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Branch and root.

The closer an apple is to rot, the more rot it spreads—one spoiling apple, in a crisper drawer or a fruit bowl, or a storage barrel or a cross-country shipping container, or even still hanging on the bough, speeds the rot of every apple it touches, and even of ones it doesn’t touch. The whole bunch quickly begins to exemplify what the artist Claes Oldenburg called “the brown sad art of rotting apples”: a swamp of ferment, infecting the air with the hideous sweetness of decay. Chaucer was likely the first to write a version of the now commonplace proverb: “A rotten apple’s better thrown away / Before it spoils the barrel.” But I’m partial to Benjamin Franklin’s version: “The rotten apple spoils his companions.” The saying is often used to refer to the corruption of select individuals within a group. But the point is the fruit’s susceptibility to collective rot.

“We are in the war zone against this disease,” George Sundin, a fruit-tree pathologist at Michigan State University, said in 2019, about fire blight, the most recent major threat to apples. The process of eradicating it “is not necessarily trial and error,” he added. “It is things we know are effective, but they need to be more effective. If the disease takes off, it can spread so quickly.” The only way to avoid rot is to be proactive: check every apple, every tree. At the first sight of something amiss—a bruise or broken skin, a sunken place—toss that apple out, but don’t stop there. Scrub all the others and monitor them closely, but know that it’s likely already too late. Better to trim and burn the infected branch, or even the whole tree.

Helen Rosneron bad apples.

2020-06-10T10:05:10+10:0010th June, 2020|Tags: culture|

Unspecial.

The defining feature of homophobia is that the people who hate you are picturing you having sex. [Former High Court justice] Michael Kirby once made this point, although not as bluntly. The hatred is a kind of jealousy. The challenge of queer sex is a challenge to the notion that intimacy shared between a man and a woman is somehow special. It isn’t.

This jealousy is the source of all the false reverence that exists for procreation. It is why critics of marriage equality talk about erosion: it’s not a fear of difference so much as a fear that others can be like you. It’s why conservatives hate being told that gender is a spectrum and it is not fixed. If being a man with a penis and a wife doesn’t make you special, maybe you are not special. Maybe all the certainties of privilege and simplicity are constructs, too. Maybe God didn’t make your penis. Maybe God didn’t even make you a man.

On constructs.

2020-02-07T08:15:58+11:008th June, 2020|Tags: culture, quiltbag|

Too little, too late.

No, these filmmakers [for Rise of Skywalker and Endgame] are instead content to get in just before the finish line, waiting until the very last movies in their respective franchises to throw the dogs a bone. The only way to talk about these benchmarks is dismissively: too little, too late. But we’re of course supposed to celebrate. Never mind the incredible trove of LGBT representation you do see in, say, fan fiction; never mind all the ways fans have taken the mere idea of Finn and Poe as lovers and done more with it, with more creativity and sympathy, than any Disney property will likely ever do. Never mind the fact that, accordingly, LGBT representation in Disney’s art does exist—among its fans, not its creators.

The idea that these laughably minor wins are something to celebrate goes hand in hand with Disney’s broader attitude toward film history, which the company has long seemed to think is something better off locked up in a vault somewhere—the better to exploit the art’s value, after all. Let’s just say it straight: The company that won’t even let Baby Yoda memes flourish without losing its shit over copyright will never be a beacon of representation of any sort, let alone queer representation, which, among other things, has often made sport of appropriating and messy-ing the firm sexual boundaries in ostensibly straight, copyrighted art. Disney is too concerned with representation as product to be a beacon of anything. And the fans who care will still, even as of these two movies, largely be left to their own creative, imaginative devices—and they are probably better off.

K. Austin Collins on disrepresentation.

Make 2020 the year you say “No!” to corporate art!

2020-02-07T08:09:34+11:006th June, 2020|Tags: culture, pop culture, quiltbag|

ᛅᛚᛅᛒ.

Because they’re constantly throwing those people against walls, writing them nuisance tickets, and violating their space with humiliating searches (New York in 2010 paid $33 million to a staggering 100,000 people strip-searched after misdemeanor charges), modern cops correctly perceive that they’re hated. As a result, many embrace a “warrior” ethos that teaches them to view themselves as under constant threat.

This is why you see so many knees on heads and necks, guns drawn on unarmed motorists, chokeholds by the thousand, and patterns of massive overkill everywhere – 41 shots fired at Amadou Diallo, 50 at Sean Bell, 137 at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in Cleveland, and homicides over twenty bucks or a loose cigarette.

Police are trained to behave like occupiers, which is why they increasingly dress like they’ve been sent to clear houses in Mosul and treat random motorists like potential car-bombers[.]

Matt Taibbi on the force.

ᛅᛚᛚᛅᛦ ᛚᚢᚴᚴᚢᛦ ᛅᚱᚢ ᛒᛅᛋᛏᛅᚦᛅᛦ.

2020-06-03T13:38:20+10:004th June, 2020|Tags: culture, politics|

The death of Economic Man.

Animals seek and respect dominance, but humans put more value on prestige – good opinion rather than fear – which tends to confer the greater reproductive advantage. Heinrich describes the behaviour of prestigious leaders as “prosocial, generous, and cooperative … using self-deprecating humour”. Christakis has a fascinating chapter on leadership during shipwrecks. The effective leaders, such as Shackleton, depended on the authority won through good opinion conferred by their sacrifice of self-interest.

But this process can sometimes go wrong – as it has done in our own societies. Economic and technological shocks, combined with a culture of “you deserve what you get”, have created big winners whose behaviour is disproportionately influential. As these winners turn into Economic Man, bad behaviour becomes prominent: they buy yachts; they dump their families; they brag. In consequence of being disproportionately influential, these people spread immodesty and selfishness: their repellent norms become more prevalent.

Paul Collier on inhuman economics.

By “Economic Man” here Collier means the sort of “self-interested rational actor” used by things like economics and game theory… and which has not only no basis in things like human evolution and sociology, but in most cases actively works against them. Collier probably puts a bit too much emphasis on the biological determinism of human “genes” as pro-social but it’s not exactly wrong, either; humans evolved in groups, and we do terribly when completely alone. It’s literally not in our natures to exist like that—or, more accurately, when it does occur, it’s a terrible pathology—no matter what economists might try and say…

2020-01-29T14:22:33+11:0030th May, 2020|Tags: culture, economics|

Walk (don’t drive).

The city that banned cars.

I confess that after growing up in the suburbs, I had an aversion to inner city living for a long time. Until we moved, about five years ago, into a medium-density housing complex not right in the centre of town, but in a fairly well-developed part about ten minutes drive away. Being able to walk to basically everything—restaurants, shops, post office—was, uh. Eye-opening. I also stopped driving to work; just literally woke up one morning and decided to catch the bus, despite not having done so since I was in school. I’ve literally not driven to work since and, when the weather is agreeable1 I walk home; it’s about an hour and, with the exception of a short stretch next to a main road, is very pleasant.

Obviously there are reasons not everyone can go carless, and I do still drive, mostly on weekends.2 But… yeah. Cars. Fuck ‘em.

  1. And the air is breathable… []
  2. Our city is very spread out, and errands like going to the aquarium store are… not super conducive to public transport. []
2020-05-12T08:39:06+10:0025th May, 2020|Tags: culture|

Small art.

Mass media is, of course, produced by the rich and the privileged. It bears the stamp of their worldview (the odiously sentimental material about the family having to pull together to support the dad’s tech start-up in Pixar’s Inside Out comes to mind) and the clean, unadventurously crowd-pleasing aesthetics which are the typical result of the focus grouping process. To some people, the slickness of that production—the glossy cover of an official behind-the-scenes art book, the breathtakingly realistic but eerily lifeless CGI of Disney’s recent spate of live-action remakes—has become synonymous with art itself as an idea. Even as they earnestly discuss the necessity of representation and the pain of its absence, they learn not to seek out or accept it unless it’s handed to them from on high by one of perhaps four recognizable branded corporate entities.

The sad irony is that the representation so many are so hungry for already exists. Outside the tiny, blinding spotlight of corporate media, there is an entire world of small, independent media made by marginalized creators and outsider artists of all kinds and reflecting their unique and idiosyncratic worldviews.

Gretchen Felker-Martin on small art.

I have been trying, not always successfully, to consume more “small art”1 and would strongly encourage everyone else to do so, too…

  1. Or, at least, less mass-produced corporate entertainment product. []
2020-05-12T08:39:06+10:0023rd May, 2020|Tags: culture, pop culture|