Category Archives: Culture

Quote of the day: Opulance-shrouded corruption


Once again, the Bard of Avon nails it, the Time in King Lear, Act IV Scene VI:

Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it.
None does offend, none, I say, none; I’ll able ’em:
Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
To seal the accuser’s lips. Get thee glass eyes;
And like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not.

Philippine legalized lynching slammed by U.N.


The victims, slaughtered by the hundreds, are suspected drug dealers, and journalists have also been warned they may become the next targets of President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office 30 June.

And no one should’ve been surprised.

As Time reported Tuesday:

In a span of six weeks, the Philippines’ new President, Rodrigo Duterte, has made international headlines for the hundreds of suspects killed in his war on crime. Since he took office on June 30, an average of 13 people a day have been either assassinated in public by masked assailants, killed by police without further investigation, or found as unidentified bodies on the streets, often balled up in packing tape with signs saying variations of: “Don’t follow me, I’m a criminal.” Duterte’s supporters celebrate these killings as necessary comeuppance, while his critics condemn the violence as precarious violations of due process and human rights. Yet the President’s seemingly outrageous actions are merely part of the Philippines’ deeply entrenched culture of impunity. What is frightening is that so few people realize that yet.

President Duterte’s approval rating was recently a historic 91%, and he is seen by fans and foes alike as decisive and effective, promising sweeping reforms and bringing about the surrender of tens of thousands of drug users and self-confessed dealers before they can be killed. Yet Duterte has also vowed to pardon any police and military involved in the extrajudicial killings, while also pledging to pardon himself. He has ensconced his daughter and son as mayor and vice mayor of the city that he ruled for two decades, while also refusing to fully answer allegations about hidden wealth.

More alarmingly, in what seems an effort to systematically undermine the traditional democratic checks and balances to his authority, Duterte has threatened to shut down the legislature if it hinders his plans, invoked the specter of martial law when criticized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and insulted concerned foreign ambassadors. He has chipped at the influence of the Catholic Church by emphasizing its corruption. And he has warned that members of the media are not protected from assassination: “The Constitution can no longer help you,” Duterte told reporters, “if you disrespect a person.”

And earlier this month, the New York Times reported, Duterte:

publicly accused scores of judges, mayors, lawmakers, military personnel and police officers of involvement with the illegal drug trade, giving them 24 hours to surrender for investigation or, he said, be “hunted” down.

Mr. Duterte rejected calls last week from international human rights groups to observe due process in the war he has declared on both sellers and users of illicit drugs, after a photograph of a drug user shot and killed by vigilantes made it to the front pages and became a symbol for the bloody antidrug campaign.

“I ordered the listing. I ordered the validation,” he said Sunday in a nationally televised speech at a naval base, referring to the roughly 150 people he mentioned by name. “I’m the one reading it, and I am the sole person responsible for these all.”

Al Jazeera reported remarks Duterte made shortly before his announcement:

Earlier on Saturday, Duterte had vowed to keep his “shoot-to-kill” order “until the last day of my term, if I’m still alive by then”.

“I don’t care about human rights, believe me,” he said, according to official transcripts released by the presidential palace.

About 800 people have been killed since Duterte won a landslide election in May, according to reports by the local press, which has been tracking reports of extra-judicial killings.

Before his assumption of the presidency, Duterte had been mayor Davao City, where under his watch he had encouraged vigilante groups, known as the Davao Death Squads, believed responsible for more than a 1,000 murders.

Duterte made no bones [or, rather he did, in Mafia parlance, declaring in 2009, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”

Duterte, who some have called the Philippine Donald Trump, has brought his ruthless policies onto the national stage with his assumption of presidential powers.

And now he’s giving the finger to the United Nations

The latest development, reported by United Press International:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Sunday to leave the United Nations over criticism of his pursuit of drug dealers.

In his hometown of Davao City, where he spent two decades as mayor before becoming president in a landslide election in May, Duterte suggested the Philippines could align itself with China and African countries to form a more useful international body.

“Maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you are that insulting, we should just leave. Take us out of your organization. You have done nothing anyway. When were you here last time? Nothing. Never. Except to criticize,” he told the Davao City audience.

Two U.N. human rights specialists last week called Duterte’s orders an “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law.” U.N. Secretary General; Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime were critical of Duterte’s “apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Agence France Presse has more on the U.N.’s rebuke

The UN’s special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, last week said Duterte’s promise of immunity and bounties to security forces who killed drug suspects violated international law.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June also strongly criticised Duterte, who during the election campaign promised to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.

“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban said.

Duterte frequently peppers his public comments with swear words — he has also called Pope Francis and the US ambassador to Manila sons of whores — and days after his election win used typical language to criticise the UN.

“F**k you, UN, you can’t even solve the Middle East carnage… couldn’t even lift a finger in Africa,” he said then.

Duterte flips the rhetorical bird at Uncle Sam

The controversial president also made clear how he feels about human rights advice from the U.S.

From RT:

The Philippine leader also attacked the US for more members of the public dying as a result of police violence.

“What do you think the Americans did to the black people there? Is that not rubbing off also? And (critics) say what?”

>snip<

He also wondered whether UN officials were indeed threatening to jail him and repeated that he was ready to sacrifice his life and presidency for his country.

Duterte has developed a reputation for being very outspoken and even rude at times. Earlier in August, he called the US ambassador in the country “gay” and a “son of a bitch.”

Nobody should’ve been surprised

Duterte made his post-election plans clear in a remarkable speech to some of the nation’s leading capitalists back in April while still on campaign.

From Politiko, a Philippine political website — and note that final paragraph:

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has a simple plan in carrying out extra-judicial plan to kill criminals and drugs lords if he takes over as president: sign 1,000 pardons a day.

In a profanity-laced speech before the Makati Business Club on 27 April 2016, Duterte said he would exploit to the hilt a Constitutional provision which allowed the President to grant absolute or conditional pardon or amnesty with the concurrence of Congress.

“I will tell (those who carry out his orders to kill without hesitation) to get a paper, it will be pre-signed and just put your name and you’re pardoned. I don’t mind giving 1,000 pardons a day. The Constitution did not say anything about limiting it to 5 or 10,” said Duterte whose simplistic proposal drew a loud applause and laughter from the audience.

He said he would ask all police and military who carried out his orders to kill any criminal or drug lord without any hesitation to just point to him as the one who gave the order.

“I will tell every military and police to go out, hunt them, arrest them, and if they offer violent resistance, do not hesitate to kill them. If you have a gun, use it and that will solve every crime,” said Duterte.

Duterte planned to absolve of all these crimes by granting himself an absolute pardon before he would step down from power in 2022.

To sum up his approach to office, we turn to that venerable political sage Alfred E. Newman: “What, me worry?” Or maybe it’s found in the words of the high school bully we remember all too well, who would purposely bump into folks, then declare arrogantly, “Well, pardon me all to hell.”

Interracial couples trigger disgust in brains of many


Following on the heels of yesterday’s posts about racism and racial divides in the U.S. comes new research from the University of Washington revealing that, for many folks, racism is buried deeply in the brain.

The findings aren’t so surprising, but their confirmation is another sad, tragic proof that the “post-racial America” so often decreed by Republicans and others is nothing but a myth.

From the University of Washington:

Interracial marriage has grown in the United States over the past few decades, and polls show that most Americans are accepting of mixed-race relationships.

A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center found that interracial marriages in the U.S. had doubled between 1980 and 2010 to about 15 percent, and just 11 percent of respondents disapproved of interracial marriage.

But new research [Elsevier wants $35.95 to let you read it] from the University of Washington suggests that reported acceptance of interracial marriage masks deeper feelings of discomfort — even disgust — that some feel about mixed-race couples. Published online in July in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and co-authored by UW postdoctoral researcher Caitlin Hudac, the study found that bias against interracial couples is associated with disgust that in turn leads interracial couples to be dehumanized.

Lead author Allison Skinner, a UW postdoctoral researcher, said she undertook the study after noting a lack of in-depth research on bias toward interracial couples.

“I felt like the polls weren’t telling the whole story,” said Skinner, a researcher in the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

The research involved three experiments. In the first, 152 college students were asked a series of questions about relationships, including how disgusted they felt about various configurations of interracial relationships and about their own willingness to have an interracial romance. The participants overall showed high levels of acceptance and low levels of disgust about interracial relationships, and pointed to a strong negative correlation between the two.

In the second experiment, the researchers showed 19 undergraduate students wedding and engagement photos of 200 interracial and same-race couples while recording their neural activity. The researchers asked the students to quickly indicate whether each couple should be included in a future study on relationships, a task that was intended to ensure participants were socially evaluating the couples while their neural activity was recorded.

Participants responded faster to images of same-race couples and selected them more often for inclusion in the study. More significantly, Skinner said, participants showed higher levels of activation in the insula — an area of the brain routinely implicated in the perception and experience of disgust — while viewing images of interracial couples.

“That indicates that viewing images of interracial couples evokes disgust at a neural level,” Skinner said.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Ann Telnaes: Where a Trump candidacy came from


From the other editorial cartoonist of the Washington Post:

BLOG Elex Telnaes trump

Headline of the day II: Great cultural watershed?


From The Local.se:

Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens

California history, marketed as a teardown home


There’s a house for sale in Pacific Palisades, one of the most exclusive communities in the Los Angeles area. It’s located at 1550 San Remo Drive, just a two-minute drive from the house at 1669 San Onofre Drive, where esnl interviewed Nancy Reagan in 1979 as her husband was running for president.

The home on San Remo is now up for sale and the asking price is a mere $14,995,000. Here’s how the broker, Coldwell Banker, describes the property [emphasis added]:

First time on the market in almost 65 years! Park-like grounds with lush forest solitude on almost a full FLAT ACRE on one of the most desired streets in the Pacific Palisades Riviera. Extreme privacy surrounded by mature trees and landscaping provides amazing serenity coupled with incredible city lights views. Create your dream estate or remodel and expand the existing home in the ultra-exclusive upper Riviera neighborhood. It’s like living in your own private reserve!

There’s only one thing missing from the enthusiastic sales pitch.

Unlike the Reagan’s home, which was a gift from General Electric, given to the future president in 1955 as a reward for Reagan’s role as a corporate shill after his cinematic career hit the skids, the home on San Remo was built and paid for by the labors of Thomas Mann, the Nobel Prize-winning author of some of the most important works of fiction of the 20th Century.

The artist in exile

Mann had fled Hitler’s Germany to take up residence in the United States, settling into his new home in the Palisades to do what he did best, write.

It was within these walls that he created what may be arguably his finest work, Doctor Faustus, a powerful novel encompassing the trends of the early 20th Century that gave rise to fascism.

As playwright and poet Sean O’Brien wrote in an essay on the novel for the Independent:

It is a novel of ideas of a kind rarely found in English, but sees thought and art as inseparable from character. It is in a sense the story of the early 20th century in the light of Fascism and modernism, yet neither history nor the individual is sacrificed to allegory.

Mann at work in his Pacific Palisades study. Mann at work in his Pacific Palisades study, via the Literaturarchiv und Bibliothek in Munich..

Mann at work in his Pacific Palisades study. Mann at work in his Pacific Palisades study, via the Literaturarchiv und Bibliothek in Munich..

The media take note

But now Coldwell Banker is peddling it as a teardown, valuable mainly for the land it occupies.

From today’s Los Angeles Times:

Although the language in the listing — “Create your dream estate or remodel and expand the existing home in the ultra-exclusive upper Riviera neighborhood” — hedges its bets a bit, Joyce Rey, the agent representing the seller, was more direct in a phone interview, saying she had a hard time imagining that any potential buyers would be interested in its history.

“The value is in the land,” she said. “The value is not really in the architecture, I would say.”

>snip<

The house is not one of L.A.’s official historic-cultural monuments, though it is listed as a “historic resource” in a larger inventory called SurveyLA. A new citywide ordinance requires that owners seeking to demolish houses older than 45 years provide notice to neighbors and the local city council office at least 30 days in advance. But in general there are limited protections for most residential buildings in Los Angeles, even those with notable architectural pedigrees.

Rey said the seller, whom she declined at least for the time being to identify, was not interested in opening the house to preservationists or journalists.

The home is notable in its own right, designed for Mann by fellow German emigre J.R. Davidson, one of the seminal figures in creating the L.A. style of architecture that resulted in some of the region’s most influential designs of the mid-20th Century.

He was first to create homes with floor to ceiling windows and sliding glass doors, features that would become virtually standard in California’s temperate climate.

Mann and his family outside their San Remo Drive home. Source.

Mann and his family outside their San Remo Drive home. Source.

Reaction from Germany comes fast and furious

Needless to say, the German cultural community is outraged. All of Mann’s European homes have been spared the wrecking ball and are revered as national landmarks, a designation which somehow was never sought for his home on the California coast.

Deutsche Welle reports:

Despite the home’s outward appearance, Jürgen Kaumkötter, curator of the recently founded Center for Persecuted Arts in Solingen#, says the villa should be saved at all costs. He’s gone so far as to demand that the German government buy the property in order to prevent the demolition of this historical house.

“The building could serve as a meeting ground for young writers,” Kaumkötter said, “perhaps in combination with the Villa Aurora (the former home of German-Jewish novelist and playwright Lion Feuchtwanger)” If Germany wants to have an international outlook, it should also provide some room for critical thinkers.

That view is echoed by Jürgen Serke, a Hamburg-based collector of art and literature and the author of “Die verbrannten Dichter” (“Burned poets”). He thinks German Culture Minister Monika Grütters should give the idea some thought; in his view, there is plenty of money to finance this proposal. He believes a demolition of the villa would be a great shame for Germany, with Mann being the most significant German author of the 20th century.

>snip<

The lawyer who purchased the house from the Mann couple when they returned to Europe in 1952 knew quite well that what he had bought was an important site for German culture and intellectual history. He marked the spot with a bronze plaque featuring a profile of Thomas Mann, explaining in English and German the significance of the home.

In Los Angeles, land in rich enclaves like the Palisades is often “worth: more than the homes occupying it, and some of the city’s greatest and most significant houses and other buildings have fallen to the wrecking ball.

To allow Mann’s home to follow that same tragic trajectory would nothing less than sinful.

And now for something completely different. . .


Ikea furniture, as most everyone knows, comes packaged in kites, and assembling your oddly [and sometimes seemingly obscenely] named desk, nightstand, bookcase, or whatever, is as challenging as make an Erector set creation [do they even still make esnl‘s favorite childhood possession? Yes, they do!]

The assembly instructions are sometimes arcane, and putting the things together usually involves using an Allen wrench [included] and a hammer or mallet.

Frustration often ensues.

Now imagine trying to assemble you Ikea creation whilst under the influence of, say, a powerful psychedelic drugs.

Never fear, the folks at Hikea Productions have the answer.

HIKEA EPISODE 1: GIANCARLO & NICOLE + LSD

Program notes:

Giancarlo and Nicole try to build an Ikea dresser after both taking LSD. The acid complicates an already difficult task, but after hours of false starts, laughter and deep introspection, they just might be able to work together and finally complete “Step 1.”

And the second episode:

HIKEA EPISODE 2: KEITH + SHROOMS

Program notes:

Disclaimer, because first upload was removed: Drugs are bad, don’t do drugs. Please be over 18 to watch this video.

IN THIS EPISODE KEITH ATTEMPTS TO BUILD A DRESSER AFTER TAKING MUSHROOMS. (a soft drug)

The Hikea folks, if nothing else, seem to be having lots of fun.

And now what about tackling Ikea furniture when you’re snockered on America’s favorite legal drug?

Homestarkevin has the answer, and it ain’t pretty:

How to Assemble IKEA furniture When You’re Drunk.

Program notes:

Me putting together my new konsmo nightstand after a few drinks