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Sunday, November 28, 2010 

Procrastinate now!

I'm hard at work on something (and have been trying to be hard at work at it all month, hence the lack of content here), but I've amassed enough links I want to share that it's probably just going to be easier to write a post than to keep track of them. Plus, you know, see the title of this post.

- I don't know if everyone saw the extremely wince-inducing video of Henry Rollins unloading on some 'hipsters' in New York, but Vulture's extremely on-point analysis of the whole thing ably shows why I couldn't make it all the way through. Leaving aside for a second how badly Rollins clearly misreads the whole situation, I thought people mellowed as they aged and started caring less about what other people think (I know I have, and I'm not nearly Rollins' age yet).

- I have loved Dinosaur Comics and Ryan North's other work for years, but recently he posted a strip (and accompanying newspost) that is actually relevant to my job! I had never heard of the Eggcorn Database or eggcorns in general, and obviously my colleagues loved it too. We don't encounter eggcorns at work too often, but it's nice to have a resource for when we do. And the strip is friggin' hilarious, of course.

- I've almost posted about Dan Savage's awesome It Gets Better project multiple times; I didn't because, well, it's already getting far more exposure than this piddly little blog could give, and also it's so obviously on the side of what's good and true and right that I can't imagine any thinking, feeling human being reacting to it with anything other than joy and humility. I still can't (and links to counterexamples are not necessary, thanks), but it's interesting to note that the most watched video so far is the incredible Pixar one. Guess what, families of (North) America? An awful lot of the people who make your most univerally-beloved movies are LGBT or otherwise 'different'! I hope that's hard for some of the people out there to wrap their heads around, and I hope that makes some of them begin to change. Sarah Silverman, meanwhile, may be (extremely) blunt about it, but she does an excellent job at pointing out that you can't be against gay (or gay-perceived) teenagers being bullied to death and for something like Don't Ask Don't Tell or civil unions instead of marriage without being a massive fucking hypocrite. Also, Joe Biden is awesome. I'm going to stop posting links now because there's too many good ones. I will say this: I'm a straight, white male (the least oppressed combination of orientation/race/gender possible in North America), I had a perfectly fine, enjoyable time in high school (except for one bully in grade 9 who was a little upsetting, but was also about 3/4 my size and never really impacted my life), and even I can say that if you're at all interestng or worthwhile as a person, it can and does get better after high school.

- On a much, much lighter note, the Globe and Mail did a hilarious interview with Forrest Griffin (easily one of my favourite UFC fighters) about his car. This is a guy who included the fact that he is the Dayman in his author bio.

- This guy David Milano read a bunch of kids some H.P. Lovecraft stories and then got them to draw the creatures in the stories. Sometimes I just love the world.

- Spiked, quite frankly, goes off the edge sometimes, but this article about free speech and academia is flat-out excellent. As someone who worked for a student newspaper in a year where we hired left-wing fascists and censors for the most important positions, I can assure you that the attitude these days is often one where one cannot write about, for example, Mein Kampf (as one of my columnists wanted to), even if one is clearly condemning the work and its heritage, because it is possible someone might read the column, read the book, and decide they liked what it says. That is asinine as well as dangerous; you have to drag bad ideas into the light and talk about them, or they don't go away (I guess I haven't stopped talking about the It Gets Better project, eh?). The best part of the article:

‘I always like to put the Buddhist argument for freedom of speech’, says Lukianoff. ‘Buddhists believe life is pain and they have a point. You do someone a tremendous disservice if you teach them that pain in life is a distortion of life. Because as soon as you start seeing hurtful things as being aberrations rather than part of normal human existence, then you start to see robust debate and disagreement as a distortion of the human experience rather than a part of the human experience. When you have students graduating from college believing that it is really, really bad if they have their feelings hurt, you are crippling them, you are preventing them from being able to deal with everyday life and debate.’

In short, you’re creating shrinking violets rather than thinking individuals, a generation of young adults going out into the world with their offensiveness antennae permanently switched on – more likely to say ‘You can’t say that’ than ‘Why do you say that? Let’s have a debate…’. Lukianoff says we have to move away from the idea that ‘words are like bullets’, that speech is a form of physical assault, and recognise that being argued with, even vociferously, is not the same as being beaten up. However, he says, ‘maybe words
should wound. What’s so bad about that? The fact that words can hurt feelings, the fact that they carry emotional charges, is all the more reason for protecting them from censorship. Because the whole point of free speech is to have deep, meaningful, robust debates. We have to have deadly serious discussions about deadly serious things – and we can’t do that if everyone is listening out for potentially offensive words rather than thinking about and responding to the ideas being expressed.’

- As someone who unabashedly enjoys both the original and Susan Boyle's version of "Wild Horses" (seriously), I found Nitsuh Abebe's fine review of Boyle's Christmas album more than a little fascinating. I'm always up for someone writing intelligently on the appeal of sad/downcast music:

Which means that Boyle is not only offering something to those who find modern popular music a bit much, but also to those who find modern Christmas a bit much, and maybe even those who find modern life a bit much... I suspect that the people who assemble Boyle’s records get that, too, and that’s exactly why we’re listening to her sing a song like "Perfect Day" — a song that sounds peaceful, but makes very clear that it’s coming from a place that’s not peaceful at all.

- Last, but certainly not least, and most science-fictional, New Printable Armor is Hardest Organic Substance Ever Designed. It gets weirder - the armor material is "based on the plaque found in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains." And by printable we mean that 3D printers can make it. 3D printers, of course, are machines that can build their own upgrades. As I believe I said above: sometimes I just love the world.

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About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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