Categories
Uncategorised

“This isn’t homeschooling”

For many parents, today is the beginning of another block of having the kids attending school virtually rather than in person. It’s many things – difficult and exhausting, mainly – but it’s not homeschooling.

Dr Mary O’Kane on Twitter:

This is not ‘home schooling’. Home schooling is a conscious decision made by some parents having researched that option. This is emergency education, during lockdown, while surviving a pandemic! So, let’s lower our expectations of ourselves a little. #homeschooling #lockdown

As Dr O’Kane adds:

The most important thing is our children’s wellbeing, and our relationship with them. We need to let go of our vision of perfect parenting, definitely good enough is good enough at the moment!

Categories
Uncategorised

Beans and being mean

If you’re not Very Online, you may have missed Bean Dad: for a full day social media was sharing and/or piling on a man who posted about teaching, or rather not teaching, his daughter to use a can opener.

Emily Pothast explains it:

…despite a bombshell story about Trump attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Georgia election, “Bean Dad” was the social media network’s top trending topic. Bean Dad, it turned out, was John Roderick, who had issued a series tweets about how his 9-year-old daughter had asked for his help opening a can of beans while he was working on a jigsaw puzzle. Instead of showing her how to work the can opener, he made her figure it out on her own, which she finally did after six hours of “grunting and groaning.”

I saw the original posts and assumed it was someone very selectively telling a story in an attempt to go viral, as did Pothast. But as she points out, it became something more interesting when people began to unearth Roderick’s old tweets containing various slurs and quite a lot of homophobia, ableism and antisemitism. The tweets don’t appear to be sincere; they appear to be the kind of “edgy” humour you find in episodes of South Park.

And that got Pothast thinking.

Over the past day, the discourse around the Bean Dad kerfuffle has had me thinking about the larger cultural disconnect it reveals between members of the same community. This is the chasm between between those who have decided that joking about “funny rape” or ironically calling someone a “fag” actually isn’t very original or creative (and honestly never was), and those who feel alienated by the prospect of living in a world where their jokes about Jews (delivered with or without affecting a Cartman voice) are no longer met with unconditional approval.

Categories
Uncategorised

The great bucatini shortage

This article made me laugh: Why is there a bucatini shortage in America?

Being educated noodle consumers, we knew that there was, more generally, a pasta shortage due to the pandemic, but we were still able to find spaghetti and penne and orecchiette — shapes which, again, insult me even in concept. The missing bucatini felt different. It was specific. Frightening. Why bucatini? Why now? Why us?

I didn’t know what bucatini was, so I’ve ordered some to try it for myself. There doesn’t currently appear to be a bucatini shortage in Scotland.

Categories
Uncategorised

“The most political identity of all”

Jessica Valenti is on typically scathing form in this piece about cis, straight white men in US politics:

Because to them, white men are a politically neutral group: the default choice. Any deviation from that standard must be about ‘identity politics’. It has never occurred to them that white men are the most political identity of all.

For centuries, straight white men have been at the world’s helm because they were straight white men. Still, despite eons of patriarchy and the systemic disenfranchisement of marginalized communities, we are supposed to believe that the glut of white men in power is based on competence alone. How many times have we heard that an all-white male panel, board of directors, or leadership team was chosen solely on ability? They were race and gender blind in their process, they swear! It was all about who was best for the job!

Categories
Uncategorised

It’s World Kindness Day

Any excuse to post this again:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, God Bess You Mr Rosewater

Categories
Uncategorised

Empathy

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s defeat, the commentariat are urging us to feel empathy for the would-be dictator, his acolytes and his supporters.

That’s certainly the right thing to do, the loving thing to do, the Christian… oh, fuck that and fuck those people. They put kids in cages and permanently separated them from their parents. They contributed to the deaths of nearly 275,000 people. They urged legislators to let evangelicals leave LGBT+ people to die in the name of religious freedom. They began a process that they hope will lead to the reversal of equal marriage and restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. They stood side by side with neo-Nazis. They put a rapist and a criminal enterprise in the White House.

Where was their empathy?

As author Elizabeth Sandifer put it:

Mussolini was summarily executed, dumped outside a train station, pissed on, and then hung upside down on display from a meat hook, and so I think everyone arguing that the left needs to reach out to the right needs to appreciate just how conciliatory we’re already being.

Categories
Uncategorised

May the farce be with you

You might not think it from reading this blog, but one of the things I’m known for is laughing: as one of my friends put it the other night, “I don’t know ANYONE that laughs more than you”. I’m often reduced to tears by the silliest passing thought, and the more inappropriate it is to laugh the funnier I find it.

Pre-COVID I’d risk a beating from furious parents during school shows, because there is nothing funnier than a child trying to play a musical instrument they can’t play in front of a whole bunch of people who know they can’t laugh, and I’ve been in fits of laughter a thousand times on live radio, while trying to record podcasts, during doctors’ appointments and even while getting electrolysis. All it takes is one stupid thought and I completely lose it.

Yesterday was a good example. I was waiting outside my son’s school to pick him up, standing among a smattering of other parents when a Parcel Force van went by. My brain, which loves Spoonerisms and puns, immediately piped up.

“Porcel Farce,” it said.

I started to grin. And then I thought about it some more and how funny “porcel” sounds. And I started to giggle.

I looked up. A couple of other parents were giving me odd looks. As soon as I noticed them I knew that I didn’t stand a chance.

When you’re laughing and trying not to laugh, the worst possible thing that can happen is for you to see someone judging you. It’s an amplifier that makes whatever you’re laughing about roughly one thousand times funnier.

“Stop laughing!” I told my brain. “People are looking!”

My brain paused to consider this information and respond in a mature and sensible fashion.

“Heh heh heh,” it said.

It paused.

“Porcel farce,” it snickered.

You know when you laugh so much you start to cry? I was doing that. I whipped out my phone to try and pretend I was laughing at something I’ve seen on Twitter, desperately trying not to make a sound but emitting the odd squeak, and I laughed until I couldn’t see my phone for the tears. I’m quite sure my face was as red as my hair. I couldn’t dare look up for fear I’d make eye contact with another parent and it’d amplify the amusement even more, so I stood there shaking, squeaking and vibrating until my son appeared to save the day.

In the car, I told him about Porcel Farce. He thought it was funny too, but not as funny as the sight of his dad absolutely corpsing all over again.

I was getting facial electrolysis today, which was painful as ever. No prizes for guessing what my brain said to me or what happened next.

Categories
Uncategorised

Watching women

This is one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever read. Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman, for Jezebel: How the ‘Girl Watching’ Fad of the 1960s Taught Men to Harass Women.

In the spring of 1968, 21-year-old Francine Gottfried began working as an IBM machine operator at a data processing plant in lower Manhattan. Gottfried walked past the New York Stock Exchange to get from the subway to work each day, and she soon attracted a group of Wall Street workers who gaped at her large breasts and verbally harassed her. Over the following months, men circulated the details of her daily schedule—she typically emerged from the Broad Street subway at 1:28 pm for her afternoon shift—and the crowd grew.

By September, Gottfried’s body and the men’s aggressive behavior had become national news: “Boom and Bust on Wall Street,” read one New York Magazinearticle. According to the Associated Press, the group of men stalkers reached more than 5,000 on a single day; another news outlet claimed the group hit a record of 10,000.

Categories
Uncategorised

A calorific arms race

This, by MM Carrigan in Eater, is a great bit of writing. It’s about the semi-mythical fast food buffets that are unimaginable now, “an arms race in maximizing caloric intake.”

In the age of COVID-19, the fast-food buffet feels like more of a dream than ever. How positively whimsical it would be to stand shoulder to shoulder, hovering over sneeze guards, sharing soup ladles to scoop an odd assortment of pudding, three grapes, a heap of rotini pasta, and a drumstick onto a plate. Maybe we can reach this place again. But to find it, we must follow the landmarks, searching our memory as the map.

Categories
Uncategorised

What Dr Seuss didn’t say

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you’ll know that from time to time I get fascinated by online misquotes, which often go on to have a life of their own. As I’ve written before, the urinal trough in the gents’ toilets in Glasgow’s King Tut’s venue is engraved with a quote from the writer Hunter S Thompson that says:

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.

He never said that. He did, however, write that the TV business is a cruel and shallow money trench where thieves and pimps etc etc etc. Swapping TV for music and adding “there’s also a negative side” is the work of someone on the internet. One of the upsides of transition is that I can now go for a wee in Tut’s without getting annoyed by this.

I found out about another one today, which I had previously thought was an old advertising slogan of some kind:

The people who mind don’t matter. The people who matter don’t mind.

Nope! The actual quote is this:

Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

Multiple sites, including Good Housekeeping, have attributed it to Dr Seuss. You can buy it on cushions and framed prints on Etsy. But despite their claims that it’s in The Cat In The Hat, it isn’t. There’s no evidence that Dr Seuss ever said it.

Quote Investigator looked into it and found an early example in Punch magazine in 1855.

A SHORT CUT TO METAPHYSICS.
What is Matter?—Never mind.
What is Mind?—No matter.

And the TV show QI found a version of it in an engineering journal in 1938:

Mr. Davies himself admitted that it was highly controversial and open to criticism; but criticism concerned both mind and matter. “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind!”

The phrasing was used in the 1940s in some popular anecdotes about the seating arrangements at parties and turned up in various newspapers before being attributed to the US financier and philanthropist Bernard Baruch. But it appears to be one of those bits of anonymous wisdom that gets attached to various people in various places at various times. As Dr Seuss put it*:

Sometimes we just see
What we want to believe!

* You knew I’d to this. No he didn’t. I made it up.