The clean-shaven majority

So apparently there’s a thing in the UK called (toe-curlingly) “Movember”? And it’s something about growing moustaches and raising money for charity? I guess? Something like that. Anyway Neil Singh and Arianne Shahvisi tell us in the New Statesman why it’s a bad thing.

For the most part, sponsored activities (day-long silences, sponge-throwing, public waxing) depend on the extreme, the outrageous, the ridiculous. Friends and family are, apparently, only willing to part with money to witness something odd, humorous or downright unpleasant. So what message does Movember convey to those whose moustaches are more-or-less permanent features? With large numbers of minority-ethnic men—for instance Kurds, Indians, Mexicans—sporting moustaches as a cultural or religious signifier, Movember reinforces the “othering” of “foreigners” by the generally clean-shaven, white majority. [Read more…]

Tattycoram’s rage

A passage from Little Dorrit that particularly struck me is in chapter 2. (LD is public domain, so we can quote as much as we like. Ima quote a lot.)

The Meagles adopted a girl from the “foundling home” in Coram’s Fields in London, to be a maid for their beloved pampered daughter. (There’s a very funny but touching section where Mr Meagle narrates the story to Arthur, and he keeps saying, “as practical people, we” etcetera – it’s his story about them that they’re immensely practical – and then going on to describe compassionate generous behavior that’s not at all practical.) The daughter and maid are grown now, just barely.

A character named Miss Wade goes upstairs in the hotel where this set of characters have happened to meet each other.

Quoting now:

Now, there were many stairs and passages that she had to traverse
in passing from that part of the spacious house to the chamber she
had secured for her own occupation. When she had almost completed
the journey, and was passing along the gallery in which her room
was, she heard an angry sound of muttering and sobbing. A door
stood open, and within she saw the attendant upon the girl she had
just left; the maid with the curious name.

She stood still, to look at this maid. A sullen, passionate girl!
Her rich black hair was all about her face, her face was flushed
and hot, and as she sobbed and raged, she plucked at her lips with
an unsparing hand.  [Read more…]

Those parts of the brain were completely switched off

Imagine being a neuroscientist, and studying brain scans of murderers to look for psychopathic traits. Imagine doing that and looking at scans of family members for comparison purposes, and then finding one that is way at the extreme edge of what you’re finding in the murderers’ scans. Whoops, the scans got mixed up. The techs check and re-check; nope, no mix. So you peel off the code – and the scan is yours.

That’s what the neuroscientist James Fallon found.

He told his wife and she said, “I’m not surprised.” [Read more…]

Thankful Dinesh

And then there’s Dinesh D’Souza, with a festive Thanksgiving tweet.

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I am thankful this week when I remember that American is big enough and great enough to survive Grown-Up Trayvon in the White House!

Great god almighty. What is wrong with people?

Reading Dickens

I’ve started reading Little Dorrit for the third or fourth time…skim-reading it in places, because I long ago decided that the only way to read Dickens is to jump when you start to get bored, because there’s no denying he gave a wealth of detail and sometimes it’s about something you just don’t need a wealth of detail about. That prison in Marseilles at the beginning for instance – I never will know what that’s there for, because I invariably get bored before I find out so I skip it.

But don’t go thinking it’s inherently boring, or that all of it’s boring, or that it’s boring in proportion to its quantity, or anything like that. The truth is that he was a god damn genius, and he really is doing something with all those words. It’s not slack, it’s not verbiage for the sake of verbiage. It’s detail.

Like, there’s the bit in chapter 3 where Affery takes Arthur up to the garret room where he’ll sleep for the night, and there’s a very detailed description of what’s in the room and what the room is like. I skipped some, because there was a lot, but I knew if I’d read it it would have been good stuff. That’s how Dickens is. You sort of have to skip in order to keep going, but you know you’re skipping rich writing. But I didn’t skip it all and I was rewarded with a real yell of laughter because at the end of the list of furniture was

…a washing-stand that looked as if it had stood for ages in a hail of dirty soapsuds, and a bedstead with four bare atomies of posts, each terminating in a spike, as if for the dismal accommodation of lodgers who might prefer to impale themselves.

That’s Dickens for you.

Anybody read it? Anybody want to read it along with me?


Bullying at 35 thousand feet

One of the hot social media items this morning is a woman who made a big fuss about a delayed flight because Thanksgiving and a guy who retaliated. The point of the item seems to be that the guy did a great job of schooling the woman. I beg to differ.

Elan Gale Live-Tweets his Feud with Asshole Woman on Flight

This note war on a plane is hilarious. I have no idea who he is but I want to be his friend.

Hmm, yeah, I don’t.

He tweeted about her. Fine. The tweets are funny, and she’s anonymous. But then he sent her a note, and she replied to say his note was not cool, and he sent another. [Read more…]

He usually let the football coach take care of that sort of thing

Meanwhile, back in Steubenville, Ohio

A year ago this week, Michael McVey, the superintendent of schools in Steubenville, Ohio, sat in a conference room down the hall from his office and said he knew none of the details of Aug. 11, 2012, the night a 16-year-old girl was raped by two Steubenville High football players at a series of parties on a hot summer night.

Nope, he said, he didn’t know much, aside from the rumors that had been swirling around the football-crazy town for months. He told me and a colleague that he had not spoken with any of the students thought to be involved in the event because it hadn’t taken place on school grounds or during the school year. Besides, he said, he usually let the football coach take care of that sort of thing. [Read more…]

85% versus zero

Orac, as he indicated in a comment, has been following the Sarah Hershberger case. He has a very informative post from October 28; very informative and very sad.

A couple of weeks ago, I commented on the story of 10 year old Amish girl in northeast Ohio with cancer whose parents, alarmed by the side effects of chemotherapy, had decided to stop the chemotherapy and treat their daughter with folk medicine instead. As a result, alarmed at the likelihood that Sarah Hershberger would suffer and die unnecessarily at a young age, the hospital treating her, Akron Children’s Hospital, went to court. It lost the first round, but earlier this month the original ruling was overturned, and it was ordered that Hershberger undergo chemotherapy to save her life. The odds of her survival with chemotherapy were estimated to be on the order of 85%. Her odds without chemotherapy? About as close to zero as you can imagine. [Read more…]

Well are you?

Want a Friday after Thanksgiving (in the US) quiz? Here, via Dave Silverman on Facebook, is one called Are you smarter than an atheist? (That’s silly. They don’t mean smarter, they mean better-informed-about-religion. Not the same thing at all.)

I scored 100%. Dave got one wrong; Dave Muscato got 100%.

It’s a bit irritating to take because it uses a separate click to tell you whether you got it right each time so that’s twice as many clicks. But I can’t resist easy quizzes.