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At the American Society of Parasitologists AGM, attendees are each given a set of parasite-themed playing cards into their conference goody bags.
It’s Seder Night, when Jews recall Passover and the plagues sent down on the house of Egypt to help along their emancipation from slavery. As dad reads out the story, the cool kids can play along by wearing one of 10 masks, each one representing a plague. “Bagsy, Death to the ‘First Born’,” says Junior, the rascal. Others can enjoy ‘Blood’, ‘Boils’, ‘Lice’ and ‘Darkness’.
The whole set is yours for a mere $14.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond.
But be warned: these mask are only suitable for over 3s lest there be a new plague of ‘Choking’.
Trigger Warning: free speech is being attacked and downgraded in Anglo-American culture, says Mick Hume
Anorak asked journalist Mick Hume about his new book, which looks at the highly topical issue of free speech…
Your new book is entitled ‘Trigger Warning’. For those not familiar with the phrase, could you explain its origin and its relevance?
A ‘trigger warning’ is a statement stuck at the beginning of a piece of writing, video or whatever to alert you to the fact that it contains material you may find upsetting or offensive. For example, ‘TW: Islamophobic language’, or ‘TW: references to sexual violence’.
Trigger Warnings took off in US colleges (where student activists want classic works to carry them, suggesting for example that The Great Gatsby should have one along the lines of ‘TW: suicide, domestic abuse and graphic violence’). They have since spread across the Atlantic and the internet. If you are not familiar with ‘TWs’, they are coming soon to a website near you.
For me the mission creep of trigger warnings symbolises the stultifying atmosphere surrounding freedom of expression and debate today. They are like those ‘Here be dragons’ signs on uncharted areas of old maps, warning students and others not to take a risk, not to step off the edge of their comfort zone, not to expose themselves to ‘uncomfortable’ ideas, images or opinions.
What is the book about?
The sub-title of the book rather gives the game away: ‘Is the fear of being offensive killing free speech?’ To which its unsurprising answer is yes, unless we do something about it.
Trigger Warning is about all the various ways in which free speech is being attacked and downgraded in Anglo-American culture today. It describes ‘the silent war on free speech’. It’s a silent war because nobody in politics or public life admits that they are against freedom of expression; all of them will make ritualistic displays of support for it ‘in principle’, as they did after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. In practice, however, they are all seeking ways to restrict freedom of expression, whilst insisting that ‘this is not a free speech issue’, it is merely an attempt to protect the ‘vulnerable’ against offensive and hateful words.
To that end, the book examines the complementary trends towards official censorship, unofficial censorship and self-censorship in the West today, covering everything from online ‘trolls’ to football and comedy as well as more conventional political issues.
Of these three, the most insidious is the informal, unofficial censorship promoted by Twitter mobs and assorted boycott-and-ban-happy zealots. They are a relatively small minority, but they exercise disproportionate influence by preying on the loss of faith in free speech at the top of our societies.
I describe these people as ‘reverse-Voltaires’, who have taken the famous principle linked to Voltaire – ‘I may hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ – and twisted it into its opposite – ‘I know I will detest what you say, and I will defend to the end of free speech my right to stop you saying it’. They do not want to debate arguments they disagree with, but merely to close them down as offensive. Trigger Warning takes on their most powerful excuses in a section entitled ‘Five good reasons for restricting free speech – and why they’re all wrong’.
What is the main message of the book?
The main message of the book – and I fear it is a ‘message’ book, or ‘polemic’ as we pretentious authors say – is twofold, I suppose. That we have forgotten how important the fight for free speech has been in the creation of something approximating a civilised society, and that we are in danger of giving it up without a struggle. It is not so much that we are losing the free speech wars: we are not even fighting them!
Few of the great advances in politics, science and culture over the past 500 years would have been possible without the expansion of free speech and the willingness of heroic heretics to question everything and break taboos. None of the liberation movements of the recent past could have succeeded without putting the right to free speech at the forefront of their campaigns (which makes it all the more bitterly ironic to see restrictions on free speech being demanded today in the name of protecting the oppressed).
Free speech was never a right to be won once and then put on a shelf to be admired. It always has to be defended again, against new challenges and enemies. The big danger today is that so few are standing up for unfettered free speech against the reverse-Voltaires and their like. Where are the young Tom Paines, JS Mills, John Wilkes’ or George Orwells of our age? Instead we have characters like the US liberal professor who just wrote a (pseudonymous) article about how he is too ‘terrified’ of his ‘liberal’ students to raise a potentially offensive idea or even ask them to read Mark Twain. Time to take a stand before it’s too late.
You have been outspoken about the right to offend. But some people seem to believe they have a duty to offend, and we have seen public examples of this recently. How does your opinion differ from theirs?
I have been writing about the right to be offensive for some 25 years, since the crisis over Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. It is the cutting edge of free speech. After all, what use is it is we are only ‘free’ to say what everybody else might like? If we defend free speech for those views branded extreme and offensive, the mainstream will look after itself. This is not about offensive language, but opinions – as JS Mill pointed out long ago, the more powerful your opponent’s arguments are, the more offensive you tend to find them!
The importance of that issue was brought into sharp focus by the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo massacre of course. As the book describes, behind the apparent displays of Je Suis Charlie solidarity, the powerful message was that those cartoonists had gone ‘too far’ in offending Islam. Those gunmen might have been inspired by Islamist preachers, but they can only have been encouraged by the loss of faith in free speech at the heart of Western culture.
None of this means, as you mention, that anybody has a duty to offend. The right to be offensive is not an obligation. One problem today is that the response to the conformist culture of You-Can’t-Say-That tends to be a few comedians and others trying to cause offence for the sake of it. That’s infantile and useless. As William Hazlitt wrote, ‘An honest man speaks the truth, though it may cause offence, a vain man, in order that it may”. A good distinction, so long as we remember that the vain man gets the freedom to speak his version of the truth, too.
Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? is published by Collins.
Mick was answering questions put to him by Ed Barrett
The Cowboy Sandal is the work of Scotty Franklin of Springfield, Missouri. For $50– yeah, you pay him! – Scotty will distract attention from your terrible hair, chronic impetigo and that carbuncle on your forehead by getting everyone to stare at your feet.
Stoners can now hang out together in a cannabis-themed holiday park in Colorado. It sounds as awful as any place where enthusiasts meet.
CannaCamp is a 170-acre slice of heaven, where recreational marijuana and our Colorado mountain resort combine to create an unprecedented opportunity for cannabis users to experience the outdoors in a safe, comfortable, and social environment. Our all-inclusive rates include luxurious accommodations in one of our nine well-appointed cabins, decadent dining throughout the day, beautiful surroundings in the heart of nature, and an incredible wealth of free activities that highlight adventure, wellness, and cannabis.
Finally, a whisky that will allow you to “experience the perfect combination of premium quality whisky and the most coveted women,” runs the blurb for WhiskyX. “Not only will the quality of our whisky make your heart beat faster, the thought of the same whisky touching the body of the woman of your dreams will leave you speechless.” This whisky is filtered over gold and diamonds. It is then “blended” over the bodies of adult movie stars Tori Black and Joy van Velsen. The photo features Black pouring over her chest, offering further branding opportunities for its use as a bodywash or antispetic.
Anyone buying a $3 knit crop top from Amzaon whousl know that it shows your nipples and, as one mother says, “Do not buy this, even for your cat.”
Connecticut teacher fired for reading Allen Ginsberg poem students can borrow from the school library
Censorshsip is on the rise in the US. The ‘you can’t say that’ culture is undermining free speech and free thinking. National Coalition Against Censorship has news: “During an AP class discussion about gratuitous language, a student asked a teacher to read an Allen Ginsberg poem. He did. He’s not a teacher anymore.”
David Olio was sacked for reading a poem? Really?
In February two students complained about an Allen Ginsberg poem that, at the request of a fellow student, was shared in Olio’s AP English class at South Windsor High School in Connecticut. A media uproar followed, and Olio was essentially forced to resign.
For those of us old enough to remember television in the ‘70s the epitome of cool was the Six Million Dollar Man, Col. Steve Austin and his bionic enhancements. But what was once the purview of science fiction is inching closer to becoming an everyday reality, as optics specialist Eric Tremblay unveiled a unique contact lens that provides the user with telescopic vision. The lens was revealed earlier this year at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose, California.
The new contact lens, a more advanced model of a prototype introduced in 2013, is 1.55 millimeters thick and features a very thin, reflective telescope, which allows the user to zoom in and out in literally a wink. The telescopic contacts are made with a rigid lens known as a scleral lens— larger in diameter than the more familiar soft contacts, but useful for special cases, such as for people with irregularly shaped corneas. Despite their size and stiffness, scleral lenses are safe and comfortable for special applications, and are an attractive platform for technologies such as optics, sensors, and electronics.
Lord Nelson would have loved it.
Stuck for a way to inject chocolate sauce or cream into a ripe banana? Well, worry no more. The Chocobana-na is here to turn the phallic fruit into a loaded missile.
The Daily Mail told us that choloclate can help you lose weight.
John Bohannon writes:
“Slim by Chocolate!” the headlines blared. A team of German researchers had found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day. It made the front page of Bild, Europe’s largest daily newspaper, just beneath their update about the Germanwings crash. From there, it ricocheted around the internet and beyond… The Bild story quotes the study’s lead author, Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D., research director of the Institute of Diet and Health: “The best part is you can buy chocolate everywhere.”
I am Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. Well, actually my name is John, and I’m a journalist. I do have a Ph.D., but it’s in the molecular biology of bacteria, not humans. The Institute of Diet and Health? That’s nothing more than a website.
Other than those fibs, the study was 100 percent authentic. My colleagues and I recruited actual human subjects in Germany. We ran an actual clinical trial, with subjects randomly assigned to different diet regimes. And the statistically significant benefits of chocolate that we reported are based on the actual data. It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded.
The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled Sean Henry’s painted bronze sculpture of Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
His lap-top’s in the leather bag slung over his shoulder.
In 1947, Trimz made ready-pasted wallpaper for children. “Actual tests have proved that one fly can carry as many as 6,600,000 bacteria!” But with DDT the fly is dead. The bacteria are dead. And you child is being slowly poisoned.
London is getting bar ABQ, a venue set in a large RV named after the setting of the TV show Breaking Bad in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
For £30, 22 punters-a-time will not get to sample the blue meth, but”cook” two drinks.
Anyone unable to afford £15 drinks can pop along to Danny’s Burger RV (formerly Danny’s Burger Van) on the M62 betweeen 2am and 5am every weekday, where so long as you’ve got the cash, Danny’s pretty much got anything you want.
A third floor flat in unlovely Keppel House on Brompton Cross, Chelsea, is on sale for £1.5m
Maskells estate agency says the redesigned property features two-bedrooms, a 1952 Soviet-styled exterior, “handcrafted and laid chevron flooring”, “mood lighting and bespoke fixtures”.
Alannah Currie, once of the three-piece 1980s band The Thompson Twins, now works as an upholsterer.
She says she has hidden poetry and handwritten stories in different parts” of her chairs. And then there is her use of marterials, which is interesting:
The foxes, swan, lamb and blue tit on my chairs are memento mori. I’m a vegetarian, so I did a lot of research to find the right taxidermist who uses animals that die naturally or are roadkill. I had to wait eight months for the swan. As far as fitting the animals into the chairs, I’m very specific. For instance, for the foxes, I measured the back of the chair, drew exactly how I wanted the foxes to be positioned and sent these drawings to the taxidermist. Then I sewed them in when they eventually arrived. All the furniture is made to be robust. It is functional art – there may be a lamb on the chair, but you can lie beside it or use it as a cushion. To me, they are very beautiful but disturbing at the same time.
You can see more of her work at Miss Pokeno.
Will you go boldy into the Star Trek flat in Hinckley, Leicestershire.
RealDoll’s take one helluva pounding. And Slade’s job is to go in there and make the rough, broken and chaffed smoother than a rubber glove.
Slade works with Matt McMullen, creator of Abyss Creations, located in Southern California.
“The original concept I had was actually not a sex toy at all,” says McMullen… “It was intended to be a poseable mannequin, or simply a form of art.” He quickly noticed that a lot of people saw the dolls in an erotic way. The company makes about 300 RealDolls each year. A standard-issue model sells for $6,500, while a meticulously customized one can go for as much as $50,000.
Slade replaces the damaged vagina, which looks like this:
Fiero traces his interest in dolls to playing with G.I. Joes and Barbie in his youth.
“I was born in 1960 so Joe was the guy I got to hang out with for those formative years.”
“Slade has a very important place in the doll world,” says Elena Dorfman, a photographer who documented that world in her 2005 book Still Lovers. “People are sending him their beloved—or at least a sex partner that they paid a lot of money for. They’re trusting him to fix her. It’s like sending someone you love to the doctor and hoping they’ll come out all right.”
Slade has tips:
“If you care for it, if you treat it right, you can crank her knees up to her shoulders and bang away at that doll with good hard intercourse and come out shining. But clean her out… Clean her off. If you’ve got a hairy chest, you’re going to leave hairs all over her. If you’ve got a cat, she’s going to pick up cat hair. You want to take care of what you’ve got.”
The customers might be registered:
“I had one guy from Berkeley who had sex so hard with his doll that he ripped the leg off it. The doll was less than a year old, and destroyed. Her calves, from below the knee, had what looked almost like knife puncture wounds. Hundreds of them. I don’t know what this guy was doing to this doll.”
Has Slade ever been tempted to road test his repair:
“I’m not going to be fucking dolls and shipping them to other people. That’s fuckin’ rude. What kind of businessman would I be if I did that?”
But how do you know the fart is a genuine fart and not a lab-produced stink? The company’s website says the fart is from a backside, but fails to say which one?
Jart also say the bottled “invisble turd” lingers for 3 to 5 days!
Spotter: The Daily Dot