Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dark energy

Be afraid, Whittakers, be very afraid. Not only does the Facebook group Whittaker's, we want you to go fair trade! have over a thousand members and an unnecessary exclamation mark in its title, but it has no admins. According to the small print "There are no admins left in this group!" This thing is out of control: a vast lumbering hoard of chocolate-eating malcontents, who wouldn't touch Cadbury's chocolate - what with the palm oil and the takeover by Kraft - but who want to see some human rights going on. I would give in, if I were you. It is not much to ask, that the farmers of your cocoa beans do not torture children; and you would be helping to make the world a better place.


Questions of justice and reward were left to the market to resolve; questions of human flourishing were privatised. It was left to everyone to decide their own sequence of pleasurable experiences in life with little acknowledgement of how many of those depend entirely on mutual co-operation. The classic paradigm is sitting in a traffic jam in your 4x4 with its astonishing powers of acceleration rendered useless.

One explanation for this abandonment of the debate is that we lost a language in which to think and argue about ethics. Perhaps this is partly attributable to the vexed legacy of institutional religion and the long shadow it still casts. The promotion of ethical behaviour has been bound up with particular institutions, and as they decline, it leaves a vacuum of authority. Who dares talk on this subject with confidence? It prompts fear that any such discussions are really a Trojan horse for promoting a religious belief. There's a suspicion that words such as "morality" tip us quickly into the kind of instinctive conviction made infamous by Tony Blair in which sincerity is regarded as an adequate substitute for careful reasoning.

Madeleine Bunting

Monday, February 22, 2010

A lot of monkeys

... are homosexual. This startling insight comes from none other than Mr Paul Henry, the well-known idiot.  
"It is unnatural, although homosexuality is through all species," he said.

"I don't know if it's through all species but many, many species. A lot of monkeys are homosexual."

Later in the discussion he said: "The thing is, though, if you go to any animal park, and I've got to be careful what I say here, but if you go to any animal park, you will find monkeys being filthy with each other."

In these times, when so much discussion is dominated by Big Science - with its emphasis on facts, reason, coherence and other Enlightenment values -  it is reassuring to see one little corner of the world where nonsense still has its place. Mr Henry has learned that homosexuality is through all the species, or at least many of them. He has seen monkeys. Yet he concludes that homosexuality is unnatural. No, more than that: he uses his knowledge and experience as proofs that homosexuality is unnatural.

You can say what you like about National Radio, but it will never provide this level of unreasoning.

Being neither a television viewer nor a morning person, I am largely unfamiliar with Henry's oeuvre. However, I once saw a documentary he made, with large amounts of public money. It scarcely what one would call a documentary in the old-fashioned sense of the world, but one of those programmes where the presenter goes to some remarkable place to meet some remarkable person. In this case, the person was a Kiwi punching above his weight on a global stage by being the chef at a trout-fishing resort somewhere remote and inside the Arctic Circle; yes, it was that remarkable. Anyway, and this is my point, getting to this remote place involved Henry going to Norway, where he could not help remarking that all the men looked like homosexuals. He then giggled and said something about not being politically correct.

I am not sure what he meant by this comment. Does he think of homosexuals as tall, blond and nordic? Were the Norwegian men excessively well-dressed for his liking? How could one know? It was a comment that seemed to come straight from the Id. Any other presenter would have insisted that it be removed in the cut, but Henry seems oddly proud of these outbursts.

Whatever his meaning, Henry does seem to be preoccupied with the issues of  sexuality and gender. Perhaps it was the trauma of losing a safe tory seat to a transsexual that did it, or perhaps there is some deeper cause. Who knows? I know I don't. But I wonder if that bloke in the Corolla is parking outside the wrong house.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bad day at lifestyle block

A former SPCA general manager has been warned by police after threatening to shoot a young boy's pony after it strayed on to his property.

Pukekohe officers were called to David Lloyd-Barker's home, south of Auckland, on Monday after 11-year-old Reilly Webber's mother Abby Mills-Webber phoned 111 to report the threat.

This sort of thing probably happens all the time among the lifestyle blocks at the edge of the city, where couples with freshly-hyphenated surnames build ranch-style homes and give their children peculiar names. So why should it be the lead story on the Herald's website? No, don't tell me.

I always find myself getting lost in the dramatis personae of these stories of domestic strife among people we do not know.  When I read of Reilly running around unsupervised I thought Reilly must be the pony; but then, which one is Kale? And what of Willow Schulte? I expect they all have Bebo pages, even the pony.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another reason to avoid Australia

Another document details the manner in which ‘Illuminati’ children are ‘programmed’ from eight weeks past conception in a document headed ‘Prenatal Primal Dissociation’. The document states that ‘programming’ of a fetus (sic) can commence from eight weeks after conception by exposure to ‘hostile chemicals’ by ingestion by the mother or by injecting it into the amniotic fluid and poking with needles. Under a sub-heading of ‘15 to 20 weeks’ it is noted that experiences such as high voltage shock and injection of hot or cold fluids may overwhelm a foetus and produce the ‘child’s first death/near death experience and the first sense of intense fear or terror’. The document states that ‘The majority of the Illuminati infants go through induced premature birth, from 26 weeks onwards.’
As Bartholomew reports, an outbreak of fuckwittery has occurred in Australia, where this sort of thing is quite common. It might be worth noting that, although this is a mostly Catholic group, they are influenced by Evangelical Protestants, which is ecumenical in a very real sense. It might also be worth noting that these people seem to believe that a fetus of 15 weeks has a psyche. It is all very peculiar.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Send in the Cones

Blogger and media commentator Russell Brown is a very scholarly chap. He is a virtuoso at gathering data, stats, hard-boiled facts and all that grown-up left-brain stuff. As such an erudite bird, he has recently been venting his disdain for the current trend to gather our information from people who "don't know anything". Kind of funny coming from a blogger, but presumably he means anyone but him. He rails against this newspaper for daring to ask readers for their views about what causes autism. "It's the age of the vox pop, of the harvesting of feelings rather than thoughts." The study of autism should be left to scholars and medical professionals, Brown splutters.
Word, as the young folks say. Here at the Institute for Advanced Feeling, we say: back off Brown; let the man on the street have his say. We don't need your education, we don't need your data, stats and facts.  What we need is a woman who glares, who says "ex-squeeze me" and who does not make sense. Otherwise, we could end up like that Herman Rockefeller.

So, how about those experts then? Haven't they done dazzlingly well in unravelling autism so far? And how about those quantum electrodynamics?

He's Frank

The crash was the top hot topic on Google Trends at one point, and the Georgian athlete dominated the "hot searches" list. His name was a trending topic on Twitter.

"People want the news as it happens in real time," said Sree Sreenivasan, a professor of journalism at Columbia. "The idea of waiting until the authority does a story is still important, but not as important as it used to be."

I think Professor Unpronounceable is wrong; I think people just wanted to see someone dying. That is what Internet is all about, that and cats.

That and cats and lulz; for NSFW lulz, you cannot better the gallery page for the Roxxxy TrueCompanion Sex Robot. Amazing but true: that geek is real.

The Return of the Monochrome Set:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

When animal lovers attack

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: "Each case is examined on its merits. Where it seems appropriate to seek a settlement without resorting to court action then of course we will do so. Over the last 17 years we have processed a total of over 30,000 bequests. Of this figure in only 30 instances have we been involved in court proceedings."

When asked how it justified spending people's legacy donations on court costs, the charity said: "Of course we would rather spend monies generously left to us on direct animal welfare, but it is because their last wishes have been questioned that charities find themselves in having to defend their generosity. If we were to ignore their wishes it could be argued that no animals would ever benefit from any such legacy that comes to us.
This is what happens when you leave money to the RSPCA: they come looking for your heirs.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In which Douglas Adams invents the iPad

"He is negotiating with computer wizards in California to produce a game called Battle Towels."

"The same computer firm has produced the technology to make a hitch-hiker's guide-come-true. A 15-year project is under way to build a device more or less as Adams describes it. It will be about the size of a book and the user will be able to call up information from any data base in the world - for pleasure or as a tool.

Unlike Adams' model, this device will always tell the truth, either speaking to the user or throwing up a three-dimensional image on a screen.

Adams' role is a sort of stylistic adviser on how people want to receive the information, "but," says Adams, "I'm still not exactly certain what they mean."

Father of Beeblebrox, by Cushla Grace
Skyway (Air New Zealand domestic inflight magazine)
January 1983, pp19-21

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Scenes from the step change in New Zealand

Conservation in action; as Mr Farrar puts it:
Govt will establish a Conservation Fund from royalty revenue from mining on crown lands to invest in conservation projects, so more mining means more money for conservation. I like it!
Look closely and you can see the steps.

Modest proposals

One of my favourite ideas was the simple proposal that "Britain should invade Jersey". Now that TV's Bergerac is just a distant memory this policy has become truly popular, not least because Jersey is one of the tax havens that have become the legal pirate coves of the 21st century. The Tax Justice Network (not to be confused with the rightwing Tax Payers' Alliance) estimates the UK loses about £18bn a year in tax revenue due to "corporate tax efficiency" ie companies moving offshore. The Iraq war cost at least £8bn. So war with Jersey would not only be morally right but self-financing too. In fact we could probably do a bond issue for the invasion to pay for everything up front with the promise of a steady yearly return for investors.
Mark Thomas.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Word of the year: exasterbate

Footage of two police cars skidding on a schoolground within metres of a children's bouncy castle has "made a mockery" of the Government's safe-driving message, a parent says.

The five-minute clip, uploaded online to YouTube on Thursday, was shot at a fundraising event at Auckland's Target Rd Primary School.
Ohmygod thisisanoutrage whenwillitend whowillthinkofthechildren somethingmustbedone...
The event, a school fundraiser, took place in November 2008.

Mr MacGregor had not posted the footage online until his phone memory filled up and he learned how to upload it to YouTube.
Oh, I see. I think there is a lesson for us all here, but especially for the people who make newspapers. An event which happened over two years ago is not much of a news story. There is another lesson: it is difficult to maintain a serious tone when your story involves a bouncy castle.

Of course, the traditional pyramid construction of a story anticipates that half the readership disappears with each paragraph, so most readers will not learn that the incident happened in 2008. However, they might watch the video, which shows tens of children not running away in terror. But then, as a youngish person comments, "
posting such a video on you tube is only exasterbating [sic] the irresponsible message."