Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Tag: culture

How can you tell that an Irish person’s successful? The media starts calling them British

“‘Britishness’ is, essentially, a slightly less nationalistic way for English people to declare how great England is, while deploying a meagre fig-leaf of imperial distance which, for some reason, they find more palatable. This allows the English to combine a heartfelt conviction of their own popularity, with a reflexive, toddler-like joy in grabbing things that don’t quite belong to them; and also enables their pesky habit of cheerily rendering ‘British’ anything else that isn’t nailed down, like countries, museum treasures and, latterly, Irish celebs.” Plenty more choice quotes where this came from. (Though we should probably like cricket more, especially considering how well we’re playing at Lord's right now.) #link

The Day the Music Burned

“The vault fire was not, as UMG suggested, a minor mishap, a matter of a few tapes stuck in a musty warehouse. It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business.” #link

Olly with an excellent breakdown of the philosophy behind antifascism, one that also serves as a takedown of the naivety of certain journalistic quarters in the face of racist rhetoric and manipulation. #video

Childish Gambino and how the internet killed the cultural critic

This is less about that Childish Gambino video in and of itself and more an apologia for that facile kind of ‘fit this thing I don’t quite understand into the immutable category framework already established for myself’ as a placeholder for more rigorous media and cultural literacy/analysis (cf Dan Olson’s video on ‘Annihilation and Decoding Metaphor’). It’s ironic that the article is almost entirely uncritical of Fandom with a capital F’s blindness to context beyond its own bubbles. And especially grating when it slaps down such straw-man dingers like “the impartiality of reviewers was of dubious provenance anyway”. #link

Why no-one speaks Indonesia’s language

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that these things can’t be forced. Imposing orthography from above? That’s been done before: Cyrillic, Korean, even modern Irish. But the nuts and bolts of communication are something else. How may people speak Esperanto, after all? #link

Pop culture today is obsessed with the battle between good and evil. Traditional folktales never were. What changed?

“Good guy/bad guy narratives might not possess any moral sophistication, but they do promote social stability, and they’re useful for getting people to sign up for armies and fight in wars with other nations. Their values feel like morality, and the association with folklore and mythology lends them a patina of legitimacy, but still, they don’t arise from a moral vision. They are rooted instead in a political vision, which is why they don’t help us deliberate, or think more deeply about the meanings of our actions. Like the original Grimm stories, they’re a political tool designed to bind nations together.” [c/o LinkMachineGo] #link

Why Pop Culture Links Women and Killer Plants

“The use of poisonous mushrooms isn’t about women playing some zero-sum game with controlling men. What the trope really does is prompt viewers to consider what female agency can look like in situations that are overwhelmingly shaped by sexism—and it’s not a pretty sight. The women mimic the language of violence articulated by the men in their lives, in one of the only ways available to them. Unable to emancipate themselves fully from the trappings of their gender roles, their only recourse is to do harm before they suffer further. In one of the last scenes of Lady Macbeth, when Katherine implicates her lover and maid in the murder of a child, her face is eerily impassive, mirroring the expression of her husband early in the film when he regards her with cruel indifference. In that moment, they are one and the same.” I did not like Lady Macbeth, but that quote gets at what the story really is. #link

Molly Ringwald revisits The Breakfast Club

The former Brat Pack star evaluates the John Hughes films that made her name some 30 years on, considering them from the angles of changing social mores, her own motherhood, and her growth as a person. Justifiably celebrated. #link

The Great Awokening: What happens to culture in an era of identity politics?

“[Sensitivity] to the experiences of racial, cultural, sexual, and gender identities besides one’s own, and [being] attuned to the injustices that shape our world” is the best definition I’ve seen for the concept of ‘woke’, and this is a good essay about the related societal shift. It is ironic, though, that this article has since been affected by the very shifts it examines; that section about Aziz Ansari’s Master of None doesn’t sit too comfortably today next to the excoriation of Louis CK. #link

Why Is Anime Obsessed With Power Lines?

In case you were wondering — and yes, it’s the signifier/metaphor you might expect. Though it also fits with the not-necessarily-metaphorical groundedness of most contemporary anime (street scenes, convenience stores, vending machines, vehicles and public transport, etc). #link

24-hour Putin people: my week watching Kremlin ‘propaganda channel’ RT

“More than outright lies, RT deals in moral equivalency. Its defenders don’t deny bias; they deny the possibility of objectivity. They say western media is equally biased. They liken RT to state broadcasters such as the BBC, France 24 and al Jazeera. They say other news channels have been sanctioned by Ofcom. It’s a triumph of cynicism: we’re all just as bad as each other.” The difference is, those other channels don’t make disinformation, in bad faith, their raison d'être. Speaking of bad faith, The Atlantic was recently moved to do an explainer on a concept — lying, basically — that’s pretty self-evident. #link

Jenny Odell: How to do nothing

Do take the time to read these various but connected musings on the value of ‘nothingness’, of removal from the noise and bustle of life — and the demands of Work with a capital W — for deeper reflection, within and without, to exist. It's cut with an endearing wit, as per her observation on birdwatching: “Actually, I’ve always found it weird that it’s called birdwatching, because half if not more of birdwatching is actually birdlistening. I personally think they should just rename it birdnoticing.” #link

The age of banter

When you combine the refusal to take anything seriously with the refusal to take responsibility, this is what you get. #link

This Greedy Pig on the gentrification of the Italian-Irish chipper

I’ve seen a couple of these ‘Chipmonger’ places and I can understand, at least on an intellectual level, the need to compete in an increasingly hipster marketplace, minimalist and fashionably distressed and all that. But even at that, they look fairly bland and soulless; at a glance, could be a barber shop as much as a chipper. Give me a Macari’s or a Romayo’s (or a Milano’s, for our current go-to local) any day. #link

Dame: Why Is Male Anger So Threatening?

Read the whole thing. Patriarchy, toxic masculinity, etc is so fucking damaging, and men who can’t see that simply haven’t been looking hard enough in that particular closet. I guess for me, the door’s always been slightly ajar, not conforming as I do to the usual ‘man’ stereotypes (I don’t drink beer, I don’t like football, etc). But I still raise my voice and yell when I’m frustrated by situations, and I do not like that about myself. #link

Aeon: Why bullshit is no laughing matter

“For the bullshitter, it doesn’t really matter if he is right or wrong. What matters is that you’re paying attention.” The proximity of that sentiment to the Deepak Chopra references further on did not go unnoticed. But he’s a sideshow to the real danger of the anti-vaxxer scourge. [c/o LinkMachineGo] #link

Paste magazine on WWE’s slow progress on LGBTQ storylines

“When it makes sense,” said Stephanie McMahon. Which translates as ‘probably never’. We’re not even at the point where, say, ‘Darren Young’ the on-screen character reflects Darren Young the real-life openly gay man. Maybe that’s because he’s a face? WWE tends to save its better character development for its heels. #link

Fintan O’Toole: Ireland is still defined by the church’s mindset

O’Toole writes in The Irish Times about the persistence of Ireland’s “moral-industrial complex”. He doesn’t specify it (he brings up housing the homeless in hotels) but what is direct provision if not a direct descendent of the 20th-century institutionalisation of Catholic Ireland’s ‘undesirables’? We still have such a long way to go in this country. See also: Emer O’Toole in the Guardian on the church (and their apologists) feigning shock over the Tuam Babies scandal. #link

The Quietus remembers Mark Fisher

Of course I remember Fisher’s K-punk blog from back in the day and it was impenetrable for me at the time but reading it now, I think I finally get it. #link

The AV Club on metal’s Nazi problem

The headline is unfortunate (the problem is hardly unaddressed; it’s a perennial topic of discussion among metalheads) though the article is a good one. Ah, the moral quandary of separating the art from the artist! But seriously, aside from metal's propensity for permitting transgressive ideas without the attendant responsibility, the article points out the blatant hypocrisy that arises when artists use their art as a platform for their political agenda, even if the art doesn’t relate to it directly. How do you feel about your Burzum records now? #link

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “I’m a big believer in chaos”

I had expected this to be quaint considering all that’s happened, and will happen, but no, Coates already had the horror clown’s number. It’s also interesting to contrast that with his reaction to the way his book has been received by white people in the US. #link

Fredrik deBoer: no one can define ‘cultural appropriation’

I don’t think this is true: appropriation in bad faith is fairly easy to discern. But what this argument really gets to the heart of is the hypocrisy of defining ‘culture’ as an either-or proposition, with no respect for the agency of those from a different background (because it’s really all about you and absolving your own guilt over whatever). In better words: “Don’t mimic or perform being a type of person that you intend others to recognize as such, especially when that involves exaggeration or when intended to inspire contempt or humor. That is a rule about people, not a rule about culture.” (Update 2019.04.22: The link is dead now, but I'll leave this here as a testament to the fact that I get things wrong all the time, and this is a prime example — not so much my quibbles with the topic at hand, but certainly in signal-boosting deBoer as a source.) #link

No, you’re not entitled to your opinion

“You are only entitled to what you can argue for.” And that’s usually where those with ‘wrong’ opinions fail, because they take them as first principles that need no defence. #link

Inside the Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns

Political pettiness goes far, especially when those responsible can remove themselves enough steps from responsibility so they can sleep at night. Also, isn’t it funny that gun control has virtually disappeared from the agenda as of late? #link

When Student Activists Refuse to Talk to Campus Newspapers

Naivety plus a propensity to compartmentalise the world into easily classifiable categories (intersectionality does not equal mutability, ding ding) is a dangerous equation. Let me put it another way: the media is not the monolith some perceive it to be. You want to be the change you want to see? You can do it through existing channels too, not solely via your own — indeed, the latter is arguably best avoided, because you’re probably blind to your own biases. #link

Will the Left Survive the Millennials?

If the spirit of what she’s saying is sound, Lionel Shriver doesn’t help her case with hyperbole like ‘shrill’, ‘fraught with danger’ and ‘weaponised sensitivity’. (And that headline? Sheesh.) She also (wilfully?) misses the point of what Abdel-Magied was trying to get across, as much as I rolled my eyes at her pained prose: that it’s really no longer acceptable for the relatively privileged to write about others less so, when the latter are given fewer — or no — opportunities to do it themselves. #link

The Rise of Victimhood Culture

I'm not sure using terms like 'victimhood culture' helps, as they seem as needlessly aggressive as the term 'microaggression' is itself. (It's onomatopoeia, isn't it? The word 'aggression' has an aggressive sound and mouth-feel to it.) But that's a distraction from the purpose of this piece. While there is indeed a very real, subtly oppressive quality to the widespread use of terms historically used to diminish society's minorities or quasi-minorities, it's also been contorted into a weapon wielded in a kind of cultural gamesmanship. And that's none more clear than the exchange this article uses as example, where the actual problem, if it exists at all, is lost in the rush to gain sympathy or kudos from peers, which quickly descends into childish sore-loser name-calling. I mean, the sheer irony of believing only one's own intersectionality matters, and if one's 'enemy' claims similar they're acting in bad faith. I'd laugh if it wasn't so depressing. #link

Thinking out loud about David Starkey, the England Riots, etc

So this David Starkey thing, eh? “The whites have become black”? Enoch Powell? “Jamaican patois”? That old chestnut about black people who ‘sound white’? Really?

Anyway, one thing that stands out for me from the Starkey furore — apart from the hole-digging of an ignorant man, desperately out of touch and out of depth — is the hypocrisy of his subsequent evisceration by the media. That’s the very same media that can’t look at itself and see how it fuels the very stereotypes that influence such misleading attitudes.