Another summer six-pack for you from the archives here at NOT PC TOWERS—six posts from some of them just slightly brushed up for 2010.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Altruism: It's about us, not them
Since we've had a few chats here recently about altruism, tsunamis and being uncharitable, it seems appropriate to examine what's been happening with all that tsunami aid that Western countries gave on behalf of their taxpayers.
Turns out that it hasn't all gone where it was supposed to. In fact, much of it hasn't gone anywhere at all, and much that has is still trying to penetrate red tape. Mark Steyn examines what and where here. [Cached copy here.]The problem, notes Steyn, is that Westerners are "eager to help but too naive to understand that, no matter the scale of devastation visited upon a hapless developing nation, its obstructionist bureaucracy will emerge from the rubble unscathed."
The problem is that altruism has encouraged people to think the act of virtue inheres in the giving itself, rather than in the actual result of the giving. "It's the thought that counts," we say smugly. Time to rethink our virtues, I'd suggest.
Take the whole Live Aid palaver for instance. Organised to feed Ethiopia's starving millions after a famine of Biblical proportions decimated the population, the famine was no more Biblical in origin than was Stalin's starving of millions of Ukranian peasants half-a century before -- no surpise, since Colonel Haile Mariam Mengistu was following to the letter Stalin's own programme to exterminate the Kulaks in his own fiefdom. How he must have laughed at Bob Geldof. Daniel Wolf wrote (in a Spectator article originally published in the Spectator and titled in homage to Sir Bob "What Happened to the Fucking Money?"):
“In 1984-85, up to a billion dollars’ worth of aid flowed into Ethiopia. Thousands of Western aid workers and journalists flew in with it. The regime ensured that the visitors converted their Western dollars to the local currency at a rate favourable to the government: in 1985 the Dergue tripled its foreign currency reserves. It used this influx of cash to build up its war machine, it commandeered aid vehicles for its own purposes and, by diverting aid supplies, helped to feed its armies.
“The United Nations in Addis Ababa, which was co-ordinating the aid operation, denied that the level of diversion was significant. Later on, it became clear that a significant proportion of the relief food in Tigray - the epicentre of the famine - was consigned to the militia. The militias were known locally as ‘wheat militias’.”
As Mugged By Reality says, "People were not starving they were being starved." And giving was not saving them from being starved, instead it was feeding and succoring their oppressors. It was helping to starve them.
But of that irrevocable truth, Live Aid donors care little if at all since, as Daniel Wolf points out, "The story of Band Aid is the story of us, not them"; and so it is with all altruism -- with altruism it's always the giving itself that matters, not the result of the giving.
Sacrifice matters. That’s the only results that does.
Giving the money made people feel better about themselves -- their new-found virtue in being 'good altruists' helped them feel they'd earned the right to be smug. That the giving did less than nothing to help the problem it was supposed to fix seems to have caused barely a ripple since.
Mustn’t challenge that self-serving smugness now, must we?
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I have a new policy on comments here. I continue to welcome comments from honest participants, but I'm drawing the line at hosting anonymous stalkers with a manufactured grudge. The Humphreys are having spam problems; I'm having stalker problems. We're both acting to deal with the problem. People participate in blogs instead of newsgroups because they're sick of the crap associated with newsgroups; I'm making sure that crap doesn't ooze in here.
Just so you know then, from now on and for the meantime anonymous comments, comments from trolls, or from those without legitimate pseudonyms (such as from “sock puppets” or those without a Blogger.com profile) will be deleted. Hopefully normal transmission can be resumed shortly.
Let me repeat, I welcome honest argument and discussion. I welcome free speech. But the principle of free speech doesn't require that I provide my sundry unhinged attackers with a microphone.
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Thursday, June 15, 2006
Becky wants to knock her school down
A young Irish girl has the solution for all those horrible factory schools: knock the buggers down. She's making a start on her own school in Dublin: "Can you make sure all me teachers are inside when you knock it down . . . nobody likes them . . . But tell me, when the school falls down, will it make a crash or a wallop?" "As we say in Belfast, it'll make a big beng!" Priceless.
If only young Becky went to a decent school: maybe one like the Hershey Montessori Farm School in Ohio; or one of these fine local Montessori schools. Ah well. At least the pur wee t'ing has a swift solution.
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Thursday, October 27, 2005
PC, & 'The Great Postmodern Essay Generator'
Picture this. You’re an embattled student who urgently needs to generate post-modern gibberish convincing enough to pass muster with the clown at the front of your lecture room. Here for you is the ideal too: It’s The postmodern essay generator, which at the touch of a button produces impenetrable nonsense—complete with footnotes.
Here, for example, is a randomly generated piece on “Lacanist Obscurity and the Precapitalist Paradigm of Expression”:
“1. Fellini and Lacanist obscurity
“’Class is fundamentally responsible for class divisions,’ says Foucault; however, according to Werther , it is not so much class that is fundamentally responsible for class divisions, but rather the futility, and some would say the economy, of class. The main theme of McElwaine’s model of the precapitalist paradigm of expression is the genre, and hence the economy, of subcultural society. Thus, in Stardust, Gaiman reiterates Sartreist absurdity; in Neverwhere, however, he deconstructs Lacanist obscurity.“The primary theme of the works of Gaiman is a textual paradox. But if Sartreist absurdity holds, we have to choose between the precapitalist paradigm of expression and precapitalist nationalism.
“The subject is interpolated into a Sartreist absurdity that includes sexuality as a whole. In a sense, the main theme of Dietrich’s essay on Lacanist obscurity is the role of the writer as artist.”
You see? Perfectly impenetrable—and wholly indistinguishable from the real thing!
A well-deserved hat tip here to historian Keith Windschuttle, the author of The Killing of History and proprietor of TheSydneyLine website, both highly recommended. Hat tip also to philosopher Stephen Hicks, who recommended Windschuttle's lectures and essays on postmodernism. Both Hicks's book and Windschuttle's work provide invaluable real help for embattled students caught in the ibid thickets of postmodernism.
And given the talk about "eradicating political incorrectness" around the traps today, Windschuttle's links to Jim Ball's list: antidotes for political correctness and reading lists for every young woman might come in very useful (you might compare the suggested lists with my own suggested reading list for a young man).
Hicks's own book Explaining Postmodernism might also prove useful to the honest student, particularly as it points out so well the connection between postmodernism and PC. As I argued at 'Blog Central' when this subject came up before once before:
“Political correctness is not just harmless stupidity; it is the imposition of pre-digested opinions, usually by those in some position of power. It is the replacing of thought with rote.
“Author Stephen Hicks argues that political-correctness comes from post-modernism, and is simply post-modern relativism applied to speech and personal beahavious.
In his book Explaining Post Modernism, which I highly recommend - especially to students - Hicks contrasts the Enlightenment view of the world with its nemesis, the post-modern politically-correct position that seeks to overturn Enlightenment values:"The contemporary Enlightenment world prides itself on its commitment to equality and justice, its open-mindedness, its making opportunity available to all, and its achievements in science and technology. The Enlightenment world is proud, confident, and knows it is the wave of the future.Does any of that sound familiar?
"This is unbearable to someone who is totally invested in an opposed and failed outlook. That pride is what such a person wants to destroy. The best target to attack is the Enlightenment’s sense of its own moral worth. Attack it as sexist and racist, intolerably dogmatic, and cruelly exploitative. Undermine its confidence in its reason, its science and technology. The words do not even have to be true or consistent to do the necessary damage. "And like Iago, postmodernism does not have to get the girl in the end. Destroying Othello is enough."
Well. Does it?
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Architect v Architect: 'Bavinger House,' by Bruce Goff
This was the second posting in the ‘Architecture v Architecture' debate, in which Den MT and I traded our architectural favourites in a battle of top spot. the introduction to which is in. This was the first of the contributions from yours truly, one of my own top five.
Architect Bruce Goff never designed to be published in magazines or to attract the bright lights, he never designed to be fashionable (he worked in Oklahoma, for Galt's sake!), and he never designed to fit the 'malatropisms' of the so-called intellectual elite, whom he shunned as if they carried plague -- which of course in a sense they did (and do). Bruce Goff spent his life designing and working simply to delight himself and his clients. And so he did. No two Goff buildings were ever even remotely the same.
I was introduced to him inadvertently by means of a wise-cracking insult by locally fashionable architect Ian Athfield, who had come up the hill to critique student work at Wellington's Victoria University. Seeing my own project he gave a snort of derision, muttered something about me and Bruce Goff which brought the house down, and moved on to look at something more post-modern from the student next door -- whereupon I left to find out about this chap I was supposed to be channeling, even if only in jest. What I discovered was that anyone channelling this guy was my kind of architect.
Goff was apprenticed to an architect at twelve, and had designed his first church by eighteen. Not bad going, even back in those laissez-faire days, especially for an atheist. He worked through the war years as an army engineer, delighting in using found materials and 'borrowed' structures to do things with them for which they were never intended, such as this simple chapel built on the cheap using Quonset Huts. In later years he was to use all manner of 'found objects' -- his favourite story of this was to tell of an ophthalmologist client who insisted that after looking at eyes all day he didn't want any circles in his house: Goff designed him an angular house, with a wall interspersed with small, thick diamond-shaped clear glass panels. These were square one-dollar Woolworth's glass ashtrays Goff had bought and set on-point in the house's entrance wall.
Goff's best work is this house pictured here, the Bavinger House. Built in 1955 for a young family in Norman Oklahoma, it brings together locally quarried 'ironrock,' mine tailings, coal rejects, glass cullets, airplane wire and a used oil-rig drilling pipe for the mast.
The result is astonishing. The outer wall -- and in fact there is only one wall performing many functions -- seems to grow out of the ground before moving out and around to surround and enclose a garden and an adjoining living area before spiralling in an up to form and fix the climactic vertical pylon from which the roof and floor 'pods' are hung. The 'pods' are hung off the wall as it ascends, providing withdrawing, bedroom and study space that can be closed off with curtaining (don't ask, some writers suggest something about goose feathers) but mostly remain open to the whole glorious space in which they hover.
A small jewel-like masterpiece. As this web description of the Bavinger house concludes:
“Goff once wrote, ‘Beauty bursts forth when it must, because the Artist feels the drive within . . . and no amount of discouragement can stop him.’ From America’s heartland, Goff transcended traditional ideals and proved to the world that architecture is an extension of nature, and the elements of sky, earth and water, its realm.”
Bruce Goff's Bavinger House: Definitely one of my own personal top five favourites.
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Saturday, July 29, 2006
Break-up songs [now with links to YouTube!]
For once, Rick Giles has an idea worth borrowing (who would have thunk it?). He's posted a short-list of breakup songs, but I think you and I, readers, can do much better.
After all popular music has a breakup song for every mood,. .
And that’s just scratching the surface. There are folks who've carved whole careers out of break-up songs. Hank Williams for instance:
WISTFUL: The Best of Everything - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"Wherever you are tonight, I wish you the best of everything, In the World, And I hope you found, Whatever you were looking for."
JUVENILE: Song for the Dumped - Ben Folds Five
"So you wanted to take a break? Slow it down some, and have some space? Well fuck you too! Give me my money back, Give me my money back, you bitch."
SONG FOR THE DUMP-ER: I Useta Love Her - Saw Doctors
"So now you know the truth of it she’s no longer my obsession, Though the thoughts and dreams I had of her would take six months in confession. See I met this young one Thursday night and she’s inta free expression. And her mission is to rid the world of sinful repression. Then we had a session..."
HONEST: Toy Love Song - Toy Love
"'Cos when I see you by my side, I wonder if you're suicide, Affects me like I feel it ought to do. Or was our loving just a toy, A crazy girl a stupid boy, Ignoring things that could have made it true..."
SELF-FLAGELLATING: Blue Valentines - Tom Waits
"And it takes a lot of whiskey, To make these nightmares go away, And I cut my bleedin' heart out every night. And I die a little more on each St. Valentines day. Remember that I promised I would Write, you... These blue valentines..."
INDECISIVE: Should I Stay or Should I Go - The Clash
"This indecisions bugging me, If you dont want me, set me free..."
VENGEFUL: Sometimes - The Stranglers
"Somebody's gonna call your bluff, Somebody's gonna treat you rough, Sometimes there's only one way out, I gotta fight!"
DISBELIEF: No You! - Paul Kelly
"I go up and down, And every single sound says, No you! No you! No you! No you! No you, no you, no you!"
FANTASY: I'll Come Running (To Tie Your Shoes) - Brian Eno
"I sit playing solitaire by the window. Just waiting, seasons change, ah hah, you'll see, Some day these dreams will pull you through my door..."
IT'S COMPLICATED: Pale Blue Eyes - Velvet Underground
"Thought of you as my mountain top. Thought of you as my peak. I thought of you as everything I've had, but couldn't keep. I've had, but couldn't keep... Skip a life completely. Stuff it in a cup. They said, money is like us in time, It lies, but can't stand up. Down for you is up."
IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME: It Ain't Me, Babe - Bob Dylan
"You say you're lookin' for someone, Never weak but always strong, To protect you an' defend you, Whether you are right or wrong, Someone to open each and every door, But it ain't me, babe, No, no, no, it ain't me, babe, It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe."
LINGERING RESENTMENT: Pretty as a Picture - Hammond Gamble
"And I'll send you a card for Christmas, one at Easter time, Call and see the children in the summer time..."
"I JUST HAD TO": Ruby's Arms - Tom Waits
"So jesus christ this goddamn rain, Will someone put me on a train, I'll never kiss your lips again, Or break your heart..."
FINALITY: It's Over - Graham Brazier
"See the change, See the way... See that gleam in her eye, Telling you it's all over."
OH SHIT: Stephanie Says - Velvet Underground
"Stephanie says that she wants to know, Why she's given half her life, to people she hates now..."
OH FUCK: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue - Bob Dylan
"The lover who just walked out your door, Has taken all his blankets from the floor.
The carpet, too, is moving under you, And its all over now, baby blue."
NO HOPE: Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
"When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, And resentment rides high, but emotions won't grow. And we're changing our ways, taking different roads, Then love, love will tear us apart, again."
BETRAYAL: You Cheated Me – Hammond Gamble
”You know I leave this town to work, So the kids and you can dress up decently. The truth is that it hurts, there’s been no welcome home to speak of recently. Oh and the lonely nights that you used to spend, aren’t lonely anymore . . . “
"Your cheating heart will pine some day, And crave the love you threw away. The time will come when you'll be blue, Your cheating heart will tell on you."Crikey! And then there's whole albums of 'break-up madness.' Like Nick Cave's Let Love In -- "Love is always having to say you're sorry, And I am, from my head down to my shoes. I'm sorry that I'm always pissed, I'm sorry that I exist, And when I look into your eyes I can see you're sorry too" -- and Lou Reed's bleakly self-pitying Berlin, the recording of which was said to have driven everyone mad, and from which come these gems:
"Did you ever see a robin weep, When leaves begin to die. That means he's lost the will to live, I'm so lonesome, I could cry."
UNCERTAIN: How do you think it feels
"How do you think it feels, To feel like a wolf and foxy? How do you think it feels, To always make love by proxy?"
QUESTIONING: Oh Jim
"Now you said that you love us, But you only make love to one of us, Oh Jim, how could you treat me this way, You know you broke my heart, Ever since you went away, When you're looking through the eyes of hate, Oh, oh, oh, oh."
IMMATURE: Caroline Says, I
"Caroline says that I'm just a toy, She wants a man, not just a boy, Oh, Caroline says, ooh Caroline says. Caroline says she can't help but be mean, Or cruel, or oh so it seems, Oh, Caroline says. Caroline says. She say she doesn't want a man who leans, Still she is my Germanic Queen."
BRUTAL: Caroline Says, II
"Caroline says - as she gets up from the floor, You can hit me all you want to, but I don't love you anymore."
HURTFUL: The Kids
"I am the Water Boy, the real game's not over here, But my heart is overflowin' anyway. I'm just a tired man, no words to say, But since she lost her daughter It's her eyes that fill with water, And I am much happier this way."
SUICIDAL: The Bed
"This is the place where she lay her head, When she went to bed at night. And this is the place our children were conceived, Candles lit the room brightly at night. And this is the place where she cut her wrists, That odd and fateful night..."
And finally, back again to
WISTFUL: Sad Song
"My castle, kids and home, I thought she was Mary, Queen of Scots. I tried so very hard. Shows just how wrong you can be."
And then of course there are other favourites.
The female divorcee's karaoke favourite: I Will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor.
And for the bloke with new-found freedom: Bring on the Nubiles, by The Stranglers.
And we haven't even touched opera! Where would we be without Pagliacci's Vesti la Giubba -- " Laugh, you clown, at your broken love. Laugh at the pain which poisons your heart" -- or the optimistic denial of Madame Butterfly's Un Bel Di, Vedremo. And where would opera itself be without break-ups and reconciliations, and break-ups again!
But in the end, when all you can do is laugh or you'll cry, there's the truly, madly, deeply cheesy:
Breaking Up is Hard to Do, by The Partridge Family—if you can stomach it. 'Cos sometimes you really do have to laugh about it all, don't you.
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Check back tomorrow for more classics from the archives. In the meantime, here's Graham Brazier: