Thursday, 15 August 2019

Job Descriptions: Male-Coded or Female-Coded?

After scanning 75.000 job advertisements in the U.K. for gendered words, Totaljobs came to the conclusion that hidden bias can have an enormous impact on job descriptions. Here are a few findings:

The most commonly used male-gendered words were: lead, analyse, competitive, active, confident; the most commonly used female-gendered words were: support, responsible, understanding, dependable, committed. By industry, the strongest bias was found in education (67% female bias) and science (62% male bias) (via).

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photograph by Vivian Maier via

Monday, 12 August 2019

"... brilliance and dullness have no age delineation despite any shaming rhetoric."

"The notion that age is a realistic predictor of skills, relevance, wisdom and value is bollocks. It is not, nor will ever be, the total determinant of connectivity, smarts and success. There are just so many other components to throw in and mix in the evaluation pot.

Indeed brilliance and dullness have no age delineation despite any shaming rhetoric. It is not only the quantity and type of experiences in life that matter and shape us mere humans, but the depth and quality of learning embraced and application. And that is where the rubber can stick or slip off the road in the ageism malarkey."
Sue Parker

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photograph by Vivian Maier via

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Toni Morrison's Nobel Lecture (1993)

“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures.

“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”

In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.

One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, “Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.”

She does not answer, and the question is repeated. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?”

Still she doesn’t answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.

The old woman’s silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.

Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. “I don’t know”, she says. “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”

Her answer can be taken to mean: if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.

For parading their power and her helplessness, the young visitors are reprimanded, told they are responsible not only for the act of mockery but also for the small bundle of life sacrificed to achieve its aims. The blind woman shifts attention away from assertions of power to the instrument through which that power is exercised.

Speculation on what (other than its own frail body) that bird-in-the-hand might signify has always been attractive to me, but especially so now thinking, as I have been, about the work I do that has brought me to this company. So I choose to read the bird as language and the woman as a practiced writer. She is worried about how the language she dreams in, given to her at birth, is handled, put into service, even withheld from her for certain nefarious purposes. Being a writer she thinks of language partly as a system, partly as a living thing over which one has control, but mostly as agency – as an act with consequences. So the question the children put to her: “Is it living or dead?” is not unreal because she thinks of language as susceptible to death, erasure; certainly imperiled and salvageable only by an effort of the will. She believes that if the bird in the hands of her visitors is dead the custodians are responsible for the corpse. For her a dead language is not only one no longer spoken or written, it is unyielding language content to admire its own paralysis. Like statist language, censored and censoring. Ruthless in its policing duties, it has no desire or purpose other than maintaining the free range of its own narcotic narcissism, its own exclusivity and dominance. However moribund, it is not without effect for it actively thwarts the intellect, stalls conscience, suppresses human potential. Unreceptive to interrogation, it cannot form or tolerate new ideas, shape other thoughts, tell another story, fill baffling silences. Official language smitheryed to sanction ignorance and preserve privilege is a suit of armor polished to shocking glitter, a husk from which the knight departed long ago. Yet there it is: dumb, predatory, sentimental. Exciting reverence in schoolchildren, providing shelter for despots, summoning false memories of stability, harmony among the public.

She is convinced that when language dies, out of carelessness, disuse, indifference and absence of esteem, or killed by fiat, not only she herself, but all users and makers are accountable for its demise. In her country children have bitten their tongues off and use bullets instead to iterate the voice of speechlessness, of disabled and disabling language, of language adults have abandoned altogether as a device for grappling with meaning, providing guidance, or expressing love. But she knows tongue-suicide is not only the choice of children. It is common among the infantile heads of state and power merchants whose evacuated language leaves them with no access to what is left of their human instincts for they speak only to those who obey, or in order to force obedience.

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

The old woman is keenly aware that no intellectual mercenary, nor insatiable dictator, no paid-for politician or demagogue; no counterfeit journalist would be persuaded by her thoughts. There is and will be rousing language to keep citizens armed and arming; slaughtered and slaughtering in the malls, courthouses, post offices, playgrounds, bedrooms and boulevards; stirring, memorializing language to mask the pity and waste of needless death. There will be more diplomatic language to countenance rape, torture, assassination. There is and will be more seductive, mutant language designed to throttle women, to pack their throats like paté-producing geese with their own unsayable, transgressive words; there will be more of the language of surveillance disguised as research; of politics and history calculated to render the suffering of millions mute; language glamorized to thrill the dissatisfied and bereft into assaulting their neighbors; arrogant pseudo-empirical language crafted to lock creative people into cages of inferiority and hopelessness. (...)

text (c) The Nobel Foundation, excerpts via

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photograph via

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Quoting Toni Morrison

“I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”
Toni Morrison

“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
Toni Morrison

“What I think the political correctness debate is really about is the power to be able to define. The definers want the power to name. And the defined are now taking that power away from them.”
Toni Morrison

“Black literature is taught as sociology, as tolerance, not as a serious, rigorous art form.”
Toni Morrison

“I don't think anybody cares about unwed mothers unless they're black or poor. The question is not morality, the question is money. That's what we're upset about.”
Toni Morrison

“Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way, he thought, they were right. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread. In, through and after life, it spread, until it invaded the whites who had made it. Touched them every one. Changed and altered them. Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.”
Toni Morrison

“I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked [James] Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don't know why I should be asked to explain your life to you. We have splendid writers to do that, but I am not one of them. It is that business of being universal, a word hopelessly stripped of meaning for me. Faulkner wrote what I suppose could be called regional literature and had it published all over the world. That's what I wish to do. If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water. Behind this question is the suggestion that to write for black people is somehow to diminish the writing. From my perspective there are only black people. When I say 'people,' that's what I mean.”
Toni Morrison

“I always looked upon the acts of racist exclusion, or insult, as pitiable, for the other person. I never absorbed that. I always thought that there was something deficient about such people. ”
Toni Morrison

“Black people are victims of an enormous amount of violence. None of those things can take place without the complicity of the people who run the schools and the city.”
Toni Morrison

“Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this.”
Toni Morrison

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photographs (with her yournger son Slade and Angela Davis) via and (with Angela Davis) via

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

French Music, German Comedy? Ministers, Stereotypes and "the French equivalent of the Beatles".

"Given that the country appointed a Minister for Rock, it's strange that France has made such a pitiful contribution to pop and rock culture. It's a bit like the Germans having a Minister for Comedy."
David Stubbs

Claude Antoine Marie François (1939-1978) was a French singer, composer, songwriter (he co-wrote the lyrics of the original version of "My Way"), dancer, icon and "the French equivalent of the Beatles" (via).

Claude François Link Pack:

::: J'Attendrai: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Les majorettes: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Si douce à mon souvenir: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Même si tu revenais: WATCH/LISTEN
::: J'ai perdu ma chance: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Cette année-là: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Mais combien de temps?: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Magnolias for ever: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Belles, belles, belles: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Il fait beau, il fait bon: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Si tu veux être heureux: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Chanson populaire: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Alexandrie, Alexandra: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Je vais à Rio: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Le Téléphone Pleure: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Je viens dîner ce soir: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Mais quand le matin: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Toi et moi contre le monde entier: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Laisse une chance à notre amour: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Soudain il ne reste qu'une chanson: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Toi et le soleil: WATCH/LISTEN
::: Fleur sauvage: WATCH/LISTEN

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image via

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Outsmarting Men, Losing Attraction

"Six studies revealed that when evaluating psychologically distant targets, men showed greater attraction toward women who displayed more (vs. less) intelligence than themselves. In contrast, when targets were psychologically near, men showed less attraction toward women who outsmarted them."
Park et al., 2015

- Park, L. E., Young, A. F. & Eastwick, P. W. (2015). (Psychological) Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Effects of Psychological Distance and Relative Intelligence on Men's Attraction to Women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(11), 1459-1473.
- photograph by Vivian Maier via

Monday, 29 July 2019

Mr Rogers' and François Clemmons' Famous Footbath

Fred McFeely Rogers (1928-2003) created "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood", a children's programme that began airing in the U.S. in 1968, was the host of all 895 episodes, composed more than 200 songs. "More importantly, he changed the face of children’s television and transformed the way we think about the inner lives of young children." (via)

As different as we are from one another, as unique as each one of us is, we are much more the same than we are different. That may be the most essential message of all, as we help our children grow toward being caring, compassionate, and charitable adults.
Fred Rogers
In a 1969 episode, on a hot day, Fred Rogers invited François Clemmons, who embodied a friendly police officer for 30 years and the first recurring black character on a children's series, to join him in taking a footbath. This was "one of those giant leaps for mankind moments" (via) since at the time, many community pools did not "welcome" black US-Americans (via).
Fred came to me and said, “I have this idea, you could be a police officer.” That kind of stopped me in my tracks. I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were sicking police dogs and water hoses on people. And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all.
François Scarborough Clemmons
He invited me to come over and to rest my feet in the water with him. The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin as two friends, but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet.
I think he was making a very strong statement. That was his way. I still was not convinced that Officer Clemmons could have a positive influence in the neighborhood and in the real-world neighborhood, but I think I was proven wrong.
François Scarborough Clemmons
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image via

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Social Segregation, Teachers, and Recruitment Gap

"It has long been recognised that schools serving disadvantaged communities are more likely to be staffed by teachers without qualified teacher status, with fewer years of experience and by non-specialist science and maths teachers. Inequality in access to suitably qualified, high quality teachers is likely to be an important contributor to the attainment gap that exists between students who come from disadvantaged families and those who do not."

According to a survey conducted among more than 7.000 primary and secondary teachers in the U.K., schools serving disadvantaged communities struggle finding qualified teachers, particularly in core subjects such as mathematics and sciences. Teachers believe that these schools involve harder work and require more skills while they prefer to teach pupils with fewer behavioural problems. However, 80% would consider a move to a school with recruitment difficulties if the conditions (pay, promotion, reduced timetable) were right (via and via).

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photograph by Henry Grant (1966) via, copyright by Henry Grant Collection and Museum of London

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Less Than Human, by Livingstone Smith (2011)

Think of the word dehumanization. It literally means something like "removing the human-ness." Now, take someone and imagine that their humanity has been stripped away from them. What's left? When the founding fathers dehumanized their slaves, what remained of them? When European colonists dehumanized Native Americans of Nazis dehumanized Jews, what remained? In their eyes, what was left was a creater that seemend human - had a human-looking form, walked on two legs, spoke human language, and acted in more-or-less human ways - but which was nonetheless not human.

Describing human beings as rats or cockroaches is a symptom of something more powerful and more dangerous - something that's vitally importang for us to understand. It reflects how one thinks about them, and thinking of a person as subhuman isn't the same as calling them names. Calling people names is an effort to hurt or humiliate them. It's the use of language as a weapon. But dehumanizing a person involves judging them to be less than human. It's intended as a description rather than as an attack, and as such is a departure from reality - a form of self-deception.
(...) We are all potential dehumanizers, just as we are all potential objects of dehumanization.

The uneasy relationship between the economic attractions of slavery and the Enlightenmen vision of human dignity was a long-standing one, and for those torn between the demands of conscience and the seductions of self-interst, there was a way out of the dilemma. They could deny that African slaves were human, and in this way they could square the moral circle.

Thinking sets the agenda for action, and thinking of humans as less than human paves the way for atrocity. The Nazis were explicit about the status of their victims. they were Untermenschen - subhumans - and as such were excluded from the system of moral rights and obligations that bind humankind together. It's wrong to kill a person, but permissible to exterminate a rat. to the Nazis, all the Jews, Gypsies, and the others were rats: dangerous, disease-carrying rats.
(...) Sometimes the Nazis thought of their enemies as vicious, bloodthirsty predators rather than parasites.

What about the Americans and their English-speaking allies? We were the good guys, weren't we? Allied personnel also dehumanized their enemies (as one soldier wrote in a letter home, "It is very wrong to kill people, but a damn Nazi is not human, he is more like a dog") but on the whole dehumanized the Germans less than they did the Japanese. Germans, after all, were fellow Anglo-Saxons - strapping blue-eyed boys who might just as well have grown up on farms in Oklahoma. But the Japanese were another story. A poll of U.S. servicemen indicated that 44 percent would like to kill a Japanese soldier while only 6 percent felt the same way about Germans.
The "Japs" were considered animals, and were often portrayed as monkeys, apes, or rodents, and sometimes as insects (...).

It's all too easy to imagine that the Third Reich was a bizarre aberration, a kind of mass insanity instigated by a small group of deranged ideologues who conspired to seize political power and bend a nation to their will. Alternatively, it's tempting to imagine that the Germans were (or are) a uniquely cruel and bloodthirsty people. But these diagnoses are dangerously wrong. What's most disturbing about the Nazi phenomenon is not that the Nazis were madmen or monsters. It's that they were ordinary human beings.

Like their German allies, the Japanese believed that they were the highest form of human life, and considered their enemies inferior at best and subhuman at worst. American and British leaders were depicted with horns sprouting from their temples, and sporting tails, claws, or fangs. The Japanese labeled their enemies as demons (oni), devils (kichiku), evil spirits (akki and akuma), monsters (kaibutsu), and "hairy, twisted-nosed savages". Americans were Mei-ri-ken, a double entendre translated as "misguided dog".
(...) We called the Chines 'chancorro' ... that meant below human, like bugs or animals. ... The Chinese didn't belong to the human race. That was the way we looked at it.

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- Livingstone Smith, D. (2011). Less Than Human. Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others. New York: St. Martin's Press (excerpts)
- photograph by Roy DeCarava (Boy Playing, Man Walking, 1966) via

Monday, 22 July 2019

Cages, the Myopic Focus and the Macroscopic View

Cages. Consider a bird cage. If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires. If your conception of what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you could look at that one wire, up and down the length of it, and be unable to see why a bird could not just fly around the wire any time it wanted to go somewhere. Furthermore, even if, one day at a time, you myopically inspected each wire, you still could not see why a bird would have trouble going past the wires to get anywhere.

It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere; and then you will see it in a moment. It will require no great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.
Frye, 1983:23

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- Frye, M. (1983). The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory. Crossing Press.
- photograph (Trentham Racecourse, Upper Hutt, 1970) via

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Narrative images: Daddy, I want to be free (1961)

"This photograph captures William Edwin Jones as he pushes his daughter Renee Andrewnetta Jones during a protest march on Main Street in Memphis, Tennessee, in August of 1961. The father and daughter walk past a car full of white policeman who appear to be watching the protest. In a later interview, 8-month-old Renee who grew up to be a pediatrician, recalls that day as passed down by her parents to her. She noted that the protesters on that particular day were all fathers with their daughters. The mothers and the sons were to remain home in case violence broke out, in order to protect at least half of each family." (via)

Ernest Columbus Withers (1922-2007) was a photojournalist who documented the Civil Rights Movement and captured the segregated South. Withers was known for travelling with Martin Luther King, Jr. and for covering the Emmett Till murder trial (via).
“A veteran freelancer for America’s black press, Withers was known as ‘the original civil rights photographer,’ an insider who’d covered it all, from the Emmett Till murder that jump-started the movement in 1955 to the Little Rock school crisis, the integration of Ole Miss and, now, the 1968 sanitation strike that brought King to Memphis and his death.” (via)
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photograph via

Monday, 15 July 2019


The root of the word "oppression" is the element "press". The press of the crowd; pressed into military service; to press a pair of pants; printing press; press the button. Presses are used to mold things or flatten them or reduce them in bulk, sometimes to reduce them by squeezing out the gasses or liquids in them. Something pressed is something caught between or among forces and barriers which are so related to each other that jointly they restrain, restrict, or prevent the thing's motion or mobility. Mold. Immobilize. Reduce.
Frye, 2000:11

- Frye, M. (2000). Oppression. In A. Minas (ed.) Gender Basics: Feminist Perspectives on Women and Men (10-16). Wadsworth.
- photograph (woman selling balloons on a Chicago South Side street corner at Sox Park Baseball Field, June 1973) via

Thursday, 11 July 2019

A lot of Hell but a Good Time. Nina Simone.

Do you think that your child will be living through the revolutionary years?

"I don't know, love. Whatever it is she's going to have pride in her own blackness. She's going to have a chance to be more than just somebody who's on the outside looking in. Like it's been for most of us, and my parents before me, but she may see more bloodshed than I've ever even dreamed of. I have no way of knowing that evolution. The cycle goes round and round. It's time for us."

"It's a good time for black people to be alive. It's a lot of hell, a lot of violence, but I feel more alive now than I ever have in my life. I have a chance to live as I've dreamed." (via)

photographs via and via and via

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Diversity is Logical. And this Weblog is Six Years Old.

After six years, 895 postings and 9.001.362 views, another big thank-you to my 6.731 subscribers. I would like to particularly thank those who in the past six years kept dropping by leaving lovely comments. Thank you ever so much and live long and prosper!

Spockified photograph by Paperwalker, original Spock painting via

Friday, 5 July 2019

Who Cares? Caring Responsibilities, Age and Gender.

“An ageing population means more older workers may take on caring responsibilities, particularly for a parent. We have shown that working and caring is being combined, particularly by women who are twice as likely than men to combine working and caring.”
Sarah Crofts

People in their 50s and 60s have the most caring responsibilities, particularly if they are women. According to a report published by the Office for National Statistics, there are some distinct gender differences when it comes to caring: Male carers are less likely to work than men without caring duties, women are equally likely to be in work whether they are carers or not, older female workers are twice as likely as older male workers to be informal workers, men tend to care for a spouse or the parents, women often care for a broader range including people who are non-relatives.
Alongside 6.5 million personal stories of the frustration, despair, satisfaction and joy of caring, caring is also rapidly becoming one of the biggest political challenges of the 21st century.
Caring can be rewarding but it may also force carers into "ill-health, poverty and isolation". In fact, 65% of carers in the U.K. aged 60 to 94 have either long-term health problems or disabilities (via).

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photograph via

Monday, 1 July 2019

When Dave Brubeck Was Six Years Old...

Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) was six years old when he was on a cattle-buyer trip with his father, Pete, and saw "something that would haunt him for the rest of his life". Pete Brubeck asked a black cowboy called "Shine" to come over and greet his son Dave.

Pete Brubeck then asked Shine to open his shirt. Brubeck, then only 6, watched as Shine unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a brand on his chest: He had been marked like cattle. Shine was the first black person Brubeck had ever seen. A furious Pete Brubeck told his son that "something like this never should happen again."
Later, Dave Brubeck said in an interview that it had an impact on him he would never forget. "I thought, 'What can I do about this?' It's like my dad (was) telling me to do something about it." 
Dave Brubeck was more than a jazz legend and the "Ambassador of the Cool"; he was also a champion for civil rights. And, as John Blake writes, Brubeck "was bigger than all of that".
Brubeck and other white jazz musicians joined a community where they were the minority, where their skin tone was not the norm. At the beginning, the black experience was foreign to Brubeck but differences were something he did not find threatening but inspiring.
Brubeck was a champion for democracy as well as jazz. It's often forgotten that many of the exotic rhythms he infused into his music came from tours his quartet took of the Middle and Far East. The State Department sponsored these tours to promote democracy during the Cold War. Brubeck often compared jazz to democracy, saying both challenged individuals to express their freedom while being disciplined enough to respect the freedom of others.
Unsquare Dance:

One day, Brubeck heard a knock on his hotel door. He opened it to find Ellington, smiling and holding several copies of Time magazine. Brubeck was on the cover. His heart sank. Ellington was his friend. He knew that Time had also been interviewing Ellington, and Brubeck thought the jazz composer deserved the honor over him.
"I wanted to be on the cover after Duke," Brubeck told the narrator in Ken Burns' epic documentary on jazz. "The worst thing that could have happened to me was that I was there before Duke, and he was delivering the news to me." (via)
During World War II, Brubeck's Wolfpack Band was the only integrated jazz band in the army. In the 1950s, the Dave Brubeck Quartet became the most famous jazz group in the U.S. Nevertheless, they were turned away from hotels, and not only in the South. The South was "the worst trouble" which did not keep Brubeck from leading his integrated band "through the South in the tumultuous years between the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Freedom Riders, refusing to compromise the group's identity for the prejudice of Jim Crow" (via).
Brubeck refused to compromise. He cancelled gigs at Georgia Tech, Memphis State, and elsewhere. He took a similar stand on the Bell Telephone Hour, a musical TV program, when the producers made a similar ultimatum. "I told him that we weren't going to change," Brubeck recalled. "And, they said, 'Well, then we can't have you.' And I said, 'All right, I'm not going to do your television show.' (Later, he refused $17,000 to play in South Africa under apartheid.)
"Jazz stands for freedom," Brubeck said. For him, it also stood for loyalty and principle.
In 1960, after colleges demanded again that Brubeck substitute a white bassist for Wright, Brubeck cancelled 23 of 25 dates on a tour of Southern universities, a decision that cost the group an estimated $40,000. (The average annual U.S. income at that time was around $5,000.)
Another time, also in the South, before a gym of college students whose enthusiasm was approaching a riot, the governor and the college president came to a last-minute agreement to allow the band to play. "Now you can go on with the understanding that you'll keep Eugene Wright in the background where he can't be seen too well," the governor said to Brubeck, making sure the bassist's mic was off.
But Brubeck had other ideas: "I told Eugene," he recalled in conversation with Hedrick Smith, "You gotta come in front of the band to play your solo." The crowd went crazy.
"Nobody was against my black bass player," Brubeck said. "They cheered him like he was the greatest thing that ever happened for the students."
"We integrated the school that night." (via)
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photograph via

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

The Peanut Butter Falcon

"A young boy with Down syndrome runs away to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional wrestler" (via).

Zack Gottsagen is an actor, recipient of 2018 Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award and the first person with Down syndrome to be fully included in the Palm Beach County School district (via).
In the movie, Zak escapes his residential nursing home to follow his dream of training under his professional wrestling idol. Along the way, Zak encounters Tyler, “a small-time outlaw on the run”. The pair work their way through a series of obstacles while convincing Eleanor, the nursing home employee tasked with bringing Zak back, to join the adventure.

“The Peanut Butter Falcon,” written and directed by Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson, was created for Gottsagen. Schwartz and Nilson met Gottsagen at a disability acting camp. Gottsagen challenged the filmmakers to create a role for a character with Down syndrome since initially, they said they didn’t see any films that starred people like Gottsagen. (shortened version, via)

Tuesday, 25 June 2019


Mr Newman is 82. He has lived through several regimes. He graduated from university and became an expert in his field. With is wife he raised three children...

Commercial for "Diakonie", a charity helping the elderly in Czech Republic.
Nominated for the Young Director Award, Cannes Lions 2011
Winner, Best International Idea, Golden Stiletto Awards 2011
Winner, Most successful campaign, Zihadlo Marketing Awards 2011 (via)

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Find Your Greatness

In 2012, Nike launched the "Find Your Greatness" campaign showing "everyday athletes around the world training, playing and competing" (via).

One of the many messages:
"If we think greatness is supposed to look a certain way, act a certain way and play a certain way, we certainly need to rethink some things."

This is really beautiful.

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image via

Thursday, 20 June 2019

My Mayor

Just when I thought I couldn't be a bigger fan of the Mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala posted this photograph on Facebook pointing out that Pride will be starting tomorrow and that Milan is a city of human rights and duties (via).

photograph of Beppe Sala via

Monday, 17 June 2019

Only in England

Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) was an English photographer, or rather, "a social anthropologist with a camera". He photographed English rituals of Eton boarding school, beauty contests, pop festivals, the street, and the seaside (via).
Intrigued by the eccentricities of English social customs, Tony Ray-Jones spent the latter half of the 1960s travelling across England, photographing what he saw as a disappearing way of life.
Science Media Museum

"My aim is to communicate something of the spirit and the mentality of the English, their habits and their way of life, the ironies that exist in the way they do things, partly through their traditions and partly through the nature of their environment and their mentality. For me there is something very special about the English 'way of life' and I wish to record it from my particular point of view before it becomes Americanised and disappears."
Tony Ray-Jones

"In his photographs, the recent English past does indeed seem like another country, but one that, for all the strangeness he captures, remains oddly familiar."
Martin Parr

- photographs via and via and via and via and via and via
- more photographs: LINK

Friday, 14 June 2019

"We play for a nation that doesn't even know our names." Women Playing Football

The first Women's World Cup was held in Italy in 1970, a decade that was characterised by several countries lifting their ban on women's football and establishing new teams across Europe and North America (via). Currently, the eight edition of FIFA Women's World Cup is being hosted in France (via). Generally speaking, it surely does not get the media coverage the FIFA (Mens') World Cup gets but in Britain, it is attracting a bigger audience than cricket (via).

Before 1921, women's football flourished in England with about 150 women's teams whose matches "pulled bigger crowds than most men's games". Then women were banned from playing football on pitches with spectator facilities, i.e. professional stadiums, since the sport was "quite unsuitable for females". This ban was lifted in 1971 (via), the same year women's football "hit the big time" in Mexico, "a success because the organisers did not assume it would be a commercial or sporting failure. It was sold and promoted as football tournament, one that just happened to feature women" (via).
Women's participation in football also provides a good example of the mutual ripple effect that can exist between a sport's level of television coverage and its increasing uptake in the community. Since the 2011 World Cup, media coverage of international women's football fixtures has steadily gained traction – not least on the back of the French team's commendable performances, which have subsequently pulled in higher audiences. Alongside these television and sports performances, the number of female members of football clubs has soared since the 2010-2011 season (+90%).
Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel, 2017:10
Here is a strong message of female empowerment (Germany's Women's World Cup advert):

photograph (French team, 1979, photo credit: AFP/CARL FOURIE) via 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Quoting Eli Wallach

"This country has a complex about age. It's unbelievable. If you're over thirty, you've had it in this country."
Eli Wallach

image of Eli Wallach (1915-2014) via

Monday, 10 June 2019

Quoting Lee Van Cleef

In an interview, Lee Van Cleef was asked about the "intercultural communication conditions" in Italy, if everybody involved in making the film "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" was speaking English.

"No. Not then. Everybody speaks English now, for the most part. For your somewhat better films, your major actors do speak English now, mostly; unless they're in there doin' somebody a favor and won't speak anything but their own tongue, which I think they're making a mistake , there. And in some of your cheapies now, they won't. But in the old days - well, I say the old days, it was fourteen, fifteen years ago and ` before that - everybody would be speaking in their own tongue. Leone couldn't speak English to begin with. He speaks it very well now, but in the first picture he could hardly speak it at all, and we had an interpreter on both of the pictures I did for him. There was one scene in For a Few Dollars More that I was in where there were five languages spoken: Greek, Italian, German, Spanish, and a Cockney Englishman that I couldn't understand any better than I could understand the Greek! But I got along in it, because I knew what everybody was supposed to be saying in English by my script. So, when they'd stop speakin', then I would say something. Also, I began to pick up some of the Italian and Spanish which was prevalent over there."
Lee Van Cleef

"Did any of your fellow actors ever express or hint at any resentments towards you, as an American on a European set; as if to suggest you had taken the job away from a more deserving local" I asked.

"No, I never felt it. I think that the people in the know, they understand that as well as an art, it's an international business and a money game. Because it's international, you have people with different nationalities in damn near every film today. Even American ' producers will go over to Europe to get money to pre-sell a picture. As a consequence, to get this money, they may sometimes have to take actors and technicians from the countries they're negotiating with - or I'm sure : in a lot of cases, they want to take them, because there's a lot of fine people abroad. So, if you're going to make a film anywhere, and you're going to want money from Italy, money from Spain, from Mexico, from Canada, then they will own a film for their particular areas, or however you negotiate it - there's no two alike - and you've got people from all over the world in one fllm.
But we got along fine. No problem at all. You'd be surprised how many over there do speak English now, cause the actors have had to learn. It wasn't that way before. I'd usually pal around with somebody who commanded both English as well as the tongues of anybody there around me. The stunt man I had over there for quite some time spoke English very well, and both Spanish and Italian. My wife speaks a little bit of Spanish, too, and I speak enough Italian now to make myself understood."
Lee Van Cleef

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image of Lee Van Cleef (1925-1989) via

Friday, 7 June 2019

Quoting Clint Eastwood

"I'm interested in the fact that the less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice."
Clint Eastwood

image via

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Hysterical, Emotional, Exaggerating: Women, Bias and Undertreatment of Pain

"There is now a well-established body of literature documenting the pervasive inadequate treatment of pain in this country. There have also been allegations, and some data, supporting the notion that women are more likely than men to be undertreated or inappropriately diagnosed and treated for their pain."
Hoffmann & Tarzian (2001:13)

Value systems of a culture have an impact on pain perception from the very beginning. Children are socialised how to react to pain, i.e., boys are often discouraged from expressing pain. And when they are adults, they show the same communication patterns. In a study, male pain research participants reported that they "felt an obligation to display stoicism in response to pain". Impression management also seems to play a role since men report less pain in front of a female researcher than a male researcher. Men and women also show differences in how they report their pain to health-care providers. Interestingly, although women are better at describing their pain sensations, they receive less pain medication.
Miaskowski reported on several studies that identified such differences in response and treatment. Faherty and Grier studied the administration of pain medication after abdominal surgery and found that, controlling for patient weight, physicians prescribed less pain medication for women aged 55 or older than for men in the same age group, and that nurses gave less pain medication to women aged 25 to 54.
Calderone found that male patients undergoing a coronary artery bypass graft received narcotics more often than female patients, although the female patients received sedative agents more often, suggesting that female patients were more often perceived as anxious rather than in pain. Another study, examining post-operative pain in children, found that significantly more codeine was given to boys than girls and that girls were more likely to be given acetaminophen.'
Miaskowski further reported on two more recent studies. In a 1994 study of 1,308 outpatients with metastatic cancer, Cleeland and colleagues found that ofthe 42 percent who were not adequately treated for their pain, women were significandy more likely than men to be undertreated (an odds ratio of 1:5). In another study of 366 AIDS patients, Breitbart and colleagues found that women were significantly more likely than men to receive inadequate analgesic therapy. (...)
A recent prospective study of patients with chest pain found that women were less likely than men to be admitted to the hospital. Of those hospitalized, women were just as likely to receive a stress test as men, but of those not hospitalized, women were less likely to have received a stress test at a one month follow-up appointment. The authors attributed the differences in treatment to the "Yentl Syndrome," i.e., women are more likely to be treated less aggressively in their initial encounters with the health-care system until they "prove that they are as sick as male patients." Once they are perceived to be as ill as similarly situated males, they are likely to be treated similarly. (...)

Hoffmann and Tarzian (2001) come to the conclusion that women are taken less seriously when they report pain and seek help. One likely explanation for the gender-specific difference in treatment is the health-care provider's attitude ... and bias. According to several studies, women are also perceived as being able to tolerate more pain than men, as having a "natural capacity to endure pain".
McCaffery and Ferrell explained this seeming contradiction by speculating that while society attributes strength and bravery to men, these characteristics are displayed by an unwillingness to complain or express discomfort rather than by an actual tolerance of discomfort.
Health-care providers tend to doubt the pain experience of women. A great many women feel that their doctor did not take their pain seriously and expected them to put up with it. The image of the hysterical and emotional woman may also be one reason why female chronic pain patients are more likely to be diagnosed with histrionic disorder.

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- Hoffmann, D. E. and Tarzian, A. J. (2001). The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 29, 13-27.
- photographs by Sepp Werkmeister via

Monday, 3 June 2019

How Louis Armstrong Opened the Eyes of a White Teenager Who Became a Constitutional Law Expert

Charles Lund Black, Jr. (1915-2001) was a constitutional law expert who taught at Columbia and Yale Universities for more than fifty years, author of more than twenty books and hundreds of articles on law, and a jazz aficionado. In 1954, he wrote the legal brief for Linda Brown, the 10-year-old student whose landmark case "Brown v. Board of Education" (1954) - in which the Supreme Court ruled that ethnic segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional - became a cornerstone of the civil rights movement (via and via).

Professor Black -- who taught his students that being a good lawyer in an era of increasing specialization required that they broaden their horizons through interests outside the law -- was something of a renaissance man himself. He published three volumes of poetry; he painted landscapes in oil; and he played the trumpet and what he called a cowboy harmonica. (via)
On 12th October 1931, aged 16, Charles Black heard Louis Armstrong play in Austin and was "dumbstuck by the genius of the performance" (via).
Among those who paid 75 cents to get in that night was a freshman at the University of Texas named Charlie Black. He knew nothing of Jazz. Had never even heard of Armstrong. Who was already considered at the top of the list of famous jazz musicians. Charlie just knew there were likely to be "lots of girls to dance with." Then, Armstrong began to play. (via)

Later, Black wrote about Louis Armstrong's impact on his life. Here are some excerpts of "My World With Louis Armstrong", by Charles L. Black, Jr.

(...) I ever met Louis, except for a couple of handshakes at the bandstand. Yet no first meeting in my life ever had the impact on me of my first encounter with him.
In September 1931, posters appeared in Austin advertising four dances, October 12 through 15, to be played by one “Louis Armstrong, King of the Trumpet, and His Orchestra,” at the old Driskill Hotel. I was entirely ignorant of jazz, and had no idea who this King might be; hyperbole is the small coin of billboards. But a dance at the Driskill, with lots of girls there, was usually worth the seventy-five cents, so I went to the first one.
Memory is splotchy. I don’t remember the moment or exactly the process of realization. But since that evening, October 12,1931, Louis Armstrong has been a continuing presence in my life. (...)
He was the first genius I had ever seen. That may be a structurable part of the process that led me to the Brown case. The moment of first being, and knowing oneself to be, in the presence of genius, is a solemn moment; it is perhaps the moment of final and indelible perception of man’s utter transcendence of all else created. It is impossible to overstate the significance of a sixteen-year-old Southern boy’s seeing genius, for the first time, in a black. We literally never saw a black man, then, in any but a servant’s capacity. There were of course black professionals in Austin, as one later learned, but they kept to themselves, out back of town, no doubt shunning humiliation. I liked most of the blacks I knew; I loved a few of them— like old Buck Green, born and raised a slave, who still plays the harmonica through my mouth, having taught me when he was seventy-five and I was ten. Some were honored and venerated, in that paradoxical white-Southern way—Buck Green again comes to mind. But genius—fine control over total power, all height and depth, forever and ever? It had simply never entered my mind, for confirming or denying in conjecture, that I would see this for the first time in a black man. You don’t get over that. You stay young awhile longer, with the hesitations, the incertitudes, the half-obediences to crowd-pressure, of the young. But you don’t forget. The lies reel, and contradict one another, and simper in silliness, and fade into shadow. But the seen truth remains. And if this was true, what happened to the rest of it?
That October night, I was standing in the crowd with a “good old boy” from Austin High. We listened together for a long time. Then he turned to me, shook his head as if clearing it—as I’m sure he was—of an unacceptable though vague thought, and pronounced the judgment of the time and place: “After all, he’s nothing but a God damn nigger!”
The good old boy did not await, perhaps fearing, reply. He walked one way and I the other. Through many years now, I have felt that it was just then that I started walking toward the Brown case, where I belonged. I realized what it was that was being denied and rejected in the utterance I have quoted, and I realized, repeatedly and with growingly solid conviction through the next few years, that the rejection was inevitable, if the premises of my childhood world were to be seen as right, and that, for me, this must mean that those premises were wrong, because I could not and would not make the rejection. Every person of decency in the South of those days must have had some doubts about racism, and I had mine even then—perhaps more than most others. But Louis opened my eyes wide, and put to me a choice. Blacks, the saying went, were “all right in their place.” What was the “place” of such a man, and of the people from which he sprung? (...)
There have been many—well, a good many—great artists in my time. But it just happened that the one who said the most to me—the most of gaiety, the most of sadness, the most of high nervous excitement, the most of religion-in-art, the most of home, the most of that strange square-root-of-minus-one world of emotions without name—was and is Louis. The artist who has played this role in my life was black.
In 1957, in the early days after the Brown case, when the South was still resisting, I wrote out and published my deepest thought on the nature of the agony as it presented itself:

I’m going to close by telling of a dream that has formed itself through the years as I, a Southern white by birth and training, have pondered my relations with the many Negroes of Southern origin that I have known, both in the North and at home. I have noted again and again how often we laugh at the same things, how often we pronounce the same words the same way to the amusement of our hearers, judge character in the same frame of reference, mist up at the same kinds of music. I have exchanged “good evening” with a Negro stranger on a New Haven street, and then realized (from the way he said the words) that he and I derived this universal small-town custom from the same culture. I have seen my father standing at the window of his office with a Negro he had known for a long time, while they looked out on the town below and talked of buildings that used to be here and there when they were young. These and thousands of other such things have brought me to see the whole caste system of the South, the whole complex net of its senseless cruelties and cripplings, as no mere accidental grotesquerie of history, but rather as that most hideous of errors, that prima materia of tragedy, the failure to recognize kinship. All men, to be sure, are kin, but Southern whites and Negroes are bound in a special bond. In a peculiar way, they are the same kind of people. They are happy alike, they are poor alike. Their strife is fratricidal, born of ignorance. And the tragedy itself has, of course, deepened the kinship; indeed, it created it. My dream is simply that sight will one day clear and that each of the participants will recognize the other.

(...) But Louis has the special place of the artist of my time who uniquely instructed me, as only high art can instruct, on all the matters I have written of above, and who was black.
How could I have been anywhere else when the Brown case was moving up? By the time I got there, I had left behind the feeling that I was struggling for justice for somebody else. I was, in my own heart, in an army for and with my own. (...)

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photographs of Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) in his mirrored bathroom (1971) via and via

Saturday, 1 June 2019

A Short Ageing Attitudes Quiz

The World Health Organization offers a short "Ageing Attitudes Quiz" with feedback to the answers. There are nine statements and the opportunity to check "your attitudes against these commonly held views of ageing and older persons". Again, a lovely aspect of this quiz is that the WHO offers feedback as you can check your answers: LINK

"All older people are the same."
"Poor health is inevitable in older age."
"An older person is somebody aged 60 years and above."
"My attitude to ageing has little or no influence on my health."
"Ageing is an obstacle to a good life and must be overcome."
"Older adults are a drain on the economy, including health system."
"Ageism means having negative attitudes and or discriminating against people because of their age."
"I can be ageist and not know it."
"We can combat ageism!"

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photograph by Sepp Werkmeister (NYC, 1960s) via

Friday, 31 May 2019

Applying Anthropomorphic Gender Stereotypes to Dogs

"Based on interviews with twenty‐six dog owners in northeast Georgia, this article examines how people rely on gender norms to organize their relationships with their dogs. Owners use gender norms to (1) select what they consider to be suitable dogs, (2) describe their dogs' behaviors and personalities, and (3) use their dogs as props to display their own gender identities. Although these findings are specific to dog owners, they suggest ways individuals may attempt to display gender in other relationships characterized by a power imbalance."
Ramirez, 2006

- Ramirez, M. (2006). "My Dog's Just Like Me": Dog Ownership as a Gender Display. Symbolic Interaction, 29(3), 373-391.
- photograph of Audrey Hepburn in Rome via

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

One Eye, Two Eyes, the Needy Other, the Better-Off Other, Envy, a Genie, and the Logic of Voting Decisions

A genie says to a peasant, "I will grant you any wish, but remember that I will give your neighbour twice what I give you." The peasant thinks for a while and responds, "Poke out one of my eyes." (via)

Encouraging resentment of taxpayer-funded benefits flowing to people down the ladder of life's fortune can deliver political dividends (...).
Lewis & Woods, 2014
Here are a few thought-provoking excerpts that shed a light on aspects of voting decisions following the logic of "I don't have health insurance now and can't afford the medicine I need but at least Mexicans can't immigrate." 
Economists have long speculated that envy and malice play important roles in economic decisions. (...) Envy and malice turn out to be powerful motivations with strong differential impacts across countries and relative positions.
Beckman et al, 2002

Why do people support economic redistribution? Hypotheses include inequity aversion, a moral sense that inequality is intrinsically unfair, and cultural explanations such as exposure to and assimilation of culturally transmitted ideologies. However, humans have been interacting with worse-off and better-off individuals over evolutionary time, and our motivational systems may have been naturally selected to navigate the opportunities and challenges posed by such recurrent interactions. We hypothesize that modern redistribution is perceived as an ancestral scene involving three notional players: the needy other, the better-off other, and the actor herself. We explore how three motivational systems—compassion, self-interest, and envy—guide responses to the needy other and the better-off other, and how they pattern responses to redistribution. Data from the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and Israel support this model. Endorsement of redistribution is independently predicted by dispositional compassion, dispositional envy, and the expectation of personal gain from redistribution. By contrast, a taste for fairness, in the sense of (i) universality in the application of laws and standards, or (ii) low variance in group-level payoffs, fails to predict attitudes about redistribution. (...)
By economic redistribution, we mean the modification of a distribution of resources across a population as the result of a political process. (...)
We conducted 13 studies with 6,024 participants in four countries to test the hypothesis that compassion, envy, and self-interest jointly predict support for redistribution. (...) If the mind sees modern redistribution as a three-player game eliciting compassion, envy, and self-interest , then the intensities of those emotions and motives will independently predict support for redistribution. (...) As predicted, the three motives have positive, significant, and independent effects on support for redistribution. (...)
Participants in the United States also reported the political party they most identify with. Consistent with historical survey data, self-described Democrats endorsed redistribution to a greater extent than Republicans and Libertarians did. Democrats also reported more compassion and more expected personal gain from redistribution than Republicans and Libertarians did; envy did not differ by party (...). Thus, compassion and self-interest predict identification with political parties, which are themselves associated with attitudes toward redistribution. In isolation, the emotion/motivation triplet accounts for 28% of the variance in support for redistribution, whereas party identification accounts for 34%; when entered together, they have unique effects of similar magnitude (...). This suggests that emotions and party ideology shape attitudes toward redistribution to a similar extent. (...)
Participants in the United States, India, and the United Kingdom (studies 1a–c) were given two hypothetical scenarios and asked to indicate their preferred one. In one scenario, the wealthy pay an additional 10% in taxes, and the poor receive an additional sum of money. In the other scenario, the wealthy pay an additional 50% in taxes (i.e., a tax increment five times greater than in the first scenario), and the poor receive (only) one-half the additional amount that they receive in the first scenario. (...) Fourteen percent to 18% of the American, Indian, and British participants indicated a preference for the scenario featuring a higher tax rate for the wealthy even though it produced less money to help the poor. (...) Compassion and envy motivate the attainment of different ends. Compassion, but not envy, predicts personally helping the poor. Envy, but not compassion, predicts a desire to tax the wealthy even when that costs the poor. (...)
A taste for fairness had little or no effect on support for redistribution. This is striking, because fairness is invoked in many arguments for redistribution. Notions of fairness are intuitive and compelling—they seem to inspire charity, courageous acts, outrages, wars, and moral crusades. (...)
Sznycer et al., 2017
Envy-freeness (EF) is a criterion of fair division. In an envy-free division, every agent feels that their share is at least as good as the share of any other agent, and thus no agent feels envy. (via)
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- Beckman, S. R., Formby, J. P., Smith, W. J. & Zheng, B. (2002). Envy, malice and Pareto efficiency: An experimental examination. Social Choice and Welfare, 19, 349-367.
- Sznycer, D., Lopez Seal, M. F., Sell, A., Lim, J., Porat, R., Shalvi, S., Halperin, E., Cosmides, L, & Tooby, J. (2017). Support for redistribution is shaped by compassion, envy, and self-interest, but not a taste for fairness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, link
- photographs of Audrey Hepburn by Douglas Kirkland (1965) via and via
- interesting read: Two eminent political scientists: The problem with democracy is voters

Monday, 27 May 2019

Solo los Rebeldes Cambian el Mundo

Downeate created the fantastic clip "Libertad" reminding us that teenagers are teenagers, no matter whether with or without Down syndrome. The video shows Valentin who decides to break out of daily routine and to do things that make him feel free.

More beautiful videos:

::: Día de Picnic: WATCH
::: Domi La Manipuladora: WATCH
::: Angelitos: WATCH

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image via

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Europe Elects. 2019.

"The populists themselves are dangerous, but they are far more dangerous when the traditional, classic parties adopt their harmful proposals."
Jean-Claude Juncker

Elections to the European Parliament 2019: latest updates

"The populists are spreading slogans. We have to offer solutions and answers."
Jean-Claude Juncker

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photograph via

Friday, 24 May 2019

Arabic Numerals Misunderstood

The US-American market research company Civic Science conducted a survey asking 3.624 people whether schools in America should teach Arabic numerals as part of their curriculum without explaining the term "Arabic numerals" since that would have spoilt the fun of teasing out "prejudice among those who didn't understand the question". According to the chief executive of Civic Science, the results were "the saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we've ever seen in our data". Apparently, a great many people did not know what these numerals mean, some 2.020 (56%) answered "no", only 29% said "yes" and 15% had no opinion. Even when controlling for education (i.e., not having a significant difference in education), 72% of Republican-supporting respondents said "no" versus 40% of Democrats. In other words, the answers are not only about knowledge of the numerical nomenclature (via).

So, where do Arabic numerals come from? Muhammad Khwarizmi (780-850), "the father of algebra" (the word "algebra" is derived from the title of one of his books), was "a Persian scholar who produced works in mathematics, astronomy, and geography" (via), a poet and philosopher, Cabinet member in Dawala's government of Iran (Broumand, 2006), and the very Persian who introduced the Arabs to the Hindu decimal numerals (via), now known as Arabic numerals.
In the 12th century, Latin translations of his textbook on arithmetic (Algorithmo de Numero Indorum) which codified the various Indian numerals, introduced the decimal positional number system to the Western world. (via)
Khwarizimi is often referred to as an Arab or Islamic scientist despite having been Persian. Similarly, Avicenna (Ibn Sina, 980-1037), "the father of early modern medicine" was Persian and is regularly mentioned as a great contributer to science from the Arabian or Islamic world. Avicenna's famous encyclopedia "became a standard medical text at many medieval universities and remained in use as late as 1650" (via).

As Broumand (2006) observes there is a failure in calling them Arab scientists:
This false statement only widens the gap between the Middle-East and the western world. There could be no doubt on the fact that Razi (Rhazes), Ibn-Sina (Avicenna), and Khawrazmi (Khwarizmi) were Iranian (Persian) and not Arab scientists. Dr. Maziak’s sincere attempt to lump these scientists under the label of Arab-Islamic scholars is unfortunately flawed for a couple of reasons; a very important point is that, the Arabic language was the lingua franca of these scientists’ era and allowed for the free exchange of scientific knowledge from Greece and Rome to Iran, India, and even to places as far as China. There is no doubt that for this reason, scientists were writing in Arabic, while not being Arab, like in the present time, all scientists write in English. One could argue that it is as offensive to Iranians, as it would be to the English, if everyone claimed Sir Isaac Newton was a Frenchman. Not that there is anything wrong with being French, Arab, or from any other nations, but the incorrect label abolishes a significant part of Iranian contribution to the advancement of science.
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- Broumand, B. (2006). The Contribution of Iranian Scientists to World Civilization. Archives of Iranian Medicine, 9(3), 288-290.
- photograph via

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The English Language and the Subtle Differences in Transatlantic Understanding

YouGov showed common British phrases to 1.729 Britons and 1.952 US-Americans and asked the participants of the survey to interpret them. The results showed "plenty of common ground" but also "a difference in transatlantic understanding" with many US-Americans being "in danger of missing the serious passive aggression we Brits employ" (via and via).

Here are a few examples:

Statement: "With the greatest respect..."
Interpretation: "I think you are an idiot." (UK: 68%, US: 40%)
Interpretation: "I am listening to you." (UK: 24%, US: 49%)

Statement: "I'll bear it in mind."
Interpretation: "I've forgotten it already." (UK: 55%, US: 38%)
Interpretation: "I will probably do it." (UK: 32%, US: 43%)

Statement: "I hear what you say."
Interpretation: "I disagree and do not want to discuss it further." (UK: 48%, US: 32%)
Interpretation: "I accept your point of view." (UK: 45%, US: 58%)

Statement: "You must come for dinner."
Interpretation: "It's not an invitation, I'm just being polite." (UK: 57%, US: 45%)
Interpretation: "I will send you an invitation soon." (UK: 34%, US: 41%)

For more details see LINK and LINK.

"We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language."
Oscar Wilde

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photograph (London, 1975) via

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Wear modest apparel, Helena!

"In like manner also, that women aged fifty adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array."
1 Alexandra 2:9 (1 Timothy 2:9 with Alexandra's age specification)

Alexandra Shulman, former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, woman and 61 years old, shows us many things. Firstly, that it is a rather good idea to self-reflect before you start writing a column. Secondly, that both ageism and sexism (and their intersection) are -isms that we internalise as women and as persons who are growing older and by doing so help perpetuate stereotypes, if we are unable to self-reflect and shift the perspective.

This May, Shulman published an article with the headline "I’m sorry Helena Christensen, you ARE too old to wear that" which which she addressed former model Christensen who at the age of 50 decided to pitch up somebody's 24th birthday party "in a tacky, black lace bustier". Seriously, this is what her article is about.

Her column starts like this:
There comes that point in every woman’s life when, however reluctantly, you have to hand over the fleshpot-at-the-party baton to the next generation. 
Shulman speculates that Christensen possibly "just panicked" but then, quoting Dylan Thomas, decides that most probably this 50-year-old woman did not want to go "gentle into any good night when it comes to getting her share of the paparazzi's attention".
In other words, the only reason why a woman aged 50 wears jeans and a bustier is that she is desperately looking for attention. Instead, she should accept that her time is over and prepare to go gentle into that good night. Dylan Thomas's most famous and dark poem is about "the end of life" and "the personal struggle to hang onto life for as long as possible". It is about resisting death with all strength. Thomas challenges typical associations and stereotypes with old age by describing it as "burning and raving" (via), the same stereotypical associations that seem to dominate Shulman's attitude who, by the way, in an interview states that she has not left Vogue "to go and hide under a stone somewhere. I suppose, you know, you like the publicity at the end of the day. You want to carry on having a voice." (via).

She then continues with words that do not really make much sense:
We might like to think that 70 is the new 40 and 50 the new 30 but our clothes know the true story.
No matter how pert your breasts, how great your legs, how invisible your bingo wings, our clothes simply don’t look the same as we age because they are about the person wearing them, not the items themselves. They are about the people – not just the bodies – that we have become.
Something you wore at 30 will never look the same on you 20 years later. Clothes don’t lie.
And it gets better. Apparently, it is not primarily about age:
While men can receive sex symbol status until they are in their box, for women it’s more complicated. As a society, we are frightened of sexuality that doesn’t come accompanied by fertility. Wrinklies like Richard Gere, who has fathered a baby at 69, or Ronnie Wood, who now takes his three-year-old twins on the road, have the advantage of this proof that their sexual function is still in working order.
When women’s bodies no longer serve any child-bearing purpose, we find flaunting them disturbing and slightly tragic. I don’t claim that this is fair. But it’s true.
It may come as little surprise that I could not find any evidence that "societies are frightened of sexuality that doesn't come accompanied by fertility". I wonder why there is such a thing as birth control and why, for instance, couples continue having an intimate relationship after having raised a family. Nor have I ever heard of the custom that men feeling attracted to women ask them about their fertility before wanting to date them. And I am limiting my questions to heterosexuals here... Shulman's "proof" are two gentlemen, no, "wrinklies", such as Richard Gere (born in 1949, his wife born in 1983) and Ronnie Wood (born in 1947, his wife in 1978). Rules about attraction are slightly different when you are a celebrity, aren't they?

Shulman reduces women to their "child-bearing purpose" and claims it is a fact that when their bodies no longer serve this purpose, they become disturbing and tragic. They should become invisible and not irritate ageist and sexist people. Shulman - 61 years old - is a perfect example of how ageism works. We grow up with ageist messages, they come at us from every direction: work, health, marketing, fashion... After a lifetime of hearing them, we internalise them and become ageist, too. She also shows us that women can perfectly adopt the male gaze. It is irresponsible to link the style of dress with the desire to be attractive for others and the wish to seduce. We see the consequences of this dangerous link when victims of sexual violence are blamed for provoking the assault by dressing in a body-revealing style. Sure, clothing can have "the accompanying function of expressing a way of being" (Oliveira, 2013). However, communication is complex and the message may be misinterpreted (if there is one at all).
The results demonstrate a gender-based attribution gap wherein men report perceiving the sexualized look as indicating an interest in sex and intent to seduce, whereas women cite their wish to feel and look attractive as its primary cause, while entirely rejecting the seduction claim.
Moor, 2010:115
And apart from that:
In contrast to affective cues, non-affective cues, such as clothing style and attractiveness, provide far less information about a woman’s momentary level of sexual interest because they typically are quite stable across a social interaction and tend to be more omnidirectional (i.e., available to everyone in the social environment).
Treat et al, 2016
It is not only age and gender. Shulman thinks that black women on the cover "would sell fewer copies" (via).
Shulman is still smarting from the uproar provoked by a photograph in her final edition of the outgoing editor surrounded by 54 of her staff. Did she anticipate that many readers would be shocked to see that every single one of them was white? “No,” she mutters dryly. “Clearly not. Had I known that this was going to happen, I would not have put that picture in it. But it never entered my head. Over the years there have been people of all kinds of ethnicities in the magazine. On that particular day there was nobody there and, you know, it’s frustrating.” 
Many employers go to some lengths to attract more diverse applicants. “Well, I guess I have to hold my hand up and say I don’t encourage positive discrimination in any area.” Shulman flatly refuses to accept the critique that under her editorship Vogue had a diversity problem. “I have never been somebody who’s box-ticked. I’m against quotas. I feel like my Vogue had the people in who I wanted it to. I didn’t look at what race they were. I didn’t look at what sex they were. I didn’t look at what age they were. I included the people I thought interesting. So no, I don’t, absolutely not.
“But if you’re going to say to me, ‘Well, how many white models as opposed to how many black models were in there?’, I’m sure you can make the numbers stack up to argue that there was an issue. But as far as I’m concerned, there wasn’t, and it never entered my head.” 
Readers may then wonder why she put black faces on the cover only 12 times in 25 years. “Well, I don’t know. Who would I put on? Who would you have suggested that was a really well known black model who wasn’t on the cover?” (via) (Note: these two black faces were Naomi Campbel and Jordan Dunn)
Her diversity problem includes body diversity:
“It was massively interesting, and actually a rather important subject, particularly if you advance the proposition, which I did, that magazines like Vogue and the fashionistas in general, pushed the idea for many years, and are still pushing it, though they deny it, that in order to look nice you’ve got to be stick-thin. I’ve always thought it an absurd proposition and damaging to an awful lot of young girls who are susceptible to that sort of pressure. So I was, according to some people, too aggressive with her. I thought I was actually rather polite.
 “But she didn’t like being asked about that sort of thing and suggested, preposterously, that you’re almost as likely to see chubby women on the cover of Vogue. I think she came up with three examples over 25 years. Well, I rest my case, M’lud!”
John Humphrys
"Not many people have actually said to me that they have looked at my magazine and decided to become anorexic."
Alexandra Shulman, 1998
We all grow older, if we are lucky. Let's enjoy it and stop making life difficult for others and ourselves.
"In the past women and men have been restricted to certain dress codes. Today there is no excuse for dressing to please others, the fashion police, or our inner critic." (via)
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- Lennon, S. J., Adomaitis, A. D., Koo, J. & Johnson, K. K. P. (2017). Dress and sex: a review of empirical research involving human participants and published in refereed journals. link
- Moor, A. (2010). She Dresses to Attract, He Perceives Seduction: A Gender Gap in Attribution of Intent to Women's Revealing Style of Dress and its Relation to Blaming the Victims of Sexual Violence. Journal of International Women's Studies, 11(4), 115-127.
- Oliveira, M. (2013). Dressing, seducing and signifying: From the symbolic dimension of fashion to the contemporary erotic imagery. Comunicação e Sociedade, 24, 152-160.
- Treat, T. A., Hinkel, H., Smith, J. R. & Viken, R. J. (2016). Men's perceptions of women's sexual interest: Effects of environmental contest, sexual attitudes, and women's characteristics. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, link
- photograph by Leon Levinstein (1910-1988), New York City, ca. 1960 via