Monday, January 30, 2017

Latitude Wardens and Face Collectors

Just getting back to work from a week or a shorter afour-day Australia Day weekend? Fear not, we have plenty of depressing news to match your mood. Dual citizens, including some Australians, are now banned from entering the United States as part of Donald Trump’s whole “Muslims are bad” thing. Elsewhere, Tony Abbott has unleashed on Malcolm Turnbull over the government’s renewable energy target. Hell hath no fury like an ousted Prime Minister. Oh — there’s also a truly sickening story about a two-metre-long tapeworm in here somewhere. Have fun with that...

Cold River: The Cold Truth of Freedom: Jozef Imrich: 9781519302359 ...

I am a difficult person at work and proud of it FT. Sorry to see Lucy Kellaway will be leaving the FT, in order to retrain as a maths teacher. I’ll miss her writing...

185cm pork tapeworm caught inside an Indian Man: Pork tapeworms can be caught from uncooked or under-cooked pork and infest the gut. They’re considered especially dangerous due to their ability to migrate to vital organs in the body.

Alternative ideas on alternative facts

When President Trump's Counselor Kellyanne Conway told Chuck Todd that the White House press secretary had presented "alternative facts," she probably didn't suspect her formulation would fill headlines around the world (and apparently help sales of "1984"). Beyond guffawing at unfortunate formulations, however, interviewers should come better prepared to hit back at falsehoods with facts.

How Life (and Death) Spring From Disorder Quanta

Nightmare in Westfield stairwell

… on the one hand: Going Orwellian: Party like it's 1984 |

… on the other: The Real Lessons Of 1984 Have Nothing To Do With Donald Trump

There are hordes of people in this city, and many more faces. Formal stitched-up faces; faces worn in safe rooms, where they drop and fall into their natural folds; faces worn for too long, until they wear like old suitcases; smooth faces always quickly exchanged — even these I’m learning to respect.

I became a face collector out of boredom, almost out of malice. Most days I felt as if I’d been locked in a bare room. I slept badly.

All faces were masks to me then. I started with masks of authority: they were easy because they were blank or hard surfaces. With experience I made them crack and collected the tired or angry faces that emerged. At my worst I started in on the faces of my friends and family, pinpointing what I told myself were lines of weakness, amassing expressions like an anthropologist gathering totems from primitive tribes. Soon I’d assembled a mental gallery of frozen faces — nervous, prim, laughing, buffoonish — which I flicked through when I couldn’t sleep.

They’re gutting this town. A new corporation clad in steel and glass is moving in, buying up land and buildings, opening up the streets and making holes down to the underworld beneath our feet, where men in blue overalls are replacing the tangled old intestines, which not so long ago conveyed the future, with sleek new cables and pipes. All the corporation’s employees wear blue. The tradesmen wear blue overalls and the office workers wear blue suits and ties. The corporation has no logo. Instead, it has patented its own shade of silvery blue, which it has given its own name. Soon half the town will be the same colour. They’re tearing out the old shops’ entrails and wiping all their different faces off – from the sombre old jewellery facades to the smirks of hip young storefronts. On my street they’re demolishing a block of flats that was once appallingly modern, and today when the blue men climbed off their machines and swaggered home they left a wall that only last month was shared by four flats on either side. I can see it from my window now, with its patchwork of paint and wallpaper, even a mirror that still hangs from it; I can see it struggling to trace the shape of the structure it no longer occupies and to bear witness to the lives that have moved elsewhere. Old pipes stick out from its sides, dripping their last digestive juices onto the rubble below. Past afternoons still cling to it: the smoke and dinners of many years, the pinch of nails, the knocks of annoyed neighbours, the sweet smell of babies, the acrid smell of anxious schoolchildren, the pungent smell of the beds of adolescents… I’m waiting to see what form the new entrails, faces, juices and smells will take under their new coat of silvery blue and steel and glass. How will they ooze down through the new cracks, how will they assert themselves now, how will they outlast the image this time?

Comedy is much more tragic than tragedy, I always think, and much more about death. Tragedy is about making death meaningful – with some exceptions: you could say that in Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus there’s a different relationship to death. But conventionally the tragic hero takes death into him- or herself and it becomes meaningful; we experience catharsis in relation to that and we all go away happily. Comedy is about the inability to achieve that catharsis. So either you can’t die in comedy, which is why Waiting for Godot’s a tragi-comedy: nobody can hang themselves and it’s funny. Or if they do die they pop back up to life, like in Tom and Jerry cartoons. Now what’s the more tragic thought: life coming to an end or life going on forever? The latter’s much more tragic. Swift explores this in Book Three of Gulliver’s Travels: there are the Immortals, the Struldbrugs, who are marked with a red circle in the middle of their foreheads, and lie around in corners having lost all interest in life and not even speaking the language they grew up with. They’re tragic figures. The worst thing would be not death but life carrying on forever, and comedy’s about that. It’s also linked to depression and all sorts of things like that.

— Simon Critchley (via A Piece of Monologue)

Thanks to an increase in people using their smartphones, an app named Hire Me Plz has been created to help men look for fake girlfriends.
Single men are able to hire girlfriends for as little as 1 yuan (12p) to 1,999 yuan (£230) an hour.
However during Chinese New Year prices can surge to up to 10,000 yuan (£1,154) a day.

Researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Yale and George Mason published a study suggesting that actively flagging misinformation may help prevent its spread. Or, in their words, "pre-emptively warning people about politically motivated attempts to spread misinformation helps promote and protect ('inoculate') public attitudes about the scientific consensus"

Mayors for, Dead Man Crying, Triguboff:  I stopped after I first had the dream. There were so many of them: they sat on a long bench in a park strewn with detritus. In the distance small stick-like figures were picking at the objects with long forks to no apparent purpose. I walked along the bench trying to find a way around it. They had all fallen forward into their hands. The ones I came close to sat up. I looked at the receding wave of cupped hands in horror, making a shuddering effort to stay with them, because I sensed the flayed heads that were waiting for me if I raised my gaze. I walked through the rubbish as quickly as I could, but the bench only stretched farther.

"By requiring subordinates to speak untruths, a leader can undercut their independent standing, including their standing with the public, with the media and with other members of the administration. That makes those individuals grow more dependent on the leader and less likely to mount independent rebellions against the structure of command. — Bloomberg View columnist Tyler Cowen  

Around noon on January 30th, Hitler was sworn in. 
"I will employ my strength for the welfare of the German people, protect the Constitution and laws of the German people, conscientiously discharge the duties imposed on me, and conduct my affairs of office impartially and with justice to everyone," swore Adolf Hitler.