tune is a previously unreleased song from the new documentary on the band, “20,000 Days On Earth.” While Cave does sound enthusiastic about the new film he sounds somewhat less effusive when it comes to its subject matter. Bashing Morrissey to Shortlist, he also managed to bash himself:

“He’s a great lyricist, but there’s a tone in his voice I find unlistenable. That kind of lugubrious tone. There’s the same tone in my voice actually and I find it equally unlistenable.”

If you’re a fan take a listen to “Give Us A Kiss” and see if you find it any more listenable than Cave. It’s actually quite beautiful and cinematic, if on the noirish side.


h/t: NME