A Progressive Rake

Funnies, rants, and quite a lot of gin

Linkage: roasting Naomi Wolf on fry

by Stuart Brown

Excellent post on language: a feminist guide making a few important points to Naomi Wolf in response to a recent article in which she restates the tired and tiresome old trope that certain features of the vernacular are “damaging” to speakers—in this case, young women—and that they need to stop using them for their own good. The money shot, perfectly expressing what I try to tell people on what may well be an equally tiresome basis:

It misses the point that negative attitudes to the language of subordinate groups are just manifestations of a more general prejudice against the groups themselves.

Have a read: A response to Naomi Wolf.

Got a fair amount of vocal fry myself, by the way. Never been suggested to me that my voice imperils my status.

Brown, S. & Brown, G. (2015) A preliminary investigation into the gustatory pleasures of the “Tim‎‑‎Tam Slam”

by Stuart Brown

Abstract

Anecdotal data suggest that the “Tim-Tam Slam,” a novel consumption method combining confection and heated beverages originating in the southern hemisphere, may be efficacious in bringing about a positive sensory response. Tests were conducted and recorded to assess these anecdotal claims.

Subjects

Subjects (n = 2) were matched for age (40;0), height (169±0.5cm), and DNA overlap (100%). Subjects originated from the northern hemisphere; one had been tranposed to the Tim-Tam’s native environment for a preliminary period of six months, and was undergoing habituation. The latter was transposed to the field specifically for the purposes of this experiment.

Materials

The materials used were:

  1. two Tim-Tam biscuits (variety: original); and
  2. a freshly-made cup of tea (variety: English Breakfast).

Some preliminary notes upon materials are required.

Tim-Tams

Tim-Tams are a biscuit confection originating in the southern hemisphere, though closely related to the northern hemisphere product Penguins. Both comprise a binary biscuitty structure (BBS), with the separate sections conjoined via a gooey inner bit (GIB). The gooey–biscuitty core is then entirely encased in a caramel exoskeleton.

Subjects independently assessed Tim-Tams prior to the experiment. They were found to compare favourably with their northern hemisphere relative, with the following noticeable differences:

  1. the Tim-Tam was observed to possess a pleasanter crunch in the BBS;
  2. the Tim-Tam additionally presented a higher caramelly quotient (CQ) than the Penguin, rendering initial appreciation higher, though leading to potential sickliness upon repeated consumption; and
  3. the Tim-Tam packaging was noted to be absent in euphonic verbal humour.

Tea

Tea is a hot infusion comprising “the taste of dried leaves in boiled water […] with milk squirted out of a cow” (Adams, 1980).

Subjects, though of English heritage, were correctly disposed to consider tea to be the very piss of the Devil.

Method

The method of performing the Tim-Tam Slam is widely attested in the grey literature. Opposing corners are exscinded from the exoskeletal portion to expose a small amount of the GIB. The subject places one amputated corner within the beverage and uses the Tim-Tam in the manner of a straw, drawing fluid up through the GIB until it is felt to enter the oral cavity. At this point, the subject withdraws the Tim-Tam, inverts it, and ingests it.

Results

Discussion

Subject 1 clearly demonstrated a conventional, though extreme, adverse response to the process. Subject reported that “It just takes like tea. Warm, mushy tea.”

Subject 2 demonstrated an equally adverse response, though somewhat less conventional as his neurons freaked the fuck out and put him into a state referred to in less rigorous literature than this as “cataplexy.” Whilst the cataplectic response may be triggered by pleasure, in this instance subject reported the trigger to be “mingingness.”

At this stage, both participants exercised their right to withdraw from the trial.

Mid-life carousal

by Stuart Brown

mid-life carousal (n.) the substitution of shameless hedonism for existential panic, occurring roughly at the forty-year mark.

I entered my fifth decade a couple of days ago, and this is traditionally considered a period during which I should be purchasing a fast car, leaving my wife, or undertaking an unnecessarily strenuous and counterproductive gym regime. Lacking a driving licence or spouse, and already spending far too much of my gym time dicking around with the weights when I should be burning calories, I would not be able to manifest the usual symptoms of mid-life crisisery were I thus inclined, but I find that I do not have these urges anyway. The inevitability of nothingness and consequent futility of all life notwithstanding, I am largely of a cheerful and optimistic disposition, and I see the trivial fact that we live with a base-ten counting system as a poor justification for existential panic. So forty has been an excuse for a party, and little more.

As the particular combination of nucleotides that first came into existence forty years and nine months ago‎—‎and with any luck will continue replicating themselves for another forty years or so‎—‎rather unusually produced two independent organisms, I came over to Australia, where the other half of my DNA’s biomass is busily self-replicating, with the express and simple purpose of enjoyably poisoning a few million of the rather more sophisticatedly-specialized of its replicatory protein factories.[1]

That is, we drank an awful lot of Grenache.

Did we take stock of our lives, compare our achievements and failures, evaluate our aspirations, and make plans for the future?

No, we drank some more Grenache.

Did we rake over the groundwork of our thorough-going atheism in attempt to find a chink through which we could convince ourselves of the possibility of eternity, or speculate on the moral status of our immortal souls?

No, but I think the next bottle was a Pinot.

It is true that we had a serious conversation about our responsibilities towards inter-generational justice, specifically around the nature of environmentally-responsible behaviour and issues concerning economic security and taxation, but this is geekily normal fare for us. We also had another bottle of Grenache.

I feel, though, it would be unreasonable of me to not take this moment to branch out, experience, try something new. And so, in honour of the country in which we have caroused ourselves into our respective second halves, I have bought today a packet of Tim-Tams and some teabags. We had a rather fine posh lunch with the first bottle of Grenache on Wednesday: but I understand that this is nothing compared with the gustatory revelation that we will be undergoing later today.

Watch this space for a report.


[1] This is actually a myth: alcohol does not kill your neurons, and only usage on a level that even I cannot endorse will cause permanent damage to them.

Clever, but absent-minded

by Stuart Brown

We are, in general, rather lazy creatures who avoid cognitive exertion wherever possible, and remarkably often fall back on established categories, tropes, and clichés. One can see how, in evolutionary terms, this could have developed: though I am suspicious of evolutionary psychology in general as it is only ever retro-fitting a plausible developmental narrative to the observable phenomena, a few of its basic principles seem pretty reasonable, and the tendency to interpret the world by reacting to novel stimuli using established cognitive categories rather than analysing the scenario from scratch is an efficient use of cognitive resources as (in evolutionary terms) a false positive never harmed anyone, whereas presuming the null hypothesis, or spending precious processing time and resources performing an online judgment almost certainly did. When the long grass waved in the absence of wind, the caveman who consistently interpretted this as the presence of a tiger will have been more likely to survive when it actually was a tiger than the ones who presumed it was nothing, or stood still for a while whilst they decided.

This, ultimately, is the origin of the tendency to believe in the supernatural—because assigning active agency to unexplained phenomena is the safer false positive—but also, for the purposes of this post, is the origin of interpersonal stereotyping: racism, sexism, homophobia, and thinking that all clever people are absent-minded.

Clearly, by asserting an evolutionary origin to these traits, I am not attempting to defend them: merely to explain them. As Richard Dawkins often asserts—when he is not busy applying several of the isms mentioned above, in direct contravention of his very assertion—we are better than our genes: we have arrived at a level of self-awareness where we can say “No, I will not do that, even though it be my instinct.” The fight against the evils of racism, sexism, and cleverism is long and drawn-out precisely because it is a fight against our basic natures. Again, this is not to defend these natures: they are repugnant. But if the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, and John Calvin can all agree that my basic nature entitles me to no more than eternal torment (though whether I escape that through faith, grace, or works I understand is something of a moot point), I feel I can at least assert this somewhat lesser stance of the worser devils of our nature.

All of this goes to explain that, though I understand why people persist in applying the “clever, but absent-minded” stereotype to me, I still feel perfectly entitled to my deep irritation at it. I am clever, yes—I have enough contempt for goddamn English false modesty to feel no embarrassment in asserting that—but it is only lazy, cavemanish cognitive simplicism which leads you to presume that I am therefore also forgetful, distracted, useless at things practical, and generally incapable of finding my arse with both hands.

I mean, a clever but absent-minded person would not be able to run their own business successfully for ten years, would they?

A clever but absent-minded person wouldn’t have the attention to detail to make them a rather good editor, would they?

And a clever but absent-minded person certainly wouldn’t be so spectacularly fucking brainless as to leave their passport in their jeans pocket when washing them barely two weeks before travelling to Australia …

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… would they?

Haarlem stake

by Stuart Brown

Haarlem stake (n.) an extremely tall, thin Dutchman obstructing your funky moves by standing stock still on the dancefloor, holding a beer, with his elbows therefore at exactly the right height to poke your eye out. Congregate in groups of twenty or more.

An awesome night out in Groningen on Saturday was afflicted by hoards of these. Seriously, Dutch people are just egregiously tall; and they really need to learn to shake their stuff or get out of my boogietastic way.

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