Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Postmodernism and the End of Art

To one ‘s shock and dismay one discovers, upon finishing Jason Newman’s article about postmodern art, that young Newman is a student journalist. This is shocking and dismaying because his article is so remarkably good. One cannot imagine an American student, no less an art critic, doing as good a job. 

Newman begins with a salient point. However much the world is gaga over Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can boxes and Brillo boxes—a critique of consumer capitalism, didn’t you know?— the artist filled his own home with the real thing, with art that had withstood the test of time:

However, when he died in February 1987 the world got a real look at Andy Warhol and what he really considered to be “worthwhile art.” Behind the doors of his neo-classical townhouse the rooms were not furnished by piles of Brillo boxes or indeed stacks of soup cans but objects of a rather different style. Classical busts sat on mahogany tables, portraits lined the walls, and on many surfaces sat fine antiques. Warhol had chosen to adorn his house with pieces that had stood the test of time, pieces that followed the old rules on aesthetic value, but most importantly pieces that would have been shunned in the art world he had created and dominated.

What is modern art? Newman tells us that it’s a fraud, a con perpetrated on unknowing collectors who want to feel like they are part of the intellectual elite. I know what you are thinking: it couldn't have happened to a nicer group of people.

He says:

… the mantra of the modern artist: willing to expose society’s greed, consumerism, and corruption so long as he receives generous compensation for doing so. The contradictions of Andy Warhol’s public and private tastes, along with the inherent contradictions present in modern art, expose it for what it really is – a fraudulent enterprise that does not stand up to close scrutiny; a con perpetrated by talentless hacks and the elitist snobs who give them both funds and oxygen.

One feels constrained to point out that a few collectors treat these artworks like penny stocks. They buy tons of it from young artists and hope that some of it will be worth a fortune. Of course, it’s all a game of musical chairs. You might end up with your walls covered in junk, looking like the biggest fool. Like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes—dutifully quoted by Newman—you will feel sorely inconvenienced if anyone, especially a student journalist, tells you that it’s all junk.

Such art is offered up to the intellectual elites, especially to the know-nothing elites called celebrities:

The fact is that from the time of Marcel Duchamp’s urinal to Damien Hirst’s pickled shark and beyond, the only people able to afford these modern art pieces have been the elite. An elite who, afraid they might fall behind the latest trend, nod their approval at a giant sculpture of a pair of buttocks (a Turner Prize-nominee), eager to show that they, like their elite friends but unlike the masses, “understand.”

It has all, Newman continues, lost the value to shock. It has become boring:

The whole modern art scene has become stale; the ugliness, the obsession with the scatological, and the gratuitous levels of sexually explicit content are now tiresome clichés. While conceptual artists no doubt like to see themselves as being experimental, revolutionary, and unorthodox they have simply become boring. From painting with it (The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili) to tinning it (Artist’s Shit by Piero Manzoni), the uses of faeces has well and truly been exhausted by these charlatans. Pieces that were once seen as shocking no longer shock, the taboo has been broken, displaying a sexual explicit piece is now no more revolutionary than painting a bowl of fruit.

Obviously, anyone can do it. It requires very little skill and no craft. It’s a world where talent does not matter:

Behind the grandiose pieces and the attention grabbing works created purely for shock value lies a very important question: “Where is the skill and ability in all this?” No skill is required to place a rotting cows head in a glass cube with an insect-o-cutor (A Thousand Years by Damien Hirst). No ability is needed to set up a room with a light that switches on and off (Work No. 227: The Lights Going On and Off by Martin Creed, a work that won him the Turner Prize). It is most probably the case that the electrician who installed said lights and the abattoir worker who severed the cow’s head possess more skill and expertise than either Mr. Hirst or Mr. Creed.

Among the intellectual patrons of this nonsense is the Frankfurt School. The thinkers associated with this school peddled Marxist fairy tales and wanted to stand firm against fascism. Recently, they have been treated as near-prophets for having predicted the rise of Donald Trump. Of course, no one cares to remark that their crystal balls became especially murky when they failed to understand the catastrophe of Marxist governance.

Newman describes the Frankfurt School:

Like the Dadaists, their genesis was in the interwar years but also like the Dadaists their influence really only started to be felt in the post-War years. They too came out of the first half of the 20th century traumatised. They were appalled by the rise of fascism, but also crestfallen at the failure of Marxist-Leninism to deliver utopia. Having conducted a postmortem on Marxism, they formed their own new ideology, still heavily influenced by Marx but with a new emphasis on the cultural rather than the economic. Like the Dadaists, they also felt the old traditions should be thrown on the rubbish heap of history – faith, family, and the nation had to be destroyed. And, like the Dadaists, they were convinced the subjective was king and objective truth was dead. Affirmation and construction were to be abandoned for desecration and destruction.

Have these postmodern artists finally destroyed art. One expects that they did not. One hopes that a new generation will restore the value of art… that is, if they have the skill to do so:

Having succeeded in destroying the underpinnings of art, declaring everything to be art–and moreover good art–while emptying the word ‘beautiful’ of meaning, modern artists are now stranded on an open prairie. With no fences to restrain them or give them direction, they wander aimlessly, often getting lost in the process. The very term “art” now means nothing. For if everything is “art” then “art” is everything, therefore why define it as “art” at all? Why have galleries or exhibitions?

Pigeons Deserve Dignity and Quality of Life

The story does not come from The Daily Mail. It does not even come from The Onion. Hold on to your hats, this story was reported by the Wall Street Journal.

It’s about Lisbon, Portugal’s war against its indigenous pigeon population. Apparently, the situation is so completely out of control that a small group of pigeon lovers has tried something new and more humane. Instead of gassing the pigeons or feeding them to the reptiles at the zoo, this group has created a pigeon hotel, a facility where pigeons can feel good about themselves, where they are treated with respect and dignity. If they lay their eggs in the pigeon hotel, the volunteers remove all but one egg… apparently, to make omelets. They believe that this will control the pigeon population... without even using contraception.

As I said, this is from the Wall Street Journal. The report begins thusly: 

In Lisbon, where city officials say the bird population is above the normal level of five for every human, pigeons swarm cafes in search of table scraps. Their droppings crown the city’s statues and coat its antique architecture.

One Lisbon resident spoke for many:

Cristina Saiago, who is fighting a losing battle to keep bird feces off the flowers hanging from her balcony, is one of many Lisboners whose view of the birds is considerably less munificent.

“Pigeons are flying rats,” she said.

How are things working out in the pigeon hotel? The Journal explains:

The obvious question, of course, is whether coddling pigeons is an effective way to hold down the population. So far, only a dozen pigeons have moved into the house, and Mr. Vieira, the hygiene director, said his office still gets 300 to 400 calls a month from citizens whose homes, cars and clothing have been slathered in droppings.

“We want to give the pigeons security and a space that is only theirs,” says Joana Antunes, a 28-year-old lawyer who oversees the house with five other volunteers.

“Pigeons deserve and need dignity and quality of life,” she says.

After all, pigeons have rights too. But, dignity and quality of life. Offering dignity and quality of life by using a cheap trick to turn their progeny into omelets. Someone has completely lost her mind. You knew it would be a lawyer.

How is the new plan working out? Glad you asked:

Since the shelter opened in May, the birds haven’t exactly flocked to it. A dozen of the house’s 63 total nests are occupied. As a result, only 111 eggs—including some found outside the house—have been confiscated. The city continues to catch and gas the birds, killing anywhere between 20 and 400 on a given day for a cost of €500.

One would like to say that the pigeons were smart enough to see through the ruse. But, truth be told, they are not smart enough to avoid being gassed by the municipal authorities.

Something There Is That Loves a Wall

Robert Frost once wrote that “good fences make good neighbors.” When Sarah Palin quoted the line to show that building walls was a good thing, Andrew Sullivan retorted that the narrator in the Frost poem was arguing with his neighbor against the neighbor’s wish to build a wall.

Precisely why Sullivan knew which one of the neighbors was correct, we do not know. The last line in the poem, quoted in my first sentence, is the neighbor’s response—to the effect, that boundaries can contribute to neighborliness. Once you have a wall you can no longer intrude on your neighbor’s property without reason or permission. Isn't that the more civil solution.

Anyway, we know from Israel that walls work. When Israel constructed a wall to separate it from West Bank terrorists, lo and behold, terrorist acts from that region stopped. What is wrong with that?

Now, Hungary is reporting on what happened when it built a wall to keep Middle Eastern refugees out of the country. 

Breitbart reports (via Maggie’s Farm):

Speaking on the second anniversary of the government’s move to seal Hungary’s border with Serbia — which is also an external border for the European Union — Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Chief Security Advisor, György Bakondi, announced that the fences have caused illegal immigration to collapse from 391,000 in 2015, to 18,236 in 2016, to just 1,184 in 2017.

“The system of technical barriers is the key to the success of border security, and without it, it would be impossible to stop the mass arrival of immigrants”, the security chief explained.

Of course, Hungary was responding to Angela Merkel’s foolish open borders policy:

Hungary had to respond rapidly to the migrant influx which burst upon Europe after Germany’s Angela Merkel announced there was “no limit” on the number of asylum seekers her own country would accept, so its frontiers are defended by twin fences peppered with watchtowers and patrolled by thousands of newly recruited border guards rather than a solid wall — which would have taken longer to construct.

Nevertheless, as it has been steadily reinforced illegal migration has slowed to a trickle — drawing the ire of open borders activists like billionaire financier George Soros and globalist officials at the European Union and the United Nations.

Naturally, the United Nations took serious offense to the notion that Hungary might open its borders to whomever wanted to enter the nation:

For example, UN Refugee Agency chief Filippo Grandi visited the border and complained: “When I was standing at the border fence today, I felt the entire system is designed to keep people, many of whom are fleeing war and persecution, out of the country”.

Grandi also called on Hungary to get rid of the border-spanning transit zones it has established, which allow all asylum seekers entering the country to be detained while the validity of their claims are assessed.

One reason for the wall was to stop terrorists:

The Hungarians introduced these zones after it was discovered that many of the Paris 2015 terrorists had passed through their territory — a step-change from other EU member-states, which leave migrants more or less at large, with sometimes deadly consequences, in obedience to EU law.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Power of Shamanism

It doesn’t do much for your faith in shamans, but it has a certain entertainment value.

A shaman in Indonesia jumped into a crocodile infested body of water to recover the body of a teemager who had been attacked there the day before.

As it happened, the shaman did not have the powers that he thought he had.

The Daily Mail reports:

This is the moment a man claiming to have supernatural control over crocodiles died after one of the reptiles appeared to drag the shaman under water.

The man, named Suprianto, died after the suspected crocodile attack in Kutai Kartanegara, Indonesia, despite his supposed powers.

In the shocking video, he is seen swimming into the waters to look for the body of a teenager, called Arjuna, who was attacked the previous day.

But Suprianto was dragged under mid-mantra as he was swimming and chanting while on a mission to find the boy.

I hope you caught it. He was attacked while “mid-mantra.” Now, if only he had been able to complete his mantra, his stunt might have had a happier ending. Or better, he should have remembered to tell the crocodiles of his powers.

The moral of the story is: What would we do without the Daily Mail?

Why Are Suicide Rates Among Female Veterans So High?

Here are some awful statistics. According to the Veterans Administration suicide rates among veterans is significantly higher than rates among non-veterans. Most of those who are committing suicide are veterans of the Vietnam War.

Suicide rates among all veterans is 22% higher than suicide rates among non-veterans. Yet, and here is the most disturbing point, suicide rates among female veterans is 250% higher than among female non-veterans. Obviously, this group does not include very many female Vietnam veterans.

Now, tell me why America’s experiment with a gender neutered military is such a good idea?

Not Free to Choose

One has refrained from commenting on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale. To comment fairly one would have to read it, and one does not have that much time to waste. One understands that the story has been widely praised by feminists. One knows that Hulu has produced a television show about it, starring culture heroine and noted Scientologist, Elizabeth Moss.

One has also resisted the lure of the handmaid’s tale because it feels like theatre of the absurd. Roughly equivalent to Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, but lacking in artistry. After all, when you are offering mindless propaganda wrapped in paranoid thinking, you do not deserve to be read.

Given that I have not read the book or seen the television show, I rely on Rich Lowry’s summary:

Based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, the series depicts a misogynist dystopia. Christian fundamentalists have established a theocracy that — after an environmental debacle craters the birth rate — forces fertile women, called handmaids, into sexual slavery. 
Is this remotely plausible to any but the most fevered paranoid thinkers? Since the Anglo-American world has actually led the world on women’s issues, it makes no sense to say that American is going to become the dystopia that Atwood conjures in her book.

This is not to say that such a world cannot exist? It does exist, Lowry notes, but not in the Christian world:

Fair enough. The Handmaid’s Tale does have something to tell us about, say, Saudi Arabia. But, in an uncomfortable fact for Christian-fearing feminists, none of the world’s women-hating theocracies are Christian.

But, why are feminists thrilling to the Atwood message? Easy… they have equated the prospect of turning women into human incubators to… you guessed it… defunding Planned Parenthood and undoing the Obamacare contraception mandate:

What this means is that Republicans want to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, and roll back Obamacare’s contraception mandate. If they succeed, this would mean less government intervention in matters of sexual morality, rather than more. The progressive mind is unable to process that it has won the culture war in a rout (except for abortion, where conservatives are trying to chip away at our extremely liberal laws at the margins). We live in a country where Christian bakers get harried by government for politely declining to bake cakes for gay weddings, yet progressives still believe we are a few steps away from enslaving women.

Lowry continues:

The progressive mind is unable to process that it has won the culture war in a rout (except for abortion, where conservatives are trying to chip away at our extremely liberal laws at the margins). We live in a country where Christian bakers get harried by government for politely declining to bake cakes for gay weddings, yet progressives still believe we are a few steps away from enslaving women.

Free to choose… free to choose… Great God almighty we’re free to choose.

But, don’t be so quick to draw a conclusion. There's method behind the delusion. Feminists love Atwood’s story because it allows them to ignore the damage that feminism itself has done to women’s reproductive choices.

In the  world that feminists created more and more women are not free to choose. Women who followed the feminist life plan have often found themselves unable to conceive. Because, biology is not a social construct. Obviously, feminism has been a boon for reproductive endocrinologists, but for many women, even modern medicine cannot undo the damage.

Since feminism instructs women to avoid pregnancy or childbearing until their careers are well established, a considerable number of women who would have wanted to have children have discovered that biology has taken away their freedom to choose to have a child. Is this not worth noting?

And let’s not forget that other great feminist accomplishment: the hookup culture. Somehow or other feminists convinced women that engaging in random sexual acts with semi-anonymous men was liberating. Anything, but not pregnancy....

Tufts professor Nancy Bauer pictured modern liberated women matching men shot for shot—the equal shot principle—and then dropping to their knees to service them. At the least, fellatio is foolproof contraception. 

As for the nation’s STD rates, we shall leave that for another day.

[Addendum: See also the reflections of Mallory (sister of Kate) Millett, in Frontpage Magazine.]

Is Physics a Pissing Contest?

Does identity politics make you stupid or does it make you into a blithering fool?

Researchers in Australia  seem to have given up on actual physics, so they have put their pee-brains to work trying to figure out why boys do better than girls at physics. (via John Ellis at Pajamas Media.)

The reason: boys pee standing up. No kidding. You can’t make this stuff up. And no, they assure us, they are not writing for The Onion.

Note well: if you have to disclaim the possibility that you are engaged in self-parody, you should keep your research to yourself.

Of course, by wasting their time on such questions the politically enlightened physicists are showing us that they, two out of three of whom are female, prefer the fever swamps of gender politics to doing actual physics. Might that be the hidden explanation for their foolishness. 

Here, they explain their theory:

Playful urination practices – from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal) – may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics. And we believe there’s something we can do about it.

No doubt you have some questions, the first is probably: what could possibly lead us to believe this?

Well, for starters, our recent analysis of the kinds of physics questions females generally do worse at than males. Add to that strong evidence for the widespread nature of certain kinds of pee-based game-playing among young (and not-so-young) boys. Finally, throw in our observations on curriculum sequencing and the ways in which formal, mathematically codified physics is often introduced to children and young people.

In truth, no law in the universe says that girls should be just as good as boys at physics. Or that boys should be just as good as girls on verbal aptitude. Why don't these these hand wringers and teeth gnashers do a pseudo-scientific study to show that girls do better at verbal tasks because they pee sitting down. Have you?

The researchers have been observing this phenomenon-- watching boys pee-- for some time now. But, don’t they have anything better to do with their time? And, doesn’t this intrusion into a private space constitute some form of child abuse. Allow them to explain:

Like many parents of small (and not-so-small) boys, two of us (KW and DL) have observed the great delight young males take in urination, a process by which they produce and direct a visible projectile arc.

The fact that boys (and men) play with their ability to projectile pee is hardly contentious. Boys are trained to pee into toilet bowls with floating targets, a huge variety of which can be bought on Amazon; Amsterdam Airport Schiphol famously cleaned up its urinals by encouraging men to hit flies etched next to the drain; and Peeball is now a worldwide phenomenon.

Meanwhile, YouTube videos explain how to write your name in the snow with your pee; and the post-match celebration peeing antics of sportsmen are widely reported in the media. Indeed, the very notion of a pissing contest – furthest, highest, most precisely aimed – is a deeply embedded part of some cultures. Alexander Pope includes a pissing contest in his narrative poem, the Dunciad. Our own children describe a stepped wall behind their primary school that’s used by male pupils for competitive target practice. And a colleague who grew up in the Canadian arctic describes boys competing to see who could perfect the trajectory so that what ascended as liquid fell as ice crystals.

All this is experienced up to five times a day, so by 14, boys have had the opportunity to play with projectile motion around 10,000 times. And 14 is when many children meet formalised physics in the form of projectile motion and Newton’s equations of motion for the first time.

Guess what, this activity is “self-directed and hands on.” You would never have guessed:

This self-directed, hands-on, intrinsically (and sometimes extrinsically, and socially) rewarding activity must have a huge potential contribution to learning, resulting in a deep, embodied, material knowledge of projectile motion that’s simply not accessible to girls.

One is amused to see that the pseudoscientists declare that this activity “must have a huge potential contribution to learning.” According to whom? What about the characteristically male activities of throwing balls—activity at which few girls excel or even want to excel? And, what about brain structure, the difference between male and female brains? The researchers do not care and do not recognize it as a reality.

Happily, our intrepid researchers have a solution to the problem. They want physics courses to begin with something other than experiments in projectile motion… because such a topic puts girls at a disadvantage. They do not consider questions of verbal aptitude, especially as it applies to math. Is there a correlation between algebra and peeing standing up? And they do not consider why boys prefer to play with trucks while girls prefer to play with dolls. Is there something in the brain of male and female humans that directs them in one or another direction?

Had they been as resourceful as some other practitioners of gender politics they might have suggested—as has been reported in Sweden—that boys must be forced to pee sitting down. There, that will solve the problem.