I've developed an increasing fascination with the unreal world of quantum physics. It's inherently satisfying to watch the natural sciences eat themselves alive from the ground up, the tacit admission that reality is subjective and or non-existent that is contained in quantum physics confirms what those of us outside the paradigm have known forever. The full import of the message, that there is nothing that can be known for certain, isn't simply an anarchist pose for ontology and methodology classes. It is a documented fact of physics. All that time struggling through Popper, Feyerabend et al, the caffeine and blood oozing from my pores, proves valuable. We were onto something...
I find it kind of spooky that the principle contained in Schroedinger's cat theory is more than a parlour room word-game for over indulged humanities students. It can be demonstrated to be true with atoms. Fortunately, no cats need to be simultaneously dead or alive to achieve this demonstrability.
Einstein's general correctness will eventually be affirmed and none of these advances could have happened if he hadn't gotten it a bit wrong, something the man himself ultimately acknowledged. It is important to understanding Einstein that one appreciates that all of his mathematical work was premised on excluding a variable equivalent to 'God'.
I sit to the side a little dazed by the rapid progress of these ideas. My golden days as an undergraduate where not that long ago and even then physicists would have laughed us out of the room for the methodological nihilism of denying 'reality'. Now, they're queueing to post their notices of denial to the lab wall...
There's little need for me to editorialise on this, but I will. I shall just play fast and free with copyright and reproduce the entire article because it is important. Vivienne Westwood is one of the few public intellectuals who truly grasps the culture / revolution nexus.
My immediate reaction to Westwood being Damed was horror, of course. The woman who designed the God Save the Queen T-Shirt, a Dame? I come from a solid republican heritage, to accept Royal Honours is automatically suspect to me. [Republican, in Australia, means I favour a local Head of State over the British Monarch. It has nothing to do with Bushism at all]
My angst settled quickly enough, Westwood accepts her Daming at a different time and in a vastly different context to say, Lennon, refusing an honour. Westwood works in a larger historical framework of Englishness that engages an element of rogueishness. In many ways her Daming represents the degree to which English style democracy relies on pesky seditionaries to keep things clean. Viv can justify anything she does as irony- the great cultural cop-out that she helped to let loose in a way that Warhol might only have dreamed. Dame Vivienne might choose to pass it off as a win for the forces of 'radicalism' but the reasoning is much more simple and much more complex
Or... how did Viv and I both end up concluding that a Monarch is our best defence against 'democracy' at this stage? Only 15 years ago I was the foundation shaking that very nearly led to the abolition of the Monarch. Now, both Carrie and Vivienne wandering about muttering 'hebeas corpus' at people as if they even care. The soma of consumption has made them deaf, I think. It sounds better in Breton's rendering but something like 'revolution is close when the conservative becomes the last bastion of reformers'.
All of this is making those of you unfamiliar with the nuances of Westminster Democracy want to cry, and I should refrain. The simplest plea is that one reads this open to the idea of radical conservatism- the notion that defending ideals like freedom of speech and conscience, the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, the separation of Church and State, the critical role of education and other rapidly vanishing principles on which our countries are built is now the sole preserve of radicals. Those of us who seek to protect these things are the new radicals and it is crucial that we find a a rallying point. If it has to be at a Vivienne Westwood couture house, I'm prepared to suffer for revolution.
[n.b. a lot of the press on this is fundamentally wrong. Westwood made the God Save the Queen T-Shirt but the image itself, Queen Elizabeth of Australia with a safety-pin through her nose, is the work of Jamie Reid]
Anarchy in the UK - more like God save the Queen PROFILE Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood is a great admirer of the Queen. No, honestly. It was a misguided folly of the times, says the godmother of punk, that led her to stick safety pins through Her Majesty’s nose on T-shirts designed for the Sex Pistols during the silver jubilee in 1977.
The former scourge of the Establishment has expressed regret, too, at the memory of her visit to Buckingham Palace in 1992, when she twirled for the cameras to celebrate her OBE and revealed she was not wearing any knickers. A genuine oversight, she insisted.
At the age of 64 the brazen fashion designer now wants to save the monarchy, declaring that it was a mistake of the 20th century “to think that because some traditional things should be done away with, you have to throw them all out”.
Just as well, since the new year honours list has put Westwood on notice to revisit the palace for her investiture as a dame of the British Empire. Almost single-handedly she reinvented the female form, dragging sex out of the closet to give women the glamour and confidence often denied to them by the tyrannies of fashion. “Fashion is about sex,” she declared bluntly.
In the flesh Westwood is as disconcerting as her designs. Beneath a shock of stiff, hennaed hair, her porcelain skin and delicate wrists make her seem a frail figure from a Toulouse-Lautrec painting, an impression at odds with layers of riotous clothing that reminded one uncharitable interviewer of a small girl emerging from the bedroom, “proudly wearing all her clothes at once and expecting a round of applause”.
Her polite and ladylike voice betrays a Derbyshire accent as thick as a dry-stone wall. The self-taught daughter of a sausage maker has come a long way since she dispensed sedition and sexual fetish gear to a generation of pimpled rebels from the emporium she ran with Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols’ manager, in London’s King’s Road more than 30 years ago.
Some views seem borrowed from the lofty circles she once despised. “I would describe myself as an elitist — if there was an elite to belong to,” she once observed. She is also a self-proclaimed intellectual: “I think nobody could understand the world we are living in if they don’t read the essays of (Bertrand) Russell and (TH) Huxley.” She despairs of our lowbrow culture: “I don’t think we have any culture, not really.”
To cap it all, she has declared that the punk era was not much fun, that she is not too keen on the 20th century and that she disdains consumerism. This heretical mix of pretension and hypocrisy has prompted mockery of her folie de grandeur, but such criticism misses the point.
Westwood is an awesome figure in the fashion world. She has been rated one of the six most important designers of the 20th century by Women’s Wear Daily, and is credited with changing public opinion about what is acceptable for women to wear. She was the first British designer ever to be honoured by an enormous retrospective exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum in 2004.
Shrewdness tempers her eccentricities. Her greatest skill is the reinterpretation of historical dress with a playful idea of Britishness. She liberated the corset from a symbol of repression to one of power and sexual freedom. Her curvaceous designs make women feel sexy and adult rather than the hapless prey of the big brands. “Above all, I am proud that I’ve always made real clothes,” she says.
Westwood’s days of challenging fashion’s rules may be behind her, but she remains a force to be reckoned with as a prolific designer and head of a business empire. Masterminded from her Battersea headquarters in southwest London, this stretches from her flagship shop in Conduit Street, London, to stores in Manchester and Leeds. She has launched a perfume, Boudoir, and has tie-ins with firms that market her designs. Her platform shoes and bold juxtapositions of traditionalism are still copied avidly by high street stores.
It has not been a seamless run, for she has skirted bankruptcy more than once. Eleven years ago she hit a bad patch. She had just married her third (and current) husband, Andreas Kronthaler, a man 25 years her junior whom she met when she was teaching in Vienna to pay the bills. The business was struggling, and she recalls him saying to her: “I can see you’re not happy. Either do the job and enjoy it, or go off and do something else.” Since then, she’s had a ball.
She brought Kronthaler to England, contemptuous of the sniggers over her toy boy infatuation and talk of a mother-son relationship. “We were attracted to each other like magnets,” she told The Sunday Times in 2004. He proved to be an imaginative interpreter of Westwood’s work and now designs most of her menswear, leaving the women’s clothes to his wife. They live in south London with Alexandra, their fox terrier and inspiration for Westwood’s marketed dogwear.
She was born on April 8, 1941, in Glossop, Derbyshire, the daughter of George Swire, who worked at the local Wall’s factory and came from a line of cobblers, and Dora, a greengrocer’s assistant. It was an entrepreneurial family, “always looking for ways to make extra money, even if it was just breeding dogs”, instilling in her a need to make money for self-esteem. Otherwise, she reasoned, “I’d just be a stupid northern girl surrounded by people who can make money”.
By her account, she was a clever, popular child, a leader with a nose for mischief. When she was 16 the family moved to better prospects in Harrow, Middlesex, where her parents ran a sub-post office. She attended Harrow School of Art, but left after a term for a teacher-training college, where she met and married Derek Westwood, an airline steward. They had a baby, Ben, who now does glamour photography (“a euphemism for porn photography”, Westwood once elaborated).
She was teaching at a primary school three years later when she met her Svengali, Malcolm Edwards (aka Malcolm McLaren). “I thought Malcolm was some sort of oracle,” she said. “I considered myself very stupid, which I was, terribly, with no culture.” In exchange for his liberation of her mind, she liberated him of his virginity, despite not really fancying him at that stage. Their son, Joe, owns Agent Provocateur, the saucy lingerie chain.
In 1971 the couple opened their first shop, Let it Rock, at the end of the King’s Road, where it metamorphosed over the years into Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die, Sex and then Seditionaries.
The classic badge of punk, a spiky hairstyle, came about by accident. McLaren, who had refashioned Westwood from a blonde dollybird to a short-haired brunette in school dresses, urged her to have a crew cut, but her hair was too fine. “So I bleached it, and that made it stand on end and it interested me to let it keep on growing. So the crew cut became the punk rock hairstyle.”
Punks’ obligatory zips, bondage gear, safety pins, razor blades, bicycle chains and spiked dog collars had a more bizarre origin. “Even before the Sex Pistols, it was (McLaren’s) idea that England was the home of the flasher and we had to confront it. We were going to be flashers.” When the Sex Pistols wore the shop’s clobber on their early outings in 1976, punk was born and Westwood became its seamstress.
The thrill of being a flasher didn’t last. “I wasn’t happy in those days. I didn’t find punk very exciting, and I certainly wasn’t happy in my relationship with Malcolm. After we split, I realised how far I had moved away from him.”
With McLaren, it was all pointless polemics, she believed. She needed ideas. “And that’s when the richness of fashion began to overwhelm me.” Her brilliantly original Pirate collection in 1981 established her stature as an exuberant originator who, by creating a new language for clothes, paved the way for designers such as John Galliano and Alexander McQueen to reinterpret fashion.
Three months ago Westwood joined forces with Liberty, the British civil rights group, to launch T-shirts and babywear bearing the slogan “I am not a terrorist, please don’t arrest me”. Nice to know that the grand dame of fashion has not sold out completely to the Establishment
I've said it before, it warrants repeating. 'Intelligent Design Theory' is a concept that implicitly chokes on it's own shit. Why would an intelligent God send hateful, unchristian, fundies out to do his PR work? Would a 'thoughtful' God let them go out looking so drab after designing an infinite band of colours and so many sensual fabrics in his extremely busy six days? All that so that his cheer-squad can stick to beige with a touch of off-white? That's not intelligent design- it's cardigan design. What kind of 'intelligent God' would launch Christian Rock onto the world? By their very existence fundies disprove an 'intelligent' God, what Tommy Gnosis called 'a micromanaging God'. A micromanaging God would, at very least, give them something decent to wear wouldn't he?
I hold that challenging material and access to contrary points of view are both critical to true education. Without engaging the process of questioning, the outcome is only teaching. Education develops an individual in an wholistic process of personal and intellectual growth. Teaching transfers skills from master to apprentice. If I could attribute the quote I would, but google isn't co-operating. Our old mate whatshisface said 'a man is not educated until he comprehends the extent of his ignorance'. Perhaps Voltaire or Descartes?
From that base, I find it hard to argue that 'Intelligent Design' shouldn't be a part of high school education. In the first, the subject now has suficient social currency that to be ignorant of it is undesirable and probably dangerous. This might mean that it should be moved from the science labs to the social studies room? It seems to me that a lecture devoted to sketching and deconstructing Intelligent Design Theory would be productive. It would provide a powerful tool for teaching the difference between a hypothesis and a theory. Studying the material published by IDers would provide good operational examples of pseudo-science and equip students to distinguish good research from bad. It might even help a few more Americans to truly understand the concept of separation of Church and State.
If the ID mob choose to believe in ID I'm not here to stop them. I'm quite content to assume that they have had access to competing ideas and made their choice. I'll even send a pack of biscuits to their next conference. ID 'theory' itself is not a threat to science. If Darwin is problematic, ID could only be described as still-born. It isn't ID theory that poses a threat, it's the motivations and prejudices of the people who peddle it. The true threat is to secular education and the very foundations of rationality, Darwin is big enough to look after himself.
Bluntly, any good speaker with skill in logical argument will overpower the Intelligent Design mob easily and quickly. A base in science isn't needed- the IDers have little or no regard for the concepts that hold science together like reason, demonstrability and the quaranteening of 'superstition' from academic inquiry. Their 'hypothesis' is so flawed that the entire body of nonsense that they call a theory can be demolished in no more than fifteen minutes. The IDers themselves will never be persuaded to jettison this madness, they can't back down now. Our best hope is that that they get bored and find a less effective tool with which to stage their assault on rationality.
And that makes this very good news indeed. As humanity devolves at such an alarming pace it's a comfort to see one small victory for reason over dogma and superstition.
There's a comments box below where anyone who wishes can confirm / correct my understanding of US Federalism. My understanding is that this ruling will ony apply in Penn State where it was handed down?
Intelligent design loses
In scalding decision, judge denounces rival to evolution theory
By Lisa Anderson Tribune national columnist Published December 20, 2005, 9:25 PM CST
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- In a broad and blistering landmark decision, a federal district court judge Tuesday ruled it unconstitutional to teach intelligent design, a concept critical of modern Darwinian evolutionary theory, in public-school science classrooms.
Using scathing language that described the defendants as liars and their actions as "breathtaking inanity," Judge John Jones III rendered what many consider a watershed decision in the culture wars over the teaching of evolution, also ruling that intelligent design, or ID, is not a scientific theory but a religious belief.
"In fact, one unfortunate theme in this case is the striking ignorance concerning the concept of ID amongst board members. Conspicuously, board members who voted for the curriculum change testified at trial that they had utterly no grasp of ID," wrote Jones in his 139-page decision. It came 46 days after the close of Kitzmiller et al. vs. Dover Area School District, a six-week bench trial heard in Pennsylvania's Middle District Court in Harrisburg.