It's been quiet here these last few days, due in no small part to me being particularly exhausted after work, in a daze on the train home. Still, there's been some great articles sitting in my Pocket during that time - here's a few, starting with an absolutely cracking interview with Teller (as in Penn & Teller) by Chris Jones in Esquire magazine.
He has dedicated his life to the distortion of reality, to trickery and benign deceit. His startling, angular house, built against a hillside in the red Nevada desert — "a poorly camouflaged military installation" is how he describes it; it's the one with the giant skull painted on the roof — is a monument to his love. Every room has a secret. His library is filled with ancient magic books, including what's considered one of the art's seminal texts, Discoverie of Witchcraft, from 1584. (It's extremely rare, because, as the story has it, King James ordered every copy burned.) One of the hallways is built in forced perspective, so it seems longer than it really is. The window that appears to be at its end is actually in the adjoining wall; a full-length 45 degree mirror explains the illusion. In the garden, there's a large bronze bear that somehow greets guests by name. The bear also does card tricks. Inside the house, Teller might hand a bewildered visitor a deck of cards and ask him to pick one before they head outside. The bear will then growl, "Was it the five of clu— no. It was the five of spades," and the bear will be right. "That one fools magicians," Teller says.
[...] The real point of magic, Teller said during those lectures, is "telling a beautiful lie. It lets you see what the world would be like if cause and effect weren't bound by physics." It's the collision between what you know and what you see that provides magic's greatest spark.
This interview with playwriter Lucy Kirkwood in the Guardian left me feeling profoundly depressed at the screwed-up culture kids are growing up in today, so naturally I'm going to share it with you.
The more she has researched, the more disturbed she has become. "We are all sort of pretending it is not happening. I think 12 is the average age for boys to see their first pornography these days, but that doesn't mean picking up a copy of Razzle from a railway siding; it is like some woman having an object shoved into her anus on a sort of high-definition film. I have a friend who is a teacher who had to leave her job because a 15-year-old boy stuck a camera up her skirt and put it online.
"Boys are being force-fed this very plastic sexuality on a mass scale. It is not something they have found for themselves in a way. There is no discovery. The internet says, you know, 'The rest of your life you will find enormous boobs out there.' The question is how do you kind of reboot from that position?"
Very different, but just as disheartening, is this piece in the National Review on the Golden Dawn 'party' in Greece:
The foray into electoral politics did not prompt Golden Dawn to tone down its act. On the contrary, the violence has only escalated. Last year, the group threatened on its website to kill a left-wing journalist. Its vigilantes patrol stores to ensure that they hire Greeks, not immigrants. In the town of Rafina, they overturned market stalls belonging to anyone who didn’t have white skin. This summer, Golden Dawn distributed flyers outside gay clubs in Athens that read, “AFTER THE IMMIGRANTS, YOU’RE NEXT.”
Michaloliakos, meanwhile, makes it clear that his group has only a tenuous allegiance to democratic politics. At a rally where his supporters chanted, “Blood, honor, and Golden Dawn”—an adapted Nazi slogan—Michaloliakos declared: “If they want us to, we can abandon it at any given moment and take to the streets. ... There, they shall see what the Golden Dawn is really about, they will see what battle means, they will see what struggle means, they will see what bayonets sharpened every night mean.”
[...] As the center collapses, the future of Greece is increasingly taking shape as a vicious struggle between the extreme left and right for control of the ailing state. It’s telling that, so far, the response to Golden Dawn from the political establishment has been muted—parliament has debated anti-hate speech measures but taken no concrete action. Instead, it has been left-wing anarchist groups who have stepped into the fray, sometimes employing tactics as disturbing as those of Golden Dawn.
After that, you need a smile. Clicky, then, for the Daily Mash's take on the talking beluga whale:
Staff at the California Marine Park discovered that Pluto – or ‘Big Frank’ as he prefers to be known – has learned to mimic not only human words but also gibberish East End slang expressions.
Marine biologist Tom Logan said: “When any of our staff approached Big Frank’s pen, they could hear a muffled but audible voice repeatedly asking ‘Where’s the Lillians, me old China?
“Eventually we worked out he was asking for fish. This is a remarkable scientific breakthrough but it’s fucking difficult to understand.
“What’s most baffling is that Big Frank frequently uses several words when one will do, such as ‘apples and pears’ for ‘stairs’, or ‘under the arches and over to Hampton’ when he simply means ‘plankton’.
“He has also demonstrated other cockney traits, such as leaping out of the water during feeding time in an exaggerated show of mateyness, and insisting on buying a massive round of fish.