Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hard news

Meanwhile, websites are not obligated to spend money on newsprint, printing plants, or union drivers to drop their product at readers’ doorsteps. Yet they benefit from linking to all that work they’ve not done or paid a nickel for. And they supplement this borrowed reporting with user-generated content and material produced by freelancers who are paid a pittance or nothing at all. They’ve also opted for chat rooms and ongoing dialogues among their adherents—a laudable, democratic impulse, but one that often devolves into an unedited legitimization of stupidity and bigotry.
The newspapers are fading away and its all our fault, we Internet types who want our information for nothing; some provocative commentary from The Atlantic Monthly, which also tells of the decline of the New York Times. As the New Yorker cartoon said, on Internet no-one knows you're a dog.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Madison blues

Under the pen name “Pacificus,” Hamilton wrote a defense of Washington’s power to act without congressional sanction. The first Pacificus essay is the mother document of the “unitary executive” theory that Bush’s apologists have pushed to its limits since 2001. Hamilton seized on the first words of Article II: “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” He contrasted this wording with Article I, which governs Congress and which begins, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” What this meant, Hamilton argued, was that Article II was “a general grant of … power” to the president. Although Congress was limited to its enumerated powers, the executive could do literally anything that the Constitution did not expressly forbid. Hamilton’s president existed, in effect, outside the Constitution.

That’s the Bush conception, too. In 2005, John Yoo, the author of most of the administration’s controversial “torture memos,” drew on Hamilton’s essay when he wrote, “The Constitution provides a general grant of executive power to the president.” Since Article I vests in Congress “only those legislative powers ‘herein granted,’” Yoo argued, the more broadly stated Article II must grant the president “an unenumerted executive authority.”

Hamilton gets the blame in the Atlantic. George Thorogood gets the Madison Blues:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Death and trousers

Girls, be mothers, and in order to be mothers, let not wild horses drag you into shorts or trousers. When activities are proposed to you requiring trousers, if it is something your great-grandmother did, then find a way of doing it, like her, in a skirt. And if your great-grandmother did not do it, then forget it! Her generation created your country, your generation is destroying it. Of course not all women who wear trousers abort the fruit of their womb, but all help to create the abortive society. Old-fashioned is good, modern is suicidal. You wish to stop abortion? Do it by example. Never wear trousers or shorts.
Thus sayeth Bishop Richard Williamson, of the schismatic Society of Saint Pius X, which recently has been readmitted to the Catholic Church. Bishop Williamson also dislikes Jews, Freemasons and the Sound of Music. The full story is told by Batholemew.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Too cool for school

What is happening in traditional universities where the ethos of the liberal arts is still given lip service is the forthright policy of for-profit universities, which make no pretense of valuing what used to be called the “higher learning.” John Sperling, founder of the group that gave us Phoenix University, is refreshingly blunt: “Coming here is not a rite of passage. We are not trying to develop value systems or go in for that ‘expand their minds’” nonsense.

The for-profit university is the logical end of a shift from a model of education centered in an individual professor who delivers insight and inspiration to a model that begins and ends with the imperative to deliver the information and skills necessary to gain employment.

Stanley Fish in the New York Times.

Narcissists at the gate

Civilisation is doomed: Twitter has developed self-awareness.


As reported by Jason Kottke, the Whitehouse's robots.txt file has been amended.

Of bites and men

Gentle readers,

Some of you, I know, are People of Science. You know things about the natural world, its ways and wonders. What is more, you have Method, and possibly Paradigms, old and new. One of you, at least, has had a letter published in New Scientist, about doing unspeakable things to a cane toad. So I come to you with a question of Science. My question is:
Why me?
Disregarding the obvious answer ("why not?") I shall provide some context.

Not so long ago, I spent a weekend with a good friend in Raglan. It was my birthday so my friend took me to a Reserve, one of those places full of Nature; by a babbling brook there we sat down, with a bottle of decent fizz, a quiche and various other goodies. And there I wept, when I was bitten by a thousand flying and biting insects.

Thus it is always every summer. I go to commune with Nature and Nature bites back. This occasion was especially bad. Again and again they came for me, heedless of my attempts to wipe out their entire population with my bare hands. Again and again they broke through my defences and found their target: my soft and succulent skin. By the end of the day's fighting, I had sustained extensive damage: I counted eighteen successful attacks on one forearm alone; and these were not mere bites but welts, the size of a two-dollar coin and the colour purple.

Meanwhile, my friend grazed nonchalantly, untroubled by insects or their bites. At one point she expressed doubt that midges bite at all.

So, why me? Why am I so delicious? Like me, my friend is caucasian, of a respectable age and lacking in obvious insect-repelling qualities. Yet she received no bites. Is it a guy thing? Do biting insects prefer the flesh of men? If so, could this preference explain what is going on in the scene above?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address, please.

Dr Feelgood:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

England their England

One of those days in England, again: The Revd Dr Ewen Souter, Team Vicar of St John’s, Broadbridge Heath, near Horsham in West Sussex, has removed the crucifix from the front of his church, because it was scaring the children. The sculpture, by Edward Bainbridge Copnall apparently sent out all the wrong messages. It will be replaced by “a symbol of hope rather than hopelessness,” a crucifix by one Angela Godfrey. The removal of the crucifix (which could not await the arrival of its replacement, but had to be done right away, presumably in case any more children were frightened) is shown in the Church Times.

According to St John's,
What will not be clear to readers or radio listeners who have not seen the crucifix in person is the fact that the artist chose to portray Christ's facial expression as one which indicates despair and hopelessness. While this makes it an interesting piece of art, it also means that this artistic choice made by the sculptor makes this particular crucifix a misleading version of the symbol of the cross, failing to communicate the significance of the crucifixion of Christ as an event which brings eternal and undying hope to this world. Christ did not approach the crucifixion with any sense of despair or hopelessness; he did not suffer on the cross in an attitude of hopelessness; and he did not die in an attitude of hopelessness.
Rly? So how about Matthew 27:45-46 then? Well, how about it? The standard Evangelical excuse is that Christ was quoting the Psalmist at this point in his crucifixion. The Evangelicals do not like to be reminded that the Gospels present conflicting accounts and that the Crucifixion stories are complicated and ambiguous, as is the notion of Christ's Divinity. They like everything to be simple, cheerful and cretinous. Art is not like this, so Art has to go.

If further evidence were needed that Enthusiasm is ruining the Church of England, such evidence can be found on the St John's website. Evangelicals hate Art. They like stock photography: lots of images of children, animals, plants even. They like quilts and other homely crafty things, so long as they are made by the Community of Worship. Above all, they like words, words like Fellowship, Ministry, Evangelism, Discipleship.

I suppose I should not be bothered by this. England is not my country any more and the CofE is no longer my Church. But verily it pisses me off to see the material culture of the Church being vandalised by these philistines, while its intellectual culture descends into idiocy.

Four more years

Only a carbon tax, agreed by the west and then imposed on the rest of the world through political pressure and trade tariffs, would succeed in the now-desperate task of stopping the rise of emissions, he argued. This tax would be imposed on oil corporations and gas companies and would specifically raise the prices of fuels across the globe, making their use less attractive. In addition, the mining of coal - by far the worst emitter of carbon dioxide - would be phased out entirely along with coal-burning power plants which he called factories of death.
Jim Hansen has some advice for the President.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Consternation in Mayfair

Shoot the bankers, nationalise the banks, the Financial Times demands. Yes, really.

We live in interesting times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Will work for bears

I am looking for a job, part-time, to supplement my income. Obviously, I would prefer to work only a few hours and receive a substantial amount in return; however, in these straitened times, I am fully aware that I must be realistic. I would prefer to work in one of my areas of expertise: writing, Art History, information management, espionage, that sort of thing.

Do drop me a line if you know of anything.

To work, perchance to dream

In the decade following its invention, antikenotoxin vapors were pumped into Berlin’s classrooms in the optimistic hope that science could save schoolchildren from infection by the dangerous seeds of sloth. The experiment was thought to have incredible beneficial effects. Students who had been secretly exposed to the gas for five hours were given a series of mathematical tests that they apparently performed with "considerable improvement"; their speed of calculation increased by fifty percent, and their answers showed improved accuracy. Pupils who were usually sleepy and bored by the time of their afternoon lessons were now uncharacteristically sprightly.
I am feeling too slothful to write, so here is something from Cabinet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Not clever and not funny

On Friday, the New Zealand Herald published a cartoon by Rod Emmerson so lacking in humour and so abundant in obsequiousness that it has surpassed all previous attempts by the cartoonist to ingratiate himself with the National Party. At the time of writing, it has not appeared in its allotted place on the paper's website but, in the interests of Truth and Beauty, I shall attempt to describe it (mindful, though I am, of those bores who describe Gary Larson cartoons at great length, much to their amusement if not that of their auditors).

The cartoon is entitled John Key's Big Day Out. It shows an imagined scene at said musical event, in which Mr Key is being carried over the crowd. Someone in the crowd asks "who's the crowd-surfer?" Someone else replies "it's John Key, getting in some practice for his big day out at the employment summit." And that is that.

Call me old fashioned but I thought op-ed cartoonists were supposed to be satirists. Back in the day, when Labour was in power, Mr Emmerson never missed an opportunity to denigrate the Government (or usually the Prime Minister herself) with his rapier wit. Oh, how we laughed. Now, Mr Emmerson draws a cartoon that suggests the Prime Minister will be the hero of his own meeting. Oh, how we cringe.

No wonder the cartoon is not online. It does no more than show the Herald to be a Tory propaganda sheet (as if we needed confirmation of such) and its political cartoonist as no more than a sycophant (see previous comment). At least it will give some sense of perspective to all those snarling, vicious cartoons of Helen Clark.

Mr Key, as it happens, was talking to Noelle on Nat Rad this morning. I suppose we will get the measure of the man in these months following the election, given that we learned almost nothing about him in the years that preceded it. Perhaps developing a political vision is part of his 100 Day Plan. At the moment, Mr Key comes across as not so much the leader of the country but as a disinterested observer. He talks like a commentator, rather than a participant. Even when discussing the breaking of his own arm, he seemed curiously detached from the event: there was a stage, there was a floor, there was gravity. When discussing more weighty matters, such as the economic fate of us all, he seems indifferent. What's more, he rambles. He seems unable to think in sentences or to keep his mind on the topic at hand. When Noelle asked him about the Israelis who were refused service at a cafe, Mr Key somehow brought in the case of the Dutch tourists who had been sexually assaulted.

Thinking about it, perhaps I am being unfair on Mr Emmerson. Perhaps the intention of his cartoon was to suggest that Mr Key is like the doofus who surfs the crowd while everyone else watches the band play: irrelevant, a bit of a nuisance and seemingly incapable of understanding why he is here and what he should be doing.

Curved Air:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

And the bleat goes on

There is an old and tired joke, in which the question is asked "how do you know that a plane full of Poms has arrived" and the answer is given, "because the whining continues after the engines have stopped." In our little corner of the Rightosphere, life imitates joke. The tories, who ought to be happy because their party won, are miserable. On Kiwiblog, NZ Conservative, No Minister and elsewhere, they continue griping, as if nothing had changed. Every morning the posters post and the commentators comment. Everyday it is the same old tale of woe, of political correctness, of the nanny state, of Liabour, the Red Menace, the Yellow Peril, etc.

I am beginning to wonder if conservatism is pathological. And MoJo has some evidence to suggest it might be, as might Liberalism.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Paved with good intentions

In which Dr Cooke gets himself all in a tangle, when asked about publicly-funded tapu-lifting ceremonies:
Association of Rationalists and Humanists spokesman Bill Cooke said though the amounts involved were small, "one might ask whether taxpayers' money could be better spent on other things".

"It seems to be pandering to the prejudices or predilections of a very small number of New Zealanders, and we're all footing the bill."

However, he said he would not support a ban on blessings, which would be "a knee-jerk reaction, the kind of intolerance shown by some toward those who do not share their beliefs".
One of the most insufferable traits of Hoomanists is their more-tolerant-than-thou grandstanding. And this is a fine example of said trait: on the one hand, alliteration panders to the prejudices or predilections of a very small number but, on the other, Hoomanists carry the mighty Sword of Tolerance, and would not want it banned because that is the sort of thing that religious people do.

So, before you can say White Liberal Guilt, Dr Cooke has supported ceremonies which invoke spirits and mysterious powers, organised by the people who build the roads and paid by us. It would have been a prime opportunity for Dr Cooke to say that this sort of witchcraft is a load of hokum which should not be supported by the Crown, but he wouldn't do that, would he, because he is so feckin Tolerant.

Less tolerant counsels might also suggest that the business of uncovering taniwhas and tapu whenever a construction project is proposed is a form of extortion: you give us breakfast and we won't disrupt your building project. The various government agencies who indulge these spooky fantasies of spirits and demons should have said, a long time ago, something to the effect of "grow up" (in the case of those who seem to really believe this nonsense) or "feck off" (to those who seem to be looking for a fast buck or a warm croissant). Instead we have succumbed to these infantile beliefs. It is even considered necessary to cleanse the offices of our diplomatic representatives overseas: apparently our taniwha can be found in New York, London, Paris and Munich, every place where a New Zealand Embassy or High Commission is sited, although (oddly enough) these beings are invisible to the locals. The old men who are expert in the detection and removal of evil spirits do very nicely out of this superstition, enjoying travel and expenses from the public purse.

All that said, the Dom Post article is not itself an exemplar of exposition. It fails to note that the increase in expenditure on this voodoo is attributable to the one case that it cites, that of the Bell Block bypass. Thus the writer defeats his own argument: it is not that expenditure on ceremonies has risen overall, but that one case was inordinately expensive. If we were to omit this case, then expenditure has not have risen. In fact, given that the number of ceremonies has doubled, the Transport Agency could claim that it has halved the unit cost of such ceremonies, achieving twice as many rites at no additional expenditure.

While we are on the subject, why is it only the Maori ceremonies that are subjected to this sort of scrutiny? Has the Dominion Post made any Official Information Act requests about the costs of the funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary? My guess would be "no." But here was an extravagant public event, conducted in an Anglican cathedral according to the arcane rites of that Church, at the expense of the taxpayer. We, the people, have also supported the belated interment of the Unknown Soldier and many dawn services. We also pay for prayers in Parliament, Bible in Schools and a whole lot more, yet nobody from the Papers ever seems to complain about these. I wonder why.

My thanks to Owen for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The rise of the Frummers

So now it is the religious right who pose the greatest internal threat to the peace process. Because the most contentious pre-1967 territories are the ones most dear to some of the more extreme ultra-orthodox Jews. Though there are also plenty of equally militant secular colonisers, it’s the religious fundamentalists who tend to be the most rabid and active illegal settlers, regarding it as a messianic mission to drive out the infidels. And then there is Jerusalem itself, symbolically inflated by all three major religions into a major focus for spiritual claims. And they’re not going to let it go without a deadly battle, an Armageddon, a fight for ideology. Religion, as always, is what’s getting in the way.
A timely piece by Sally Feldman in the New Humanist.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Career opportunities

So here I am, trying to write a summary of what my PhD will be, a task I must do in order to pass my first year; predicting the form that the results of one's research will take, before one has done the research, is a bit like playing tennis under water.

So, as a necessary displacement activity, I turn to the alumni pages of my alumnus and find that one of my classmates has become the Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I need coffee.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Temporary suspension of service

We are sorry for the break in transmission, which is due to a fault in the blogeur's brain. We are working to fix the problem but, in the meantime, here is a commercial break.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Yesterday's schools

Funny old world, isn't it? There we were, only last week, talking about New Zealand being a secular country and so there being not that many pricks for Atheists to kick against. And then it turns out that the Human Rights Commission is writing guidelines for schools, guiding them on matters to do with religious education and ceremonies, and in so doing " paving the way for pupils to get out of any religious activity."

Correct me if I am wrong, but that does not seem much of a secular country to me, where the human rights of non-religious students have to be given special consideration and where, it seems, there is a presumption that schools contain religious content. And this is not the private schools we are talking about here: although we subsidise half their teachers' salaries, they will be able to continue doing what they like. The children of the rich do not have human rights in this respect. No, what we are talking about here are the public and integrated schools.

You might be wondering why, in a country where about ten percent of the population attend religious services regularly and over forty percent declare themselves to have no religion, there is so much religion going on in schools. In the case of the integrated schools the answer is easy: the state simply allows various religious groups to run their own schools at public expense and without much let or hindrance: they can teach their weird views about sexuality and science; in fact, they must do so, in order to maintain their "special character" and thus their state funding. If they decided to abandon their religiosity, they would have to give up their places at the public trough.

You might wonder why this sort of thing is promoted. The short answer is that, in the early 1970s, the Catholic schools were falling down and so the Papists stitched up a funding deal with Mr Kirk, one that came as quite a surprise to the Labour Party. Having given the left-footers lots of public money, the Ministry of Education felt duty-bound to give the same terms to other religious groups. Thus we are now funding the fundies, as well as some rather posh Anglican and Presbyterian schools.

And then there are the public schools which choose to promote religion. There are primary schools which adopt the State-administered Bible in Schools programme and there are secondary schools which aspire to be posh schools and so have dour assemblies with hymns and prayers. And then there are all the celebrations of diversity, where everybody gets to pretend to be Hindu for a day. And all this in what is supposed to be a secular country.

Call me curmudgeonly if you like, but shouldn't we doing something about this? Should not all children go to school for education and nothing else? Why cannot the students leave at home whatever religious beliefs their parents hold, while their schools do no more than teach them, not presuming to inculcate religious beliefs into their charges? Would not everything be so much simpler and so much more just if we had secular schools?

Just a thought.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

The bus stops here

Back in the Old Country, complaints about the Atheist Bus advertisements have prompted the Advertising Standards Authority to decide on the existence of God.

Meanwhile, Prince Harry takes after his father.

Kate Hudson is not a lesbian

Kate, who is currently single for the first time in years, said: "When I was a teenager, like, when I turned 16, I loved boys. That was just my thing. My mom was like, 'Oh boy, she loves boys!'

"I always loved boys. I still love boys. First of all, I always had a boyfriend. This is the first time I've been single since I was 16!"
Obviously, you should know this.

All summer long

Out come the pohutukawa graphics and the "fun in the sun" headlines. We're all familiar with them; indeed you could run last year's version and no one would notice. Lots of pictures of children at the beach, trying out the boogie board Santa brought them; lots of prefabricated features about the best holiday spots; moronic sidebars about how a bunch of D-list celebrities will be spending their vacations; the year's highs and lows... I can't stand in judgement, I've manufactured them myself over the years.
Finlay Macdonald dissects the summer media.

Beach Boys:

Friday, January 09, 2009

The opposite of science

To improve their standing the anti-Darwin lobby have changed their tactics, so now instead of arguing for creationism they call their theory "intelligent design".

Mostly this consists of trying to illustrate how species are too complex to have been formed by nature. But then they can't help themselves, so you get articles such as the one by prominent advocate of intelligent design, David Berlinski, that starts: "Charles Darwin says, 'In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals.' Another man, Adolf Hitler says 'Let us kill all the Jews of Europe.' Is there a connection? Yes is the obvious answer." So there we are – study the differences between finches and you're half way to organising a holocaust.
Mark Steel explains.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Men in uniform

Who wants to go and see a movie about a war that finished more than 60 years ago? Judging by recent box-office results, Second World War films are back in vogue in a way that has left some analysts scratching their heads.
The enduring appeal of Nazis in the movies, from the Independent.

Get off the bus

Elsewhere, Idiot/Savant discusses the Atheist Bus campaign and gives some good reasons why it shouldn't happen here. I can give one good reasons why it won't happen here: Bill Cooke will not allow it.

The idea of such a campaign will be raised at the next meeting of the Council of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc), probably by an idealistic and naive member who is new to the Council and innocent of its machinations. Dr Cooke, the esteemed former Visiting Assistant Professor of Car Parking at the University of Brigadoon, will listen to the member's idea carefully, all the time glaring at the member. He will then sigh deeply, raise his eyes to the heavens and lurch into a tirade about the negativity of such a campaign. Dr Cooke, is of course an Humanist, which means he has a World View. Humanism, you will see, is better than Atheism because it has such a World View. Humanism is also better than Theism because its World View is a better World View than that of any religion. Atheism is wanting in a World View and so is inferior to Humanism (truth to tell, Dr Cooke probably thinks it worse than Religion). Humanism is Positive; Atheism is not. And so on and so on. After some time, he will stop. The other members of the Council, who are sore afraid of Dr Cooke, will sit quietly in their seats, gently quivering. Finally, the President will break the silence by saying that the matter will need further consideration. Such consideration will never reveal itself.

And so it goes. Elizabeth McKenzie, former President of the NZARH, used to mutter that nothing would ever be achieved by the Association until Dr Cooke's supporters died off. And how right she was. The Councillors are all terrified of him; they dread that he will split the Association, that he will cause a Schism. Dr Cooke knows this. He also knows that anything as vulgar as a display of Mere Atheism might upset him from his delicately constructed position of authority. Humanism is not just a World View; it is a Meal Ticket as well. Dr Cooke is a sage. He knows things. His Humanism is a complicated and difficult construction (some would say an incoherent one, but that is another matter). A simple appeal to godlessness could knock it down in an instant.

And so, nothing will be done. The Council will return to its normal business of collecting rents and maintaining the building. The threat of action will recede, as will the hair of the new member, while he waits for the opportunity to do something. Dr Cooke will continue to write his essays on the Meaning of Humanism. The members will slowly die off and the Council will arrange for flowers to be sent to their relics. Bequests will be received and invested. Occasionally, a young person will join, but will not stay long. Eventually, there will be no-one left. And so will end the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc), the once-bold attempt to represent the views of non-religious people in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the non-religious people of New Zealand, who remain ignorant of any need to be represented in their non-religiousness, will just get on with their lives.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jihad Today

"Even those who have trained and fought jihad report the frequency of farce," she said. "At training camps, young jihadis argue about honey, cry for their mums, shoot each other's feet off, chase snakes and get thrown out for smoking. A minute into his martyrdom video, a would-be bomber looks puzzled and says 'what was the question again?' On Millennium eve, five jihadis set out to ram a US warship. They slipped their boat into the water and carefully stacked it with explosives. It sank."
At last, Chirs Morris confronts terrorism.

Far too young and clever

When Amis appears, he usually has a cigarette between his lips. "It was quite hard not to get him smoking," says Gorgas. There is a scene of him as the young writer. He is playing the guitar and on the table are a pen and large pad of paper, covered in notes. In another, he stands by his battered old white Mini. This car was known as "The Ashtray" as the interior overflowed with cigarette butts. There are photographs snatched while they were out walking together in the woods, or in Paris.
I was hoping that this review, of a photography exhibition about Martin Amis and his chums, would turn out to be a parody; but no: it is deadly serious and hideously quaint.

If you cannot get enough Amis, here is some moar: a Q and A, which the author does not take too seriously.

Get on the bus

"You wait ages for an atheist bus and then 800 come along at once," said Ariane Sherine at the culmination of her campaign to put anti-faith slogans on the sides of UK buses. Throughout, she has been the antithesis of the shrill, dogmatic and shouty atheist that is so beloved of religious caricaturists. She is charming, smiley and wonderfully unintimidating and her campaign has captured the imagination of thousands of people.

Last summer, she was irritated by an advert on a bus from a religious organisation that expressed a profoundly threatening message (essentially, think what we think or "you spend all eternity in torment in hell"). She wondered if there was a classier and more thoughtful way of putting the opposing point of view.
The Atheist Bus campaign gets under way.

The early years of intellectual property

For composers, too, copyright protection is very much a creation of modern times. Until deep into the 19th century, piracy of the most flagrant kind was the norm. As soon as a score was published, it was liable to be copied right across Europe without any kind of payment to its creator. Moreover, unscrupulous publishers often borrowed the identity of prestigious composers to add allure to slow-selling catalogue items. In Paris, in 1789, the Bohemian composer Adalbert Gyrowetz went to a concert to hear a symphony advertised as being by Haydn - and found himself having to sit through one of his own com positions. Two years earlier, one of the more respectable publishing houses, Breitkopf & Härtel of Leipzig, advertised for sale 96 symphonies by Haydn, even though at that time he had written fewer than 80. If modern copyright protection had been in place in Germany in the middle of the 19th century, Richard Wagner would have been a rich man. As his biographer Ernest Newman pointed out, it was the system that made him a beggar - and then condemned him for being a debtor.
From the New Statesman

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lagoon language

English words borrowed from Venetian include artichoke, arsenal, ballot, casino, contraband, gazette, ghetto, imbroglio, gondola, lagoon, lido, lotto, marzipan, pantaloon, pistachio, quarantine, regatta, scampi, sequin and zany. “Ciao” – a long-standing contraction of the courteous Venetian salutation “vostro schiavo” (your humble servant) – has now become a global greeting.
The TLS talks Venetian.

Collapsing Cities

It gets worse. First it was leaky buildings, then sub-prime mortgages and sub-optimal finance companies. Now comes the latest problem: celebrity-built housing


Patrick Henry was founded in 2000 by Michael Farris, one of the leaders in the home schooling movement. As a constitutional lawyer, Farris had fought for the rights of Christian conservative families to teach their children at home. Public schools, with the sex-ed classes and gay student clubs were, "Godless monstrositites," he once wrote (an incendiary quote that has haunted him in his political career, which he instructs his press-savvy students never to repeat).

Now this first generation of home schooled children were coming of age and they needed someplace to go. Someplace ambitious, but without the usual liberal professors and co-ed dorms. So Farris founded what he calls the "Christian equivalent of the Ivy League," and the kids sometimes call "Harvard for the home schoolers."
The wholesome truth of it all is shown on MoJo.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

One for the ladies

In comments on my previous post, both Ms Gallagher and Ms Bird expressed forceful opinions about the attitude to women displayed in one advertisement. Here is a further selection, in which it will be observed that the Patriarchy did not confine itself to matters of cod. Things do happen after a Badedas bath: appearances are made by Old Spice man, Action Man and his Transport Command, OXO (with more Man Appeal) the Sunsilk girl (the Harmony girl's arch rival, here played by Leslie Ash) and Milk Tray man. Shortly after these advertisements were broadcast, Britain chose its first woman Prime Minister.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Public service announcement

Like many blogs, the Fundy Post will now feature advertisements. Unlike other blogs, the Fundy Post will feature British television advertisements from the 1970s; you will be persuaded to want products that you cannot buy. Here is a selection, one of which is presented by our own Peter Bland.

Elvis needs boats

Happy New Year, gentle readership. Thank your for reading this blog and thank you for your comments. May your year be rad.

It is at this time of year that the serious bloggers make their predictions, about affairs of state and other matters of import. I really wouldn't like to say, myself, other than to make the obvious bet that our economy and our democracy will both be a lot poorer by year's end.

Of course, if I had my way, this would be the year of the Psychobilly Revival. Here is Mojo Nixon (as featured on NatRad's magnificent Matinee Idle) with what might be the greatest song ever written. Nixon is a member of the Libertarian Party and the Church of the SubGenius. With Jello Biafra he once made an album called Prairie Home Invasion.