The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'sarcasm'
Australians all let us rejoice, for Schapelle Corby, Ostraya's own People's Princess, is to be released on parole, after serving nine years of a 15-year sentence in an Indonesian prison. Corby became a cause celebre of bogan Australia after being arrested in 2005 for smuggling 4.2 kilograms of prime weed into Bali in a boogie-board case (which, of course, makes her a "legend"). This happened at around the time of the Asian tsunami, and resulted, among other things, in true-blue Aussie bogans across the country angrily withdrawing their tsunami relief donations, on the grounds that if the Asians are going to lock up One Of Us (especially one who's a hot chick), well, fuck Asia then. Also, if you were wondering about the sprinkling of eight-year-old Schapelles across the primary-school classrooms of today's suburban Australia, alongside the ubiquitous Jaydens and Kaydens and suburban kids whose faux-biblical names were imported from America with Oakley Thumps, Jersey Shore and gangsta EDM, there's your answer.
On Smarm, an essay pointing out that the problem with the internet is not snark but its condemnation, and through that, smarm; i.e., emotive appeals to the idea of positivity as a virtue (as if it were motherhood or apple pie or adorable kittens), and condemnation of negativity in general:
Over time, it has become clear that anti-negativity is a worldview of its own, a particular mode of thinking and argument, no matter how evasively or vapidly it chooses to express itself. For a guiding principle of 21st century literary criticism, BuzzFeed's Fitzgerald turned to the moral and intellectual teachings of Walt Disney, in the movie Bambi: "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."Smarm (whose genesis, in its current form, the article lays at the feet of that one-man Coldplay of letters, Dave Eggers, who exhorted to “not dismiss a movie until you have made one”, singlehandedly reserving the right to engage in, rather than merely consuming, culture for those within the culture industry) may be most obviously evident on the web, in cloyingly snark-free websites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy (the latter of which spawned a satirical webtoy), and the one-sided boosterism of the “like” button, but its effects go beyond the risk of ending up with an overly warmed heart and a jaw needing to be picked up off the floor. As a content-free (and thus outside of the criteria of debate) appeal to a nebulous ideal of civility or niceness (and surely everybody loves niceness, much like kittens and cupcakes), it is a tool for disingenuously shutting down challenging voices, and is very useful for bolstering the status quo when appeals to, say, the divine right of kings or the Hobbesian necessity of there being an ultimate authority, no longer hold water: don't do it because I said so, but do it because kittens.
Smarm hopes to fill the cultural or political or religious void left by the collapse of authority, undermined by modernity and postmodernity. It's not enough anymore to point to God or the Western tradition or the civilized consensus for a definitive value judgment. Yet a person can still gesture in the direction of things that resemble those values, vaguely.As concerns about “civility” and the “tone of debate” and such are raised, the result is often a soupy homogenate of truisms, motherhood statements and content-free manufactured consensus, meeting in the middle and staying there, bathed in a glow of positive sentiment: democratic debate reduced to calming mood lighting. Which undoubtedly serves interests behind the scene just fine.
Here is Obama in 2012, wrapping up a presidential debate performance against Mitt Romney: “I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk-takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that's how our economy is grown. That's how we built the world's greatest middle class.”
The lone identifiable point of ideological distinction between the president and his opponent, in that passage, is the word "but." Everything else is a generic cross-partisan recitation of the indisputable: Free enterprise ... prosperity ... self-reliance ... initiative ... a fair shot ... the world's greatest middle class.And, of course, smarm is useful for ruling out points of view deemed to be inadmissible, on the grounds that they are too negative, or confrontational, or that we have outgrown such petty squabbling about actual issues:
The New York Times reported last month that in 2011, the Obama Administration decided not to nominate Rebecca M. Blank to be the head of the Council of Economic Advisers, because of "something politically dangerous" she had written in the past: In writing about poverty relief, she had used the word "redistribution."
Like every other mode, snark can sometimes be done badly or to bad purposes. Smarm, on the other hand, is never a force for good. A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all. It is a civilization that says "Don't Be Evil," rather than making sure it does not do evil.Topically, we are currently witnessing a tsunami of smarm over the recently deceased Nelson Mandela, as right-wing politicians, many of whom wore HANG MANDELA badges at their Conservative Students meetings or lobbied against sanctions against the apartheid regime, fawningly profess what an inspiration the great man had been to them, with the implication that Mandela was not a freedom fighter but some kind of apolitical, beatific self-help guru, a Princess Diana in Magical Negro form, come to heal us with peace and love. It's ironic to think that, as utterly wrong as Margaret Thatcher was when she denounced Mandela as a terrorist, her view was at least grounded in reality, unlike the insipid words of content-free praise her successors are heaping upon him.
Today's Champions of Liberty: EasyJet, the European budget airline, who moved to exercise their right to decide with whom a free corporation does business by refusing to let a passenger who criticised them on Twitter board. (The criticism had to do with EasyJet staff being less than helpful with advice concerning rail connections after an evening flight was delayed, but, hey, absolute personal responsibility and all that.) Unfortunately for EasyJet, the passenger turned out to be a law professor, and was aware of yet-to-be-repealed regulations tying the hands of wealth-creators, and thus they were forced to allow him to board the flight he had paid for.
Three Israeli computer scientists have developed an algorithm for detecting sarcasm in online comments. Named SASI (Semi-Supervised Algorithm for Sarcasm Identification), the algorithm looks at linguistic features of the sentences to guess whether or not they're sarcastic. It was developed with Amazon product reviews as training data. Potential applications of such algorithms could include systems that gauge the positivity or negativity of public opinion about a subject from online discussions.
Collection of unintentional humour of the day: Regretsy, a compedium of the inexplicable and inexcusable found on handcraft trading site Etsy, from badly painted Twilight-themed trainers to things made from dead animals to the surprising abundance of gynaecologically-themed articles on offer.
(via David Gerard)
The Buffalo Beast has published its annual list of the 50 most loathsome people in America; the 2008 list, whilst undoubtedly going over the heads of many non-Americans in places (I didn't get some of the references), has nuggets of righteous vitriol:
20. Joe the Plumber
Charges: The Che Guevara of bald, pissed off white men. In a lot of ways, Samuel Wurzelbacher really does represent the average American—basing economic opinions on unrealistic expectations of personal future success, blaming his failure to meet those expectations on minorities and old people, complaining about deadbeats getting his taxes when he isn’t actually paying his taxes, and advertising his own rudimentary historical and mathematical ignorance by warning of creeping socialism in a country whose highest income tax rate has dropped by half in thirty years. “Joe” indeed symbolizes the true American dream—to become undeservedly rich and famous through a dizzyingly improbable stroke of luck. As American folk heroes go, Wurzelbacher ranks somewhere between Hulk Hogan and Bernie Goetz.
10. Bernard Madoff
Charges: Normally, the idea of a bunch of billionaires getting robbed blind for believing in a free lunch would amuse the hell out of us, but Bernie Madoff stole a lot of money from charity endowments, and is responsible for two suicides so far. Here’s a tip, Bernie: If you’re running the biggest scam since the Catholic church, handling billions of dollars, and all it takes to get busted is that some of your marks ask for their money back, you really should take some of that money and set up an escape plan. Still, he gets some credit for making Mort Zuckerman look like a jackass. The real villains here are Christopher Cox and the SEC, who investigated Madoff eight times, the last time specifically on suspicion of running a Ponzi scheme, each time “finding” no wrongdoing, which begs the all-too-familiar question of the last eight years: Satanically corrupt or grossly incompetent? Either way, Madoff was finally brought to justice… by his kids.
1. Sarah Palin
Charges: If you want to know why the rest of the world is scared of Americans, consider the fact that after two terms of disastrous rule by a small-minded ignoramus, 46% of us apparently thought the problem was that he wasn’t quite stupid enough. Palin’s unending emissions of baffling, evasive incoherence should have disqualified her for any position that involved a desk, let alone placing her one erratic heartbeat from the presidency. The press strained mightily to feign respect for her, praising a debate performance that involved no debate, calling her a “great speaker” when her only speech was primarily a litany of insults to city-dwellers, echoing bogus sexism charges when a male Palin would have been boiled alive for the Couric interview alone, and lionizing her as she used her baby as a Pro-life stage prop before crowds who cooed when they should have been hurling polonium-tipped javelins. In the end, Palin had the beneficial effect of splitting her party between her admirers and people who can read.
(via Boing Boing)
The latest in the line of "Stuff (group) Like" blogs is Stuff Geeks Love, which mentions things like "zombies", "Libertarianism", "cancelled TV shows" and "sex", and shines a revealing yet harsh light on stereotypical "geek" obsessions:
Comic book geeks are especially prone to faux boycotts. Every week hundreds of comic book fans declare that, because of some perceived outrage, they will never buy anything from DC or Marvel again. And the following week they proceed to do so because otherwise their runs on titles will be incomplete and because what else are they supposed to do? They’ve been reading X-Men since they were nine and aren’t going to stop now! Within weeks of the “true fan” declaring that he’ll never buy another Marvel comic again he’ll proudly declare victory for Marvel when an issue of their current “event” comic sells a few dozen more issues than an issue of DC’s current “event” comic.
It’s not surprising geeks have affection for zombies; these creatures are arrested in their existence, unable to change or grow. Geeks feel a oneness with them. And although zombies are frightening to look at, they don’t seem on the surface to be a serious threat, but their numbers and sheer tenacity make them possibly the most sinister killers of all. This is another thing geeks like to think they feel a oneness with; the underestimated lethal threat. Also, zombies desire, above all else, brains.
Geeks enjoy being Libertarians for two reasons. First, it allows them to be Conservative without having to belong to one of the two mainstream parties that the regular sheep are part of. Second, it gives them a political party that is just as self-absorbed as they are. Conservatives don’t care if you think they’re selfish pricks. Libertarians wonder why you don’t admire them for it.
Having a show canceled also has another upside for the geek. If it’s no longer in production, all those meddling writers, producers, actors, and studios can’t “mess it up” for him by having things happen on the show that blatantly contradict the obvious “right way” things would happen, were the geek in charge. It saves him the later trouble of having to declare he’s going to boycott the show (he won’t) because someone on the show did something that was “totally out of character”. It puts the show into a little snowglobe the geek can cradle and protect from the cruel outside world. The geek and his friends now own and control it and it is finally where it belongs, in the hands of the “true fans”.
Stuff White People Like ("white people" here meaning "white upper-middle-class Americans"). Includes entries for things like "sushi", "indie music" (and "standing still at concerts"), "Wes Anderson", "Michel Gondry", "Apple products" "not having a TV", "irony", "travelling", "coffee" and "tea", all delivered with a good dose of sarcasm:
So when white people go to concerts at smaller venues, what to do they do? They stand still! This is an important part of white concert going as it enables you to focus on the music, and it will prevent drawing excess attention to you. Remember, at a concert everyone is watching you just waiting for you to try to start dancing. Then they will make fun of you. The result is Belle and Sebastian concerts that essentially looks more like a disorganized line of people than a music event.
White people love to be near a body of water so they can read a book, while sitting nearby. The process of reading is somehow heightened through the process of doing it near some water. Extreme reading!
White people cannot get enough of 80s music, partially out of nostalgia, and partially since it was the last time that pop music wasn’t infused with hip-hop or R n’ B stylings. Artists like Joy Division, New Order and Elvis Costello were all pretty well respected and had solid runs at the charts. Also, less respected artists like Wham, Rick Astley and Cameo are still easy for white people to dance to.
If you find yourself in a situation with a white person, acceptable things to say include “I’m really into tea right now,” or “my favorite thing is to get a nice cup of tea and curl up in a chair with a good book.” But do not remind them about the role of colonialism in tea, it will make them feel sad.
Norwich-based comedian and reviewer of dubious far-eastern video game machines Dr. Ashen (he's the "sarcastic British guy") reviews the Vii, a cheap video-game console of Chinese manufacture which attempts to imitate the Nintendo Wii without having much of the technical innovation. If you ever wondered what one of those could possibly be like, here's all you need to know. (Capsule summary: don't bother importing one.)
After Oxfam started selling Oyster card wallets to the sorts of Independent-reading Londoners who wear their consciences on their sleeves, two malcontents have launched their own range, in the fine Londinian tradition of grumbling about the Tube:
Somebody has written a suicide note composing assistant for Microsoft Word, helping you to make sure that your last backhander against the cruel, uncaring world you're leaving is a well-drafted one. No idea whether it comes with a database of Nine Inch Nails/Dashboard Confessional/My Chemical Romance lyrics.
(Note that actually downloading or distributing this software may be a crime in Australia.)
(via Boing Boing)
"Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you any more. There's no more money to spend--you used up all of that. You can't start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people. Listen to your Mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished.
"Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man? Now I know what you're saying: there's so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don't. I know, I know. There's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote.
A survey of the similarities between love and various pathological conditions:
The initial drive - lust - is brought on by surges of sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. These induce an indiscriminate scramble for physical gratification. Attraction transpires once a more-or-less appropriate object is found (with the right body language and speed and tone of voice) and is tied to a panoply of sleep and eating disorders.
Obsessive thoughts regarding the Loved One and compulsive acts are also common. Perception is distorted as is cognition. "Love is blind" and the lover easily fails the reality test. Falling in love involves the enhanced secretion of b-Phenylethylamine (PEA, or the "love chemical") in the first 2 to 4 years of the relationship. This natural drug creates an euphoric high and helps obscure the failings and shortcomings of the potential mate. Such oblivion - perceiving only the spouse's good sides while discarding her bad ones - is a pathology akin to the primitive psychological defense mechanism known as "splitting". Narcissists - patients suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder - also Idealize romantic or intimate partners. A similar cognitive-emotional impairment is common in many mental health conditions.
Love, in all its phases and manifestations, is an addiction, probably to the various forms of internally secreted norepinephrine, such as the aforementioned amphetamine-like PEA. Love, in other words, is a form of substance abuse. The withdrawal of romantic love has serious mental health repercussions.
Also via Mind Hacks, studies of the neurology of sarcasm, which turns out to be a good subject for exploring subjects' theory of mind, being carried out at the fantastically-named Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel.
Age journalist Warwick McFadyen has written a glossary of Australian culture:
BILL OF RIGHTS: unnecessary for the citizenry who, because they enjoy unrivalled sunshine, surf and sport, are deemed already to have the good life.
LEFT-WING: that side of the playing field on which the bones of utopians lie scattered. Rapidly becoming archaic in meaning, although it is still used as a term of disgust in certain quarters, without having to be qualified.
PROMISE: once a measure of integrity, a promise is now divided politically into core and non-core, presumably to mask the contempt for the people expressed in bare-faced lies.
RECONCILIATION: the shining star in the night sky that everyone can see but few realise has already died, even though its light still travels to us.
WORLD STAGE: the podium on which we might perform one day, when we're a little bigger.
The latest fad in an alienated world: cuddle parties, which are exactly what they sound like. Get enough needy, desperate losers together in a room and everyone can expect to get some human contact (except possibly for the severely hygienically-challenged trolls, who, one would assume, would be over-represented in any self-selected group of people for whom the need to embrace strangers overrides the aversion to doing so); and the organisers pocket a decent fee. Which all sounds slightly less pathetic than a Furries' plushie-humping party. I think I'll stay at home with my Smiths records, thank you very much. (via MeFi)
Apple's iTunes has been offering "celebrity playlists", of celebrities favourite songs (well, those licensed for DRM-encumbered iTunes sale, anyway). Not surprisingly, many of them are naff:
The liner notes to wild-eyed rawker Andrew W.K.'s playlist sport a delightful exclamation-point-to-sentence ratio of 1.27-to-1. And I can't think of a better summation of Avril Lavigne than her exegesis of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic": "I love how this song was written with all the different examples Alanis uses of things being ironic."
No surprises either that the hip-hop blingerati's playlists are shamelessly commercial:
Missy Elliott, on the other hand, reveals little. Her liner notes, like her playlist itself, are pure hippity-hop boilerplate: "From ol' skool to new skool, these are some of the hottest songs on the sickest beats ever. Holla!!!" For the most part, iTunes celebrity playlists are unlikely to make anyone holla back. The worst of the bunch are those celebrity playlists padded with the celebrity's own songs, epitomized by the queen of the craven playlist, Beyonce Knowles. Eight of the 14 songs on Beyonce's playlist are performed by her thin-voiced sister, Solange, by her former bandmates in Destiny's Child, or by Beyonce herself.
(Pity that Apple don't publish summaries of the playlists in HTML; I wouldn't mind seeing the Sleater-Kinney and Thievery Corporation playlists mentioned in the piece.)
What happens when a Something Awful goon gets sent to several mental institutions? He writes an article about it, describing the unique sorts of characters most normal people rarely get the chance to observe and interact with to this extent, the camaraderie that forms in that environment, and why it's a bad idea to date chicks you meet in mental hospitals: (via MeFi)
The worst person on the ward though was a small little guy named Rafael. Rafael demanded to be called Obie, and would randomly scream out things like "I did not take her panties off!" Rafael also had the bad habit of hiding in the women's shower room, trying to catch a peek at various butter-troll patients.
The story of Ricky and Lisa started well before I arrived in Summit. Lisa was a 22 year old married mother of two, in the ward for yet another suicide attempt. Ricky was your typical fat, greasy fucked up looking mama's boy: 40, living at home, no job, no chance in life. He was discharged 3 days before I was brought in. He apparently fell in love with Lisa. I'm guessing she was the first girl who ever was nice to him, because once he was discharged, he spent literally ALL DAY calling the payphones asking for her. From the time the phones were turned on after breakfast to the time they were turned off for lights out, like clockwork almost every call would be Ricky asking for Lisa.
Ross was easily the worst roommate I ever had. He was loud, hyper and just downright annoying as hell. He decided that I would be his new best friend, even though it was painfully clear I couldn't stand him. Everywhere I went on the wing, Ross would follow me. If I got up and moved, Ross would be about 3 steps behind me. He was like a bloodhound, no matter where I was, he'd find me. Soon my hatred for Ross knew no bounds. Ross was also the biggest wigger I've ever seen in my life. Think of that piece of shit movie Malibu's Most Wanted. He was that guy. He also had the rather unfortunate habit of calling everyone "nigga". The staff, patients, even the servers upstairs in the dining hall. Since many of the staff was black, this was not taken kindly.
Comment shamelessly stolen from someone else's a LiveJournal:
I wonder how long it will be before certain Christian Conservatives will argue that the earthquake in Bam, Iran was God's wrath against Iran for supporting terro...
Oh, wait. I forgot. God only inflicts disaster on US because of gay firemen.
(from Lt. Wilkes)
Eyesore of the Month. Each month, James Howard Kunstler presents a photograph of a different architectural or urban-planning blight, accompanied by a brief and entertaining rant about the decline and fall of American civilisation (references to obese children, Prozac usage and "Car Park Nation" abound):
When your building has no meaningful relation with the public realm, the solution is to "export" the cartoons played within the house to the exterior. The neighborhood is then "populated" with recognizable, non-threatening figures. Once the installation is complete, the homeowner is released from any further obligation to public life, except to mow and trim the grass. The homeowner is then "free" to pursue a life devoted to television viewing. Such is life in the Home of the Brave.
The shark's head portion of this ensemble is probably its best feature -- putting aside any considerations of kitsch or "camp," ( that is, the love of vulgarity for its own sake.) No, what gets me, really, is the quality of the pink building behind Sharky. In a perfect world its function would be a poodle euthenasia center.
Here we have the old courthouse in Biloxi, Mississippi, (left) and its 1970s replacement (right) -- the sublime and the ridiculous. The old building is garbed in the architectural vestments of authority in decorum. The new courthouse invokes arbitrary bureaucratic despotism. Note to political economists: the building on the left came from a far less affluent society than the one at right.(via jwz)
Nerve.com's list of the 50 most unsexy things, guaranteed to turn one off. With sarky dismissals of phenomena such as "instant messaging", "LiveJournal", "Friendster", "blogging about your sex life" and "Coldplay": (via MeFi)
5. Lord of the Rings. The movies are fine, but did you know that if you read the trilogy three times in a year you actually get your virginity back?
7. Nu Metal. Musical genre or soundtrack for gang rape? The debate continues. As fads go, makes goth look positively sensible.
18. Your cats. Attachment to a non-human mammal that doesn't give a fuck about you bespeaks emotional damage. It's the kind that transforms you from "alluringly quirky" to "certifiable."
47. Teenagers. The aspirational age of our society is about sixteen. But a smoking-in-the-girls-room, fucking-in-the-backseat sixteen. Not a bra-strap-snapping, zit-popping, handing-in-math-homework-late sixteen. Market your lite beer however you want to market your lite beer, but know this: real teenagers are kind of gross.
The Pope condemns sarcasm. Yeah, whatever. (via Reenhead)
A somewhat iffy review of the new Massive Attack album in the Graun. To be honest, I'd agree with much of it; a lot of the songs go on for too long and yet somehow seem somewhat flat, at least compared to Mezzanine. Though it's not all that bad an effort.
Indeed, on the only occasion when 100th Window props itself up and makes a point, you wish it had stayed supine. A Prayer for England concerns child abduction and murder - an issue virtually ignored by the media in recent years and thus in desperate need of the boost in profile that only a protest song on a chill-out album can deliver. It's certainly difficult to argue with the thesis - infanticide is a bad thing - but a point this facile hardly warrants O'Connor's finger-wagging fire-and-brimstone routine. By the second verse, she is addressing God as "Jah", an affectation that recalls a wackily hatted student reaching for his bong. At this point, one's thoughts do turn to murder, but not quite in the way the song intends.
(Is 100th Window the 18 to Mezzanine's Play? Discuss.)
The Mollys, the awards given each year to the worst in Australian music by a cadre of urban hipster street-press types, are in. Withering invective ahoy!