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.