27 December 2006

Happy new 1 January

A big happy Hogmanay to all of you who regularly read my blog. And everyone else too.

I like to bore the pants off anyone who'll listen at this time of year with my one and only claim to fame - that my great-great-great-great-great-great-grand uncle wrote the words to that old ditty, 'Auld Lang Syne'.

I usually like to award a 'bloke of the year' award at this point, but to be frank, there's really no one who warrants this.

So instead, let me present my own choice of a top ten posts for the year:

10. The 2006 Golden Bull Awards, or, Germaine Greer on the defensive

9. Whatever happened to sportsmanship?

8. Why AMP got busted

7. How, exactly, does prayer work?

6. What the hell is wrong with financial planning? (Part 1)

5. No leads, chief, but I know this medium...

4. Kylie meets Hutch (Kylie the showgirl princess? - Part three)

3. Scrapping Superannuation - An "Argument" For

2. A Slight Case of Overbombing Part 3 – Why people do not choose to be gay.

And, drum roll, number 1 is:

1. Has Israel finally gone too far?

Hope you all have a lovely 2007.

21 December 2006

What is written on page 123?

OK. This is an "internet meme" (I hate this word - it's sooooooooooooooo pretentious) from Beep! Beep! It's Me.

Beep was tagged by Silly Humans, another excellent blog, by the way, but I thought I'd join in.

I think this one has the potential to be quite interesting.

Beep's post is here.

Silly Humans post is here.

The "meme" (someone come up with a different word, please. In-joke is good. Fad is better) goes a little bit like this:

  • The rules:-
  • Find the nearest book.-
  • Name the book and the author.-
  • Turn to page 123.-
  • Go to the fifth sentence on the page.-
  • Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.-
  • Tag three more folks.

So how did I do?

Well, the book I had nearest me is one called "One No, Many Yeses" by a guy named Paul Kingsnorth.

"Not alone in their outrage or their resistance. Not alone in the growing realisation that economic, not just political independence is something to be fought for. That fight has begun, and it doesn't look like stopping any time soon."

I'm glad it stops there:

  • A - one more sentence and we would have got to the end of the chapter.
  • B - do you know how frightfully embarrassing it is for a small-a anarcho-capitalist to be quoting an anti-globalisation book?

Anyway, I'm tagging Adam, Einzige and Ted Plonka, next.

Have fun, y'all.

UPDATE: Well, I can't tag Einzige just yet. For some reason, those of us in the "New Blogger" (it's a Beta no longer) can't post comments at those in the "Old Blogger" unless we go anonymous. Thanks Google.

13 December 2006

The 2006 Golden Bull Awards, or, Germaine Greer on the defensive

The Plain English Campaign has released their Golden Bull Awards for 2006.

And among the usual gobbledegook from local councils, legislation, disclaimers and legal fine print, this choice bit of journalism from our good friend, Germaine Greer received a gong:

'The first attribute of the art object is that it creates a discontinuity between itself and the unsynthesised manifold.'

This quote came out of an art crit piece that she wrote for the London newspaper, The Guardian. To be honest, it was an arts review, so I'm inclined to let her have some room to stretch her monumental ego here, if purely for that.

The Guardian, incidentally, won an award for 'crystal-clear' reporting - an award for excellence, in other words. Quite unlike Greer's award.

But Greer herself was most unimpressed by this award, and devoted valuable column space to defending herself. In a nutshell, as she so well put it, '...on the rare occasions when I've been shortlisted for anything, I've been obliged to play the gallant loser. This time I've been granted an award outright...' which naturally seems to give her the right to play a phenomenally ungracious winner.

You just have to read her defence. It's seriously like watching a car crash in slow motion.

She frames it initially as a right of response. But from there, it goes rapidly downhill, as she, at various stages;
  • foolishly criticises the campaign for not using the honorific Doctor or Professor to which she is entitled;
  • explains that her original article constituted valid criticism for readers of The Guardian;
  • justifies her theft of the offending phrase from Immanuel Kant;
  • berates the campaign for their use of the word 'somewhat';
  • shifts the duty of explaining her own words back on to readers with access to the internet; and
  • snobbishly derides anyone who hasn't studied classical philosophy.
The claim she makes that in the intervening years since Kant originally came out with this rubbish no one has been able to better explain it demonstrates the campaign's aims probably better than Greer could have possibly intended.

It's also irrelevant - Greer resorted to quoting someone else's nonsensical jargon in order to illustrate a point that she could not, or would not do.

It smacks of elitism, plagiarism, sour grapes, laziness and (maybe) incompetence and the gall she displays in this article is flabbergasting.

She has the temerity to complete her penultimate paragraph with this sentence:

'It was Kant who explained that the art object exists only as the concept of itself, all its other sensory qualities being associated with pleasure or desire and therefore ulterior.'

Oh really, Germaine? Then why bother painting the sodding things in the first place? The campaign was quite right to call bullshit on you, "Professor" Greer.

Out of 5 stars, I give Greer's response a single 'up yours'.

12 December 2006

Why did you end up agnostic? (Part 1)

I get asked lots about this, so I thought I'd put this one on the table. For some reason, theists and atheists alike can't handle the agnostic point of view.

I don't actually get this myself, because, to me anyway, it's a very easy perspective to grasp.

And, for reasons that I'll explain later, I suspect most people who claim to be atheists are really agnostic anyway.

But I'll get on with it.

My parents brought me up to believe that someone's thoughts on religion or the like were their own business. In other words, you never ask and you certainly don't proselytise.

To this day, I have not the faintest idea whether my parents are even remotely religious - they never made us go to Sunday school, they never went to church. I don't ask, because this little voice in the back of my head reminds me that, "It's none of your business."

My mother's parents never rammed religion down her throat. My father's dad was a Methodist minister who insisted on saying grace before all meals and who never touched a drop of alcohol in his life.

I secretly think my mum is an atheist and my dad is agnostic. But this is me just speculating based on various things they've said over the years. I could be 100% wrong.

Anyway. As a result of all of this, I grew up apatheistic.

Apatheism is another concept that is completely misunderstood by atheists and theists. Wikipedia, for example, considers apatheism to be a subset of atheism. And that is clearly wrong.

Now, apatheism, as I understand it, is where you don't even consider the god(s) question, for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. You don't consider the question to be relevant or important; and/or
  2. You don't even know that such a question exists.

Belief or disbelief doesn't even come into it when the question either is refused to be considered, or doesn't even make it to the interviewee in the first place.

Now this can completely bamboozle your average person. Mainly because most people are prompted at some stage to consider the god(s) question. I was.

But I never directly answered it, as I never believed it to be a question that added value to my life.

Sorry, I never perceived it to add any value. I’ll discuss the “belief” word later.

So I became a happy little apatheist doing my own thing and not really giving a stuff about God, religion, or anything like that.

Oh sure, I was approached by many people along the way to convert me. One of my friends from high school joined a megachurch in the Upper North Shore area of Sydney and managed to get me along to a few shows (services? They always seemed too showy for this word). I went a couple of times out of curiosity, and tried unsuccessfully to pick up one of the girls there.

But after these little fact finding missions – I was the guy with his mouth wide open in the back row as the “congregation” (not sure what you call the parishioners in a megachurch. Not sure if “parishioners” is correct, either) went into the undignified hysteria that is glossolalia – I came out of there with the impression that (a) these guys were nuts and (b) they had no decorum.

So I started at university in Melbourne and continued on as a happy little apatheist.

While I had no ostensible interest in religion, I did have my own thoughts. The overriding ones were that evangelical/charismatic/pentacostal (I’ll call it ECP from now on) Christianity was extremely funny, and traditionalist Christianity was incredibly tedious.

And I continued like that until one day, in about second or third year uni when things changed and I became an agnostic.

And I’ll tell you about that next time.

07 December 2006

Kylie meets Hutch (Kylie the showgirl princess? - Part three)

This is part 3.

Part 2 is here.

Part 1 is here.

Around the turn of the 90's, Kylie Minogue began making greater demands on her producers, Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

One of her demands was to create a more 'adult' sound to go along with her newer, more adult image. She was, understandably, miffed that the kiddies who were buying her records now were going to be completely disowning her in another year or so, just like so many other disposable pop stars.

She had to revise her image and sound, and fast.

SAW did their best - but Minogue wasn't taking any chances. She roped in (then) big-name producers such as Teddy Riley and Stephen Bray to assist with her third album.

In normal circumstances, this all could have sunk like a stone.

But Minogue had an ace up her sleeve. Just prior to the release of her third album, she began a very public and very messy affair with probably the one person no one expected - the then INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence. At the time, INXS were probably the second biggest band on the planet.

Hutchence was a typical lead singer who had had scores of affairs mainly with supermodels, singers and actresses and was rumoured to be into all sorts of nocturnal activities ranging from merely suggestive through to bizarre.

In fact, rumours persist to this day that suggest that his suicide in 1997 (which was what the coroner's finding officially said) was a peculiar accident instead. The day of his death I was told this:

"Apparently, he had a belt around his neck that he had closed in the doorway between the top of the door and the doorjamb. He then had a bit of a thrash and, unfortunately, slipped in a pool of his own semen and accidentally hung himself."

Anyway, the fact that this is even remotely plausible should give you an idea about the quirks of this bloke.

So Minogue started seeing Hutchence, and because INXS' star was at its zenith and Minogue's was in the ascendant, the media went absolutely wild for it.

The media, incidentally, had a picnic painting Hutchence as this lecherous rockstar and Minogue as the innocent ingenue. Hutchence was even quoted once as saying that one of his favourite hobbies was 'corrupting' the young Minogue. It is now obvious, ironically, that the roles were reversed, and it was the ambitious Minogue who chewed the fragile Hutchence up and spat him out.

Needless to say, Minogue's third album was a smash hit and her extreme image makeover worked like a publicist's dream.

(Incidentally, the hit song, Better the devil you know was on this album. Nick Cave once claimed that this song had the saddest song lyrics he knew. The fact that he meant sad-sad and not pathetic is testament to the brain-sapping combination of a lengthy heroin addiction and the pretence of a Byron complex)

Minogue quickly threw her efforts into milking this sudden rush of mature respect by recording a fourth album. It was to be her last with SAW.

It wasn't a hit. Apart from the track Word is out, she just couldn't latch on to the record-buying public with this work.

Unsurprisingly, she sacked SAW, and left PWL - her contractual obligations were over.

She was now a free agent. And she was still a marketable commodity. A wonderful spot for a musician, or 'artist' as Minogue would prefer to be described, to be in.

What she craved, however, was cred. Not just any cred, mind you, it had to come with sales attached.

At about this time, a label called Deconstruction Records had just struck 24 carat gold with two acts - D:Ream and M People.

Minogue's people knew that this wave was breaking and also that new owners BMG were throwing a lot of money at the label.

She hardly needed much more convincing to sign on the dotted line. For a very short window, she had an opportunity to receive both a ridiculously lucrative deal funded by a major label, but with the cred and cachet of a minor label, which just happened to be the hottest dance music label in the world.

Deal out of the way, she proceeded to celebrate this new phase of her life by recording a new eponymously titled album with new songwriters, producers and money and also by dumping Hutchence.

Her first album with Deconstruction was a moderate success. Hutchence and INXS, however, never had the same level of success again.

01 December 2006

Stop Sylvia Browne

Robert S. Lancaster has put together a site devoted to possibly the most evil purveyor of woo ever: Sylvia Browne.

Stop Sylvia Browne is here.

And some information about this abominable woman is here.

Take the time to have a look. She is truly a DISGRACE!!!

While you're looking at this, check out Stop Kaz, too. These are both excellent.

(With thanks to Rockstars' Ramblings)

Edit 04/12/2006: