Words For The Wasted

Aug 30 2014 @ 3:41pm
by Dish Staff

Planning to get blotto, schnockered or plonked this Labor Day weekend? David Crystal reflects on assembling an “almost complete list of every word we’ve ever used to mean ‘drunk'”:

Being drunk cuts across barriers. The list … shows only the occasional indication of a class preference (such as genteel whiffled vs thieves’ cant suckey), and occupational origins are seen only in some nautical expressions (three sheets, oversparred, up the pole, tin hat, honkers), though the etymology is not always definite. There are very few formal terms in the list, apart from a few expressions fostered by the law (intoxicated, over the limit), and some early scholarly words (inebriate(d), temulent, ebrious). Local regional variations are sometimes apparent, such as from Scotland (fou, strut, swash, blootered, swacked), England (bottled, pissed, rat­arsed), and Australia (blue, rotten, shickery, plonked, on one’s ear); and since the eighteenth century most new words in this semantic field have started out in the United States. But it’s rare to find a word that stays in one country for long, and these days online slang dictionaries have largely broken down geographical boundaries.

Why has this field developed to the extent that writers regularly make a special collection of these words?

Read On

Beauty As Investment, Ctd

Aug 30 2014 @ 2:56pm
by Dish Staff

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano has more to say on the social significance of beauty-product consumption, turning from high-end splurges to the relatively affordable world of “masstige” creams and cosmetics:

[T]he temporary self-esteem boost one gets from bargain shopping becomes exaggerated when the shopper is able to attribute the bargain to her own skills—for example, proffering a coupon, or bargaining for a lower price, as opposed to simply purchasing a low-cost item. Another way a shopper might attribute a bargain to her own skills is recognizing a good deal when she sees it. Enter “masstige” products, i.e. products meant to be seen as prestige products that are sold at price points affordable to the masses. For New Yorkers, masstige is most evident in the aisles of Duane Reade drugstores, which in the past few years has revamped its beauty section to look more like something you’d see at Sak’s Fifth Avenue—softer lighting, island displays, skin care consultants. Along with that comes products that are more expensive than usual drugstore fare but still less than what you’d pay were you actually at Sak’s. (I’m a fan of a retinol cream I buy at Duane Reade that features sleek packaging and sounds all fancy but is just a brand of L’Oréal. A brand that costs three times as much as products labeled “L’Oréal,” mais oui.)

Indeed, masstige beauty is growing, with CVS entering the market, and with other major drugstore chains already in it. It’s gotten to the point where premium beauty brands are seeing masstige as a threat that supposedly confuses consumers into thinking they’re getting a higher-quality product than they actually are. Which brings us back to square one: The more that high-end beauty brands try to set themselves apart by seeming exclusive and catering to a consumer who sees purchasing that brand as evidence of her good taste, the more that reinforces the appeal of masstige products to a somewhat different consumer, who sees purchasing a masstige brand as evidence of her good sense. The masstige consumer might look at the prestige buyer and think, What a fool; the prestige buyer might look at the masstige buyer and think, Poor thing, or simply assume that the masstige route is a financial choice, ignoring or oblivious to its nonfinancial rewards.

Here Today, Gone Forever?

Aug 30 2014 @ 2:01pm
by Sue Halpern

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Buried – sorry – in Biz Carson’s fascinating obituary of Hal Finney, who died this week from ALS, is a small aside with large implications. Finney, who was 58, was the first owner of bitcoins besides developer Satoshi Nakamoto (not his real name). This was in 2008, in a somewhat serendipitous turn of events, which Finney chronicled last year, typing via an eye tracker.

When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away. I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction, when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test. I carried on an email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, mostly me reporting bugs and him fixing them. After a few days, bitcoin was running pretty stably, so I left it running… I mined several blocks over the next days. But I turned it off because it made my computer run hot, and the fan noise bothered me.

So the question is, now that he has died, what happens to Finney’s virtual currency?

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Mixing With The Classics

Aug 30 2014 @ 1:28pm
by Chas Danner

A reader responds to Wednesday’s Mental Health Break:

Mozart Rap is nothing new – see the above version by Turkey’s rap superstar, Ceza. The text is not quite as wholesome as the one you showed, but it is a trenchant comment on the ills of Turkish society and politics today. Mozart’s Turkish March is something like the secret anthem of Turkey (at least for the secular Westernized part of society), and has been taken up several times by Turkish musicians. My favorite is this one, showing how music is a truly global art in a unique way:

Another reader senses an opportunity:

I feel compelled to turn this into a “dudes rapping to classical music” thread, because yes please. That clip reminded me of one of my favorite rap songs, Jedi Mind Tricks’ “Animal Rap”:

Read On

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Rebecca Mead describes the challenges Cambridge classics professor Mary Beard has faced as a prominent female academic:

At Cambridge [in 1972], the inequities of gender began to dawn on Beard. “Most of the people who taught us in the faculty were blokes,” she says. “There were only twelve per cent women among the students, and you thought, Actually, there is an issue here. You go into a dining hall of a men’s college, and everybody’s portrait was a bloke. Well, perhaps some female founder back in 1512, some lady who gave the cash—and everyone else was a bloke. For the first time I saw that, somehow, I was there as sort of a favor.” She attended women’s groups and joined campaigns to open the university further to women. The women of Cambridge were undertaking more personal voyages of discovery, too: in a drawer somewhere in Beard’s house is a plastic speculum that she acquired at one consciousness-raising gathering.

Beard left Cambridge in 1979, for King’s College London. She completed her Ph.D. in 1982; two years later, she returned to Newnham as a fellow. At the time, she says, she was one of only three women on the classics faculty, out of a total of twenty-six; before long, both of her female colleagues left. (Now there are roughly four men to each woman.)

That was then. Today, explains Mead, Beard is active on social media, and holds her own in an ongoing battle with the ubiquitous misogynistic troll contingent. Mead addresses the particularity of how Beard, whom “the Queen recently appointed … to the Order of the British Empire,” battles lesser names (or the altogether anonymous):

There is, [Beard] acknowledges, an irony in the imbalance of power: as a prominent scholar, she does have a voice, however unpleasant the threats to silence her may be. Most of her Twitter detractors are grumbling to only a handful of followers, at least until she amplifies their audience.

Mead’s article brought to mind a pattern I’ve noticed within feminism, which I’ve called the Second After Sartre problem, namely that of women who aren’t merely privileged but are major leaders of their age, who call out the obstacles that prevent them from achieving what their male equivalents can, or from doing so as easily. It’s in reference to… I’ll let LisaAppignanesi explain the story I’m referencing:

Read On

The View From Your Window Contest

Aug 30 2014 @ 12:00pm

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You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. City and/or state first, then country. Please put the location in the subject heading, along with any description within the email. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts. Be sure to email entries to contest@andrewsullivan.com. Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book or two free gift subscriptions to the Dish. Have at it.

Browse previous contests here.

A Short Story For Saturday

Aug 30 2014 @ 11:13am
by Dish Staff

This weekend’s short story selection is Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain,” which begins with these arresting paragraphs:

Anders couldn’t get to the bank until just before it closed, so of course the line was endless and he got stuck behind two women whose loud, stupid conversation put him in a murderous temper. He was never in the best of tempers anyway, Anders – a book critic known for the weary, elegant savagery with which he dispatched almost everything he reviewed.

With the line still doubled around the rope, one of the tellers stuck a “POSITION CLOSED” sign in her window and walked to the back of the bank, where she leaned against a desk and began to pass the time with a man shuffling papers. The women in front of Anders broke off their conversation and watched the teller with hatred. “Oh, that’s nice,” one of them said. She turned to Anders and added, confident of his accord, “One of those little human touches that keep us coming back for more.”

Anders had conceived his own towering hatred of the teller, but he immediately turned it on the presumptuous crybaby in front of him. “Damned unfair,” he said. “Tragic, really. If they’re not chopping off the wrong leg, or bombing your ancestral village, they’re closing their positions.”

Read the rest here. For more of Wolff’s short fiction, including “Bullet in the Brain,” check out his collection Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories. Previous SSFSs here.

Face Of The Day

Aug 30 2014 @ 10:35am
by Dish Staff

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David Samuel Stern creates dizzying portraits by weaving together two separate vellum prints:

This way of abstracting the images does not only offer his subjects a way to hide within themselves, but also turns digital photography into physical objects by adding geometric texture. Being poets, choreographers, artists or programmers, all of the models featured in “Woven Portraits” are creative types in their own field.

How one of Stern’s models described his reaction to first seeing the woven portrait a few years ago:

I find it interesting; it captures some kind of duality, or time/motion – reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s portraits, even in it’s literal hard edged grid. I like how the image fluctuates, it almost forces me not to focus. And in fact, while looking at it I like to actually take my eyes in and out of focus, the piece seems to encourage viewing through multiple ways of perceiving with the eye.

See more of Stern’s work here.

Auto-Admiration?

Aug 30 2014 @ 10:02am
by Dish Staff

Jesse Bering reviews research suggesting that not only can people accurately match dogs’ faces to their owners, but also that “our faces also bear an uncanny resemblance to the frontend views of our automobiles.” Participants in a study were given a picture of a car and asked to rank its possible owners on a scale of 1 to 6:

[T]he authors suspected that the judges in their study would be able to match cars dish_carfaces3 with their correct owners above chance levels. And that’s what they found. “The real owner was in fact assigned rank 1 most frequently,” they write, “and rank 6 least frequently.” This proved true regardless of the subjects’ sex and age. There were an equal number of male and female judges, and they ranged widely in age—from 16 to 78 years. In case the sheer bizarreness of these data hasn’t quite registered, let me put it to you more bluntly: The average person can detect a physical similarity in the “faces” of cars and their owners. …

Implied in these results is the startling fact that most car owners are unwittingly purchasing cars that look like them. If that’s the case, figured [researchers Stefan] Stiegar and [Martin] Voracek, then is it possible that judges can even take it one step further, matching dogs to their masters’ cars? After all, we know now that it’s not a myth: dogs really do look like their owners. And since we choose both cars and dogs that physically resemble us, shouldn’t our dogs and our cars look alike too? Here, frankly, the data just get weird. Nevertheless, they’re genuine. In their third and final study, the authors added 36 portraits of dogs into the mix. Half of these were of purebreds, and the others were mutts. In a twist to the previous studies, a new group of judges saw an image of a car (again, either the front, side, or rear view) and beneath that, six individual dogs. Subjects ranked each dog on the likelihood of its master being the owner of the car shown. Amazingly, the participants were able to pull this feat off as well.

Meanwhile, Laura Bliss considers the oddly human attachments people form to their vehicles:

Read On

by Dish Staff

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An 11-year-old DFW superfan recreated Infinite Jest with Legos:

[English professor Kevin] Griffith and his son [Sebastian] had the idea to “translate” Infinite Jest into Lego after reading Brendan Powell Smith’s The Brick Bible, which takes on the New Testament. “Wallace’s novel is probably the only contemporary text to offer a similar challenge to artists working in the medium of Lego,” they write, grandly, on their website. …

Sebastian didn’t read Infinite Jest himself. “Let me be clear – Infinite Jest is not a novel for children,” says Griffith. “Instead, I would describe a scene to him and he would recreate it in a way that suited his vision. All the scenes are created by him and he then took photos of them using a 10-year-old Kodak digital camera he received for a present long ago. I think that having the scenes reflect an 11-year-old’s perspective gives them a little extra poignancy, maybe.”

The caption for the above image is from page 409 of Infinite Jest: “Clipperton plays tennis with the Glock 17 held steadily to his left temple.” Meanwhile, Matthew Nolan looks for lessons from DFW about why American men aren’t playing the sport better:

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