Monday, October 22, 2007

More is More

I was, for some reason, expecting to find a lot of moderation being exercised in China. And I was, as it turns out, completely wrong. So far the underlying principle in many things seems to be more is more.


On my way to the subway the other day, and I see the campus gardener, or rose cultivator (is there a specialist name for this?), giving the roses a good drink. A bit different to how I was taught as a kid, though. This was the equivalent of giving the roses a beer-bong. I wonder how they will respond to this. Definitely a more is more approach to rose cultivation, in any event.



The underlying principle behind education is definitely more is more. More homework, more textbooks, more studying! A lot of the domestic students here study really long hours, from recitals before breakfast and then all afternoon after classes! Of course, the international students don't have this problem, generally. I personally prefer to study in shorter, more intense blocks, and then to take a nice break.



A more balanced approach, in other words. And Beijing provides nicely for that balance. Nightlife here is certainly a more is more approach....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blogspot back in Beijing

Well, this is weird, but my blog and all others on Blogspot have just made themselves available here in Beijing. Perhaps this was decided at the 17th National Congress?

Whatever the case, it's cool.

And given that I'm stil having problems getting that other blog up and running here's a brief overview of life here.

It's good. The university is more 'Griffith' than 'UQ', but this means it's unpretentious. If anything the vibe is more like a highschool. The classes are quite intense. The difficulty is about that of what I was doing last semester in Brisbane, but instead of 5 hours a week it's 20 hours a week. Another difference is that the teachers can't resort to English to explain anything, because my class is almost entirely Korean and Japanese, and because the teachers can't really speak any English (our focused reading teacher does speak fluent French, though).

Theres some great friends, some whom I already knew from Australia, and we make a killer Mandarin speaking (and reading) crew when we hit the streets. It's great fun.

A photo would probably paint the rest of it much better than I could, such as the view from my room (have sinced moved rooms but its more or less the same). More to come on another day when the net here isn't snail-crawlingly slow.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Moving

Man, that trip was awesome. Going to be a struggle to describe it faithfully and justly.

Anyway, I did some experimenting there and Wordpress is, for now, unblocked in China. So I'll move this blog there, to coincide with my own move.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Off for 2 Weeks

I have that nervous energy that comes the night before a trip. I'll be away till the 13th for this Chinese competition, and blogging will be impossible in that time.

Brisbane-Sydney, Sydney-Beijing, Beijing-Changchun, and back again.

The competition will be broadcast on CCTV, apparently. The standard is supposed to be very high though, so my anxiety levels are likewise rather high.

The Australian - total n00b rag

I usually find The Australian to be pretty good, but this changes everything.

It's a n00b rag. This blog craps all over it. I posted about a similar subject recently, the biggest difference being I know exactly what I'm talking about, and The Australian has no idea.

Sometimes I'm just taken aback at the n00bness of some people. Natalie O'Brien clearly didn't bother to check any of what these moronic interviewers were telling her. And there is not a single mention of Counter-Strike (which is the most obvious target).

Reading 'Virtual Terrorists' (a total n00bfest of an article), I came across this:

Kevin Zuccato, head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre in Canberra, says terrorists can gain training in games such as World of Warcraft in a simulated environment, using weapons that are identical to real-world armaments.

WTF!? Clearly this n00b hasn't even played WoW.

If you're a n00b like him, let me explain why.

Have a look at the list of weapons on WoW.

According to Zuccato, we should be worried about 'terrorists' turning up to wreak havoc with...a Ballast Maul of the Bear, identical to its real-world armament as you can see.


And the simulated environments...very worrying. It'll be far too easy to plot an attack in a place like this:


What terrorist traning is there to be had in WoW? Honestly, if you haven't seen it in action, try and tell me that Leroy's clan was plotting a real life attack. The only terror caused by WoW is a bit of healthy family wrecking, and Leroy Jenkins-ness.

However, the WoW kid does have a moment of profound insight. In case you missed the link.

"It's not the computer game that's seperating this family, it's what you're reacting to it!"

Well put, kid, well put.

UPDATE:

I am right and the Aus is wrong.

Read the other responses:

Here

Here

and Here.

This last one being particularly important, in showing the true story behind the 'terrorist' plot. Where did O'Brien get the idea that the bombs killed player characters? Virtual-coffins??
Players can't die in Second Life- end of story. O'Brien is writing her own fiction.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Best. Simpsons. Ever.

Just saw The Simpsons film, and it's brilliant. Weaves together the best wit and social commentary of the old episodes with the laugh out loud slapstick of the new ones. And doesn't succumb to seriousness.

Not much more to say really. Except that Grand Theft Walrus and Spiderpig almost killed me with laughter.

Endless Noodles

Went to Endless Noodles in Sunnybank last night for dinner with some friends. As far as eating Chinese in Brisbane goes, Sunnybank is certainly the best suburb. It's really the true Chinatown of Brisbane- forget Fortitude Valley, as it's mainly Canton food made to a Western taste (i.e bland).

Endless Noodles, however, (西域拉面,I think, "Western Chinese Handmade Noodles") is genuine, authentic, the good stuff. My favourites are the delicious Xinjiang lamb sticks and the scalding hot pot. Seriously, the hot pot there is hot. I haven't been to Sichuan, but the hot pot of last night was apparently as hot as anything in Sichuan. My lips are still red and raw, and I think I've lost my ability to taste for a month- a good sign.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

G is for Greenaway



Now that I've had some time for reflection, I've made up my mind about Peter Greenaway.

He's brilliant.

You'll not find a more confronting, entertaining, challenging or rewarding filmmaker than Greenaway. He completely manipulates the medium into unchartered territories. Like what Miles Davis did for the trumpet, he makes all feel fresh again. If I had to single out one aspect of his style which is most recognizable, it would be the enormous detail packed into each shot.


Some of the shots are just frame worthy; they practically stand alone as pieces of art. Incredible given that there's 24 in a second. And they are (from mid 90's and before) accompanied by intricate scores from Michael Nyman. The effect is genuinely unique amongst all the films I've watched.



All frames taken from 'Drowning by Numbers'.

Tough Life in Changchun

Just speaking to a friend from Changchun in Jilin province.

She tells me that in summertime there is no electricity in the university dorm until 5pm each day.

Jeez.

Shut It, Spielberg

So Spielberg has to live up to the Liberal Hollywood cliche of criticising China, does he Miss Farrow?

Damn it, I'm due to deliver a speech in Changchun very soon for a competition, and a big part of it hinges on the East-West cooperation between Spielberg and Zhang Yi Mou on the Olympics.

If he follows through with public criticism, this will cause huge loss of face for me.

So, kindly shut it, Spielberg.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cult of the Giant Eggs



Today was my last in Cairns before I head off to Brisbane, and then fly off to China. So I thought a visit to Rusty's Markets was in order. It's always fun heading down there; an olfactory delight, and a boiling pot of cultures. Some of my favourites there are the fresh ground coffee stalls, the Greek yoghurt stall, Mr Grasso's honey stall, and the Yamagishi egg stall.

This last one, though, is quite interesting. Firstly, they're easily the best eggs one will ever taste. Massive in size, delicious in taste, and with beautiful golden yolks. But what is Yamagishi?

I remember taking a Japanese student who was staying with us on a tour through Rusty's, and made a point to stop at the Yamagishi stall. I inquired about what Yamagishi meant, the student spoke to the hawker, and the mysterious response was "It's just....name."

My brother worked a while in a local cafe which used Yamagishi eggs, and he got talking to the company rep who delivered the eggs. He told him that it's in fact a communal farm. Chickens and people roam free; this freedom is a secret to the quality of the eggs, no doubt.

Further investigation, though, reveals that it's more than just a commune; it's a cult.

Well, all I can say is that unlike Falun Gong, at least this cult contributes something useful to society. Let this be a lesson to other cults.

And if you're in Cairns, make sure you do visit Rusty's Markets.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kaufmen and Language Learning

My favourite Kaufman would have to be Charlie. Charlie Kaufman has penned what I consider some of the most entertaining and intelligent films made- Adaptation is one of my favourites. Particularly notable for me was the line "I can be that cool script writer guy who speaks Chinese".
His twin-brother Donald Kaufman was most charming, and we shall miss him dearly*.

Andy Kaufman too was a memorable wag- the Tony Clifton character of his particularly.

But theres a new Kaufman on the block. In fact he one-ups all previous contestants with the addition of an extra 'n'.

I came across Steve Kaufmann whilst checking out the entertaining series on YouTube "Westerners Speaking Cantonese". That series, by the way, is a total monkey-act, no doubt about it. But just like a Russian cat-show, it's worth the price of admission.

And so I stumbled across Kaufmann, having an interview partly in English, and partly in Mandarin. That's here. Hilarious, by the way, is the interviewer, with his unintentional comic timing. But what do you know? Kaufmann's Mandarin is very good. Not as good as Da Shan or Da Niu, to be sure (Kaufmann has a bit of an accent compared to them), but way better than mine, and Kaufmann apparently speaks 8 languages in addition. Very impressive.

Anyway, he offers his opinion on language-learning, and some of them I find quite agreeable.

In particular:
  • It's probably a waste of time to ask why. As in, asking "Why do Chinese people say this?" This used to happen a lot in my Chinese classes, particularly in the introductory level. It hardly ever happens, though, in the advanced conversational classes, because by now we've just accepted the obvious and unchangeable. And most of those who asked 'why' all the time dropped Chinese out of frustration. It probably only rears its head again at the linguistic level, and that's cool then. But if your goal is to learn the language (as opposed to learning about the language), all that effort is probably better spent remembering what they say rather than why they say it, at least while you're still learning.
  • Reading and listening are really important yet often overlooked. In particular, reading something that you find interesting, and something that isn't too hard. For me, I love to read interviews with Christopher Doyle. His Chinese is very, very good, but not so native-like as Da Shan whereby he speaks only in obscure idioms and such. And most importantly, I'm really interested in what Doyle has to say.
  • Consistency seems to be more effective than pure volume. Take me as an example: This semester most of my time spent on Russian was on a Tuesday and a Wednesday. Tuesday was getting all the homework done at the last minute, and Wednesday was 4 hours of class. Other than that, I didn't do much. And I tanked Russian last semester! Yet my Chinese workload was spread out so that I was doing a bit each day, and I've been quite a spot more successful with it.
  • Learn contextually, and don't get anxious. If you're worried about getting the sentence right, you won't. And since you're prone to get it wrong anyway, why worry about it? Just relax, speak, and the native speaker will tell you what you're doing wrong. This is also much more memorable (for me at least) than reading the line out of a textbook. Most of the words that I have in my long-term memory I learned contextually, either from watching a film, reading an interview, or chatting with a friend. Not from studying a word list.
Kaufmann writes a blog, too.

So some qualifying statements. I don't want to downplay the importance of linguistics. For an excellent example of applied linguistics which is useful to a language learner, look no further than John Pasden's excellent article on pronouncing Chinese. Linguistics is also a fascinating area, and I'd be lying if I said I don't admire socio-linguists for the insights they give to a language, which as an added extra can also aid greatly in memorizing Chinese characters, for example. But, in the earlier stages, I'm not convinced one needs to know a whole lot about it.

Also, I don't want to downplay the importance of textbooks and grammar patterns. There are times when you just need to know how a word functions. Good textbooks provide patterns which are easy to follow, and things progress in a logical fashion. And at a translation level, I would think that you do need to know exactly what a word implies and what the closest thing to an equivalent is.

So far there is just one point of contention I might have with Kaufmann, when he states that vocabulary is far more important than grammar. I suppose that depends upon what he means by grammar. If he means those big, nasty books of pure grammar, then I wholeheartedly agree. But there's a difference between that, and knowing the basic cogs of a language. Like knowing the order involved in basic sentence construction. Or knowing what a verb is, what an adjective is, and so on. And I don't see a lot of use in knowing a whole bunch of words in say, Russian, and having no idea of how to conjugate them. You just won't be understood.

But regardless, his point is a pertinent one- spend lots of time working on your vocabulary!

Finally, a question I think is worth asking. Would you rather speak two or (if you're lucky) three languages with native fluency, or 9 languages pretty damn fluently? I don't have the proper answer to that, except to say that I'm focusing on Chinese for the foreseeable future, and any Russian I can come to terms with along the way is a bonus.



*Yes, I'm kidding about Donald.

iBlog

iBlog is looking like a possible alternative to the dreaded MSN spaces. There seems to be a massive amount of Chinese blogs hosted there.

Anyway, had some follow up injections today (3 of them) and now I'm off to meet up with a friend to explain some of the more confusing lines of Chinese poetry I've come across.

Blogging from China

When writing a China blog, one is not only concerned with the title, but also which blog service to use.

I'm still in Australia now, so I've got a bit of time to figure this out.

The question is: which services are, shall we say, available in China? Blogger, Blog-City, Blogsome, Wordpress, LiveJournal and Xanga are apparently not too good in this regard.
Which leaves MSN Spaces- the truly horrid, baron wasteland of the blogging world.

Surely there must be a better option.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Good People of the 3 Gorges Dam



I finally got around to seeing 'Still Life', by Jia Zhang Ke. It's an excellent film indeed, wholly deserving of the Golden Lion it won at the Venice Film Festival last year. Although, I can't say I really know any of the contenders for that prize, so I've no idea really. But this is a very, very good film.

The film is about the villagers of Fengjie , in Sichuan province. Or is it now under control of Chongqing? Anyway, one of the special things about the film is that the amazing location of the villages, right on the banks of the Yangtze (长江). It's special because we can't visit these places anymore; they've been completely submerged since 2006. I'm sorry to say I've never been to this part of China before so I'll never know what it was like up close, but this film does offer a beautiful visual record of it.

Upon some reflection, a primary theme throughout the film seems to be about loss. There are two lead characters who both are involved in broken marriages, and have become loveless. And then there is the loss of the village itself.

I'm not sure that it's my favourite film by Jia, I think I still prefer The World. But this is nevertheless another brilliant piece of cinema from him, and I can't wait to see what he films next. Certainly something that does seem to be becoming a trait of Jia is the occasional juxtaposition of surrealism in what are otherwise hyper-realistic films. I first noticed it with the cartoon sequences in The World, and in Still Life he takes it further by using some impressive computer-generated imagery. I quite like the effect.

Oh, and a note about the title. 'Still Life' is the English name, but the original Chinese name 三峡好人 translates to The Good People of the 3 Gorges Dam (well that's my translation). A bit of a mouthful from a marketing perspective. It does, however, have relevance to the film, as there is a scene where a young man remarks "There are no good people here!". Whilst on topic, I should add that some (most) of the dialects in the film are nigh impenetrable to me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I Want To Smash It

Another crushing defeat for Australia. I remember reading an article, probably around this time last year or so, in TIME magazine, regarding football. The idea in the article was that perhaps the rules of the game should be changed so as to lower post-game fury.

The author had a point.

Since the scorecard is usually so low, the entire game is often decided by a single goal. As it was tonight with the penalty shootout. Whilst similar situations can and do occur in rugby and in cricket, it does seem so much more common in football, and also harder hitting to the spectator. It's much easier to concede a loss when each side has racked up a large score. But if it's 1-0 or 2-1, the margin is that much more absolute, and that suddenness of it all is probably what inspires football hooliganism.

Even here, watching T.V in the lounge-room, to a relatively unenthusiastic spectator such as myself, the reaction upon losing was clear. Put enough alcohol in me, and I'd dare say I'd be out putting chairs through glass.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Perforated

The trip to the Doctors was eventful, as far as such trips go.

I had expected perhaps a Hep B shot, but I was treated to a veritable smörgåsbord of vaccines.

Six injections! To quote Ron Burgandy, "I can barely lift my right arm".

The 'highlight' was getting the Rabies vaccination, though I must say Japanese Encephalitis is quite underrated too. I hear it can cause death in some 30 percent of cases.

I'm headed back next week for some more. I'm told it's much better to get injections done here, however, as there are apparently issues over needle re-usage in certain parts of China.

Deus Ex Machina

Robo-dog Messiah? Well, it could be, or it could be a hoax. Not sure on the reliability of Slashdot as the article was recommended to me by a friend.

As that same friend pointed out- anyone know the process to extract water from wine?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The China Blog

I was going to write a lengthy post about the recent government intervention over Haneef, but I I've said most of it over in the comments at Sir Hall's post. Besides, why write about boring Australian politics when there's a new China blog on the block?

Not the most original name for a blog, but The China Blog from TIME seems pretty good so far.
It does have a US-centric focus, but it is at least a well researched and argued angle that the contributors adopt.

And I'm still thinking of names for the coming China blog of my own. Off to the doctors to see about injections and so on in the meantime.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Loss of Face and Job


不会写

This would be pretty humiliating, I think.

It does also highlight something else which irks me.

That trend amongst really wealthy American families to compete in the language stakes of the child. Like 'guru'* Jim Rogers bragging about his daughter:

He is so confident that China will be the world’s next great nation that he employed a Chinese nanny for his daughter shortly after she was born. “She is 3 years old and already fluent in Mandarin,” he says.

I don't think I was fluent in English at the age of 3. Anyway, I'm probably totally mistaken here, but I don't think the painless 'teach them when they're young' method will work as well as these billionaires think. Ethnic-Chinese still struggle to pass Chinese language tests. The difficulty, I'd say, is not the spoken aspect, but the written. Plenty of savvy people are making lots of cash getting people to speak Mandarin, and they'll claim that speaking is what's important.

Ms Bai, a student in bilingual education at the Teachers College of Columbia University, explained that teachers of Chinese "still focus on grammar, on reading, and don't speak much. Chinese students focus mostly on getting good grades, so writing is more important for them. But in a job interview, you need to speak the language. In the United States, the focus is more on speaking."

Right. I'm unaware of this alleged crowd of people who are literate in Chinese yet struggle to speak. Their silence is deafening. But who needs that pesky grammar and reading?

Quick Mandarin's Zhang said: "It's hard to find good Chinese teachers, because teachers coming from China are very strict in their methods of teaching. Americans have a different way of learning - they like to actively learn through searching answers. But in China, it's different. The teacher will talk and then just give a lot of homework."

To which, I reply with a quote from the Straits Times article at the top:

Mr Richard Ong, an ethnic Chinese born in Malaysia, did not write Chinese well enough to take a mandatory test for senior managers, say bankers.


And so he didn't get to be a Goldman-Sachs CEO- probably the very job that Rogers has targeted for his kid. I wonder which test it was. But in any case, regardless of what the second hand language salesmen try to tell you, reading and writing is important, and there's no painless way to learn those 3500 characters required to be considered literate. In fact there is a Chinese professor I know who says writing is the most important aspect of learning Chinese.

*Guru. I hate the word, particularly since nowadays it is almost always applied to investment authors.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Man of Mystery

My brother has been watching a lot of Derren Brown, lately, and I've been watching a bit of it myself. It's quite entertaining really, and some of it is really impressive. His card handling skills, for example, really are brilliant.

Some of the other feats, however, I'm still skeptical of. Regardless of how good one's skill with persuasion or suggestion is, the mere fact that this is television should be an alarm bell for any rational person. And yet...It's certainly nice to believe that with the right application of behavioral science, one could affect such stunning results. There's also no question that in addition to being an excellent showman, he's an extremely intelligent guy. So it's thought provoking entertainment at worst, and I think that's better than most of the crap that passes by these days.

And, to his credit, attempts to dig up any dirt or proper criticism about him will turn up nothing.
Thus far, at least.

So, for now, enjoy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My Favourite Republicans

A favourite Republican? Surely not! Well, like it or not, they're not all neo-con fanatics. Whilst I disagree with most of their policies, there are a few I'd like to single out as being moderate and rational, to the extent that I have respect for them and note their positions to be rational, logical and consistent.

My favourite Republican runner would have to be Ron Paul.

Of course my own choice for the election would be Obama, and I doubt Paul will actually secure the nomination since he's so at odds with the Christian Right of the GOP, but this video is certainly worth watching, particularly from 5:20 onwards. He's a foreign policy realist, not an idealist, and so I think that qualifies him as conservative, and not a neo-conservative.

Others call Paul, like that other likeable Republican Clint Eastwood, a Libertarian; that might be right, too, but I'd have to hear more of his views about other social issues. He defends his position on abortion well enough. I don't agree with him about gun ownership, immigration and free-market health care either, but at least his positions are consistent with the GOP, and are defensible. On the Libertarian/Republican angle: it's said (though it seems hard to be sure of this) that Matt Stone, of South Park fame, is a registered Republican.

So yeah: Ron Paul, Clint Eastwood and Matt Stone. Exceptions that prove the rule, perhaps, but worth remembering.

Finally, note also, in the video, the Fox technique of interviewing and shoving words in peoples mouths, which is also employed by Rudy G- who himself first looked like he may have been a moderate, rationalist but has since proved to buck under the pressure of the Christian Right.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fascist Joggers

Nicholas Sarkozy enjoys jogging. So, perhaps jogging belongs to the ideology of the right, says Liberation, and Alain Finkelkraut. Of France, in case you weren't sure.

Interesting. I'm a walker myself, like Socrates and Rimbaud, and I'm not a conservative. So I'm safe from this charge.

But wait a second. I also enjoy sleeping, eating, and drinking vodka. I was also once heavily into Judo, and I learn Russian too. Does this make me a totalitarian of the Putin brand? And I have been known to enjoy the odd cigar at times. Am I therefore Churchillian in my thinking?

Another great walker was none other than Nietzsche. He even wrote that he'd sometimes walk for 8 hours in a single day.

Anyway, two posts which give a deeper analysis than I can be bothered to today, courtesy of a quick google search.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Taiwanese Death Metal Politics

Chthonic, a Taiwanese death-metal band (I hate the genre as much as anyone, believe me) aren't rocking just for the normal reasons.

They're rocking for sex, drugs and Taiwan joining the United Nations.

As much as I hate the style of the music, it was interesting to hear the blend of that guitar wall and machine gun bass-drums mixed with an Er Hu. Very strange in fact.

Other than that, I don't think I'd pick them as Chinese (or Taiwanese, as they would no doubt insist upon).

Those interested can visit them on MySpace.

Ronnie Chan, Regina Ip on Bloomberg

The original interview was taped in late June, apparently, but I just saw Bernie Lo's interview with property tycoon Ronnie Chan. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a linkable site, at least to those of us unsubscribed (such as myself). In any event, Chan made some interesting, some may say bold, points, suggesting that:

1. The opening of China is the biggest economic opportunity in the history of mankind.
2. The press in Hong Kong has more freedom under Beijing than it did under the British.
3. Hong Kong is moving too slowly compared with Singapore and Shanghai, and missing out on the prime opportunities.
4. Foreigners don't care about the economic future of Hong Kong.
5. Los Angeles, in the 1970's (whilst Chan was living there) had pollution problems that were comparable or worse than those China faces today.
6. Hong Kong already has universal suffrage.

He's extremely pro-business, yet one also detects a certain Anglophobia too, or at least bitterness. Perhaps rightly so, too, but I couldn't be sure on that.

I'm not sure on the facts about press-freedom, as I was under the impression that it was more heavily censored these days than before.

He also may be right in his optimism about the pollution problem. L.A has, according to him, come huge bounds since the 70's, and current technology should allow a faster transition.

I think, however, on the point of universal suffrage, he is completely mistaken. Bernie seemed to think as much, too. Chan was nonetheless a very persuasive, impressive man, and he knew how to debate in a civil manner.

Regina Ip, formerly security secretary of Tung Chee-Hwa's administration, made a small headline by saying Hong Kong doesn't need democracy for economic prosperity. I don't think that's at all controversial though, as it hasn't had democracy for all this time, and still had huge growth. China hasn't had democracy through its period of extraordinary growth either. Just a case of trying to find a headline I guess. But still, surely it's not simply for economic reasons that a democratic system is desirable.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Coming Soon...Need New Blog Name

Just got an interesting email from Canberra, the upshot of which is that I'll be most likely starting a new blog for the next year.

It'll have a China focus, I'm pretty sure of that.

I'd love to hear some suggestions for the name. Sino-Something.

Anyway I'll provide more details as this develops.

For the moment, it's uni-break and I'm in back in far-north QLD, and life is sweet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

sif ban CS Ruddock u n00b

Ruddock wants to ban films, books and computer games which encourage terrorism.

Does this mean Counter-Strike is under threat of a ban? Afterall, one side of the team are the terrorists, and the aim of the game is to set off bombs, keep hostages, and act in a generally terrorising manner whilst pwning n00bs.

It's also one of the most popular online games in the world.

Hopefully I've made my position on games clear from the previous article, but if not, I'll just quote Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Zelda and Mario (via Wikipedia):

""Video games bad for you? (laughs) That's what they said about rock and roll."

Surely Ruddock wouldn't be that much of a spoil-sport, and I do realise the bigger issue pertains to the banning of books which are a valuable academic resource, and don't even get me started on banning films.

But surely other people have had Counter-Strike pop into their heads when they heard about Ruddocks latest?

In any event, it must be said: zomfg Ruddock am ghey ffs.

Guerilla Gamers

Well well well, computer games aren't the evil addiction that everyone has been making them out to be.

And by everyone, I mean family values conservatives like Jack Thompson and Andrew Bolt.

I note the disclaimer in that article about huge periods of gaming being bad for social interaction.

The same can be said about huge periods of reading, watching films, listening to music, studying and almost all the fun individual activities.

However, I'm still waiting for an article to shut up the people who claim that computer games are training a generation of crack-shot killers. This might help.

Still, let's just sit down and look at the argument on the table: that computer games train or cause people to be murderers.

If I'm to be persuaded into agreeing, I want statistics showing a disproportionate number of murderers being gamers.

Certainly in terms of notable violent crimes, the computer game connection has only been made a handful of times. Columbine, Virginia Tech, some guy in Germany, probably a few others that I'm missing. But given that the overall amount of violent crime is so high, then one possible conclusion is that everyone should play games, since so few violent crimes are committed by gamers.

It's fuzzy logic, but no fuzzier than that used by the anti-games crowd.

Ultimately, the conclusive or correlative studies haven't been done yet. I might attempt a collection of data myself some time in the future.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Finding Mars in North West China

According to NASA, the deserts of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau are the coldest and driest in the world (in combination, not singularly).

Similar conditions perhaps to those on Mars, and apparently useful in microbiological investigations.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Adams on Turnbull

Philip Adams, as entertaining and erudite as always, says what I've been thinking myself for a while.

Malcolm Turnbull is too smart not to get it on climate change. He's also my favourite Liberal, perhaps along with Joe Hockey. As entertaining as Costello is, if they really want a proper leader, they should go with Turnbull. But with slimeballs like Costello crawling around, I doubt it'll happen. Which is a shame.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Trip to the Video Store

Now that the holidays are on and my only other commitment is preparing for the Chinese Bridge competition (to be held in Jilin this year), in addition to lots of reading, I'll probably watch quite a few films.

I take absurd times to select videos these days, but I finally settled on

Yi yi by Edward Yang
The Missing Gun
8 1/2 Women by Peter Greenaway
A Zed and Two Naughts by Peter Greenaway

I can't remember who directed The Missing Gun at the moment. Anyway, I'll hopefully give a brief review of each within the week which I have rented them for.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Australians and the British

Some good confirmation of our preconceptions over at The Australian today.

"The point of this story is...the Aussies were fantastically brave and the Brits were a bunch of cowards..." explains BBC journalist Frank Gardner.

Recent Reading

Just finished Empire of the Sun by J.G Ballard. Brilliant. The second world war through the eyes of a young British boy, growing up around the Great Rivers of Asia. The tone and sense of war throughout this semi-autobiographical account is seperate from what we've heard from the European and African theatres of war. There is a paragraph very early on in the book which I feel sums up the message and theme of the novel best.

"Jim had no doubt which was real. The real war was everything he had seen for himself since the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, the old battlegrounds at Hungjao and Lunghua where the bones of the unburied dead rose to the suface of the paddy fields each spring. Real war was the thousands of Chinese refugees dying of cholera in the sealed stockades of Pootung, and the bloody heads of communist soldiers mounted on pikes along the Bund. In a real war no one knew which side he was on, and there were no flags or commentators or winners. In a real war there were no enemies."

Now reading The Maths Gene by Keith Devlin, Difficulties with Girls by Kingsley Amis and a Concise History of China by J.A.G Roberts.

The Maths Gene is a fascinating theory about the interconnection of language and mathemathics. I don't want to do wrong to Devlin by attempting to sum it up before I understand or have read it all, but it's very entertaining to read, and he has a nice flowing, informative writing style.

Difficulties with Girls is an interesting read, partly because the edition I picked up second hand was missing the dust jacket, so I haven't actually read any blurb of it. It's a very fun way of reading a book, as it happens, and I recommend trying it at least once if you haven't. It's quite like flicking to a movie on television which you have no idea about; there is joy in the unexpected. Of course your chances of enjoyment are increased when you know the author is brilliant, like Amis.

The history of China by Roberts is unfortunately more styled as reference material, presented from the perspective of a bored lecturer in the subject. I wanted to get something opinionated and biased and entertaining; this is not it. It is, however, filled almost to the brim of it's 300 odd pages with facts, which are actually very interesting in spite of the dull writing style. Perhaps he has crammed too much in such a small space, with not enough space to ellaborate on the interesting subjects. Apparently Open Empire by Valerie Hansen is what I should be getting next.

Just bought From Rice to Riches by Jan Hutcheon, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci and The Gate of Heavenly Peace, both by Jonathan D. Spence.

Now that university is over for the time being I finally have the chance to get some proper reading done.

And finally, I'm looking into this technorati thing too.

Technorati Profile

Friday, June 15, 2007

Green Prosperity

I figure I'd take this chance to draw attention to an interesting study, whilst at the same time plugging my university.

Firstly, take the time, if you will, to read an article by Bruce Sterling, this one.

And then read this, a brief outline of a study done by Associate Professor John Asafu-Adjaye.

Now, to be fair, I should really read Growth Fetish by Clive Hamilton before I can form a balanced opinion here.

But a possible conclusion to draw from the first two, though probably contrary to the third, is that a green future is not an ideal belonging only to those of the far reachest of green left. It would seem that theres is empirical evidence linking improved economic growth and the greening of an environment, which may be summed up by Asafu-Adjaye when he says

“In many cases people start to care about the environment because they can afford to,”

Note, though, the qualifer 'in many cases'. It certainly isn't a universal occurence, but it is a possibility. Another criticism is that the study only focused on carbon dioxide emissions as a measure of environmental quality.

But still.

Take for example Japan, a model nation in my opinion, whose environmental credentials come as a result of economic prosperity, smart governance and an investment in research and development. The last element, investment in R&D, is something that to my knowledge Australia is lagging behind in, where it could be leading. And so the commitment to more spending on education and development is one of Rudd's strongest points I feel, a point which I am in fervent agreement with him.

Some radical types seem to be anti-capitalist, or anti-corporate, to the extreme point where it becomes anti-wealth. Just as some ultra-conservative types seem to conflate any environmental protection with poverty and economic decline. I think this is a worrying trend. I consider myself of a moderate center-left, middle of the road persuasion, a bit like Paul Keating perhaps, or currently Barack Obama. Keating is/was certainly my favourite politician- watch his Lateline interview if you haven't! And as he points out in the interview, he initiated several drastic economic changes. Changes which are still feeding our prosperity today.

My point is, before there is anything to share around to those who need it, we first need to create that wealth. This is a point that only the most extreme seem unable to grasp, and something that most of us can agree on, surely. It's the management of that wealth, and how to generate it, that is a point worthy of debate.

But like I said, I should read Growth Fetish first.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

'Perfect' Albums

And now for some groundless conjecture.

I think everyone has an album, or albums, which are perfect to their ears. Probably more than just ears in fact; an album which just resonates in the most pitch perfect way within someone.
As Robert Fripp of King Crimson said, "Listen also with the ears of the heart". A nice way of putting it.

An interesting point is that a perfect album may not necessarily come from a favourite band. Because it may be that the rest of the albums from the 'perfect album band' aren't all that. Unlikely, but it does happen.

I think something that should qualify a perfect album is not just a single song on it, but the soundscape of all the songs. The album which once you put on, you have to listen to all the way through. An album like Pyschocandy by Jesus and the Mary Chain, for example, has some fantastic songs on it, and some that I just can't stand. For me at least, perfect albums are quite few and far between.

What comes to mind? Well.

Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. Bought it in Japan, actually, and it rather suits the city scapes of Tokyo (as was used to great effect in Lost in Translation in fact)

The Power to Believe by King Crimson. Now I would actually say that King Crimson are my favourite band, so obviously perfect albums can come from favourite bands. These musicians are at such an incredible stage these days, I can't even begin to imagine what their next album will sound like.

Directors Cut by Fantomas. Mike Patton is possibly the single most impressive singer out there. And entertaining. He can perform the most amazing aura (or should that be oral? Which perspective am I trying to portray here?) acrobatics with that voice of his, and he's not ashamed to sound ridiculous in the name of a great song (some of Fantomas' tunes are...a bit off the wall, in the best way possible)

And most recently, Satan's Circus by Death in Vegas. Such sweet, sweet tones. Very cathartic.
The perfect thing for the end of the exam period.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Different Sort of Agency

I'm almost finished with the essay about theories of freewill, and arguing for a supercompatibilist position.

Everyone has an opinion on the question of freewill, whether they like it or not (ba-doom-tish, stay around for a drink, I'm here all week).

So what's yours?

A) Hard determinist "All your actions are determined in Minkowski space-time"

B) Soft determinist (aka compatibilist) "But Minkowski space-time and determinism is necessary for free will"

C) Libertarian "It's a chancy world and so we have freewill (somehow)"

D) Hard indeterminist (aka supercompatibilist) "It's an indeterministic world but we're totally controlled by it"

Friday, June 08, 2007

Beats Mythbusters

Reading from Cosmic Conicidences, the Bespoke Universe chapter.

A particular reference is to the bubble theory of multiple universes, and research undertaken by Fahri and Guth, and their paper "An Obstacle to Creating a Universe in the Laboratory".

It's quite a task they set themselves, really.

Their research is partly summed up as:

"We already have the energy available to do half the trick, in the form of hydrogen bombs; the other half of the trick is to confine that energy within a very small volume (the size of an atom).."

And here I am worrying about my Russian exams for the semester.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Casting for Mao

Laurie and I have agreed that one day, the definitive Mao film will have to be made.

Perhaps it will have to be a Taiwanese production. Perhaps they'll have to film it outside of China.
Perhaps it's too soon.

Indeed. But there is one question that towers above all the others.

Who to cast?

Well, comrades, we may have our leading man right here.



Funnily enough, our leading man is a woman.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just because you're paranoid....

My favourite book is Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon. A true mindblower, epic in every sense of the word and an intellectual titan. Yet I come across remarkably few people in real life who have actually read it. None, in fact.

By coincidence (assuming you acknowledge such a thing exists, heh heh heh), through the internet photo site FaceBook, my old primary school mate Will found me- purely through the fact that I was the only other person on University of Queensland '07 network who listed it in their favourite books.

Just because you're paranoid....

Well, has anyone, stranger or regular here, read it?

An Analogy on Accents

So, you might ask, are there really different accents of Mandarin, and what are they like?

Well, hearing a standard-Mandarin speaker (say, a CCTV news reader) and then a north-easterner speak is kind of analogous to hearing a BBC news reader and then hearing The Wee Man.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Orwell

I've only read Animal Farm and 1984, but I thought they were both brilliant.

Nowadays though, Orwell has become something of a tool in oratory and debate; you can throw an Orwell into the mix to swing any argument your way.
Bush- Orwellian nightmare, Howard- read Orwell as a manual, any progressive politician- O'Brien waiting to happen.

I think it's kind of approaching cliche to be honest, but theres no doubt Orwell painted a chilling portrait of totalitarianism.

I usually don't think calling on Orwell is very helpful when criticising hardline neo-conservative governments though, as the idea of a free market seems antithetical to INGSOC.

I think criticism of such right-wing governments would be better achieved by pointing out the problems which are specific to it- corporate greed, class division and so on. Because unless it is specific to the form of government, then the Orwell card can be used against anyone, by anyone, which ultimately negates any significance.

So now I'm trying to think of some novelists who might be useful for this purpose. Thomas Pynchon perhaps, and certainly William S. Burroughs.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Eno

I've certainly come late to the Brian Eno party, but I'll say it anyway.

If you're after some new music, you could do far worse than 'Music for Airports' by Brian Eno.

Simply wonderful.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Zodiac

David Fincher's latest is by far his best, which is saying something.

It's a combination of his technical perfection, with regards to cinematography, visual effects and editing, the pitch-perfect performances (Robert Downey Jr is particularly entertaining) which he extracts from the actors, and a mature, intelligent and complex script.

The attention to detail in recreating the time-span of the period is unparalled. The soundtrack, fittingly, is totally cooking. And unlike some (all?) of Fincher's other films, there is a strict adherence to realism.

The film was shot entirely on digital but you'd never know it, really, as Harris Savides seems to have nailed the new medium on his first attempt, which is remarkable.

People may be expecting something akin to Se7en, but that's entirely the wrong comparison.

The film is more a crime saga along the lines of Heat, dealing more with the lives of those affected by the crime than the crime itself, and like that film, Zodiac is a rare masterpiece.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Random Dating Agency



So there I am, freshly logged in to messenger, and then I'm assaulted with stupidity in the form of the 'person message' from one of my high school class mates.

Someone's been reading too much Anthony Robbins, or whoever the latest motivation moron is, by the sounds of things:

"Luck is when a good random event and you meet. It is up to you to organise that meeting!"

These sort of comments really get under my skin.

How do you organise random? I mean, really.

Perhaps you call up a dating agency, and announce:

"Hello, I'd like my perfect match to meet me at a time and place entirely non-Laplacian deterministic in nature, please? Naturally, her appearance should be the good result of one in 70,000 billion variations of associations between the genetic endowments of spermatozoa and egg acting in entirely chaotic fashion. Oh, and I like long walks on the beach."

Maybe I'm on to something.

I'll start up the worlds first 'random dating agency', with the qualifaction that it is
'at very least a chaotic deterministic system'. I'm sure it'll make a mint.


Now, the usage of the word 'random' in popular culture, and how much that infuriates me, shall have to be left for another time.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Czar of Iraq and Afghanistan

I hope he can speak Arabic.

If this means Bush is handing over all responsibilities to Lute, then perhaps it would be something to celebrate, but I suspect Lute will turn into nothing more than a scapegoat for a lame duck.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Abbott Abbott

Of all the Liberal ministers, I think loathe Abbott the most.

He's even more overtly religious and socially conservative than Howard, and yet he's younger.
So it's even more intolerable.

It certainly defies belief that Howard even gave him the health portfolio in the first place, and it ranks up there as one of his most unforgivable decisions. I realise there are sensitive issues there so analogy doesn't go very far, but keep in mind that this is a democracy, not a theocracy.

And Abbott's arrogance in the face of defeat is really disgusting.
Don't worry Abbott, I'm sure the coalition will be sufficiently 'rewarded' this coming election.

I feel sorry for Jangari- apparently Abbott is his local member. Well at least he's allowed to give his two cents to Abbott directly, so maybe it's not all so bad.

The First Chain Message I Liked

An interesting snippet of a lecture by Professor Paul Krugman, worth watching by itself.

But then, note, the comment by Bernard Ogus.

Tomorrow will be the happiest day of your life. Your new toaster is up and running, your new haircut widely praised. And just when you think things can't get any better, an email from a stranger arrives, offering to enlarge your Johnson.

Unfortunately, if you don't post this comment to 5 videos, a box of Krugman books will fall from a building and smiteth your head, and everyone you love will be hit by a bus driven insane by the teachings of Sir William Rees-Mogg, whoever he may be.

Finally, a chain message worth passing on.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Tale of Two Budgets

I wrote about this a while back, and it seems Jim Middleton agrees with me.

The debate over economic ideology is over, and "We're all conservatives now".

So now we get two fiscally conservative budget proposals. Is that really something to celebrate?
I'll give my take on the two in a moment, but first, I should mention something which I found a touch disturbing.

In neither Costello's or Rudd's speech was the word 'aboriginal' mentioned once. This is in spite of the fact that Costello's budget actually puts $3.5 billion into indigenous related policies.

There's only a limited time for them to outline their proposals, and no doubt the speech is scrutinised by various media advisors. The worrying trend would be then that they have concluded the average Australian either doesn't care or doesn't want to see funding into indigenous policies.

And now to the budgets and their speeches.

Costello put his budget across in a very considered tone, and very reasonably. When he was pronouncing the actual sums of money involved, he would adopt the tone of voice one would hear from a tightpursed grandmother giving her child some birthday money.

The strongest point was the University Endowment Fund, though it's not quite clear when we'll actually see any fruits of such a fund. And so Rudd's attack that this is a short term election budget plan is probably somewhat misguided.

The tutoring voucher of $700 seems a fine idea, but also doesn't seem to be thought out.
Julie Bishop floundered when asked by Kerry O'Brien who would be elligible to give the tutoring.
Furthermore, I'd like to know what the average costs of tuition are. If we say $35 an hour then that's 20 hours. I don't think 20 hours will necessarily turn a lagging student into a high achieving student, so one could say that this is a bit of an election bribe.

Providing extra teaching training is also a fine idea, but my housemate (who is a teacher) pointed out that it's most likely older teachers who will be in need of a refreshment course. So targeting young teachers, as this proposal seems to do, could be money poorly spent.

$500 for senior citizens? That's a nice gesture too, and I'm glad to think that my grandmother might be able to get herself something nice courtesy of Costello, but it's also nothing more than a bribe.

Tax cuts to lower and middle income earners are much appreciated, and as George Megalogenis (video available here) points out, this proposal is closely related to Work Choices.

It was, as many have pointed out, the first time we've heard "Global Warming" mentioned by Costello, and extra incentives to invest in solar is an excellent move (which was mirrored by Rudd). Strangely, on the energy issue, neither Costello nor Rudd mentioned geo-thermal, in spite of the fact that I'm led to believe it's one of Australia's best options.

Overall, I'm sure it will swing some votes back in the way of the Coalition, and Costello is certainly putting feet in the right places where Howard is not. I'm sure the Coalition wishes they'd let Costello take over last year.

Rudd's speech itself was an absolute shocker. It sounded as though he'd not even read the speech before, and the speech itself was a hulking trainwreck which repeated tired old catchphrases such as "throwing the fair go out the back door".

Broadband is an issue close to my heart, so I was glad that it got a place. However, there was a discrepancy in the speech which I'm not sure everyone noticed.

He stated earlier that "Italy will soon be laying out a broadband network for two thirds of its population of up to 100 megabits per second". That is a brilliant plan indeed, and world-class.

Later on, however, it is revealed that "Labour's plan is for a state-of-the-art fibre optic to the node national network with a speed of 12 megabits per second (capable of upscaling) to be laid out over a 5 year period".

12 megabits? As in, half of the maximum speed currently available in metropolital areas?
Yes, that's right, we already have a network capable of 24mbps. And 24mpbs still isn't that great by world standards, as Rudd himself shows with the Italian example. So Rudd's plan will really affect those in regional areas who are currently stuck on 1.5mpbs or worse, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact I'm glad that young kids in Kurranda will be able to play Counter-Strike competitively. But if Rudd wants to run broadband as an economic issue, he'd do well to actually have a plan that would affect businesses.

I should point out, however, that Peter Beattie does actually have a plan for Brisbane which proposes a 100mbps network. This is sweet indeed, and would unquestionably encourage businesses who communicate large data packets to relocate to Brisbane (engineering firms are a prime example, at the moment they often have to burn their data onto a cd and then physically mail the cd out, wasting time and money).

So whilst a broadband plan is needed, and urgently, I was unimpressed with Rudd's offering. There is hope, however, that the upscaling potential will be fulfilled. And for the time being, it's still far better than Costello's lack of a broadband proposal.

Rudd invested slightly more than Costello in education, which is to be expected, although his focus was not universities, sadly. Rudd has chosen to focus on the skills sector, by offering up to 1.5 million dollars to high schools across Australia ("all 2650 of them"). Of course, he's counting on the fact that most high school's won't take up this offer, otherwise he'd need to put down $3.975 billion on the table (has has in fact put down only $2.5 billion).

He has also pledged to phase out full-fee paying students. This is in contrast to Bishop's idea of increasing the number of full-fee paying students.

I'm no fan of full-fee paying students, especially if it means that there are less commonwealth-supported places as a result. Rudd doesn't mean to extend this to full-fee paying international students though, because that would make universities less than thrilled given the enormous revenue brought in by such students.
I also hope it doesn't result in HECS fee's increasing to cover universities loss of profits.
We'll have to wait for more on that policy.

Finally, Rudd pledged $70 million for Asian Languages. I was at first delighted at this news, but apparently so far it only targets high schools. Which is a shame, really, because I'm of the opinion that learning languages in high school doesn't really deliver effective results. This is purely based on personal experience, whereby the same issues that would make say, Shakespeare uncool, also result in the study of language being uncool and purely academic. My main exhibit here would be the extremely poor level which high-school students of Chinese arrive with at 1st year university.

So comparing the two, I like Rudd's ideas the most, and appreciate where he is coming from. Upon closer examination I'd say Costello's probably more realistic and will actually deliver what it sets out to do. But it would be unfair to Rudd to judge his budget now as it was only a 'right of reply' which we saw last night. So I'll wait and see, and remain hopeful that some of the issues I have outlined above are ironed out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Melting Pot of Sexual Anxiety

It's said that Dracula was written at a time of British sexual anxiety over the Orient.

Well, I was doing some surfing about Libertarianism, which led me onto the Libertarian Society of Australia. From there I got onto A Yobbo's View, and then finally on to Kyungjunyo's Xanga Site.

Well. I can't decide if it's written entirely satirically or if the author is actually genuine.
His basic argument is that interracial relationships are evil. His solution?

I believe that the best solution outside of physical separation is an enormous wealth/technology gap, in our favor, between Asia and the West. That would override any social or interpersonal advantages white (and also black) males have, and it would reverse the current situation, in which Asian males may have some money, but have very little power or social/political influence. Women aren't just into money, they want the status too, and Asian males don't have it. Only by casting the males of other races as losers, via much more wealth and technology, would Asian males be able to bring their women back into the fold.

Right. I don't personally take the view that relationships are quantifiable in terms of money, status and technology.

Thoughts?

Satirical site to attract attention, or genuine melting pot of an ethnocentric sexual anxiety?

UPDATE:

Well, it's part of a blog ring, and a rather amusing one at that.
The ASIAN WOMAN FOR ASIAN MAN !! blog ring. Check out the manifesto (I've censored the language where needed)...

join this blogring if u are a Race Warrior n u believe interracial dating is just a by word for white f---ers to steal our woman. isn’t it strange that every interracial couple u see its some gorgeous asianhunnie dating a FAT, BLAD, UGLY n SMELLY WHITEF---. THAT IS SO F----NG SEXUAL SLAVERY.JOIN ME IN F---ING BASH TO DEATH EVERY WHITE MOTHERF---ER WHO EVEN LOOKS AT AN ASIAN WOMAN. CRAVE N DESIER FOR AN ASIAN PRISIDENT OF THE WORLD WHO WILL RUN ON THE PLATFORM OF: ASIAN WOMAN FOR ASIAN MAN!!

How charming. I'm pretty sure it must be satirical...right?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wh...what?

I was at uni the other day using the printers and photocopiers in the SS&H Library, where I spotted a poster advertising:

"The Great Global Warming Swindle"

I only gave it a cursory glance, but I was honestly dumbfounded as to where it was coming from.
"Find out why Anthropogenic Global Warming is the biggest HOAX of our time, propogated by far-right wing governments and financial institutions" it said.

This...this is just too much. So I googled it and find out the man responsible is Lyndon LaRouche, and (via Wikipedia) LaRouche was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment in 1988 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations, but continued his political activities from behind bars until his release in 1994 on parole.

A man of great integrity then...

Or maybe just an attention seeking, anti-semetic, hate-preaching Catholic zealot, and a bitter ex-Democrat candidate. That would explain his sermons of hate against both Bush and Al Gore.

UPDATE:
"Actually LaRouche has nothing to do with making that movie. Not only is google and incompetant way to research something, but you are obviously not capable of using it. Maybe, you should also try watching the movie, it sounds like you have an almost cult like belief in Global Warming." shrieks Annonymous.

Funny, I don't recall saying he made the film. And I don't recall saying I have a cult-like belief in Global Warming either.

LaRouche was responsible for the posters at my university, or rather the 'Young LaRouche Movement' was. Indeed, LaRouche did not 'direct' the film, that was left up to Martin Durkin, also a man of great integrity it seems, just read his C.V!

MARTIN DURKIN
Producer:
  1. "How Do They Do It?" (2006) TV Series (executive producer) (unknown episodes)
  2. "Dr Tatiana's Sex Guide to All Creation" (2005) (mini) TV Series (executive producer)
  3. Secret Intersex (2004) (TV) (executive producer)
Director:
  1. The Great Global Warming Swindle (2007) (TV)
  2. "Dr Tatiana's Sex Guide to All Creation" (2005) (mini) TV Series (three episodes)
Writer:
"Dr Tatiana's Sex Guide to All Creation" (2005) (mini) TV Series

But it was still LaRouche who is promoting the film, and who has his name on the poster at my university.

And, oh, what's this? LaRouche promoting the film on his site?

And lo and behold, an Australian LaRouche Youth Movement 'nailing Gore's Global Warming Swindle'.

And as for my 'cult-like' belief in Global Warming? Well, I don't watch television to educate myself. I do tend to agree, however, with Hans Van Storch, and I'm listening with great interest to what Habibullo Abdussamatov has to say.

Dr Parallax Myspace Page

Dr Parallax, the enigmatic cosmological instrumental progressive band which I drum in, has established a Myspace page, with a sample of one of our songs available to listen to (set up by Elliott, cheers).

There will no doubt be more to come in the near future.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Baron Heffernan

I'd like to think we've moved on from the days of Henry VIII, and accusing women of being 'barren'.

Apparently not, though.

Senator Heffernan said Ms Gillard was "deliberately barren" and therefore unfit for political leadership.

Blatant sexism like this doesn't belong in modern Australian politics, and even back in the time of Henry, the reasoning of such an argument would be just as nonsensical.

Of course, such a line of reasoning isn't unique to Baron Heffernan, in fact it's quite common in Russia.

The leader of the Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky, expressed his opinion on the matter in an exclusive interview with Pravda.Ru.

”Condoleezza Rice released a coarse anti-Russian statement. This is because she is a single woman who has no children. She loses her reason because of her late single status. Nature takes it all.

Ah Heff, you know where you belong.

I must say, I was both surprised and glad to see Malcom Turnbull come out to voice his disgust.
Of course, Abbott came out to defend the comments. This isn't suprising given he no doubt shares Heffernan's medieval views of women.

This has hurt the Liberals more than their religious far-right will realise, which is why the more moderate of the party are trying to come out and condemn the comments.

And Howard is being too lenient on Heffernan by far; coming up to an election, the only response can be to sack Heffernan.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Шпионы Австралии ..... ПРАВДА!

I notice another shocking piece of truth over at Pravda,
"Why we escaped from Australia"

If you can't be bothered to read it (a shame, as you're missing out), then just know:
"The moral of this story is very simple: Australia and Italy are Police states that use the Secret Services to terrorize and keep the population under control."

Life much be so much more libertarian under Putin. Here are some choice extracts:

"It appears that my wife's birth brother is a very important judge in Australia who has managed to keep his real family background secret."
Perhaps it's...Marcus Einfeld?

"But since we have been in Italy, now for seven months, SISMI (the Italian Secret Police) has done the job of ASIO. "
Must be a result of that bloody Vanstone's posting.


"Are the secret services running the World?"
Good to see Pravda is maintaining their long tradition of journalistic integrity by not publishing conspiratorial paranoia.

Royally Screwed by a Solid Sarkozy

I've been following the French elections with only a mild interest. It's nice that unlike here, they actually have a more lively democracy; in my opinion, the choices were between a left, center and center-right President. Granted, they do ultimately narrow it down to a 2 party primary, but it's still much more choice than we're seeing here, what with center-right vs center-further-right.

Anyway, François Bayrou, the centerist, was knocked out, leaving Segolene Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy. By most estimates, Sarkozy has pretty much got it won.

The Times (via the Australian) say that a TV debate is Royal's last chance.

It's too bad, then, that the Frenchman whom I chatted to about this was adament that Royal's biggest flaw is her unconvincing, witless public speaking.

Incidently, as the article says, "65 per cent found Mr Sarkozy "solid” while only 24 per cent attributed the quality to Ms Royal."


A Corny Joke

I thought Rudd was smart to select Maxine McKew for Bennelong.

But Nicole Cornes? I'm not so sure. In fact, just reading about her nauseates me.

Firstly, I hate the Sunday Mail. A rag indeed, only discernable from my hometown's Cairns Post by its size. And, upon the basis of this simple enumeration, I'd actually say it's worse.
So she was/is (I rarely read it so I don't know) a columnist for the Sunday Mail.
Not really surprising then that she's also a former Howard voter, which certainly strengthens the argument that Rudd is Howard-lite.

As has become standard practice, Cornes has to be portrayed as an Aussie battler (Matt price puts it beautifully here):
"Nicole left school at 15, is a mother raising two daughters, has run a small business, put herself through university – many South Australians can identify with her." says Deputy Premier Kevin Foley

I was unaware South Australia was a state of 37 year old, high school drop-out, part-time Law student, small business owning mothers of two. But, one learns something new each day.

And then theres the question of her alleged photogenicity.


Now where have I seen that blank, vacant gaze before...






Ah, that's right.

Friday, April 27, 2007

'And That is a Scientific Fact!'

Came across some this in Lestienne's "The Creative Power of Chance", and thought it deserved to be shared:

"From the standpoint of individual variations, the "genetic distance" between two individuals chosen by chance from the same large human grouping is as great as that between two individuals taken from different racial groups. Let us not forget that racial differentiation is a fairly recent phenomenon, linked to the great migratory movements that took place during the last milion years. In fact, it is generally thought that it does not go back more than two hundred thousand years, and may even disappear again if, with a little goodwill, we can surmount what remains of our disdain for cultural differences."

I really hope people are able to really consider this and understand what it means for everyone.

And if that doesn't convince, then there's always the (perhaps now cliche) line a few paragraphs earlier:

"Each of us certainly has in our body several million molecules of the water that passed through Socrates' body (supposing that nature equitably recycles), and our bodies are made up of atoms, themselves recycled, that were forged some billions of years ago at the heart of a star."

And they say science takes away the wonder of life. Philistines!

Oh, and can anyone guess the film I'm quoting from with the title?

The Reward for Vanstone

So, this is her reward for wasting our money to not speak Mandarin- she gets posted to Italy as Australia's Ambassador.

Honestly, what kind of a mates-club is Howard running? And I know it's not just the Libs; the various state governments are just as vomit-inducing in their appointment of judges.

But I take personal offence to Mandy getting this appointment. It's reminiscent of Bush posting Bremer to Iraq. What exactly are her Italian qualifications?

No doubt, it's easier to learn Italian than Mandarin, so it might just be possible for someone of her abilities. Still, nothing in the official statement suggests that she actually can.

In fact there's nothing in her career that suggests the ideal qualities of a diplomat, and in light of the Mandarin-gate affair it's just ridiculous. This sort of complacency is what will see Howard thrown out by his own, I hope.

To be fair, she might find work in Opera. Put her in the right period costume and she'd be perfect for that part I often refer to as the 'big mamma'.


She has a marketing studies certificate. That was part of the official statement. I'm serious.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hall, the True Englishman

Whilst on the subject of other blogs, there is one that really is unmissable.

Sir Iain Hall, notorious tsunami-pranker and fast-food employee, is also a proud Englishman.
This is most obvious from his superior command of the English language, evidenced in a headline such as "No Where near good enough".

Like a true Englishman, Iain loathes light beer, just as he loathes the ALP.
Sir Iain also advocates that homosexuals be denied access to medication.
Proclaiming a lack of English television programming available in Australia, Sir Iain is incensed over the special non-English programming on the Special Broadcasting Service.

And, most telling of all, he continues an old Etonian tradition of rhetorical questions, such as
What is it with the left? Are they all entirely mad?

Hats off.

UPDATE:
" Wow four links to my blog in one post and you misrepresent my position with every one. That must be some sort of record.
Can't you cut it arguing on the issues?
From the look of this post I think not." steams Iain.

I should clarify. He doesn't loathe light beer so much as he loathes urination without reward.

He only thinks some homosexuals should be denied access to medication.
I fail to see the logic here, since his position is also that the spread of HIV needs to be contained; does he think that someone denied medical treatment is less likely to want to infect other people?
There's also the ethical consideration involved in denying medical access to prisoners; it seems rather similar to capital punishment from the discourse of utility.

I also fail to see why a SPECIAL BROADCASTING SERVICE should be subject to the broad statistics of an entire demographic when it is aimed at a select demographic. I don't think it was ever the intention of SBS to cater to whining Poms, so he's constructed somewhat of a strawman here.

And I may be just a descendant of a convict, but I'm pretty sure 'nowhere' is not usually written as "No Where".

Blog Spotlight

Added three new blogs to my links list, and thought they deserved special mention.

First up: China Issue. It's a formal, academic and in-depth analysis of China, courtesy of my good sinophile friend Laurie. Highly recommended as a change from the 'dull binary that passes for thought in the public realm' (a phrase I read in the ALR last weekend). Also, Laurie will be appearing on SBS radio soon with a report! Very cool, and details shall be republished here as they emerge.

Next is matjin-nehen, which I found through Laurie, incidently. Hard to generalise, but linguistics and Australian politics seem to be the main focus. There's fascinating stuff on an Australian language which the author is researching. There's entertaining analysis of Johnny and Kevie's latest stumblings. Most importantly, it's always well written and considered, and there's often an intellectual melee of some sort going on. Good times. Join in!

Finally, The 88's could be said to be a pizza with a philosophy base, and toppings of the two former blogs. That metaphor didn't quite work as I'd hoped, but hopefully it's perked enough of your interest to check it out. The author is the enigmatic 88.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Baldwin - The Real Deal

There's a great lot of fuss over the answering machine message Alec Baldwin left for his 11 year old daughter. I can't see why this is seen as such a bad thing. In his signature irate tone, he berated her for standing him up, and called her a 'thoughtless little pig'.

I'm glad to see that Alec Baldwin is as much of a hard-ass in real life as he is portrayed on the screen. The only other actors I can think of who are as hard-ass in real life are Arnold, and perhaps Chuck Norris, though the latter is subject to some dispute. Actors like this don't have to ham things up for the big screen; they have to tone things down.

As far as I'm concerned, this ordeal only adds to the authenticity of his body of work.


Alec 'Real Deal' Baldwin

Monday, April 16, 2007

Клаудленд Путина

I remember a conversation I had recently with an older chap who'd worked in Foreign Affairs for many years. We were discussing, predictably enough, foreign affairs, and the topic of Putin came up. I was unsure, I told him, of whether Putin was taking Russia forwards or backwards. He assured me there was no doubt that Putin was indeed taking the country forwards.

I'm remain however, unconvinced, and the more reports I read and hear coming out of Russia the more I am sure that if anything, Putin is taking the country backwards.

Most likely, it depends on the angle one looks at the situation. Economically, things are great. Never been better. But from a libertarian angle, it's a growing nightmare.

Just recently there was the destruction of a cultural hertiage site without a permit.
Now the brutal supression of a protest, in which Gary Kasparov was arrested.

There are countless other examples, and the point is clear, I think.

And now they're looking at ammending the law to allow Putin another term.

If Vladimir, son of Vladimir, is indeed taking Russia forward, then to borrow a Ruddism, it's a bridge too far.

Still, I must admit, he does it with style unmatched by any other dictator or leader I've seen.

СУПЕР!