Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Day Today 31st January 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Two countries divided by a common language. On Letters of Recommendation.

"An English philosopher might write, 'So-and-so has done very fine work.' If that were coming out of Harvard, it would mean this person barely has a three-digit I.Q. Coming out of Oxford, it could well mean this person is one of the top three people coming out of the U.K."

Violent media is good for kids, it helps then channel their rage.

Those of us who watch "Michael Palin's New Europe" in the weekend might find this interesting. And this.

Let's "smite some Humbug" and correct a few myths about the NYPD. It's a loooong read, mainly because of City Journal's anorexic layout, but worth it.

And what happened to Rudy? Shit! did no-one tell him not to put all his blue-rinse eggs in one basket.

And, since Jack's doing it, here's an excellent music video. "Poems" by a Tricky-led collaboration.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 36 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Girls Like You by Paul Sheehan

If you take a kilo of meat, and you don't put it in the fridge or in the pot in the kitchen but you leave it on a plate in the backyard, and then you have a fight with the neighbour because his cats eat the meat, you're crazy. Isn't this true? If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, is it the fault of the cat or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem.

These are the words of Sheik Taj Din al-Hilaly, in his argument that victims of rape should be jailed for life for tempting men into sexual assaulting them.

My faith in humanity (not a thing of Brobdingnagian proportions at the best of times) hasn’t been as low as it was reading this book since I read A Child Called ‘It’. Much like Pelzer’s autobiography, Paul Sheehan’s reportage of one of Australia’s most infamous rape trials is a simply-told narrative with little poetry, but which presents the facts in all their damning and horrible glory.

Sheehan does not for a second claim impartiality, referring to the accused several times as “morons” amongst other things, even recounting the ringleader’s attempts to get a mistrial called with the (fairly unlikely) claim that he (Sheehan) had been trying to influence the jury with his facial expressions.

The thing that stands out is the massive sense of entitlement the rapists (four brothers) felt. They made no attempt to hide their identities; simply offered a few cursory threats before ejecting the girls from their family home where the attacks took place, and in one case even giving a victim a lift to the train station. When they were brought to trial they changed their stories repeatedly, and seemed amazed every time that their word was not taken as gospel. They appeared genuinely confused that the court did not accept that the argument that the sex must have been consensual because the girls were clearly sluts.

Much is made of the fact that this sense of entitlement comes from the fact that the brothers are Pakistani Muslims, a claim that one has to be somewhat leery of given how deeply ingrained racism is in Australian culture. However, I think back to some of the boys I’ve taught. A lot of the boys from the India/Pakistan region were under no illusions as to how superior they were to, say, all women and ninety percent of the rest of society. Certainly, this is not true of all of the boys raised in that region who have passed through my class, not even the majority of them. But a lot. A worrying number.

I’ve met the parents of these boys; earnest, humourless couples, who do not accept that I have written a negative comment on their son’s report; who argue with me until they realise that I’m bigger than the dad and passive-aggressive enough not to let them bother me, before they move on to openly bully the smaller, female members of staff.

One case stands out: A student was being abused by his classmates because, well, he was acting the dick. His mother made such a fuss that the boy’s class was changed simply to get her off the backs of the office staff - he was transferred from one of my classes to the other. On the first day he strode in, pleased with having made the school bow to his whim, and proceeded to massively disrespect the students in his new class, who let him know in no uncertain terms that they weren’t having it. He complained to me about this, and I pointed out that when two separate classes have said the same things about one’s behaviour, maybe the problem isn’t with the other fifty-nine children. He would not accept this, and campaigned to change his class, change his teachers, and have students removed from class. This is the same kid who, during rehearsals for Stage Challenge, had to be pulled off stage from next to the student leaders. I explained to him that they were seniors; that they were the two best dancers in the school; they had a past history in Stage Challenge; they had choreographed the whole routine; and they had been tasked with teaching it to the rest of the students. He, on the other hand, was an uncoordinated Year 9 to whom none of that applied, so he shouldn’t be in front of the rest of the students attempting to teach them. His response to that was to whinge that it was his right to teach moves that he had not yet mastered. It was this boy’s parents who got into a literal screaming match with the Drama Teacher at Parent/Teacher night, and got angry with me when I gave them an itemised breakdown of times their son had acted in the unacceptable ways to which the Drama Teacher was referring.

Now, this kid probably isn’t going to grow up to commit sexual assault (he’s four-and-a half feet tall and cries when he gets hit) but he will marry a very obedient girl, and throughout his life will simply not understand when he is not given everything he wants.

I don’t really know where I’m headed with this one. I think I was going to say something about cultural relativism, but I’ve lost it. I guess it’s just kind of scary that I’ve seen - in whatever nascent form – the mindset that when taken to extreme can lead to this sort of crime.

The world kind of blows.

(By the by, I also highly recommend The Making of Me, by Tegan Wagner, the memoir of one of the victims, which I read immediately after Girls Like You.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Random things:

Apathy Jack writes:


This may be the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.


An article from New Scientist suggesting that when young people become Goths they are less likely to self-harm than their more colourful peers.


Part of the poem Ice Cream Cone, by Liza Jessie Peterson:

I retreated back to headquarters, breathless from surviving yet another day of battling the slings and arrows of outrageous motherfuckers in the street.


Preliminary design for a car-less city.

(This comes from the wonderful new site, where a few future-minded people have gathered to look at what life is becoming.)


Your music video for the day: Gone Daddy Gone, by Gnarls Barkley, a crazed wee romp recasting the band as bugs – especially notable for the creepily trippy last thirty seconds or so...


Someone has counted how many lies the Bush administration told in the lead up to the war in Iraq. As it turns out, there were quite a few...


Dara O’Braian on the young:

Next time an eighteen-year-old comes bouncing up to you going: “Look at me! I’m fit, I’m gorgeous, I’ve got a body like a mattress! You could bounce coins off me I’m so fit.” You just go: “Yeah, I’m not so fit. But I’ve been working for a while – I’ve got cash. Here’s a tenner – dance for me, you prick.”


This is actually how I get in the holidays. It’s probably for the best they’ll be over soon...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today's music video is My My My by Armand Van Helden, a fairly bog standard dance track, which starts out as a fairly bog standard dance video, but then gets funny after thirty seconds or so. Nice commentary on the vacuous nature of dance music videos and possibly culture in general, but primarily just a bit of a laugh...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 35 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Dork Whore by Iris Bahr

The official currency of Vietnam is the dong. That’s right. The money here is named after cock. And we just made our first million of it. Literally. We walked in to exchange some money, and came out with over one million cock. Brilliant. Not so brilliant is the fact that the Vietnamese treasury apparently believes in only printing denominations of five-and ten-dong bills, thereby forcing us to receive our riches in numerous rubber-banded cockblocks, conveniently packaged in large paper bags. Mom would be pleased.


(There were also parts that showed the majesty and wonder of her travels around Asia, and parts that showed her overcoming her insecurities and growing as a human being. But, you know; cock.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

I’ve mentioned before the fairly constant self-doubt I feel when it comes to the Teaching, which is why it’s nice every so often to get texts like the one I received last night from Hoodrat’s Deputy Head Girl circa 2006: (reprinted in unedited txt-language, but that’s how the children communicate these days...)

U were th best teacher! Iv eva had in my lyf! Uv actuali help me grow and gvn me truth. And evn f i was a dick at skul u made everyday at skul hapier! Thanx mr!

To be fair, she was very, very drunk when she texted me...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I promise I’ll get my head out of Hoodrat one day...

Apathy Jack writes:

So, looking in the Education Gazette at the ad to be a Social Studies teacher at Hoodrat High. It reads:

This is a strong, well-resourced and dynamic department with high expectations and excellent teachers.

Now, I can’t argue with the well-resourced part – singularly scrupulous lot, those Social Scientists, lacking the thieving bastardry that one develops when teaching a real subject. However, in terms of being a “strong” department with “excellent” teachers...

Three of the four teachers left at the end of 2007. The one teacher who remains will, in a week or two, enter her second year of teaching.

Seriously, there’s optimism, then there’s false advertising laws...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Speaking of one-shot videos, here is Blowing Dirt, by Goodshirt, a singularly impressive video, filmed in one take, backwards.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today, one of the best music videos to come out of New Zealand, You Don't Know Me by Autozamm. Pretty simple stuff (the band, fighting) until you notice that not only is it all one shot, but the lines are being delivered in sync no matter how sped-up or slowed down the film is, and that all of the actions correspond to the beats.

Very clever.

(Not a youtube one today, as it turns out - the video is hosted only on myspace...)

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Day Today - 21st January 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Another reason not to watch the news, the panellists are just reading off the newspaper on the desk in front of them.

The tragedy of Kenya. This gives some perspective, though arap-Moi has gone.

Most of us have been back on the treadmill for a week or so now, how's it treating you?

Thomas Kuhn, you and your "not being Left enough are being called out. I particularly liked the following quote...

Kuhn was left undefended and in 1955 refused tenure, on the grounds that he was not an expert on anything in particular.

...given that we covered Jacques Barzun a few days ago who was "not an expert in anything in particular".

And your daily conspiracy comes by way of Einstein. I never new General Relativists had stalkers.

Mr Daniels does not like tattoos.

One thing I noted was that the reasons given for getting a tattoo were all external. They wanted to stand out from other people, or as a form of outright rebellion - “Fuck you, school, and I don’t really care if you know I have a tattoo.”. The other reasons are shallow, "Personal Growth", and tattoo's of your abandoned children to show you care.

Does no-one get a tattoo for the simple, harmless reason that they like the design? I'm sure they must be out there, just not at the Psych wards that Mr Daniels works at.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Ah, the heady stench of an internet connection speeding up again after a month of presumably porn-related dialup speeds...

Anyhoo, a music video for you all:

The magnificent E Talking by Soulwax. There's every chance that this video is a clever and insightful commentary on dance music culture, but the arse with that, it just makes me laugh.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Day Today - 18th January 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Gosh, this is good. My sympathies lie with Messrs Brown and Litterick. That said there is much that HORansome and I would agree on as well, despite my being a baby-eating libertarian. I oppose the Forebed and Seashore legislation, and I don't have a problem in principle with the Waitangi Tribunal as a court to try and redress provable injustices despite all the original protagonists being long dead.

But the whole situation needs to be parsed a little finer than HORansome is. Paul's contention is this

We live in the world's oldest democracy, where we elect our governments, where we have the rule of law as well as plenty of checks and balances. No act of political violence is necessary or justified. As citizens we have the right to elect our representatives. We do not want Mr Iti and a bunch of suburban guerillas deciding that it may be necessary to murder some of them.

And that pretty much makes most of HORansome's claims, though mostly not untrue, irrelevant. Even if accept that injustices have happened, and are happening (I wouldn't call it oppression, oppression is sustained and that simply does not exist in New Zealand. Injustice is a more accurate word) the way to change things is by way of the ballot box and by convincing your fellow citizens, although with the new Democracy Rationing legislation you won't be able to do the convincing in election year.

And what of how the raids were conducted. I would say fairly well. Just how I would expect and want my police force to act if they had information that there might be "Te Quadea" in the East Coast plotting violent acts. You go in with overwhelming force at a most inconvenient time (so the suspects don't get to warn the others) and treat everyone and everything as something of interest, and that includes family members and buses - Russell Brown mentions that two wanted men had slipped out of town by hiding on a Kohanga Reo bus.

If Jamie Lockett and Tame Iti don't like the way they have been treated then they can just do what I do, act like a civilised human being and agitate for change peacefully.

As a related aside is this review by Keith Windshuttle of The Oxford History of the British Empire. (Readers who are Objectivists, hi Rick and Peter, may recognise Elijah Lineberry going by the name of Eric Williams about a quarter of the way through.) The final two paragraphs are rather accurate.

Pierre Manet looks at the difficulties Political Philosophy had dealing with the twentieth century.

certainly no Hegel, no Marx, even no Comte, has lived in our century

Some tried, but the most convincing were works of fiction...

our most impressive documents are novels: which political treatise on communism is a match for "1984" or Animal Farm" or "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" or "The Yawning Heights"? And what a strange commentary on this situation that, for some readers at least, the most suggestive introduction to Nazi tyranny is to be found in On the "Marmor Cliffs"

Hannah Arendt (The Origins of Totalitarianism) gave it a go, trying to find some muse from political philosophers past, without much success and for a chilling reason...

In a piece titled "Ideology and Terror," Arendt borrows from Montesquieu’s analysis and classification of regimes to try to categorize the totalitarian regime. For Montesquieu, each regime has a nature and a principle. The principle is the more important, since it is the "spring" that "moves" the regime. Now, explains Arendt, totalitarianism has no principle, not even fear-which is the principle of "despotism" according to Montesquieu. For fear to be a principal motive of action, the individual would need to think or feel that he is able to escape danger through his own actions; under totalitarianism, on the other hand, where the killings wax and wane without any discernible reason, this sense cannot be sustained.

The solution? Leo Strauss and the Return to the Greeks.

Imre Lakatos, you and your "quotation marks" are being called out.

Oh, and thanks! The image at the top is of Mercury, taken by the messenger spacecraft.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Day Today - 17th January 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Reading for sheer pleasure. I am not alone.

I dream of reading the way Machiavelli described it during the boom years of Italian humanism in the 16th century. He said:

"Evenings I return home and enter my study; and at its entrance I take off my everyday clothes, full of mud and dust, and don royal and courtly garments. Decorously reattired, I enter into the ancient sessions of ancient men. Received amicably by them, I partake of such food as is mine only, and for which I was born. There, without shame, I speak with them and ask them the reasons for their actions; and they in their humanity respond to me."

More discussion on the few who did good during the Holocaust.

Here we want to remember precisely so that such acts of compassion will be repeated in the future. Just as to the evil we say "never again," to the goodness we must say "again and again." These acts of solidarity, although accomplished by only a fraction of the 700 million people who lived in Nazi-occupied countries, are part of the story. Indeed, the only way out of the antihumanist darkness is to follow those lights that did shine, even if only here and there.

Read on for the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.

The planet's future has never looked better. Here's why.

Since Morthos has gone, I'll provide the conspiracyising with a very entertaining review of a Richard Hoagland (Face on Mars, see the image at the top) press conference which was long and tedious and filled with the kind of tortured logic that turns out to be rather common for conspiracy theorists who take disparate pieces of data and insist that they’re connected and that they make more sense than, well, more logical explanations.

And to finish, some science. Physics to be exact, the interpretation of quantum theory to be even exacter.

Bohr believed that the uncertainty was not just a product of observation, but an actual feature of nature itself. It was not that the experimenter was too clumsy to measure the position and momentum at the same time. Rather there was simply no such thing as a particle that possessed these two attributes simultaneously and to an arbitrary degree of accuracy. The uncertainty principle expressed an inherent limitation in nature.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Day Today - January 16th 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Brain Stab - Blog of the Living Dead.

A little something on why Jared Diamond is wrong - "No one visits Stonehenge, she noted, and asks whatever happened to the English."

If you feel like a good read. .. Resource Exhaustibility A Myth Refuted by Entrepreneurial Capital Maintenance.

An interesting diversion from Andrew Sullivan on testosterone, long enough for a lunch break.

Something I missed late last year, Jacques Barzun turned 100. The book mentioned"From Dawn to Decadence" is, incidentally, an excellent read but since holidays are over (unless you are a teacher) it might pay to leave it untill next Christmas. I do so love my big-picture theorising, probably too much testosterone and an abiliy to concentrate on the details.

Finally, if you've read all that, you can go for a walk.

Monday, January 14, 2008

RSJS writes:


Hell, I always had higher ideals for this blog than some of the others. Intellectual pursuits and the like, sage discourse, high tea, crumpets... But, as with every internet log, it descended into "today I had a boiled egg" territory pretty quickly. And as with all such matters the sands in the wee egg-timer seem to have run out and the carcass of this diary can not rot in the cache of the Intertubes to be picked over by scavengers craving the electronic equivalent of dead flesh.

I'll go on to do what I always do, which is discuss my eggs on my own log (from the other side of the world, where eggs go down the drain counter-clockwise), Josh will possibly make his fluid cartoons even more verbose to get off his chest his current crop of violent thoughts, and Jack's blathering will be recorded in a tome that will be worshipped as the word of god by his inevitable cult. Matthew will cite the site's death as a conspiracy agaisnt him, and Eric with probably dust off his The Amazing Jabroni sequined ensemble and go back to the circus.

Last one out turn off the lights, eh?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

For anyone who wonders why this place has been so quiet of late, I present the words of Jon Ronson:

"The internet gives us the illusion that we're wonderfully gregarious people. When we type away in discussion boards and post comments on one another's blogs it feels like we're sitting outside a pub in the evening sunshine with our attractive, cool friends. But we aren't. That's something we used to do before we got addicted to the Internet. What we do instead is perform some empty, unsatisfying facsimile of that. We sit alone in our rooms, becoming more and more isolated from society."

I'll be back shortly, after I've finished hanging out with the real people...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Day Today - January 1. 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

As Brain Stab desiccates around me...

Here's Camille Paglia telling the Europeans she don't take kindly to their sort.

Theodore Dalrymple on modern art that has merit!

All this one understands at once—immediately—on seeing the photographs that make up a series that simultaneously satisfies the eye. It is a brilliant conception, brilliantly carried out. But it is no mere exercise in cleverness, such as one might expect from artists in more fortunate political climes: for one understands at once also that the artist is a patriot, a man whose heart genuinely bleeds for his beloved country, whose emotions run too deep to be satisfied by expression in simple propositional form.

There is, within the study of modern German history, a debate as to whether Germany was "defeated" or "liberated". I tend towards the latter view, an opinion reinforced by a study of German resistance movements which consist basically of half a dozen - albeit courageous and commendable - bomb plots. The rest of Germany's seventy million seemed to have just done nothing. so this article by Peter Schneider is welcome because he begins to bring out stories of Germans who did try and do something and explains why their stories have until now been hidden.

He also has a bit of a go at Goldhagen and his view that German civilization had for centuries been driving toward the "project" of the Holocaust; at any point, millions of Germans could have stepped into the shoes of the hundreds of thousands who actually committed the crime. A good listen is Clive James interviewing Michael Burleigh. I have, apparently, wasted my money on Goldhagen's book, but Burleigh's is at the local "Second Hand". Might look out for Fest as well.

Harry Potter - nihil novum sub sol este.

From this very interesting piece on primate cultures comes something we libertarians have known all along. Treating people as individuals is better - in this case to ward off xenophobia.

There is a structure deep inside the brain called the amygdala, which plays a key role in fear and aggression, and experiments have shown that when subjects are presented with a face of someone from a different race, the amygdala gets metabolically active—aroused,...Or, as in a wonderful experiment by Susan Fiske, of Princeton University, subtly bias the subject beforehand to think of people as individuals rather than as members of a group, and the amygdala does not budge.