Cynthia’s face remained completely blank, wearing that same empty stare at the theater, Bergdorf’s, a private dinner party, and even her regular hair salon. Everywhere she went, Cynthia tantalized the paparazzi and her adoring public—always seen on the arm of the fashionable Lester Gaba, wearing the runway’s latest styles and enjoying New York nightlife to the fullest—but still her gaze revealed nothing.
Of course, that’s because Cynthia was a mannequin, crafted by Gaba to promote his retail display business. In 1937, Gaba’s irreverent experiment captivated the public by spotlighting our larger fixation with mannequins, made up of a strange blend of adoration, emulation, discomfort, and sometimes even terror. Cynthia was merely the descendant of a long line of mannequins, whose idealized bodies gave shape to our materialist fantasies at least since the time of the Egyptians.
This morning, as I listened to the BBC World Service on Mandela, I found myself pondering what it meant that he was South Africa's "first democratically elected leader."
This is undoubtedly true. The apartheid regime held elections regularly, but only white people were given the vote. The systematic, arbitrary denial of the franchise to a large fraction of the population makes those elections "undemocratic" and their leaders illegitimate. I think that this is indisputable.
But what about US elections prior to the 19th Amendment? Was Warren Harding the first "democratically elected leader of the United States?"
And what about the UK prior to 1918 (or 1928)? Women's suffrage came late the the UK, and if Nelson Mandela was the first democratically elected leader of South Africa, I think that makes Ramsay MacDonald the UK's first democratically elected leader.
Or if there's something special about gender that disqualifies it from being a prerequisite for democratic legitimacy, let's have the apples-to-apples comparison: enfranchisement for people of color.
Black people got the right to vote in the USA in 1870, making Ulysses S Grant the first "democratically elected" leader in US history (albeit that black people were systematically disenfranchised by law, norm, and deed throughout the land, a practice that continues today, especially in states with Tea Party legislatures).
Canada didn't give First Nations people the right to vote until 1960, making John Diefenbaker the first "democratically elected" leader in Canadian history.
It's not like the idea of women as full-fledged people, entitled to the vote, was obscure and unpopular before 1928. It's not like the idea of black people as human beings capable of reason was unheard of before 1870. It's not like First Nations people were universally considered incapable of self-determination before 1960. The systems that denied the vote to these people were violent, savage, and brutal in their repression of efforts to enfranchise all adults (and there's whole other post to be written about children and voting).
There was no democratic legitimacy in the apartheid era. None of the leaders of South Africa before Mandela were "democratically elected." But if we are going to retrospectively deny legitimacy to the men who called themselves democratic leaders because history has moved on, why not point out that every US President from Washington to Grant (or Harding) also had no legitimate claim to democratic leadership?
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. -The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(Image: Emmeline Pankhurst in prison, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
Boars, Gore, and Swords is hosted by stand-up comedians Ivan Hernandez and Red Scott. In each episode they break down HBO's Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. They also talk about movies, TV, science fiction, fantasy, and lots of other things using foul language. In this episode, they discuss the Catelyn V and Samwell III chapters of George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords (Catch up on past podcast episodes here to listen to previous chapter breakdowns). Also covered: Locke and the confusion with Vargo Hoat, Ivan's responses to Spam emails, foreshadowing, the women of House Mormont, a horse riding a horse, the legitimization of children born out of wedlock, DC’s The Seven, and an unfortunate amount of ambient gunfire.
Recommended if You Like is Boing Boing's weekly podcast of conversations with musicians, cartoonists, writers, and other creative types. In this episode, I speak with Will Cullen Hart of the rock bands The Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System, and founder of the label Cloud Recordings. We sat down in his cat-infested back yard in Athens, Georgia to discuss his two upcoming records, and the recent loss of his lifelong friend and songwriting partner Bill Doss. In 2008, Will revealed that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. We spoke about how his life has been changed by this autoimmmune disease.
In each episode of Not Playing, Lex and Dan watch movies they've never seen. There are two versions of each episode available: the capsule version where you can listen to their thoughts before and after they watch the movie, and the longer, full commentary-track episodes so you can watch the movies along with Lex and Dan.
This week, Lex leads Dan through the wonderful world of Weird Al via his 1989 cult classic, UHF. Hot topics include kitchen accessories, paragons of acting, and the surprising curriculum vitae of Weird Al Yankovic.RSS | iTunes | Download capsule episode | Download full commentary episode
Watching this video about the mosquito I learned that, in some parts of Alaska, mosquitoes are so plentiful that swarms of them have been known to asphyxiate caribou. Another thing I learned: I will not be visiting those parts of Alaska anytime soon.
Temperature is just a measure of jigglyness, says Henry Reich of Minute Physics. Not in the "I don't think you're ready for this jelly" sense, but at the scale of atoms. And it's this jiggle that can help explain why two things that are, technically, the exact same temperature can feel totally different when we touch them. Great science for a cold day!
At the nonprofit Institute for the Future thinktank where I'm a researcher, we always say, "Never believe anyone who says they can predict the future, especially if they're from California." We don't make point predictions but rather describe future forces we think will have big impacts on the way we live. Sometimes though, IFTF just nails it. The image above is an "Artifact from the Future" that my colleagues Jason Tester and Nic Weidinger created during the fall of 2012, more than a year before Jeff Bezos announced Amazon's drone delivery plans. We use these physical mock-ups and prototypes of imaginary products, objects, and services to make our forecasts more tangible. The above artifact was part of our Future of Coordination research you can check out here. Here's the artifact description: What if there was a database of every object in the world, and you could rent anything from anybody at any time? A full fledged Internet of Things, coupled with Zamazon’s drone delivery service is the perfect match. When you buy something online, Zamazon shows you the demand for this object in your local area, going rates for daily rental, and how much revenue you can expect to earn from sharing. Back in 2013 we started to see this with car sharing, but the cost of coordination was too high for smaller objects. These days, when you want to borrow a tool from your neighbor, with just the click of a button, a drone will deliver it directly to you.
Previously on BB:
Michael Walker trained a Markov chain with the King James Bible and Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, a classic computer science textbook. The result is King James Programming, a tumblr filled with comp-sci-inflected biblespeak. I could read it all day long.
...his brother whom he slew; and we will walk in my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD: I will not lie nor repent: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that were burnt had offered; and they were divided hither and thither, so that they operate on “abstract data.”...
12:2 And I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and our sins be upon us, because of our use of not and lisp-value.
And Satan stood up against them in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the role of procedures in program design.
Abstractly, we can imagine that the values used for test-divisor should not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.
(Image: (KJV) 1631 Holy Bible, Robert Barker/John Bill, London. King James Version, juxtapose^esopatxuj/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)
More than half of the world's fresh water! The data is from the British Antarctic Survey and NASA, including millions of measurements taken over 20 years using lasers and satellites. I'd like to see this with the sea level as it would be if all the ice melted. [Video Link via Flowing Data]
One year ago today
Citigroup leads finance world in bullshit-generating capacity: Citigroup today announced a series of repositioning actions that will further reduce expenses and improve efficiency across the company while maintaining Citi's unique capabilities to serve clientzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Five years ago today
Facebook and the Social Dynamics of Privacy: Adding “friendYouDontLike” to a controlled vocabulary will not make it socially complete; there’s still “friendYouDidntUsedToLike.” As long as there are social nuances that aren’t captured in the rules of the network (i.e., always), the network will be unable to prevent them from sparking privacy blowups.
Ten years ago today
Sega's Crazy Taxi patent suit against EA is crazy: Avi Bar Zeev, former Imagineer who invented a Crazy Taxi video game while at Disney, weighs in on a patent dispute between Sega (which hired a Disney exec who'd seen Avi's idea and which quickly produced and patented a Crazy Taxi game) and EA (which has its own Crazy Taxi game).
Michael sez, "Apparently medieval Russian schoolroooms used birch bark for things like writing practice. Erik Kwakkel, medieval book historian at Leiden University, Netherlands, has some charming photos of stick-figure illustrations on bark by kids who, like kids everywhere, got a bit bored with the lesson and started doodling in the margins. There are links to more images (and an interesting scholarly article) at the bottom of the post."
The most special items, however, are the ones shown above, which are from a medieval classroom. In the 13th century, young schoolboys learning to write filled these scraps with alphabets and short texts. Bark was ideal material for writing down things with such a short half-life. Then the pupils got bored and started to doodle, as kids do: crude drawings of individuals with big hands, as well as a figure with a raised sword standing next to a defeated beast (lower image). The last one was drawn by Onfim, who put his name next to the victorious warrior. The snippets provide a delightful and most unusual peek into a 13th-century classroom, with kids learning to read - and getting bored in the process.
Medieval kids’ doodles on birch bark [Erik Kwakkel]