Shared posts

26 Aug 15:00

Wired Style: A Linguist Explains Vintage Internet Slang

by Gretchen McCulloch

Gretchen McCulloch's previous works of linguistic genius for The Toast can be found here.

The Wired style guide changed my life. One particular sentence, in fact.

We know from experience that new terms often start as two words, then become hyphenated, and eventually end up as one word. Go there now.

Oh. I thought. Oh.


Wired Style was a book by Constance Hale and Jessie Scanlon, but I encountered it on the internet. It would have been sometime in the early 2000s. I was the type of teenager who read help documentation and tech blogs and anything that seemed vaguely linguistics-related, and I was already reading the articles on Wired's website, so of course when I stumbled upon its style guide, I read that too.

The thing that stuck in my mind about the Wired style guide was the attitude. I'd read other usage guides — well-meaning gifts from people who thought that having an interest in linguistics was the same as having an interest in the mechanics of writing — but they tended towards the curmudgeonly. But while Strunk & White and their inheritors considered themselves the last thing standing between The English Language and Mortal Peril, Wired Style said, essentially, No. We're not the guardians of tradition, we're a forward-facing tech publication, and it's essential for us to be on the vanguard of linguistic change. Hyphens will drop eventually, so let's drop them now; capitals will eventually de-capitalize, so let's lowercase as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

To my teenage self, it was like being handed a crystal ball and a lever with which to move the world at the same time.

Read more Wired Style: A Linguist Explains Vintage Internet Slang at The Toast.

26 Aug 15:00

A cosmic butterfly

The shimmering colours of the Twin Jet Nebula show off in new Hubble Space Telescope image
27 Aug 20:15

That time Jimmy Carter walked into a nuclear reactor

by Fred Clark

Since we were just talking about former President Jimmy Carter here, let’s take a moment to remember one particularly badass moment from his personal history.

Granted, Jimmy Carter isn’t generally described as “badass.” That’s a shame because building thousands of houses for Habitat should be thought of that way. And negotiating a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt involved high levels of bad-assery. Also, too, eradicating the Guinea worm? That’s so badass that Samuel Jackson should play Carter in the movie version of the story.

Jimmy Carter is also teaching Sunday school every week at the age of 90, just as he has for the past 60 years — uninterrupted by cancer treatments or by a term as governor of Georgia or a term as president of the United States. I suppose that’s not really “badass,” per se, but it’s pretty impressive — an example of what Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction.”

But the really badass story involving Jimmy Carter dates back to 1952, before he entered politics. Back then he was Lt. James Earl Carter, a nuclear specialist in the U.S. Navy’s Seawolf program working in upstate New York.

In December 1952, there was an explosion in the reactor of the Chalk River nuclear site in Ontario. The reactor was in partial meltdown and it was flooded with radioactive water. This was Very Bad. Even worse, it was going to have to be dismantled and shut down by hand.

Basically, somebody was going to have to make like Spock at the end of Wrath of Khan and walk into a melting-down nuclear reactor. That somebody would have to be, like Spock, both brave enough to face deadly radiation and smart enough to understand how a nuclear reactor works.

spockreactorThat’s how the job fell to Lt. Carter and his team of 22 other Navy specialists.

Here’s where the story turns into something like an epic Hollywood heist movie. The radiation level was such that, even with the best 1950s-era protective gear, no one could enter Chalk River for more than 90 seconds at a time. So it would have to be like a relay race — wade in, get as much done as possible in 89 seconds, then get out of there while the next guy in line took his turn.

The team built a replica of the whole facility on an Ontario tennis court — every hallway and door, every nut and bolt and screw and hatch. And they practiced. That’s what badass engineers do.

Here’s how Carter summarized this in a 1975 campaign biography:

When it was our time to work, a team of three of us practiced several times on the mock-up, to be sure we had the correct tools and knew exactly how to use them. Finally, outfitted with white protective clothes, we descended into the reactor and worked frantically for our allotted time. … Each time our men managed to remove a bolt or fitting from the core, the equivalent piece was removed on the mock-up.

For several months afterwards, we saved our feces and urine to have them monitored for radioactivity. We had absorbed a year’s maximum allowance of radiation in one minute and twenty-nine seconds. There were no apparent after-effects from this exposure — just a lot of doubtful jokes among ourselves about death versus sterility.

So Lt. Carter and the rest of his team ran through a radioactive flood with hand-tools and stopwatches and carried out an incredibly technical feat of nuclear engineering in 89-second intervals fully expecting that it would mean they’d all soon be dead from some horrible form of radiation sickness. And they did it. They shut down the reactor and saved the day.

Jimmy Carter is a quiet, gentle man who teaches Sunday school. But don’t forget that he’s also a quiet, gentle, Sunday-school teaching badass.


28 Aug 15:00

“The Pandrogyne Just Feels Trapped In A Body”

by Alexandra Molotkow

This conversation between Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace (via Dangerous Minds) about gender, identity, and transition is important and riveting, as you’d expect.

P-Orridge, if you haven’t heard of them, is an artist and formerly the frontperson of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. They consider themselves at one with their wife, Lady Jaye, who died in 2007; before that, the two underwent multiple surgeries toward becoming the same being, called the Pandrogyne.

There is so much to talk about here, and so much to quote, and this is just one of many threads to pull, but: I love hearing P-Orridge talk, and what strikes me is their fusion of art, life, and spiritual practice. The Pandrogyne is both art and an act of faith, not to mention a hugely romantic gesture and the most natural thing in the world by their description. There is something to be said for building your own belief system to arrange your life around, and committing entirely to your conception of the world:

We never thought of it as transitioning as much as evolution… we wanted to demonstrate that the human body is not the person… the mind is the person. And ultimately the body’s supposed to be discarded altogether, and we become pure consciousness, that’s our belief…and so this is a step symbolizing the beignning of seeing the species differently, and looking towards an ultimate future where there is no either/or, and ultimately there is no body, there’s just divine thought, and divine consciousness.

See, we want to be together without bodies. You know, Lady Jaye’s already dropped her body, as we say. And we’ve made a pact that if it’s at all possible, we want to find each other’s consciousness and then blend into one being, the Pandrogyne, that’s neither of us, both of us combined.

…anyone who’s taken a psychedelic knows that the world can disappear. And each of us exists in our individual universe… in a way we’re like millions of universes in one place, or apparently in a sort of grouping of universes… that’s where the unity comes in, and the sharing…giving back what you know, telling stories.

…Then P-Orridge bursts out laughing. (Laura Jane, listening intently but possibly scrambling for the right response: “Yeah”). “I just suddenly thought how crazy I sound.”

After you listen—and continuing this theme of ways to be with people—you should listen to this podcast with Love + Radio and of course watch The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, a collaboration between the filmmaker Marie Losier and her subjects. Or you could read this interview with P-Orridge by Anna Soldner, or this one by Douglas Rushkoff, from just a week after Lady Jaye’s burial, because the Pandrogyne is one of the greatest love stories of our time.

28 Aug 17:00

My Favorite Thing From The Old Internet

by Alexandra Molotkow

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 10.31.40 AM

One of my favorite Web sites on the World Wide Web is this moving, Tripod-hosted shrine to Henry Fonda whose intensity builds steadily from one painstakingly uploaded JPEG to the next. It has the dynamic tension of a symphony.

The Movie Pal loves Henry Fonda. Do you? (Trick question, you don’t have to.)

24 Aug 18:00

Bible Verses Where The Word “Wicked” Has Been Replaced With “Problematic”

by Mallory Ortberg

Genesis 13:12-13

Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly problematic and sinful against the Lord.

Genesis 18:23

And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the bitchin' with the problematic?"

Exodus 9:27

And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous, and my people and I are problematic."

Read more Bible Verses Where The Word “Wicked” Has Been Replaced With “Problematic” at The Toast.

24 Aug 16:00

Texts From H.P. Lovecraft

by Mallory Ortberg

Howard are you in there?
it's me
how long have you been locked in here?
are you planning on coming out anytime soon?
for food or for anything?

yes that
that happens sometimes

Read more Texts From H.P. Lovecraft at The Toast.

24 Aug 11:42

Douglas Adams Vs Corbynomics

by Alex Wilcock

The story so far.

In the beginning, the Labour leadership election was created.

This has made a lot of people very angry, and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Since the Labour B-Ark crashed completely, its principal survivors have emerged as the very talented and useful Blair-Tone Sanitiser (Third Class) Kendall, Security Guard Number 2 Cooper, Make-up Assistant (Trainee) Burnham and Hairdressers’ Fire Development Sub-committee Chair Corbyn.

There are many important and unpopular questions which must be asked about the crash of the Labour B-Ark and the new landscape in which they now find themselves. The four very talented and useful candidates even hope that there might even be one ultimate question that will unravel the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. They can all be relied upon not to ask it.

They have instead started work on several typically Labour B-Ark projects: arguing about what colour it should be; having a quick bath; declaring war on the next continent. Most importantly of all, after 573 meetings, the Chair of the Hairdressers’ Fire Development Sub-committee has discovered a brilliant new fiscal policy…

“How can you have money if none of you actually produces anything? It doesn’t grow on trees, you know!”

“Ah! But since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt the leaf as legal tender, we have all of course become immensely rich. But we have run into a small inflation problem, owing to the high level of, ah, leaf availability. Which means that I gather the current going rate is something like: three major deciduous forests buy one ship’s peanut.
“So in order to obviate this problem and effectively revalue the leaf, we’ve decided on an extensive campaign of defoliation and, er, burn down all the forests.
“I think that’s a sensible move, don’t you?”

This quotation summarising ‘People’s QE Corbynomics’ is taken directly from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy, Television Phase, Episode Six, by Douglas Adams. As it’s one of the most remarkable TV series ever made, I recommend watching all six episodes*. But if you merely want to see the economic analysis, it’s about 27 minutes into the final episode (above), immediately after Ed Miliband contributes to the debate with the typically incisive observation, “One’s never alone with a rubber duck. Whee!”

*Six episodes may seem like a lot, but that’s just peanuts to the Labour B-Ark leadership election. For though it has many omissions, and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy Television Phase scores over the more pedestrian audience experience in two important respects. First, it is very much shorter (taking only three hours, not three months, and after watching it you are far less likely to say ‘Well, that’s a part of my life I’ll never get back’), and secondly, it has the words: “DON’T PANIC” inscribed in large, friendly letters on the cover. Which by this stage in the Labour B-Ark leadership election pretty much everyone concerned agrees they could have done with, too.

21 Aug 18:00

15 Proposals For Getting On With Life

by Alexandra Molotkow


Life is a drag, for new reasons every day. Here are some ways to make it easier.

1. Nude buildings. Like nude beaches but indoors. The buildings can have other functions

2. Convert abandoned alleys into public throwing galleries. Donate objects (leave in shopping cart) for passersby to chuck

3. Collect all human sheddings (toenails, calluses, hair) in four-year intervals, use them to build an effigy of How You Were

4. Human diaries. Assigned anonymous strangers to tell our secrets to, in lieu of pregnable paper and word files

5. Every last Thursday of the month, nothing we do counts

6. Sound-free booths in public spaces

7. Telephones on tables in bars like in Cabaret, as well as park benches. A number you can call to be matched with a rando, Chatroulette for bank lineup

8. Personal Belief journals for elementary school children. Like Creative Writing journals except you’re allowed to really believe it

9. New kind of therapy where you write a musical about your life

10. New line of stamp or currency commemorating famous sex scandals, to show it’s OK and can happen to anyone

11. Secret Santa but with doodles

12. What About Me Boxes for the office, community center, etc. Submit pet grievances or personal details (e.g., chronic nightmares, pee fetish) anonymously, to be posted publicly on cork board

13. We all agree there is no “unified self” and treat each other like new people all the time

14. Trick or treat for adults OR make Halloween bimonthly

15. Custom doll set of all your friends

20 Aug 20:05

Get off the bus. (Remember when blogrolls were a thing?)

by Fred Clark

A decade ago, when blogs were still cool, everybody had a blogroll. Right there, on the main page of every blog was a long list of other blogs — a list that offered the exciting possibility of discovery, of exploration, conversation, inspiration and cross-pollination.

Blogrolls were necessary back then as a kind of Lonely Planet Guidebook to the blogosphere, which at the time was a sprawling, rapidly growing new universe online. The Internet had become, briefly, a place to be explored — a world that required and rewarded exploration. Blogrolls laid out a trail for explorers, an endless, twisting path marked by signposts and graffiti and hobo symbols.

In the years just before the blogosphere emerged and exploded, there had been a background-level battle over the shape of the Internet. AOL had been the most powerful and visible representative of one side of that argument, operating its shiny fleet of tour buses for Internet tourists. Stay seated on the bus, follow the instructions of the tour guide, keep in line, stick to the schedule, raise your hand if you have a question, move along, get back on the bus.

Facebook, basically.

Facebook, basically.

Ugh. That’s not how many of us wanted to explore the Internet. We wanted to see it for ourselves without the corporate guided tour and the strict itinerary. We didn’t want to be passive tourists, but active explorers, with a backpack and railpass instead of a seat on a tour bus. We wanted to be free to wander, to discover, to experience it all without being directed and instructed and told where to look and what to see and what to think about it.

And for a while there, after the flood of AOL CDs finally dried up and its fleet of tour buses broke down, it looked like the backpackers would win. Blogrolls became an important way for us to share our travels with one another — recommending new places that were worth a visit.

That didn’t last. Facebook came along with its larger, shinier fleet of buses and the AOL model of Internet tourism returned with a vengeance. Facebook’s dominance was so overwhelming that the Internet reshaped itself as a tourist trap. It became Branson, Missouri, or one of those tourist piers in a Caribbean port city where cruise ships can stop for an hour or two. Now it’s got chain restaurants, generic hotels, souvenir shops and aggregators lining every street to compete for the attention of the tourists on the Facebook buses.

The blogosphere? Yeah, I’ve seen it. The bus stopped at Planet Hollywood there. I bought a T-shirt.

This new world didn’t need blogrolls anymore. They withered, ignored and untended, slowly collapsing from linkrot and neglect. Like trackbacks — those briefly glorious blog-linking marvels that drowned in a sea of spam — blogrolls became a sad relic of a once-promising future, now defunct.

So I decided to update the blogroll here. Check it out. All those links are live and active. Explore them. Click on old favorites you haven’t visited in a while because the Facebook buses haven’t included them on the guided tour. Click on anything you’ve never heard of before. Wander around. Meet the locals and the natives and the townies. Get lost. Get out of line. Stray from the path.

Get off the bus.


19 Aug 20:23


by Mo


For @mallelis

My dearest Steve,

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and Steve you.

Warm regards,

Manfeels Park

10 Aug 19:00

Let’s Name More Canadian High Schools After Women

by Lindsey Palka

In my line of work, I come across the names of many, many high schools—every high school in Canada, in fact. So I began a tally with myself of the number of schools named after women—at first out of curiosity, and later after developing something of a righteous rage.

Many schools in Canada and the US are named after their towns, and Canada’s wealth of delicious place names gives these schools delightfully evocative and fascinating names—Exploit Valley High School, Whistling Wind School, Rainy River High, Swift Current Academy, and the absolutely peerless Eyebrow School of Eyebrow, Saskatchewan. Other schools get the sort of meh names that sound like the board selected names out of a grab bag or The Big Book of High School Name Suggestions, many of which involve trees: West Elm, Oak Park, North Side, Bayview, Hillside, and so on. (Oaks are particularly popular. I can only guess that board officials have an affinity for the national tree of America and fifteen other countries.) Catholic schools are invariably given an identifiably Catholic name, which accounts for the dozens of Notre Dames, Sts. Michael/Peter/Paul, Holy Crosses, and Trinity(s) scattered across North America.

But the remainder of schools are named after people—between a third and a quarter, depending on the area, and the vast majority of these are named after men. 

“But wait!” I hear. “There are schools named after women!” Indeed there are! Queen Elizabeth alone accounts for eight high schools and countless elementaries across the country.

Read more Let’s Name More Canadian High Schools After Women at The Toast.

18 Aug 11:56

German crime novels and high blood pressure

by Victor Mair

Don't jump to any conclusions based on the title.  This post is not about how reading German crime novels raises blood pressure.  Quite the contrary, it is about how reading German crime novels dramatically lowers blood pressure, at least for one of my friends.

Most people treat their high blood pressure with one of the following:

Not my friend.  When her blood pressure gets too high, she reaches for a German crime novel.

DISCLAIMER:  I'm not saying that this will work for everyone, though it does for her.  Perhaps it's because of her unique character and unusual background.  So let me tell you a bit about my friend, while protecting her anonymity, which she requested.

The first thing that needs to be said about my friend is that she is bilingual in Mandarin and English, though I think that her English (which is phenomenal) is better than her Mandarin.  She also knows a fair amount of other Sinitic topolects (Cantonese and various non-standard forms of Mandarin).

As a child, although she was initially brought up in a strictly Chinese environment, after that she had an unusual cosmopolitan upbringing in South Asia and East Asia.

I am bilingual in English and Mandarin, though my English is stronger. As to mother-tongue, I spoke Mandarin and some Cantonese up to age 8. But it was only child's language, and I learned very little Mandarin or Cantonese after that—until I was in my forties. I only acquired a decent command of English gradually after age 14, because I was until 19 in places (India, Hong Kong, Taiwan) where English was not the native tongue, and I wasn't in daily contact with a lot of speakers of good English. Thus I felt that both English and Chinese were foreign languages to me, so I always felt I had no mother-tongue.

My friend's experience reminds me of a number of individuals whom I have encountered who essentially had no mother tongue:

"Mother Tongue: lost and found " (12/15/14)

I asked my friend whether, aside from English and all of the Asian languages to which she had been exposed, she also knew French or other languages.

I took French several years in high school, but never applied myself. I can read some French. I studied a bit of Latin on my own for the Ph.D. requirement, which I passed by pretty much memorizing two books of Virgil's Aeneid by sight (using a dual-language text to learn to tell roughly the meaning of each sentence by sight) and had two years of intensive Japanese in graduate school for which I had A's. Also had a year of Spanish and German in university. In recent years I've been brushing up my Japanese, French, and German.

It was at this point that she told me about her affinity with German crime novels.

I've been reading German crime novels recently whenever my blood pressure rises (I remember that you mentioned you read Zhuangzi when you felt stressed), and they miraculously lower my blood pressure at such moments from 145 to 120, and I'm amazed at how many German words are in English, e.g. MEAGER from German MAGER "thin", FRESH (impertinent) from German FRECH "impertinent". But I also see recent borrowing the other way, such as English JOB and BOY imported wholesale into German. (I'm not talking about round-trip here.)

Whereupon I exclaimed:

Wow! Your German is good enough to read them in the original!

To which she replied:

—well, typically I can understand a page of the current German crime novel, with a handful of German words I don't know. Many of the words I understand because I infer from the roots, e.g. Fernseher (far-see) "television". Now, Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain in German is harder to read. Larger vocabulary and longer, more complicated sentences—-and rather ponderous.

I asked my friend to tell me a bit more about how she actually reads German novels:

I read the novels in German (there are still some German words I don't understand, but I get the story without looking up the dictionary; some words are obvious from the context).

Just finished Der Nasse Fisch by Volcker Kutscher. Very good, set in Berlin 1920— prostitution, Reich ministers, spies, communism, socialism, Nazism. Also finished Henning Mankell's Die Weiss Loewin (the White Lioness), translated into German from Swedish. Excellent, set in 80-90s South Africa and Sweden, about apartheid, Nelson Mandela, DeKlerk, Soweto, conspirators in Sweden, a Swedish policeman/detective, etc. Also read Mankell's Before the Frost in German —from Jim Jones in Guyana to religious fanaticism in Sweden. Very good. Mankell is Swedish.

My daughter brought over these crime novels from Germany, and I ordered copies for myself.

I asked my friend:

May we say that German crime novels have a greater tendency / capacity to reduce your blood pressure than other types of books, including crime novels in other languages?

She answered:

Actually my blood pressure is also lowered when I study German, French, Latin, or Chinese, all of which I enjoy doing. But each entails a bit of effort—-because there is some repetition and memorization and the texts may not be delicious, whereas reading a crime novel is pure delight, it's delicious, and no effort, and for that reason, seems to lower blood pressure faster than just studying a language. And it keeps me going through pure delicious curiosity or suspense. I don't know why studying or reading a foreign language lowers my blood pressure. Perhaps I was born to study languages, and am at peace and in my element when I do, without my being conscious of this reason. These crime novels by Henning Mankell and Volcker Kutscher in German are best sellers in Germany. Perhaps equally good crime novels in other languages will be just as effective for blood pressure.

When I feel my blood pressure going up, I measure it, and find it has shot up, to 137, or 145, or 155, and then I quickly sit down with my German crime novel, and then after a few minutes measure blood pressure again and find it has come down to 126, 120, or 108, and then after a few minutes I go about my business again. Sometimes I linger longer over the novel than I should. Meditation, visualizing happy experiences, thinking of loved ones, etc. don't work as fast. Sometimes they take much much longer.

My friend said that she was surprised when she discovered that reading crime novels in German had this salutary effect upon her blood pressure.

Both Volcker Kutscher and Henning Mankell's crime novels are available in English. I'm out of new ones in German, so I'm just reading Kutscher's Der Nasse Fisch again to lower my blood pressure when it shoots up (also calms heart-beat).

This is where things stood about two years ago when my friend and I had a long series of e-mail exchanges on this subject.  Recently, however, because of other things having to do with German (e.g., here, here, and here), I was prompted to go back and dig up our old correspondence.  When I told my friend that I had decided to write a post about the extraordinary effect German crime novels have on her well-being, she remarked:

I'd pretty much forgotten what I said, but after re-reading, still stand by it. (I now read German newspapers and Thomas Mann's Der Zauberberg much better, so am beginning to review Japanese grammar, which I enjoy, and is very calming.)

My friend is a truly remarkable person, as much for her linguistic prowess as for her sensitivity in monitoring the hypotensive effect of her reading habits upon her physiology.

[Thanks to Paula Roberts and Linda Greene]

17 Aug 20:00

We Need To Talk About Gary

by Alexandra Molotkow


So, people in England and Wales are giving their kids Game of Thrones names. Bananas, right? Crazy to think a cultural phenomenon might have an impact on the names people give their children. What does it all mean? Well, it means that last year more babies in England and Wales were named Khaleesi than Gary.

Let’s talk about Gary, a name once prized for its satisfying roundedness and higher-than-average rhyming capabilities. It’s a well-known fact that 26 percent of Americans have a dad named Gary. But very few American dads have sons named Gary, because they ain’t naming their sons Gary.

@alexmolotkow In Quebec the youngest Gary is born in 2012!

— David Rankin (@davidrankin) June 19, 2015

This is true across the Western world. In America, Gary slid from its peak of 9th most popular baby name in 1954 (there are records of female Garys born in the 1940s) to 560th in 2014, just below Talon and Augustus and waaayy behind Gannon, Axel, and Malachi.

Harold and Howard fared worse; William is holding strong. Jaxon was the 46th most popular male name in the United States last year (Aaliyah was the 45th most popular for girls), and it is a very strong name indeed. Sorry, Gary. It’s Jaxon’s time now.

As Gary Mason, himself a Gary, wrote for Canada’s Globe and Mail:

In B.C., there hasn’t been a baby named Gary since 2009. In 1965, there were 126, according to B.C. Vital Statistics. This is a phenomenon around the world. In Britain there were only 28 boys given the name in 2013, compared to 236 in 1996. It was a name that peaked in popularity there in the early 1960s, when it was the 16th most common name for a boy. (There have been girls named Gary, too, but not many).

Gary described feeling “hurt.”

The Independent notes that, in England:

the decline in the name’s popularity could have something to do with convicted paedophile pop star Gary Glitter, 70, who was imprisoned for 16 years last month.

In the time of Gary Cooper, “Gary” sounded gruff and decisive. But too many Garys have made too many kids uncomfortable, and now the name sounds, at best, like a wire bent in a weird direction. Simply put, Gary needs an exceptional Gary. But where is he?

Who will be the next Gary? Not my son. Hell no. But, in honor of the Garys that were, here are some Garys I admire:

Garry Shandling
I like that his face always looks like he’s coming.

Gary Burger (of the Monks)
Alright, my name’s Gary!” —Gary Burger

My Uncle Gary
Great guy.

Gary Larson
Also my Uncle Gary.

17 Aug 14:00

I Watched the Bear Cam for Eight Hours Straight

by The Awl

9:09 AM: Two bears, at the far end of the falls. (Update: Just one bear at the end of the falls. There was a rock that looked like a bear’s butt.) I like watching the falls without bears, though. It’s very soothing. One of the bears comes toward the camera, fighting through the rougher part of the river to get to shore. It succeeds, then wanders off.

Read the rest at The Awl.

17 Aug 15:00

How To Tell If You’re In an Edward Gorey Book

by Bridey Heing

Previously in this series.

As a child, you found yourself in a near constant state of existential threat, often caused by your parents' party guests or abnormal creatures you met on bicycle rides.

One day, when you are sitting down to tea, you are surprised to read in the paper that a once-thought-to-be-dead great aunt has caused a scandal in the capital city of a small European country you can't quite place on the map.

Your fondest family memories involve the moors, and the faintest sense of dread.

As a teenager, your sister showed great promise as a ballerina. She went off to study under the greats, and you never heard from her again. You occasionally see posters for her performances, which appear to be growing darker and darker each season.

The most prominent pieces of furniture in your home are a fainting couch and a large vase of half dead ferns.

Read more How To Tell If You’re In an Edward Gorey Book at The Toast.

09 Aug 15:00

Whale Tales: A Reading List

by Emily Perper

Sharing for #2 & #4.

Whales: We want to watch them, to save them, to read all about them. They are so large—larger than life—that they are symbols in our literature and in our lives. Yet they remain elusive to us, due in part to their nature (deep-diving and difficult to track for sustained periods of time) and to our nature (killing what fascinates us, industrialization, greed). These four stories demonstrate humans’ multi-faceted relationship with whales—where politics, the environment and the economy intermingle with love, terror and cruelty.

1. “Chasing Bayla.” (Sarah Schweitzer, Boston Globe, August 2014)

Let’s start off strong. Sarah Schweitzer has written a masterful story, here: one of hard work, daring rescues, danger and heartbreak. Dr. Michael Moore created a sedative to calm endangered whales trapped in deadly fishing wire. But is his invention enough to free the animals he studied all his life? (I cried.)

2. “‘People Can Be Afraid of Anything.'” (Kate Horowitz, The Atlantic December 2014)

Overwhelmed by a massive model of a blue whale at a museum on an elementary-school field trip, Kate Horowitz develops an unusual phobia. As an adult, she discovers she’s not the only person with a fear of whales, and she takes on a course of exposure therapy, returning to the site of her first fear-struck moment.

3. “The Most Senseless Environmental Crime of the 20th Century.” (Charles Homans, Pacific Standard, November 2013)

One hundred eighty thousand: the estimated number of whales massacred for no reason by the Soviet Union in the mid-1900s. For decades, the government claimed it followed maritime restrictions and hunting quotas. Now, the records kept by a corrupt bureaucracy and its whaling vessels are brought to light and reconstructed. Charles Homans’ piece builds like a horror film, dread spreading through your stomach.

4. “The Legend of the Loneliest Whale in the World.” (Leslie Jamison, Slate, August 2014)

Leslie Jamison’s writing chops are unparalleled, and her account of 52 Blue is fascinating. Named for his vocal frequency—52 hertz, almost three times more than the average blue whale—52 Blue is both a marine marvel and a locus for lonely, misunderstood humans. Jamison weaves together the stories of scientists and civilians affected by this rare whale’s very existence and the stipulations of making an animal the catalyst and cause for hope.

11 Aug 20:00

Dad Music: A Series

by Alexandra Molotkow


Welcome to The Hairpin’s first Dad Music column!

“Dad Music” is a misnomer: Stevie Ray Vaughan is definitely Dad Music, but then some dads like Crass, and some like Sade. Also, the Dads of the classic Dad Music canon are Granddads now. Actual Dads probably like ’90s rap and the Smiths. Even shitty bands like NOFX are “classic.” There are dads in fedoras and bondage pants buying tampons for their bashful daughters UGH we live in the worst possible reality but at least we have Boz Scaggs.

As a genre, however, “Dad Music” normally refers to mainstream American and British acts big from the ’60s through to the ’80s, and the Dad in question is a certain kind of middle- to upper-middle-class man who married a woman and bought a minivan and housed a reasonable number of children in a house. In this column we will be talking about “Dad Music” rather than actual music that dads listen to. We will never talk about Eric Clapton, though, except to call him garbage.

Dad Music is irrelevant music. It doesn’t reflect current issues or tastes. It reflects the concerns of a people whose best years were a few decades ago. I like this kind of music. I find it easier to mold to my emotional needs because I feel less reverence for the artist and his original intent. It makes me feel defiant, and that combination of pleasure and contempt makes for an interesting relationship to something you love. Art that you kind of hate feels a little bit chewier and a little more yours.

I feel opposed to Dad Music on an ideological level, which makes listening to it feel somewhat illicit. If our aim is to burn down the social order associated with Dads, we should totally loot their music.

I want to mention that I really love my Dad. I don’t say that to gloat, because I know there are a lot of bad dads around, but I gotta hand it to Walter. Music that reminds me of my Dad makes me happy, even though, to be honest, Dad’s Dad Music isn’t the Dad Music I like. The only time we ever agreed, musically, was on the Canadian alternative rock I listened to in middle school and rejected thereafter, and then it really embarrassed me to be in the car banging “Rico” by Matthew Good Band. He owns a Steely Dan Best Of, but he never listens to it, and I know because I stole the CD from the jewel case many years ago and he has never complained.

This concludes our introductory installment of Dad Music. The Next First Installment will be: Steely Dan.

13 Aug 19:00

Unconvincing Hymns of the Temperance Army

by Hannah Notess


I first got sucked into the weird vortex of Temperance Hymns while checking some facts in a book about the history of the university where I work. The book mentioned that “the program in the closing day exercises of the first term featured children singing, ‘Saloons Must Go’ as they marched determinedly around the room for the benefit of the spectators.”

“Is that a real song?” I wondered. (Yes.)

It’s hard to imagine now, but the temperance movement was a hotbed of feminist and other progressive causes, especially tied to women’s rights and abolishing slavery, with lots of women leaders. Forward-looking in some ways, regressive in others, temperance crusaders had what they thought was, in many ways, the one weird trick that would cure all our societal ills. Get rid of the demon drink, and domestic abuse, poverty, corruption, and all the other sins would just go along with it.

Still, it’s hard for me not to admire their enthusiasm — particularly when I see the great lengths to which their songs go to make the case that you should only drink water for the rest of your life for the following reasons:

1. Alcoholic drinks will turn you into a demon.

Read more Unconvincing Hymns of the Temperance Army at The Toast.

14 Aug 14:00

Torch Songs Where The Word “Me” Has Been Replaced By “Bees”

by Mallory Ortberg

I am a simple woman, with simple joys.

They're writing songs of love, but not for bees
A lucky star's above, but not for bees
With love to lead the way, I found more skies of grey
Than any Russian play could guarantee

I was a fool to fall, and get that way,
Heigh-ho, alas, and also lack-a-day
Although I can't dismiss
The memory of her kiss
I guess she's not for bees


All of bees
Why not take all of bees

Read more Torch Songs Where The Word “Me” Has Been Replaced By “Bees” at The Toast.

14 Aug 16:00

‘Straight Outta Compton’ Is The Rare Biopic Not About White Dudes

by Hannah Fingerhut

In theaters Friday, “Straight Outta Compton” tells the story of the hip-hop group N.W.A., five young rappers from Compton, California, who revolutionized rap and its place in the mainstream music industry in the 1980s.

The film, which counts original N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre among its producers, is also exceptional in mainstream Hollywood — it’s the only biopic about people of color in wide release this summer44 and one of only a couple of dozen made about people of color so far this decade.

Unlike documentaries, which typically include raw footage and interviews, biopics are dramatizations, loosely based on the real-life events of actual people. Biopics offer an interpretation of lives deemed important (and profitable) by Hollywood, and they often try to make a statement about their subjects’ historical or cultural significance. So which figures filmmakers spotlight matters, as does whom they ignore (or can’t get the funding to feature).

Women don’t fare much better in the genre than people of color — there is only one45 biopic about a woman in U.S. theaters this summer,46 and only about a quarter of all biopic subjects are women. That’s according to my analysis of IMDb data on biographical films released from 1915 through 2014.47

Apparently, the people with important lives are white men. Since the early 20th century, more than 80 percent of biopicture subjects whose race or ethnicity I was able to determine have been white, and 77 percent of subjects have been men. The genre has seen vast improvement in the presence of women and people of color, but Hollywood biopics still tend to reproduce to a greater degree the stories of white men from all corners of society.


This is not particularly shocking — our friends at Fusion recently found similar results analyzing 120 critically acclaimed and high-grossing biopics. We know Hollywood is a predominantly white, male-dominated space. The latest report from the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California on the representation of race, gender and LGBT status in film found that nearly three-quarters of all speaking or named characters in the top 100 highest-grossing movies of 2014 were white, and 7 in 10 were male.

Women of color are the worst-represented demographic group among biopic subjects I looked at. By my analysis, just 21 biopics have been about women of color. And even when a biopic is made about a person of color, the actress cast to play her might be white. Cleopatra was the subject of three of the 21 films about women of color, and the Egyptian queen was played by a white actress every time. White actors played people of color in 20 other biopics, too, from Marlon Brando as Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in “Viva Zapata!” (1952) to a film as recent as “A Mighty Heart” (2007), in which Angelina Jolie played journalist Mariane Pearl, who is of Afro-Chinese-Cuban descent on her mother’s side.

To get these numbers, I searched IMDb for feature films categorized within the “biography” genre and released in the United States, the U.K. or Canada since 1900. I was looking specifically for the people Hollywood chose to profile for a U.S. audience. A total of 676 films featuring 761 subjects were included in the sample. Since the characters in the film were often based loosely on an actual person, I found the real name of each subject and his or her demographic information. This is by no means a comprehensive list, since many biographical films overlap with other genres, such as drama and musical, and are therefore classified as something else. For example, both “Norma Rae” (1979) and “Belle” (2013) are based on true stories but are classified on IMDb as drama, and drama and romance, respectively. A number of biographical films may be missing from the sample as a result, but this analysis is a place to start. (There’s more information on my methodology in the footnotes.48)

The racial and gender imbalance in biopics isn’t just the product of an imbalanced industry. It also reflects societal structures and values, several film historians told me. Early biopic subjects were figures with prominent public lives — the “great white men” of the early 20th century who controlled the social, political and economic structures of the time, in other words, the context in which the films about them were made.

“In the macro sense, you can’t separate obviously the production of biopics from the larger culture of society and the industry itself,” said filmmaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner, a professor at Columbia University. “Often biopics are about ‘important people,’ and I think the farther back you go, the more ‘great men’” you see.

These great men were (and to some extent still are) celebrated as the heroes of the modern world without much contest, while the few women and people of color who were subjects of films at this time were famous because they were anomalies. It was sharpshooter “Annie Oakley” (1935) and physicist Marie Curie (“Madame Curie,” 1943) — both women who rattled social norms. The latter film in particular made abundantly clear its subject’s exceptional status as a woman in a man’s field, said Dennis Bingham, English professor and director of film studies at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis.

“The amount of dialogue that has to be devoted to people marveling over the fact that she’s a woman, and it still has to show that she can bake bread, be a mother,” he said. “Having a leadership role, being in a field traditionally thought of as male, it’s so exceptional that the film has to keep pointing that out.”


Films made about women and people of color emerged more frequently when the genre shifted midcentury from portraying the leaders of the modern world to portraying cultural figures — from Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison to model and actress Edie Sedgwick and boxer Muhammad Ali. Still, until the 1980s, the number of films released per decade about a person of color was in the single digits. Since then, in any given decade, there have been at least three times as many white subjects as subjects of color. In the ’90s, white subjects outnumbered subjects of color by a factor of six. 49

And the ratio of male to female subjects per decade has consistently been about 3 to 1 since Sweden’s Queen Christina was the first female subject of a biographical film, one produced by MGM Studios in 1933.

With the transition toward subjects from popular culture came a new trend of depicting people “warts and all,” such that films aim to divulge the hairy details of the subject’s personal life. Bingham has noticed in his research on biopics that this approach is especially common for women.

“It struck me right away that the women who did not have a lot of serious trouble in their lives, who are pretty much successful, those aren’t the lives that movies are made about because it doesn’t fit the ideology; it isn’t considered interesting,” Bingham said.

Twenty-three percent of the women featured in my sample of biopics are entertainers — “showgirls,” actresses, dancers and singers. Many of these women are shown suffering, either failing in public life or depending on a man to succeed. In “Ciao Manhattan” (1972), Sedgwick is propelled to stardom by artist Andy Warhol but experiences the perils of fame — “from fame to shame,” as the tag line puts it. Actress Lillian Roth, the subject of “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” (1955), spirals downward as she faces catastrophic relationships and drug addiction.

From a business perspective, biopics come with relatively high costs because they have to re-create moments in history, so a subject is often chosen only if her life story has enough drama and entertainment value to fill theater seats. Given the industry’s power structure and what has made for successful biopics in the past, Bingham thinks there is a glass ceiling for budgets of films about people of color and women. If the studio has decided that a particular subject or film is not going to reach multiple viewer demographics, the studio will be more reticent about spending the money.

Perhaps as a result, the people of color featured in biopics overwhelmingly are entertainers (musicians and athletes, in particular) or activists; nearly half of those in our sample fall within these three categories.

Just 44 of the 564 subjects with known race or ethnicity in our sample were black, nine of whom were African. Among the 35 African-American subjects, just five were women. Two films featured black activists in America: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Most of the other African-American subjects (67 percent) were either athletes or entertainers, including one comedian, Richard Pryor.

“I truly believe that the film industry has been instrumental in promoting a vision of America that has marginalized and stigmatized blacks,” said Jeffrey Sammons, a history professor at New York University. Hollywood executives “don’t want to promote heroes among those people who are strong and forceful and confident and bright, whether it’s a black scientist or artist. You get musicians but certainly not statesmen.”

The only black world leader included in the sample was former South African President Nelson Mandela.

And while there were 26 Hispanic subjects, as far as I could determine, just one — Selena Quintanilla-Perez — was Latina, and six were Latino (Latina and Latino refer to U.S.-born Hispanic people). The remainder of Hispanics in the sample were Latin Americans or Spaniards, many of whom were of European descent, i.e., white. (See: Madonna starring as Eva Perón in “Evita” (1996).)

The genre has certainly seen improvement in diversity, especially because of the work of women and people of color who direct, produce and write in Hollywood. But the discrepancies remain stark. Bingham believes there is an emerging trend toward films made for television, especially films made for and about people of color, which do not have to be pitched to such a mass audience. (Netflix, too, might offer additional opportunities to reach audiences on a smaller scale.) Queen Latifah recently starred as singer Bessie Smith in HBO’s “Bessie,” which joins other made-for-TV biographical films such as “Behind the Candelabra” about pianist Liberace and “Temple Grandin” about the animal-husbandry expert who has autism. These films reflect diversity in racial, gender and LGBT status but would not appear in our sample because they are not feature films.

“It’s going to be really interesting to see where this all ends up, with so many filmmakers going over to television, not because they’d rather work on television, but because they can get projects made that theatrical Hollywood wouldn’t look at,” Bingham said.

CORRECTION (Aug. 14, 12:50 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that there are no biopics about women in theaters this summer. There is one, “Testament of Youth,” which came out in the U.S. in June but was released in the U.K. last year.

13 Aug 17:00

Shit Work

by The Billfold

I have a theory that the easiest litmus test for privilege is how much contact someone’s had with poop that isn’t their own. Shit: the great social divide. I’m not talking about cleaning up your child’s or pet’s leavings. You love them. It’s different. I’m referring to the clear-cut capitalist exchange of cash for cleaning up. I’ve found that as I rise unsteadily through the social stratosphere, the amount of crap I have to deal with in my jobs has sunk proportionally.

Read the rest at The Billfold.

12 Aug 15:30

What If… Math Was Cool

by Choire Sicha

COOOOLOoh, they just found a new pentagon that tiles—only the 15th so far. What does that mean? It means you can “cover a flat surface using only identical copies of the same shape.”

That was a team, with supercomputers. But what if a person could do that on her own?

Yesss, this means it’s time to revisit the site of Marjorie Rice, who, after creating her own mathematical notation, discovered four of these classes of shapes. She also made a new kind of artwork about them.


She was then a woman in her 50s who had never been to college. (Usually described as a “homemaker.”) She is now in her 90s, and lives in California with her (very Christian!) daughter.

12 Aug 19:00

A Day in the Life of an Art Museum Phone Operator, in Haiku

by Maia Brown-Jackson

Are you real? Well, yes.

Is it raining outside now?

...I'm in a basement.


The Dali show, from

seven years ago, I missed.

Can I still go now?


Who replaces your

American flags? May I

speak with them? URGENT.



We close at five. If

I arrive at five, when would

I need to leave? Five.


I found a Miro

in my attic. Can you buy

it? Not at all fake.


Read more A Day in the Life of an Art Museum Phone Operator, in Haiku at The Toast.

13 Aug 13:44

The NYC subway to a person using a wheelchair

by Lisa Wade, PhD

The Americans with Disabilities Act turned 25 years old last month. It was enacted by U.S. Congress with the goal of ensuring that people with disabilities had access to “reasonable accommodations” so that they could participate wholly in public life.

Did it work? Consider the New York City subway. SupraStructure featured these two maps. The one on the left is the NYC subway map of the 490 stations in the system; on the right is the accessible subway map, including only the 100 or so accessible stops:


“Essentially the NYC subway system is useless if you use a wheelchair,” writes Bad Cripple about the map. He continues:

Access to mass transportation for a person such as myself that uses a wheelchair is routinely difficult in the extreme. … Wheelchair lifts on buses are somehow broken or the drivers refuse to use the lift often claiming ignorance. Accessible taxis are as rare as diamonds in many cities. Subways in the vast majority of cities are grossly inaccessible. Rental car companies often do not have the car with hand controls rented weeks or days in advance. Shuttle buses at airports are not always accessible. Hotel shuttle buses are also typically not accessible.

He adds that discount travel is “pure folly” and that newer options like AirBnB and Uber seem to have no interest in accommodating people with disabilities. Not to mention the many places he travels that have broken lifts, elevators, and strangely non-accessible “accessible” accommodations.

As with much civil rights legislation, passing the ADA was just the first step in gaining equality. People have often had to sue piecemeal to get accessibility. A person identifies a restaurant without accessible bathrooms, for example, and begins legal proceedings to force the business to comply.  Slowly, little by little — thanks to lawsuits, building codes, and other means — the world is becoming more accessible, though not nearly as quickly as people with disabilities need it to.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

13 Aug 14:30

“Hey, How Should Our Magazine Commemorate the Anniversary of the Time an Unarmed Black Teen Was Shot with 12 Bullets by a White Police Officer”

by Choire Sicha


11 Aug 00:22


by Victor Mair

In the online newspaper, Politico, Jules Johnston has an article about new German words coined by youth:

"In the words of young Germans, just ‘merkeln’ " (8/3/15)

The German dictionary manufacturer Langenscheidt came up with the idea seven years ago to create a list of new words and expressions invented by teens by selecting the “Jugendwort” (Youth Word of the Year). And since then, young Germans have been invited to submit terms to an online board.

The top vote getter for 2015 is merkeln, which means " to be unable to take decisions or give your own opinions and can be used to describe someone who just stays there without doing anything."  I don't know if that's a fair characterization of Angela Merkel, but enough young people must think it has sufficient validity to give it nearly three times as many votes as its closest competitor, Earthporn ("beautiful landscape"), and one third of the total.

The next closest contender is rumoxidieren, which apparently means "chill" (as in German chillen), I know not why.

My favorite by far is Smombie ("People who go spellbound by mobile phone on the road and do not look where they're going, composition of smartphone and zombie") because it reminds me of the Cant. dai1tau4 zuk6 / MSM dītóu zú 低頭族 ("head-down tribe") that I wrote about here:

"Tribes " (3/10/15)

No matter what you call them, and although they're innately comical, people who have their heads glued to those little glowing screens have increasingly become a menace on streets, sidewalks, and wherever else they're likely to collide with innocent vehicles and bodies.

[hat tip Jan Söhlke]

10 Aug 18:00

Twee: High-Risk, High-Reward

by Alexandra Molotkow

“Twee,” in the pejorative sense, means something that substitutes decoration for substance. But it can also refer to something that makes an effort to be sweet and adorbs in addition to whatever else it is, or that communicates something through sweetness and adorability.

Which is to say: it’s high-risk, high-reward. I have zero patience for white kids goofing on ukeleles, or self-conscious weirdos who maintain eye contact for too long as a private experiment to see if they can beam their thoughts into yours. And I hate it when singers put on phony voices to sound more “interesting” than they are (fsodfhisodif), and every year, for decades, hundreds upon hundreds of new rock bands sound exactly like Talking Heads except the singer has a concussion and the lettering on the album cover was written in the dude’s wrong hand.

Twee is, more often than not, just a way to muddle up something that’s otherwise completely mundane and uninteresting. Because if you learn one thing in art school it’s that if you don’t have an idea, obfuscate! You can coast for years on obscurity, as long as you’re pretty or mean enough to convince people they’re missing something. It can carry you through your 20s and even beyond, if you date younger.

I totally get why people hate twee. Most of the time, I hate it too. As Katrina Onstad wrote in a profile on Miranda July:

Twee fascinations with childhood innocence can mask an unwillingness to tackle life’s darker quandaries. Who wouldn’t be annoyed by a guy who, say, finds a cracked milk bottle, makes a film about it, then silk screens it on a T-shirt and names his band Milk Bottle? The stakes are low. The results are soon forgotten.

The stakes are low because there’s no intention. In this case, “cute” is a lazy tactic that reveals a mutant sense of entitlement and self-regard—your genius runs so deep that even your least considered ideas are precious. Because “cute” is such an easy bluff, twee is cloying and disposable more often than not. And it triggers an instinctive wariness in those who regard it, of being suckered into a feeling that’s not genuine to the work. There’s nothing wrong with a cold, empty aesthetic (take Scarface) but the pretense of “poignant” is unbearable.

That said, some things are cute for a reason. And I love cute, when it earns itself, or just is. If twee is done well and with emotional honesty, it can be as beautiful as it means to be, because sometimes a thing that is painstakingly designed to be pleasant is, in fact, pleasant.

Some of my favorite things are twee. I love Belle and Sebastian. I love the Free Design. I even like the Ladybug Transistor, and the movie Submarine. Oh, and I LOVE Miranda July. I totally love Miranda July. I even liked the movie with the talking cat, and even the part of the movie where the guy talks to the moon about his relationship woes, and by the end I even liked the talking cat itself. Why? Because it worked! Everything made sense relative to everything else. (You and Me and Everyone We Know was a little much.)

Oh, and my favorite instrument is the flute.

Sometimes twee is just the medium. For example, Joanna Newsom, who announced a new album today! I would call her a genius. I would also call her difficult. She is “muscularly adorable,” and it takes some kind of muscle, I guess, to get up there with a harp in a peasant dress and sing like Karen Dalton. I’m not saying you should ever do that, or that it’s not a little bit painful to hold her eye as she leaps through snowy Manhattan, or suffer the twinkle of glockenspiel. I’m just saying that Joanna Newsom knows what the fuck she’s doing, and I believe she could not do it any other way.

10 Aug 18:17

Day 5335 (again): A Song for Jeremy aka Labour’s White Flag

by Millennium Dome

My Lords, Labours and Gentlebeans, please be upstanding for THE SONG:

The People's BEARD is sort of WHITE,

And gives the PARTY such a FRIGHT;

It looks like AUTHENTICITY,

But it's economic FANTASY!

      So raise the BEARD and SANDAL here,
      With policies of YESTERYEAR;
      And CRASH the economy AGAIN!

We'll tax the WEALTHY for their GREED,

And PRINT the money that we NEED;



      So raise the BEARD and SANDAL here,
      To Facebook LIKE and Twitter CHEER;
      Will DROWN out anybody's MOANS!

But if you choose to DISAGREE,

We'll throw abuse and shout "TORY!"

We sneer at TRAITORS in our RANKS,

And make the BLAIRITES walk the PLANK!

      So raise the BEARD and SANDAL here;
      The GREAT and GOOD all quake with FEAR;

When 2020 comes round at last,

You'll find us focused on the PAST;

We'll Ban the Bomb and Stop the War,

And vote to reinstate CLAUSE FOUR! (Or not!)

      So raise the BEARD and SANDAL here,
      Election chances DISAPPEAR;
      Emblazoned with our silver FUZZ,
      Though NO ONE wants to VOTE for US!
09 Aug 20:05

De Montfort makes eyes at Dave

by (Jen)
De Montfort University* has got in a kerfuffle after awarding its highest honour to David Cameron in recognition of the importance of same-sex marriage and its impact in social progress.

There's a petition here which has that rare quality of being an online petition I can entirely sign up to the sentiments of despite not having written. Far too many throw in peculiar delusions along the way.

How I feel about it all though is a little complicated. 
Dave was sticking his neck out in backing the marriage bill: it cost him support within his party (who were divided 50-50 on it in Parliament in the end: slightly against in the Commons and slightly in favour in the Lords) and it surely handed Tory votes to UKIP without which he'd now be sitting on a much more comfortable majority. That does deserve some recognition, though it's sad to say that we live in an era where politicians who spend their political capital on doing something of benefit to others deserves special credit. 25 years earlier if such a law had been enacted his party would have been promising to repeal same-sex marriage the moment they got in. Now it's something they boast, somewhat misleadingly, of having done, and so we can feel more secure of it staying law regardless who runs the country in the years to come. As someone who wants liberation and equality, getting the Tories to 'buy in' to same-sex marriage is a definite plus.

But the bill came not from Dave but from Lynne Featherstone, following the resolution at Lib Dem conference proposed by the party's LGBT+ wing and opposed by Stonewall. As the Liberals have been on the right side of every LGBT rights question since forever on account of their ideology, often on their own, that is seen as a less bold move.

I feel parallels in how I've seen for example Unison's LGBT wing getting praise for bisexual engagement work. Which they have been doing well over the last five years or so and I've been glad to see. Yet my work's LGBT network was pulling in bi activists to do equivalent engagement work in the 90s when LG Unison were telling bisexuals to get stuffed. It's a bit galling for people who did heavy lifting long ago, when it's the comparative latecomers to the party get the praise...

Which is a roundabout way of saying I'd have a lot more time for De Montfort if they'd been giving similar recognition to Lynne and e.g. one of the early pioneers who got us here like Bernard Greaves. 
That'd feel like celebrating the change rather than buttering up the PM.
* - me neither. Turns out it's in Leicester