friday atheist re-blogging

Being the day when a carpenter who has fantastically scant evidence for ever having existed in the first place was hung up on the objects of his trade and encouraged to die, I thought I start my erratic wasting a couple of hours by mocking god-botherers.

Pharyngula mostly writes about biology and has dead sexy aquatic porn, like photos of Hagfish embryos. Quite regularly though he likes to ridicule, and laugh at creationists, believers, all the usual vacuousness of faith, especially if it comes from a scientist.

In a lazy Friday destruction of Dr Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, he says, “I would suggest that this argument by Collins would be better answered by supporting the divinity of Julius Caesar. His existence is far better supported than that of Jesus; we even have examples of his writings preserved, with monuments and first hand personal accounts of his life. He allowed himself to be called a god — Deo Invicto, no less — and his successor built temples to the Divus Julius. It’s awfully silly that Collins thinks the argument that either Caesar or Jesus was a god generates uncertainty, that he resolves in one direction for one of the pair, and in the other direction for the other.”

Far more important though, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month if you live in the United States. I doubt a month will make much difference though, but I would like to see all my friends who have complete assholes for partners stop making excuses and choose April as the month to take out the garbage.

Back to China.

The Chongqing Nailhouse suddenly became news if you spoke English. The New York Times had a piece, and I was sitting at Orange a couple of days ago and saw it in The Age too. Hamish McDonald used to be the Beijing correspondent replaced a while ago by Mary-Ann Toy, but there’s no change in the approach to China coverage from either The Age or Sydney Morning Herald. Admittedly I read a lot of blogs and news coverage coming out of China, but these papers are consistently a week or two behind, provide inadequate and cursory appraisal, and largely seem to get their news from a small subset of China blogs. If that’s all it takes to get a gig at The Age, I wanna be in the Guangzhou office. (I’ll just read 在桥下流 and put my name to whatever Feng37 blogs about.)

One of those news sources is the excellent Global Voices Online, founded by Rebecca Mackinnon. Writer 杨恒均 Yang Hengjun talks about how he kept on finding himself drawn into encounters with the various writers from the website (ESWN translates the Boxun article), again Feng37 turns up, translating Yang’s novel 致命弱点 Fatal Weakness.

Oh, and don’t drink the water in Guangzhou, how many times do I have to say that? “It contains high levels of ammonia, fluoride, faecal coliform bacteria and heavy metals.”

Meanwhile even in China people said, 哀悼。。。 and 难受… when they heard about 鲍德里亚 I mean Jean Baudrillard dying.

Another Global Voices person is Ethan Zuckerman, who has been in Doha, Qatar for the Third Annual Al Jazeera Annual Forum. He’s been covering it in a series of posts I’ve been devouring each day. Together they constitute an incisive look at Al Jazeera and the media in Qatar, the Middle-East and globally. Read them all or pick one at random: Things to do in Doha when you’re dead tired, Seymour Hersh kicks things off at the Al Jazeera Forum, International news: pack a parachute?, “Politics, media and misinformation” – a panel that contained all three…, Falling down on the job, A new era? Al Jazeera’s cautious embrace of citizen media, Al Jazeera English. I want it., Lessig: “Help us in the US to remember these ideals. Help us by living them yourselves.”, Al-Jazeera panel on the rights and safety of journalists, Media in the Middle East: bridges or walls, or the need for a cigarette, Last post from Doha: Five Stories.

Mainstream Media and the dereliction of Theatre. Both Nicholas Pickard and Alison Croggin from different incidents come to the same point about their respective city’s papers attenuated interest in performing arts, which is pretty similar to their coverage of China, viz. the nailhouse above. Over the other side of the world, New York Times previews Becky, Jodi and John that opened a couple of days ago.

Of course I have to finish with trannys, what do you think I am?

The title is sheer class: I was born a boy, but even my fella never guessed. The article illustrates that with a supportive family being transsexual is no big deal.

Another sublime one-liner dressed in a lurid font, Meghan Chevalier’s Confessions of a Transsexual Porn Star, who is the rather famous subject to whom the title refers. I sometimes wonder about my social standing when I seem to have quite a familiarity with the world of shemale porn…

sunday morning avoiding-work blogging

More stuff I’ve read in the past two weeks for your amazement and occasional pleasure, though because everyone’s taste is different, no porn links. I do have a major grant application due tomorrow that I’ve been putting off since Friday when I posted off three other big applications, and since have felt a complete resistance to answering such questions as, “Why do you want to do it?” preferring instead to have my newly opened comments spammed by a Viagra-spewing, Norfolk-dwelling transvestite.

Because it will soon be in the old media, probably as a filler story at the end of the news, dressed up as some evidence of emerging property rights and consequently democracy in China, and because it’s been all over Chinese Blogistan for weeks now, and largely because Feng37 turns it all into a story about Guangzhou, here’s the 钉子户. That’s ‘nail house’ to you, as in the sticking-up nail that tears a hole in your nice clothes, or is the house that pesky proles should but won’t leave so the to-get-rich-is-glorious capitalists-with-communist-chinese-characteristics (I think that should be the other way around) can’t get on with getting rich.

The always exceptional China Digital Times 中国数字时代 looks at the extremely photogenic Chongqing nailhouse as a fomenter of citizen journalism. 在桥下流 says, “Speaking of which of which, gz got one too, on Longjin East”, and points to Global Voices Online for the definitive coverage of the Chongqing house. All this makes me anxious for Liwan, my favourite part of old Guangzhou that for years has been eaten away at by property barons and political corruption. Liwan doesn’t need Hong Kong cash to rebuild, especially when the south-of-the-border types think historic reconstruction means pulling everything down, filling in the harbour and selling it off to their government-friendly cronies.

A bit over a month till Sunn0))) and Boris play in Melbourne, and all I’m listening to is Southern Lord, so of course I downloaded Burial Chamber Trio live at the WORM in Rotterdam, and could see Emile there smiling with un-joy.

Nicholas Pritchard, blogging intelligently on performing arts in Sydney does a quite reasonable evisceration of a recent play he saw. He accuses the director of carrying the Plague of Realism, that reminded me of a remark in Realtime by SPILL festival director Robert Pacitti in London, equally applicable to Sydney or Melbourne. “The city likes to ‘big itself up’ as a wild theatre capital, but in reality it still exists within very safe territory. This is clearly evident in the current plethora of site-specific work being made by younger artists who seemingly lack any desire to present content.”

Is pornography free speech? This is an American, as in United States question, that is beholden to a very specific set of jurisprudence born of their constitution. Any country can engage in such a question, but freedom of speech refers strictly to the First Amendment. My reasons for making such a delineation comes from my recent or on-going brushes with civil rights (and linguistics) in regard to transsexuals, that are simultaneously presented as universally representative from within America, and accepted as such by those of us outside. There is a strong lack of appreciation that circumstances are very much dependent on your geographic location, and that even countries that nominally share similar values can in fact have a wildly different appreciation of the issues. Pornography, or how American cultural hegemony determined how we get off.

No Quarter has a huge post on Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the diaspora leaving them spread across the globe. It’s a fascinating read, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, a concise introduction to their history, culture, religions, the political machinations that led to them being dispossessed in three acrimonious nations.

Tranny stuff!!! Cool!!! That’s why you come here anyway.

Harisu, everyone’s favourite Korean tranny is performing in Beijing. And Feng37 sent me a piece about Lili, not Chen Lili though, who was in this week’s oeeee supplement of 南方都市报. The difference between the media’s depiction of transsexuals in China and my own experience, compared to the often undisguised hostility that comes out of the American culture is … If someone gave me a research grant, I’d hang out in China for a few months just writing about this.

Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus. Yeah. it’s nice to know there’s a biological basis, but … the search for explanations in this way can easily impress the notion that this is an abnormality against which a particular type of physiology is measured. Whatever it means to be normal, there is far more difference between you and the person you are currently nearest to than between any spuriously assigned categories of human.

The world of teenage trannsexuals, the ones with no family support who become the gutter of humanity, and all that it entails is one I flirted around the edges of. Salon Magazine interviewed Chris Beam, the author of Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers, that I’ve mentioned before, and if you come here because this interests you, it’s really worth a read.

Another standard story with a nice picture about a transsexual, mainly a weekend filler piece that at least isn’t sensationalism, though is it really necessary to have pieces like this done every couple of months, it’s not like someone gets interviewed because they’re gay or married, but the transsexual thing is always presented as the defining characteristic of a person’s identity.

Sex!!! Or why the Age of Reason was a better time for smut and fornication than the early 21st century.

[(δU/δL) / (δU/δC) | Sp=0] ≤ w – [(δU/δr) / (δU/δC) | S = 0], or using calculus to assess whether prostitution is your best career choice.

That’s enough for one day. no?

‘second-tier city’ culture

Chongqing recently expanded its boundaries to become the largest municipality in the world with a population of some 20 million people. At the entrance to the Three Gorges it’s also the city competing with Chengdu for the title of western China’s cultural capital. In China, culture means edifices, administration and big art for the emerging middle-classes so the budgets are huge and the usefulness for local artists is miniscule. The Straits Times had this piece on the new focus on art and culture to court investors.

According to an official at the city’s cultural bureau, 10 large-scale cultural projects are set to rise out of the Yangtze mud. According to an official at the city’s cultural bureau, 10 large-scale cultural projects are set to rise out of the Yangtze mud.

They include a US$97 million theatre, a US$36 million library and a US$12 million Chinese modern art gallery – a cultural medium the authorities at times have trouble accepting.

‘Chinese cities these days are beginning to pay attention to the cultural needs of their citizens,’ said Mr Wei Dong of the Chongqing Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

Chongqing is not alone in this regard.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, government officials are now embarking on a five-year, US$1.3 billion investment in some 26 projects including libraries, concert halls, art galleries and museums.

And in the eastern city of Hangzhou, complaints by local citizens that they have to travel to neighbouring Shanghai for a concert have prompted the government to take action. Plans are being drawn up for local cultural venues.