29 May 2008

Sam Newman axed. About time, too.

Misogynist and serial goose John "Sam" Newman has been axed by Channel Nine, according to this article in The Oz. Channel Nine don't deserve any kudos for this as they let the whole imbroglio drag on for too long before acting.

Of course, as I hinted at on The AFL Player Spectator, Newman will probably require his stint of unemployment to be a longish one before he changes his attitudes towards women, but this is at least a start.

I suppose the next question is this: Who will take his place as the token buffoon on The Footy Show? Billy Brownless?

And while we're looking at sacked sexists, are there any others that should also lose their jobs, apart from anglican bishops and WA Opposition Leaders?

24 May 2008

87th Skeptics Circle

It's up at Action Skeptics, and Akusai has done a superb job, with a bunch of excellent (and dirty) limericks.

Catching my attention this time around was Paddy K sticking the boot into vitamin supplements, Greta Christina's thoughtful post on human sexuality and a rare financial one from Polite Company.

23 May 2008

One more and then I'll shut up. For a while...


The Anglican Church in Australia has appointed its first female bishop, Kay Goldsworthy. This is considered controversial around the Anglican Church - despite the fact that my calendar indicates that this is the 21st century. It's hard to believe that there are still some gasping old windbags in the church who believe that women should be barefoot and pregnant.

Not long after this, Barbara Darling was appointed as Australia's second female Anglican bishop.

The Anglican Church of Australia has allowed female priests since 1992 - that's 16 years. By now, female bishops should be being appointed. It is expected that, even with the rampant sexism that goes on in religion, at least one of them should be being appointed to the post of bishop by now.

Unbelievably though, a protocol was agreed last year that reads like this, and I quote:

Archbishop [Roger] Herft [Anglican Archbishop of Perth] and his diocesan council came to the unanimous decision following an agreement last month between Australia's Anglican bishops on a protocol to handle opponents of women bishops.

Under the protocol, parishes that cannot in good conscience recognise the ministry of a woman bishop will be offered the services of a male bishop.

This followed the affirmation by the church's legal body last year that it would not breach church law to appoint a woman bishop.

A bit offensive, I'm sure that you agree.

As befits a momentous occasion like this, Goldsworthy's ordination was presided over by the Archbishop of Brisbane and Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, Phillip Aspinall. However, noteworthy by their absences were the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, his brother and the Dean of St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, Phillip Jensen and the Bishop of Northwest Australia, David Mulready.

Mulready has already indicated that Goldsworthy will not be welcome to conduct services in his diocese, one of only three in Western Australia, where Goldsworthy has been appointed bishop.

Disgustingly, there has been a clamouring silence from moderates within the Anglican Church over the boycotts by the Jensens and Mulready. No one appears to be game to publicly call upon the Jensens or Mulready to resign, or to even condemn their actions.

(Phillip Jensen, you might recall, in a bizarre attack, described "holders of high office in the Church of England" as prostitutes, immediately after criticising Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury) for his tolerant views on homosexuality. During the same speech, he is reported as describing Prince Charles as an adulterer, yet denied that this was a 'personal attack' shortly after.)

I'll put this on the record once again. Moderates who do not speak out about this sort of stuff are either cowardly, or they secretly support this sort of sexism.

20 May 2008

What is religion, really?


"Well that's easy isn't it?" my good buddy "Roger" asks rhetorically, who I used to call "Bob" on this blog, but occasionally, I get another reader named Bob who reads my blog, so I've changed his name. "Religion is where you have this central supernatural premise and you structure your life around that."

"But Roger," I say, "What about Confucianism?"

He scoffs, "It's not a religion. It's a code of ethics."

Now Roger might be on to something, but I tend to view this sort of thing a bit differently. When I read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, I had a real problem with his view of what religion is. Essentially, it's a belief system underpinned by some kind of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.

The problem with this definition, is that according to Dawkins, we should now view such spiritual pursuits as acupuncture and feng shui as religions. You can, of course see the problem that I have with this, particularly when this definition excludes Confucianism, which doesn't really have much in the way of metaphysics.

So I'm casting my mind back to when I was a kid, and I asked someone something about what religion was. It might have been my dad. I'm not really sure.

Anyway, the person who I asked responded with this:

"Religion is a bunch of teachings. You know how there's Christianity? It's called that, because it's the teachings of this guy called 'Jesus Christ'. Buddhism is the teachings of this bloke named 'Buddha'. Confucianism is named after 'Confucius'. And so on."

"What about Islam?" I remember asking.

"It used to be called 'Mohammedanism'. The teachings of Mohammed."

So over time, religion has registered more with me as a code of ethics. I've largely viewed the fairy godfather thing as optional.

So how did the metaphysical aspect of religion take centre stage? I'd rather like to hear the answer to this one, because the whole point of religion, at least from what I can grasp is to impose a code of ethics on people. Sure, there's this almost Santa Claus-esque, "Scare the bejesus out of them and they'll obey," quality to it, but a lot of what's discussed in the major religious texts are fairly much just plain ordinary ethics.

Christ talks about doing unto others what you would have them doing unto you. Mohammed made the point that unarmed enemies are innocent, and therefore should not be harmed. In The Analects, Confucius discusses something similar to Christ, which was recorded by Mencius a good 550 years BC.

On the whole, if you take out the metaphysical stuff and the stuff which is clearly self-interested farting, you are actually left with a rather hefty code of ethics.

This is where the more smart-arsed of you lot are going to say, "Hey Dikkii. Don't the professional bodies representing acupuncturists and feng shui exponents publish codes of ethics for their members?"

They might, but if you're going to trivialise this by that reference, why don't we expand the discussion and call financial planning and medicine religions? After all, the AMA and the FPA have their own codes of ethics?

Of course, this would be silly. The ethics that I'm referring to are more generalised than professional ethics. What Buddha, Vyasa, Paul of Tarsus and the like are trying to convey in their writings is how one should live one's life. And they're using the tried and tested carrot and stick approach - do A and be rewarded. Do B and be punished.

The problem was a few of them got carried away: Buddha's central message was not, find nirvana or be endlessly reincarnated. Christ's was not, "Love me or go to Hell" although He did say this a bit in passing. Christ might have had His bad days where He thought everyone was fucked, but He was a moody bastard and prone to this sort of thing. Really, this was something that was blown out of perspective by later chroniclers in the same way that the media will seize on controversial stuff because it sells.

Buddha was all about finding peace. Christ (in His better moods) kept coming back to people being excellent to each other.

Tarsus is a real prick at this sort of thing. You know, the more I read the letters that Tarsus wrote, the more that I think that the guy was seriously pathological verging on paranoid - let's face it, the fact that he was a misogynist homophobe was just the tip of the iceberg. He was unafraid to just make shit up and he'd do this blatantly in order to get his point across.

John the Evangelist (who may or may not also have been John the Apostle) doesn't fare much better, although the Gospel according to John is seriously the most sabotaged piece of holy writing that I have had the bad grace to come across. Which is kinda weird, because when Christian apologists reference stuff from the gospels, nine times out of ten (in my humble opinion), they'll go straight to John to reference it. John is the only gospel to really bignote John the Apostle ("the apostle whom Jesus lurved"), and is also the only real attempt to explain the trinity model.

I should point out here that I'm using biblical references because they're the ones that I know best. I don't really know much about the qur'an, the mahabharata and the kama sutra except in passing only. But the end result is the same, except for the kama sutra. (It was porn then - and it really hasn't changed over the years.)

I have digressed, but the central point is clear - amongst the fire and brimstone, heavenly virgins awaiting martyrs, expectant mothers holding off births in the hope that their child is a reincarnated lama - the central messages of these religions has been completely lost. And that is a short bunch of tips to live your life as a better person. The metaphysical part remains incidental, and so it should.

This brings me up to a couple of things that I noticed when I read The Da Vinci Code, originally. Dan Brown got a lot of stuff way wrong when he originally wrote this, but there were a few things that he hinted at, or discussed explicitly which make some sense. And I might just point out, again, that while this is specifically biblical, it could relate to any holy text out there:

1. It's not just commentators like Leonardo da Vinci who are capable of inserting injokes into Christian history


This is pretty clear from the outset. There are some obvious errors which are dead giveways for this. Matthew Levi and Luke the Gentile are pretty darn skeptical about the virgin birth. So much so, that they preface their accounts of the virgin birth with conflicting genealogies of Jesus... on Joseph of Nazareth's side!!! Levi and The Gentile have cleverly inserted their own commentary regarding the claims of a virgin birth - and it can be summed up in one word: "rubbish!"

The other theory is that the bits about the virgin birth were pious frauds inserted later on. Again, someone, if not Levi or The Gentile were clearly having a good chuckle in leaving Nazareth's genealogies in. You've just gotta laugh, dont you?

This second one makes more sense - Brown writes that Christ's divinity was in doubt until the Council of Nicaea, and given the much later date of the (finalised) gospels, what's a little bit of pious fraud here and there? And if you were serious about the virgin birth, wouldn't you erase the genealogy bits? Someone had a sense of humour.

2. Patriarchal religions expose the worst aspects of male bonding


Really, you get a bunch of blokes together, they're going to come out with stories about how good/powerful their dads are sooner or later. Christ was surrounded by a bunch of guys who were either family, former outcasts or notorious two-faced toadies like Simon Peter. So of course, when He comes out with stuff like, "My Father will smash everyone," this is the signal to change the subject over to fishing or carpentry.

We only remember Christ's words on this stuff, because He was the alpha male, but it would be interesting to know what went undocumented from the mouths of His mates. Judas Iscariot, James The Brother Of Jesus and John The Apostle are the only ones in the group who appear capable of following orders.

Someone who would be interesting would be the aforementioned Peter. Peter himself was nearly as much of a sexist as Tarsus, and was a treacherous hard-arse to boot.

So really, is it a surprise that the early Christian church owes it's very livelihood to sexist pigs like Tarsus and Peter?

And why wouldn't they beef up the metaphysical aspect to further their own agendas while the ethics message - the core message vanishes amongst the whizbang special effects that seems to typify Christianity these days?

So back to my original point.

Would it be fair to say that where there's the faintest hint of something supernatural, the original ethical message gets completely forgotten? I asked Roger to suppose that if we viewed religion as the ethical bit and considered the supernatural side of things to be incidental might this change his view of what a religion is?

"No." said Roger. "A religion is just as much shaped by it's subsequent practitioners as by it's original crafters. Confucius' work has largely remained untouched by a dogmatic hierarchy. Plus, he didn't see the need to muddy the message with even the vaguest hint of metaphysics.

"Really, if you're inclined towards religion, isn't hard-core ethics just the slightest bit unsexy?
"

I'm not sure if I agree with him. What do you think?

15 May 2008

Rock epic of the month: "One Of A Kind" (vSpy vSpy) 1984


Rock epics of the month is a series of posts where I'll look back on classic examples of what I think is the greatest excess of rock and roll - the rock epic.

Recently, I got in touch with an old high school buddy through Facebook. He posted a link to a video in a message to me, which was of this band which we were all huge fans of. The video in question contained footage from a gig that he was at. I thought that was pretty cool.

I lost touch with him not long after I moved to Melbourne. A bit of a shame, because he was quite a funny guy.

I have fond memories of this band myself, because one of the earliest all-ages gigs that I went to was of vSpy vSpy bringing the house down with an absolute ripsnorter of a gig. It would have been probably 1986 or 87.

I lived in a part of Sydney known as the Northern Beaches, near the suburbs of Manly and Dee Why. There was this youth club in Manly, called the Kangaroo Street Youth Centre, which was in, funnily enough, Kangaroo Street. Every few Fridays, it hosted a night called "Kangaroo Rock" which was a series of great all-ages gigs involving great Australian bands. And one of these was a vSpy vSpy gig.

Oh what I would have given to have been a little bit older in those days. In the eighties, Sydney was the undisputed live music capital of Australia. Almost every inner city pub was a venue. Bondi Lifesavers, the Trade Union Club and the Hopetoun were legendary and the Cammeray Hotel was still known as the San Miguel. Bands played every night of the week. Sydney's live music scene was killed off in the early nineties due to two events: Pubs were allowed to get poker machines, and the ABC radio station Triple J went national and thus could no longer focus upon the Sydney live music scene as closely as it used to. By the time the yuppies and nimbies moved into inner Sydney in the middle of the nineties, the scene was dead.

So after this old mate of mine reminded me of this band, I had to check things out for myself. Somehow, the bassplayer/vocalist in this band has uploaded their entire back catalogue onto Vuze for easy download, which I was thrilled to bits with. And, given that most of their old stuff is well out of pressing, I had no scruples about downloading the entire lot and listening to them from beginning to end.

VSpy vSpy formed during high school in Newcastle, New South Wales, when bassist Craig Bloxom met guitarist Michael Weiley. Later they moved to Sydney where they met drummer Cliff Grigg. They started off as Spy vs Spy, but had to change their name just prior to releasing their first EP, Four Fresh Lemons.

Originally they oscillated between a kind of rocksteady-paced reggae and full tilt Oz rock. This was popular at the time that they formed - there was this whole ska/reggae thing that permeated the Australian music scene at the time, probably due to the influence of Madness and The Specials.

The Spies' music had this potent rhythmic reggae twist initially, no doubt thanks to the lovely skins work of Grigg. It wouldn't be long before some of their signature sounds started to emerge - particularly Grigg's drumming. Eventually their rock side would prevail over the reggae side.

Bloxom eventually became the lead vocalist, singing tales of inner suburban squalor. I recall this tale of Grigg (I think) being busted for squatting illegally, which was probably fairly routine for inner suburban Australian musicians at the time.

Anyway, to the song. "One Of A Kind" was recorded on their Meet Us Inside EP, which came out in 1984. They still hadn't recorded a full length LP at the time, although Meet Us Inside included not one but two bona fide rock epics in this and "Mugshot", which clocked in at 6:28 and 7:20 respectively. Not bad for a five track EP.

I don't recall them ever doing a rock epic again.

"One Of A Kind" was released in truncated form as a single, but as always the EP edit is far superior. The son itself starts with some nice rimshots by Grigg followed by the bass of Bloxom. Eventually the signature riff of Weiley's is sighted - an amazingly simple one.

Bloxom had this rather earnest vocal delivery which worked for a lot of their tunes and had progressed from the more weedy delivery on their earlier work. It would beef up further in years to come.

On this tune, as with some other Spies' tunes, Bloxom's vocals are punctuated by these little spoken rants delivered by Weiley, which scared the poo out of me when I was younger. Presumably, this is a tune about mental illness, but Weiley's vocals don't seem quite so threatening now.

Eventually, Weiley's signature digital delay pedal shows up. Weiley loved that pedal, and with good reason - nothing symbolised the Spies' sound more than that pedal. The Digital Delay was to the Spies what Robert Smith's Chorus pedal was to The Cure.

The Spies went on to record a trilogy of extremely strong albums in Harry's Reasons?, A.O. Mod. T.V. Vers. and Xenophobia [Why?] before returning to their reggae roots a little with Trash The Planet in 1989. Trash The Planet wasn't nearly as strong as the previous three, and the Spies found themselves without a label. Grigg left about this time to be replaced by Mark Cuffe.

Somehow along the way, they'd picked up the tag, "Poor Man's Midnight Oil", no doubt due to both the political content of their lyrics and the fact that they shared a manager with Midnight Oil.

They changed their name back to Spy vs Spy before recording Fossil, and around this time, I have this memory of them discovering religion and becoming committed Christians. I didn't hear much from them after this, although I remember reading something where Cuffe moved out the front of the band to share lead vocals with Bloxom and Weiley and they got another drummer.

Bloxom appears to be a chef in Mexico, now, judging by his profile on Vuze. No idea what Weiley, Cuffe or Grigg are doing.

Anyway, here is the video for "One Of A Kind". It is a single edit, but you might get the idea.



Apparently, they were big in Brazil.

06 May 2008

The most offensive pro-Christian video ever made

Thanks to the JREF's SWIFT newsletter of 2 May 2008, I had the extreme misfortune to come across this.

It's time that we started holding moderate Christians responsible for not speaking out about this sort of stuff. You can't get much more wronger than this. Which is not letting fundamentalists off the hook: this is a DISGRACE!!!

Express your extreme displeasure at this. Could this be any more evil?

05 May 2008

Vale Tokin' Blackman


Tokin' Blackman, better known to his parents as 'James Paull', and confusingly, to fellow members of TISM as 'Jock' (TISM's bassplayer had the pseudonym of 'Jock Cheese') has died of cancer aged 51.

Blackman joined TISM in 1992 in time for them to record their Beasts Of Suburban EP under the pseudonym of 'Tony Coitus', replacing guitarist Leak van Vlalen, who had left the band.

It was for TISM's glory period, if they had one, that Blackman was a member of TISM. After another EP (Australia The Lucky Cunt which was soon retitled Censored Due To Legal Advice) TISM released the album Machiavelli And The Four Seasons which went gold, won an ARIA award for Best Independent Release and included the massive hit '(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River', which parodied fans' fascination with celebrities who die young.

A follow up record, www.tism.wanker.com also went gold and Blackman was to remain with TISM for the rest of their days and two more albums.

On the website of TISM's management, Smartartists, lead vocalist Ron Hitler-Barassi had this (amongst other things) to say about the death of Blackman:

He always had the licks, just never the poses. James Paull – Jock to
nearly everyone – was one of very few who could say "I spent a year
composing in Amsterdam" and not sound like he was on Radio National.
After a gruelling sound check, having waited patiently for the bass
player to tune, the lead singer to have another fold-back wedge placed,
the keyboardist to not show, and having been told that the rotating
pig-spit (tonight’s gimmick) would mean his guitar amp would have to
practically face the ceiling, he declared, "I sound like I’m playing in
Banjo Land." It stuck. From then on stage-left was Banjo Land.

Banjo Land won't be the only place that misses him.

RIP.

This blog is culturally significant. Official.


Folks, being the pompous hypocrite that I am occasionally, I'm not afraid of bignoting myself as much as what I can possibly get away with. Which is why I'm a little surprised that it's taken me this long to get this one out there for you lot to read.

It appears that for some reason or another, my blog is now listed as being 'culturally significant', whatever that means.

Those who know me best would know that I don't have much time for the descriptor, 'cultural'. 'Culture', to me, is stuff that reflects people. It could be anything - pop songs, graffiti, news, architecture, mass transit etc. However, the highbrow would have you believe that it reflects a small subset of what is more broadly known as 'art'; the emphasis being on the part that the highbrow believe is cultural. Which is normally at odds with what the rest of us like to include, or rather, their definition excludes a great deal of it. Most of it, in fact.

It all started out with an email that I got in mid-January from someone asking me if would be OK to archive Dikkii's Diatribe under the PANDORA archive which is administered by the National Library of Australia. Note that names and numbers have been changed and email addresses deleted to protect the innocent:

dikkiisemailaddress@yahoo.com.au


Dear Sir

Request for permission to archive Dikkii’s Diatribe

The National Library of Australia aims to build a comprehensive collection of Australian publications to ensure that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future. The Library has traditionally collected items in print, but it is also committed to preserving electronic publications of lasting cultural value.

PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive, was set up by the Library in 1996 to enable the archiving and provision of long-term access to online Australian publications. Since then we have been identifying online publications and archiving those that we consider have national significance. Additional information about PANDORA can be found on the Library's server at: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/index.html

We would like to include Dikkii’s Diatribe in the PANDORA Archive and I would be grateful if you would let me know whether you are willing to permit us to do so, that is, grant us a licence under the Copyright Act 1968, to copy your publication into the Archive and to provide public online access to it via the Internet. This means that you would grant the Library permission to retain your publication in the Archive and to provide public access to it in perpetuity.

We would like to re-archive your publication periodically to record significant additions and changes.

If you are willing to grant us such a licence, please complete the short form at the end of this message and return it to me.

There are some benefits to you as a publisher in having your publication archived by the Library. If you grant us a copyright licence, the Library will take the necessary preservation action to keep your publication accessible as hardware and software changes over time. The Library will catalogue your publication and add the record to the National Bibliographic Database (a database of catalogue records shared by over 1,100 Australian libraries), as well as to our own online catalogue. This will increase awareness of your publication among researchers using libraries.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me, Gillian Nguyen, by telephone on 02 62** **71 or by email ********@nla.gov.au. Should you find me difficult to contact for any reason, Ross Fowler would also be happy to assist you. His phone number is 02 62** **18 and his email address is *****@nla.gov.au.

Yours sincerely

Gillian Nguyen
Librarian
National Library of Australia
Web Archiving
Mailbox 6, Canberra ACT 2600
Tel: (02) 62** **71
Fax: (02) 62** **92
www.nla.gov.au


*******************************************************************
I/We grant the National Library of Australia a licence under the Copyright Act 1968 to copy the online publication [title] into the PANDORA Archive. I understand that this licence permits the Library to retain and provide public online access to it in perpetuity and that the Library may make reproductions or communications of my publication as are reasonably necessary to preserve it and make it available to the public.

NAME:
ORGANISATION:
PHONE:
EMAIL:
*******************************************************************


So of course I had to find out more. I sent back a response to Gillian and cc'd Ross in as well. I thought to myself that, well, at worst, this could be a manifestation of a Nigerian scam, but it could be interesting.

One thing that I wasn't sure of is that quite a lot of my posts are covered by a Creative Commons licence, which precludes the use by the library for anything other than non-commercial applications. I asked about this in my response:

Hi Gillian,

I'm rather chuffed with your email. It sounds very nice, thank you. I would have never thought of my blog as being culturally significant.

I do have a couple of questions though, before I go ahead:

1. Quite a lot of my blog is subject to a Creative Commons licence, which reads as follows:

Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

You are free:

  • to Remix — to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

  • Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.


  • For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page.
  • Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
  • Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author's moral rights.

Will this present any issues with me approving a copyright licence?

2. On what basis was my blog selected?

3. May I have your permission to reproduce your initial email and this exchange on my blog?

Cheers, Dikkii.


I received a response to this quite quickly:

Dear Dikkii
Thank you for geting back to us. I have attempted to answer your questions below. Please let me know if I can be of further advice.
1. We foresee no conflict with your Creative Commons licence, the National Library does not take on any of your copyrights by archiving. The only right we would maintain would be to retain our copy once it is archived.
2. We archive many blogs in PANDORA, yours was selected because it contains original Australian content and has been going for more than a year.
3. We would not seek to dictate what you present on your website, but we generally do not like to appear ourselves in the Archive, as we wish to record rather than be recorded. We are happy for you to mention that you have been archived and have buttons you may use if interested (http://pandora.nla.gov.au/publishers.html#logo). If you do decide to publish this correspondence please could you remove the contact information.
Regards,

Ross Fowler

Senior Librarian
Web Archiving Section
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600
PH. +61 2 62** **18
Fax +61 2 62** **22
Email *****@nla.gov.au

PANDORA Australia's Web Archive http://pandora.nla.gov.au/


Which deflated me a little, but hey! If it's been going for more than a year, and I can possibly get more readers, then I'm reasonably happy with that.

So I granted the permissions and here I am. About two weeks later, I got this:

Dear Dikkii

Thank you for granting the National Library of Australia a copyright licence to include your website in the PANDORA Archive. As agreed this licence permits the Library to copy your publication into the Archive and to retain that copy and provide online public access to it in perpetuity.

I am delighted to inform you that your publication is now publicly available in the PANDORA Archive at http://nla.gov.au/nla.arc-80846

Access to your publication in the Archive is facilitated in two ways: via the Library’s online catalogue; and via subject and title lists maintained on the PANDORA home page http://pandora.nla.gov.au/index.html.

Should the location of the title change, or should you decide to cease publication, we would appreciate it if you would advise us so that we can ensure all relevant data is archived.

I would welcome any comments you may have regarding the presentation of your publication in the archive and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.



Roger Parker

Web Archiving Section
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600
PH. +61 2 62** **05
Fax +61 2 62** **22
Email *******@nla.gov.au


So I guess that this means that I can consider myself part of the artistic milieu, and therefore one of the highbrow wankers that I occasionally rail against.

Here's a question - would it have been more 'art' to have said no?

01 May 2008

thepirateblog.org?


Some of you might know The Pirate Bay. Or not. The name of this site has been allegedly linked with file-sharing activity.

I'm not sure if I can comment about the legality of the file-sharing activity, however, I'm sure that you, the reader, can look this sort of thing up and come to your own conclusions.

It is, however, interesting to note that the organisation that runs The Pirate Bay, PiratbyrÄn, is quite anti-copyright. I would hazard a guess that this sort of antipathy also extends to those other areas of intellectual property law, patents and trademarks.

Indeed, the contempt that The Pirate Bay has for this sort of thing is made manifest by the 'About' section of their website where, amongst other things, they have this to say:

Only torrent files are saved at the server. That means no copyrighted and/or illegal material are stored by us. It is therefore not possible to hold the people behind The Pirate Bay responsible for the material that is being spread using the tracker. Any complaints from copyright and/or lobby organizations will be ridiculed and published at the site.

The Pirate Bay was started by the swedish anti copyright organization PiratbyrÄn in the late 2003, but is since October 2004 separated and run by dedicated individuals. Using the site is free of charge, but since running it costs money, donations are very much appreciated.


I have mixed views myself on intellectual property laws. I think that the world would be a much simpler place if they were abolished, but I can respect the motivation of filthy lucre in the creative process, both artistically and industrially.

And having seen such disgraceful idiocy as what happened with Le Canard Noir's blog at Netcetera, I generally tend towards the "minimal" position, at least where censorship is concerned.

Lastly, where ‘freedom’ of speech or expression is concerned, I do support moves to ease or abolish as many restrictions on speech or expression as possible. A lot. Even if I think that you would be out of your mind to believe that 'freedom of speech or expression' in even its loosest interpretation is remotely possible in this or any other universe.

So it was with great interest that I noticed that The Pirate Bay has launched a blogging service, Baywords, powered by Wordpress. It doesn’t have the full set of features offered at Wordpress’ own site, however, and Baywords is very much up front about protecting bloggers’ rights to say whatever they like:

Many blogs are being shut down for uncomfortable thoughts and ideas. We will not do that. Our goal is to protect freedom of speech and your thoughts. As long as you don’t break any Swedish laws in your blog, we will defend it.

Now while this might sound noble and all, I admit that I have absolutely no idea of how strict Swedish laws actually are on what can or can’t be published. I suspect that they’re not all that strict.

On Wednesday nights, there’s this show on 3RRR called ‘Byte Into It’ which is an extremely well put together show for computer nerds everywhere. While I resist the tag ‘nerd’ myself, it just so happens that while this show is on every week, I happen to find myself in the car driving somewhere. And listening to it.

So while the news is a couple of weeks old, it was announced on Byte Into It that The Pirate Bay was venturing into censorship free blogging. Normally the guys on Byte Into It are very bullish on anything that assists with freer speech or expression, which was what I was expecting.

It therefore came as a complete shock to me when the news was greeted with outright cynicism and none of the usual jocularity that they normally exhibit. Comments were thrown about as to what content might be hosted, and there appeared to be consensus that you’d think twice about clicking on anything containing the ‘baywords.com’ domain name. Mainly because, in their opinion, there would be a fair to likely chance that the contents of such blogs would contain either:

  • Child pornography/paedophilia;
  • Neo-nazism/hate sites; or
  • Other unsavoury stuff.

Is this cynicism unwarranted? Isn't this good for the internet that someone like Le Canard Noir can blog in peace without fear of reprisals?

On the other hand, is it feasible that Baywords may be a licence for all sorts of despicable trash to proliferate? Have they just provided a soap-box for nutbars everywhere to peddle their tripe?

Lastly, should we care?