IPA: “be like Gough.” Me: don’t make me lough. #auspol

It’s been reported that among the items on the IPA’s “to-do” list, handed to Head Boy Abbott on his first day at Big School, was an exhortation to emulate the bold, uncompromising vision of Gough Whitlam, the PM who did more in his single term to create the nation we know today than any other, before or since, and who more or less weaponised  bloody-minded determination. 

I would humbly suggest that the fundamental differences between the two are too stark to be reconciled and that the IPA must surely have been huffing nitrous to think Tony could walk that particular walk, or even do a passable impression of the talk. 

Gough had a vision, based in humanism and social justice, which he followed through and largely realised, conservative obstructionism be damned. He had a litany of simple but radical ideas; their single unifying concept was to improve the lives of all Australians. He pursued it with an enviable vigour that sustained him through his cooked-up dismissal and well into his later years.

Abbott, however, had a shopping list from self-interested arch-capitalist science-denialists, little more than half of which he’s filled. Many of his wins have been to simply de-fund or destroy social or scientific programs or initiatives that conflict with his masters’ dogmatic ideologies (many victims of the LNP razor gang had their roots in the Whitlam era); all he’s actually built off his own bat is a less fair, more frightened society while destroying what little trust we had left in our representatives after Labor’s obsessive factionalists handed him the election.

No, Abbott’s no Whitlam-style radical pursuing a bold reform agenda, caution being thrown to the wind. He’s a toadying throwback – an errand boy for anyone with a large enough bank account to get a seat at the table. His vision – or what passes for it – is prescribed to him by others; it is to enable greater profiteering, less accountability and greater access to to government for the billionaires who already dictate conservative policy. 

Abbott’s legacy will not be one of a bold vision for the future, but of a shortsighted smash & grab: a ram-raid where Abbott broke down the door and his overseers filled their pockets and strolled away. 

#LoveWins – Australian Christian Lobby needs to DEAL

Dear Australian Christian Lobby
Regarding your recent Facebook posts of the usual “defence of marriage” kind:
Equality for our friends in America is its own reward – as justice always is – and bodes very well for the future of LGBT people in Australia. After all, we’re not going to have a front bench packed with conservative religious scolds and finger-waggers forever, and equality might even be achieved during their administration, despite their best efforts (which won’t stop them claiming credit for it down the track). 
In the meantime, watching assorted religious authoritarians, fundamentalists and button-down sexual throwbacks freak out and implode is icing on the rainbow cake. Keep swimming against the tide, keep prophesying doom and gloom, keep ignoring the happiness and joy and tangible benefits brought to countries that have removed obstacles to equality – and we’ll keep laughing at your impotent rage. 
However, despite my (and many others’) schadenfreude at watching homophobes the world over gnash their teeth and rend their garments, I hold a small hope that many of you will realise that equality is actually no threat to you, your faith, your marriages, your children, your society or your country, in any way, shape or form, and that you will embrace it as the net gain for human happiness that it is. And I hope for your sake that that realisation will come before history demonstrates with great clarity just how far on the wrong side of history you’ve strayed. 
To those of you intractable in your hatred or fear of those unlike yourselves, those who will never relinquish their claim to privileged and superior status based on your sexuality, as unchosen as that of LGBT people, those who cling to ancient spells to protect you from demons of your own invention: you can go to hell. Or, more accurately, you can stay in the hell of your own foolish fears and shameful hatred.

Movie Corner: Grave of The Fireflies. [h/t/ @TheAVClub]

“Grave of The Fireflies” was beautiful, poignant and explored the effects of war on civilians in a way I’d never seen before. It is an important pacifist film; ironically though, it destroyed me.

Watch it only once. Do not watch it alone. Do not watch it if you’re uncomfortable with sobbing uncontrollably in front of loved ones. Do not show to children, EVER (you – you monster!). Do not recommend that others watch it unless you provide them with the previous caveats, otherwise you will lose those people as friends. This film is as harrowing as it is unforgettable, and they will hold you personally responsible for what it does to them.

Remember that bit in the animated “Animal Farm” where Boxer…is sent away?
Remember that bit in “Neverending Story” where Artax…got stuck in the swamp?
Remember that bit in “Watership Down” where the rabbits…were nothing like the ones in Beatrix Potter stories?

This movie is literally four hundred billion times more sad than all of those things combined and is much longer. Watch with extreme caution. Perhaps from within a little fort made of couch cushions and Kleenex boxes.

Or perhaps not at all. I watched this film not knowing what to expect. “Ooh, Studio Ghibli!” I said. “This will be interesting,” I said, like a damned fool, not imagining for a nanosecond that a cartoon, of all things, could possibly betray me so cold-heartedly. I will never watch this amazing, gorgeous, dispiriting film again. Men in my family have a history of heart trouble, you see.

Nonetheless, I award this film five stars. Five heartbroken little stars, endlessly weeping their twinkly tears into the cold vacuum of an unthinking, uncaring universe.

Pictured: the least harrowing frame from “Fireflies”

Reminder of this film’s existence provided by The AV Club

#gamergate et al., may you quickly become a bad memory (H/T @steve_shives)

Via the facebooks (where this post is doubled) I found an interesting article re hysterical MRAs, #gamergate trolls, pickup artists and angry douches on the web in general. Takeaway message: they’re not angry “nerds” lashing out. They’re just arseholes. The linked article’s a whole four months old (!) but is still accurate in large part.

Money quote:

“These anonymous men aren’t underdogs who have been unfairly excluded from pop culture due to their dense interest in quirky topics. They’re antisocial hatemongers, and one way or another, they will be left behind.”

That’s the thing – the key difference between the comic/gaming/fantasy/scifi/etc fans I’m familiar with (and am) and petulant little online anonymous arse-parrots who want to wreck other people’s shit: “nerds” don’t give a mouldy turd if they’re shut out of “popular culture”. They have their own culture and they didn’t – don’t – actually care if it’s popular. Occasionally you’ll encounter people who prefer it that way – indeed, there may well be a small number of uber-hardcore fans who appear (or just are) utterly unwelcoming to noobs (such people are culturally ubiquitous though, not just limited to niche pursuits), but by and large it’s my experience that fans of so-called “nerd” culture love sharing their love with new fans. After all, what’s so wrong with having more people to share your favourite stuff with?

When I started high school in 1989 I’d come from a tiny primary school (four kids in my final year!) in a little rural bubble. Like most others in my demographic I’d read as many comics as living miles from the nearest newsagent would allow, grown up on ’80s TV and I had a decent C-64 library to while away the hours, but the guys I quickly formed friendships with expanded my cultural horizons in ways I’ll always be grateful for. Library sessions of D&D, Tolkien-worship, C-64 game swapping (and occasional pirating – hopefully the statute of limitations on that little misdemeanour has expired) hours poring over 2000AD comics, endless discussions of hypothetical T-800/Jason Voorhees death-matches, equally endless bong-fuelled Zeppelin-soundtracked SNES/Mega Drive marathons, all leading to later obsessions with Asimov, Iain M Banks, death metal, prog-rock, PC gaming, Terry Goodkind – the things I still love and pursue are in large part thanks to the guys I made friends with at school (and soon afterwards), and whose deep love for their favourite things was both infectious and freely shared.

Again, that’s the key difference between guys who just love comics/gaming/etc and the troll-hordes online. The anonymous wannabe stormtroopers of gamergate and the various other misogynist sub-cultures online simply don’t want to share and they don’t play well with others. And there’s no love in what they do; only a desire to protect what they perceive as their kingdoms against encroachment by the unworthy, based on a mistaken belief that others want to take them away or (especially in the case of the hordes attacking women in gaming) dumb them down or dilute all the fun out of them in the service of social justice (the latest four-letter word among the manchildren, it’s synonymous with “political correctness gone mad”).

So, to those standing on their ramparts (or, more appropriately, hiding in their keeps and sending endless poison-pen missives) and waxing loathsome about how Feminazis or social justice warriors or Beta males are going to ruin their cultures, whether online or meatspace: good. I hope they do. Your cultures, as they stand, are opposed to equality and to inclusiveness and, crucially, are not based on love for what you do. They’re toxic, jealous and far more more cliquish than any adolescent gang I ever encountered in high school. The people in the cultures I’ve long identified with – the movie and music obsessives, lifelong gamers (33 years and counting), fantasy and comic fans, the lovers of all things science-fiction (and science fact) – know very well that the more, the merrier.

This picture better illustrates both my point and that of the linked article. Maybe I should've just posted it with the caption

This picture better illustrates both my point and that of the linked article. Maybe I should’ve just posted it with the caption “OMG THIS”

A Picture’s Literally Worth A Thousand Literal Words #1000words

Recently I asked my FB friends to send me a picture and promised them 1000 words. A friend hit me with this:

iCandyI said: okay, not normally the kind of picture you’ll find in my library, but – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

This is what ensued:

I, Chud

Chud looked in the mirror. It had finally arrived after 24 weeks and it fit like a glove. It looked better than Chud could ever have hoped; even the clearly photoshopped catalogue pictures hadn’t done justice to the chiselled abs, neatly carved biceps and overall “slab of beef” vibe his new body gave off in person. If Chud could’ve smiled, he would have had a manic grin from ear to ear. And after waiting so long, it was now time…to test it.
First things first, thought Chud, and took a step toward the mirror. Hmm, nicely balanced. Good takeoff and landing. Intuitive controls. Now, a step backward – nice. Easy to get the hang of. Time for something a little more challenging – a ninety-degree turn to the right, perhaps. Again, piece of cake. Chud had downloaded the user interface app at the time of purchase so as to familiarise himself with the controls; after 24 weeks studying them and using the practice modules, moving around for real already felt like second nature. He was ready for a challenge. He grabbed his runners.
As Chud pounded the pavement, intending to do at least a mile before stopping, he noticed something unusual. Not about himself, but about the other people on the street. They all seemed very interested in him, some to the point of staring. As he progressed on his run, he took more notice of the people he passed and of the people who passed him – the staring not only continued unabated but he now noticed something else behind it. At first he thought people were admiring the contours and angles of his body, as he’d initially hoped, but the way people were looking at him – intensely, a bit sideways, a little too wide-eyed to be the simple ogling of his dreams, glancing away when he attempted to meet their gaze – gave him pause. It was like they were wary, even afraid. Chud wondered what they could be afraid of, what they could possibly fear from him. He stopped running. The young couple who’d been walking towards him from the other end of the street also stopped. They froze briefly, as if deciding what to do, then turned at right angles and started to cross the street. They didn’t see the truck.
Chud saw it in all its dusty, engrimed glory and motioned towards them, intending to shout a warning, but even if he’d managed to do so he wouldn’t have been heard over the truck’s blaring horn and screeching tyres. Chud sprinted across the street, well aware of the damage he might suffer, and aimed for the couple. As he shoved them out of the path of the truck with his outstretched arm he felt a glancing blow on his opposite shoulder. His phone, still in his hand from when he was taking selfies of his new body, tumbled from his grasp and hit the pavement. It shut down. So did Chud.
Chud awoke, suddenly. Someone wearing a surgical mask was staring into his face. In his peripheral vision Chud could see his body, lying on a bed. His body had a badly bruised shoulder and other abrasions down one side. The bed itself was strange. No sheets. Just stark, cold, polished metal with what looked like a drainage hole at one end. That’s not actually a bed, is it, thought Chud. This is a morgue! They think I’m dead! This guy’s not a doctor – he’s going to cut my new rig up! Chud realised he had to get the attention of the coroner. He started to make every noise he could think of – singing, whistling, even making desperate beeping noises. The coroner glanced over at Chud with a slightly annoyed expression on his face. Chud kept making noises. The coroner semi-stomped over to Chud, picked him up from the tray, put a finger on his face and said “How do I make you shut up?”
“Oh, thank Christ you can hear me,” Chud sighed with great relief.
“Jesus, have I answered a call here? Hey, whoever you are, you’re on speaker. Speak up!”
“No, I’m here,” said Chud. “You’ve picked me up!”
“I know I picked up,” said the coroner, “I’m talking to you! Who is this?”
“No, I mean literally. You have literally picked me up.”
“You’re not making any sense here…”
“I’m not on the other end of the phone,” explained Chud, “I am the sodding phone!”
“Pull the other one. I don’t have time for this –“ at this point, Chud set off his camera flash. “Woah! Did I do that?” asked the coroner.
“No, that was me. That was – again, quite literally – ME.”
“How can you be a phone? Is this some hidden camera shit? Am I being pranked? Simon? SIMON! Are you screwing with me?” the coroner was shouting towards the door.
“No prank, doc. Seriously now, I need to know if my body will be okay.”
“Look, whoever you are and wherever you are, your – that – body is pretty much kaput. Didn’t even have a pulse when it got wheeled in here an hour ago. It’s missing a head, you know.”
“Eh?” Chud was indignant. “I’m it’s head, thanks very much!”
“Now you’re truly yanking it. I’m no spring chicken anymore but I’m not some demento. Even these new vat-grown bodies need heads.”
“Yeah, me. I. Am. Its. Head.” If there was a way to speak in bold type, Chud got pretty close.
“The hell? How does that even work?”
“There’s an app for that.”
Chud activated the user interface and booted up his body. After a quick diagnostic and a damage report, the brand-new, still-under-warranty iCandy 9000 sat up then stood shakily on its feet. “There,” Chud said, “good to go.”
“You need a doctor.”
“Nope. I need a Genius Bar.”
The coroner watched as the headless yet perfectly sculpted body made its way gingerly toward the door, one arm extended and holding its smartphone.
Chud was going to be alright.


Paris damages the case for mass surveillance…

Originally posted on Paul Bernal's Blog:

Predictably, the horrific killings in Paris have led to a number of calls for more, and more invasive powers of surveillance for the police and the intelligence services. This always happens after an atrocity – the horrendous murder of Lee Rigby, for example – but as then, these calls are misguided at best. In particular, what happened in Paris doesn’t make the case for mass surveillance stronger – if anything, it damages that case. A huge amount has been written about this already, and I don’t want to go over the same material yet again, but there are a few key points to bear in mind.

Firstly, that France already has extensive surveillance powers. It already has ID cards. It already has more privacy invasions than we in the UK have – and we have a huge amount. That surveillance, those privacy invasions, didn’t stop the shooting in Paris. Why…

View original 387 more words

#StopTenPenny because #vaccineswork

Anti-vaccine disease advocate Dr Sherri Tenpenny is coming to Australia.

We don’t want her to. The #StopTenPenny campaign is asking the Immigration Minister and Health Minister to disallow her visa on the grounds that she’s a loon and a fucking menace to public health. I wrote this today.

Dear Ministers

I write to you to express my concern about the impending visit to Australia of prominent anti-vaccine campaigner Dr Sherri Tenpenny.

Dr Tenpenny is a proponent of potentially fatal misinformation regarding vaccines. Among the lies she promotes is the particularly pernicious falsehood that vaccines cause autism – a link which has never been scientifically demonstrated or even shown to have baseline plausibility. Not only that but the originator of the autism-vaccine link claim, a UK doctor named Andrew Wakefield, has been revealed as a fraud, with his deeply flawed and unethical autism-vaccine Lancet study retracted and his license to practice medicine in the UK revoked.

While it is true that some vaccines can have side-effects on some patients, the incidence of such effects is so low that the benefits of immunising children outweigh the minor risks by several orders of magnitude. “Herd immunity” – a percentage of vaccinated children of 75-90% depending on the disease – is vital to protect those children who, for legitimate medical reasons, cannot receive vaccines as normally scheduled.

I understand that people have a right to free speech, but if Dr Tenpenny is allowed to evangelise to Australian parents about the entirely fabricated causal links to autism and the other paranoid conspiracy theories she promotes, she will present a real and undeniable danger to public health. Irresponsible attitudes such as Dr Tenpenny’s have already caused a resurgence in preventable childhood diseases such as measles and pertussis in the UK, Australia and particularly in the US, with many preventable deaths occurring.

I call on you to immediately investigate any and all reasonable routes to barring Dr Tenpenny from access to Australian parents. Her message is based on fear, ignorance and on warped ideology and not on good science. Anyone taking her advice risks not only their children’s health but the health of everybody those children will come into contact with.

Regards, etc