Target Books

Target UK have decided to release novelisations of new Doctor who stories. This may be excellent news for you or meh news or just news. For me I don’t really know how I feel about it but I do know how I feel about the original line of Target novelizations.

Target books

I was a precocious child; I could read from an early age something that was encouraged by my parents. But my parents forced me to read poetry and the works of English authors that I had little to no interest in. I did find some value in the HG Wells and Jules Verne but wasn’t at all interested in other stories that featured picnics, groups of unlikely children who solve mysteries, lashings of Ginger Beer or an animated bear.

When I went to school I was amazed to discover that there was this big building on the grounds that was only there to house books, books that I was allowed to borrow and read solely with the condition that I would bring them back. It wasn’t long after browsing through the stacks that I discovered there were Doctor Who books. Doctor Who was the most important thing in my life at the time. I have no idea why, I as an Australian child, fixated on a cheap British sci-fi show. But I did. More than one actually. I was a big Blake’s 7 fan too. It’s actually easier to understand now, it’s popular. It wasn’t popular in the early 80’s. It seems weird to say that a show that ran for 30 years in its initial run wasn’t popular but that was the deep sense you got when talking to other kids about it.

So I’m in the library I must be 7 years old? Wanting to check out a copy of Doctor Who and the Daleks. An adventure with villains I’d never seen and a Doctor I hadn’t even heard of, who was this old white-haired guy? But these “Dalek” things seemed very exciting. So I took it to the counter. “Are you sure you can even read this?” a sceptical Liberian asked. “Yes” I said. “Are you sure your parents will LET you read this?” it’s these kinds of questions that makes a young boy salivate. Why? What is in these pages? What illicit delights will I encounter? I literally could not imagine but I was super keen to find out. “Yes, absolutely” I possibly lied.

Doctor Who and the Daleks

The story unfolded as satisfyingly as I could have wanted. A mysterious girl, travellers in a time and space machine finding a dead forest. (Whitaker leaves out the visit to the tribe of Gum in the novelisation because…well…he wants to tell an exciting tale) The Doctor lying about broken mercury fluid links to state his curiosity and then the encounter with the deadly and alien Daleks. And a philosophical discussion about pacifism. That…um maybe didn’t go how most pacifists would have wanted it to. But none the less it was exciting, engaging and strange. And it even had illustrations.

Note: I just picked this up at random, I didn’t know it was the first Doctor who book printed nor that it was close to the first Doctor Who Adventure in-fact it was confusingly numbered “16” on the spine when some of the others didn’t have numbers and this was some years before “1” came out which was “The Abominal Snowman” by that time I had learned to keep my novelisations in story order rather than number order even though that annoyed me no end. Everyone knew they were playing funny buggers but Target didn’t seem to care. They insisted that they were going in “Alphabetical order” but that made no sense because they were producing books when new stories were being made that they would eventually have to novelise. So “Arc of Infinity” is “80” even though it should be “4”. And “The Chase” is “140” for reasons that no-one can satisfactorily explain. So, it is somewhat annoying that the new novels continue this tradition of being wrong. I suppose they think it’s “cute”.

And thus began my love of the Target Doctor who novelizations. These were not the greatest pieces of literature that had ever been printed. The quality was …. variable…. many of them were barely serviceable retellings of average stories. Some of them however were really quite good. I’ll always remember the start of “The 10th Planet” 10th planetwhere the history of the Cybermen is summed up.’s REALLY good. Rather than taking away from the reveal of the creatures it builds the anticipation. How could anyone fight anything so strong and so alien? As many people have noted in the days when Doctor who wasn’t on TV and stories were not coming out on DVD each month the books were a way to relive stories that you had loved or read stories you had never seen and there was no possibility of seeing. Some of the books transcend the stories that they novelise. The book of the Two Doctors novelised by Robert Holmes himself (The only novelisation he ever did) reveals that not only was Holmes a talented script writer and editor but also a fantastic writer of prose. When he writes “The smell of fruit soft flesh rotting off exposed bleached white The Two doctorsbones was pervasive” as the Doctor and Peri explore the space station it’s as evocative as anything you could want and takes what is a mediocre televised story and elevates it to something wonderful.

Stories that didn’t work on screen like “The Invasion of Time” is suddenly revealed to be an interesting story, full of fantastic ideas let down by an indifferent director and the budget only stretching to silver foil and pipe cleaners rather than the script.

Similarly, The Stones of Blood wasn’t an instant classic on the TV in fact it’s one of those “It happened but no-one talks about it stories”, but the novelisation reveals itself to be an innovative and imaginative piece that grows the mythos around the characters rather than relying on a feathered mask and glowing fiberglass “stones” while the lead character dances in a supposedly terrifying way.  Stones fo blood

The only place I knew where I could actually buy Target Doctor Who’s was at Safeway (a supermarket chain here in Australia) where they regularly sold for $5-$9 but at some point Safeway decided to just dump the line and they sold them out for as little as 50c. This was a golden time for me as a collector as I could go in with pocket money and come out with fat stacks of books.

These were important books for me, I’m a huge proponent of reading everything you can get your hands on, not just things that people regard as “great literature” yes these are fairly bubble gum but as a young person they taught me that sometimes great phrases and setups appear in not so great books and sometimes reading a book that’s not so great teaches you what not to do. So, they were important to me as a reader and as a writer.

What became of my nearly complete collection?

When I turned 30 I decided that I didn’t need it anymore. I thought that maybe it was a little childish to carry around such well-worn symbols of my childhood and maybe it could go to a better place. So the collection was put in a box and donated. I don’t regret it. It’s not like I’m going to sit down and read “Harry Sullivan’s War” now. But the shadow of these books still looms large. They were important to me and deserved to be honoured as such.





My grandfather died a scant week and a half ago. There’s no doubt “He’d had a good run” although just where the fuzzy boundary between “Had a good run”, “Did alright for himself”,  “That’s a shame” and “Won’t be taking home a prize in the life olympics” no-one quite seems sure about. For myself I neither know nor care. He raised me, he’s been in my life my whole life and I will miss him. Therefore I am sad. This isn’t a termianal condition but it is affecting me more than I would like. What is werid about grief that they don’t seem to talk about is the fatigue. The first few days I was just tired. Bone tired. The kind of tired you get after running a marathon and doing calculus.

Being the families designated speech maker I got told that I would be giving the Eulogy at the funeral. Normally if you give me a topic and ask for 300 words I can give you something in around 20 minutes. Give me a couple of hours and it would actually be worth reading. For the first time I can remember I got writers block. As I always do in times of trouble I turned to my friend Jaimie. And she reminded me of a few things that I had forgotten. And helped me write the following. Thankyou your kindness is never forgotten or wasted.

James Gleeson Eulogy

First, I’d like to just say that it is an honour to speak here today. When I was asked to speak about Jim though, I found writing this daunting. Not because there isn’t much to say, but because there is so much to say. The facts of his life alone would take all the time we have. And they are compelling. And I found out things that I didn’t know even now he’s gone. For instance, I didn’t know that he ran a toy shop. I didn’t know up until recently that he had been a vegetarian till he was 18 and joined the army where that kind of thing wouldn’t fly, but perhaps this is not as interesting to me as how I felt about him. So, I’m going to tell you about that instead.

Bertrand Russell wrote:

“An individual human existence should be like a river – small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly and, in the end, without any visible break they become merged with the sea and lose their individual being. The man who, in old age, can see his life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death since the things they love will continue.” 

Jim loved: New televisions, a well-cooked fish more than anyone I have ever met. Organ music, electronics, vintage radio’s, a bargain, he would defend at any and every opportunity the Leyland P76 a poorly regarded car that he had bought but, maintained that it had a great engine and space for a 44-gallon drum in the boot. And he loved his church, and Jesus, quoting the Bible and he loved. You….Us….   

When I say Jim Gleeson “was the best of us” it’s not an idle commiseration for those of us left behind.  It is customary to say wonderful things about our departed loved ones, but in this instance, there is no shortage of laudable qualities that Jim possessed.

Grampy/James/Jim/Uncle Jimmy/ dad/poppy Jim was born in 1922 to Rubie and John Gleeson the last of nine children.

At 18 he joined the army and spent 4 years in New Guinea at Port Moresby. The war left an indelible mark on him as it did almost every one of his generation. After four years his legendary patience wore thin, and was building a raft to head home when the war finally ended. He met Dorothy Brown on leave in Brisbane and in 1945 married Dorothy in Albury/Wodonga and was with her till her death nearly twenty years ago now.

In the 1970’s He was a member of the Ormond Church and elder at the East Bentleigh Presbyterian Church and went to Arakoon Mornington Island on mission work amongst the aboriginals to provide them with electricity.  He did everything from running a successful electrical business to be the manager of a toy store, although I do find it hard to imagine Jim in a position to give toys away and being able to resist doing so.

I have never met anyone as generous as Jim, not just with family but with anyone he met. If you needed it, he would literally give you the shirt of his back. If you liked something in his house, he would ask if you wanted it. Not because he didn’t need it but because there was a possibility that it would make you happy.

If we love, we grieve. The mathematics of the universe are set, terrible and beautiful. Love and sadness will always go hand in hand. It is natural that we should be sad today because in a practical sense Jim is no longer a physical part of our everyday world. No phone calls, no cards on birthdays. I don’t think there is anyone here who does not feel themselves enriched for having had Jim in their everyday world.

He will be remembered as a husband, a father, a grandfather, a good friend, a parishioner a faithful servant and example to us all. His influence lives on in the unending consequences that flow from his life and from his character.

I of course didn’t get to meet Jim till the 1970’s when he was retired but somehow perpetually busy. Either helping his son James or working on his own projects to improve the lives of people around him. He always had something to do. Always somewhere to be, always in motion, working, creating, thinking. It was an example that I noted well.  For me I remember him as someone who was always there, reliable, dependable, always willing to listen, always had time for me, never turned me away in a time of need. I suppose the memories I will cherish are times I spent with him making things in the garage, helping me as a young boy trying to achieve my dreams of making a workshop I could tinker in. Helping me build whatever seemed good to my tiny young mind to build on that day. Everything from cubby houses, to cars. I’ll remember him holding my hand when I fell over, looking after me when I was sick. Watching the Sunday night movie with me and explaining over breakfast what had happened when the movie had gone on past my bed time. Although sometimes when I went to bed he changed the channel and, so he told me what happened in the movie that he watched instead. Which, could be terribly confusing. I remember him spending the days with me at Sea World on the Gold Coast, after the first day he had no interest in going on any further rides, but he generously stayed with me and went on any ride I wanted to. Although he drew the line at my desire to break the record of “most times on the corkscrew rollercoaster in a row.”

Couldn’t tell a joke to save his life but he was charming, oh my goodness people were charmed by Jim, he would talk to anyone. But more importantly he would listen to anyone.  “Hey, come and meet this person that I’ve met, they are very interesting, and I’d go over and he would say “This is my grandson……. Robert…., Mark! Christopher!!

When I was younger I didn’t appreciate the kind of person that Jim was, now I aspire to be like him. It’s hard not to judge people, to be warm and genuine and selfless, to just want everyone in your sphere to be happy. But Jim did it and it didn’t look like effort to me. That was just who he was. Many people could have come through the war bitter and angry, without faith in humanity. But Jim was always seeing the best in people. I remember him once saying to me. “You know, I’ve been thinking, those Japanese that were over there that we were fighting, well, they didn’t want to be there anymore that we did now did they?” I agreed that they probably didn’t, but I didn’t appreciate the gravity of this statement when I heard it. I do now.

The other thing that I will always carry with me is Jim’s curiosity. He was always curious about things, news, events, other people, you, how things work and how they could work better.

He was uncomplaining, uncompromising in the way he accepted what came throughout his life but particularly towards the end. He understood that things are as they are, and every river eventually meets the sea. A few months ago, Jim he was in hospital and things were looking bleak, I visited him, and he asked me what the doctors had said. I told him, and he said “Well, I’d like to make to Christmas at least” and he did.

I am lucky. I got to have him as my grandfather, only a few people had that privilege. I carry his inheritance with me always – his kindness, his sense of purpose, his love for life and family, the lessons he leaves us through the way he lived among us. I’ll always miss him, but I know what he left me.

Why I can’t stand Star trek Discovery

*Spoilers…I guess…but I can’t bring myself to care*


Ok so let’s go on a pros and cons basis.


It looks amazing. In the last episode there was a moment where Mudd and Burhnam are standing in Captain Lorcha’s office and it just looks wonderful. This is movie grade cinematography.

I liked the idea of Mudds time travel device even if it is nothing new. (See Startrek TNG: Cause and Effect, Groundhog Day, Buffy: Life Serial, Doctor Who: Megalos, Doctor Who: Heaven Sent, The Outerlimits: DeJavu, Red Dwarf: White Hole, Startrek TNG: Time Squared, Startrek Voyager: Coda    et cetera, et cetera… Memo bis punitor delicatum! It’s all there! Black and white, clear as crystal! *Slams down candy on bench*)Wonka

I enjoyed the two-hour pilot even if I wish that Michell Yoh’s captain was the actual captain that we had.





Everyone on the show is an Idiot.

Burhnam is not logical in any way shape or form. Even for a human she’s illogical, for a Starfleet officer she’s positively insane. Impulsive doesn’t being to cut it.

Lorcha is not just a flawed hero, he’s running a hipster Wunderkabner in the ships basement.

There is no way “Ash” Tyler isn’t a Klingon spy.

Stamets was the best character but now he’s tripping on shrooms all the time…speaking of which…

The conceit of the show is NUTS. Warp technology is farfetched, but the mushroom drive is hippy bullshit. Hippy bullshit that does not appear in the show in the future at all (Like did you know that shrooms open up the universe to you man? It’s all connected, think about it. Connected). It’s not even mentioned. (cut to them putting the spores in a big crate marked “TOP SECRET” and shipping it into a warehouse at the end of the season, cut to very happy Tardigrade)

In the last episode the plot of the show was stopped so that Michael and the security officer could have a “moment” that they would never remember. A fact that Statmets knew.

The episode before that was terrible. Just terrible. As Spock’s father dies he unburdens himself on Michael making it more unreasonable that we have never heard of her before.

Saru is just the “No” character. He is one dimensional and one note. It’s small wonder we haven’t seen his species before they are super annoying.

The writing is terrible. Let’s take one example: Spoiler for “Context is for Kings” a title that is far too literal here. Burhnam and co go onboard the “Glenn” where they find an angry and giant Tardigrade. It is made clear that the Tardigrade is impervious to phaser 120815_ti_tardigrade_freefire and has taken out an entire Klingon taskforce. It can also chew through bulkheads and whatever the walls of a starship are made of Unobtanium I’m guessing in this new iteration of Trek. So how would you capture such a creature? Well your guess is as good as mine because that happened off screen. Sure why not do the impossible off screen because why would that be interesting? I guess it’s assumed that the creature is beamed into the holding cell which is re-enforced with force fields but that was an INSANE risk. Which is what the crew of the Discovery take all the time. BTW now that Staments is part mushroom you’d think he’d be happier with the Captain keeping him in the dark and feeding him bullshit and indeed he seems to be.


So, in conclusion no I do not like this show. But I don’t have the same problems that others seem to have such as; female protagonist *shrug* her name being Michael *once again shrug* a perceived left wing liberal agenda being injected into a utopian future? If anything, I’d say it’s not utopian enough. Also, have those people even seen Star Trek? The Klingons are ridiculous in their single dimensionality and the fact that they can’t talk properly through their fake teeth. It’s clearly set in the Kelvin Timeline no matter what anyone says and that in itself isn’t a damning conceit but goodness the writing is shit. And I can’t forgive that.


This week is national carers week in Australia.

Watching someone you love battle demons and not being able to do anything material about it fucking sucks. I’m sure it’s the same for other issues other than depresison. I don’t have the experience with other issues so I can’t speak to them.

This is the reality of being with someone who has depression. This isn’t a complaint, it’s not a guilt trip, and it’s not even a warning. It is a calm if sad acknowledgement of the facts. Depression is like a mountain, I can wish it were not there but wishing won’t move the mountain. In this case it’s not even my mountain to move. Obviously when someone you love is in pain you want to be as helpful as you can be. But when issues are so deep, so ingrained, so personal you can only be so helpful. You can tell them what you think, what you might change if you were in their position, you can suggest strategies, you can be honest, blunt, objective, kind, empirical and soothing when they cannot be. But tugging on one thread often reveals that what you thought was solid ground was in fact just a light scaffold that could come down at any second. Sometimes hearing just how close to the edge that person is just knocks the wind out of you.

It’s hard because you want to make a difference. You want to be the balm that soothes them. You want to make it all better. It’s childish in a way. But it’s an understandable impulse. You want to be important to them. What’s the good of you if you can’t help them feel better when they are in pain? It may not be a rational thought but it sure is an understandable one.

It’s important to acknowledge that we who love those in pain are also affected. It’s important to acknowledge that it’s hard. This isn’t a slight to those in pain. It’s not a zero-sum game. My acknowledgment doesn’t somehow take away or minimise from their suffering. I wish I were strong enough to feel that kind of anguish and still turn up to life every day. But it’s also worth admiring those that stick by them and understanding those that can’t.

And so sometimes, because you only have so much fortitude and so many tools you just have to sit there and watch them fall apart, but you’re not doing nothing, you’re wondering.  Wondering if a better person would be doing something differently. If a smarter person would have more answers, if a stronger person would be able to lean in and shoulder the burden better. Wondering if a someone else would know just the right thing to do at this moment when you have no idea.

Because it feels so wrong just to accept that you can’t do anything. Of course, it is wrong, you do, do things. You help. Your presence matters, it does make it better but right there in that moment it’s hard to see how. Neither of you have the perspective to see what things would be like without you.

But people who care for others are important.

What the left needs to stop doing.

So, I’m about as left-wing as they come. “So left wing I only fly in circles” as Rodney Dangerfield may be saying if he were left-wing and not dead.

But some things about the left shit me. One of them is that the left has is high horse that they love climbing on at the expense of any rationality.

For instance: Recently there was a shooting in Las Vegas, it happened at a concert, the guitarist in the band that was playing at the time, a life-long second amendment supporter. After the event he changed his tune. He came out publically and said “Ok, guns are bad. I was wrong”

And he got attacked.

The feeling seemed to be that if you are going to change your mind you must have access to a time machine and do it pre-emptively and before you have reached the conclusions that you have reached.

Let’s think about this:

  1. Changing your mind should be celebrated. Should it take a tragedy for people to change their mind? No but let’s think about all the people who saw that tragedy and didn’t change their mind while you are railing against the people who did the right thing they getting a free pass?
  2. There is something that you are tragically, execrably and horribly wrong about.  It doesn’t matter what it is. But it’s there. NO-ONE is exempt from being wrong. Now maybe at some point you will change your mind about that thing, maybe you already have, it doesn’t matter. Let’s not act like we are all perfect beings with perfect knowledge from the womb and we have never been wrong about anything. That is the height of hypocrisy and delusion.
  3. When was the last time you came out and publicly admitted you were wrong? I’m sorry is that never? Yeah, never would be par for the course. This guy did. That is to be applauded.
  4. Can people not have legitimate differences from reasoned standpoints? You think this guy was wrong, ok that’s totally fine. But then he changed his mind to your standpoint and you still had a go at him? Sorry that seems less like you have a legitimate difference and more like you’re an asshole.
  5. Do people have to know what you do when you know it? Is that how the world works is it?
  6. Judgement is easy, forgiveness is hard. So you’re taking the easy route. Good on you, that’s never gone wrong.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people changed their mind on the evidence instead of after a tragedy? Sure it would. And there is such a thing as too little, too late. But this guy wasn’t the shooter, he was just a guitarist in a band. And he even made an EXCELLENT point. “We had security they had guns, guns they wouldn’t draw because they knew when the police arrived they would be shot”

And yet again I saw this today from a page on Christians who are now supporting SSM but at one point did not. So here’s my message to people from the left who want to marginalise and antagonise those who change their mind. Fuck off. If you haven’t changed your mind about anything then you have probably never really thought about anything deeply. Changing your mind demonstrates that you have at least spent time working through a problem. That you have analysed the issue. It’s easy to feel you are right. Hard to admit you are wrong. Take your hat off to the better person, extend your hand, hold your tounge.




I’m going to talk about human experience and psychology and I’ll try to keep it on topic. Basically even though humans are empathy engines, we have certain blind spots. One of the major identified blind spots is that we can’t extrapolate experience from facts, only from stories. So a 900 people dying in an earthquake in Sumatra does not have the same gut punch as when that little girl Ann who lives near you, remember when she was run over by a drunk driver? she was trying to save her new puppy “Arlo” when it ran across the road, she was dragged 52 feet whilst still alive, the people who witnessed it are still kept awake by her cries.

To empathise with people, we usually need to have perspective so we have trouble not thinking that our sorrows are the worst sorrows that there are. Privilege leads to lack of perspective. I can cognitively know that someone who is below the poverty line is having a worse time of it for me but it’s hard to FEEL that. I might think “Well I’ve been poor” which is true I have, when I was younger I had weeks where it was a choice between food and rent but I also had a support structure that meant I didn’t starve and I probably couldn’t have starved in the street. The number of times I actually went hungry were few. I might also think “Well if they had a job or a better job than they wouldn’t have this problem” and this is where we run into our first difficulty. I have been unemployed. BUT by and large I’ve been working in good well paid jobs nearly my entire adult life. I have a good work ethic, I think that I am a good employee, I think I bring a lot to a job. It is difficult for me to think “I am an educated white male who speaks well and went to a private school and that privilege has got me jobs” because it didn’t feel easy. I worked hard and it feels like I did most, if not all of it myself. It’s very hard for me to pinpoint where if anywhere my privilege would have given me a leg up.

Thinking this also leads to a paradox. Am I where I want to be in life? Wealth? Love? Other aspects? If not, then I have to quietly admit that I either don’t work hard enough OR there are some aspects of life that working hard won’t overcome. Others may have had advantages, good fortune…perhaps some privileges that I didn’t. Once again we fall into this meritocritious fallacy that we all on some level buy into “I work hard, therefore I will be successful and good things will come” but we rarely ever see that in everyday experience.

If you think that privilege for most people means that they sail into jobs and it just rains money, then you are more deluded than those you rail against. In the top 1% it might work like that but the average experience is VERY different. If and when privilege kicks in it is often only a small leg up. It’s there but it’s not some secret handshake that makes all doors open for you. Usually it just means that some never quite shut.

While we are at it, this may come as a shock. But life isn’t easy for anyone. We all have to deal with life’s tiny pins no matter what. My friends still die, my love life is still chaos. I feel that have no real idea how to be a father and that bothers me. I still worry about things, I still have to overcome adversity. It’s just not the same level of adversity. Or, sometimes it is. I still have to live my life. I still ball up and cry on the couch when bad things happen, it is a nicer couch though and I own it. In my day-to-day I am probably no happier or sadder than anyone else. What I do have is a safety net. But an invisible safety net is often no comfort.

Think about it like this. Without perspective people just don’t realise what a dick they are being, with perspective they usually stop. People in pain ask for pain medication, in hospitals there is a pain scale and you are asked how bad the pain is from 1-10 and how much relief you would like. Uniformly if people say it’s above an 8 then they request strong pain medication. In war however it’s different. People at war often report terrible wounds only being around 3-5 and often refuse medication. Why? Because they have perspective. You aren’t going to waste valuable medication when your buddy has no legs. You KNOW what real pain is by this stage. Mild discomfort can be tolerated, not medicated.

Saying that I have privilege because I’m a white male also doesn’t tell the whole story. I am not a single vector. I’m also an atheist, a nerd (not a jock), divorced, with a history of anxiety and depression. So it might be easy to slap a PRIVILEGED WHITE MALE sticker on me and call it a day, but that’s not really a fair picture.

I don’t want to think I have privilege. I want to think that I achieved what I achieved on my own merits. I don’t want some invisible hand assisting me. This might be the thing that leads people to say “Yes bad things happen; you know what I do? I suck it up.” And do you know why this is such a prevalent attitude? Because there’s an element of truth to it, bad things do happen, but we still have to endure. What is the alternative? What we might not see is that for some people enduring is MUCH harder than for us.

But…..If we are outraged at everything then nothing is outrageous anymore. Not every little thing deserves to be blown up and scrutinised to death. Not everything is someone else fault either. Not everything is rooted in malice. In fact, most things aren’t. Yes, there are assholes. Yes, there are people who are actively love making other people’s lives misery. And when I see then I will come with you to protest them, or laugh with you when they get punched in the face. But they are in the vast minority. And our culture does itself no favors by making everything louder than everything else.

Yes, there is privilege. But it’s not just that people can’t see it, they don’t want to see it because it changes their story. We all want to believe that we are the plucky hero struggling against great odds to live a better life. And in that narrative, there is no room for some magical assistance that we can’t even see making our lives easier than for our neighbor who happens to be female, foreign or of a different sexuality.

“I know that I am not right about everything, and yet I am simultaneously convinced that I am. I believe these two things completely, and yet they are in catastrophic logical opposition to each other.” Will Storr

It’s difficult to deny privilege exists. But it’s also difficult to quantify, difficult to identify and difficult to stop and it’s difficult to see how I have privilege.

Privilege is when armed white men can take over a federal building in Oregon in the US, saying that they are prepared to fight, conduct an armed standoff with police for a number of days and then be acquitted of doing anything wrong. A simple thought experiment will tell you what might happen if people of any other nationality were to try that.

Privilege is where nobody looks at me and wonders if I am fulfilling a diversity quota at my job. This is an example of an unkind thought that I’ve had about someone that made me realise how privileged I am.

I am not considered a drunk, even though I drink and often, people don’t make the “drinky, drinky” motion behind my back or wonder aloud “What it is with my people and alcohol”. People do not worry about me being violent even though most spousal abuse is perpetrated by white men.

Nobody is surprised when I turn out to be an articulate, educated white guy.

When I make a mistake no-one says “Typical White people” if I’m a bad driver no-one goes “I don’t want to seem racist…. but he IS white”.

Privilege is never having to change my name to anything that is easily digestible for a white audience. (although when on the phone people still call me “Mike” for some reason I’ll never understand)

Privilege is not having any terrible historical event that is prescient in your thinking that people will tell you “You have to get over”. Because your race was the one doing all the terrible things to everyone else. “Because we had the better technology”. Because that’s an excuse.

It took me a long time to believe in privilege. Because I was fighting all these factors.

One of the first steps towards realising that privilege was real was this logic puzzle.

“A boy and his father are injured in a car accident. The boy and father are taken to separate hospitals. But when the boy is wheeled into surgery the surgeon sees the boy and the surgeon says “I cannot operate on this boy, he is my son”. How can this be true?

The fact that I didn’t immediately know the answer told me something.

These are complicated issues. And let’s be honest there are idiots on both sides that muddy the water. You have to be better than to listen to fringe elements on either side and then mistake that for the majority view.

Pauline Hanson is right.

HA! just kidding. See what I did there? There are few things I like less than Pauline Hanson. It’s as if a deity said, “Let’s put all the things that Chris despises about humanity in one package”

  1. Xenophobic? Check
  2. Inarticulate? Check
  3. A celebration of ignorance over substance? Check
  4. Fear driven politics? Check
  5. Uses patriotism to hurt people rather than bring them together? Check



“These are a few of my favorite things…”


She is the living embodiment of the childish impulse in people to play with the box the toy came in, that’s all she is. Wrapping.

But, she will not be to blame if there is a terrorist attack.

Pauline is an idiot. Her Burka stunt in parliament recently made everyone stand up and take notice…. That…… George Brandis may not be the morally bankrupt angry potato that we have always suspected. But even though she’s a repugnant moron with the wit of a deceased herring. She will not be responsible for the next attack. Terrorists don’t need excuses to be terrorists. And their radicalisation isn’t going to begin and end with Pauline Hanson. Her supporters don’t have that comfort, however. There is the good reason to believe that anti-Muslim sentiment may well radicalise youth faster than the promise of 72 ready virgins. But that is also victim blaming and abdication of responsibility. No, no-one can or should say Pauline and her abhorrent views are helping. They aren’t. And she should be deserted for what she thinks and says. But she also should have the right to say what she likes, without someone murdering people because of it. And the Greens should know better. The response to terrorism shouldn’t be to silence our morons but to allow the freedom for people to say what they like. After all, that’s exactly what the terrorists are fighting against (if your playing the Chris Tyler Ruins everything drinking game you should drink now).  Should we listen to Pauline? Of course not, she’s a fucking moron. But really, it’s the worst thing you can say about a group, ever, that some idiot doing fancy dress in parliament might make them angry enough for them to murder our citizens.


Review: A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian

It’s easy to be critical of Peter Boghossian. He’s an asshole.


Truly. Whilst I might agree with many points in this book, whilst I might have sympathy for the ideas that it puts forward and whilst I might love the Socratic method or believe that everyone should study logic. I might even believe that people should be honest when they don’t know something and that engaging people in honest debate is a good thing. It’s all kind of ruined by the fact that Boghossian is a massive inconsistent asshole.

Boghossian wants other Athiests to be “Street Epistemologists” that is to say; people who use logic and reason and the Socratic method to “prove” to other people that their faith is incorrect. And he has created a manual for this.

I guess I kind of diverge from Boghossian on a number of different levels.

  1. I think that people’s faith is their own business. Of course, if someone engages you then sure, I have no problem debating them but I’m not about to spend hours on a bus or a plane bleating on about how Pascals Wager is bullshit when all the guy next to me wants to do is sleep and maybe watch the new Marvel offering.
  2. I worry about having a planned conversation when I think that in honest debates you simply “Tell the truth as you see it”.
  3. I don’t want to have to explain Logic to someone who has never studied it. I’m going to sound like an arrogant asshole……like a more arrogant asshole.

The anecdotes that Boghossian all kind of follow the same form “I met this person, I engaged with them, they seemed more than happy to talk about their faith even though every time I open my mouth I step outside the bounds that normal society would allow and then…I never hear from them again. Did they turn into Atheists? I have no idea”

You know if I were writing a “manual” I would want to know that what I were writing a manual about really worked.

Perhaps worse is that there are lots of good reasonable and convincing objections to religious argument and religious apologetics. But either Peter doesn’t know them or he decided in a book that is supposedly devoted to arguing with thiests that they are not worth knowing about.

Maybe that’s not fair. Some of the advice he gives is ok. Some of what he says makes sense. His introduction to the Socratic method is….ok. Not the best I’ve read but not terrible. But he does far from giving you a real insight into debate, different styles of debate and how to engage with someone who isn’t on board with your position.

Instead he says, “Attack their faith” faith to him is the weak point. Faith is “Pretending to know something you don’t” well maybe. I would say that that is certainly an atheist’s definition of faith. I wonder if theists have a different one? Broadly I agree, going head to head with apologetics can send you down a rabbit hole of dubious logic and slightly bendy thought process. You can hear things like “But atheists just have faith in science!” or “Just being able to conceptualise God means that there is one” or “The fact there are Atheists means that there is a God” or my favourite “Science belongs to Christians, all scientists are Christians” But conversations

s-ATLAH-large.jpgYou can hear things like “But atheists just have faith in science!” or “Just being able to conceptualise God means that there is one” or “The fact there are Atheists means that there is a God” or my favourite “Science belongs to Christians, all scientists are Christians” But conversations are give and take, and his suggestion to “Just take control of the conversation” might not sit well with…oh I don’t know…anyone. Now some people might argue that I do that anyway but doing it deliberately is a different story.

What he does put forward might be of dubious use to you. He talks about how all beliefs can be “Properly basic” (the idea that a belief can be so self-evident that it requires no justification or any kind of Doxastic requirement) and so leads us to the great Pumpkin argument. Which is fine but he doesn’t talk about the thorny area you might be in if your mark knows Plantinga’s rebuttal. Which is a shame because it might not be immediately obvious why this isn’t a good objection (in my opinion). In fact, he seems to have no idea what to do if the person you are talking to has any apologetic background at all. I guess you either use your own brain or run. I suspect Peter would run. Now I write manuals and I know you can’t cater of all contingencies. But then that’s why you teach the basics at the start.  Now look I personally think that there is no good argument for having a non-doxastic belief but that doesn’t mean that other people might not have a different opinion, or a good reason (heh) for believing something like that and it seems to me that if you go in going “I’m just going to destroy this person’s faith” then you aren’t entering the argument with any intellectual honest.

And then there’s this….

“in the last 2400 years of intellectual history, not a single argument for the existence of God has withstood scrutiny. Not one. Aquinas’s five proofs, fail. Pascal’s Wager, fail. Anselm’s ontological argument, fail. The fine-tuning argument, fail. The kalam cosmological argument, fail. All refuted. All failures.” – Peter Boghossian A Manual for Atheists.

GREAT! I’m keenly interested in how all these arguments fail…. wait…. where do you list where they fail? A paragraph? A precis? A footnote?


So, and yet another entry into the “Annoying Atheist” camp. I read an article recently that basically said “Hey, if you’re an atheist you might as well convert because people don’t trust you and the people who represent you are assholes”. Well it wasn’t a persuasive argument but Peter Boghossian isn’t helping.




Do I really have to write this?


Oh goodness.

Ok fine.

Here’s my take on Marriage equality.

I have no interest in Marriage. I feel that it’s an outdated union originally religious and social in nature I feel that it no longer reflects the society that we live in. I feel that it’s a celebration that comes before doing the thing that is worth celebrating. Why not have a big party after you’ve been together for 10, 20 or 30 years? That would be worth celebrating. As for a commitment ceremony? Well, why? If it’s over it’s over whether you are married or not. As a ceremony that signifies a holy union? Well,…that’s not really for me.  However, I do realise that I may well be an embittered curmudgeon and there are certain legal rights that come with being married that people may wish to have. But even though I want no truck with it I respect that people I know want to be married and I respect that they feel differently to me for a multitude of reasons. And frankly, as far as I am concerned if they want to be married that’s good enough for me. Whether they be gay, straight, some kind of supernaturally animated stationary. Whatever.

Done! Ok, lets mov…what? What do you mean that’s not good enough?

When my friends get married it’s important to me that they have a good time, that it goes well. That affects me. When people I don’t know get married. Well. There is no possible reasonable way that it can affect me in any way shape or form, without some kind of strange and unusual circumstance.

It might be glib and pithy to say “If you don’t want gay marriage don’t get one” but it sums up how I feel completely.

Just like I don’t want a wedding, but I don’t begrudge anyone else one. I would hope some of my friends might be surprised at my thoughts towards marriage. Why? Because it’s my attitude and my business. Not everything I think needs to be broadcast to the world especially things that are personal beliefs that affect no-one else. I don’t think I have ever said to any of my friends “Don’t do it!” even as a joke. Hopefully, I have always been as supportive as I can possibly be when friends of mine get married.

Will I be voting yes in the coming Plebiscite?


Why? Because my beliefs and attitudes shouldn’t affect anyone else ESPECIALLY when these things really don’t affect me.


Should there be a bloody plebiscite? No. The government should either shit or get off the pot. They should either say “It’s our job to make decisions, it’s our job to do what is best for the Australian people and it’s our job to make life equitable for our citizens no matter what our own personal beliefs” and just do it. OR they should say “It isn’t going to happen. We don’t like it, we can’t get it together and we can’t make it work because of religious bigotry, maybe the next government will represent all citizens”

I have never heard an argument against same sex marriage that wasn’t religious. And even these usually boil down to “Won’t someone think of the children”.  And frankly, that’s not good enough.

As for a “respectful debate” I’ve already heard both Bronwyn Bishop and some minister go on about the slippery slope argument as in “What next, people marrying animals?” to which I would respond. “What next? People getting divorced? People allowed to marry their cousins or uncles? Or foreigners?” Or in Bronwin’s case their helicopters. So, I look forward to a really respectful debate in the next month. Don’t forget to enroll and be part of the needless bullshit that should have been sorted out at a ministerial level but is none the less the right thing to do anyway.

Category Errors or the problem of information

Some of you have never had the pleasure of arguing with a creationist. And you have no idea the joy that comes from seeing their little squishy faces. One of the things that creationists talk about. A LOT is that “Information can’t come from nothing; you need an intelligence to “write” information…so explain DNA!…smartarse”

DNA is an amazing substance. It’s just a chemical, simple in many ways but what it does is so complicated that we still don’t really know exactly how it works. The popular consensus is that DNA carries information from our parents and ancestors but just saying this is a category error. Because the way that we use the word “information” and its associated connotations, suddenly “information” is being used in an eccentric way.  What we really mean is that it carries “Data”. Why am I being so pedantic? Well let’s look at it.

Information requires a sender, a receiver and a decoder. We humans are “intelligent receivers”, which means that we are capable of divining information from inert sources such as data sets. Data is raw, it’s not directed or intelligent, it requires no sender and it requires an intelligent receiver for interpretation.

A rock falling is not consciously giving out information, a boiling kettle is not intelligently sending a message, a blooming flower is not consciously trying to tell bee’s that it’s ready and yet as an intelligent receiver I can take all this information, gather facts and create assumptions. To an intelligent receiver the world is filled with useful and not very useful data.

Further muddying the water is the human tendency towards apophenia and paerodolia.  Seeing patterns where none exist and divining meaning from random data.

In 1967 the first signals from Pulsars were detected. Pulses of extremely loud broad spectrum bursts were separated by 1.33 seconds, originated from the same location on the sky, and kept to sidereal time. It was first thought that these were too regular to be anything but an indication of alien life. Finally they were signalling us. They even called the signal LGM-1 or Little Green Men. But of course it turned out that this was not a signal. We thought it might have been information..but it was only data. We now know that a Pulsar is a spinning pulsating star. Spewing out gigantic bursts of broad spectrum radiation from one side of the star. But for a moment that star looked like an intelligent signal. This is a form of paradolia. But the signal has no intrinsic intelligence behind it, it is we that brought meaning to it.

So to intelligent receivers we can divine data from different sources and we can also make mistakes.

And this is the mistake we make with DNA. It SEEMS intelligent and yet the evidence says that it’s not.

So we are special, we as intelligent receivers have the ability to make sense or data, but what of our poor dumb companions on this planet. Could intelligence have evolved? Without an intelligent receiver? The answer must be, yes.

Evolution to an unintelligent receiver presents no problem because natural selection overcomes its lack of intelligence. By giving living organisms the harsh lessons, those that are pre-disposed to dangerous action do not get to reproduce. Those that make mistakes do not get to reproduce. Over LONG periods of time the organism “learns” even if it does not have any cognisance of the useful information that has been imparted.

Creationists like to talk about information as if it has an intrinsic value and life of its own. The analogy is inevitably bought to computers who have to be programed. The trouble with this analogy is that computers only contain the representation of information, not the information itself. The words, not the meaning. What good is information if you cannot receive it? In effect a computer is a long delay line between a sender and a receiver just like a book is. But the map is not the territory. As amazing as they are, they have yet to evolve beyond sophisticated calculating and information retrieval systems. Computers cannot yet comprehend the information that is stored within them. I’m not going to get any deeper on this because this is close to where we run out of understanding. Some might ask “How do we know that humans comprehend the information we are receiving” and that’s an excellent question. One I am not equipped to answer.

Creationists believe that because we are calling DNA “information” then it must have been encoded from an intelligent source. “Information can’t come from nothing” they say and they are right. But data is just there. It requires no intelligence to have placed it anywhere, merely a set of forces that are in action in the universe to have something happen to observe or be acted upon. They believe that since a computer is programed, DNA must have been programed. But DNA is not information. It is a representation of learned and earned chemical interactions that have happened over some millennia.

There is an old joke.

Three people are arguing about what the world’s greatest invention is:

“It has to be vaccines” says Greg, “think of how many lives have been saved because of vaccines, diseases that would have run ramshod over populations have been nearly eradicated”

“Vaccines are good” says Dawn “but I think it has to be the Telephone, the telephone has been at the forefront of every communications advancement that we have made, because of it we are able to talk to people on the other side of the world, we are able to speak to astronauts on space stations because of this one great breakthrough”

“You’re both mad” says Jim, “Clearly the world’s best invention is the thermos”

Greg and Dawn look at him incredulously.

“The Thermos?” Says Dawn”

“The thermos” Says Jim defiantly “think about it, it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold, I mean…how does it know?” Back when I heard this joke Jim was Irish.

Yes, DNA contains meaningful data but no more meaningful than the match is to paper. It creates complicated reactions. The only reason that we see DNA as a code is because we have invented codes. We have cyphers. We have bought meaning to DNA not the other way around.

We are, as far as we can tell or know right now. Unique. There is nothing like the human experience that we know of in the world. But that does not mean that we were created by an even bigger, more powerful version of ourselves.