When you can't live without bananas

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Links - 15th June 2016

Behind Singapore's success in the IB: More tuition? - "According to Ideas Ink founder Pek Kim Beng, up to three-quarters of each batch of ACS (I) IBDP students seeks out tuition, and he claimed that his centre alone caters for 20 per cent of the school's IB's chemistry cohort, and 30 per cent of its physics cohort"

Harvard Study Shows that Lecture-Style Presentations Lead to Higher Student Achievement - "8th grade students in the U.S. score higher on standardized tests in math and science when their teachers allocate greater amounts of class time to lecture-style presentations than to group problem-solving activities"

Bad science: Thanks to HIV/Aids denialists like Christine Maggiore more will die - "What if everything you thought you knew about Aids was wrong? That was the title of a book by Christine Maggiore, an HIV/Aids-denialist lauded in the American media. She is now dead. Maggiore decided that HIV does not cause Aids, and that antiretroviral drugs do not treat it. She was HIV positive, which the media loved. She declined to take ARV drugs and specifically decided not to take HIV drugs during her pregnancy, despite the strong evidence that they massively lower the risk of maternal transmission. She insisted on breastfeeding her children, even though it has been shown that this increases the risk of maternal transmission. She also refused to have her children tested for HIV. Her daughter, Eliza Jane Scovill, died three years ago. The coroner attributed the death to Aids and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. She was three years old... One demographic modelling study estimates that if the South African government had used antiretroviral drugs for prevention and treatment at the same rate as the Western Cape, around 171,000 new HIV infections and 343,000 deaths could have been prevented between 1999 and 2007."

How a Son Survived Being Injected with HIV by His Father - "Jennifer now has six children by five men; in Badger's mind some of the guys after his father weren't a whole lot better. He says he watched them hit her and saw them leave all but one of those children behind for her to take care of"

Please don’t learn to code - "I would no more urge everyone to learn to program than I would urge everyone to learn to plumb. Focusing on coding inflates the importance of finding the “right” method to solve a problem rather than the importance of understanding the problem."

Transgender girl says she is rejected by straight guys for 'having male parts' - "
If straight men complaining women don't want to date them is evidence of male entitlement...
Are gay men who refuse to sleep with women misogynistic?
Comments: "some people don't want to date someone with a bunch of tattoos, piercings, or body modifications, it's all a matter of preference and no one should feel guilty about having them. The way this article is worded makes Claire sound very entitled. No one owes anyone a relationship, but you'll always owe them honesty"
"What kind of hypocrites want the transexuals to be able to WEAR the parts they want, but don't want non-transexuals to be able to have the body parts they prefer in a lover?"
"This is what we get as a society when we start referring to mental illness as normal."
"It's like buying a burger and fries and expecting to get ground beef only to find out that it's a veggie burger."
"If I just call myself a woman, should I expect lesbians to want me?"
"Imagine if i was tricking women into having sex with me, I'd be called a rapist and misogynist. These trans get labeled victims and get awards for being heroes!!!"

Is there sinister subtext in McCain ads? - "the liberal blogosphere has become a virtual Bletchley Park of racial cryptographers teasing out the sinister motives and subtexts of McCain’s campaign advertising... When the video briefly flashed Berlin’s Victory Column on the screen — where Obama addressed 200,000 adoring fans — New York Times columnist Bob Herbert saw a “phallic symbol.”"

The Paranoid Center - "the panic over right-wing violence is being used to marginalize peaceful dissent... When mainstream commentators treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a grand, malevolent movement, they unwittingly echo the very conspiracy theories they denounce. Both brands of connect-the-dots fantasy reflect the tellers' anxieties much more than any order actually emerging in the world."

Canadian Teen Finds Lost Mayan City With Satellite Maps - "while the narrative of a plucky untrained teenager succeeding where the experts failed is always compelling, the "lost Mayan city" report was one of several science claims reported by the media only to be fact-checked by experts after the fact."

13 girls held for Akihabara 'JK osanpo' escort services - "They range in age from 15 to 17 and were allegedly offering their services in the Akihabara district. JK is short for “joshi-kosei” (female high school student) and JK osanpo translates as “female high school students walk.” JK osanpo, in which older men pay to spend time with young girls, is reportedly widespread in Akihabara, and the police said they took the recent action because they consider the practice “harmful for juvenile physical and mental health.” According to the police, as many as 96 locations in the district offer JK osanpo services. The police believe they are a breeding ground for child prostitution and the black market for stolen underwear. Some of the girls taken into custody claimed they did not think they were doing anything wrong. Five said, however, they had experienced problems such as “the customer taking underskirt photo shots” or “having been asked for a sexual relationship.”"

This picture book of Taiwanese high school girls – what’s that about then? - "the girls in this book aren’t depicted as sexy – in fact, Wang drew them to a strict six-point checklist:
1) The uniform must be worn correctly, according to school rules.
2) No dyed hair.
3) No permed hair.
4) No make up.
5) No accessories.
6) No cleavage...
The Tokyo Joshikou Seifuku Zukan (Tokyo High School Girls’ Uniform Illustrated Guide) was published every year from 1985 to 1994."

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'Society is anything but normal here' - "[On Northern Ireland] Unionism, in my view, does not want to share power with Nationalism. If there wasn't an IRA, they would invent an IRA. There is no terrorism here of any significance. This actally is the safest part of Europe you could live in in terms of murder, rape, burglary etc etc, but the irony of it is that there are two different communities here who live in parallel lines and never interact in any meaningful level in anything outside the workplace, or politics of course is completely barred and is totally off limits to talk about. So, as I repeat sadly, I'm nearly ashamed to say this to you but I'm told not to tell any more lies in my life. I don't have one meaningful relationship with a Protestant or a Unionist in my life and I think that is something that I have gone out of my way my whole life to embrace Unionism, to understand Unionism and frankly I have been rejected on a personal level and I think the Nationalist parties here, if you look at the front page of the local paper today, the stand-in First Minister refers to the other ministers... as rogues and renegades. And I mean the idea that language sends out that you people are not fit to govern"

The Sordid Origin of Hate-Speech Laws - "the introduction of hate-speech prohibitions into international law was championed in its heyday by the Soviet Union and allies. Their motive was readily apparent. The communist countries sought to exploit such laws to limit free speech... it is not difficult to see why Article 4 so appealed to nondemocratic states. icerd makes the state responsible for eliminating discrimination through coercive measures. The idea that deliberate state action — even at the expense of individual liberty — is the principal vehicle for social change and human progress is a hallmark of socialism, fascism, communism, and in some cases, forms of progressivism... Article 134 of the criminal code in force at the time of the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia punished with imprisonment of up to ten years anyone who “incites or fans national, racial, or religious hatred or discord between peoples and nationalities.” The article was mostly used by the communist regime to silence critics, but the prohibition against hate speech obviously did nothing to inculcate a culture of tolerance that could prevent ethnic cleansings and genocide, which occurred throughout Yugoslavia’s breakup."

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'There is a deafening, horrific silence in America about this' - Piers Morgan - "'In an era of nuclear weapons and all the rest of it just feels-'
'Well I had a debate with a guy who was a Virginia pizza store owner and he was offering a 15% discount on pizzas to anybody who turned up with a loaded assault weapon... Who do you think is going to come for you? Why are you so worried about this infringement on your right to bear arms. And he said my government, and this reflects 35% in all polling. That 35% of all Americans which is 140 million people genuinely believe that Barack Obama may one day turn up on their doorstep and confiscate all their guns. I pointed out to him, look if that happens he has the United States Marine Corps and he has 5,000 nuclear warheads. He's probably gonna win against you and your mates with your AR-15s. 'Well yeah, but he's not the only one'. I said who else are you worried about in Virginia? And he paused for a few seconds and said, the United Nations? I said let me get this absolutely straight. You think the United Nations is about to launch some sort of ground offensive against you here in Virginia. But although it's comical on one level... I cannot buy a Kinder Surprise Chocolate Egg in America because they're banned on health hazard grounds. Because the little toys inside may choke you. But you can buy an assault weapon'...
'Many Americans, most Americans live peaceable lives. Actually rather more peaceable in some respects than in this country. Perhaps this is just the price as Jeb Bush seemed to be suggesting that America has to pay for being the kind of place it is'
'Well that's fine unless it's your child and I just think it's unconscionable the way that so many intelligent Americans, Jeb Bush and others, who know what this problem is, who with Ebola, raises its head as it did last year and kills 2 Americans, they throw billions of dollars at it. If there's a problem in Syria, they'll fly over drones at billions of dollars of expense. But when you have something like this, Michael Bloomberg who was mayor of New York, said to me... if this was a disease killing 32,000 Americans a year, we would throw the kitchen sink and billions of dollars in combating it. There is a deafening, horrific silence in America about this. This latest incident in Britain would be a massive story for weeks. And we remember after Dunblane in the mid 90s, we banned guns and we haven't had a single school shooting since. This incident was the 142nd school shooting in America since Sandy Hook, under 3 years ago"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Tuesday's business with Simon Jack - "'Larry Page I think once said there are 20 year olds today who'll have to change their name because of the stuff they put on Facebook'...
'But our parents told us that we would neer get a job with a tattoo and you could never do anything if you had piercings or any of this other stuff, and yet I'm hiring engineers who have neck tattoos and they're making, you know 6 figures. And so I think that the world changes... it's like rock and roll'
'That was Harper Lee, who's got a few piercings of his own actually. He was the chief technology officer for Barack Obama's 2012 campaign and was charged with getting the vote out and obviously he did it'"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'If the economy collapses, the regime collapses' - Chen Guangcheng - "I do feel that a place like Britain is coming under threat. We know that a lot of places have Confucius institutes. This is clearly the soft arm of the Chinese government and they wield a lot of influence, especially when it comes to issues of academic freedom. If democracies around the world don't use their systems to influence China then the authoritarian regime in China will influence democracies around the world."

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'A revolution of consciousness' - "I think the world divides into people who love the idea of revolutions and those who fear that idea"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 'Going to ISIS is the new trend' - "Most of the students we spoke to were irritated by the idea of being taught British values and felt it would be a personal attack on their culture and religion.
'I don't know about *something* I don't agree with gay people because it's against my religion... everyone's entitled to their own opinion and I'm sure you'll agree with me'
'Personally if I dislike them, I'm not gonna say I hate em because it's a bad word. I just wouldn't wanna approach them I wouldn't wanna or talk to them. Just let em do what they want, if you know what I say'
But what if students have no contact with people from different backgrounds, race or religion?...
'Would you ever consider going?'
'Yeah, I would'
'What would you be fighting for?'
'For peace'
'You've just said you would go out there to fight. That's not peace, is it?
'You could, that's allowed to, init? For freedom'
'You would be killing other Muslims out there, wouldn't you?'
'They're not Muslims'"

Beyond Binary

BBC World Service - The Documentary, Beyond Binary

"'Men who transition to women, women who transition to men. That wasn't acceptable.' Slowly, over decades a legitimacy of sorts has come for those who transition from one gender to another... the finessing of surgical techniques and the wider availability of hormones has meant gender affirmation surgery - what used to be called sex reassignment - become more common. Today, American transwomen like Caitlyn Jenner and Leverne Cox and to a degree transmen, are far more visible.

'Transgender has moved more to the centre of mainstream, leaving a big hole. And non-binary has moved into that. And now we even have television stars saying they are not men and not women. We have Miley Cyrus. We have Ruby Rose. This is wonderful. And with the advent of the internet these days people are sharing their strength and hopes and pride in being not-men, not-women'...

The vast majority of people find out [they are non-binary] while surfing online...

Perhaps the most important social media vehicle is tumblr, a site hosting millions of micro bloggers. Gen Jack Easking [sp?] who goes by Jack is a non-binary New York based academic and uses the pronouns he and she interchangeably. Jack's been researching how trans youth, including those defining as non bnary, interact with tumblr. For over a year she's been saving every post with a trans hashtag and has collected more than a million. 'There really hasn't been a trans person that I've met under the age of 30 who hasn't been on Tumblr and hasn't been significantly affected by the kind of images they've seen there and the visuality...

[On Thai Kathoeys] At the beginning she wanted to cut her genitals because she wants to be a perfect woman but she have seen friends friends who has gone a little bit insane and she doesn't want to be like that and she mentioned that most people who come here and visit, they like ladyboys or kathoey who still have their genital...

'There's nothing easier and more fun and liberating for me than using a urinal in a dress. It's actually really easy and wonderful and I wish that we were just able to do that more. But there's nothing more scary than walking up to a row of urinals next to cisgender men and just lifting up your dress. They are so scandalised and there's something kinda fun about that I have to say'...

'I am gender-fluid. Or gender-variant, so effectively I typically spend half my week, working week as Phil, Phillip in male mode and the other half as Pips or Pippa in female mode'...

Fault lines often emerge between those who might have been allies. The movement for transgender acceptance and equality has been fractured by the non-binaries. Trans people transitioning from male to female or female to male worry their own, often very painful journeys, may somehow be invalidated by these genderqueer upstarts. Then there are feminists... feminists also critique non-binary...

[Someone who sounds like a girl] 'I want to look like a boy in a dress. That's the kind of non-binaryness that I want to see myself having'...

I've heard some feminists, you know, critical of non-binary identities and saying that in order to be non-binary you have to really believe in the binary and what they want to do as feminists is to end all gender."


First we had gay people, then we had trans people and now we have non-binary people. This suggests that once non-binary people hit the mainstream, there'll be another group out there; no matter how tolerant society is, there will always be people pushing the boundaries.

If non-binary is wonderful, what about otherkin? Who have also "benefited" from the internet.

If a woman gets a boob job isn't that "gender affirmation" too?

Isn't it trolling to use a urinal in a dress? If a non-black man uses the word "nigga" is that liberating?

If you address Phil/Pips by the wrong name during the half of the week he is the other, can he sue you for discrimination?

If you want to look like a boy in a dress, you're not non-binary - you're just mixing the genders.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rethinking the Renaissance

Verdun and the Renaissance | Podcast | History Extra

"This really big idea we have of the Renaissance as a rebirth of Classical Knowledge. And a return to the classical ways of making art. That's what the whole idea of rebirth, Renaissance means. And that's a word that was invented by Vasari... specifically to describe this situation that he saw going on around him, where art had basically been dead for a thousand years. The Dark Ages had happened and it had all disappeared, all this knowledge and civilisation that we had. And then suddenly the Italians come along and rediscover it. And there's a kind of triumph of the Renaissance in the art of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael.

Well, that misrepresents the situation in several ways. I'm not saying that some of that didn't go on. Of course there was a rediscovery of Greek examples. And they were in some places influential. But you know, having been around Italy lots of times in my art historical career, I found far more exceptions to the rule than the rules. And there's an awful lot of Italian art that doesn't fit that bill. That was made at that time that has since been either forgotten or ignored or downgraded as a result.

And another storyline that needs adjusting... the Italians were these great heroes of the Renaissance. Of course great great things were done in Italy at the time, but if we focus too much on Italy and if we listen too clearly to Vasari we miss out on some crucial things that were happening in the lands of the barbarians as he calls them.

In other words the Germans or the Flemings... the pioneering use of oil paints. Now oil paints were, they weren't invented in Flanders but they were certainly developed and came to this kind of great fruition in the art of Jan van Eyck in the 1400s and I would argue that the influence, the discovery, the unleashing of oil paints had a far more important and profound influence on the history of art than for example fresco which is what Michelangelo or tempera which was the style of choice in 15th century Italy.

Without oil paints, we would have no Manet, no Impressionists, no Expressionism. The entire history of art would be so different. There would be no Rembrandt, no Rubens. So oil paints, which initially were sort of disregarded by Vasari who's very very snobbish about the contribution of the North and the Flemings, I mean he ignores most of them completely. Oil paints were profoundly important. They changed art in ways that were not usually credited with.

Another thing is optics. I mean glasses were, not invented in Flanders at the time or the Netherlands but they were developed to this extremely kind of high level. Lenses became important. And just on a basic level, artists' working lives were expanded by 50%. If you could still see, past the age of 40 because you could wear glasses, that gave you a much longer career. And again something that was pioneered in Northern Europe...

[On Torrigiano's Saint Jerome penitent in Seville, made of terracotta] It wasn't carved out of marble. So you got to get away from this idea that making great Renaissance art means getting a great block of white marble and somehow releasing this inner figure and all that sort of stuff, which all dates back to Vasari and his mythologising of Michelangelo...

When art history became a university subject it was basically invented by Protestant Germans at the end of the 18th century. They liked to present it too as this thing that was beyond religion almost. There's also this kind of embarrassment about the religious content of Renaissance art, so it was avoided. And I don't want to do that. If you avoid religion and powerful religious impulses in Italian art of the 15th and 16th century, frankly you're misreading it. You're not looking at it properly...

[On Vasari downgrading Venetian art as colour] Venetian art turned out to be much more influential than Michelangelo... sensuality and love of women. It had the most prostitutes of anywhere in Italy. All those things fed into the art and gave it this other quality which went on to be tremendously influential"

Links - 14th June 2016

Zeng Guo Yuan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - "In around October 2009, a lawsuit was filed against Zeng for placing at his two stores banners of then-wanted fugitive Mas Selamat bin Kastari — which he argued were merely sunshades – without official permit.[39] The banners were accompanied by large one-word notes all reading "Death". The trial concluded with Zeng deciding to spend three weeks in jail, instead of paying $3,000 in fines"
We haven't heard about Parrot Man for a while, but his past antics can still entertain us

Netherlands sees sharp increase in people choosing euthanasia due to 'mental health problems' - "In one controversial case, a sexual abuse victim in her 20s was allowed to go ahead with the procedure as she was suffering from "incurable" PTSD"

JESSICA JONES Too X-RATED for Netflix? (Who is Jessica Jones?) - YouTube - "The original writer of Alias, Brian Michael Bendis, he admitted that he probably used the [f] word way too much in his writing: 'I like saying 'fuck' a lot but it was stifling things'"

BBC Radio 3 - Sunday Feature, South Korea: The Silent Cultural Superpower - "There's something about the image of male masculinity and identity that Korean actors represent that works in a Japanese culture where men have become a little bit effeminised

BBC World Service - The Documentary, South Korea: The Silent Cultural Superpower - Part Two - "
'K Pop is not really a Korean culture. It's a Western culture'... [On Winter Sonata] Before that particular program, the Winter Sonata, generally the image of Korea and Koreans in Japan is probably not a very positive image. Korean men particularly. Considered very rough. Maybe ill-mannered and all that. But that sort of drama kind of romanticises the image of Korean men and it's led on to a number of other dramas that's been a big hit in Japan...
'We do create a song in English first'"

BBC World Service - The Documentary, Chemsex - "As one man told me, I'd rather get HIV than Diabetes... The misinterpretation of what chemsex is is so easy to do. It looks like a bunch of self indulgent hedonistic drug taking promiscuous fiends going out and destroying all of our public health work. It's not like that at all. It doesn't take a genius to look much deeper to know that these guys are looking for affirmation or for connection. They're looking to be part of a community. They're looking to have sex... [these drugs] are very powerful sexual disinhibitors. Particularly for a population of people that kind of need some disinhibition around their sex because their sex has been associated with disease and danger. When the sex you have historically has happened in parks and public toilets rather than in your bedroom, under your mom and dad's roof perhaps then you develop a very different understanding of what sex is. You know it's different. You know it's deviant. You know it's naughty. And that can translate to doing everything outside the norm...
[On PREP] Condoms suck. And people are not using them. In the city, in San Francisco a survey of 30% I think of people say they actually use a condom routinely. 70% of people not using condoms... It's a failed intervention in my mind for many people...
'For the first time, I was accepted within the gay community. That I felt accepted. You think: oh, when I come out of the closet then everything is going to be fine. Without realising... where do I belong within the gay community? Which was a lot harder than coming out, in my experience
All criminal behavior can be explained as a cry for help

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Friday's business with Tanya Beckett - "I've seen this before. When Singapore became independent from Malaysia, that little insecurity that they were no longer part of Malaysia, it was an inspiration. And it's now probably the greatest economy in the world. And I honestly think that will be good for us. That little bit of insecurity will be fantastic stimulus for us

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Aid reaches Madaya - "We hear every so often a very limited account and it's all very fleeting. 2 years ago there was great concern around the world for the fate of the people of Yarmuk. Who's talking about Yarmuk today? Today it's Madaya. But across the country there are countless Madayas where people's suffering is constant and deepening while the attention of the world... is so limited and so fleeting"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Guest editor: Sir Bradley Wiggins - "I love Boris in many ways, but the one thing I was always very critical of was the fact that he would wear his suit on his bike. I thought that was something that really ought to have been avoided cos either it meant that he was cycling too slowly to actually get anywhere, to avoid getting hot and sweaty on his bike, or in fact he did get hot and sweaty on his bike which would've resulted in rather an unpleasant day I would have thought for him and the people around him in the office. So I'm very very critical of that kind of behavior"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, 98-year-old former King's College carol chorister - "[On fewer opportunities for girls to sing] I myself can't distinguish at all between the sounds of girls and the sounds of boys. I did actually introduce girls to the school. About the last thing I did as headmaster and the very day that I introduced girls, all the little boys lay down in protest on the drive and refused to let the cars come in"

How often should you shower? - "Showering gets rid of the good bacteria
Showering dries out your skin and hair
Showering uses a ton of water
Chemical by-products from soaps get into the water system"

High childhood IQ linked to subsequent illicit drug use, research suggests - "Although it is not yet clear exactly why there should be a link between high IQ and illicit drug use, the authors point to previous research, showing that highly intelligent people are open to experiences and keen on novelty and stimulation."

The Power of a Teddy Bear - Ideas Market - WSJ - "People who feel the pain of social rejection often retreat from human interaction—which, of course, is a self-defeating move—but touching a teddy bear may counteract the tendency"

Owning Teddy Bears Does Not Reflect Immaturity - "Although “some people might automatically assume that an adult owning a toy animal is an indicator of the owner's immaturity,” explains lead author Stuart Brody, professor of psychology at the University of the West of Scotland, “there was no association of adult toy animal ownership with emotion regulation and maturity.”"

Second separation: Why Singapore rejected a common currency with Malaysia

Do You Speak Singlish? - The New York Times - "Is the government’s war on Singlish finally over? Our wacky, singsong creole may seem like the poor cousin to the island’s four official languages, but years of state efforts to quash it have only made it flourish. Now even politicians and officials are using it."

Why Do We Care If Facebook Is Biased? - "“Facebook is a media company, but more than that, it is a utility, an integral piece of information infrastructure upon which hundreds of publishers and media companies rely to reach their audience.” The point isn’t just that so many people use Facebook (though that’s part of the point). It’s that it has been positioned as part of the Internet “infrastructure,” not so different from the electric grid or the telecommunications system... As Facebook becomes increasingly active in determining which news its users see, it would do well to acknowledge the use of humans—including their potential for errors and bias. This might even give the company some freedom to be more discerning in deciding which headlines we should see."

This start-up promised 10,000 people eternal digital life—then it died - "You can’t achieve immortality if you’re dependent on a company that might go out of business"

Facebook Found To Cause Android & iOS Batteries To Drain Fast - "deleting Facebook from an iPhone could save up to 15% battery life. Similarly, taking Facebook app off an Android phone would save users 20% of the device's battery."

Media Slant: A Question of Cause and Effect - The New York Times - "With specific phrases associated with political stands, the researchers then analyzed newspaper articles from 2005 to determine which papers leaned left and which leaned right. (They looked only at news articles and excluded opinion columns.) That is, they computed an objective, if imperfect, measure of political slant based on the choice of language. To confirm the validity of their measure, Mr. Gentzkow and Mr. Shapiro showed that it was correlated with results from subjective surveys of readers... A natural hypothesis is that a media outlet’s perspective reflects the ideology of its owner... From their study of newspapers, however, Mr. Gentzkow and Mr. Shapiro, find little evidence to support this hypothesis. After accounting for confounding factors like geographic proximity, they find that two newspapers with the same owner are no more likely to be ideologically similar than two random papers. Moreover, they find no correlation between the political slant of a paper and the owner’s ideology, as judged by political donations... If a paper serves a liberal community, it is likely to lean left, and if it serves a conservative community, it is likely to lean right... Media owners generally do not try to mold the population to their own brand of politics. Instead, like other business owners, they maximize profit by giving customers what they want. These findings speak well of the marketplace... the findings also raise a more troubling question about the media’s role as a democratic institution. How likely is it that we as citizens will change our minds, or reach compromise with those who have differing views, if all of us are getting our news from sources that reinforce the opinions we start with?"
This won't stop red herrings about how ownership of newspapers inevitably means editorial interference; Original paper: WHAT DRIVES MEDIA SLANT? EVIDENCE FROM U.S. DAILY NEWSPAPERS / MATTHEW GENTZKOW AND JESSE M. SHAPIRO

Harvard’s clueless illiberalism - "Harvard has concluded that, in response to sexual assault and other manifestations of gender inequity, it must reform campus culture. Single-gender social organizations are unavoidably discriminatory, President Drew Gilpin Faust noted, “in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion,” contrary to what Harvard stands for... no student members of single-gender fraternities, sororities or final clubs may hold “leadership positions” in Harvard’s hundreds of officially “recognized” undergraduate organizations. Nor may they apply for fellowships, such as the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, that require an official college endorsement... Only Harvard could proclaim its opposition to arbitrary “privilege and exclusion” while running a $38 billion hedge fund (a.k.a. the Harvard Endowment) and rejecting 95 percent of applicants — based on murky criteria rumored to include everything from SAT scores to alumni connections. There must be no exclusive clubs within this exclusive club. Dean Rakesh Khurana, the new policy’s intellectual author, declared that “their fundamental principles are antithetical to our institutional values,” with no apparent awareness of the chilly authoritarianism he was directing at the approximately 25 percent of students who belong to the groups in question — and who, at last check, have a perfect right to be at odds with any “institutional values” they please."

The Curious Case of the Weapon that Didn’t Exist - "These weapons are also neither described in medieval literature or chronicles, nor are they listed in armoury catalogues. They simply aren’t discussed... the flail persists in the imagination for the very reason it was invented—whether by artists or smiths—in the first place: because it looks cool, dangerous, unpredictable, unwieldy, and uncivilised"

Chinese Cops Are Temporarily Patrolling the Streets of Rome and Milan - "the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels have travelers nervous about visiting Europe. Pickpockets and petty criminals have also targeted Chinese travelers who tend to carry large amounts of cash. Often, because of cultural and language divides, Chinese visitors have difficulty finding help after an incident."

Fighting diabetes: Why the target is white rice - "Yes, sweet drinks and junk food are bad, and no one, least of all the HPB, is denying this. What it is saying, though, is that white rice is also a major culprit - largely because it is a staple, so more of it is eaten... The 2010 National Nutrition Survey found a typical serving of rice here was 250g, and that a third of Singaporeans' daily intake of calories comes from rice - compared to 3.5 per cent from sugary drinks."

On Rey being Overpowered, Female Characters' Lines in Movies and Another Instance I Wasted Time Arguing with Liberals

"Insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau (attr - it's actually from Fénélon and Pierre-Claude-Victor Boiste)


A: Researchers have found a major problem with ‘The Little Mermaid’ and other Disney movies (on men talking more than women in Disney movies)

I was disappointed by how Frozen fared in this. I wonder how non-princess Disney films hold up (like Big Hero 6 or Inside Out, which had fairly diverse casts).

Me: If you need to tick too many boxes you can't make a film properly

A: a.) I don't follow the link between that statement and what I have shared above. b.) I dispute your statement, as many very successful films are in great part box-checking exercises.

Me: If they want to ensure women speak as much as men it is yet another consideration they need to take into account

It depends how you do it. One reason I didn't like tfa was the need to make rey strong made her unbelievable

B: The Force Awakens has laser swords, planet destroying superweapons and faster than light travel, but you thought a strong female lead was somehow 'unbelievable'?

A: You don't have to ensure that women speak as much as men in every film. However, casting and scripting choices often use men as default where gender would have little impact on a film, but in aggregate can have large impacts on how society views gender. The discrepancies are especially atrocious in a line of fantasy films specifically targeted at young children.

I agree with B. Having delved into the entire EU universe and obsessed over Star Wars as much as I have, I find Rey to be more realistic than original trilogy Luke at the least.

Me: Yup. There's something called in-universe logic.

"The female Rey, who it is heavily implied is Luke’s daughter, is the most underdeveloped character yet in over 14 hours of Star Wars films. Her story arc is practically-speaking non-existent... other major Force-wielders in the series their abilities have previously developed or are developed over years, Rey seemingly does it in less than 12 seconds, rather than parsecs. Her whole trajectory in the film reeks of “god mode”...

In the case of Anakin Skywalker in the prequels, by contrast, we learn that he is the only human pilot to engage in pod racing. His mechanical know-how has been honed over some years, culminating in his construction of both his own pad racer and the droid C-3PO. And when he destroys the droid control ship above Naboo, it is largely as a result of his good fortune, not just long-acquired skill. A decade later and with continuous training, he additionally fails to best Count Dooku on Geonosis...

That’s a plot fueled by meth. To boot, Rey’s piloting and mechanical skills, to the point of knowing everything, is mind-boggingly “get more women in STEM” in its motivations. When she starts teaching Han Solo about the Falcon, things become breathtakingly contrived. It’s as if Abrams was paid by a female science scholarship foundation to drum up some public service announcements via film"

Riley from Alien is a better model if you want "strong female lead". Though the unthinking adherence to this trope hobbles female characters' development.

OT Luke had training from Obi Wan and Yoda and still got his hand cut off in Bespin

Is there evidence that these have "large impacts on how society views gender"? This is a claim that is always bandied around but I've never seen evidence for it

Also should the media reflect society as it is or society as it should be? Why must the media be a social engineering tool?

If in the real world women do not flock to join the military, is it reasonable for them to do so in a fictional world?

40 Unforgivable Plot Holes in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

20 More Plot Holes in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

The many plot holes in TFA arise from the box ticking exercise to:

- Give fans something like the Original Trilogy
- Have more black people/women characters
- Make black people/women look strong/good
- Have a climatic final battle scene
- Use the old characters and introduce new ones
- Have a reasonable running time
- Make people consume all the tie-in novels and other media to find out what was going on
- Have a dangerous villain (Ren)
- Leave lots of characters alive for the rest of the trilogy
- Sell more toys
- Give cheap thrills/gags

A: LOLZ. I will agree that TFA was a box-ticking exercise, but I reallllly don't see how gender or race of the two main protagonists led to plotholes. The Deus Ex Machina used constantly to move the plot forward (Deus Ex Machina that is alive and well in both previous trilogies) is another beast altogether.

A lot of what is supposedly so unrealistic about Rey's character is explained through the visual representation of her character and small glimpses of her backstory given in her dialogue/relationships with other characters. I preferred it greatly to the exposition-heavy prequels and Luke's "I used to bull's-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home."

Is there any particular reason you would find value in gendering most supporting characters in Disney films as male?

Me: It's not really the gender/race being plotholes, but the need to have a "super strong female character" that made Rey super overpowered

There are Dei Ex Machina. And there are Dei Ex Machina. We do get glimpses of her backstory, but it doesn't explain why she can master the force and lightsaber combat in 7 seconds

B: Maybe women are just better. In-universe, of course.

Me: A: "Is there any particular reason you would find value in gendering most supporting characters in Disney films as male?"

The male is the default gender.

"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."

I would interpret this differently from the conventional de Beauvoir interpretation.

It's the same way he was the gender neutral pronoun for the longest time.

So in most cases, making characters male makes sense. Because men are neutral, whereas women are special/gendered (it's the same way with gender roles in modern societies in developed countries - e.g. women can wear jeans but men can't wear skirts)

Also people identify more easily with male than female characters. So you can get a wider audience with male than female characters. There's some research on this (excerpted in Balderdash: On Diversity in Casting in Movies and other Media) (I also suspect that people identify more easily with white characters but I haven't found anything on this).

Also Disney worlds tend to be ones where men are more prominent in public life. Look at the historical settings. Women tended to stay in the private realm. It was men who were prominent in the public realm. So unless your story is about cleaning the floor (e.g. Cinderella) you're not going to see so many women in them.

Actually what is interesting is why the majority of Disney protagonists are female. Maybe parents (or fathers at least) are more easily suckered by girls than boys to buy toys and merchandise.

C: Ok, I gotta hop in. I'm geeking out and can't contain myself. It makes perfect sense Rey can do Jedi mind tricks and master light saber fighting after a TELEPATHIC LINK WITH SOMEONE WHO COULD ALREADY DO THOSE THINGS. I mean, she's already super strong with the Force - all it took was absorbing the knowledge/skills from the interrogation scene. How do so many ppl miss this???

A: C: I know! She only uses powers after having Kylo Ren use those same powers on her!

B: Guys guys guys, clearly women can't do that shit! Vaginas interfere with the force!

Me: I'm assuming Rey isn't an ancestor/descendant of X-men's Rogue

And if a "telepathic link" made one a Jedi Master how come all those Jedi padawans and Sith apprentices didn't do the same? Wow, that'd save lots of time training

B: In-universe logic, baby.

Me: In universe logic says that we bring in a new and totally unknown method of "training". Right.

I guess force users need to be careful whose minds they prey into since they may end up teaching them everything they know

B: Especially strong female leads. They're better with the force, after all.

A: There is very well-established precedent that being strong in the force gives you inherent use in some instances (such as piloting). In this case, Rey is able to resist Ren's mind-sap the second time he tries it, probably because she knows what to expect this time. It's not a leap that in feeling his intrusion and resisting it she intuitively twists the mind-sap around, and is then able to use it against the stormtrooper after multiple attempts.

Kind of like how Luke magically learns how to manipulate high-speed proton torpedoes using the force.

C: I think we can agree that Rey is meant to be very exceptional. Therefore it's no stretch of logic to say that she can do some exceptional things. No need to over-think it, I mean this IS the franchise that brought us Jar Jar Binks, after all.

A: "I used to bull's-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home, and they're not much bigger than two meters!"

There's a much closer parallel between the port on the Death Star and womp rats than learning mind tricks and lightsaber combat from a mind sap.

Being strong in the Force helps you do things like pod-racing, sure. But learning how to use the Force is why people go to school and have Masters.

Anakin had more midichlorians than Master Yoda and still got his arm cut off by Dooku. Maybe Rey has mutated midichlorians?

C: The only response I can give, if you don't believe me is that "I find your lack of faith disturbing".

A: I'm not sure piloting a T-16 in atmosphere and firing LOS with lasers corresponds very well to piloting a highly advanced space fighter and firing projectiles at a similar target without computational aid, and then bending the trajectory of said projectiles 90 degrees.

As for lightsaber fighting, Count Dooku was how much older/more experienced than Anakin (while Ren and Rey are roughly the same age and Rey has some combat training, just not lightsaber)? And had Count Dooku just been hit with a fracking bowcaster shot, which was established in the movie to blast stormtroopers through the air? I actually liked how the movie creators had Rey use a short staff fighting style during the lightsaber batle to explain her competence.

Me: Ok

D: I was going to post here that the article was an excellent read, but wow this truly takes the cake.

Don't mind the troll. Actually, each and every point he has made further solidifies the exact issue to which this article is pointing- an inherent societal and cultural mysoginistic disposition that is ingrained in young brains through media. To which some are apparently too feeble minded, or more likely in this specific case drowned in his own narcissistic ideology of "REAL STAR WARS LOGIC," to recognize that the sexist undertones so neatly displayed in the article are spewing out of him.

Me: Right.

Disagreement = trolling, stupidity, narcissism. Nothing new here.

Have fun masturbating each other in your echo chamber.

E: *shlick shlick shlick shlick shlick*

yeah, no, Gabriel, I think you're earnestly complacent with gender inequity in our society. My comments were mocking in nature.

C: This does raise an interesting question: how do those concerned with gender equity go about demonstrating the reality and persuading those who are willfully (trollfully?) ignorant of such things? If hard empirical linguistic evidence can't do it, as in the article, then what can? (I interpret mocking as a sign of the end of persuasive efforts in most cases).

B: Guy wastes an hour moaning that his beliefs are logical and relevant, despite multiple people refuting him over and over, then accuses us of being in an echo chamber. Yup.

E: You interpreted correctly. I have spent way too many kilojoules on people like that guy. At some point, you need to turn your attentions to actually DOING something about it on a grand scale.

A: If I'm reading Gabriel correctly, he doesn't deny the inequity, he just doesn't see a problem with it.

Me: C: Unfortunately, not everyone responds well to evidence

When I show feminists evidence that the gender pay gap is negligible once you correct for factors like hours worked, time taken off work, industry etc the response is usually one or more of the following:

- accusing me of trolling
- insulting me
- blocking me
- ignoring me and then continuing to spread misleading statistics about the gap
- claiming that anecdata is more important than rigorous statistics

Ho hum.

A: I would say that it is a very minor problem at most

E: Hmmm, that's interesting Gabriel, but irrelevant to the topic at hand. UNLESS you're saying all feminists (aka people who want to work to correct gender inequality) are exactly the same. Is that what you're saying?

Me: I was giving an example of how evidence doesn't work on everyone

E: uh huh. Man, I LOVE how MRA think that's a kill-all point. Like GENDER PAY GAP GUYS! DROP THE MIC!

Me: To quote C:

"I interpret mocking as a sign of the end of persuasive efforts in most cases"

C: Glad you all agree on something finally! :P

F: Wow. Wowowowowowowow. "Male is the default gender." Lololololololololololol. Ol.

Must be terribly narrow in that worldview you have there. I'd go into the various cultures and languages worldwide that don't use gendered pronouns, but nah. Don't wanna make you too uncomfortable.

Oh. Let me just leave this riiiiiiiight here. Consider it a little extracurricular exercise if you like:

Appeal to Tradition

G: I liked the article but loved the comments here even more!

H: Can subalterns speak ... Haha

I: yeah. Houston, we have a problem.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Links - 13th June 2016

A STATEMENT ON EUROPE : Cornish Pasty Association - "The Cornish Pasty Association has today made a statement supporting Britain remaining in the European Union."

The Stanford rape case and liberal hypocrisy. - "in their rush to condemn Turner’s sentence, far too many liberals have abandoned what were, not so long ago, fundamental principles of progressivism. This willingness to toss due process out the window in sexual assault cases is, unfortunately, indicative of a broader inconsistency that plagues the American left... Judicial elections are already a travesty of justice. Recall efforts compound the problem: They blatantly put pressure on judges to follow public opinion—or mob mentality—rather than maintaining judicial independence... In 1986, Republicans spearheaded a successful campaign to oust three justices from the California Supreme Court over their judicial opposition to capital punishment. The overtly partisan effort politicized the court and temporarily shattered the state judiciary’s independence. More recently, anti-gay activists ousted three judges from the Iowa Supreme Court over their votes affirming same-sex couples’ right to wed. American liberals have long looked upon these efforts as antithetical to the judiciary’s responsibility to remain above politics and faithfulness to the law. Is that belief suspended when the judge issued a sexist ruling rather than a progressive one? Even worse, Persky has received anonymous threats from social justice advocates outraged by his ruling. These hecklers may believe their cause to be noble, but they are taking a page straight from Donald Trump’s playbook—not a good look for activists hoping to combat everything Trump stands for... Victim impact statements were once a liberal bête noire, and rightly so, because they seriously undermine the defendant’s due process rights... “Propensity evidence,” or evidence that a defendant committed prior bad acts and is thus more likely to have committed the crime for which he is being tried, is generally barred from the courtroom. That rule, however, does not apply in sexual assault cases, allowing the prosecutor to present evidence that the defendant committed previous sexual assaults. This is cheating... Liberals’ blasé attitude toward judicial impeachment and victim impact statements in the Turner case, then, must be viewed as part of a larger trend: the willingness among a certain faction of the American left to jettison progressive principles in a good-hearted but profoundly misguided effort to stop sexual violence"
Someone's reaction to this was: "a bit of hypocrisy is sometimes needed to get the right result."

Brock Turner case: Q&A on sexual assault sentence, possible appeal and more - "the law allows judges to deviate from the mandatory sentence for certain crimes by making a finding of "unusual circumstances." The probation report, which recommended a county jail term, cited 20-year-old Turner's youth, high level of intoxication (twice the legal blood-alcohol level) and lack of a criminal record. Under the law, those are legitimate grounds. "The bottom line is that in this instance we believe that Judge Persky applied the right laws and reviewed the right circumstances and factors that he was required to review," Gibbons-Shapiro said. "We believe that he made the wrong decision, ... that he should have sentenced Turner to prison. We don't believe that we have a basis to appeal or seek a writ in this case, though, because his decision was authorized by law and was made by applying the correct standards.
Q Was the probation officer who recommended that Turner be spared from prison a man or a woman?
A A woman.
Q What was her rationale?
A In addition to his youth, alcohol level, and status as a first-time offender, she concluded Turner was not a danger to the community and was remorseful...
Several defense attorneys from the Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office spoke out Wednesday in support of the judge and his decision, including the head of the office, Public Defender Molly O'Neal. While it's not surprising that some defense lawyers would back Persky's decision, O'Neal's support is significant. O'Neal is the first gay woman to hold the Santa Clara County position, has a daughter heading to college this fall, and is known as a feminist. O'Neal said she is appalled at the venom directed at Persky, who she says has received multiple threats. The victim was vindicated by the jury verdict, which sent a strong message that such assaults are not to be tolerated, she said. "We lock more people up in the United States than anywhere else in the world," O'Neal said. "To what end in this case?" Turner will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, making it difficult for him to get a job, she said. He'll also have at least one strike on his record. "The sentence was totally fair, not out of line, given his lack of a criminal record," O'Neal said. She noted that prosecutors could have declined to let Persky hear the case if they were concerned that his background as a Stanford graduate and former member and assistant coach of the university's lacrosse team would influence his decision. She also said that trying to recall the judge based on one decision is wrong. "I stand with the judge," O'Neal said, "but also with the whole process. The judge listened to everyone involved and made a difficult call.""

Judge Aaron Persky Under Fire for Sentencing in Stanford Rape Case - The New York Times - "Mr. Goodman, the deputy public defender, said he had worked with the judge for three decades and denounced the proposed recall. He said Judge Persky was “an exceptional jurist” who had accurately followed the relevant rules and statutes and formulated the sentence in consultation with the probation department. “You have to judge a case on its merits only,” Mr. Goodman said. “The narrative on social media is ‘We have to judge this case as part of the larger social issue of campus sexual abuse,’ but as a judge, he is not allowed to do that.” He rejected the argument that race or social class had played any role in Mr. Turner’s sentence. “People say it’s because he’s a Stanford kid and he’s rich and the judge played lacrosse. No, it’s not done that way. It can’t be done that way,” Mr. Goodman added. “It would have been the exact same result for a person of color.”"

TrumpSingles.com Is the Dating Site for Trump Supporters - "he had heard horror stories of dates gone awry when the subject of politics comes up, including one woman whose date simply got up and left her with the check when she mentioned her predilection for the businessman-turned-politician"

Donald Trump: Comments about judge 'misconstrued' - "Donald Trump sought Tuesday to quell the intensifying criticism over his comments about the impartiality of a federal judge, saying his remarks had been "misconstrued." In a lengthy statement, Trump tried to explain his comments about federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing a lawsuit on Trump University. Trump, who had accused the Indiana-born Curiel of bias because of his Mexican heritage, said in his statement that he does not believe "one's heritage makes them incapable of being impartial." "Based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial," Trump said. He added that he also has "concerns as to my ability to receive a fair trial" due to his status as the Republican Party's presumptive nominee and his campaign's focus on illegal immigration"
This is very much in the spirit of dismissing white people because of 'privilege'. To take a specific example, Judge Persky in the Brock Turner case because both are white and from Stanford

Social experiment sees if Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump sign provokes a more violent reaction - "Opponents of Trump were far more vocal and aggressive when he was holding up a sign supporting the Republican front runner with two even turning violent. The result may be surprising to most after recent stories of angry Trump fans attacking protesters at The Donald's rallies. Meanwhile when holding the Sanders sign, Salads didn't receive any abuse and even remarked people were giving him the thumbs up."
Maybe those who claim Trump incites violence are falling prey to projection

After deadly Tel Aviv attack, Israel suspends Palestinian permits - "After the attack, fireworks were set off in parts of the West Bank and in some refugee camps people sang, chanted and waved flags in celebration, locals said. Hamas spokesman Hussam Badran called it "the first prophecy of Ramadan" and said the location of the attack, close to the Defence Ministry, "indicated the failure of all measures by the occupation" to end the uprising."

Spice gull: seabird turns orange after falling into vat of curry

Battle against ISIS is raging, in a comic book - "Bakhit embarked on a journey around Jordan, conducting focus groups with youths. In one, he asked who their heroes were. “They told me, ‘we don’t really have heroes.’ They were even shocked to hear the word or the question. “‘We hear a lot about [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi and [Osama] Bin Laden. They defend us, they protect us’.” That, said Bakhit, is “extremist narrative 101”... Those who join the likes of ISIS are usually those “who perceived themselves as not worthy or not feeling they want more in life. They come across these narratives, add on top of it the religion, which makes it much more sacred and holy,” he said."

The Truth About Modern Art - YouTube - "Yoko Ono screaming like a demented bitch. Modern art or conceptual art isn't art at all. It's one big circlejerk of pretentious twats trying to make themselves look sophisticated by ascribing meaning to something that's completely meaningless. Listen, there is good modern art, and there are many skilled modern artists, so why is it usually the most talentless vacuous shit that gets promoted and funded by the art establishment? Well it's partly borne out of elitism. If the artistic merit of a bunch of squiggly lines can only be appreciated by a select number of privileged insiders, they can then sneer at the 'uninitiated' and justiy their own intellectual superiority... 'Here's a test I give my graduate students. All talented and well-educated. Please analyse this Jackson Pollock painting and explain why it is good. It is only after they give very eloquent answers that I inform them that the painting is actually a closeup of my studio apron'... So-called works of art keep being thrown out because people mistake them for garbage. When it becomes impossible to tell the difference between conceptual art and trash, then we know we've crossed the line... Conceptual art is another front in the war on objectivism. It's this ridiculous idea that something has merit and authenticity based on the flimsiest subjective pretence. Just as a 52 year old man can identify as a 6 year old girl and demand that society embrace his delusion, the art world presents us with 90 tin cans filled with feces and demands that we treat it with reverence... Conceptual art is shit. It doesn't enrich our culture - it degrades and cheapens society by exulting the vulgar, the crass and the scatalogical and the people promoting it are preventing us from enjoying modern art produced by artists with actual talent"

Artist to sit naked on a toilet for two days to protest 'bulls**t' art world - "When you decide the art world is simply too ridiculous to handle, there’s only one thing for it: sit on a toilet in your birthday suit for two days to protest this “bulls**t”. That’s exactly the lengths comedian, artist and psychotherapist Lisa Levy is going to after growing increasingly fed up with what she sees as “egoic pretense” in her industry... “Ego and pretense has seriously f**ked with the quality of work being made in the art world,” she says on her Facebook page. “I’m also tired of the bulls**t trendy art dialogue about how the art world is driven by rich people who want shiny work and don’t care about meaning as well. But mostly I think it will be weirdly fun to be naked in public.”"

What’s behind the $10 million price tag for LACMA’s rock sculpture? - "It’s big, it’s heavy and it’s almost at its new home. For the last 10 nights the LA County Museum of Art’s 340-ton boulder has traveled through Southern California at a maximum speed of around five miles an hour. It started at a quarry in Riverside and early Saturday morning it reaches the lawn at LACMA. The giant boulder is part of an installation by artist Michael Heizer called "Levitated Mass." The estimated cost for the project is 10 million dollars"

ICA fires chairman over 'tat' art jibe - "Ivan Massow, the chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art, was last night fired for daring to suggest that the art establishment might have "disappeared up its own arse". The millionaire insurance tycoon, who was yesterday branded a "bit of a pillock" by a board member for labelling most conceptual art as "pretentious, self-indulgent craftless tat that I wouldn't accept even as a gift", compared his sacking to facing a really bad firing squad "comprised of one bloke with a blank bullet." In a grand gesture of defiance, Massow had sent the ICA a toy gun so the board "could use it to dispatch me cleanly and humanely". "

Art Renewal Center - "In 1977 businessman Fred Ross was stopped in his tracks by a painting called Nymphs and Satyr at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The painting was by William Bouguereau, an artist that he never read about in many years of his art history studies, except perhaps as an example of everything that was wrong with painting in the nineteenth century. The encounter with that painting set him on the course of uncovering and celebrating other artists who he felt had been unjustly neglected in the official art histories. With that beginning, he and other experts and artists in the field founded the Art Renewal Center, a website and organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for traditional realism."

On Diversity in Casting in Movies and other Media

One of the key assumptions of identity politics-driven calls for "diversity" in media representation is that people want to see people like themselves onscreen.

Yet this is not always the case:

Ed: The extract has been expanded since this blog post was first published

"Horton and Wohl remark that in watching films we are encouraged to ‘identify’ with the protagonist but that ‘resistance is manifested when some members of an audience are asked to take the opposite-sex role — the woman's perspective is rejected more commonly by men than vice versa’ (Horton & Wohl 1956: 221). The psychologist Grant Noble observes that ‘researchers have long been puzzled because girls tend to “identify” with both male and female performers Boys, on the other hand, tend to identify only with male heroes‘ (Noble 1975: 53).

Building on Freudian theory, Laura Mulvey asserts that ‘for women (from childhood onwards) trans-sex identification is a habit that very easily becomes second Nature‘ (even if it ‘does not sit easily’) (Mulvey 1988: 72). Indeed, Anneke Smelik suggests that ‘it has become a general assumption of feminist film theory that female spectators are more fluid in their capacity to identify with the other gender‘ (Smelik 1999: 355). Neither film theory nor psychoanalytic theory is noted for an attention to empirical evidence, so we offer here some brief references to relevant findings.

In studies of ‘modelling’ in interpersonal relations, boys have been found to favour same-sex models more strongly than girls do (Bandura et al. 1961; Bandura, Ross & Ross 1963; Slaby & Frey 1975; Perry & Perry 1975; Bussey & Bandura 1964; Frey & Ruble 1992; Luecke-Alecksa et al. 1995). In one study, as early as 2 years of age, girls showed no differential emulation of female- and male-stereotyped activities whereas boys showed a stronger tendency to emulate male-stereotyped activities (Bauer 1993). Grusec and Brinker (1972) find that after 5- and 7-year-old children had watched a male and a female model simultaneously presented, the boys remembered significantly more of the actions of the male than of the female model, while the girls showed a less clear tendency to remember more of the actions of the female than of the male model.

Such findings have been echoed in studies of parasocial relations, where Reeves and Miller found that ‘girls are more likely to identify with male characters than boys are to identify with females‘ (Reeves & Miller 1978: 83). Miller and Reeves (1976) find that 3rd-6th graders (approximately 8- to 11-years-old) overwhelmingly wanted to be like same-sex characters on television. However, while boys just named male characters, only about 70 per cent of those named by girls were female. Reeves and Miller found that ‘while both sexes identified more with seme-sex TV characters... females are almost equally as likely to identify with all characters on television as they are with same-sex models’ (Reeves & Miller 1978: 83). Hoffner (1996) found that amongst 155 children aged 7-12 nearly all of the boys (91 per cent) chose favourite television characters of the same sex while just over half (52.6 per cent} of the girls did...

Anticipated box-office returns obviously play a key role In deciding what kinds of movies are made. Many commentators refer to a widespread assumption amongst filmmakers and television producers that while genres traditionally favoured by (and primarily featuring) men (such as the western, detective story, science fiction, action-adventure) will also attract some women viewers, genres primarily associated with women (such as romance, domestic melodrama, family saga) tend to alienate the male audience (Seiter 1995: 166. 168). Fischoff et al. (1997) have provided evidence supporting this assumption. Men were more inflexible than women in their inclusion of films deemed as aimed at the other sex. Women were generally less dismissive of action-adventure films than men were of the romance genre. However, men in older age-groups were less gender-stereotypical in their film preferences and did include romantic films amongst their favourites. This is of course an additional disincentive against producers taking much account of female viewers. Consequently, it is hardly surprising that ‘relative to films with the male point of view few women's films are produced' (Fischofi et al. 1997)."

--- Who is the Fairest of Them All? Gendered Readings of Big Brother UK / Daniel Chandler and Merris Griffiths in Big Brother International: Formats, Critics and Publics

Gender and reading | Paul Sopčák and Marisa Bortolussi - "In the present research, we examined the effect of protagonist gender on reader evaluations of excerpts from novels. Extant analyses of the role of gender in reading suggest that there should be a gender-match effect in which, for example, women prefer stories with female protagonists. To test this prediction, we created different versions of the excerpts in which a male protagonist was changed to a female protagonist and vice versa. Readers rated the texts on four evaluation items spanning both personal and intersubjective reactions to both the discourse and the story world. Two samples of readers were used: one in Canada and one in Germany. The results indicated that both men and women rated texts higher on the story-world items when they had a male protagonist, inconsistent with the gender-match prediction.There was no difference in this pattern between Canadian and German readers, suggesting that it is common across these cultures. We provide an alternative account based on the fundamental attribution error."

In other words, men and women both prefer to read about men.

On the other hand, where race is concerned, this does not seem to hold.

"Several studies have found that viewers enjoy seeing people of their own race in the media, particularly on television. They like these characters more, they trust them more, and they identify with them more. Black high school students have indicated a stronger liking than White students for shows featuring Black characters (Dates, 1980). White high school students have rated White newscasters higher than Black newscasters in terms of competency and the likelihood that those newscasters might someday be neighbors or relatives (Kaner, 1982). Grade school children tend to select their favorite characters on the basis of race. During a season when 85 percent of the characters on television were White, 96 percent of the White children selected a White character as their favorite, whereas only 75 percent of the Black children and 80 percent of the Hispanic children chose a White character (Eastman & Liss, 1980). When programs featuring minority characters are available, minority audiences tend to prefer these shows to others that feature White characters (Liss, 1981; Eastman & Liss, 1980; Greenberg et al., 1983)."

--- Fundamentals of Media Effects: Second Edition / Jennings Bryant, Susan Thompson, Bruce W. Finklea

Yet, there're other reasons explaining the prevalence of white faces in casting.

The Role of Actors' Race in White Audiences' Selective Exposure to Movies - "Movie producers are often reluctant to cast more than a few minority actors in otherwise race-neutral movies for fear that the White audience will largely avoid such films. Two experiments were conducted to test the idea that the racial makeup of a cast could influence White audiences' selective exposure to movies. Results revealed that actors' race does influence selective exposure in certain contexts. For nonromantic movies, participants' racial attitudes moderated the relationship between race and selective exposure. For romantic movies, regardless of racial attitudes, White participants showed significantly less interest in seeing movies with mostly Black casts than in seeing movies with mostly White casts. These findings are discussed in light of both social identity theory and social cognitive theory."

This can probably be generalisable to all "minorities". So if there're more whites than non-whites in your audience, diverse casting might not make sense financially.

And if one posits whiteness as the default, then even if minorities prefer seeing themselves onscreen, their reaction to seeing a white person would be less negative than that of a white person seeing a minority (not to mention there is also the effect of seeing other minorities). So the most neutral option would still to be to cast white people.

Objecting to this, people like to point to research showing that Movies With Diverse Casts Make More Money.

Yet, the 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report: Busine$$ as Usual? clearly suffers from omitted variable bias - movies which would be popular for other reasons are more likely to have diverse casting, due to pressure/desire to do so (e.g. having famous directors who want to showcase their diversity credentials, being bigger targets for activists to picket etc).

Once one teases out the relevant factors, it is clear that star actors increase box office takings.. And since most star actors are white, it is no wonder more white actors are cast:

The Power of Stars: Do Star Actors Drive the Success of Movies?

"Is the involvement of stars critical to the success of motion pictures? Film studios, which regularly pay multimillion-dollar fees to stars, seem to be driven by that belief. This article sheds light on the returns on this investment using an event study that considers the impact of more than 1200 casting announcements on trading behavior in a simulated and real stock market setting. The author finds evidence that the involvement of stars affects movies' expected theatrical revenues and provides insight into the magnitude of this effect. For example, the estimates suggest that, on average, stars are worth approximately $3 million in theatrical revenues. In a cross-sectional analysis grounded in the literature on group dynamics, the author also examines the determinants of the magnitude of stars' impact on expected revenues. Among other things, the author shows that the stronger a cast already is, the greater is the impact of a newly recruited star with a track record of box office successes or with a strong artistic reputation. Finally, in an extension to the study, the author does not find that the involvement of stars in movies increases the valuation of film companies that release the movies, thus providing insufficient grounds to conclude that stars add more value than they capture. The author discusses implications for managers in the motion picture industry."

Furthermore, there's the influence of overseas markets.

Although Bill Maher is dismissed as "whitesplaining" when he says that Asian audiences don't like black people, this is confirmed by the Sony email leaks (How Racism Is Affecting Denzel Washington's Career, According To Sony Emails), Finn being cut from the Force Awakens' poster (and other incidents reported in the latter article) and many Hollywood insiders and analysts.

One might also consider the inconsistency in slamming China for the "racist" detergent ad - while denying that Chinese audiences don't like seeing bllack people onscreen.


women identify men, male female characters, tend to identify only with male characters
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