From the monthly archives:

June 2014

What’s The Score?

by John Holbo on June 11, 2014

Wow, Cantor out.

So I click over to see the joy at RedState. Erick Erickson is explaining that it’s less crazy than it seems for primary voters to boot a guy with a 95% rating from the American Conservative Union. “Heritage Action for America takes a more comprehensive approach to its scorecard, it does not try to help Republican leadership look good, and is a better barometer of a congressman’s conservativeness.” Cantor only got a 53% from Heritage.

Look at the comprehensive Heritage scoring, from top to bottom. Only Mike Lee gets 100%. A lot of Republicans don’t break 50%. McCain gets 51%. I’m not going to bother, but if you averaged it all out, I think it would turn out America is about 20% conservative, which seems barometrically low. How did they score this thing? There doesn’t seem to be any information on the site about how the scoring was done. (I appreciate that scoring every single vote means it’s pretty complicated, but still, shouldn’t they have guidelines about what ‘conservative’ means to them?) Anyone know?

Rik Mayall is Dead

by Harry on June 9, 2014

Telegraph obit here. Kevin Turvey was the first I ever heard of him, and still my favourite. A kind of punk rock Ronnie Corbett.

Gesture Drawing

by John Holbo on June 9, 2014

Good discussion for my caricature post. I ended up saying stuff in comments about the Carracci, who are sometimes thought to have been the first portrait caricaturists. They taught quick-draw caricature, as an exercise, in their academy.

I don’t really go for all that “The Loves of the Gods” jazz. (It’s nice and all … if you like that sort of thing.) So I was very pleasantly surprised to discover just how much I like Annibale’s drawings. This book – The Drawings of Annibale Carracci – is amazing!

In spite of Annibale’s meticulous care in drawing realistically described and articulated forms, what sets him apart and places him in the category of great graphic artists is his ability to set down a few strokes to imply an entire scene … No one before Annibale, and only Rembrandt after him surpassed his genius for subtle suggestion.

So very true! Here, for example, is a preliminary sketch for the “Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne” panel.


I guess they told him he couldn’t include Batwoman like that. DC would have sued.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve seen, earlier, such a loose, abstract style of gesture drawing, as a way of working out a composition. Probably that is just my ignorance of the history of drawing, but this book really got me interested in Baroque painting, in an archeological sense: all the different layers of cartoon behind it, from the very rough to the very tight. Neat stuff, I say.

Sunday photoblogging: Horse in a field

by Chris Bertram on June 8, 2014


by John Holbo on June 7, 2014

I’ve been writing a survey article on “Caricature” for a forthcoming anthology on comics. I did that thing where you do too much research? And actually you don’t have that many words to play with? So sad.

Baudelaire is quite a clever fellow, of course, but it turns out the most sophisticated definition of ‘caricature’ comes from Walt Disney: “The true interpretation of caricature is the exaggeration of an illusion of the actual; or the sensation of the actual put into action.” That’s basically Ernst Gombrich’s philosophy of caricature – which is the correct one! – condensed. And Disney said it first.

I found part the quote in Walt Stanchfield, Drawn to Life [amazon], and was rather proud of my discovery. But it turns out it comes from a 1935 memo to Don Graham, which someone has posted online in its entirety. So I’m later to the party than I thought. Rats.

One thing that makes the topic slippery is that you can get bogged down in arguments over firsts. It’s rather traditional to start with Leonardo’s grotesque heads. But why not not start with a Paleolithic ‘venus’ figurine? Basically, you start using ‘caricature’ as a synonym for style, so all art is caricature. Probably you don’t want to go there – or just briefly.

But here’s a possible ‘who’s first?’ game we can play. What is the earliest case concerning which the means survive for us to enjoy, today, the classic caricature viewer experience? The amused moment of personal recognition – simultaneous seeing of likeness in not-likeness? I submit one should start with this portrait of Rudolf II, then look at Arcimboldo’s Vertumnus (1590). You can see it in the wheat eyebrows and radish eyebags. “Vaster than emperors, and more slow,” you might say.

Obviously it’s only our historical bad luck if we can’t find anything earlier. Can you push it back further?

Bonus points for earnestly wringing your hands about whether, by hinting that we can see what Rudolf ‘really’ looked like in the Heintz painting, I am implicated in a pernicious ideology of naive realism. Bless you, in advance, for your concern!

Mash Up For What?

by Belle Waring on June 6, 2014

So, a new DJ Earworm mashup. This one was getting a lot of bitching in comments, but I like it a lot. Partly it’s because many were complaining that the inclusion of “Happy” made it bad, and I really like the song “Happy.” Partly because it’s “only” five songs. This is funny to me because I have been listening to mashups/bootlegs for a long time, and for many years there were always only two songs, and that was often even the titling: Song A vs Song B, or Artist A vs Artist B. One of the best mashups ever is dsico’s “Love Will Freak Us” (Get Your Freak On vs Love Will Tear Us Apart) (Missy Eliot vs Joy Division obvs.).

Another early classic is Freelance Hellraiser’s “The Strokes vs Christina Aguilera ‘A Stroke of Genie-us.'” I am entirely certain that the popularity of this bootleg made Christina Aguilera’s people write/produce songs for her differently. Really, her music was no question influenced by how good this sounded. (Now you’re going to tell me that there’s still Christina Aguilera in there, so “good” in that previous sentence is not being employed properly but…OK. Don’t like it. It was ground-breaking, though. I think it came out in 2002.

I feel obliged to warn you that this video contains scenes of…well, unrelieved priapism? There is no reason that a man crashing through the successive stories of a normal Asian apartment building, and convincing his neighbors to join him in mimicry of unsatisfied sexual behavior should be more sexual or more salacious than girls shaking their almost-naked asses at you and performing sexual congress with the wall of Jason Derulo’s dressing room or whatever, but somehow it is. Zoë says it’s more disturbing “because they look like real people.” This is right; we expect impossible plastic beauties from around the world to shake their money-makers right into the camera. An ordinary Chinese dude in sweatpants dry-humping an old TV is…more sexual? This can’t be right, but it’s right? Anyway, NSFW in some illogical way that is fully clothed and has no one touching anyone. This combines with the ordinary people in the video for “Happy” in a humorous way.

Next time: is Iggy Azalea a drag queen? Is this a kind of reverse blackface where you take the rhymes you want from a woman MC from South Florida and then repackage them in a model-perfect white blonde?

The Ethics of Immigration symposium: index

by Chris Bertram on June 4, 2014

The first part of our symposium on Joseph Carens’s The Ethics of Immigration is now concluded. While we wait for Joe to compose his reply, here’s an index of the contributions:

Update: Joe Carens’s replies in two parts: Part One and Part Two.

So why did the organisers of this symposium also offer the opportunity to a European Union lawyer – not a theorist mind, but a vanilla lawyer – to make a comment on Joseph Carens’ magisterial book on The Ethics of Immigration? It should have been obvious that I could add nothing to the excellent contributions by other normative theorists who are commenting directly on these aspects of Carens’ work. So it must have been for some other reason.

It was presumably in order to provoke a reflection upon the peculiarities of the EU’s own combined system of internal soft borders (‘free movement’) and external hard borders (‘Fortress Europe’, some might say) in the light of Carens’ arguments about the ethical demands of states in relation to borders and migrants. To that extent, my reflections are less about the book than about the issues which the book is helping me to think through – and for that I am very grateful to Joseph Carens for his wonderful text and also to the organisers for indulging my preferences.
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The Ethics of Immigration symposium: On Method

by Phillip Cole on June 2, 2014

The appearance of Joseph Caren’s book, The Ethics of Immigration, has been a long-awaited event and it does not disappoint. The breadth and depth of its vision is extraordinary and it will shape the debate for many years to come as an indispensable text. It also gives those of us who teach the ethics of migration on our courses the chance to introduce our students to that vision in its entirety, instead of guiding them to glimpses of it in journal articles and book chapters.

However, my task here is not to praise Joseph and his book, but to raise challenges to which he can respond so that we can continue the dialogue he began in the 1980s. Therefore I have to do something that is very difficult and strange to me, and to write contra JosephCarens.
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This is a fantastic symposium inspired by a fantastic book, and it is clear that all the contributors agree on at least one key point: Joseph Carens’s majestic The Ethics of Immigration is an intensely important text and all of us are deeply in debt to Carens’s work on this crucial subject. There is no doubt that over the years Carens has done more than anyone else to bring the ethics of immigration to the attention of mainstream Anglo-American political philosophy, and he has set the agenda for the discussion for many years to come.

From that shared starting point, the commentators then fall into two groups. There are those who are in broad agreement with most of Carens’s conclusions and are generally sympathetic to his overall agenda (but may disagree with parts of his approach, and even may wish to push his open borders arguments further). And there are those who disagree with a number of Carens’s conclusions and are less sympathetic to his overall agenda. I fall in with the first group; my comment is intended as a friendly intervention, which also takes seriously some of the concerns of the second group (concerns not necessarily expressed directly in the symposium pieces, but which appear in writings elsewhere). And rather than go over terrain that has already been covered in the symposium, I want to concentrate on one particular point regarding Carens’s argument from democratic principles.
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Political theorists are much indebted to Joseph Carens for his 1987 article “Aliens and Citizens: the Case for Open Borders”. Written in a period of increased restrictions on migration, Carens’s article was pioneering in two ways: it introduced the migration question to political theory’s agenda and set the terms of the debate from the free movement side. Carens’s recent book, The Ethics of Immigration, is less pioneering. It explicitly aims to engage with the “conventional view of immigration” and to show that it can accommodate some measures which improve citizenship and admission policies. The open borders argument is not abandoned but is left to only one of the twelve chapters. Carens’s main concern, however, is to show that the open borders argument does not conflict with the measures he proposes.

It is possible to have the opposite concern: are the proposed measures a way to advance towards a  world of open borders? In other words, is Carens still advocating open borders? My analysis here will be limited to the first measure he proposes in the book, this is that “justice requires that democratic states grant citizenship at birth to the descendants of settled immigrants” (p. 20). Whether justice requires this or not, many “democratic states” already conform to this principle and my argument is not that they should stop. Rather, my worry is that such an argument is not a way to advance towards an open borders world.
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Joe Carens’s The Ethics of Immigration is just the book that the growing field of the political theory of migration needed. Rich in argumentation, wide in its coverage, fluently and reflectively written, it will act as a locus of, and focus for, discussion and debate.

It is also a book with a distinctive methodological structure. In the first part, Carens presupposes ‘(1) the contemporary international order which divides the world into independent states with vast differences of freedom, security, and economic opportunity among them and (2) the conventional moral view on immigration, i.e., that despite these vast differences between states, each state is morally entitled to exercise considerable discretionary control over the admission of immigrants’ (p.10) and seeks to reconstruct how liberal democratic states should, in acting on their own deepest commitments, treat immigrants. In the second part, Carens focuses on admission and in the final two chapters drops this presumption of state control and re-articulates his well-known argument for open borders. In this commentary, I will focus on the first part of the book.

The arguments of the first part build to Carens’s theory of social membership (chapter 8) on which I’ll focus but we should preface this discussion by noting how they build to this theory. Carens is committed to a contextualist form of political theory that works from the ground up. The discussions of birthright citizenship, permanent residents, temporary worker, irregular migrants can be seen as the cases from which Carens is attempting to reconstruct a norm of social membership that will make coherent sense of our democratic practices of social and political membership. The norm that Carens reconstructs is ‘that living within the territorial boundaries of a state makes one a member of society, that this social membership gives rise to moral claims in relation to political community, and that these claims deepen over time.’ (p.158)
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Sunday Photoblogging: Cruiseship

by Belle Waring on June 1, 2014

Boat headed away from Singapore, to the East. It’s gloomy in the tropics more often than you may think. 50,000-foot-high thunderheads piling up don’t leave much room for light.smship5x7