Sunday 31 December 2017

Suggestions for Collective New Year Resolutions

We will create a society with equal opportunities for everybody - no matter what age, gender, (dis)abilities, ethnicity, religion, no matter if straight or queer.
We will build cities that are accessible.
We will  not let populism use minority or disadvantaged groups to communicate simple messages ("us" versus "them") to create a polarised society.
We will remove the structural causes of homelessness.
We will create a society in which everybody has access to education and lifelong learning.

In 2018, I will...

... do anything I can do to combat ageism, to reframe ageing; I won't give up showing others the importance of valuing older people
... not lose my patience, will not lose my hope and belief in an intelligent society when hearing or reading discriminatory statements that are based on ignorance, fear or the need to construct a superior identity by creating an inferior "other"
... support projects that aim to raise awareness concerning racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and islampophobia by writing about them and/or cooperating
... continue finding homelessness absolutely not acceptable for societies in the 21st century and - as I cannot change the system - make a modest contribution by helping at least one homeless person
... continue the project of raising awareness how to turn a/my city into a more inclusive city
... donate more often to the wonderful humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières
... focus my research on inclusion at schools, on diversity in class rooms
... continue showing people how beautiful diversity is
... be among the 8% of people who achieve their new year's resolutions.

Dear subscribers, I wish you all the best for 2018, all the best for our society. Thank you so much for passing by in 2017 and for leaving beautiful comments. Thank you for being interested in the beauty of diversity.

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Thanks, Paperwalker, for the photograph and the amazing drawings!

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Art & Gender Discount

"In the secondary art market, artists play no active role. This allows us to isolate cultural influences on the demand for female artists’ work from supply-side factors. Using 1.5 million auction transactions in 45 countries, we document a 47.6% gender discount in auction prices for paintings. The discount is higher in countries with greater gender inequality. In experiments, participants are unable to guess the gender of an artist simply by looking at a painting and they vary in their preferences for paintings associated with female artists. Women's art appears to sell for less because it is made by women."
Adams et al., 2017

Analysing about 1.5 million auction sales records from 1970 to 2013, the research group found that "respondents consistently ranked works they believed to have been made by male artists higher than those believed to be by female artists". This tendency could also be seen when the works had been created by an artificial intelligence. On average, works by women sell for 47.6% of the prices male artists fetch at auctions. The mean auction price for works by male artists is 48.21 dollars vs. 25.26 dollars for works by female artists (via).
"Male buyers are a driving force of the auction market and yet we see that they are also more likely to think that women’s art is inferior. Our research adds to the mounting evidence of discrimination towards women that is systemic to so many industries."
Roman Kräussl
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- Adams, R. B., Kräussl, R., Navone, M. A. & Verwijmeren, P. (2017). Is Gender in the Eye of the Beholder? Identifying Cultural Attitudes with Art Auction Prices. Available at SSRN:
- image of Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) via

Saturday 23 December 2017

Quoting Frances McDormand

"We have a lot of conversations about aging and how difficult it is in our culture. I go on rants about it, I get a little too zealous about it and he cautions me to remember that not everyone ages the same way and I've been fortunate that I'm happy with the way I look and how I age."
Frances McDormand

"... the entire business for female actors that is a difficult proposition and one of the things is waiting for someone to give you an interesting role. I was a trained to be a classical theatre actress. If I had followed my career in the theatre I would have had many good roles because they've been written and they're there. There's a whole canon - you age through the three sisters and check off, you age through the Skakespearean canon. In film, the canon is a male protagonist canon. So, really, the only way to age as a female in male protagonists driven stories is in the relationship to the male protagonist: a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother..."
Frances McDormand

"This is me. I, you know, this i why I got up this morning and this is how I looked."
Frances McDormand

"I want to be really connected to this (shows her face), how I've aged, how proud I am of what I have. I want to be a symbol for men and women to move through this very dangerous thing that we've created with the culture of celebrity and the need to be something other than ourselves. It kind of seems to me, at least in America, no one should age past 40. And if you do you should put a bag over your head or crawl into a hole."
Frances McDormand

"One of the reasons that I am doing press again after 10 years' absence is because I feel like I need to represent publicly what I've chosen to represent privately — which is a woman who is proud and more powerful than I was when I was younger. And I think that I carry that pride and power on my face and in my body."
Frances McDormand

"I want to be a role model for not only younger men and women — and not just in my profession, I'm not talking about my profession. I think that cosmetic enhancements in my profession are just an occupational hazard. But I think, more culturally, I'm interested in starting the conversation about aging gracefully and how, instead of making it a cultural problem, we make it individuals' problems. I think that ageism is a cultural illness; it's not a personal illness."
Frances McDormand

"I have not mutated myself in any way. Joel (Coen, her director husband) and I have this conversation a lot. He literally has to stop me physically from saying something to people — to friends who’ve had work. I’m so full of fear and rage about what they’ve done."
Frances McDormand

"I've got a rubber face. It has always served me very well and really helps, especially as I get older, because I still have all my road map intact, and I can use it at will."
Frances McDormand

"You are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information."
Frances McDormand

"I want to be revered. I want to be an elder; I want to be an elderess. I have some things to talk about and say and help."
Frances McDormand

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photograph via

Thursday 21 December 2017

The Pencil Test

"'If you're black and pretend you're Coloured, the police has the pencil test.'
'The pencil test?'
'Oh, yes, sir. They sticks a pencil in your hair and you has to bend down, and if your hair holds the pencil, that shows it's too woolly, too thick. You can't be Coloured with woolly hair like that. You got to stay black, you see.'"
(cited in Bowker & Leigh Star, 1999)

Race is pure fiction. And a racist system needs fictional classifications, it needs arbitrarily chosen criteria for the different "races", ridiculous criteria that justify inequality. In 1950, the Population Registraction Act and the Group Areas Act were passed in South Africa. These classifications determined the so-called racial group one belonged to and where one could live, work, ... People were divided into four groups: Europeans (White), Asiatics, Coloureds (mixed "race"), and Natives ("pure-blooded individuals of the Bantu race"); Coloureds and Natives were subdivided. Apartheid meant that "people had to be unambiguously categorizable by race", which of course they were not. As a result, different aspects of apartheid law classified a person differently. Jazz musician Vic Wilkinson, for instance, crossed the race line five times. His "race" changed e.g. when he married women of different ethnicities and moved to different neighbourhoods.

Theoretically, "reclassification" was possible. If a person was labelled Coloured and wished to be labelled White or European, they had thirty days to appeal the classification. The average waiting time, however, was 14 months during which the person continued to live as "Coloured". If - during that time - they enrolled at a Coloured school (as they had no access to a White school), this was later seen as legal evidence that they were Coloured. Even "associating with someone of the wrong group could become evidence of membership and thus of race." The reclassification system was "completely internally inconsistent", categories were conflicting, a mixed criteria of "appearance and general acceptance and repute" was used. Questions such as "Do you eat porridge" or "Do you sleep on the floor or in a bed" were asked to find out whether a person was White. Complexion, eyes, cheekbones, earlobes ("Natives have soft lobes") profiles, and hair were examined. Many underwent the pencil test. If the pencil fell out of a person's hair, they were not classified as Black (Bowker & Leigh Star, 1999).
"Many people did not conform to the typologies constructed under the law: especially people whose appearance differed from their assigned category, or who lived with those of another race, spoke a different language from the assigned group, or had some other historical deviation from the pure type. New laws and amendments were constantly being debated and passed (see, e.g. Rand Daily Mail, 1966). By 1985, the corpus of racial law in South Africa exceeded 3,000 pages (Lelyveld, 1985: 82)."
"The Director of Census was in charge of deciding everyone's racial classification, on the basis of the census data, and, where necessary, other records of vital statistics. Horrell notes: "But this classification is by no means formal. Section Five(3) of the Population Registration Act provides that if at any time it appears to the Director that the classification of a person is incorrect, after giving notice to the person concerned, specifying in which respect the classification is incorrect, and affording him or her an opportunity of being heard, he may alter the classification in the register" (1958: 4). So in the case of apartheid, we have the scientistic belief in race difference on the everyday level, and an elaborate formal legal apparatus enforcing separation. At the same time, a much less formal, more prototypical approach uses an amalgam of appearance and acceptance -- and the on-the-spot visual judgments of everyone from police and tram drivers to judges -- to perform the sorting process on the street."
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- South African schools under attack over Afro hairstyles ban (2016), LINK
- I was fired for refusing to tame Afro, LINK
- The Paper Bag Test, LINK
- Being African: What does hair have to do with it? LINK
- Good Hair (trailer), LINK
- The -ism Series (4): Racism, LINK

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- Bowker, G. C. & Leigh Star, S. (1999). Classification and its consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; link
- photograph of Diana Ross via

Wednesday 20 December 2017

International Human Solidarity Day

This day is "a day to celebrate our unity in diversity; a day to remind governments to respect their commitments to international agreements; a day to raise public awareness of the importance of solidarity; a day to encourage debate on the ways to promote solidarity for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals including poverty eradication; a day of action to encourage new initiatives for poverty eradication." (United Nations)

Solidarity means that those wo suffer or benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most. Since the day the United Nations were founded, their work has been led by the concept of solidarity. Without solidarity there is no peace and security (via).

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photograph taken in the Bronx by Mel Rosenthal (1940-2017) via

Monday 18 December 2017

Why are more single girls switching to cigar smokers?

Chances are she saw him before he saw her. She knows he'll treat her as he would a cigar: tenderly, affectionately, appreciatively. What's more, cigar smokers start young and stay young ... very important for girls with long range plans.

image via

Saturday 16 December 2017

Seven dirty words

In 1972, US-American comedian George Carlin (1937-2008) listed "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television". The words that were considered highly inappropriate for broadcast and bleep censored in case they were used were: sh*t, p*ss, f***, c**t, c***sucker, motherf***, and t*ts (via)... all of them for obvious reasons.

Recently, a list of seven forbidden words was given to the US-American health agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From now on, officials at the public health agency are prohibited from using the words "diversity, vulnerable, entitlement, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, science-based" in any official documents (via). An interesting selection.
"I use the terms taboo words or swear words interchangeably to describe the lexicon of offensive emotional language. A taboo is a "ban or inhibition resulting from social custom or aversion" (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000). Taboo words are sanctioned or restricted on both institutional and individual levels under the assumption that some harm will occur if a taboo word is spoken. (...) At the institutional level, taboos on certain forms of speech arise from authorities that have the power to restrict speech and can act as arbiters of harmful speech (...)".
Jay (2009)
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- Jay, T. (2009). The Utility and Ubiquity of Taboo Words. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(2), 153-161
- image via

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Presenting The Losers

Pretty good, aren't they? We admit it. And they're probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want.
But not as an Eastern Airline stewardess.
We pass up around 19 girls, before we get one that qualifies. If looks were everything, it wouldn't be so tough. Sure, we want her to be pretty...don't you? That's why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.

But we don't stop there. We talk. And we listen. We listen to her voice, her speech. We judge her personality, her maturity, her intelligence, her intentions, her enthusiasm, her resiliency and her stamina.
We don't want a stewardess to be impatient with a question you may have, or careless in serving your dinner, or unconcerned about your needs.
So we try to eliminate these problems by taking a lot more time and passing up a lot more girls.
It may make our job a lot harder. But it makes your flying a lot easier.

"If this isn't the most sexist TV commercial ever, it's close."
Mike Mashon

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image (probably 1967) via

Tuesday 12 December 2017

In a Heartbeat

"In a Heartbeat" is an animated short film that went viral in summer 2017. It had about 12 million views in just 72 hours and has more than 32 million now. The film was produced by Esteban Bravo and Beth David, two computer animation majors at Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. It tells the story of a boy named Sherwin who has fallen in love with his classmate Jonathan and his risk of being outed by his own heart (via).

"From a business standpoint, it makes sense why studios are afraid to portray LGBT characters, just because there’s still part of the population that’s not accepting. But as leaders of children’s content, it’s really important for them to represent these people because not showing LGBT characters leads to a lot of internalized confusion as kids grow up."
Esteban David

"There was a part of us that was aware this could potentially be a baby-step towards normalizing LGBT romance and, hopefully, toward larger productions and studios doing something like this. I do think this kind of entertainment is wanted on a pretty broad scale."
Beth David

image via

Sunday 10 December 2017

Sunday Music

"We had our group that we all moved with, so there was always some sense of safety. But there was always that thing, you know, of someone out there ready to bash your head in if you stepped out of line. Going back to where we were with Massive Attack and the Wild Bunch, it was always a mixed-race thing, so we were always going into circumstances where it could go either way. Either he could get beaten up for being in the wrong place because he’s in a Jamaican club with me, or I could get beaten up for being a black bloke in a punk club. So we were always treading water in that respect."
Grantley Evan Marshall, Massive Attack

Massive Attack's reaction to Brexit:
"As sons of immigrants, we are both very disappointed with the situation. 
We can't allow ourselves to fall victim to the populist bulls--- going on at the moment. 
We can't let the bigots and racists back into this situation. It's bulls---."
Robert Del Naja, Massive Attack

Sunday music link pack:

::: Unfinished Sympathy: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Ritual Spirit: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Protection: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Live With Me: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Karmacoma: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Splitting the Atom: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Risingson: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Atlas Air: LISTEN/WATCH

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photographs of Massive Attack in Lebanon where they dedicated a gig to the children of Gaza via and via

Saturday 9 December 2017

The Indifference of the World

"In the name of all those who persecute you, who have persecuted you, and those who have hurt you, above all in the indifference of the world, I ask you for forgiveness. Forgiveness."
Pope Francis

"The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother's milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her. (...)
The killing of people as they prayed, fished to feed their families or slept in their homes, the brutal beating of children as young as two and an elderly woman aged 80 – the perpetrators of these violations, and those who ordered them, must be held accountable."
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

"Numerous testimonies collected from people from different village tracts…confirmed that the army deliberately set fire to houses with families inside, and in other cases pushed Rohingyas into already burning houses.
Testimonies were collected of several cases where the army or Rakhine villagers locked an entire family, including elderly and disabled people, inside a house and set it on fire, killing them all."
Excerpts taken from a report issued by the United Nations in February 2017


::: "My World is Finished." Rohingya targeted in crimes against humanity in Myanmar. Amnesty International. DOWNLOAD
::: Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. DOWNLOAD

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photograph via

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Boxing Grannies

In twice-weekly sessions held in Johannesburg, female boxers - many of whom are over 70 - train with coach Claude Maphosa. The sessions are so popular that he is planning to organise events in other areas in South Africa (via). According to the coach - a former bodybuilder and lifestyle coach who wanted to give back to his community by helping the elderly -, many no longer suffer from ailments they used to have before taking up boxing (via and via).

Photographs above: Gladys Ngwenya (77)

photographs via and via and via

Monday 4 December 2017

Stellan Skarsgård as John River

"I did BBC One's River because I was jealous of actresses.
Male roles are always about hiding emotions - it's always what's going on underneath. While women in their roles always get the opportunity to show everything."
Stellan Skarsgård

On John River:

"What first attracted me to River was the poetry - the warmth and love of human beings that runs through the script. Even though there’s a lot of sadness, that humanity makes it bearable.
But on another level, what really interested me was the way the male characters are written. Male characters that are created by women can be badly written. And female characters are usually very badly written by men. Because when you write about the other sex, you usually go back to some sexual fantasy about them, not who they really are.
But Abi Morgan’s writing is about a human being, it doesn’t matter if they have a penis or not. Male characters are usually written with a sort of contained emotional life, while actresses always get the opportunity to tell all their feelings all the time. So for the first time in my career I got the opportunity to be as an actress is, and show everything. And I really enjoyed that."
Stellan Skarsgård

"I've worked with Lars von Trier on many films, and there's always a female character that's like an open wound - everything just pours out of this person. For the first time I saw a male role that had that opportunity."
Stellan Skarsgård

"I've been offered some of those police stories in Sweden, but we do so many - Wallander and Beck and whatever it is. Some of them are very good and you probably see the best ones [in the UK]."
Stellan Skarsgård

"But there's so much of it and I'm not interested in police stories. I'm not interested in 'who did it' - this being a much more internal story about a man, and his difficulties in surviving in a reality that doesn't accept people that are different, is more interesting to me."
Stellan Skarsgård

“He (Lars von Trier) doesn’t have to show me a script for me to say yes, but there’s one role in all his films and it’s a woman. She’s an open wound bleeding all over the screen, then there are some stupid men around. Actors are meant to be manly and hide everything, but River allowed me to be actor and actress.”
Stellan Skarsgård

On England, the U.S., and Scandinavia:

“If you look at the stories, they’re pretty banal. It’s the cultural difference that’s exciting. Lisbeth Salander is a fantastic character, with a child’s vulnerability but a hardness and coldness that makes her stronger than any man. Thanks to Scandinavia being the most emancipated part of the world, you have female characters that are very hard to invent in a more repressed, sexist society like Britain. I heard they lit Tower Bridge pink because they had an heir that didn’t have a penis.”
Stellan Skarsgård

"I was brought up an Anglophile. But you [the English] seem to be extremely happy with the social differences in this country…[and] it’s going to get worse. What has made the development of society possible is not greed, but compassion and empathy – otherwise we’d still be running around killing each other in the f***ing jungle."
Stellan Skarsgård

“Somebody from the studio suggested changing the name of Professor Lambeau [Skarsgard’s character in Good Will Hunting]. I said, I’ll change it to Svensson if all the American actors take American names like Sitting Bull …. What is an English name, anyway?”
Stellan Skarsgård

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images via and via

Thursday 30 November 2017

Lino Ventura's Snowdrop

"J’ai pris le parti de le dire publiquement parce que j’espère de tout mon cœur que cela fera pencher la balance en notre faveur. Je suis père d’une enfant pas comme les autres."
Lino Ventura

Angiolino Giuseppe Pasquale "Lino" Ventura (1919-1987), the Italian actor who was voted 23rd in a poll for the 100 greatest Frenchmen, together with his wife Odette founded the charity Perce-Neige ("Snowdrop") in 1966, a few years after their daughter Linda was born with a mental disability (via). Having seen the lack of support for people with disabilities and the barriers they face, Lino and Odette were worried about what would happen with their daughter (born in 1958) once they were no longer there to take care of her. The charity first focused on providing financial support to create suitable facilities. Later, it created its own institutions (which are all referred to as "home"). It aims to provide support, care, and shelter for disabled people, to provide what both people with disabilities and their families need (via).

"As the father of a mentally disabled girl, he soon realized there was a lack of specialized institutions and made an appeal to the general public about the future of this section of the population. The French public’s generous response allowed him to open a pilot center, and thus the association was founded in 1966. Lino Ventura’s work didn’t stop when he passed away though. His grandson – Christophe Lasserre-Ventura – has been president of the association for more than 20 years. Just like disability itself, Perce-Neige is a family issue." (via)

Perce-Neige clips on YouTube (all in French):

::: Extraits de l'appel de Lino Ventura WATCH/LISTEN
::: J'ai le rôle! WATCH/LISTEN
::: On a tous un rôle à jouer WATCH/LISTEN

photographs of Lino Ventura via and via and via and via

Wednesday 29 November 2017

"So we played with dolls." Michel Piccoli

"Yes, that's right (I played with dolls). At the time, playing with dolls seemed to be a strange thing to do for a boy. People thought I could become homosexual. The reason, however, was simple. I had a cousin whose family was very wealthy. I liked the girl very much. She had lots of dolls and I had practically no toys. So we played with dolls."
Michel Piccoli

"As surprising as it may sound, although the thing to do is to buy dolls for girls and cars for boys, the science suggests boys actually prefer dolls." Paola Escudero
There is no innate preference among boys for "macho" toys. According to a study carried out at the University of Western Sydney, 6-month-old boys in fact even prefer social toys such as dolls to nonsocial ones such as trucks (time of fixation on the different images was the indicator for preference) (via and via).

"Unfortunately, boys have been discouraged from playing with “girl” items for decades, treated with contempt and told dolls are for 'sissies'."
Rebecca Hains, 2015

"'A boy with a doll?' The gentleman chuckled and dramatically raised one eyebrow before delivering his half-serious, half-stirring warning about my bub’s bleak future as a ‘sissy’."
Jamila Rizvi, 2016

Nice to watch:
::: Dad approves of son's new doll: WATCH

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photographs of the great, the marvellous Jacques Daniel Michel Piccoli via and via

Tuesday 28 November 2017

"God is beyond human gender determination"

According to the head of the largest Swedish Christian church, God is beyond human gender determination which is the very reason why the Church of Sweden is urging its clergy to use gender-neutral language when referring to him or her. The Evangelical Lutheran church also asks its clergy to refrain from using terms like "Lord" (via). Not everybody appreciates these suggestions, a "mountain of criticism" followed since a move toward gender-neutral language would undermine the doctrine of the Trinity which refers to God as "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (via).

"Theoleogically, for instance, we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human."
Archbishop Antje Jackelén

Related posting:
- He, She, God, and the Church of England: LINK

photographs of nuns having fun via

Monday 27 November 2017


"One of the worst things you can be in Hollywood is old."
Kathy Bates

"The outcry over the lack of diversity at Hollywood’s premier award show has failed to recognize the value of senior voices on screen. While 2016 best picture nominated films are more diverse when it comes to gender and some racial and ethnic groups, ageism is still an accepted form of exclusion in cinematic storytelling." Stacy L. Smith
A study led by Stacy L. Smith analysed 1.256 speaking or named characters in the 25 best picture-nominated films from 2014 to 2016. The results show that even in "the most critically acclaimed films", ageing characters were either underrepresented (only 11.8% were 60 years of age or older) or stereotypically portrayed (including e.g. comments such as "mentally feeble, sick old ladies" or "just sit here and let Alzheimer's run its course") (via). Of all "leads and co-leads driving the action, only one was a character 60 years of age or older" (via).
"Clearly, there’s more work to be done before we can say precisely how inaccurate media portrayals impact self-image in seniors, from their sense of being valued to their sense of optimism, but what really concerns me as a physician is how a diminished sense of self-worth can, in turn, impact a senior’s health. In our survey, we showed that aging Americans who report feeling more valued in society tend to have more healthy days. At Humana, we believe aging with optimism contributes to health, and that’s why we’re committed to reversing societal perceptions and promoting aging with optimism." Yolangel Hernandez Suarez

photographs of Kathy Bates via and via

Sunday 26 November 2017

Quoting Simone Signoret

"When I was young and beautiful I never appeared on the cover of a magazine. And now at 57 I am on the cover. Suddenly there is this infatuation with a not-so-young woman. It is ironic."
Simone Signoret

"If I have changed, then I only have myself to blame. Out of laziness I let myself go, ... But in the end I wonder if this letting-go hasn't helped me. I haven't lost hours I could have spent looking after my figure, I have spent them living. And it's from having lived that an actor can evolve. It's in ageing that one learns to act better and better, because experience helps you to draw in depth upon what you have known, be they moments of sorrow or joy."
Simone Signoret (cited in Hayward, 2004:22)

"I had begun my life as a woman, Since Daniel and I were the same age, I was too old for him."
Simone Signoret

"Hordes of young girls never copied my hairdos or the way I talk or the way I dress. I have, therefore, never had to go through the stress of perpetuating an image that's often the equivalent of one particular song that forever freezes a precise moment of one's youth."
Simone Signoret

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- Hayward, S. (2004). Simone Signoret: The Star as Cultural Sign. London: Bloomsbury Academic
- photograph of Simone Signoret (1921-1985) via

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Is Extreme Racism a Mental Illness?

"Yes. It can be a delusional symptom of psychotic disorders."
Alvin F. Poussaint

"The American Psychiatric Association has never officially recognized extreme racism (as opposed to ordinary prejudice) as a mental health problem, although the issue was raised more than 30 years ago. After several racist killings in the civil rights era, a group of black psychiatrists sought to have extreme bigotry classified as a mental disorder. The association's officials rejected the recommendation, arguing that because so many Americans are racist, even extreme racism in this country is normative—a cultural problem rather than an indication of psychopathology." Alvin F. Poussaint
According to US-American psychiatrist Alvin Francis Poussaint, perceiving extreme racism as not pathologic means lending it legitimacy. He calls it a delusional symptom as (extreme) racists seek to resolve their internal conflicts by scapegoating a whole group of people. Poussaint also points out positive correlations between extreme prejudice and indicators of psychopathology and mentions the danger of violence (via).  It is unclear how "extreme racism" is operationalised. In addition, if Poussaint is right (and there is something logical about seeing racism as a disorder), legal consequences need to be considered if extreme racism is classified as a mental disorder. In 1981, for instance, a white man killed his Chinese American neigbhour and constructed his defense on his "anxiety neurosis" (he seriously claimed to be afraid of "Orientals" and their martial arts capabilities). There have been attempts to classify racism as a mental illness (e.g. prejudice personality, intolerant personality disorder, pathological bias) for decades. Individualising racism completely may make it more difficult to tackle social inequalities (via). On the other hand, racism could perhaps be made less acceptable by labelling it as a disorder, as "not normal" in a normative sense... More discussion is needed.
"Examining racism’s shifting definition and subsequent treatment as cause and consequence of mental illness asks that we consider what psychologist Steven Bartlett terms the “social consequences of disease labeling.” Framing racism as a mental illness — and therefore an individual problem to be tackled psychologically — makes it harder for policymakers create effective policies to combat everyday social and political inequalities." W. Carson Byrd & James M. Thomas 
"As a clinical psychiatrist, I have treated several patients who projected their own unacceptable behavior and fears onto ethnic minorities, scapegoating them for society's problems. Their strong racist feelings, which were tied to fixed belief systems impervious to reality checks, were symptoms of serious mental dysfunction. When these patients became more aware of their own problems, they grew less paranoid—and less prejudiced." Alvin F. Poussaint

"To be suspicious of a man because of the color of his skin, the texture of his hair, his place of origin, the way he speaks the language, or the area in which he lives, is to be paranoid."
Earle L. Biassey, 1972

Sharon Tate, 26 and eight months pregnant, was one of the nine victims brutally killed by the Manson Family. The slaughtering was orchestrated by Charles Manson, "one of the most virulent racists that ever walked the planet", a psychopath with a swastika etched into his forehead. In order to incite the "race war" he was tired of waiting for, he ordered his followers to carry out the murders leaving words used by black power groups (which his devotees did with the blood of the victims). His followers did as they were told since otherwise they themselves would have been butchered by the remaining blacks who would finally win as they were "essentially savages" (via).
"Black men, thus deprived of the white women whom the political changes of the 1960s had made sexually available to them, would be without an outlet for their frustrations and would lash out in violent crimes against whites. A resultant murderous rampage against blacks by frightened whites would then be exploited by militant blacks to provoke an internecine war of near-extermination between racist and non-racist whites over blacks' treatment. Then the militant blacks would arise to sneakily finish off the few whites they would know to have survived; indeed, they would kill off all non-blacks.In this holocaust, the members of the enlarged Family would have little to fear; they would wait out the war in a secret city that was underneath Death Valley that they would reach through a hole in the ground. As the only actual remaining whites upon the race war's true conclusion, they would emerge from underground to rule the now-satisfied blacks, who, as the vision went, would be incapable of running the world. At that point, Manson "would scratch [the black man's] fuzzy head and kick him in the butt and tell him to go pick the cotton and go be a good nigger"." (via)
"His overriding fantasy was of a race war. He was a loser who would become a winner, and he would do it through white supremacy. The thing he called Helter-Skelter would ignite this war. This was the rationale for the slayings. It was a holy war then against the rich and the powerful. The racial aspects seem to me to be forgotten by those who sought to understand him and who gave him the attention he craved." Suzanne Moore

- Biassey, E. L. (1972). Paranoia and Racism in the United States. Journal of the National Medical Association, 64(4), 353-358.
- Poussaint, A. F. (2002). Is Extreme Racism a Mental Illness? Western Journal of Medicine, 176(1), 4.
- photographs of Sharon Tate (1943-1969) via and via and via and via

Monday 20 November 2017

Narrative images: The Lost Year

"A high school student being educated via television during the period that schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, were closed to avoid integration" (via). The photograph was taken by Thomas O'Halloran in September 1958 (via).

"'The Lost Year' refers to the 1958–59 school year in Little Rock (Pulaski County), when all the city’s high schools were closed in an effort to block desegregation. One year after Governor Faubus used state troops to thwart federal court mandates for desegregation by the Little Rock Nine at Central High School, in September 1958, he invoked newly passed state laws to forestall further desegregation and closed Little Rock’s four high schools: Central High, Hall High, Little Rock Technical High (a white school), and Horace Mann (a black school). A total of 3,665 students, both black and white, were denied a free public education for an entire year which, increased racial tensions and further divided the community into opposing camps.

(...) Perhaps the greatest consequences were the effects on displaced students and their families. Some of the educational alternatives that displaced students found were nearby public schools, in-state public schools where students lived with friends or relatives, out-of-state public and private schools, correspondence courses, parochial schooling, and early entrance into college. Nearby schools such as Jacksonville (Pulaski County) and Mabelvale (Pulaski County) for white students and Wrightsville (Pulaski County) for black students absorbed as many students as they could. Some students, as young as fifteen years old, moved in with relatives in public schools across all of Arkansas, and even out of state. The number of displaced white students was 2,915. Of those, thirty-five percent found public schools to attend in the state. Private schools in Little Rock took forty-four percent of the displaced white students. A total of ninety-three percent of white students found some form of alternative schooling. This was not the case for displaced black students. Among the 750 black students who were displaced, thirty-seven percent found public schools in Arkansas to attend. Some located parochial schooling, out-of-state public and private schooling, and some did enter college early or take correspondence courses. However, fifty percent of displaced black students found no schooling at all. The NAACP, through Roy Wilkins, stated that opening private high schools for displaced black students would defeat their intent to gain equal access for all students to public education. Some of the students from both races went to the military, some went to work, and some married early or simply dropped out. Interviews with many former students indicate lifelong consequences because of this denial of a free public education."

Via/More: The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

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photograph via

Sunday 19 November 2017

National Crowd Symbols, by Elias Canetti (1960)

The following excerpts are taken from Elias Canetti's "Crowds and Power". "Crowds and Power" is considered to be his major work and an outgrowth of his interest in mass psychology, the emotions of crowds, the psychopathology of power, and the allure of fascism. Canetti (1905-1994) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981 (via).

"Most attempts to find out what nations really are have suffered from an intrinsic defect: they have been attempts to define the general concept of nationality. People have said that a nation is this or that, apparently believing that all that mattered was to find the right defmition; once found, this would be applicable to all nations equally. They have adduced language or territory, written literature, history, form of government or so-called national feeling; and in every case the exceptions have proved more important than the rule. It has been like clutching at some adventitious garment, in the belief that the living creature within could be thus grasped.

Apart from this seemingly objective approach, there is another, more naïve one, which consists in being interested in one nation only one's own-and indifferent to all the rest. Its components are an unshakeable belief in the superiority of this one nation; prophetic visions of unique greatness, and a peculiar mixture of moral and feral pretensions. But it must not be assumed that all these national ideologies have the same content. It is only in their importunate appetite and the claims they make that they are alike. They want the same thing. but in themselves they are different. They want aggrandisement, and substantiate their claim with the fact of their increase. There is no nation, it seems, which has not been promised the whole earth, and none which is not bound to inherit it in the course of nature. All the other nations who hear of this feel threatened, and their fear blinds them to everything except the threat. Thus people overlook the fact that the concrete contents of these national claims. the real ideologies behind them, are very different from one another. One must take the trouble to fmd out what is peculiar in each nation; and do it without being infected by its greed. One must stand apart, a devotee of none, but profoundly and honestly interested in all of them. One should allow each to unfold in one's mind as though one were condemned actually to belong to it for a good part of a lifetime. But one must never surrender entirely to one at the cost of all the others.

For it is idle to speak of nations as though there were not real differences between them. They wage long wars against one another and a considerable proportion of each nation takes an active part in these wars. "What they are fighting for is proclaimed often enough, but what they fight as is unknown. It is true they have a name for it; they say they fight as Frenchmen or as Germans, English or Japanese. But what meaning is attached to any of these words by the person using it of himself? In what does he believe himself to be different when, as a Frenchman or a German, a Japanese or an Englishman, he goes to war? The factual differences do not matter so much. An investigation of customs, traditions, politics and literature, could be thorough and still not touch the distinctive character of a nation, that which, when it goes to war, becomes its faith.

Thus nations are regarded here as though they were religions; and they do in fact tend to tum into something resembling religions from time to time. The germ is always latent in them, becoming active in times of war.

We can take it for granted that no member of a nation ever sees himself as alone. As soon as he is named, or names himself, something more comprehensive moves into his consciousness, a larger unit to which he feels himself to be related. The nature of this unit is no more a matter of indifference than his relationship to it. It is not simply the geographical unit of his country, as it is found on a map; the average man is indifferent to this. Frontiers may have their tension for him, but not the whole area of a country. Nor does he think of his language, distinctly and recognisably though this may differ from that of others. Words which are familiar to him certainly affect him deeply, and especially in times of excitement. But it is not a vocabulary which stands behind him, and which he is ready to fight for. And the history of his nation means even less to the man in the street. He does not know its true course, nor the fullness of its continuity. He does not know how his nation used to live, and only a few of the names of those who lived before him. The figures and moments of which he is aware are remote from anything the proper historian understands as history.

The larger unit to which he feels himself related is always a crowd or a crowd symbol. It always has some of the characteristics of crowds or their symbols: density, growth and infinite openness; surprising, or very striking, cohesion; a common rhythm or a sudden discharge. Many of these symbols have already been treated at length, for example, sea, forest and com. It is unnecessary to recapitulate here the qualities and functions which have made them crowd symbols. They will recur in the discussion of the conceptions and feelings nations have about themselves. But it must be stressed that these crowd symbols are never seen as naked or isolated. Every member of a nation always sees himself, or his picture of himself, in a fixed relationship to the particular symbol which has become the most important for his nation. In its periodic reappearance when the moment demands it lies the continuity of national feeling. A nation's consciousness of itself changes when, and only when, its symbol changes. It is less immutable than one supposes, a fact which offers some hope for the continued existence of mankind."


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photographs via and via

Saturday 11 November 2017

Ethnocentrism and the Tragedy World Map

"Cultural proximity, or how relatable an event is due to audience’s identifying with the protagonists, has been noted in influencing viewer preferences (Straubhaar, 1991) and has been shown to be an important variable in how the media select and frame stories (Galtung & Ruge, 1965; Moeller, 2006; Cottle, 2013). Summed rather crudely by a Sky US correspondent, cultural proximity means that, in terms of media value, “one British person equals however many Bangladeshi etcetera” (in Cottle, 2013: 235). The 2004 East Asia tsunami provides the exemplary instance of this in action, with the CARMA report finding 40 percent of all the media’s coverage focused on westerners affected by the disaster, who made up less than one percent of the victims (Franks, 2006)."
Callum Martin, 2015

"The international news calculus is always the same. First, is there a local person in the disaster or on board a plane that has crashed? If so, the local victims get intense focus that simplifies [the] international crisis or conflict for readers. … Overall, there is this concept of ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ victims in the media."
Jack Lule, Lehigh University

- Flooding in 2017, some headlines and excerpts:

"As Storm Harvey threatens Louisiana and leaves heavy floods across parts of Texas, thousands of people affected by disasters in Asia and Africa have also been tweeting and sharing pictures of their experiences.
But news outlets have focussed headlines and bulletins largely on the disaster in the US, prompting accusations from social media users of giving disproportionate attention to stories about wealthier countries."
BBC, August 2017

"Harvey has gathered headlines as the most powerful storm to hit Texas in half a century, but floods have killed many more people in Africa and Asia this year amid extreme weather worldwide."
VOA News, August 2017

"More than 1,200 people have died across India, Bangladesh and Nepal as a result of flooding, with 40 million affected by the devastation."
The Guardian, August 2017

"Houston animals are lost, cold and suffering too"
Newsweek, August 2017

"27 cats, 8 dogs rescued from Houston flooding arrive at MaxFund Denver"
The Denver Post, September 2017

- Ebola

"How the world ignored Africa’s Ebola tragedy
Had the deadly virus started in the West, the response would have been vastly different"
The Daily Telegraph, October 2014

"(...) despite taking thousands of lives in Africa, Ebola did not capture the global spotlight until the first Americans became infected and arrived back in the United States for treatment."
Forbes, February 2016

- Some more examples

"When Nepal was struck with an earthquake, nearly a quarter of all global coverage in the first 24 hours was about the foreign tourists trapped on Mount Everest."
Forbes, February 2016

"(...) the November 2015 Paris attacks garnered more than nine times the global media attention as the April 2015 Kenyan attack, despite the Garissa attack involving the targeted killing of children at school."
Forbes, February 2016

"In the case of Zika, Google Trends shows that interest in the virus did not really begin until this past December and accelerated in January as the first American infection was confirmed and concerns rose over the potential of the Summer Olympics to create a global epidemic."
Forbes, February 2016

"Guatemala experienced one of the worst earthquakes in this century in the Western hemisphere,” with the official death toll later put at 4,000. “Yet, proportionate to the number of victims, it received one-third of the coverage given the Italian earthquake” that killed nearly 1,000 people that year."
William C. Adams, George Washington University

"As media coverage focused on the Paris terror attacks last week [leaving 17 dead], more than 2000 Nigerians were reported to have been killed by Islamist militants. What makes one massacre more newsworthy than another?"
The Guardian, January 2015

- Finally:

"The majority of what we know about the latest on the Syrian civil war, or reconstruction in Haiti or the spread of the Zika virus is determined by editorial decisions of what is “important” or “relevant” for us to know. As computer algorithms begin to play an ever-growing role in making these decisions for us, we are fast reaching a world where “likes” will become the new arbitrator of what is important in the world and where, in spite of more and more information, we will know less and less."
Forbes, February 2016

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images via and via and via

Wednesday 8 November 2017

The Cyrus Cylinder: The First Charter of Human Rights

The rugby ball-sized clay cylinder was made on the order of the Persian King Cyrus about 2.600 years ago, at a time, the empire stretched from the Balkans to Central Asia. Cyrus had the reputation of being a "liberal and enlightened monarch", his empire was "the first model based on diversity and tolerance of different cultures and religions", a model that later inspired Jefferson, Truman, and King George V. Some scientists call it the "first bill on human rights" (via and via). A replica of the world's first charter of human rights is kept at the United Nations Headquarters (via).

An excerpt from the cylinder:
“I ordered that all shall be free to worship their gods without harm … I ordered closed places of worship … to be reopened. … I brought their people together and rebuilt their homes.”
"Cyrus’ words heralded an exemplary policy of religious tolerance, producing stability across his vast multicultural domain — and suggesting that more freedom, rather than less, can be a recipe for a safer and more secure world."
Katrina Lantos Swett & Daniel I. Mark

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photograph via

Monday 6 November 2017

Narrative images: The Last Day Women Walked the Streets of Tehran with Their Heads Uncovered

"This turned out to be the last day women walked the streets of Tehran uncovered. It was our first disappointment with the new post-revolution rulers of Iran."
Hengameh Golestan

On 8 March 1979, Iranian women protested against the new "Hijab Law" that had been introduced the day before. Women, from that day on, have been forced to wear scarves when leaving the house.

"Many people in Tehran went on strike and took to the streets. It was a huge demonstration with women – and men – from all professions there, students, doctors, lawyers. We were fighting for freedom: political and religious, but also individual."
Hengameh Golestan

photographs taken by Hengameh Golestan via and via and via

Saturday 4 November 2017

I, Too

Langston Hughes's poem "I, Too" was first published in 1926. Today, the quote "I, too, am America" is written in large letters on the wall of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture that opened in Washington, DC in 2016.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

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In 18 lines, Hughes expresses the relationship of black US-Americans to the majority society, its complexity, its pain.
"There is a multi-dimensional pun in the title, “I, too” in the lines that open and close the poem. If you hear the word as the number two, it suddenly shifts the terrain to someone who is secondary, subordinate, even, inferior.Hughes powerfully speaks for the second-class, those excluded. The full-throated drama of the poem portrays African-Americans moving from out of sight, eating in the kitchen, and taking their place at the dining room table co-equal with the “company” that is dining. Intriguingly, Langston doesn’t amplify on who owns the kitchen. The house, of course, is the United States and the owners of the house and the kitchen are never specified or seen because they cannot be embodied. Hughes’ sly wink is to the African-Americans who worked in the plantation houses as slaves and servants. He honors those who lived below stairs or in the cabins. Even excluded, the presence of African-Americans was made palpable by the smooth running of the house, the appearance of meals on the table, and the continuity of material life. Enduring the unendurable, their spirit lives now in these galleries and among the scores of relic artifacts in the museum’s underground history galleries and in the soaring arts and culture galleries at the top of the bronze corona-shaped building." David C. Ward
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Photograph of Langston Hughes taken by the great Gordon Parks in Illinois, 1941 via