Tag: USA

1860s problems

1860s problems



Regular readers will know that I love old books on etiquette for their combination of timeless, rock-solid advice and things that have turned into baffling absurdities with the passage of decades or centuries. The passages quoted here are from The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness by Cecil B. Hartley, 1860. Its publication in Boston shows how, at the time and right through into the twentieth century, upper class English manners were held up as the ideal to which all others should aspire if they were to be thought of as cultured and civilised.

The “hideous Newgate frill” he writes of at one point (see below) is a beard grown only under the jaw line, with shaved chin, cheeks, and upper lip. It was and is indeed hideous. He’s also correct to say that “the moustache should be kept within limits.”

Another thing worthy of note is a…

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Maya Deren: Inside Out (Inside)

Maya Deren: Inside Out (Inside)


MayaDeren2 Maya Deren.

(Let’s pass silently over the fact that I haven’t posted anything new for more than a month.)

The experimental films made by Ukrainian-American Maya Deren in the 1940s and 1950s are incredibly influential, whether most people know it or not. Once you’ve seen them you’ll notice reflections of them all over the place, in everything from art photography to pop videos. Her work has also definitely had a huge effect on me, particularly 1943’s Meshes of the Afternoon, whose haunting imagery– and imagery of haunting– is done an injustice when it’s described as merely surreal or dreamlike, even though it is surreal and dreamlike among many other things. It’s actually as if time has been turned inside out like a glove, but when it turns right side out again it’s a different glove, belonging to someone or something else entirely. It’s particularly fitting that reflections or decontextualised…

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The bee’s knees


diatomaceousEarth Diatomaceous earth.

To be pedantic, bees don’t really have knees, just a number of joints in their legs. But if they did, their knees would be clearly viewable with a new imaging device that combines the functions of a microscope and a cell analyser: Cytell. Follow the link to find out how it genuinely was inspired by a bee leg.

I’m mainly interested in the detailed, hypersaturated and Pixar-esque aesthetic of the images produced by the Cytell. So different from what most people would imagine when the only experience of scientific images they’ve had was their dull and probably outdated school textbooks.

mosquitoProboscis Mosquito’s head and proboscis. No… no, thanks.

lingualpapillae Lingual papillae, which are found on top of the tongue. Actually looks sort of… appetising?

MantisLeg Praying Mantis leg.

The Cytell images are also interesting to me in the slightly more narcissistic sense that real science has finally caught up with…

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???est posts of 2014

???est posts of 2014


Otherwise known as the now traditional lazy retrospective listicle


We all know by now don’t we my little blackguards my pretty roadside fartflowers of the friggingfields my dearest filthy fuckbirds yes we know yes yes yes oh yes that the top pages on the site are invariably James Joyce’s paeans to using the tradesman’s entrance and the translation of Hokusai’s tentacle hentai. Tens of thousands of you, constantly, from all over the world, day and night. You must have massive right arms by now (if you’re right handed).

But there is so much more to explore, and some of it doesn’t even involve sexual fetishes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.


I have no idea what's going on in this picture.“What a shocking bad hat”, and other stupid 19th century memes.

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The last word on Gamergate



… or at least the last word that isn’t from a “slopebrowed weaseldick”

The shrill conspiracy mongering and toxic threats of Gamergate [sic] are the side effects of Western culture, and US culture in particular, finally getting around to saying out loud to a certain type of obsolete man that the rest of us have come to a consensus in which degrading women and denying the rights of sexual or ethnic minorities to equal treatment is not acceptable. Nor should anybody have to endure constant insults and discrimination because of what they are or how they choose to live, or have to see constant, unrelenting and unapologetic images of people like themselves being treated as subhuman. Anyone who thinks that “social justice”– to use the Gamergoatfuckers favourite insult apart from saying they’ll rape or kill you– is a bad thing needs to sit down and shut the fuck…

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All work and no play makes Sue a dull girl

All work and no play makes Sue a dull girl


“Danny doesn’t want to think about it any more, Mrs Torrance”

Thanks (?) to Verso Books I became aware of this splendid photograph by Annie Leibovitz, of Susan Sontag dressed as a bear. She just is, OK?


The bear costume, the hard stare, the keyboard. It immediately reminded me of something.




Now we know why Wendy was so freaked out. How the hell did Susan Sontag get in here? Forever more I will involuntarily associate her with evil ghost bear BJs at The Overlook Hotel. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my favourite films, for one thing because of scenes like this where Kubrick– in contrast to the story’s original author, Stephen King, whose prose allows no dead horse to remain unflogged and leaves nothing that goes without saying unsaid– evokes vast realms of back story and untold narrative riches with just a few shots and one ineradicable image.


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I’ve been reading Postmodernist patriarch Jean Baudrillard’s book about the USA, called America (Verso 1988, new edition 2010). Although it’s occasionally mired in the kind of obscurantist, elliptical wittering that he’s rightly condemned for by some people– the gobbledygook blindly imitated to devastatingly stupid effect by many academics, critics and artists since the 1990s– it also has some incredibly sharp observations about a country and a populace that at heart he obviously enjoys a great deal. He often unfavourably compares his native France to the USA, although this is not as funny as his bullseye hits on US culture; these are not very far from what (postmodernist) native writers like Chuck Palahniuk and David Foster Wallace would be doing ten years or so later.

Writing in the mid 1980s, Baudrillard also makes some incredibly prescient and accurate observations about where Reaganism, Thatcherism and the whole greed-is-good yuppie privatisation…

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