October 30, 2009

October 29, 2009

Permission granted to do as you please

As an atheist, I don't have any vested interest in anyone's inclination toward one or more gods, omnipotent, omnipresent or omniscient, nor do I carry about any angst over how others prefer to worship their god/s. So I'm bemused that the recent announcement of free and easy passage into the Catholic church for Anglicans was greeted with such excitement by some Anglicans, because, you know - umm, well - I'm pretty sure that people are free to come and go from any religion, so long as they jump through the designated hoops or whatnot. It's not as though anyone can force anyone to be - and stay - an Anglican.

"When the Vatican announced last week that it would welcome groups of traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church, leaders of one Episcopal parish celebrated as if a ship had arrived to rescue them from a drifting ice floe.

“We’d been praying for this daily for two years,” said Bishop David L. Moyer, who leads the Church of the Good Shepherd, a parish in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia that is battling to keep its historic property. “When I heard the news I was speechless, then the joy came and the tears.”


Dude, seriously: nothing has been stopping you from converting to Catholicism if that truly was your preferred church.


It's a bit like Collingwood supporters waiting for Geelong to offer free memberships before they swap to their real team of choice. Buy your own membership already!


For an Episcopal Parish, a Path to Catholicism



Bugger

"Parent alert: the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those “Baby Einstein” videos that did not make children into geniuses.


They may have been a great electronic baby sitter, but the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect."


Still, there's always “Baby Mozart,” “Baby Shakespeare” and “Baby Galileo", all is not lost!


Besides, babies love their Einstein DVDs.


No Einstein in Your Crib? Get a Refund



Well that's alright then

" ... Ms. Paton said the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners, which monitors use of the law, found that the Poole council had acted properly. “They said my privacy wasn’t intruded on because the surveillance was covert,” she said."

"The case is now before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which looks into complaints about RIPA. It usually meets in secret but has agreed, Ms. Paton said, to have an open hearing at the beginning of November.

The whole process is so shrouded in mystery that few people ever take it this far. “Because no one knows you have a right to know you’re under surveillance,” Ms. Paton said, “nobody ever makes a complaint.”

So, arh, the British are not entirely "weary" of surveillance, they, err, suck it up.


Britons weary of surveillance in minor cases

October 28, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

A clean house is the sign of a broken computer.


Unknown

October 25, 2009

Exceptionally diverting converstion

Two US pilots claim they were so deeply engrossed in a idle chit-chat with each other that they forgot to land the plane.

Must have been one of the world's most fascinating conversations of no consequence.

Neither pilot has owned up to the nature of the chat, which saw their plane land more than an hour later than its scheduled time, having taken the long and scenic route to the landing strip - about 500 extra miles were flown.

The NYTs has a beaut little interactive to save us having to imagine the course of the plane.

Fly Northwest, they'll get you somewhere pretty close to where you were hoping to be!

Helpful film reviews

"The movie is a more effective testament to the triumphs of American dentistry than to Earhart or aviation."

NYTs film review - Amelia

October 24, 2009

Choose your religion

It's been a long time coming, no idea why there's never been a simple tool before this to assist people in picking the religion that best suits their requirements.

C/o Skeptic Lawyer - a religious buffet ....

October 23, 2009

October 21, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

Science is nothing but trained and organized common sense, differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club.

Thomas H. Huxley

October 18, 2009

More dwelling on creepy old guys

Let's dwell on Dave for a few minutes - that would be Letterman.

Creepy old guy preying on young - young enough to be his daughter's & grand-daughter's - female staffers over a period of decades.

Oddly, many pieces have been *careful* to report Letterman's assertion that he has been faithful since his marriage - a marriage, as it happens, to one of his former staff. What almost every report omits is that Letterman was in a relationship with his now wife for at least 23 years - and that he got married in March 2009. Yep. That would be all of seven months ago. His claims, therefore, of faithfulness since his marriage take on a dark tinge of self-serving spin.

Yes, perhaps after having had young women on-tap at his place of work for decades makes his seven months worth of fidelity a truly exemplary achievement, but, jeebus, really, pull the other one dude.

"The single most distasteful aspect of this episode is the deliberate stocking of the “work” environment with receptive “playthings” for Dave’s amusement, like a sultan stocking his harem. Letterman never needed to set foot outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre to procure female company.


While women like Birkett and Regina Lasko, his former staffer, now wife, were complicit, it does have a hideously repellent feel to it."


An ugly old guy, with a house in Dubbo and a bit of savings or a job is a very attractive proposition for some young thing in Asia or Russia, or even Australia. It's relative and it has ever been thus. There will always be young women prepared to overlook the repellent factor so as to have their life circumstances enhanced by the perceived power and wealth of some old guy. And it's only ever men of relative power or wealth who attract these young women. They don't seek out unemployed 50 or 60 year old's living in a housing commission flat. Do all those old geezers understand this, or do they truly believe that they're *special*, that they're so attractive and virile that women of all ages - but mostly young! - find them inherently irresistible?


What does the Letterman story tell us about Dave? Only that, despite his fame and wealth, he is so pathetic and inept at finding or wooing women, and so incompetent at intimacy, that his sexual and emotional needs had to be met with a never ending supply of young women on his payroll.


Here's the only intelligent piece I've read so far, which is written by one of Letterman's former writers ... not a long piece and you won't feel tawdry when you're done -


Moral of the story: Is Letterman hurting anyone?




October 16, 2009

My eyes, my eyes!

Yes, I'm being a bit preachy this week. Suck it up.

Reason 14789235 in our ongoing demonstration to prove that America is a foreign country:
“It seems like such a mundane thing, hanging laundry, and yet it draws in all these questions about individual rights, private property, class, aesthetics, the environment,” said Steven Lake, a British filmmaker who is releasing a documentary next May called “Drying for Freedom,” about the clothesline debate in the United States.

The film follows the actual case of feuding neighbors in Verona, Miss., where the police say one man shot and killed another last year because he was tired of telling the man to stop hanging his laundry outside.

Jeanne Bridgforth, a real estate agent in Richmond, Va., said that while she had no personal opinion on clotheslines, most of her clients were not thrilled with the idea of seeing their neighbors’ underwear blowing in the breeze.

She recalled how she was unable to sell a beautifully restored Victorian home in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond because it looked out onto a neighbor’s laundry hanging from a second-story back porch. In June, the house went into foreclosure.

“Where does it end?” Ms. Bridgforth said of the legislative push to prevent housing associations from forbidding clotheslines.

Americans are horrified by the sight of clean clothes and linen innocently swaying in the breeze.

I guess it helps to explain why violence with a surfeit of bile and blood is honky-dory over there, a daily tele-vvisual diet, but a breast or a man's naked bottom sends the populace into paroxysms of hyper-morality - as does a washed frock and bra left to dry in the sunshine.
“This is not some slippery slope toward government micromanaging of private agreements,” Mr. Merriam said, adding, however, that for these state laws to succeed they need to exempt existing agreements.
No, indeed it isn't. Because government or fellow citizens micromanaging the lives of others would involve, oh, you know, something like making it illegal in most states of the US to dry your undies in a stiff breeze.

Debate follows bills to remove clothesline bans

Duck Friday

October 15, 2009

Beware of old guys bearing formulas

Rupert Murdoch and son James have publicly declared themselves passé.

In a watershed media moment, Murdoch Snr foamed at the mouth, declaring that the days of indulging "content kleptomaniacs" would shortly end, exactly like everything else about life and the universe as we know it, apparently.

Son James, young and agile enough to know better, drooled with equal rage against free access to content on the interwebs.

Ignomunious douchebugs, nitwits, dimwits, pinheads, dunces, simpletons, ninnies, dunderheads, nincompoops, blockheads, numskulls, dumb bunnies, not to mention silly geese.

It's clear that the divide between old and new media models has reached the precipice, spurred on, perhaps prematurely, by old Murdoch - Viagra hey, gives with one hand, ends too quickly with the other.

No need for me to link to an article.

You can read reports, first hand accounts and analysis on, oooh, approximately 15,000,000 freely accessible world wide web sites - all of which will provide accurate coverage of the
deliquescent Murdoch.

Mandatory cure for the wrong problem

In an ongoing series, drawing to your attention solutions to problems that don't exist, we bring you Exhibit 135896347218652347985:

US schools have a mandatory "zero tolerance" on possession of weapons on school grounds - expulsion or long term suspension is the punishment, even if the weapon is being brandished by a six year old boy showing-off his boy scout utility implement, (verdict pending) or a seven year old girl using a knife to cut out house windows in a paper creation (one year suspension).

Mass injuries by knife are not exactly a common occurrence, even in the US.

Of the hundreds of school children killed in the US each year, almost all are shot dead - same method used in mass killings.

It's a fork, it's a spoon ... it's a weapon?

October 14, 2009

Even spookier

In a new survey, the kiwi accent has been rated the most attractive and prestigious form of English outside the UK.

Britons responded to an online survey rating the prestige and social attractiveness of 34 different accents of English.


In the BBC survey, the kiwi “fush and chups” came seven places ahead of Australia’s “sex and Seedney” - and nine ahead of the American accent in terms of attractiveness.

This is akin to finding Danny DeVito hugely more attractive and sexually alluring than, say, Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt.


If ever we needed more proof that the British enjoy kinkiness that the rest of us just don't get ...


Brits rate kiwi English most attractive, prestigious outside UK


Spooky

The Large Hadron Collider is being sabotaged by it's own future.

Nature itself might be stopping the troubled - very, very, troubled - $9B project from being redeemed.

Theoretical physicists Holger Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya say that the potential discoveries from the Large Hadron Collider could be so "abhorrent to nature" that the mysterious Higgs Boson particle is coming back in time to stop its own creation.

The physicists speculate that the Higgs particle could ripple backward through time and stop the collider, effectively a time traveler going back in time to kill its grandfather.

Wednesday Wisdom

Man is ready to die for an idea, provided that idea is not quite clear to him.


Paul Eldridge

October 13, 2009

Ah, I see, sort of

Perhaps the timing isn't so mysterious, although the length of time it took will forever be a mystery:

"And it goes on. In July 2005, Polanski took advantage of the notorious British libel laws to sue my colleagues at Vanity Fair and collect damages for his hurt feelings. It doesn't matter much what the supposed complaint was - according to the magazine article he had allegedly propositioned a Scandinavian model while purring about making her the next Sharon Tate - so much as it mattered that Polanski would dare to sue on a question of his own moral standing and reputation.


"I don't think," he was quoted as saying of the allegation, "you could find a man who could behave in such a way." Say what? Anxious for his thin skin, the British courts did not even put Polanski to the trouble of appearing in a country where he has never lived. They allowed him to pout his outraged susceptibilities by video link before heaping him with money.


At this point, I began to feel a cold spot forming in my heart. And then, just last December, while still on the lam, Polanski filed from abroad to have the original Los Angeles child-rape case, in which he had pleaded guilty, dismissed without further ado.


In other words, it is not so remarkable the prosecutors have reactivated an old but still active case. Rather, it is quite astonishing that Polanski has been able to caper about on the run for so long, thumbing his nose, even collecting damages, flourishing a "Get Out of Jail Free" and a lucrative "Pass Go" card, and constantly reminding the law of its impotence.


It's affecting in some ways that the original girl in the case has forgiven him and doesn't want to see the matter reopened, but strictly speaking it's of no more relevance than if she had said the same thing at the time. The law prosecutes those who violate children, and it does so partly on behalf of children who haven't been violated yet. We take an individual instance, whoever the individuals happen to be, and we use it for precedent. And we do not know how lucky we are to be able to do so."

Indeed.

In Hollywood, real tragedy is ignored

October 11, 2009

Nuke free, speed free

Goody-two-shoes and illegitimate state of Australia - New Zealand - took a bold stand against all things nuke a few decades ago.

This century they're at it again, denying little Kiwis an ever-ready source of poor-man's speed.

Under new laws, cold and flu medications containing pseudoephedrine will become class B2 prescription only drugs.

New Zealand Travel Alert

If traveling to New Zealand, watch out for runny noses, congested chests, really pissed-off outlaw bikies, sleepy party go-ers, and an increasing number of fat chicks in search of an alternate appetite suppressant.

October 10, 2009

No, we really didn't start the fire

The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System

It's a book.

We're so fond of thinking that every generation ushers in a medium that is the ultimate equivalent of a genuine killer-app.

We know it's never true, but oh how we bluster and argue and froth at the mouth about, alternatively, the end or beginning of civilization as we know it.

I'm even beginning to think that Marshall McLuhan was nothing more than a light-weight popularizer, with only fleeting, and ultimately trite, message of his own.

Long before our time, long before the interwebs, information, the management of it, how to cope with it, how to cheat, was developed as an art form in itself.
"While the extreme availability of information today should presumably have highlighted its relative paucity in earlier periods, historians--most notably Ann Blair--have in fact extended the concept of "information overload" all the way back to the sixteenth century, arguing that while we now associate the phenomenon with the internet, the printing press had a comparable effect. Until its invention, most literate people had access to relatively little written material. They could manage to read literally everything they could get their hands on.

After Gutenberg, however, books multiplied rapidly, and soon many libraries became too large for their owners to read more than a small percentage of the texts. It became necessary to devise strategies for dealing with the excess. Scholars invented systems of note-taking, methods of summarizing and skimming, and principles of triage. As Francis Bacon famously remarked: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, with diligence and attention." That is, among other things, a comment about coping.

We cope in the same way; and anyone who identifies Wikipedia with the end of civilization should be reassured to learn that early modern Europeans already possessed an impressive arsenal of intellectual crutches and shortcuts, some of them quite dubious. By the seventeenth century there already existed a large genre of reference works, compendia, and reading guides, so as to lead the uninitiated through the increasingly dense thickets of learning, sometimes at breakneck speed. Some readers made use of little else, with classical compendia particularly prized for the quick simulacra of learning that they provided.


As Jonathan Swift advised young critics, "Get scraps of Horace from your friends, / And have them at your fingers' ends."


More serious scholars put together their own guides and reference works. Ann Blair has shown that many of the greatest Renaissance thinkers had no compunction about attacking their books with scissors, cutting and pasting what they considered the crucial passages into commonplace books or card files for easy reference. By illuminating all these systems, methods, and reference works, Blair and her fellow scholars are giving us a new vision of Renaissance learning, grounded not simply in our own reading of the texts, but in an attempt to grasp what people at the time actually knew, and how they knew it."

A snippet here, a snippet there. Skim the surface of most things, save time for deeper enjoyment of the reading that truly entices. Sounds much like surfing the interwebs and even blogging, in the privacy of one's home. We're not doing anything original, not grappling with matters foreign to humans throughout the ages.


Perhaps the difference is that, where once the assemblage and structure of information was a worthy pursuit, and a political imperative, now we dissemble.


The Colbert Report

Let's leave it at that

Melbourne will host the world's biggest and best atheist convention in March 2010.

Which is sort of OK by me.

Only sort of.

I can understand why the event has been organized. Atheists are up against it culturally, socially, economically - no tax breaks for their lack of faith, no loop holes to discriminate against believers, no cultural icons or graven images upon which to individually and severally worship.

A convention is fine, I just don't want atheists to start wearing dresses, building halls, having ceremonies or generally creating anything in common with one another, and certainly not external symbols or secret handshakes to enable easy identification of one's fellow non-believers.

The thing with atheism - which some of our atheistic high priests have allowed to be incorrectly framed - is that there is no belief, no fundamentalism, no counter point. It's not an opposite.

The opposing debaters are very fond of and very quick to label the 21st century atheistic growth another brand of fundamentalism, which is utter tosh, a disingenuous or deliberate intellectual nonsense, a complete failure to distinguish between myths, legends and rituals and the total absence of such.


It is, quite literally, impossible to be a fundamentalist atheist. There is no such thing.

Atheism is not the opposite of belief.

So, by all means convene, but do it with as little ceremony as possible.

And there had better be no sacred texts or shrouds on sale!

High priest of atheism is on his way

Blogging comes of age

New rules in the US being introduced to attempt to clean up the less than transparent relationship between bloggers who review and endorse produces and advertisers.
"beginning on Dec. 1, bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently. The new rules also take aim at celebrities, who will now need to disclose any ties to companies, should they promote products on a talk show or on Twitter.

For bloggers who review products, this means that the days of an unimpeded flow of giveaways may be over. More broadly, the move suggests that the government is intent on bringing to bear on the Internet the same sorts of regulations that have governed other forms of media, like television or print."


At least one academic has let the whole interwebs thing pass by without paying attention:

“It crushes the idea that the Internet is separate from the kinds of concerns that have been attached to previous media,” said Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University."


Crushes the idea? Crushes?


That idea never got off the ground, has never required crushing.


The interwebs has been subject of vigorous argument over originality, copyright, authenticity, value, quality and so on since the beginning of, err, the world wide web.


Here ...

October 9, 2009

No Bel

Obama hasn't done anything yet. Nothing extraordinary.

The Nobel Peace prize becomes more cheapened every year. It's only rarely, once or twice a decade, tops, that a politician truly warrants consideration or deserves the honor.

Peace and diplomacy are in the job description and core KPIs for any politician, certainly for leaders. They get paid for doing this stuff.

I haven't noticed any increased levels in cooperation amongst peoples anywhere in the world since Obama took office.

At all.

Obama is the leader of the free world; he has made a few strategically generic decisions, statements and speeches, which is prosaic activity for the POTUS.

This is the equivalent of getting the prize for turning up at the office each morning.

For Obama, that entails walking all the way from the private quarters to the Oval Office.


I'm a little appalled at this decision.

Duck Friday

October 8, 2009

Red Faces

Yes, it was an old and amateur send-up.

Twenty years old.

Being re-done on the twentieth anniversary of the show that aired the identical skit performed by the very same amateurs twenty years ago.

It wasn't new.

Go bloody fucking figure.

Apparently we're all American's now and must inhale, not only the cola, but also the DNA of their every sensibility.

What I want to know, really want to know: why has no one chucked a hissy fit over the doctor - the one being Michael Jackson - painting his face white?

Hey Hey's Jackson Five: Why we did it

October 7, 2009

Educational tid bit

Lachanophobia

Fear of vegetables

Medorthophobia

Fear of an erect penis

The Treasury Grech

About a week ago, Godwin Grech, of Utegate, faked email and best buddy of Malcolm Turnbull infamy, quietly resigned from Federal Treasury.

Regrets, he's had a few.

Wednesday Wisdom

Every choice is a renunciation.

Teaching of the medieval ascetics

October 5, 2009

I "heart" Malcolm Turnbull

I'm suddenly very fond of Malcolm Turnbull, henceforth to be affectionately known as "Mal".

Mal is the fourth most hated person in Australia.

Mal is more hated than Kim Jong II, who only came in at number five.

Say whatever you want about Mal - truly, anything at all, it's not as though I'll stop you or disagree - but he's not that loathsome.

For Mal to come in at number four in a top 50 list of most hated people is a seriously whack-job outcome that says something hugely unflattering about the Aussie intellect and our collective capacity to analyze or reach sound conclusions with suitably prioritized options.

On a brighter note, nice to see Roman Polanski at number 48, especially as he would have been a very late starter to the race.

Even nicer to see Kyle Sandilands and Jackie whatshername coming in at numbers one and two respectively. A well deserved win for the nincompoop pair.

The 2009 list of 50 people we hate

The 2008 list of 50 people we hated way back then

October 2, 2009

WTF?

Damned fucking sad.
Proudly known as WTF since 1979, the Wisconsin Tourism Federation has changed its name to TFW.

Duck Friday

October 1, 2009

Now I'm going ot throw up

I was bemused, maybe a little ambivalent, but by no means sitting on the fence, and certainly not indifferent.

Whatever. That was yesterday and the day before.

The facts of the Roman Polanski child-rape case - the facts on record, unchanged, during 30 or so years - are that he plied a 13 year old girl with alcohol, drugged her, photographed her naked, and then then violently raped her, including sodomy.

Whoopi Goldberg, as well as Polanski's former sister-in-law, Debra Tate, have both declared that drugging a child and subjecting her to a violent and prolonged rape is not "rape-rape".

According to Tate:
"There's rape and then there's rape. It was determined Roman did not forcibly have sex with this women. It was a consensual matter."
Fact: a 13 year old girl is not a woman.

Fact: a 13 year old child is not deemed legally capable of giving consent to sex.

Fact: suggesting that a drunk and drugged child consented to anything is perverse, deceitful.

Fact: it is an outright lie to say that "it was determined" that Polanski did not rape the child.

Fact: the evidence "determined" that Polanski raped a child.

Let's face it folks, Polanski didn't willingly plead guilty because he thought it would help get the case over with and off the front pages, or so as to spare a child from testifying. He admitted guilt because he was advised to by his expensive lawyers, and to do otherwise would have seen the overwhelming evidence aired and recorded in the full light of a court room.

According to Goldberg:
"I know it wasn't rape-rape. I think it was something else."
Sure Whoopi, you just keep telling yourself that, you piece of dirt.

A good enough examination of the latest statements from the famous and immoral, from the UK ... here ... The comments are also worth a glance, especially if you're beginning to think the entire world has gone mad: don't be concerned, it hasn't.

Update

And the Polanski public defense goes on ... and on.

This is turning out to be an even more tawdry media moment than I'd initially assessed.

One question left begging, alluded to, even asked by one or two: why now? Polanski has been traipsing around Europe, including traveling into and out of Switzerland for decades. No one has so much taped him on the shoulder in all that time, certainly not the Swiss.

Vaguely framed statements about last year's documentary on Polanski, which revealed possible judicial idiocy at the time of the case (with the sole living accuser having now denied, in full, everything he said in that documentary in any case) doesn't cut it as a reason, since the behavior of the judge is nothing but a minor segue, a trifling distraction with no compelling legal implications, from the real point of the thing: Polanski being a calculated child rapist.

Anyway, the question of "why now" will likely be one of life's mysteries, albeit, such an unfortunate on in this instance, since it would have been better for all parties if he had been re-arrested and extradited at least a couple of decades ago. What have been ...

Morally relativistic assertions continue to roll:

"In Europe, the prevailing mood — at least among those with access to the news media — seemed to be that Mr. Polanski has already “atoned for the sins of his young years,” as Jacek Bromski, the chief of the Polish Filmmakers Association, put it."
Fact: Roman Polanski was 44 - FORTY FOUR - years old when he raped that child.

He was hardly in the midst of his "young years". He was already a middle - aged man.

The Polanski case