Sunday, May 20, 2018

About self-criticism

Friday, May 18, 2018

About stupid


A politician may or may not have called another politician a “stupid woman”, which is very bad, apparently. I understand it’s not exactly the sort of thing you’d like to hear from a colleague, but it’s fairly low down the rankings as far as political vituperation goes.

It turns out, though, that “stupid” is now verboten in many schools. But I’m not sure if that means it’s just considered too hurtful to draw attention to someone’s stupidity — or whether stupidity as a thing is considered not to exist.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

About safe spaces etc

A couple of pull-outs from Bret Easton Ellis’s interview (by Nathalie Olah) in the TLS:
It’s terrible. And it’s a terrible way to live as an artist. You see it affecting the arts on a vague, vague but vast scale – where is the taboo? Where is the Other? So what if it’s offensive? Good! Where is this bizarre idea of art created by committee, by a democracy, coming from? Art isn’t created by a democracy! And there seems to be this thing, especially on social media, of group-approved art, that’s chilling.
I wouldn’t have been the writer I am if I’d been raised in a very safe, no-bully environment with a nice mom and dad who looked after me and made sure everything was ok... I think your experiences of pain and alienation and people marginalizing you is what forces out this expressiveness. I think we’re becoming a society that wants to erase all of that. Put everyone into this safe group that is all taken care of and everyone’s the same and no one’s different and we all love each other and we’re eradicating all pain and it’s all very nice and it’s all very utopian; I just don’t think that’s who we really are and I don’t know what the end game of that is.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

About trolling

According to the musician Courtney Barnett, the phrase
I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you
is a manifestation of trolling and “male aggression”. Or is it just criticism?

Monday, May 14, 2018

About Pompidou

I was vaguely listening to a radio play about the Paris événements and Googled “Pompidou” to clarify some nugget or another; inevitably, the first thing that comes up is the art centre, rather than de Gaulle’s sidekick. “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation,” as Guy Debord said. Nice to see the old sod finally being validated.


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

About Guattari

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

About a qipao


I did consider writing about the case of Keziah Daum, who wore a qipao/cheongsam to her high school prom and kicked off all manner of brouhaha about cultural appropriation and that juicy stuff, prompting everyone to adopt their instinctive battle formations in the culture wars. But, for once, I was inhibited about opining, what with me being a non-Asian, non-female, non-qipao-wearer (at least while sober) and all that. Fortunately, the excellent Anna Chen, in The Guardian, made far more sense about the whole thing than I could ever have done, pointing out that the garment itself has woven into it a whole load of other problems about gender and class before we get to whether some random gweilo is allowed to wear it and, essentially, that Asians living under the shadow of Trump have rather more pressing concerns than this.

But something still niggles. In the past I’ve made the smartarse observation that the end point of the whole cultural appropriation concept is that only Belgians will be allowed to play saxophones; only to be told that this is all about power, and it’s perfectly OK to appropriate from above. Thus, it’s wrong for Keziah to wear a qipao but it’s acceptable for her Asian classmates to wear jeans, because American culture dominates everyone and everything.

Fair enough for the here and now; but let’s think ahead a bit. This is the Asian century; forecasting history with absolute confidence is a fool’s errand but it’s a pretty good bet that by, say, 2050, China will be a hugely dominant global power, in terms of economic, military and cultural power, maybe even challenging the American hegemony. And if that’s how it turns out, will it be acceptable for Keziah’s daughter or granddaughter to wear a qipao to her prom; but not for the President of China to wear a business suit?

Monday, May 07, 2018

About Boris and Donald and Marshall

Some of the fine details of McLuhan’s ideas seem a little quaint because the specifics of technology and media have so far outstripped what he knew; for example, the declining relevance of television as a mass medium. That said, I think he would have had something to say about the fact that senior politicians can best communicate with the most powerful man in the world by appearing on his favourite TV show rather than, y’know, talking to him. Apart from the fact it’s utterly weird and depressing and terrifying, obviously.