Hello Cruel World
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
One Month to Christmas
One Pilgrim's Walk - A view of the world from ground level
Saturday, November 15, 2003
... My word, the uproar that one little post can start -- and fortunately it wasn't mine.
A post by one Kim du Toit (I don't feel like giving him the link -- just google the name if you must) titled “The Pussification Of The Western Male.” has caused a bit of approval or dissaproval [sic] across the blogosphere recently. A number of people have made excellent responses that I agree with ...
That's what I can think of at just this point. My main reaction is that if you have to be spending your time worrying if you are a real man, you have a problem.
MORE ON MEN at at Sursum Corda (http://sursumcorda.blogspot.com/ ) Topical musings from a Catholic perspective
(also refers to Sergeant Stryker - http://www.sgtstryker.com weblog/archives/004044.php#004044
on the same subject ).
"du Toit, du" from one of my Highly Recommended Blogs (on a site that also has non-blog sections), Making Light (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight) Theresa Neilsen Hayden's comment at /archives/004023.html#004023 (complete with photo).
Monday, November 24, 2003
Bush's $2m mushy peas
By Paul Stokes and Sally Pook
November 23, 2003
It was billed as a quiet pub lunch in the English countryside: a chance for President George Bush to mix with ordinary folk, sample traditional fish and chips and enjoy a kitchen-table chat at the constituency home of his friend and ally, Tony Blair ...
Two jumbo jets, two liveried presidential helicopters, four more US Navy helicopters, a motorcade of limousines, 200 US secret service agents and 1300 English police were required to unite Mr Bush safely with his fish and mushy peas. Total cost? £1 million ($2.3 million) ...
While Mr Bush clattered off ... the Queen boarded the train to Winchester to open an army museum ...
The village football pitch was transformed into a helipad as hundreds of police, some with dogs, created a buffer zone of several hundred yards to keep out the locals.
They were almost too effective as Mr Bush, after exchanging greetings with the Blairs, looked around desperately for an English hand to shake ...
Further embarrassment was averted when Mr Bush found a pair of villagers, Gary and Angela Forshaw, waving from behind the barriers ...
The dissenters were kept well away from the Dun Cow, where about 100 carefully selected locals were asked to join the Bushes and the Blairs for lunch.
They started with leek and potato soup , followed by the fish and chips and mushy peas, and lemon creme brulee for pudding. The President, a reformed alcoholic, had a non-alcoholic lager ...
Mr Rayner said it had not been decided who would pay for the £11.45 ($27) meal, but he didn't begrudge the President his visit ...
See post below for Wed Nov 05, 07:23:47 PM
Metacortechs ? As in meta-cortex ?
The outer layer of gray matter that covers the surface of
the cerebral hemisphere of the brain.
An external layer.
Meta- : can mean
Later in time: metestrus.
At a later stage of development: metanephros.
Situated behind: metacarpus.
Change; transformation: metachromatism.
Beyond; transcending; more comprehensive: metalinguistics.
At a higher state of development: metazoan.
Having undergone metamorphosis: metasomatic.
Derivative or related substance: metaprotein
You could make a couple of stabs at possible meanings of a metacortex. I'm
a bit pressed for time, so might come back later, or just let other people
throw around their ideas.
Core Techs ... hmmm ...
Saturday, November 22, 2003
All these anniversaries remind me ...
What with the Kennedy assassination, Dr Who anniversary, & a number of others, it reminded me of this letter that I sent some while back to the Sydney Morning Herald. It didn't get published.
The recent discussion on whether to keep some part of Singapore's Changi prison as a memorial to the 87,000 POWs of many nationalities who passed through it, often to much harsher locations scattered through South-East Asia, reminded me of other, closer, memorials.
Three months ago there was disturbance at the destruction of a memorial to victims of the Luna Park Ghost Train fire. (Ghost Train memorial tree haunts developers, July 14 2003 www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/07/13/1058034877881.html)
It is now 25 years since three died in the still-unsolved Hilton terrorist bombing in February 1978.
During work before the 2000 Olympics the memorial stele on George St was changed to an inset plaque, unprotected from being trod underfoot, having suitcases dumped on it, etc. Now it's disappeared under all the new concrete and hoardings put up for the renovations. Does anyone know what's happened to it?
40th Anniversary JFK in Dallas - one memory
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States shot dead this day in 1963. I was less than 10 years old, but interested in world affairs.
It was Saturday, late spring/early summer. and mother - who worked during the week - and I were going to the beach. We were on the bus when mother said something like: 'Did you hear President Kennedy was assassinated?" I was stunned & griefstricken. Hoping against hope, I asked if that meant he'd been killed (maybe it was just that he'd been shot by someone trying to kill him). "Oh, yes".
Talking to others of my age, very few of them seem to have really experienced or felt or remembered this the same way. Surely I can't have been the only Australian primary school child who had followed & admired him? I think many of my nightmares of a similar date might have been due to things like the Cuban missile crisis.
Altho' I remember the horrific year of 1968, it is more of a blur of one terrible thing after another, starting I suppose in December 1967 when Harold Holt disappeared/died, then going through the assassinations and riots in different countries. There's not a lot of other worldwide events that 'set' quite that way. John Lennon's shooting is apparently important to many people.
Interestingly, despite my not following her story particularly, and not having that kind of sick guilt that I think drove much of the hysteria about it, I do remember the circumstances of hearing of Princess Diana's death, now 5 years back. I might tell you that in a later post, since I'm not sure if I posted that on the anniversary in August.
Friday, November 21, 2003
Fever Pitch (TM Nick Hornby) in Sydney for the Rugby World Cup
From the Essay Collection Shooting an Elephant
“I Write as I Please”
The Sporting Spirit
..... <bigsnip> As soon as strong feelings of rivalry are aroused, the notion of playing the game according to the rules always vanishes. People want to see one side on top and the other side humiliated, and they forget that victory gained through cheating or through the intervention of the crowd is meaningless. Even when the spectators don’t intervene physically they try to influence the game by cheering their own side and “rattling” opposing players with boos and insults. Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.
Instead of blah-blahing about the clean, healthy rivalry of the football field and the great part played by the Olympic Games in bringing the nations together, it is more useful to inquire how and why this modern cult of sport arose. Most of the games we now play are of ancient origin, but sport does not seem to have been taken very seriously between Roman times and the nineteenth century. Even in the English public schools the games cult did not start till the later part of the last century. Dr Arnold, generally regarded as the founder of the modern public school, looked on games as simply a waste of time. Then, chiefly in England and the United States, games were built up into a heavily-financed activity, capable of attracting vast crowds and rousing savage passions, and the infection spread from country to country. It is the most violently combative sports, football and boxing, that have spread the widest. There cannot be much doubt that the whole thing is bound up with the rise of nationalism—that is, with the lunatic modern habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige. Also, organised games are more likely to flourish in urban communities where the average human being lives a sedentary or at least a confined life, and does not get much opportunity for creative labour. In a rustic community a boy or young man works off a good deal of his surplus energy by walking, swimming, snowballing, climbing trees, riding horses, and by various sports involving cruelty to animals, such as fishing, cock-fighting and ferreting for rats. In a big town one must indulge in group activities if one wants an outlet for one’s physical strength or for one’s sadistic impulses. Games are taken seriously in London and New York, and they were taken seriously in Rome and Byzantium: in the Middle Ages they were played, and probably played with much physical brutality, but they were not mixed up with politics nor a cause of group hatreds ... <snip>
... I do not, of course, suggest that sport is one of the main causes of international rivalry; big-scale sport is itself, I think, merely another effect of the causes that have produced nationalism. Still, you do make things worse by sending forth a team of eleven men, labelled as national champions, to do battle against some rival team, and allowing it to be felt on all sides that whichever nation is defeated will “lose face”. <snip>
A good source of Orwell's works (& others')
Another source of Orwell's works
Thursday, November 20, 2003
... It might be better to be a slave than to die, but it was better to die than to be a slave who acquiesced in his own slavery ...
... where courtesy is weakness, honesty is foolishness, and cruelty is entertainment ...
-- Gene Wolfe, "The Best Introduction to the Mountains" (Interzone 174, Dec 2001)
www.sfsite.com/05b/iz128.htm (review of review)
A review by David Soyka
In her study of 14th century life, A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchmann speculates that much of the senseless carnage of that period could be attributed to the young age of many of the nobleman. Oftentimes, a duke or a lord was a teenager, with a teenager's limited sensibilities and experience, with too much time on his hands to engage in deadly mischief. Of course, that doesn't quite explain how with our longer lifespan and older people in charge matters haven't changed all that much. Still, something about that era strikes me as less noble than undeveloped, the chivalric code (which some academics contend was more literary conceit than actual practice) notwithstanding.
What actually makes the essay worth seeking out is for how it depicts a time not all that long ago, before the near instant gratification of the Amazon "point and click" and mega-bookstores with overstuffed shelves devoted to the spawn of Middle-Earth. Wolfe invokes the sense of wonder of a "friendless young man in a strange city far from home" who finds solace in a literary work that actually took some effort to obtain, which perhaps made the reading experience all that more intense.
For a better defense of Tolkien -- if not the oeuvre he unwittingly conjured -- see Lucius Shephard in the May 2003 Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
.. Gary Westfahl ... The fact that our newspaper headlines now recall the technothriller is not, as some would have it, a sign that our world has undergone some massive transformation, but rather a sign that our world, for the most part, remains depressingly the same.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Rights of the Child Day: UN adopts Declaration of Children's Rights
DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
WHEREAS the peoples of the United Nations have, in the Charter, reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person, and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
WHEREAS the United Nations has, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,
WHEREAS the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth,
WHEREAS the need for such special safeguards has been stated in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924, and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the statutes of specialized agencies and international organizations concerned with the welfare of children,
WHEREAS mankind owes to the child the best it has to give,
Now, therefore, Proclaims
THIS DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD to the end that he may have a happy childhood and enjoy for his own good and for the good of society the rights and freedoms herein set forth, and calls upon parents, upon men and women as individuals, and upon voluntary organizations, local authorities and national Governments to recognize these rights and strive for their observance by legislative and other measures progressively taken in accordance with the following principles: ...
General Assembly 20 November 1989
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession
by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989
ENTRY INTO FORCE: 2 September 1990, in accordance with article 49
The States Parties to the present Convention,
Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Bearing in mind that the peoples of the United Nations have, in the Charter, reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person, and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Recognizing that the United Nations has, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenants on Human Rights, proclaimed and agreed that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,
Recalling that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance,
Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community,
Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,
Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity,
Bearing in mind that the need to extend particular care to the child has been stated in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924 and in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly on 20 November 1959 and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in particular in articles 23 and 24), in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (in particular article 10) and in the statutes and relevant instruments of specialized agencies and international organizations concerned with the welfare of children,
Recalling the provisions of the Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with Special Reference to Foster Placement and Adoption Nationally and Internationally; the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules); and the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflicts,
Recognizing that, in all countries in the world there are children living in exceptionally difficult conditions, and that such children need special consideration,
Taking due account of the importance of the traditions and cultural values of each people for the protection and harmonious development of the child,
Recognizing the importance of international co-operation for improving the living conditions of children in every country, in particular in the developing countries,
Have agreed as follows: ...
You will note, however, the post below at Oct 11, 2003 (1:41:05 PM)
The rule of law: You'll miss it when it's gone
By Margo Kingston
February 13 2003
Webdiarist Tamsin Clarke agreed a while ago to write a piece for Webdiary on the State Government engineered collapse of the rule of law in NSW development. This has resulted in vandalism by lawless developers, because they know the law - and the conditions of development they've agreed to - will not be enforced by the State. They also know that most citizens don't have the money or the time to force developer compliance and can be intimidated by threats to sue for defamation and the like.
However the pending war on Iraq saw Tamsin write a piece on the widespread attacks by governments on the rule of law - the foundation of democracy - in general, with the threat by the United States, Britain and Australia to invade Iraq in defiance of international law the latest, and most dangerous, example. Tamsin argues that we've taken step two in the march towards fascism, and urges citizens to fight back before it's too late.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Not sure whether to laugh or cry or sit staring into space or what.
Found letter in my mailbox on the way to work, saying:
"We confirm the application for payment of superannuation and death or invalidity benefit for the late C--- K--- has been approved.
Please find enclosed two cheques ..."
I was tempted to dash back into town and put it straight into his Credit Union account.
At this stage have $290 in my own account, $203 of which is from a Medicare payment and $67 from MBF Health Insurance.
On Friday am expecting ~$1800 monthly pay. Now, $550 of this is for my living expenses & some ~$1900 more is committed to Chris' bills, of which $1000/mo is one Visa Card debt, probably down to ~$10,000 by now. There is another Bankcard debt for $4500-$5000 hanging fire.
And people wonder why I sometimes lose patience & shout when mother interrupts my letterwriting or other work for the eleventy-first time in a morning to ask me a question I've answered eleventy times in the last few hours.
I could bank it in the Credit Union estate account and then get cheques for the two credit card bills. Clear them right off the slate <hand trembles>
That should leave some few thousand in that account, from which one set of mortgage payments are deducted.
I can then put 1/3 or 1/2 of that into the other bank account for the other mortgage, which is in arrears by around $2000, pay out those arrears & leave a cushion to pay out the surplus ongoing monthly payments above the receipts.
This would bring my current expenses for Chris' bills down to only ~$900/mo, and keep mortgage payments going for several months (especially if the place stays rented and free of further unexpected repair bills). Without that $1000/mo, paying the quarterly council & water rates on everything and electricity & phone for his house become much more affordable.
The surplus mortgage payments are still a struggle, but I can't really renegotiate/pay off any substantial amount until the large superannuation payment comes through.
If the insurance (about a year's wages) does come through before the next superannuation, I could pay my friends & mother some of what I owe them for the emergency help in the last eighteen months. If it looks like the larger super payout will take much longer, however, it might be an idea to put most of the insurance into the mortgages. On the other hand it might be better to keep a fairly large chunk in liquid form in the estate account in case of something unexpected. So many unexpected expenses have turned up in the last year or so - not just medical & funeral & legal ones, but all sorts of things raining down like frogs from rainclouds.
Once the large payout comes <thinking positive, no 'if'>, there should be enough to partly pay & renegotiate the mortgages so that there aren't surplus payments beyond income. Then I'll know how much is left from that to repay those personal debts and should be able to see if my own personal savings have anything left. By golly, the rainy day certainly arrived that I had them for. Not all that optimistic about future weather conditions, so having some left over would be really quite good.
Should I wait until tomorrow morning? It makes me jittery, the only times I've had this much liquid assets on me were around August 1980, when I paid for my house (1/4 my funds, 3/4 the bank's), and a cheque for what I lent C--- in 1999 (about half the price of the house, and all my own money).
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Repeating the Kristallnacht 9/11 entry from 2002
(In Australia 9/11 is November 9th)
Remember Kristallnacht - 9/11/38
Two sites of many
November 9th is still a pertinent anniversary: "Kristallnacht
- the Night of Broken Glass".
In 1938, incensed by hearing of his family in Germany being forced into
"relocation camps" in the November snow under Nazi laws, an adolescent
Jew in Paris shot and killed a German diplomat.
Goebbels used this for propaganda about conspiracies against
Germany, inciting Germans to "rise in bloody vengeance", culminating
on the long winter night of November 9th in organised widespread
violence. Non-Jews who protested were beaten. Police and firemen
watched people brutalized, buildings smashed, looted and burnt.
Morning footpaths were impassable under an icy glittering crust of
broken glass and ashes.
Lack of public protest encouraged the Nazi government to pass even
more repressive laws in the next few months. Prominent Germans
who protested were arrested. Ordinary Germans who protested
were beaten up.
Can we hope that we've learnt from last century's several examples
of disasters wrought by stirring up - for power, for gain, for dogmatic
religion or ideology - the darker side we all have?
what disturbed the German populace was less the sight of synagogues burning (fires take place all the time, after all -- it depends on the scale) than of the savage and wasteful vandalism that confronted bystanders everywhere, disrupting the clean and orderly streets (to say nothing of consumer convenience). What was indeed memorable was the sheer quantity of broken glass. A third point was the economic outcome of this massive breakage. Germany didn't produce enough plate glass to repair the damages (synagogues did not have to be replaced -- quite the contrary). The result was twofold: the need to import glass from Belgium (for sorely needed cash) and the outrage of indemnifying the Jewish community to pay for the damages.
Friday, November 07, 2003
Competition for tickets to David Suzuki - "What you for 'the environment' "
Although, as an average Australian inner-city wage earner, I have carried out the usual environmentally-aware procedures: saving & re-using clean & waste water; keeping my house small, without a/c & re-using materials in renovation; my (tiny) garden low-water, animal-friendly & pesticide-free; composting & recycling waste; air-drying my laundry; not owning a car -- in my most important environmental endeavours I feel my neighbours & I have been quite unsuccessful.
Despite years of very much untrained, fitted-around-work unpaid work by my neighbours & I, we were unable to gain enough support among those who can influence events (as opposed to inhabitants or the planning department) to get local amenity &/or future sustainability as basic & important considerations in the redevelopment of our suburb. Profit is all.
GreenPeace was a help at first, then went off to try & influence the Olympic site. From my experience of it, and what I've heard & read, even they -- trained, full-time paid advocates -- were well-circumvented.
For public consumption lip service was paid, but it's results that count, and after years of glossy brochures & protestation that it would be a 'model inner-city development' our suburb is now held up as an example of what to avoid, used to strike fear into people elsewhere: "If we let them do X, this place will end up like [mine]".
Mr Suzuki's recent book of good news did help me in my despair for the future of my beloved city & country. But I mourn bitterly what has been destroyed, and sometimes grudge hope that can keep your heart sore when that anaesthetic poison can insulate you from the pain of caring.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
From 1 April, 2002 Google Newsletter
The technology behind Google's great results
As a Google user, you're familiar with the speed and accuracy of a Google search. How exactly does Google manage to find the right results for every query as quickly as it does? The heart of Google's search technology is PigeonRank™, a system for ranking web pages developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University ...
British Library Adopt a Book scheme
Your choice of what to adopt - full list
All titles in the list are available for adoption, but only certain titles are suitable for shared adoption (from £25). These will read "shared adoption" next to their title. As a shared adoptor you will receive a certificate with your name and the title of the book you have adopted. All the titles that are not marked as "shared adoption" are available for individual adoption (from £150). As an individual adoptor you are the exclusive donor of this book and therefore as well as receiving a certificate your name will be recorded on a permanent bookplate.
The Case Regarding Upper & Lower Case Lettering
Please help us in feeding the hungry children of Argentina. Each click will donate a ration of food to a child. This donation will not represent any cost to you, it will be paid by the companies that sponsor Por los Chicos.com
The Walls Have Ears
Wolves in the Walls
by Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Iain Emsley
Happy Halloween Weekend from Gothic.Net!
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Thanks to Matrix Essays & its informants for these
This is supposedly the company that Neo works for in The Matrix.
Starting in late September, MetaCortechs's site became active. The WB (Watchowski Brothers) created an authentic-looking hosting company to host MetaCortechs's site, as well as several other sites that were created by MetaCortechs "employees".
forums.unfiction.com/forums/index.php?c=13 (Unfiction.com’s forum for Metacortechs)
As of October 4, these are the websites that are related to this stunt:
www.underscorehosting.com (the fake company set up by the WB to host all these Matrix-stunt-related websites)
Thanks to Matrix Essays for these. See posts:
Drubbing for Matrix finale
By Garry Maddox, Film Reporter
November 5, 2003
Guy Fawkes ("The only man who entered parliament with honest intentions")
The Fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason & plot.
We know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Smoke without Nov 5 bonfire
By Richard Savill
A group of villagers will gather around a fake Guy Fawkes bonfire, complete with a smoke machine, this week because of the spiralling costs of insurance.
They have had to build a "fire" from beanpoles, straw and flaps of orange paper to imitate flames. The 12ft-high structure will be adorned with plastic lights and the centre will be lit by a lightbulb.
Organisers of the display at Sherston, Wilts, to be staged in front of 700 visitors, were told the cost of insuring a fire had risen from £237 to £2,470.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Matrix magic gets Sydney gala finale (Report on the Sydney Morning Herald website) www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/01/1067597198299.html
Just a piece on Keanu arriving back in Sydney, saying he likes it here. It talks about the filming here, & the other people arriving for the Sydney premiere.
November 1, 2003
Sci-fi SNAG . . . Keanu Reeves with love interest Carrie-Anne Moss in Matrix Revolutions [picture].
Flying calamari can't compete with falling in love, Keanu Reeves tells Phillip McCarthy.
Keanu Reeves doesn't own a computer and has no plans to acquire one.
"I don't use the internet.
I don't send email. I don't have a secret identity," the star of the Matrix trilogy says. "You don't have to be a computer geek to be interested in the subjects these movies raise," he says...
The usual local interview - he talks a bit about the next movie he's doing Constantine. I thought with all hte Alexander the Great movies around it might be about the Roman emperor, but it's apparently a contemporary detective story.
This is my blogchalk:
Australia, New South Wales, Sydney, English, photography, reading, natural history, land use, town planning, sustainability.