Friday, November 30, 2018

Women of the world unite!

A Badminton Champion Without Peer, Especially at Home

Carolina Marín is the first women’s player to win three world championships. But in Spain, she is a badminton unicorn — an athlete with no rivals.

What the Movies Taught Me About Being a Woman

A society that forgoes monogamy HUMANS In the foothills of the Himalayas is the home of the Mosuo people. After a coming of age ceremony, women can choose as many lovers as they wish, Video by Christopher Cherry.

From propaganda to Plasticine: Six secrets of British animation

ULURU STATEMENT FROM THE HEART (aboriginals of Australia)

We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the
southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the
Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs.
This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according
to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’,
and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain
attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is
the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or
extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred
link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient
sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately
criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This
cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene
numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the
torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own
country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in
two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures
our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better
future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between
governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek
across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people
for a better future.

inside the mind of a digital native

Meet Alexa: inside the mind of a digital native

She is 24 and Instagram is her life, even though she sometimes wishes it wasn’t. But what happens when she meets a guy who doesn’t feel the same way about social media? 

Alexa was choosing a dress for a party. It was taking a while. This always happens, she gets carried away with every little thing. She was late, but she wasn’t worried because everyone’s always late, apart from her boyfriend Olly, who is always on time and was already there, which she felt bad about because he was only going to the party to support her, just like he always did. The decision about what to wear was painful because she had to figure out what would look right. Not what would look right to someone else, or even to herself, but what would look right in a photo. She’s always thinking about how things will look in a photo. She’d already posed the dilemma to her followers on her story, Instagram’s video feature which self-deletes after 24 hours, and there were dresses strewn across her bed. The party was a press launch for an ethical jewellery company called 64Facets, which sells conflict-free diamond necklaces and bracelets for upwards of $10,000. It was happening at an opulent bar in Blakes, a hotel in South Kensington, and there’d be pictures all over the internet, so the outfit had to be right. There was the flowing dress which meant she wouldn’t have to suck in her stomach all night, or the dress that covered her upper arms which she generally liked to keep hidden, or the dress she thought made her look like a chunky bat. She couldn’t decide. She always does this – she’ll try on everything in her wardrobe and have a frickin’ panic attack and then she’ll be back in the first thing by the time the Uber has arrived. The trick for the photos is getting the blogger pose right, where you sort of flip forward a knee to make your legs look longer, which is different to the mirror-selfie pose, where you contort your body and pop your bum out, so that you’re in a full S-shape, Kardashian-style. Make-up’s easier because it’s always the same: cat eyes, foundation and contoured cheekbones which is another Kardashian thing, although she doesn’t actually give a shit about the Kardashians, she thinks they’re a joke. The one thing she knows is that she’s not going to wear tights for maybe the third time in her life. She used to be so self-conscious about her legs. If you’d told her a year ago she’d be going out with no tights on, she’d have laughed in your face.

Alexa Abraham, @alexa.abraham, @rexrayy, is 24 years old. She is small and likes being small and has straightened dark hair that frames her face. She shares her name with Amazon’s virtual assistant, a coincidence that once made her cry when she discovered that the only reason her boss had hired her was because she liked the idea of having a real-life Alexa to order about. She was born in New York but grew up in London, and her parents and two younger siblings now live back in America. Sometimes she feels like she’s having an identity crisis because although she sounds American, and can only vote in America (Hillary, or it would have been if her postal ballot had arrived in time), she doesn’t always get their cultural references as she didn’t spend her teens there. At the same time there’s plenty she doesn’t get about Britain either, like the lack of healthy alternative food options and the limited range of equipment in gyms.

Alexa lives in a flatshare on the third floor of an ex-council block in west London, which looks a little worn from the outside, with concrete staircases and faded white balconies, but has been jazzed up on the inside, with a shiny red-lacquer kitchen and two en-suite bathrooms. It’s always immaculate because Alexa loves to tidy. Her dad, an ex-banker, pays her rent for now. She works at a PR startup, called Prezzroom, which represents clients with wellness and fitness products, such as KIN Nutrition (vegan protein powder), Boundless Nuts (nuts activated to release nutrients using Aztec and Aboriginal techniques of soaking and baking) and New Motion Fitness (techno-soundtracked gym and yoga workouts). Alexa started there a year ago, as an intern, and literally had to write out a script for herself before cold-calling. Within a few months she found she had a knack for sourcing clients on Instagram. The original CEO promoted her to co-founder, and now Alexa can just march into a room and pitch to a bunch of 40-year-olds.

Since she graduated from university in 2017, Alexa has meta­morphosed. Back then, she never would have spoken in public or worn shorts; now she posts pictures of her abs on social media and broadcasts on her Instagram story daily. A year ago, she had only just met Olly in a sticky student bar in Fulham. Now, she was about to spend a weekend in Dorset, where Olly grew up, to meet all of his family for the first time.

Olly is two-and-a-half years older than Alexa. A grandpa. He’s dark blonde, wears glasses and well-ironed shirts and has the kind of deeply English sensibility that makes him ever-cheerful and rigorously polite. Olly went to a rural boarding school and then a local Dorset grammar school. He works in finance in an office in the City and eats meat. Alexa went to a private London day school, works all over town, at her living-room table or on her phone in the middle of the night and is – mostly – pescatarian.

When they first got together, Olly found Alexa’s constant chronicling of her existence on the internet to be both intrusive and a serious case of bad manners. He had stuck with his BlackBerry for years. When he finally surrendered to social media he assumed it was for posting stuff you were doing, or Being Yourself. He used to clog up his Instagram with pictures of coffee. Alexa found them uninspiring, and would text him after each post, “What the hell is that?” She taught him how to do it properly, how to make your day look prettier and more fun. She always knows when a male friend has a new girlfriend as his Instagram feed will suddenly and dramatically improve.

Early on, the gulf between their online habits caused some ups and downs. They had to figure out if they could adjust to each other’s ways. Now, Olly can see how important Instagram is to Alexa and her work. He’s come to terms with being an Insta-boyfriend – he thinks that’s the word – appearing constantly in her pictures and her story, being filmed at the gym or at a party or at a restaurant or in the park or just walking down the street. He’ll even arrange activities specifically for their Instagram potential, like an Aperol Spritz brand event in Hoxton, where you could row a boat along an Aperol-orange canal. Alexa has found ways to compromise too. She has learned how to put away her phone for the whole day when they’re together, knowing how much it will mean to him.

Both Olly and Alexa were a little nervous about the Dorset trip. Alexa wanted to make a good impression. Olly was worried about Alexa experiencing some kind of culture shock. His family have layers of private games and incomprehensible in-jokes that might seem odd or excluding. They could be boisterous and strange. He grimly anticipated his father reaching for the obvious gag about her name.

Alexa wants to grow her personal brand and become an influencer. She’s already an ambassador for an active-wear company, Seeing Things, and a vegan condom brand, Hanx, and if she can gain enough followers on Instagram she might transfer her profile to YouTube where some of her internet heroes have popular channels, such as Grace Fit UK (434,000 subscribers) who has the most amazing body and work ethic, and Anna Akana (2.4m subscribers) who posts some of the most original content she’s ever seen. Alexa used to play a lot of video games and her male friends have suggested she could grow her online profile through Twitch, the live-streaming platform that broadcasts people playing video games. Girls, being scarce, tend to do well on it. But though video games were a part of her more tomboyish youth, now that she’s into the whole wellness and fitness scene, Instagram is her natural home.

She’s also on LinkedIn for work and status anxiety, because she’s always spotting some ex-classmate now working at NASA or Goldman Sachs and making her feel inadequate; Tumblr for private self-expression in the form of dark and moody images that she finds on other people’s feeds and curates into a kind of personal gallery that she definitely wouldn’t want anyone she knows to see; and Twitter for news, song lyrics, stream of consciousness, retweeting memes and political outrage. But Instagram is queen. It is the engine of her life, the medium of her job, the thing she’s on at three in the morning telling herself “five more minutes, five more minutes”, while Olly sleeps beside her.

Alexa has posted nearly 600 times since she joined in March 2014 and has about 1,500 followers. Recently she’d been noticing that the more pictures she posts of herself and the more care she takes with her hashtags, the more followers she gains. But it’s nerve-racking. She used to post whatever she liked without thinking about it but now she’ll post something and be like, “uuugh, is that a good idea?” and sit there anxiously waiting for comments. It’s important not to say the wrong thing or to upset a prominent influencer because they could easily ruin your career.

She knows that some of her old school friends see her feed, like when she’s posting a mirror selfie from the gym, and think “what the hell happened to Alexa?” But the fitness crowd of personal trainers and nutritionists on Instagram post gym selfies routinely. She finds it motivating and inspiring though she could see that if you’re not part of that community you might think she was an asshole too.

That’s why she likes posting on her story, because in a video she can be closer to herself than she is in curated photos. Instagram Stories reveal how people actually are rather than how they’d like to be seen, or that’s the idea. Alexa gets good feedback on hers. People message privately to tell her she seems genuine and funny, like when she choked on protein powder and clowned about or showed off a disastrous fake tan. It’s important to Alexa that her Instagram persona is as genuine as possible – literally her but online.

Alexa fell in love with the internet aged 13, the age when everyone falls in love with something. She’d be on it at 3am, chatting with friends or looping round YouTube, seeing how many posts she could get on her Facebook wall. When her parents clocked her nocturnal habit, they’d confiscate her laptop, she’d wear them down with promises, her mum would spring a midnight ambush and the whole cycle would begin again. Her parents were strict, but she gave them hell.

Her younger siblings, aged 17 and 18, have a totally different relationship with social media. They’re not into sharing and mock her for the relentlessness of her Instagram. It’s like how she used to be with Snapchat where she’d have stories – a sequence of images from a 24-hour period – that were 200 seconds long and her friends would be like, “oh my god can you please stop”, and she’d be like, “sorry I was drunk”. Now Snapchat is over, and Alexa only uses Facebook as a photo archive, to publicise an event or announce a relationship. Becoming Facebook official, as she and Olly did last year, remains significant. “Does it matter?” Olly asked at the time. “YES IT MATTERS,” said Alexa. But if you were to post a status on your wall these days you’d be a goddam social pariah.

One sunny morning in Alexa’s flat, the doorbell went and a parcel of active-wear arrived containing a monochrome ombré bra top to match some monochrome ombré leggings. Ombré – where a colour will shade from dark to light through a piece of clothing – is a thing. So are parcels. Alexa’s bedroom is covered in packaging. The problem with the sheer quantity of online ordering she does is the consequential number of returns she has to make. She loves receiving mail – there’s something “woah” about it – but the idea of having to physically post a package makes her feel anxious because she isn’t fully confident that she knows how a post office works. Her bed is covered with the boxes of various subscription services, like Tribe (snacks) and the Pink Parcel (sanitary items and Votes for Women bracelets) which arrive weekly or monthly and bring with them a feeling of specialness. Some are better than others. “My issue with the Pink Parcel”, said Alexa, “is that it’s mostly just tampons.”

Alexa put on her new ombré top and went down the road to her local PureGym, a dark grey, industrial space, mostly underground, containing the usual rows of machines and sweat-damp men lifting weights in front of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. She considered what to do. She chooses her workout according to her mood – cardio if she’s tired and needs to wake up, or the stairmaster if she’s hyped up and wants to calm down. Today she went for the stairs to de-stress: she was trying to organise some birthday drinks for a friend and her group were proving hard to round-up on WhatsApp. She always plans everything.

Alexa doesn’t go out as much as she used to – too tired, too stressed, too busy. Sometimes, her favourite way to spend a Saturday night is at the gym. She used to go every day, religiously, but over the last year she’d let the habit slip which made her feel bad about herself. It’s better when Olly goes with her as the gym can be fraught. She’s been hit on and asked out. She’ll never go in rush hour as it’s crazy in there. If she does go alone, there are parts she’ll avoid as they’re usually crammed with pumped men. The free-weight section can be hell on earth.

Birthday drinks! The friend’s cake was a Camembert and everyone was drinking Prosecco. The smokers gathered on Alexa’s balcony. Everyone else was in the living room where dance music was playing. Alexa brought out the Camembert with a candle wedged in it and everybody sang.

In one corner, the conversation turned to Harvey Weinstein, and what you’d do if a boss was pressuring you for sex. “I’m just saying you have to deal with the life choices you’re given,” said a pragmatist. “You either take the moral high ground or you suck his dick.” There was general dissent. There should be a middle way. Someone said there were laws. “I’m not saying he’s a good guy and should get away with it,” the pragmatist continued. “But people are fucking twats.”

The smokers drifted in from the balcony. One said, “I eat everything organic but I smoke like a chimney.” Olly told a story about a friend of theirs who is vegan through the week but gets drunk on weekends and binge-eats chicken nuggets. Someone was remembering the last time they took LSD. Alexa looked appalled. She had to “trip-sit” friends on LSD once. They started to vomit. She would not trip-sit again.

A supermarket cake had been bought, iced to resemble a caterpillar, for those who did not want to celebrate with cheese. Alexa was holding a slice.

“I’m allowing myself this,” she said. “This is my treat today.

I spent three hours in the gym.”

“She has this gym thing,” said Olly. “I’ll go to the gym for 45 minutes to an hour.”

“He’ll leave before me,” said Alexa.

Olly added: “I’ll go and buy her food like mushrooms or soup.”

Alexa is lactose-sensitive, gluten-free and has a drawer full of supplements and vitamins from which she takes a few when she remembers. Activated charcoal. Gentle iron. Branched chain amino acids. She has become so good at taking them she can swallow a fistful. Sometimes she’s too busy to eat proper meals and will just eat protein bars or shakes. She develops obsessions. Olly recalled their holiday last year in Lanzarote.

“Without fail every day you had squid at least once,” said Olly.

“I did not actually,” said Alexa. “They didn’t have it everywhere.” In the centre of Alexa’s and Olly’s dietary Venn diagram there is just one item: salad.

This was another worry about Dorset. The food, Alexa figured, would most likely be classic rural British. Heavy on the carbs, rich in dairy, meaty as hell. She was planning a trip to Waitrose to stock up on healthy snacks.

Alexa’s brain goes round and round, a constant cycle of everything she should be doing. Write that post, send that email, set up that meeting. It’s become so connected to her body that she has a near-constant pain in her chest. Her main anxiety used to be physical, a self-consciousness about her body which meant she hated exposing her skin and found even crossing the road a challenge as she didn’t like the idea of someone in a car watching her without her being able to see them. Now she’s more worried about her career, about how well she’s doing or feels she should be doing. Her university graduation was the worst day of her life – the memory of it alone makes her cry. She stood on the stage in what should have been a moment of celebration and had a panic attack and afterwards lay on the floor of a toilet cubicle and sobbed. It felt like the end of everything, like she’d never be able to hold down a real job, like she couldn’t possibly be successful. Everyone else always seems to be going faster, doing better, winning.

Sometimes it feels like a thing now, being anxious. Everyone’s anxious. Or depressed. On social media you have to have a backstory, something you’ve been through or some kind of condition, in order to have credibility. She feels jaded about it, until she remembers that not long ago people wouldn’t even mention the fact that they had a mental-health problem for fear of losing their job or being stigmatised in some way. Surely it’s better to be open and honest. To over-share than to share nothing at all?

Sometimes, Alexa feels like a baby trapped in a grown-up’s body, or like she’s still six years old. She knows that people in their early 20s have probably always felt bewildered or lost, and that maybe there’s nothing new about feeling beset by pressure and self-doubt and financial insecurity. But she also knows that she’s come of age at a moment when the odds feel tilted against her, when the world feels unstable and the future uncertain, when the likelihood of having a predictable job or owning a home seems remote.

Standing in front of her mirror, trying to choose the right dress for the ethical-diamond party, Alexa recalled an episode of the historical drama “Jamestown” that she’d watched the night before. The programme is about the first settlements in Virginia. She loves historical dramas like “Britannia”, “The Vikings” and “Victoria”. Often she finds herself strangely attracted by the limited lives of the women in these shows in comparison to the paralysing set of choices she faces, though she doesn’t want to sound like she is in favour of arranged marriages.

Anyway, “Jamestown”. “This couple got married and they were so happy and everyone was cheering for them and I had this moment of, there are no cameras!” said Alexa, turning to see her reflection from one side, then the other. “No one has their iPhones out. It’s 16-whatever. There’s no technology. And I was like, this sounds like heaven. I would be so much more comfortable in everyday life if these things didn’t exist and yet they are my existence. You know? I have to plan my whole life round it.”

A scroll of notifications five thumb-swipes long. Shit. Everyone was at the diamond party already. Olly was waiting for her. Alexa chose a dress (the first one).

The Uber stopped outside the discreet black exterior of Blakes and down in the dark glow of the basement bar the guests were being given champagne and small silver keys. Strings of diamonds were in glass cases lined up against the back wall. If your key fitted a lock on a small box, you got to keep the piece of jewellery inside.

Alexa went to film the diamonds for her story while Olly stood in a corner and considered the Dorset trip, which was suddenly upon them. It was a big deal she was going: in his family, you only took a partner home if it was serious. Later in the year, they were planning to move in together, somewhere in London they could afford. He was mulling south of the river, though he knew she was hoping for something more central, like Notting Hill. They had talked about the future. “She wants three kids,” he said, and added, “probably that means three kids.”

There was a minor commotion when it turned out the winning key belonged to a toddler who someone had unexpectedly brought to the party. People tried to seem charmed. But otherwise Olly and Alexa spent most of the evening in a corner, drinking and chatting. They talked about how the night might unfold, which bar they’d go on to, and how they wanted to save themselves for the following evening which was Olly’s 27th birthday.

They didn’t save themselves. In the morning, the aftermath of the diamond party was logged on Alexa’s story: long shots of Alexa and her colleagues with their arms thrown round each other in a bar, then Alexa and Olly wearing sombreros, rosy and transported. The story ran on and on, the night passing at hyper-speed through the jump-cuts of her videos, there was a sense of something coming loose, a blessed loss of self-consciousness. They were having an unbelievably good time.

If you grow up online, you know what it is to be watched and how it feels to be heard, and how the more you are watched and heard, the more you want and need to be. Things don’t feel real until they’re shared or valid until you know what other people think about them. Your self becomes something to be recorded, posted, judged and, possibly, hopefully, monetised. You can be a brand, and maybe you should be. Deep in the guts of Instagram, there’s a sense of well-meaning frenzy – a race to prove that you feel and admire and suffer and love more than anyone else. And then there’s the unspoken quid pro quo: you like me and I’ll like you. “It’s like why have we ended up in this situation to begin with?” Alexa wondered one afternoon. “Why do we need to show off our lives? I don’t know. All these weird contradictory things.”

And yet it is only on social media that Alexa feels able to talk honestly about herself, and to feel good about her body. It was online that she’d learned about intersectional feminism, and the importance of acknowledging her privilege as a white woman of means. She knows how lucky she is to be supported by her parents, to do a job she enjoys, to pursue a life she wanted. She is proud that it feels possible for her peers to talk about subjects like mental health and sexual assault that their parents had often concealed or denied. Every woman she knows had experienced some kind of sexual assault; thanks to #MeToo they can now talk frankly about it. Her generation are sick of the silence society had maintained around everything; now they are breaking the silence, noisily, freely, on multiple platforms.

Sure, the constant sharing can make her feel anxious – other people’s lives often appear so glorious – but it also makes her feel less alone and better informed. She now knows and cares about so much beyond the limits of her own sliver of class and time and place. On balance, the insight gained from all the personal revelation online, and the sense of mutual support available in a retweet, offsets most of the internet’s ill effects. “I think without that openness I’d still be a very unhappy individual,” she said. “Not that there’s sun coming out of my asshole now.”

Dorset. The weekend filled her story: an anxious cab journey to the station (they nearly missed the train); a stately home and garden tour; Olly playing golf with his brother and father; a music festival in a field; church on Sunday morning.

Alexa found Olly’s family hilarious, and they seemed to welcome her into their ranks. It all amounted to a kind of blessing: a confirmation of how they felt about each other. At the end of it all, she tweeted: “had the most amazing weekend with the boyf and his lovely fam and I think I actually improved my abs from all the laughing despite all the wine #sherborne #englishcountryside #feelingzen #familytime #ladsladslads”

Accompanying this was a video, 15 seconds long, from Saturday night. In a field under a cloudy sky was a festival stage surrounded by people. Alexa’s phone swung round to catch Olly and his father dancing, their limbs flying up and down in lunatic, joyful synchrony. All you could hear was the roar of “Mr Brightside” filling the evening and the sound of Alexa, laughing.

Sophie Elmhirstis a freelance journalist



Maybe They’re Just Bad People

Not all Trump support is ideological.

The New York Times
By Michelle Goldberg
Opinion Columnist

Nov. 26, 2018

Seven years ago, a former aide to Ralph Reed — who also worked, briefly, for Paul Manafort — published a tawdry, shallow memoir that is also one of the more revealing political books I’ve ever read. Lisa Baron was a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, hard-partying Jew who nonetheless made a career advancing the fortunes of the Christian right. She opened her book with an anecdote about performing oral sex on a future member of the George W. Bush administration during the 2000 primary, which, she wrote, “perfectly summed up my groupie-like relationship to politics at that time — I wanted it, I worshiped it, and I went for it.”

It’s not exactly a secret that politics is full of amoral careerists lusting — literally or figuratively — for access to power. Still, if you’re interested in politics because of values and ideas, it can be easier to understand people who have foul ideologies than those who don’t have ideologies at all. Steve Bannon, a quasi-fascist with delusions of grandeur, makes more sense to me than Anthony Scaramucci, a political cipher who likes to be on TV. I don’t think I’m alone. Consider all the energy spent trying to figure out Ivanka Trump’s true beliefs, when she’s shown that what she believes most is that she’s entitled to power and prestige.

Baron’s book, “Life of the Party: A Political Press Tart Bares All,” is useful because it is a self-portrait of a cynical, fame-hungry narcissist, a common type but one underrepresented in the stories we tell about partisan combat. A person of limited self-awareness — she seemed to think readers would find her right-wing exploits plucky and cute — Baron became Reed’s communications director because she saw it as a steppingstone to her dream job, White House press secretary, a position she envisioned in mostly sartorial terms. (“Outfits would be planned around the news of the day,” she wrote.) Reading Baron’s story helped me realize emotionally something I knew intellectually. It’s tempting for those of us who interpret politics for a living to overstate the importance of competing philosophies. We shouldn't forget the enduring role of sheer vanity.

That brings us to Monday’s New York Times article about Bill White and his husband, Bryan Eure, headlined “How a Liberal Couple Became Two of N.Y.’s Biggest Trump Supporters.” The answer: ego. A former big-ticket Democratic fund-raiser, White went straight from Hillary Clinton’s election night party to Donald Trump’s when he realized which way the wind was blowing. (“I didn’t want to be part of that misery pie,” he said of the dreary vibe at the Clinton event.) Another turning point came earlier this year when, he claims, Chelsea Clinton snubbed him at Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar in Manhattan, leading him to call Donald Trump Jr., who offered to come to him right away.

This story, like Baron’s book, is arresting in its picture of shameless, unvarnished thirst. White and Eure mouth some talking points about disliking “identity politics” and valuing “authenticity.” Like a lot of Trump apologists, White insists the president isn’t racist because African-American employment figures have improved during his administration. But the lurid opportunism that’s driving him and his husband to embrace Trump is obvious. Such opportunism is far from rare; it’s just not often that we see it exhibited so starkly.

Trump is hardly the first politician to attract self-serving followers — White and Eure, after all, used to be Clintonites. (The guest list at their lavish wedding, The Times once wrote, “read like a telephone book, if the White Pages printed a version containing only the rich and influential.”) But Trump is unique as a magnet for grifters, climbers and self-promoters, in part because decent people won’t associate with him. With the exception of national security professionals sticking around to stop Trump from blowing up the world, there are two kinds of people in the president’s orbit — the immoral and the amoral. There are sincere nativists, like Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller, and people of almost incomprehensible insincerity.

In many ways, the insincere Trumpists are the most frustrating. Because they don’t really believe in Trump’s belligerent nationalism and racist conspiracy theories, we keep expecting them to feel shame or remorse. But they’re not insincere because they believe in something better than Trumpism. Rather, they believe in very little. They are transactional in a way that makes no psychological sense to those of us who see politics as a moral drama; they might as well all be wearing jackets saying, “I really don’t care, do u?”

Baron’s book helped me grasp what public life is about for such people. “I loved being in the middle of something big, and the biggest thing in my life was Ralph,” she wrote in one of her more plaintive passages. “Without him, I was nobody.” Such a longing for validation is underrated as a political motivator. Senator Lindsey Graham, another insincere Trumpist, once justified his sycophantic relationship with the president by saying, “If you knew anything about me, I want to be relevant.” Some people would rather be on the wrong side than on the outside.

American Pathology!

Herbal remedies via Caire, female lead in OUTLANDER

Claire’s amazingly well stocked medical bag seem to be the healer’s equivalent of Mary Poppins’ never ending carpet bag.

Always prepared and ready for anything, Claire has got right at hand the remedy for whatever might be ailing ye!  And for the record, this bag is FABULOUS and if anyone knows where I can get my hands on one, please share!

the bag
This bag is fabulous! / STARZ
Alex Randall’s condition has worsened significantly and he is dying of tuberculosis (more about TB here). As is sadly becoming a common theme in Outlander, nothing can be done to cure Alex.  In fact, prior to the mid-20th century, approximately 80% of people who developed active tuberculosis died of it. All that can be done is to provide comfort and dignity in his final days.

very ill alex
Alex in his final days / STARZ
Alex’s tuberculosis has significantly progressed, causing him to have excessive sputum, coughing and wheezing. Claire is able to mitigate his suffering a bit, allowing him to breathe a bit easier.  She prepares a pipe of thornapple and coltsfoot, and the smoke of these will provide some relief.  We’ve seen her use thornapple before, when Ned Gowan was suffering from asthma. (I do hope we see Ned again, he’s been missed!)

lighting the pipe 2
Relieving Ned Gowan’s asthma with the brochodilatory effects of thornapple / STARZ
Thornapple, also known as Jimson Weed, acts as a bronchodilator, opening Alex’s constricted airways via the action of atropine as well as reducing mucous production obstructing the flow of air.

The leaf of the coltsfoot plant has been used historically as an inhalant to ease cough and wheezing. Its scientific name is Tussilago fanfara, (tussis – “cough”, ago – “to act on”), very appropriate given its expectorant, antitussive and anti-inflammatory effects.

Smoking various medicinal herbs via pipe, cigarette, or cigar, was indeed an effective historical remedy for the symptoms of lung disease.  These often contained Stramonium, aka thornapple!

Kellogg’s Asthma Cigarettes c. 1920-1930 / source
However, Alex is in such severe distress, he cannot purse his lips and draw breath from a pipe. Ever resourceful, Claire has a solution.

blowing into tube two
Ever resourceful Claire! / STARZ
Claire has contrived a way to deliver the medication to Alex, much like an inhaler and spacer.  Alex can freely inhale the medicinal smoke without needing to try to take a forceful or deeper breath.  And indeed, it seems to provide him some relief.

Inhaler and spacer for effective delivery of asthma medication / source

Claire splits her time between caring for Alex Randall in his final days, and attending to Colum MacKenzie, who continues to suffer debilitating pain from the destructive Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.

“I would prefer something more final.” / STARZ
Claire offers Colum laudanum for pain relief.  Colum replies with “Laudanum just dulls the senses.  I would prefer something more final.”

What is laudanum?

An alcoholic solution containing opium.  Used primarily as a pain reliever.  Also used as a cough suppressant and for the treatment of diarrhea. Overdose and death can occur with as little as 3 teaspoons in those unhabituated to opiates.

Colum asks Claire to give him a quick death, like Geillis Duncan gave her husband Arthur.  Well, as it turns out, Arthur’s demise wasn’t all that quick.  (See the post What Was Ailing Arthur Duncan!)  After trying to kill him for months by poisoning him with arsenic, and causing unending gastrointestinal misery, Geillis ultimately dosed Arthur with cyanide and he dies a quick, though agonizing and quite public, death in the Great Hall.

arthur on ground far
Poor Arthur Duncan / STARZ
Claire points out that cyanide poisoning would be a terrible way to die and pulls from her well stocked medicine bag a vial, telling him, “This is yellow jasmine.  It will be like drifting off into a deep sleep.  For when you are ready.”

vial for colum two
Yellow jasmine / STARZ
Well, that sounds like a much better option.

Except for the fact that yellow jasmine might also cause an agonizing death.

Yellow jasmine, or Gelsemium sempervirens, is indeed extremely toxic, but rather than allow one to drift peacefully off to sleep, it suffocates the victim by paralysis:

The symptoms of yellow jasmine toxicity are depressed respiration, tremors, paralysis of the extremities, convulsions, urination, defecation, retching and salivation.  In large doses (as Claire gave Colum), it paralyzes the respiratory centers. Large doses paralyze the spinal cord and cause almost complete loss of muscular power.  Death is due to asphyxiation.

In order to allow Colum to drift peacefully off to sleep, perhaps Claire has added a very strong sedative?  It would have taken A LOT of laudanum to have this effect on Colum, as no doubt he has been taking large doses of laudanum regularly for many many years and is quite habituated to it.  But then, she does have that medicine bag of wonders and  perhaps is able to whip up something to quickly cause sedation so that the yellow jasmine could take its effect without causing undue distress.

However, this is an interesting excerpt, describing a poisoning with yellow jasmine which does sound like what Claire intended:

Gelsemium in lethal doses paralyzes the nerves, both sensory and motor. The motor nerves are first influenced, the paralysis of sensation more slowly following. The writer observed a case of poisoning where the patient had taken sixty minims of the fluid extract within forty-five minutes. A sensation of general oppression occurred rather suddenly. The patient rose to her feet, noticed that vision had failed almost completely, walked two or three steps, then fell in a mass upon the floor in a state of complete muscular relaxation. There was no alarm or fear, a rather tranquil feeling mentally, and in this case there was no great difficulty of breathing, although we have observed dyspnea from single doses of two or three minims of the fluid extract. The recovery of this patient was rapid, although muscular weakness was present for several days.

From the American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy by Finley Ellingwood, MD.  1919. Pages 225-6.

In the end, Colum ended his life on his own terms, and hopefully in the peaceful way Claire intended.

empty vial
On his own terms / STARZ

And here is a fun find for those who like quirky historical medicine facts…  Enjoy!

Other Applications for Medicinal Smoke?

Interestingly enough, tobacco smoke enemas were actually used in the past for the treatment of a number of different ailments such as gut pain and in the resuscitation of drowning victims.  Indeed, it is the origin of the term “blowing smoke up your arse!”  Let’s hope Claire doesn’t find a need to explore this modality further!

Resuscitation set containing the equipment necessary to inject the lungs, stomach or rectum, early 19th century. /  source


Dutt, V., Thakur, S., Dhar, V. J., & Sharma, A. (2010). The genus Gelsemium: An update. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 185–194.

Ellingwood, Finley. (1919).  American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. (available to read online here)

Questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions for future Outlander medicine topics? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment here, email or find me on twitter @sassenachdoctor

30b1118 BLOK

30b1118 BLOK
The thing about contemporary life is that it all about more and more, updates better, when they are not necessarily better as taking up larger and larger space!
It´s all about backing up files, your storage device too small. 
I wonder if the brain is too small for all of this, more and more, updating, backingup, hacking, wracking up... what?
We have Apps, for slaps to wake up!  You could be attacked, worst sacked!
Did you know this is the season for cyberstealing, update your malware, beware!  Merry Christmas!
We have been turned into consuming robots, glued to that small screen, members of the Thumb Tribe.
Now, when you go to get help at a website, you don´t get a human, but a chatbot.
We´re losing jobs to AI and robots, predatory corpos.
What will workers do for jobs in the future¿
Foment revolution?

30a1118 BLOK

30a1118 BLOK
Work gives men and women meaning,
Marriage, family, children, gives women and men meaning!
But, is that all to life?
Isn´t their something more to life than material endeavors?
Row, row, row your boat 
Gently down the stream!
Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily,


In Yemen, Starvation for Many and a Dilemma for Reporters

Should a journalist put down his notebook and help desperate beggars? It’s a question some readers asked after we published an article on Yemen’s looming famine.

American Pathology!

This was my problem working at ABC-ESPN years ago! I could never be myself! H.

Feeling comfortable and empowered lets you take more risks, speak out more and solve problems better, research says - but your boss needs to set the tone for a safe space for all.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

It´s a circle jerk-off of our so-called leaders. H.

G20: So how does the summit work?

The G20 summit of the world's most powerful leaders begins in Buenos Aires on Friday.

Women of the world untie!

MeToo founder Tarana Burke: Campaign now 'unrecognisable'

We´re killing them! Keep using plastic bags, as suicide. It´s the human herd that needs to be culled.

Whale stranding: Another 50 pilot whales die off NZ

Money is God, what would you expect!

30,000 empty homes and nowhere to live: inside Dublin’s housing crisis

Dublin’s landlords would rather put their properties on Airbnb than rent to local families. There are echoes in cities around the world. By 

“Elimination is love.”

Bowel movement: the push to change the way you poo

Are you sitting comfortably? Many people are not – and they insist that the way we’ve been going to the toilet is all wrong. By 

You want me to go where?

Pulling back the curtain: Wizard of Oz named most influential film

Researchers in Italy analyse 47,000 films to come up with list of those most referenced

American Pathology.

Before Colts Neck Murders, Two Brothers and Troubled Business Ties

A New Jersey man stands accused of killing his brother and his family, including two young children, as decades of intertwined lives began to unravel.

American Pathology, THAT´S WHAT´S FUELING IT. H.

Why are more Americans than ever dying from drug overdoses? Deaths from drug overdoses in the US reached staggering new heights in 2017, according to newly published figures. Trump called the crisis a “national shame and human tragedy” – but what is fuelling it?

American Pathology!

Convicted murderer Samuel Little confesses to killing 90 women

If his claims are confirmed, it would make him one of the worst serial killers in American history

American Pathology!


Ukraine-Russia sea clash: Poroshenko urges Nato to send ships

WWIII, possibly starting here...

The 96-year-old painter who saved a village

Good idea!

The rise of the 'meanwhile space': how empty properties are finding second lives

Rather than let properties lie empty, Paris is learning to hand them over temporarily to community groups and startups

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How about riding a bicycle to Mt. Everest when you´re 70 years of age?

Rough Guides launches tailormade trips as part of major overhaul

Guidebook publisher moves away from book sales to become a tech platform providing bespoke holiday service that aims to ‘change the way people travel’

Who would think Santa could be a man?

Who would think Santa could be a man?

The town of Newton Aycliffe has enjoyed a parading Santa every Christmas Eve since the 1960s, and there has never been a shortage of men for the role. What possessed two women to volunteer this year is an enigma, at least to the Labour councillor Arun Chandran, who finds this unnatural. He worries that children, especially, expect a man, given that Santa’s other name is Father Christmas. Gender-essentialist trait-finding doesn’t interest me, but I will say this: Santa has two core skills; remembering who to get presents for (everybody) and wrapping them. Never mind: “Can Santa be female?” In what known universe can Santa be male?

The animals are fighting back!


Pedestrians vs. Bikes in New York City!

In This Corner of New York City, It’s Gray-Haired Pedestrians vs. Bikes
Maurice Rosenthal, center, 96, rests in Clara Coffey Park in the Sutton Place neighborhood in Manhattan. The park is a popular gathering spot for many of the neighborhood’s older residents.
Maurice Rosenthal, center, 96, rests in Clara Coffey Park in the Sutton Place neighborhood in Manhattan. The park is a popular gathering spot for many of the neighborhood’s older residents. CreditElizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times

By Winnie Hu
Nov. 27, 2018
A tiny wedge of a park on the East Side of Manhattan is a haven for the older people who fill its benches and often park walking canes and wheelchairs beside them.

“You don’t feel like you’re in the middle of the city,” said Marjorie Posner, 77, a retired financial manager and park regular. “It’s an escape from the noise and the bicycles.”

But soon the bicycles will be coming.

As part of an ambitious plan to complete an unbroken bike-and-pedestrian path around Manhattan, city officials plan to install a ramp alongside the park that would give access to a new esplanade on the East River.

Longtime parkgoers are furious. And their anger reflects a broader debate about a cycling boom sweeping New York that is increasingly leading to conflict with another trend — the city’s growing number of older residents, many of whom say they cannot dodge bikes fast enough.

A resident holds a map showing a proposed ramp that would run along the park and link a bridge over the F.D.R. Drive to a new esplanade along the East River. The esplanade is part of the city’s plan to complete a bicycle and pedestrian path around Manhattan.
A resident holds a map showing a proposed ramp that would run along the park and link a bridge over the F.D.R. Drive to a new esplanade along the East River. The esplanade is part of the city’s plan to complete a bicycle and pedestrian path around Manhattan.CreditElizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times
“When you’re walking the street, and you’re trying to cross it, and there are bicycles coming all over the place, it’s a scary thing,” William Robertson, 62, a writer and filmmaker, said. “You can’t just jump out of the way like a gazelle like you did in your 20s.”

Cycling has increasingly emerged as an alternative to the city’s troubled subways and buses, and as a way to help reduce car congestion on already crowded streets. It allows riders to go where they want, when they want, without being limited by routes and schedules. And it offers the benefit of exercise and fresh air. About 460,000 bike rides take place in the city every day, up from about 180,000 bike rides in 2006, according to the city. There are now 1,208 miles of bike lanes, 268 of which have been added since 2014.

But in recent years, the growing bike presence has drawn complaints from residents and community leaders who say that some cyclists ignore traffic rules and pose a safety hazard to pedestrians. Cyclists, in turn, have countered that pedestrians often walk in bike lanes, or dart in front of them with little warning.

Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, said that while she supports cycling in the city, she hears complaints every time she visits a senior center about dangerous cyclists who ride too fast, run red lights, go in the wrong direction and cross over onto the sidewalks. “It’s a huge concern,” she said. “They’re older and they can’t move as fast. They say to me all the time, ‘I almost got hit by a bike.’”

Mary Dodd, 64, said she recently had two close calls with cyclists while crossing First Avenue on the Upper East Side. Both times, she said she looked toward oncoming traffic before crossing. And both times, she said she was nearly flattened by cyclists speeding from the opposite direction against traffic. Ms. Dodd, the director of the social services unit for the Carter Burden Network, a community-based social service agency, said she’s heard many stories of older people having near misses.

Critics oppose the bridge and the ramp because they say it will funnel too many bicyclists into the area and create a hazard for older residents. 

Money-profit is God, what would you expect?

Pharma firm sold mesh implant despite pain warnings

Exclusive: staff at Johnson & Johnson had concerns it could harden in body, emails show

Ex banker from Rothchild´s only for the rich! An egomaniac!

Riots, low ratings … where did it all go wrong for Emmanuel Macron?

The French president hasn’t just lost his touch, he is enabling the populism he was supposed to defeat

It starts here...

Ukraine president warns Russia tensions could lead to 'full-scale war'

Petro Poroshenko says Moscow massing troops at border as Crimean court orders sailors detained for two months

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

This is me, except I have discovered the world, riding a bicycle! H.

The senior nomads who sold everything to travel the world

Instead of choosing traditional retirement, Debbie and Michael Campbell sold their possessions and have been on the road ever since.

Ever herd of the ancient Pict culture of Scotland?

Dreams, she points out, can have a multitude of meanings – each one with the potential to affect an individual in its own unique way.

Dancing naked with robots: dreams of Jarman prize winner Daria Martin

Video art has never been more celebrated – and after taking the £10,000 prize for the best artist using moving images, the intriguing filmmaker is in the vanguard

Ethnic cleansing by the Chinese Government!

'A community in unbelievable pain': the terror and sorrow of Australia's Uighurs

Australian permanent residents have disappeared into China’s internment camps and others are being made to report to Chinese authorities from Sydney