Notes 7/3

Coffee with milk in a dark mug
Image by Nicholas Ng via Unsplash

A few days ago, a post from one of our blogging colleagues, supporting peaceful protest, vapourised just as I posted a response to it. The suppression of speech and shredding of proprietary content is only the beginning of the issues plaguing social media platforms. As Upper Echelon Gamers puts it, “Companies do not care about you.”

Many social media users complain about content banned for “reasons” including nebulous and somewhat petty rules violations. Meanwhile, the most vile content continues to be added to those same platforms seemingly without resistance. I once saw a post with an offensive word spelled out on Scrabble tiles. The justification for posting it was wordy. He knew exactly what he was doing and who would be reading. Another subscriber from a different country threatened, from the comfort of his bedsit, to get me ‘deported’ even though I am a long term resident of a country he has never even visited.

I believe that a platform like WordPress has the resources to hire staff to manually review posts flagged by an algorithm, and warn users about community policy violations. It is lazy to smoke every post that uses the flagged keyword or hashtag of the day. If you have a blog, keyword lists are not enough. People who use speech to denigrate others know how to evade the censors.

Brown paper in envelopes with fountain pen
Image by Ankhesenamunn via Unsplash

I once had a subscriber suggest here, on this blog, that “the races” should shove off to a remote part of the world so she wouldn’t have to live in harmony with us. A mutual write-off won’t make the world a better place. I’ve tried to initiate discussions on the problematic phrasing, virtue signalling and outright opportunism that occurs in times like these. Invariably, my remarks bring out a defensive response. I think the best approach is to keep using our blogs to challenge retrogressive ideas in a non-confrontational way: Art, fiction, reflections, photography, poetry, music and film. The resistance is here on WordPress.

That’s why I’m always beating the drum of engagement. As wonky as it is, this platform enables us to see more of the world. Of course it is risky to reach out and start conversations with people we have never met face-to-face. Sure, it can be a painful undertaking. And yes, it might be a terrible idea but in the exchange, I feel that getting noticed disrupts the status quo of toxic ideologies.

This leaves me with a most important question. How do we get closer to those individuals, to influence them away from divisive and destructive ideas, when the voices of the well-intentioned continue to be suppressed?

(^ν^)


Post script: As a side note, it has been five days since my attempts to upgrade this account have been thwarted. Yet, on Dashboard, I see a notice encouraging me to buy a unique domain. That is a machine talking. Not a single peep has been heard from the mysterious Help Desk humans. As far as I am concerned, they have left town.

Fig and blueberry porridge

oatmeal with maple walnuts, blueberries and fresh figs (i) Oatmeal with figs, walnuts and dried blueberries

That oatmeal was a sweet treasure hunt for a handful of maple roasted walnuts. My kitchen is a happy place. It’s a meditation space for creating healthy, tasty, visually appealing meals.

Community outreach makes me happy, too. Today is World Porridge Day. On October 10, people the world over support Mary’s Meals, a charity organisation that feeds school children in Malawi.

spoonful of the same fig porridge, full of blueberries (ii) Want some?

Golden Spurtle, sponsors of the event, say that “World Porridge Day aims to raise awareness of the role that porridge plays at Mary’s Meals projects in Malawi, where a daily mug of maize-based ikuni phala is an incentive for children to go to school.”

Black rice risotto with white mushrooms, purple mini tomatoes and bok chow (ii) Black rice risotto with fish, bok chow and white mushrooms

Later, I made a black rice risotto but it was hard to photograph because I kept tasting it. Golden Spurtle shares porridge recipes and organises a porridge championship. When I found out about the event on Thursday morning, I decided to create two recipes and spread the word. I hope you’ll join me next year.

Golden Spurtle is on Twitter @GoldenSpurtle.

Blogger wins war against Free Speech

Blogger wins war against free speech
By Demon Barbra Politrix
Last updated: March 24, 2015
3,333,333 Comments

At an awards ceremony in New York last night, WordPress blogger Manco Pride was announced as the winner of the 2015 Bastiat Prize for Online Journalism for his essay: I don’t get it: I hate poetry, art and one subject only blogs and you should unfollow them.

Book burning ceremony in honour of Pride’s achievement.

This is great news. Pride’s complaints about blogs with poetry, art and colourful backgrounds started the debate over whether bloggers should in fact publish whatever they like on their blogs. Manco’s “I don’t get it” campaign essay raised questions about the intelligence of artists, poets, fiction writers, people who don’t speak English, whiney bitches and lonely girls who can’t stop blogging about how much their lives suck.

His essay started the Free Speech Apocalypse. Also, it is fair to say, his work gravely damaged the reputation of WordPress for allowing millions of foreignersartists, poets and free thinkers around the world to form friendships across time zones. The Social Research Unit at the University of Deadbeats was praised for manipulating data in order to exaggerate the extent of bloggers’ whiney behaviour.

Black macarons. Courtesy Guardian UK.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that “double standards is the name of the international human rights game” and that we all have to suck it up or Manco will get upset. China, Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea are defiant. They have called out the United Nations for allowing art and literature to be destroyed at the whim of a miserable blogging dictator.

Black chocolate and marshmallow cookies. Courtesy Poires au Chocolat.

Bjork eats squid ink pasta. Courtesy pixgood.com viaTumblr.

Artists, poets and writers worldwide were happy to sabotage their careers to make Pride feel like the smartest dude on WordPress.

Oxford University, founded in 872, has announced that it will close after a 1143 year history because Pride doesn’t “get” why academics write essays. Before closing, the university will assist the UK National Archives to white out from historical record, poets such as William Wordsworth. Philosophers and non sports loving aristocrats will also be erased.

Starbucks logo in black and white.

Starbucks wants him to keep buying their coffee, so the company is changing the green mermaid logo to black. The company’s 70 million customers will only be served milk, water, vanilla macarons, black cookies and black sesame paste on a plain piece of white bread.

Image courtesy Harley Vasquez on Google + Elephants march off to warmer climates for winter. They have escaped the global backlash thanks to their grey colour.

Raf Simons, head designer at Christian Dior, said Manco’s revolutionary stand made him a “champion for limited expression and lazy attitudes, both of which make the work of designing so easy because we only need to cut out holes in sheets.” 

White fajita wrap dress from Gareth Pugh.

Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour has said she will never again publish an edition of Vogue without Manco’s approval. The last three editions featured models covered in white sheets. They also had over 200 blank white pages. Wintour approved of Manco’s ignorant behaviour by removing all the words. She has said she desperately wants Manco to like her.

A model wears a creation from Marko Mitanovski.

The Bastiat Prize is a heavy-hitting award by the free-market International Politics Network, given for both print and online journalism. Judges in previous years have included the Nobel Prize Winners James Buchanan, Milton Friedman, and Margaret Thatcher.

Versus

I need world peace right now, because I’m in the middle of something. Actually, we all have something better to do with our time. Being on a news diet has made me extra sensitive. Try not reading the news for three months straight, and you’ll be horrified at what’s presented to you when you finally decide to catch up.

I had no intention of posting any non fiction asides in the middle of this important phase of my creative work, but this Islamic State kidnap, torture, kill for the camera boondoggle has gone past ludicrous and into straight up cartoon gaga. Is this actually continuing, right now? A group of ragamuffins in balaclavas has brought shame to the manicured Toastmasters acting as leaders of industrialised nation states.

I’d once written in my Gravatar introduction that the very tools that we use to destroy each other can be used to build us up, or was it vice versa. Social media was used to spread a snuff film around the world, and Rupert Murdoch’s wet nurse, Piers Morgan, has gone versus himself in the Daily Pail Mail. He now wants all Muslims to watch a snuff film, because he feels it will cure them of their sympathy for these mass murderers. I didn’t watch the video, and couldn’t make it through a single one of the news reports on the situation.

What the Jordanian pilot’s sadistic execution drew from me was first a memory, and then understanding. When the Taliban destroyed a large statue of the Buddha in Afghanistan in the early noughties, I received sympathetic phonecalls and emails from almost every corner of the planet. People wanted to know if I was okay. At the time, the video footage was on a shortlist of the most horrific things anyone had seen. It was a moist backwardness, a soiled intolerance.

I was a new expatriate, and a practicing Soto Zen Buddhist, which was not something people at home “get.” They think going to temple to meditate for an hour is like a snack before meals: “Go to church, too, to even things up.” I think not. I respect the religious beliefs of others because it wasn’t always a courtesy offered to me.

I respect your religion to a point, though. I’m openminded to a point because, I am familiar with the mindset of the people who destroyed that statue. Living outside of my home country has afforded me many privileges. One of them is meeting people from almost every culture, race and creed.

I know that burn the prisoner mindset very well. It is a baked in lacquer of determined retrogression. It is tinged with envy towards the unattainable. There is no dislodging it. Nothing can wash it away. No amount of exposure to other cultures, no invitation to exhibit or present at international conferences can shake these people of their conviction that they’re supreme and have the right to dictate the way things are. Theirs is an unshakeable narcissism.

At home, we have a disparaging term for that. We would say they’re “country people.” It’s a vicious objection to anything that falls outside of a narrow parameter of prescribed knowledge. What is not understood must be destroyed with spite. I touched on it in a separate essay, but that was in relation to the Charlie Hebdo issue. I had forgotten the Buddha’s demolition and how I felt the blood seemingly drain from my body.

Of course, I know it’s just a statue, so that’s not what had frightened me. I felt as if I was in mortal danger. For what? Not praying five times a day? I stopped telling anyone I was a Buddhist after that. I definitely did not say it to Muslim friends or acquaintances, because I liked them and I didn’t want them running off. Mind you, now I’m a different creature and I defy anyone to coerce me into any minimum position.

I know that in Islam, religious sculptures are forbidden. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” Exodus 20:4, is the Christian version of that. I remember, when I was about four or five, my grandmother screaming at one of my uncles. Almost all of her sons had an artistic or creative gift, and his was for carving wood into works of art. The walls of my home were decorated with paintings, ceramic objects and wooden sculptures. All of them done by my uncles. I remember her angry shouting after he had used an axe to destroy the wooden pieces, which his new family, a Pentecostal church, had called “graven images.” She was so angry, she forgot to use her favourite adverb, raasclaat.

When I catch up with colleagues who are Muslim, I make sure not to adorn myself with any jewellery that has religious symbolism. Otherwise, I have to answer lots of questions and justify everything. I wear plain clothing. I can adjust my behaviour to that extent, and that should be it. My life is not forfeit.

What is my point… The words can’t form, but it’s something in the region of, we’re all in mortal danger of being burned alive by rigid and closedminded people. They don’t kidnap and torture us, but they hold us hostage with their approval. I’ve already been told to shut up about what I’m presenting here in this installation, and those memories came back.What if I weren’t in the safe haven provided by an industrialised country? What if I were a wife and mother whose husband threatened to kill her because her imagination was expanding beyond the scope of that allowed by her religion? What if I were stifled by low self worth and fear of negative appraisal?

The most important question is, how does one stamp out Islamic State and its promoters, because that’s the only way forward. The Islamic State has nothing to do with religion. It is another way of saying “greed” and “barbarism”, which are both versus Islam. It is everywhere, in the “Are you doing God’s will, which I know, because I know what God says, and you can’t challenge me because God wouldn’t like that” and the “I’m my husband’s inflatable sex toy and won’t wear tights because sexual feelings are bad” and not just the “Pay us $200 million or we will kill this man who’s risked his life to save his friend.”

For my part, I’ll continue publishing this installation. I’ve already taken a great deal of time and effort to create it. I will enjoy the benefits of having a voice, a personality, coherent thoughts, a healthy love for myself, access to technology and a willingness to acknowledge that others are doing the same.

La codicia

A algunas personas no se les puede ayudar. Trate de imaginar a alguien que venga a usted tiritando de frío. Usted ofrece a la persona una manta caliente. A cambio de su bondad, al día siguiente, se le acusa de intentar quemarla. La persona consulta con abogados, demanda dinero, y toma su casa. Cuando haya terminado con esas tonterías, le invita a usted a tomar un café y dice, con toda seriedad, “¿Cuál es tu problema? Somos amigos.”

Esto es una exageración, pero hemos encontrado esta situación al menos una vez. Pues la manta es la amistad con confianza. La casa es la tranquilidad de espíritu, un trabajo, un amante o una idea.

En Francia, cincuenta personas intentaron robar esta imagen.

Joachim Roncin experimentó ese problema. Cincuenta personas en Francia han solicitado la marca registrada de su logo “Je suis Charlie”.

¿Cómo se define la codicia? Para mí, es la obstinada negativa a amarse a sí mismo. No hay suficientes cosas para robar que llenará el hueco profundo dejado por este déficit trágico.

What ails you, Charlie Hebdo?

I happen to enjoy satire and I try to protect myself by being as oblique as possible when I’ve published anything of that nature. Satire is the lifeblood of French culture. It took down the Bourbons in events making up the French Revolution. Even if someone else’s satire is offensive, I’ll still give it a chance. I’ve never reacted with anger to any form of satire because people don’t resort to that unless there is something that ails them. Satire is a way of digging deep into the person for whom the offensive remark was meant. It hacks away at the worth, standing or perceived prestige of the other. So, what has been ailing you, Charlie Hebdo?

Put differently, what gets overlooked when reacting to satire is “What causes the satirical remarks to come into being?” I’ll offer that we don’t pay attention to how we treat others. Many of us adopt a position of correctness and superiority when we talk to people. We don’t strive to deal with others on an equal footing, or give them the benefit of the advantage. I visited the blog of a beloved follower. He was opining on the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. I agreed with his sentiments wholeheartedly. I also find subsequent events ironic.

I read a comment that resonated with me, and tried to welcome that thought by responding to it in a positive way. However, I was very upset after that person advised me to read a book on how to communicate nonviolently. Still fuming, I almost deleted my blog when shortly after that another reader requested that I publish more lifestyle posts from Jamaica. Just because I wrote “I was born in Jamaica” on my about the author page, even though I also wrote that I no longer live there.

I’m extremely sensitive about being condescended to because I know that a lot of people rush to judge. Two things happen: Not paying attention to the information in front of you; and only giving value to the superficial, digestible data. I did that to a blogger in Thailand yesterday. I assumed she was Thai herself, and I paid her a compliment. I apologised immediately when I noticed my mistake. I put myself in her position. I do not want to take time away from my busy inner life to adjust another person’s opinion of me.

Why the rush to judge people? And it’s not the overt statements themselves that are judgemental. It is what is implied in what we say that’s the culprit. I strive to not pat others on the head because it is so easy to assume things and make statements that may unintentionally injure another person’s dignity.

The media will again focus on the gory details at Charlie Hebdo. They must do that because we are distractible and don’t want a careful examination of all the issues right now. We want to react, and it’s easy to blame the attackers and the editors themselves. Most of us may never see that we are creating the same situation in our day to day interactions. The people we unintentionally hurt or injure may realise this, and use satire to make us pay attention to what we’ve done to them.

Peace on Earth? If only I could get that all the time.

A Word …

Bitch!

I’m livid, so many more words. This person gives scientists, researchers and educated women a bad name. Sheltered little girls like her are why I stayed out of academia. I thought her takedown was a done deal in April when it was clear her research was faked. There are things you can’t grind your way out of Haruko!!!!!

I’m shocked to hear that she’s only just resigned in December. There are qualified people out there who must jump through hoops to get rejected and there she is lolling about in self satisfied, sanctimonious, blame ducking swank.

She must give really good head to hang on to her job and her PhD for so long. Or, her employers were very careful to investigate before assigning blame. But wait. That’s not right. She’s an adult with a PhD so why are a bunch of men holding her hand?

I bet you when she meets people she leads with “I’m Dr Obokata.” I know the type well. They’re so insecure, they feel they have a right to not be spoken to and they act as though conversing with people with bachelor’s degrees will make them less Holy.

I spent a month in Spring ranting and thundering about this bitch and I don’t want to hear about her anymore. May she simmer in unemployed hell until the End of Days. Then I want to fork her myself. If she gave head to get a position, I’m sure her Professor Sugar Daddies will pick up the slap. Sorry, slack. What will she do now without Prada?

Face palm, out.

TOKYO – The Japanese researcher whose claim of a major breakthrough in stem cell research was discredited resigned after the government lab where she worked failed to replicate her results.

Haruko Obokata said in a statement Friday that she was leaving the Riken Center for Developmental Biology after the lab concluded the stem cells she said she had created probably never existed. The center said it had stopped trying to match Obokata’s results.

“Now, I am just exhausted. For the results to end this way is just perplexing,” she said.

Obokata initially was lauded for leading the research that raised hopes for a discovery of a simple way to grow replacement tissue. But questions about the validity of the research prompted Riken scientists, including Obokata, to retract two scientific papers.

Vintage x Glamour

While I’m not a fan of boxy Chanel jackets, I am all for the dressy daytime look. I love swing skirts, chiffon shift dresses in the flapper style, and A line dresses. They’re classic, modern, and vintage all at the same time. I knew I got it right, for instance, when someone told me I looked like a member of the von Trapp family, then burst into song. That was exactly the look I was going for.

Nowadays, the trend is for natural fibres and jersey fabrics that look already worn and distressed so they have a lived-in feel. They give the illusion that you are relaxed and comfortable in your outfit.

I love a worn-in frock as opposed to something too crispy and obviously new. Although, don’t carry car tyres around in a chiffon skirt. I Emperor’s New Clothes’d myself on Sunday, after ripping out the hem.

It’s winter and it is the time for mesh tights and peep-toe heels (indoors of course, I’m not daft). As for accessories, there should be no maximum. There are things you can get away with if you’re oblivious to criticism. Otherwise, wear heavy sunglasses.

I’m not against jeans and t-shirts, but I am no longer a supporter of the “easy uniform” look. Partly because at some stage, you have to make the effort, for yourself. Truth be told, I envy women with flat bottoms who can fit in a pair of skinny jeans (and pencil skirts). My waist is narrow, so belts provide no defence against people looking down the back at my bottom.

It’s a problem that’s solved by not wearing jeans at all. I stopped altogether in 2008, because I would get mistaken for a high school student at the archery range. I started wearing eyeliner and chiffon skirts for casual wear. I’ve got a beautiful pair of high heeled Anne Klein cowboy boots that have nothing to do, in my closet. If I can find a way to get my waist enclosed in a pair of jeans that fit without making the hip area look baggy, I will bring them out again.

Madonna’s breasts are exposed for the most recent issue of Interview Magazine, where she is conversing with David Blaine. While people are going to tell her to put them away, I say this is a work of art, and posing for it is the right thing to do.

Madonna has been fighting for the right to express herself for more than thirty years. She’s inconsistent in her manner and outspoken in her self-belief. We don’t believe in her. While other women in the spotlight have been lauded for their contribution to society and culture, Madonna has always been pilloried, lampooned, thrashed. Even Victoria Beckham, who was once asked by a Sunday Times journalist to please stop wearing high heels, and was once the laughing stock of the UK, has been asked to represent her country and now speaks on behalf of AIDS.

People like to make fun of Madonna for trying to beat the clock and not succumbing to the ravages of time, but I think there’s an insecurity to her that keeps her constantly seeking out ways to improve herself. Isn’t that great? An excerpt from the article:

BLAINE: I think this is also a really important [quote] from Henry Ford, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” And the reason I say this is because when I met you …

MADONNA: A hundred years ago.

BLAINE: I went with you to a museum and you had the whole Edward Hopper show to yourself. I remember you were jotting down ideas while looking at the art. I’ve done crazy manual labor—I did construction—and I can say that it’s easier for me to do any stunt than it is to actually figure out what I’m going to do. Thinking is the hardest thing. Like a friend said when I was young, “You know, what Michael Jackson does is easy.” We were, like, 10. But most people assume that it’s easy because you work so hard to make it look like there’s no effort.

Madonna in Interview Magazine

There’s a sweet spot between the ages of 32 and 48 where a woman has to preserve her dignity and peer esteem by keeping seventy percent of her body covered, staying away from spontaneous assignations, and doing interesting things by herself. That’s the time to enforce a zero tolerance policy for mean-girl/mean-boy bullying, putdowns or underappreciation of any kind.

If you’re still as sculpted as you were at 28, at the age of 56, as Madonna is, then I agree, one hundred percent, that you should flaunt all of yourself. All bets are off. Do whatever you want; do what feels right to you. “Burn it down,” as we’d say at home.

Perhaps Madonna has not realised the true purpose of her life. It is to expose herself just for the sake of it. Her body is a function of deprivation, torture and suffering. She will not bleed and die for our right to be seen and heard, but she can document for us the struggle to stay fit, healthy and fertile.

Madonna has done something important, not just with this stunning work, but through the sharing of her reflections. She’s given women over the age of thirty a twenty-six year buffer of time in which to command their womanhood.

You know what, you don’t have to hurry up and do stuff because you’re anxious about getting older. It’s not a foregone conclusion that you will naturally wilt away, dry up and disappear. You are not automatically unattractive. You don’t have to date assholes or get married to one just so you can be a mother. And for that matter, you don’t need to pay attention to expectations.

Before the conversion from jeans to skirts, it wasn’t a lack of self-awareness or care for fashion that saw me in jeans. Back in 2008, clothes were expensive and you had to be the size of a toothpick to get into a skirt here. Nowadays, fast fashion brands like Mango, Victoria’s Secret, ASOS and Zara bring you well cut, feminine looks for $10 each. Some ship overseas at a reasonable cost, and the fabrics are high quality. I bought five dresses at a Mango outlet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, back in 2012, for under $50. Four years earlier, it would have been difficult to find one really cute dress for less than $90.

Ironically, though I do not spend vast sums on clothes, my wardrobe is bursting at the seams and I’m about to go minimalist again. It’s time to start cultivating a history of fashion on my own with these beautiful vintage looks I’ve been collecting. I want to enjoy wearing what I already have, over and over again. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy some fun times with someone I really like, and who appreciates my style.

The Glass Schism

After calling out Sergey Brin for thrusting Google Glass upon the world in an earlier post, I took a step back to consider what’s really at stake here. The concept of Google Glass (embarrassingly obvious name) is not new. GoPro (awful name, awful product) was invented for people who engage in extreme sports. I used to engage in a couple of extreme sports a while back, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to have video references for eternity.

I feel anxious. My primary objection to Google Glass is that it is wearable. Even Diane von Furstenburg looks awesome in one, and she had hers on for a fashion week presentation. The video was heavily edited and perspectives from different wearers were spliced in to enrich the data. (Not fair!) People who can afford it, but don’t have hobbies besides buying stuff might decide to just wear it on nights out drinking.

I already have enough of a headache with people who feel they have the right to take photos of me for their social media feeds. You should see the looks on people’s faces when I say, no, you cannot upload a photo of me drinking wine or putting food in my mouth. Of course, they know they’re being rude, but when I object, I’m told off for not being a good sport. I spent the last year chasing down these unauthorised uploads, thanks to friends of mine. It’s not that these photos are taken in stealth, it’s that I say to everyone, before sitting down, “do not upload photos of me to wherever, and for that matter, don’t take them in the first place.” One year, at a Christmas party, I caught a young woman with a Nikon camera trying to zoom in on my lace stockinged legs in a short dress, from way across the room. I was on holiday, and therefore entitled, I thought, to a few glasses of champagne with friends, in a not safe for work outfit. It’s not a side of me that my colleagues should get to see.

Now, I’m a recluse, and can’t go to wine club gatherings without making newcomers sign confidentiality agreements. Sergey Brin doesn’t have that problem. I bet other people buy his groceries and that a non English speaking crew cleans his toilets and mow his lawn. I also guarantee you that he does not stride into the local Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee, and when he does, he expects to be trending on Twitter. Such a situation is a bother for me because I have to do my own shopping, drive my own car, and because I do not want to trend on Twitter.

Most of the annoying people who don’t care about my privacy don’t have hobbies. They don’t watch telly, don’t rent videos, straddle a (wo)man around bedtime, do yoga, or play video games. They just gossip and take photos of each other eating pasta.

I can see the practical uses for Google Glass. For one, when I’m trying out new media in a painting session, it would be useful for some of my future workshops to show how I use it from my perspective. Glass would be a really cool tool for tennis lessons with an expert. Imagine seeing what it’s like to serve and hit from Stefi Graf’s point of view. I could use the recording to improve my serve and see where my arm should be at mid-swing. If I went on a walk by the lake to take in the scenery, did a pottery class or even tried to complete a black run during ski season, I know friends or relatives would love to see.

And what about cooking? I sometimes make happy accidents in the kitchen, and it is a bother to dictate recipes to Siri. So I could save a lot of time and effort later by watching a video of myself cooking. My gastrointestinal issues are not unique to me. I believe that people who are suffering from Celiac Sprue, who have been newly diagnosed, might really lack support as to how to live their daily lives while managing the condition. Without violating anyone’s personal space, I could use hardware like this to support them. If you have interesting hobbies or a job that requires you to show someone how to do something, Google Glass will be a useful tool. Scientists, archeologists, flight instructors, coaches and performers are some professionals that come to mind.

I will object to people videotaping themselves walking down the street for a coffee. I don’t care what the law says about videotaping people walking around outside. It’s not nice, so cut it out. “Hey guys, it’s Sherm here, and I’ve got Google Glass, which as you know is just a wearable technology, and I’m just taking a look at the people on the street. I’m gonna just uhh, what was I saying? Hiya! How are you? Oops, she doesn’t look too happy!” Do you know anyone this annoying? I do. If you’re recording a walk down the street in a beautiful but unfamiliar city as a guide for other people, that would be a great use of the device.

What about this new Glass application that allows people to basically look at themselves looking at each other? It’s been reported as a homemade sextape tool and every jackass on the planet who wants a reality show will take full advantage. (Why, Paris Hilton, why?) Does anyone not get how narcissistic that is?

Let me say it again slowly: There is an application that will allow you and your partner to record yourselves looking at each other. When you’re done looking at each other through the Glass, you can sit down and watch yourselves on your iPads looking at each other. How would a relationship like this even begin? Can you imagine having any kind of closeness with someone that self-obsessed? And before you say I’m overreacting, I know people who are like that.

I feel anxiety because as a race of humans we might be about to enter a new era of self-contentedness. With a bit of forethought, we could see in our hands the tools to change our ourselves and to help others. We’ve made such strides to get to a place where we can live in relative peace and harmony, not counting conflict in sundry places. This should be an age of achievement. We should grow together and encourage each other.

I’m not saying that Google Glass is the Kraken, but this company missed a chance to promote itself as the eradicator of evil. Their overpaid team of troubleshooters, crisis managers and marketing professionals should have seen this backfire when creating their storyboards. Google launched this device purely as a response to the pressure to innovate. Since it is a tool for improving the company’s image as innovator, at a time when its motives are not trusted regarding privacy, it is only natural that the public reacts to it with scepticism.

I am rooting for this device to be rejected before it gets a wider launch. It should have been introduced as a tool used by rescue or health care workers in hard to reach areas. Instead, it’s being used to promote fashion week when most people are shopping on outlet sites, recycling and downsizing. DVF doesn’t need more people looking at her. She’s already got a lot of fans, customers and a reality show. If Glass is not used responsibly, it could unleash horror in our lives. I want someone to see this before it’s too late.

Update ~_* January 15, 2015. I am exceedingly happy to report that “Google is ending sales of its Google Glass eyewear. The company insists it is still committed to launching the smart glasses as a consumer product, but will stop producing Glass in its present form.” This is marketing speak for “this is an epic failure, because people can see we’re full of crap.” Thank you, whoever engineered this wonderful happening.

 

In defence of “dressing”

mark-zuckerberg.jpg
Mark Zuckerberg. Courtesy: Getty Images

That awful person, CEO and Grim Reaper of Privacy, whose name I will not inscribe (or link to) on this sacred space, has gone super-nomcore. Given his net worth, it’s hard to imagine that people will dismiss his utterances as tarry horsefeathers. Someone quoted him as saying he wears the same t-shirt every day because dressing up is “silly.” I wasn’t sure if he meant that the rest of us are silly or just himself.

I’m sceptical about the awful person’s “I only wear t-shirts”proclamation. Sean Parker, the former CEO of that cursed enterprise, is super well-groomed. He probably consults with a stylist. You sometimes need to take advice from people who have a better sense of a thing that is intimidating to you.

Now to be fair, part of me understands the message he is trying to convey. If you have to be “on” 24/7, you try not to vary your look too much. When she was editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue, Carine Roitfeld saved time by wearing no foundation or lipstick, messy hair and tons of eyeliner. Her successor, Emmanuelle Alt, has been photographed on numerous occasions in the same black leather or denim trousers. Karl Lagerfeld wears only black and white.

Uniforms are an important armour for corporate battle, but surely a sacrificial offering must be made to the fashion gods? Perhaps he could build a clothing factory in China and employ one hundred people. Offer them a livelihood. It’s an effective public relations strategy because it incorporates money and political heft while promoting international relationships and community service. Such a gesture might acknowledge that the rest of us have an innate and unquenchable desire to express ourselves through silk, leather and lace.

Begging your pardon, but that’s not art

I do not believe Willard Foxton’s claim that he was largely unaware of Taylor Swift’s existence prior to the release of 1989. I live under a rock when it comes to pop music, but it’s difficult to not know who she is. She bakes sweet treats for fans, dresses up a lot and accessorises with a cat. While New Yorkers were sleeping, Swift and her public relations army invaded and occupied their city. She’s all over the Telegraph website and, as Mr Willard earns a salary writing for them, he cannot reasonably make the claim.

Here’s a true story. I’ve never listened to a single one of Swift’s songs, but I paid attention to her after I found out that she shops at ASOS. Paparazzi took photos of her in one of their name branded dresses and it was posted on the website. I declined to buy the same one even though it was only $20. I’m not into bird patterns.

Willard is annoyed that children are trying to listen to Swift’s new album for free. Apparently, he’s unaware that people who exist outside of his laptop subsist on limited budgets. These people have part time jobs, homework, and do their own cleaning. Sometimes they can only afford to eat cup noodles for dinner. They do not want to give Taylor Swift any part of their disposable income.

They should not. She is a public relations machine in overdrive. We all know how wealthy she is, down to the last cent. If you’re wealthy because of the kind consideration and generosity of others, it’s a good idea to show consideration for that. People who enter the spotlight tend to get brain damaged by the overwhelming attention. They make a conspicuous display of affluence and complain later when people don’t want to help them acquire more of it.

One of the reasons I support classical musicians is that they can’t make a living air-playing an instrument and they don’t get recognised because of their looks. Concerts cost a lot more than album downloads, but I put on nice frocks three or four times a year to show my appreciation for their talent and perseverance.

Willard Foxton’s taste is something strange. He says that Swiftpop is “art” and that illegal downloads are devaluing that art. The Telegraph has a certain prestige but if they keep paying clueless people like him to write articles, I’ll boycott it, too. After all, no news is good news.

Hello, Man! This is how you hang on to your £20 million

David James, former England goalie and sports commentator is bankrupt for real. He seems like a well-spoken, compassionate and sensitive guy. He’s not, as he claims, a footie psychopath. He’s reportedly lost a lot more than Keith Gillespie, who has said he wasted upwards of £7 million, in ill-advised investment schemes and a compulsive gambling habit. I wish I’d met David James six years ago, before his financial difficulties started to overwhelm him. I would have told him to live a simple lifestyle; to stay away from hare-brained get rich quick “schemes”; have a no-handout policy; take some financial planning and accounting classes; and live well below his actual means.

A £3 million divorce would not contribute to bankruptcy if he had £20 million in tangible assets at the time of divorce. However, it is reported that James earned that much over a 25 year career in football. At an average of £800,000 a year, the settlement payout would cause problems if he is waiting for salary cheques. He would need to pay his ex wife in instalments over a few years.

The personal net worth of athletes and other people in the news is probably overestimated. The calculation of net worth is straightforward. Assets minus liabilities. The problem is that observers inflate or dream up the value of assets to hype the prominence of the people they’re profiling. In the news, net worth is estimated over a total period and attributed at the time of reporting. It can be misleading.

Most readers won’t factor in that after earnings, James has got to pay the top tax rates. In the UK it’s been 40 pc since 1990, going up to 50 pc from 2010 through the end of 2012 fiscal year. It’s now at 45 pc. After that, he pays rent, property tax and utilities, furniture, repairs, fixtures, food, drink, socks and shoes. James would hardly be broke with £400,000 to £480,000 a year after taxes. It’s up to thirteen times higher than the UK’s per capita income of £36,208. If he chose to live on a quarter of his after-tax earnings, a minimum of £100,000 a year, and put £300,000 in a savings account, over the course of 25 years, that would see him with £7,500,000 or a maximum of £9,000,000 in the bank plus interest. That is without putting the money in compound interest account, government bonds or a mutual fund. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

There’s pressure to live up to expectations when your wealth is overestimated. Ask James Stunt. In my opinion, he spends money that doesn’t belong to him. That borrowed fleet of luxury cars was a brilliant trick. It’s good advertisement for the dealers: They let him and his entourage drive the cars out of the shop and park them in front of photographers for an hour or so. How did photostalkers from Xposurephotos get so many plum shots of Stunt (clumsily) exiting the car (with a bottle of coloured water)? They were waiting for him. How did they know he would be there? You do the math.

Stunt is not named on any of the Forbes rich lists. The editors probably won’t let him pay to get on the list. If your net worth exceeds $999,999.999, you’ll appear on the Forbes website. They will find or make a category for you if necessary. Listings on digital shanty towns like “richest” and “richlist” that are meaningless. The owners and subscribers aren’t big dreamers who’ve worked hard to amass wealth. They spend an inordinate amount of energy trying to convince you they’re your betters, and that is wasteful.

Eventually, Mr Stunt will be caught doing something very naughty. It’s inevitable with these types of people. They forget it’s not their money. They become more grasping and obnoxious. Soon after that, people stop lending them things. Then hotel and restaurant bills go unpaid instead of comped. Lawyers are called in to demand payment. The papers get wind of it and that’s that.

The rich and famous might crave attention from the media, but the media is nourished by their lifestyles. Celebrity is a planet that journalists access through their privileged lists of contacts, which in turn are made visible by well-paid minions called publicists. It’s a hostile alien world that thrives on rare spirits, listed rankings and borrowed frocks.

In the end, it’s a lot of bother considering that when your pockets are dry, those same people report your disgrace in painstaking detail. Stay away from sycophants. Don’t spend your money for others to see. Enjoy your wealth by staying grounded.

How to get away with lying to me

I don’t know Tim Cook personally, nor have I ever worked at Apple, Inc., but to my knowledge, he’s a man who lives in a transparent container. Some people call it an Apple. Others call it a bubble of privilege and protection, which is needed to preserve the integrity of a range of products.

An October 30 Businessweek article has been attributed to him. In my opinion, it was written by a male of average intelligence, with a bachelor’s degree. One of three things happened. He was grinding away in a cubicle in Apple’s public relations department, he’s an assistant, or he’s a copy editor at Businessweek.

All versions male have done a terrible job with this writing assignment, because it screams “I’m a plant.” In other words, the article doesn’t read as if written by a CEO. Regardless, it was published for a purpose other than that stated.

The article stood out to me primarily because the announcement is gratuitous. Tim Cook has hardly courted personal press. To date, the obsequious Vanity Fair has not managed to win a personal interview with him, even though they put him on their Establishment List. (Shame on them for employing that thick Middleton girl). They were left scrambling, just as the Telegraph has, after the article was published in Businessweek. Such a face slap, that.

At first, my bad mind went to “extortion via sex tape” but that made no sense. The media would not be interested in “outing him” as gay, as this is not the 1950s. If I were to give this article the Louis Litt treatment, and go all Showtime Drama on it, I would say that it hints at a power struggle at Apple.

In theory, Cook would be advised to make a public statement about his sexual orientation. Businessweek is respected, reliably bland, and the thirteen people who read it on that day would skip over it. Did you read the entire article? Exactly. I get the feeling that nobody is interested in Tim Cook or what happens in Tim Cook’s pants. I mean, this information does not influence the value of Apple stock, right? Moving on, Louis Litt would say that when the Board tries to replace him, he could sue for discrimination, sexual harrassment, or something cool I haven’t yet thought about.

The phrasing and references in the article itself further raised my suspicions. I’ll throw them together and call them markers of insincerity. I explain a few of them now.

Markers of Insincerity

Staged photo. Note how the sunlight makes a perfect halo around the back of his chair. The halo has two effects. One is to signal him as an evolved human, a person who others look up to. The other is to highlight the smallness of his chair. It signals his humility. The ring also gives the illusion of a wheelchair, which is to suggest that he’s a member of a marginalised or non mainstream community. His head is bowed in an attitude of meditation much like a celibate priest’s would be, at vespers.

Signalling. “I come from humble roots” underscores the intent of the staged photo, in case your brain can’t make that kind of association without help.

Substitution. “Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world,” means, “I am closely watched.” Substitute “it” for “me”.

Inversion. Something said positively is inverted from the negative truth. He says, “It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple,” but in reality wants to tell you “I don’t care about your feelings. If you don’t obey me, I’ll make your life hell. I’m a God.”

“So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone,” means to say, “My sexuality had nothing to do with my promotion to God status. Pesky teenagers bore me with their angst but I should align myself with them to get sympathy.”

In my opinion, the following statement is highly improbable. The two people he calls out as inspiration were masters of spin. Their public personas were at odds with their private lives. One of them is not from a humble background and the other has a history of violence towards intimate partners. I don’t see how we could read this without laughing. It looks like a blatant lie:

“When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league.”

The truth would sound rather like, “I’m in their league. I’m the most important man alive today. I’m a visionary, a leader, and one day I am sure elementary school textbooks will have chapters about me.”

“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now.” This means he’s hidden it until now and is only reluctantly acknowledging it publicly.

Flattery.  “I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them,” sounds a lot like, “The thing I’m hiding is really big and will cause a media firestorm. If I make flattering remarks here, readers will be distracted further.”

Discomfort. “So let me be clear:” If someone says this while they’ve got your attention it’s being said for emphasis and not clarity. Followed by, “I’m proud to be gay,” this means “I don’t want to say it here as I feel exposed but this is my only play.”

Emotional argument. “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority.” It does not, and he is not. We should be upset that he’s trying to say he knows what it’s like to be (no offence) an illegal immigrant single mother with four children working for less than minimum wage, and who has no health insurance.

Being gay does not provide any white male who was coddled by academia, and who climbed up the corporate ladder “a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day.” He also says greedily that “It’s made me more empathetic,” but this cannot be true. Your sexual orientation does not affect your personality traits.

The rest of the essay is caramel flavoured popcorn. Sweet, crunchy and immediately satisfying, while lacking a substantive point.

~ Update ~
November 4: Reuters reports that Russian memorial to Steve Jobs dismantled after Apple CEO comes out as gay, on November 3. This reaction is beyond stupid, but the anti-gay retaliation by a sovereign state would be hard to quash in case discrimination would need to be argued.

Reeva, you were right. He’s got away with it.

Last weekend, the Telegraph published an article on the Oscar Pistorius verdict. The question was, “What if, instead, Reeva Steenkamp had shot Oscar Pistorius?” That is the wrong question. We should be asking “What if we’re too afraid to believe that a man at centre-stage would dare kill someone in front of us and brazenly demand that we let him get away with it?”

Narcissists are clever in a way we haven’t yet grasped. We have a tendency to ignore qualities that can’t be traded on the stock market, or packaged and mass-produced. Why aren’t we saying that Oscar Pistorius is a megalomaniac? Could it be we don’t want to call Oscar out for his evil ways because he’s physically challenged? We are undermining his capacity to develop into a mature adult if we fail do do so.

The worst thing you could do for someone with a God complex is give them a lot of disposable income, permission and unlimited access. I feel sorry for the journalists reporting the trial. Their stance at the outset, in 2013, was that Oscar’s an asshole. Near verdict time, they dialled back and said it is better for the justice system to decide Pistorius’ fate. To me, this is the collective hand washing of a situation that is their problem.

They nurtured this monster with conferences, interview questions, admiration, fantastic praise and high expectations. They’ve said, “Let’s sell him as the light of our generation. Let’s overlook his flaws as a person and focus on his achievements in sports.” It’s never that simple. Wasn’t it “sports” that afforded him a wealth of private and social engagements to enjoy? For example, he has access to SA’s most beautiful and visible personalities, and according to those who know him, he availed himself of their company as often as he pleased.

Oscar’s father left him as a boy. This does not mean he’s grown up to be a compassionate, humane man. He’s a pompous bastard who nearly shot a friend in the foot and then asked him to pretend it never happened. The shame he should have felt was most likely terror at the prospect of sleeping in a dirty jail cell surrounded by a cohort of his peers.

A few days ago, it was reported that cage fighter Nicolas Leaning had stabbed his pregnant ex girlfriend five times to kill her unborn child in order to prevent her doing a DNA test to confirm his paternity. I wish Reeva had been found pregnant because we would feel deep compassion for the unborn child. It would have been hard for Oscar to argue that he’d accidentally shot the mother of his unborn child. We would connect the dots fast. I do not believe her mother’s assertion that they hadn’t slept together. Is Oscar the kind of megalomaniac who would entertain the idea of a celibate coupling? If I had to venture a guess, I would say that she’s fulfilling her end of a deal: “If Oscar’s found not guilty of pre meditated murder, publicly deny they had a sexual relationship.”

How did he know the public would fall for his childish antics? It was as if we were waiting for him to sweat blood. (Symptoms of childish antics include perspiring, vomiting into a bucket, sobbing and squealing.) The child throws himself on the floor and thrashes around to distract us from what he’s actually done. You can’t discipline someone who’s already in extreme distress. “Calm down, Oscar,” they say. “Let’s attend to your needs.” No-one needs celebrity, much less a celebrity license to kill.

Ten months in jail don’t make sense. I feel bad for Reeva because she might have thought as she slipped away, “He’s going to get away with this.” Oscar’s had a full dress rehearsal on the biggest stage in the world. I do not want him to ever get out of jail. I’m scared he’ll kill another person. Goodness knows he’ll be better prepared for the fallout next time.

Twenty one

Miley Cyrus in a Tom Ford bondage dress, was right on the money.

Miley’s choices of designer and outfit for the amfAR charity gala were right on the money. People like to tell Miley she’s dressing immodestly, and I’m not sure why. I’m happy for her. She has access to Tom Ford, a genius designer and he wanted her to show off her body.

Twenty-one is the best time to really experiment with your presence, image and style. You have no inhibitions and you’re not as self-conscious as you will be in ten years. Your capacity to predict the future is limited. At 21, you don’t have any perspective and very little useful life experience. Everything you’re going to do is risky. A “mistake” could very well be the blaze that’s needed to light up a trail for your peers and those coming up behind you. Sometimes, you have to be the first one out the gate.

I never did drugs, drank or smoke, but I did a lot of crazy, wild, bizarre, off-the-wall fashion and lifestyle related things at 21 that were not accepted at the time. I never factored into my choices what anyone thought of me, because it was never really important to the bottom line: graduate university and find a new, exciting path.

I appreciate Miley. She doesn’t live her life according to others’ expectations of her. You can only be mediocre if you do that. She’s working to find a definition of herself that she’s comfortable with, and I like that she’s ignoring everyone. She’s rich, talented, successful, confident and happy-go-lucky. She should absolutely treat her body as a canvas if she wants to.