October 18, 2011
It was in an SBS documentary about the vibrator where I first came across the story that said device was invented in the Victorian era in order to spare doctors the drudgery of administering a widespread cure for "hysteria" manually. This led to occasional jokey remarks on my part re the Victorian age: when orgasm for a middle-class woman was a medical procedure.
As I should have guessed, this notion, largely taken from Rachel Maines' The Technology of Orgasm, seems to be a tad dubious, although that won't be stopping Hollywood making a film about it. (Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. Surprised? No, neither am I.) Mind Hacks reveals the sad news and links to the relevant part of Victorian Sex Factoids that discusses the (probable) myth.
- Ideas about and treatment of hysteria that form the basis for the argument are based on outdated secondary literature, leading to misreadings...Which extraordinary phrase is really the only reason I'm making this post. Well, that and the wonders it will do to my hitcount.
- There was enormously pervasive horror around masturbation in Victorian Britain ... masturbation in women was still seen as either causative of or symptomatic of some kind of pathology, physical, mental, or moral.
- This is borne out by diatribes against contraception as 'Conjugal Onanism', which claimed that sexual stimulation of women without its culmination in (at least potentially) reproductive marital sex led to all sorts of ailments, including 'Malthusian uterus'.
Incidentally - if you've ever wondered where the Victorians got their peculiar idea that "twanging the wire" or - erm... "adjusting the volume", let's say - was bad for one's health, here's Stephen Greenblatt reviewing Thomas Laqueur's book on the subject.
October 08, 2011
As I'm one of those "to the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth" tossers, here's Stephen Wright at Overland:
Our iPhones were made by real children. Really. Real children. Another human being really committed suicide because they couldn't tolerate another day making our fucking iPods. And so on. If I can look at my Apple product and not think 'Someone really suffered to make this' that’s because the Apple product itself has eclipsed the thought of the other in my mind; iPod, slave child - iPod wins every time.Here's Mr Daisey* himself, in the New York Times:
The American actor Mike Daisey recently toured Australia with his show The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Daisey, a long-time Apple geek, visited the Foxconn complex disguised as a US businessman, fake business cards and all...
Daisey points out that it was Apple’s choice to use Foxconn. Until the 90s Apple products were made in California. He also points out that the labour costs make up only a small part of the price of an Apple product. The production of Apple products by slaves isn't part of the natural order.
Apple, like the vast majority of the electronics industry, skirts labor laws by subcontracting all its manufacturing to companies like Foxconn, a firm made infamous for suicides at its plants, a worker dying after working a 34-hour shift, widespread beatings, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to meet high quotas set by tech companies like Apple.It's amusing, if not surprising, to note the gizmo-centric nature of the stoush at the Boings associated with the post about Mr Daisey's lèse-majesté, although some attention is paid to Apple's sweat-shop manufacturing and, to be fair, even Mr Daisey buries that lede. The ire directed in comments at those pointing out Apple's conformity to standard corporate behaviour brings to mind the longstanding joke that Apple consumers are better understood as a form of cult (I mean, seriously, kids - queueing for hours to score tickets to a rock show that might sell out featuring performers who may never visit again is one thing; doing so to be first to get consumer electronics that will retail in their millions, or at least until people stop buying them, is just fucking strange). I suppose no-one, least of all the glibertarian otakus who infest the threads at BoingBoing, wants to face the cognitive dissonance that comes with acknowledging your shiny new techno-bling is the product of sweatshop labour, or even that, at the end of the day, they're just things made by yet another massive transnational. (And, so I wonder, is Mark Frauenfelder's remembrance an example of the same, as he recounts a day spent, while making an ad for Apple, being treated with dismissive disregard by Apple staff, before revealing the punchline that Steve liked his bit best! Or is he just making the funny?) Hence their rage at being forced to note the global economic truisms, which, ironically, they'd give less of a shit about if they weren't so psychologically invested in the supposed transcendent coolness of the products.
I have traveled to southern China and interviewed workers employed in the production of electronics. I spoke with a man whose right hand was permanently curled into a claw from being smashed in a metal press at Foxconn, where he worked assembling Apple laptops and iPads. I showed him my iPad, and he gasped because he’d never seen one turned on. He stroked the screen and marveled at the icons sliding back and forth, the Apple attention to detail in every pixel. He told my translator, "It’s a kind of magic."
* the performance artist (update 17/3/12).
October 05, 2011
'Haussmannization' – the mid-19th-century programme of urban renewal in Paris named after the prefect in charge of it, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann – was specifically aimed at making it difficult or impossible for protestors or revolutionaries to take streets via the barricade. If alleys and small streets were difficult for armies to navigate, wide avenues were seen as unblockable, as well as conducive to the rapid transfer of troops or police around Paris. Haussmannization was translated for more than 100 years into other places around the world, from modernized megacities to US university campuses in the wake of the 1960s protests.Michael Sayeau in Frieze, via Verso Blogs.
Recent events in London seem to demonstrate that, due to various technological and ideological shifts, the days of the Haussmannized city street as a deterrent to protest are numbered. Barricades have given way to flash mobs, the targets have shifted toward the emporiums of consumerism, and the cat-and-mouse battles between the police and those who resist them take place nearly as often online as in the physical places of the city.