The minefield of prediction

Did anyone predict the internet?

There are several candidates for people who may have predicted “the internet”. It might seem an easy task. Just check out all the predictions and decide who was closest. But sadly it’s not that simple. Mainly because the predictions are often hidden in books, movies, and even music and while some of them seem spot on, often it’s left to the interpretation of the reader/watcher to say what they really meant. What I’m not including is predictions of things that already existed. Anyone who predicted videophones after 1930 was predicting the past, anyone one who was predicting a service you could call to find out anything like a call-up encyclopaedia was predicting the past because “The Mundaneum” had existed in Brussels since 1910. The Mundaneum was and is a card service you could call up and request any fact you liked. Basically Wikipedia you could either write to or call. And that’s awesome but what about genuinely prescient predictions?

First in our list of predictions is a very familiar name.

Jules Verne

Here is Verne staring off into the future….or rather the past as that is all anyone can stare at…

Jules Verne

Jules Verne earned his name as the father of modern science fiction. That guy was amazing. He predicted so much and was so good at sci-fi that his novels are still being read when almost all of his peers have fallen into obscurity.

When: 1864

What: The internet! “Paris in the twentieth century” is hardly what you would call a thrilling read. More like reading a Lonely Planet guide to a place that does not actually exist. And Vern’s publisher knew it, in fact even though Verne was a bankable commodity it was refused publication and the book it sat in a draw for 131 years.  Set in the far off year of 1960, his book describes mechanical computers which can send messages to each other as part of a network: “sophisticated electrically powered mechanical calculators which can send information to each other across vast distances” Cars were powered by internal combustion engines (a bold prediction in the 1860’s) petrol stations….he predicted petrol stations! The electric chair and remote-controlled weaponry.

How good is it?: Well as a concept that is basically the internet as we know it. But of course, the electronic computer was 100 years away. The electromechanical computer was 80 years away and a computer network was at least 100 years hence. The worldwide network described was 130 years away. It’s impressive but in the story, it’s kind of an afterthought. It’s not even used as a plot point. Basically, a Verne goes “Oh we have this thing…”

Mark Twain

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Here is Clemments on his way to a “Looking serious” convention

Samuel Clements is probably the most towering figure in all American literature, a raconteur, a wit, a Bon vivant a friend of Tesla and a detester of bullshit. He’s worth writing about all on his own. But did you know about his forays into science fiction?

When: 1898

What?: From “From the London times 1904” we get this strange prediction.

Set five years into the future, the story starts off as a crime mystery. Clayton, a quick-tempered army officer, is accused of murdering Szczepanik, the inventor of a new and promising device called the Telelectroscope. The tale’s unnamed narrator describes it like this:

As soon as the Paris contract released the telelectroscope, it was delivered to public use, and was soon connected with the telephonic systems of the whole world. The improved ‘limitless-distance’ telephone was presently introduced and the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues.

Facing the hangman’s noose, Clayton asks for, and receives, a telelectroscope for his cell.

…day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people, and realized that by grace of this marvelous instrument he was almost as free as the birds of the air, although a prisoner under locks and bars. He seldom spoke, and I never interrupted him when he was absorbed in this amusement. I sat in his parlor and read, and smoked, and the nights were very quiet and reposefully sociable, and I found them pleasant. Now and then I would hear him say ‘Give me Yedo;’ next, ‘Give me Hong-Kong;’ next, ‘Give me Melbourne.’ And I smoked on, and read in comfort, while he wandered about the remote underworld, where the sun was shining in the sky, and the people were at their daily work.

It sure sounds like an interactive TV but it doesn’t really describe the internet in its myriad of wonder. And unless you’ve actually invented a device it’s always a bad idea to explain how it works…. While Verne’s description of a computer network is vaguer, it’s this vagueness that, ironically makes it seem more accurate.

Em Forester

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Here he is talking to a duck pond

Em forester almost exclusively wrote the kind of novels that you have to sit through in literature class. With people who rattle about Edwardian houses not saying what they mean to other people who stare at the duck pond and mumble. I found them interminable.  And yet his short stories often delved into science fiction. And excellent science fiction to boot.

When: 1909

What: The internet…sort of. He actually predicts the rise of a global machine that runs humans day to day life for them. Cubicles that humans live in are serviced by the machine who takes care of their ever need. But after centuries of being catered to humanity has forgotten how to repair the machine and it is now breaking down. The main characters mother is also an expert on “Music from the Australian period” which I choose to believe means that she carefully studies Midnight Oil.

How good is it?: As a prediction of the internet not amazing. But as a short story, it’s really, really good. And somewhat of a surprise coming from the guy who wrote “The remains of the day”. And who knows it may still predict the next stage of internet evolution?

Nikola Tesla

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You think he’s a genius, he’s thinking about Pigeons .

Tesla might have well as been a science fiction writer for all the stuff he just made up. He’d be easy to dismiss if he hadn’t also invented some of the most important pieces of electronics of the 20th century many of which we still use and rely on. So it’s not surprising that people even at the time took whatever he said seriously.

When: 1928

What: In this prediction, he isn’t, in fact, predicting the internet but the Mobile Phone. Specifically the smartphone. “When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”

Any good?: As with a lot of these predictions, people were all about the sending of live pictures from one place to another  that seemed to be a real thing that people wanted but not so much with the information. Also, it should be noted that people were already experimenting with video phones when this was stated…not least of all Tesla. But it is impressive that he managed to predict the smartphone in my pocket.

William Fitzgerald Jenkins

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This guy!

Murray Leinster used the name William Fitzgerald Jenkins to write for Pulp magazines in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s but unlike a lot of pulp writers of the time H.P, Lovecraft, Richard Matherson, Robert Bloch or L.Ron Hubbard he is all but forgotten today. He described the first instance of a “Universal Translation Device” in his short story “First Contact”. He worked for all the usual suspects such as Hugo Gernsback and John W Cambell Jr. And was well respected at the time.

When: 1946

What? A Logic named Joe, short story.

“You know the logics setup. You got a logic in your house. It looks like a vision receiver used to, only it’s got keys instead of dials and you punch the keys for what you wanna get. It’s hooked in to the tank, which has the Carson Circuit all fixed up with relays. Say you punch “Station SNAFU” on your logic. Relays in the tank take over an’ whatever vision-program SNAFU is telecastin’ comes on your logic’s screen. Or you punch “Sally Hancock’s Phone” an’ the screen blinks an’ sputters an’ you’re hooked up with the logic in her house an’ if somebody answers you got a vision-phone connection. But besides that, if you punch for the weather forecast or who won today’s race at Hialeah or who was mistress of the White House durin’ Garfield’s administration or what is PDQ and R sellin’ for today, that comes on the screen too. The relays in the tank do it. The tank is a big buildin’ full of all the facts in creation an’ all the recorded telecasts that ever was made—an’ it’s hooked in with all the other tanks all over the country—an’ everything you wanna know or see or hear, you punch for it an’ you get it. Very convenient. Also it does math for you, an’ keeps books, an’ acts as consultin’ chemist, physicist, astronomer, an’ tea-leaf reader, with a “Advice to the Lovelorn” thrown in. The only thing it won’t do is tell you exactly what your wife meant when she said, “Oh, you think so, do you?” in that peculiar kinda voice. Logics don’t work good on women. Only on things that make sense.”

An odd kind of sexism aside. That ladies and gentleman is basically the internet to a tea. In fact, if you got my mother to explain the internet I’m pretty sure that’s closer than how she would get.

It’s also not a bad story. It manages to be predictive and entertaining all at the same time as well as providing a cautionary tale of what happens when we get the ability to build “black boxes” creations that are so complex that we can barely understand them ourselves.

A comic strip

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Comic strips have been around in various forms for hundreds of years. ……that’s what I got for that one.

When: 1962

What? Yep….well it was also wildly optimistic about what the internet might be like and the influence that it has on our life. This particular comic strip Our New Age which ran in the Chicago tribune. This particular strip which was authored by Athelstan Spilhaus dean of the Chicago institute of technology predicted that in the near future all main would be electronic and that the post office would only be there to deliver parcels. Researchers thousands of miles away would research books held in the British museum. People will work odd hours because you might work for a company based in another country where the waking hours are different.

It’s not bad, but once again it is almost predicting the time that it was set in. Electronic communication was nothing really new, and people did take jobs in other countries.

Arthur C Clarke

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Here is Clarke giving the bird to exploration

Arthur C Clarke was possibly the world’s first professional futurist. An author he basically invented satellites and with Stanley Kubrick gave pot smokers something to do for two and a half hours.

When: 1964

What?: On the BBC program, Horizon Clarke is asked about the world of the future “We could be in instant contact with each other, wherever we may be, where we can contact our friends anywhere on earth, even if we don’t know their actual physical location. It will be possible in that age, perhaps only 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London…. Almost any executive skill, any administrative skill, even any physical skill, could be made independent of distance. I am perfectly serious when I suggest that one day we may have brain surgeons in Edinburgh operating on patients in New Zealand.” So basically he nailed it. Totally. Except for the bit about super-intelligent chimpanzees which he then goes on about. “We can certainly solve our servant problem with the help of the monkey kingdom” such uplifts from the animal world are explored in his book Rendezvous with Rama where beautiful super intelligent monkeys are on board the ship and then proceed not to be integral to the plot at all.

Honourable Mention: Pete Townsend. Yes, the guy from The Who.

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What: After the Who’s breakout hit smash concept Rock Opera Tommy Pete Townsend decided that another concept album was the way to go this time a Sci-fi Rock opera. Lifehouse:  In the far future Rock and Roll is banned, the world is a polluted wreck and everyone experiences their lives through “Life suits” suits that you wear that take you to other places and give you full body interaction with everyone else in the world. You can go anywhere, do anything the suit provides with sensory stimulation and nutrients as well as exercise. The suit is plugged into “The Grid” where you can share your experience with all other grid inhabitants. You can experience lifetimes in short burst.

Why have I never heard of this?

Well, Townsend wasn’t really well when he was creating this concept and this is just one iteration of it, it went through many variations and spawned at least two Who albums as Townsend tried to get it made. It caused him a nervous breakdown at one point. The main problem seemed to be that aside from this sci-fi concept there was also a whole big chunk on feeding biographical information into computers to create the perfect note. Which no-one else in the band understood and Townsend didn’t seem to be able to explain. It was eventually turned into both a radio play and an album in 2000 but neither set the world alight as the concept was well worn by that stage but in 1971 it was predictive enough to be included here. It features a future that not only includes the internet but may well be the way the internet is going.

Is it good?: Well, the whole “In the far future Rock and Roll is banned” is one of those concepts that surround rock bands whenever they want to do something a little sci-fi. Queen, Aerosmith, and various other groups have all had a toe in the “we are the band that is going to bring back rock after it gets banned”. Queen twice, once in the computer game “The Eye” and once in “We will Rock you” their musical. Apart from that yes it’s quite an impressive prediction from someone not know as either a writer or a futurist. And it spawned “Who’s Next” probably the best Who album in existence.

A Muslim in the Bathtub

Foreword: I have been writing this for a while and whilst it really has nothing to do with the recent events in Orlando (because all evidence points to the fact that that guy wasn’t really a Muslim, was gay and was just an angry disturbed prick) this is just when it came out. I’ve been wanting to write all this down for a while now and…well here it is. An earlier version of this appeared in the now defunct blog “Me, me me it’s all about me” but that was about three pages shorter and not as good.

Say I wander into my bathroom and find water draining from the bath. Do I assume that it has always been draining because I have not witnessed at time when it has not been draining? No that would be ridiculous, but this is exactly the same trap that people fall into regarding many everyday things we see around us. Its call the “Bathtub” fallacy and it’s amazing how often people fall for it.

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On a side note there is a weird tradition of trying to see Arabic writing on fish. This one apparently says “Muhammad is Gods servant and messenger” but on the other side it says “Cow’s are delicious”

If we haven’t been around for the genesis of something then it’s tempting to think that it’s been going on forever. I’m sure there are children around today that believe we have always had T.V. the Internet and mobile phones. When I was a child I was amazed to discover that there was a time that my grandmother could remember when there was no electricity to houses. I was blown away by this. How could something so every day, so ubiquitous not have always been around?

It’s easy for instance to think that Muslims have always been fundamentalist and that the religion lends itself to fundamentalism, strict policies and violence. To us it seems that Islam is a religion that lends itself to such dangerous fundamentalism that other religions can only stand and stare with their mouths open, yes there are moderate Muslims out there but as a whole the entire religion seems to be completely lacking a sense of humor. Suicide bombings, fatwa’s and taking cartoons entirely too seriously don’t help, not to mention ISIL.  Could these people have ever been reasonable?

Islam is a monotheistic religious tradition that developed in the Middle East in the 7th century C.E. Islam, which literally means “surrender” or “submission,” was founded on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of Allah, the creator and sustainer of the world. The Quran, the sacred text of Islam, contains the teachings of the Prophet that were revealed to him from Allah. Essential to Islam is the belief that Allah is the one true God with no partner or equal. Islam like any large religion has several branches and much variety within those branches. Two traditional divisions within the faith are the Sunni and Shi’a, each of which claims different means of maintaining religious authority. One of the unifying characteristics of Islam is the Five Pillars, the fundamental practices of Islam. These five practices include a ritual profession of faith, ritual prayer, the zakat (giving to charity and the needy), fasting, and the hajj (a pilgrimage to Mecca). Many Muslims characterized their commitment by praying to Allah five times a day. One of the defining characteristics of Islam is the primacy of sacred places including Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Muslims gather at mosques to worship Allah, pray, and study scripture. There is no sharp distinction between the religious and secular aspects of life in Islam as you might find in the west or other faiths; all aspects of a Muslim’s life are to be oriented to serving Allah and in obvious ways that are integrated into everyday life. A Muslim rarely “leaves it at church”. After its conception Islam expanded almost immediately beyond its birthplace in the Arabian Peninsula, and now has significant influence in Africa, throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

More pronounced in Islam than in most Christian religions is the idea of abasement. Allah created you and is actively sustaining you. Therefore it is only right and proper to devote yourself to Allah in all things. Your religion is not simply a moral compass that you carry with you thorough the day and then worship on Sundays you are abasing yourself before Allah in all things because he keeping you alive. This is the kind of devotion that I have only ever witnessed personally in one Christian and…to be honest it was creepy. They often said “I do nothing under my own power or my own will, God strengthens me and guides me in all things” later they became a Nun and then a Hari Christina when that didn’t work out (but I digress). Now it’s entirely possible that many Christians believe that this is true of themselves but they rarely state it openly. The commandment from Mohammad was to be devotional, that you carry the responsibility to please your God with you at all times. This is VERY present in the religion on all levels. And this is on top of the usual religious ideology that comes with a major Abrahamic religions. You are powerless before your god and you must do what he wills. How do you know what he wills? Well don’t worry about that, like most religions people will tell you. About 50 times a day. It is possible that it is this seamless integration by faith into everything that makes Muslims susceptible to fanaticism but then. Maybe not.

If the media are to be believed you would think that Muslims want Sharia law for Australia they want to terrorize Bendigo and want all women to wear Burqas. Yet the facts are that there has only been one call for Shira law and that from an extremist who was asked “Would you like sharia law for Australia” and when was the last time you actually saw a woman in a Burqa? Yeah I thought so, that’s because out of all the Muslims in Australia only an estimated 325 actually wear them. And a cursory glance at the Quran will tell you that whilst there are some fairly hard-line aspects to it, it doesn’t contain any rules that are stranger or bloodier than the Old Testament. Yes Mohammad tells people to “Slap the infidel” but as Sam Harris said “There is nothing more bloody and barbaric than the Old Testament, the Quran pales in comparison”. And for once the bastard is right. Although this is the only time you will ever find me agreeing with Sam Harris.

Here’s some samples of the Old Testament;

Ye shall keep the sabbath … every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death.–31:14

He that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him.–24:16

And the man that … will not hearken unto the priest … that man shall die.–17:12

And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine.–49:26

Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.–22:12-13

This is but a sample of the horrors contained within the text, The last one in in fact from the new testament where a guest at a wedding doesn’t have a Tux…so the King has him put to death….and that’s fine with Jesus….

In contrast the Quran is not always quite as full on.

Don’t bother to warn the disbelievers. Allah has blinded them. Theirs will be an awful doom. 2:6

A fire has been prepared for the disbelievers, whose fuel is men and stones. 2:24

Disbelievers will have a painful doom. And they will have no helpers. 3:91

Hell is sufficient for their burning. 4:55

And sometimes it is!

Kill disbelievers wherever you find them. If they attack you, then kill them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. (But if they desist in their unbelief, then don’t kill them.) 2:191-2

I’m not bashing Christianity here, merely pointing out that despite some very upsetting and baffling things in their bible for the most part they get along with other people just fine. I have very good Christian friends whom I’m sure will not put me to death. Even if I turned up to their wedding naked.

In the Quran there is stuff about fighting wars and being prepared to fight and dying for the cause but it’s also couched in this “Don’t worry about the unbeliever, their doomed” kind of thing. Doom is very big for the unbeliever in the Quran.

BUT unlike the bible the Quran has a tone. The Bible is talking to everyone collectively, the Quran is talking to YOU. You the guy in the scarf, yes you. The one with shoes. You the believer, you who wants to do the right thing by the creator who you own your very existence too. You are here to serve. Here’s how you do that.

Of course much like the Bible the Quran is choc full of contradictions.

Do not fight wars of aggression. 2:190    (It’s tempting to laugh at that but think how many passages of the bible Christians ignore when it suits them)

“There is no compulsion in religion.” (But the next verse says that disbelievers will burn forever in Hell.) 2:256

It is good to help the poor and make peace. 4:114  

“O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion.” Other translations render this as “O people of the Book, do not be fanatical in your faith.” 4:171

 Whoever kills a human being, it is as if he had killed all mankind. Whoever saves the life of one, it is as if he had saved the life of all.
(But If I’m being completely honest the next verse says that the enemies of Allah and Muhammad will be killed, crucified, have their hands and feet cut off, or expelled. And after they die they will face SURPRISE! “An awful doom.” So yeah contradictions) 5:32

So if the Quran really isn’t more bloody or violent than the bible, so how it is that Christians for the most part seem to be above rabid bloody fundamentalism? There are exceptions of course and yes the Westborough Baptist church springs to mind, but to be honest there are about 20 of them and abhorrent thought they are, they have never actually killed anyone. So if Christians and people of nearly every other faith can desire to live in a peaceful society where religious pluralism reigns, what is it about the Muslim faith that makes it susceptible to this kind of fanaticism?

Well it’s possible as I mentioned that the tone of the Quran doesn’t help, also Christians make the distinctions between the Old Testament and the New Testament (although people of the Jewish faith follow the Old Testament and seem not to be as fanatical) and tend not to follow the Old Testament. Yes these are possibilities and I am not the first person to postulate them but this does not answer the initial question. How long have Muslims been fanatics?

The answer is about 50 years.

In fact it might even be less than that some scholars believe that they can pinpoint the moment that the Muslim world changed and that was in 1967.

In the 1950’s there was a resurgence in outdated and unpopular traditions, things like the veil, male-female segregation and fundamentalism began gaining ground in the Muslim world (none of which are mandated in the Quran), this was mainly due to the efforts of followers of an 18th centaury scholar Mohammed Al Wahab. His followers ran a concerted campaign to return the Muslim world to it’s roots, which in this case mean returning to traditions, many of which Al Wahab just plain made up.

During his lifetime, Wahab was taken about as seriously as Derren Hinch is taken today in the Australia sure he has his followers but the general population largely ignores him. ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s teachings were criticized by a number of Islamic scholars for disregarding Islamic history, monuments, traditions and the sanctity of Muslim life. His own brother, Sulayman, was particularly critical, claiming he was ill-educated and intolerant, classing Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s views as fringe and fanatical. But in the late 1950s, Wahabi Muslim thinkers like Sayyid Qutb started to urge total separation between Islam and the West, arguing that the outside world had “nothing else to give humanity.” The other name for his view was Salafi which for a very long time just meant “A firm adherent to the Quran” but According to Ahmad Moussalli, professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, “As a rule, all Wahhabis are Salafists, but not all Salafists are Wahhabis”. Yet others say that while Wahhabism and Salafism originally were two different things, they became practically indistinguishable in the 1970s.

But whilst this idea had more adherents the second time around it was it wasn’t the thing that swung the Muslim culture down the road it currently travels there was a catalyst.

In 1967 Israel won the Six-say War and took the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights  against the combined forces of Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

To fundamentalists this was a dramatic illustration of the crisis that they saw in Islam: lethargic, backwards Muslims defeated by a modern enemy (Israel had and still has one of the best run and most modern militaries in the world). Thus it was only natural for the debate about Islam to reemerge in the aftermath of the 1967 defeat.
The fundamentalists and ardents of  ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s argued that the Arabs had lost the war because they had lost their faith and direction. That they had strayed too far from the central tenants of Islam and that the faith was in crisis. They argued that because they had disconnected themselves from a deeply held system of beliefs the Arabs proved an easy prey to Israeli power.
They argued that Islamic society needs a rigid system of beliefs, an ideology to guide it. Their contention was that a strict fundamentalist interpretation of Islam offered that system of beliefs and could do what no other imported doctrine could hope to do – mobilize the believers, instill discipline, and inspire people to make sacrifices and, if necessary, to die for the cause through martyrdom.

And so the fundamentalist mentality was not born but suddenly accepted, and to some Islam slipped backwards 400 years to a time that had never actually existed at any point in its history. In the Middle Ages for instance Islam was tolerant of other ideas and religions (more so than Christianity was at the time), perused science and mathematics and traded fairly with China and surrounding countries but in these days of “enlightenment” it has withdrawn and worse become dangerous.

Reporting from Saudi Arabia for The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright interviewed an older Saudi man who reminisced about the good old days when men and women used to be able to celebrate weddings together and remembers frequenting a beach where women and men could intermingle freely. Something that would be unthinkable and illegal today.

The unfortunate lesson with fundamentalist religions around the world seems to be that when backed into a corner faith runs towards fundamentalism but walks very slowly away from it. And opposition to fundamentalism only seems to make it stronger. It also seems to be true that events can make a religion fundamentalist of any religion. In this and many other regards Islam is not unique. Australians wonder if they should be wary of Muslims and the Muslin faith. The answer is yes and no. Any belief system can sour, all belief has the capacity for fundamentalism. Worldwide there are roughly 50 million Salafists, including roughly 20 to 30 million Salafis in India, 5 to 6 million Salafis in Egypt, 27.5 million Salafis in Bangladesh and 1.6 million Salafis in Sudan. Salafi communities are smaller elsewhere, including roughly 10,000 in Tunisia, 17,000 in Morocco, 7,000 in Jordan, 17,000 in France and 5,000 in Germany. But this does not mean that all Salafists are hard line fundamentalists who want to kill all unbelievers. There have been lots of figures thrown about Daniel Pipes figures that there are 120-180 million actively militant Muslims in the world. But that figure can’t really be close to accurate otherwise we would not see sporadic violence we would see concerted violence. A more accurate estimate would be 1-2% of the worldwide Muslim population which would be 12 – 30 million are hard-line fundamentalist who want to go and do some damage. Which proves that even if this religion were set up to breed fanatics it’s not really that good at doing so. So what should we do? We should be on guard, we should do our best to remove ISIL, we should celebrate the freedom we have and the lifestyle that we cherish. We should be supportive of moderate Muslims wherever we find them but also be wary of blatant Islamophobia and sheer racism dressed up as “vigilance”.

 

And continuing our coverage…

Oh Canada.

Yes America’s hat is back in the news.

Well this election season is hotting up with people keen to have no fucking idea what they are talking about. Anthony Albanese just suggested that Canada could take Australia’s refugees. Frankly if that deal goes through I’m going to look in to see if Canada can take me. I thought the idea is that we are trying to make coming to Australia less attractive? So what is it, rabid xenophobia aside? Are we trying to stop people coming or are we just being dicks? Have we spoken to the Canadians about this? I don’t recall any deal whereby if we suddenly turn out to be a country of unfeeling monsters they take up the slack. Although I haven’t thoroughly read the Commonwealth principals. So because we are now dicks Canada can have them? Oh good thinking! Anything to shirk our responsibility to the UN convention that we signed. I love how we can just duck out on that anytime we like but why don’t we all try that when it comes to tax time. “Oh I don’t want to pay tax anymore, I never even signed anything that says I would, I feel that playing tax only encouraged money to be extracted from me and I need all my money” yeah go on. Being a signatory to a convention does not just go away because it becomes inconvenient or political expedient. Do you want Russians? Because that’s how you get Russians.

What we are seeing here are two governments desperately trying to do the wrong thing and get away with it.

I am honestly not even sure why we are supposed to be afraid of refugees anymore. If we are sending them to Canada we are clearly unconcerned about their welfare they have Bears and Moose.

Unconditional Election!

Well, it’s all gone to Pot. The new album version of Radiohead’s True Love Waits is like the housing market for us Gen X’ers. Extremely promising in the 90’s but now it’s finally available to us, it seems shambolic and impossible to get into.

I have care fatigue. I have tried caring and sadly it seems that just caring about things that you feel are important and engaging with people to try to show them your way of thinking and…they don’t care. Not only that you are a moron for not supporting their bias. And nothing highlights this like political differences.

And  GOODIE! Now we are in yet another election cycle and boy aren’t we glad for the prospect of yet another prime minister. If we get yet another one that will mark the 6th time that the position has changed hands in six years. Remember kids if your prime minister changes then it’s nearly time to change your smoke alarm battery.

So what does the next few months bring for us? Me explaining why compassion is a good thing and why hating people with a different skin colour is a bad idea. For me there is good news though.  Well it’s a short election cycle. Less than two months so there’s not much time for either party to do much other than what they have been doing for the last two years. Which is basically nothing?

 

PArliment house

Sometimes it feels like Parliment house is an abandoned building that the two parties are investigating like the Scooby Gang

 

 

Cleverly Malcolm Turnbull has decided to call an early election to capitalise on the popularity he had 4 months ago. His reason? Why the number of senate seats that are held by Labour and minority parties make it impossible to do the business of governance. Those pesky other people keep voting down all the reforms he wants to get through for his business buddies. Why because of them there are still unions! So let’s go to the polls because there’s nothing  that the ever increasingly jaded voting populace likes more than wasting a Saturday lining up to put yet another prime minister in place, we know it’s not going to be the one we voted for now so why go through the charade? I’m pretty sure that Abbot gets another go and then we get Shorten anyway.

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“Look how their hopes burn Julia!”

It may well be Shortens election if the electorate decides to punish Turnbull for being exactly who we wanted and then turning out to be Abbot 2.0. We overwhelmingly wanted a moderate in the position and then realised that that position turned him into a rabid conservative who can’t even get the marriage act change despite the fact that it’s the overwhelming desire of the people and even the parliament. Without going through a 160 million dollar charade which might not even change anything.

As a taxi driver once said to me “It doesn’t matter who you vote for a politician always gets in”.

So this is the bit where I usually talk about Liberal and Labour as a distinction without a difference. Both socially conservative parties with their hands so deep big businesses pockets that it’s hard to see how they can claim to be “for the people” with a straight face. And that’s all true.

But if you haven’t worked that out by now I’m both super confused and annoyed.

But where does that leave you…us?

I do wonder if this could be the election that the Greens gain some real traction. They made significant gains in the last election but they obviously don’t even think that this is their time as they seem very keen to form a minority government with Labour. Which is a bad idea. What we really don’t need is three parties that have no major differences.

Mind you I am reminded of 1998. I was in Germany and the political climate was very, very tense. The scuttlebutt was that the radical right was going to be swept into power within the week and any foreigners, particularly foreigners who weren’t blond and blue eyed should get out. There were special services that were taking people out of the country. I got on a flight from Rammstein airforce base back to London. Two days later the countries green party won a landslide election. I’m not saying it will happen. I’m saying that politics is a strange beast and not always predictable. The sense of weariness with the major parties is palpable and the idea that the ”Wet” Shorten or the “disappointment in a suit” Turnbull could come to power just doesn’t seem to be appealing to anyone. We’ve eaten those biscuits before, they were stale then.

Of course, there’s the usual conglomeration of minority parties should you wish to vote that way and as per usual most of them seem to be excused for thinly veiled racism or single issue parties. Let’s look at a few:

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Minor PARTY ROUNDUP!

Like the Australian Liberty Alliance who are basically an anti-Muslim party who’s senate candidate recently called Waleed Aly’s Logie win “ridiculous” When in fact it’s his Metal Band “Robot Child” that’s ridiculous (I know I’ve heard their album One More War). Another single platform party that just want Australia to travel back to the 50’s to the golden age when it was totally fine to throw rocks at brown people and all the police would do is criticise your stance and choice of rock.

An exception to this rule seems to be the 21st century Australia party whose policies look pretty good actually. And if it also didn’t look like an Anthony Robbins wealth increase seminar I might even be convinced. I’m sure it’s just a Ponzi scheme….but they do have some interesting ideas and the buy-in is very reasonable…..

The Australian Anti-paedophile party is great. But really is there anyone who isn’t against paedophiles? It’s like an Anti-cancer party. I don’t need to join anything to be against cancer. And what will their other policies be like? “Our energy policy relies on a setup very much like the wheel of pain from Conan the barbarian, Paedophiles shuffle around and turn a dynamo to provide us with free clean power”

I think I just talked myself into voting for them.

Or I would have if their mission statement on their website wasn’t just a call for donations. I guess wheels of pain aren’t cheap.

Or maybe you would like a REAL democracy. Sick of the way that governments do business? Back room deals getting you down? Do you want to have direct input into how your country is run?

Why not download the voteflux app, it’s Uber for government.

Vote flux claims that it could actually work and that it would revolutionise the world. Their stance on unicorns or the second coming is a mystery. Basically, you get to vote on every bill before the senate. Then the senate takes the will of the people and implements it. It’s a short distance from there to “Why do we need a senate again?” and then a short distance from there to “That’s the computer we put in charge of the country…all hail the great computer!”

But frankly that might be the change we have all been looking for.

 

More coverage to follow.

The Secret is bullshit

The Secret is a book and accompanying Tv….docudrama? Was produced way back in 2006.  The Secret was followed by “The Power” and then “The Magic” because fuck grammar. Then 2009 there was a Teenage version of “The Secret” called “The Secret: Teen Power. Most worrying of all a children’s book version of the secret called “The Power of Henry’s imagination” severely let me down by not being a book adaption of that twilight zone episode where the kid can make anything he wills come true.

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“Henry is very angry with you….”

And I read the Secret so you don’t have too.

The Secret was written by Australian author and TV producer Rhonda Byrne who is essentially Ayn Rand without the accountability or interesting sex life.

The Secret within the Secret is that the universe isn’t a cold unfeeling collection of atoms gasses and base elements. It’s a thinking feeling being, a gestalt entity that wants you to be happy. And to this end it will give you whatever you want. If you are putting out “negative thoughts” then the universe will believe that’s what you want and misfortune will come your way, the universe doesn’t judge, maybe you’re a masochist? What you do in your own time is your business. The universe is down Yo!

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“You have the power to change anything, because you are the one who chooses your thoughts and you are the one who feels your feelings.” ― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

(Hands up who chooses their thoughts here? Anyone?)

But if you put out good vibes. Then the universe steps up and sends you money and kittens*

I’ve been talking to some people who are into the secret. I must say I love it when people say “If you don’t believe in it then nothing I say will convince you” it’s like the old “If you give your mind over and believe what I’m saying then you will see what I am saying is the truth”…………. well duh!

Sure! let me just ignore all the troubling, impossible and tenuous things that your philosophy has. That way I can also believe in basically anything. This line of argument that says to me “I don’t have any facts, evidence or even believable anecdotes to support my position”.

How about you just trying being more sceptical and see things my way? Then you’ll agree with me right?

The problems with the secret are many but I think the main one is complete and utter lack of evidence. There is no evidence that just wishing for things make them come to you. In fact there’s a wealth of evidence to the contrary. It’s human nature for people to wish for things that they don’t have. In some cases they then work towards them, in others events conspire for them to have that thing they wished for. This is just the nature of life, no universal intervention is necessary. Nearly 100% of people wished they had more money than they do. Therefore nearly 100% of people who win the lottery have wished for money. But surely if the secret worked then nearly 100% of people would have won the lottery. Wait…they haven’t!!? Sadly the rest of us regress towards the mean unimpeded.

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Your wealth is waiting for you in the invisible, and to bring it into the visible, think wealth! ― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

It’s also troubling that the people who benefit from this wishing the most, even anecdotally are white people who live in first world countries, seems a little odd actually. Is the universe racist? You’d think not, what with it being mostly black.

The Secret is incredibly selfish as a philosophy. It’s all about me. I can wish myself a better life Whoot! It’s all about what the universe can hand me and the effort I don’t have to put in. Which is why it’s such a seductive idea. It’s a quick, simple, easy fix that anyone can do. What about the world? What about the people who are less fortunate than me? What did they do wrong? Can I wish for them? Sorry the philosophy would say not. It’s all me, me, me with you people isn’t it?

It’s also victim blaming; someone was raped? Their thoughts attracted it. Someone was murdered? It was what they wanted. The universe just did their bidding. A child dies…well…who then do we blame the child or the parents? At what age do you get to wish for yourself? It’s a tough one but in reading the Secret I think the blame should go squarely on the parents. Clearly, they didn’t love the child enough.

What happens when there are competing desires? Like in war? I want to survive but my enemy counterpart really wants me dead, similarly I want them dead. Who wins? Is it then just a wishing contest?

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“Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can.” ― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

Imagine you go and read The Secret, but good things do not come to you as was promised. But you believe! Then whose fault is it? Not the secrets….it must be yours, you must secretly desire all the terrible things that happen to you. Maybe you don’t really believe that you’re worthy? And suddenly that idea, the purpose of the secret, that you have the ability to change your life, quickly and easily. Is gone. But it’s too late your sucked into the paradigm now.

Think about this article

The article is basically saying. If this whole easy fix isn’t working, it’s your fault. It’s not the system, it’s you.

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“There is no such thing as a hopeless situation. Every single circumstances of your life can change! ” ― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

Is letting go a good idea? Sometimes.

Is being more positive worthwhile? It can be.

Is trying to work through a lifetimes worth of negativity to process it and reject it a laudable goal? Absolutely!

Is trying to change your life so you can get on-board the magic unicorn train to richville going to be ultimately disappointing? It sure is.

Also what about natural disasters? What about the Indonesian Tsunami? Was that just a country wishing for a whole lot of water at once? If so how come Tokyo has not yet actually been attacked by Godzilla?

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“Your thoughts become things!” ― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

Like giant lizards for instance.

In the world that the secret inhabits no-one has autonomy. In-fact the philosophy is purely solipsistic. The world must have been set up for you or else how would your thoughts affect anything without creating paradox? How on earth would it cope with three billion sentient beings with competing and conflicting wants and desires? The only possible solution is that you are the only “real” being in this universe, it was made for you! And the good news is that you can purchase the user’s manual for your universe for less than $30 at Angus and Robinson. Why not pick up a copy for your imaginary kids?

The real secret in the Secret is that you are a brain in a jar being poked by stimulus for the enjoyment of the masses. But hey, at least you’re important. That’s what you really wanted isn’t it?

*Kittens not expressly guaranteed, availability of kittens in your area may vary.

I know a dirty word

On the whole I disagree with Churches. But that does not mean that churches can’t do good or have good people in them. I sometimes wish that I could become a pastor or priest because it seems to me that, those are positions where I perhaps could do more good than I can right now. You get permission to do good things. Not only through the church but there are social mechanisms open to clergy that are not available to “just some guy”. People let you in and sadly turning up on their doorstep and saying “Hi! I’m a friendly atheist, can I help with anything?” often leads to uncomfortable conversations rather than productive ones. Unfortunately in most churches (except the Unitarians, which I can’t join for other reasons) the whole not believing in God thing is a deal breaker. This is particularly sad as I would love to join the Anglicans right now. Why? Because they are a large organisation who are actually trying to do something to assist the people, particularly children who are in danger of being sent to offshore detention by offering them sanctuary. Now I’m sure that the Anglican church like a lot of churches does a lot of good on a day-to-day basis but I am inspired by this action since they seem to be the only large scale organisation trying to do what is in this instance the right thing. And they are fighting the government to do it.

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hurm….I’m no longer betting on the govenment.

37 children and 230 adults may well be deported to Naru….hurm….I had this funny idea that we were committed to removing the adults and children from Naru…didn’t we all agree that it was an inhumane option?

I’m sure that the talk last year was around that? Seriously. Am I going crazy?

Oh wait…no I’m not last year we were told that the 600 remaining detainees on Nauru would be processed within a week. Excellent problem solved! Oh wait there are still 537 there.

It might be naive realism but I do seriously find it hard to believe that people lack so much compassion. Frankly if we need the church to tell the general population that sending children to what essentially amounts to a Jail where the government can wash their hands of them where abuse has been perpetrated, that is run by unaccountable private organisations. I see that as enough evidence that we still need churches and honestly we might all need to have a stern fucking word with ourselves.

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Seriously. A word with yourself.

OK so the argument that I saw on Q&A on Monday was that if we treat these people with even a shred of humanity then we will attract more and that just feeds into the people smuggling trade. Of course we never ever got to the bottom of the accusations that we gave people smugglers money which if true would seem counterproductive. And there are bigger issues of course. If we had boats stationed at each port to bring in refugees, wouldn’t that put people smugglers out of business? And would people smugglers really give up and go back to farming? Or would they just lie to people about what will happen to them in Australia…would they take them halfway and dump them in the ocean? I mean if these people are as bad as everyone makes out? If we really just ignore a problem does it really go away? Of course maybe it’s because I don’t know the answers to these issues (even though I’m working off the same data) that I get called Naive a lot. But is it really that black and white?

The other argument I hear a lot from both sides is that 9/10 asylum seekers turns out to be a genuine refugee. But the people who lurk in the comments section often turn it around to 1/10 illegals (although they aren’t) turn out to be frauds! So if we took in 500 asylum seekers we would take in 50 people who could be anyone! So we shouldn’t take anyone! Besides there’s no room and I’m totally not racist why do you ask?

This of course assumes that we do no form of processing. Is there anyone who is actually against every form of processing? I mean I know the government frames it as if it’s black and white and we can either turn everyone away or have an open boarder policy…but those guys just elected Barnaby Joyce to be the deputy Prime Minister. So why should I take them seriously if they aren’t even going to take themselves seriously?

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No..I can’t believe it either

The other lie that we get told time and time again is that if we open our boarders more we will end up like Europe. I’m not sure how terrible the situation in Europe is supposed to be but a quick look around seems to indicate that it’s still there and the “problem” isn’t anywhere near as terrible as armchair pundits thousands of miles away seems to indicate. Also it’s a ridiculous fiction to expect that we would get more than a trickle of people. We have never had millions of people battering on our boarders in fact we have never topped 20,000 in a year. So let’s stop being hysterical and start thinking.

Also if we want to talk about pure financial costs. How much do we pay to Transfield to store the refugees? 1.5 Billion for 3 years. I’ll just let that sink in.

Another thing that people say seemingly without thinking is “No-one is stopping people from leaving Nauru, and returning to their own country”. Well what the fuck does it say about where they were coming from that they don’t do that? *screams* We have made is as horrible as we can to come here and people still come. DUH.

Ok so there may well be economic reasons to not let everyone who wants to come to Australia come, and there maybe moral reasons too and some people may genuinely be fearful that if we treat these people well then we are supporting people smugglers but doing the wrong thing to prevent another wrong thing that may or may not happen latter on down the track should make us very uncomfortable. Some people may look at the refugees and go “Well they have a high unemployment rate after they arrive” but when I’m saving someone’s life I’m not thinking about if they are going to work for me later on or not. I’m saving their life because that’s the right thing to do. But at its core we have to call this for what it is. Xenophobia. And we are terrible people for letting it get this far. Our nation is poorer for these policies, initiated not for the benefit of the refugees but for political gain. We are poorer for not stamping them out right away and we are poorer for allowing them to continue.

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Except they aren’t. Not even close.

So well done Anglican Church. Let’s stop this insanity. Hopefully the government will look at your example and it will give them pause. (Don’t get me started on the fact that most of these people in government call themselves Christians)

 

Bowie

Well fuck.

 

All the cleverness, wit, presence of mind and loquaciousness that I use like an armor has left me and I’m just left with expletives.

Fuck.

I’m a fan obviously. A huge fan. There have been times in my life when Bowie was a key ingredient in the mixture that added joy to the situation. Sometimes situations that had precious little joy.

To be honest the impact that Bowie had in my life, the instances when he was important are too many and too disparate to recount but I will give some highlights and some editorial comment.

Warning this may be rambling.

There will be people who hail him as just a genius. Some who will dismiss him as a Magpie. Somewhere between those two extremes is where he was. He wasn’t perhaps as revolutionary as some hail him to be, but if you think it’s easy to see three things and mingle them into something equally or more brilliant that’s palatable to the masses then you’ve never done it. Only people like Madonna can judge him then and she thinks he was a genius. Not only that there’s jealousy. It’s what artists do, they steal, they intertwine, and they create art from a million different sources. But very few do it was openly or as brilliantly as he did Bowie talked about and cited and hailed his influences, he often worked with them. That’s not how you do it, you’re supposed to read quietly interweave your influences and act like you invented everything you do when asked. Like Gene Simmons does. As Ronnie James Dio said “If you ask Gene, he’ll tell you he invented shoes”. Bowie gave credit where credit was due and he never stopped being influenced. For Bowie being ahead of the curve wasn’t just something that he stumbled upon, it was his full time occupation. He was probably the most successful futurist ever only instead of putting out books or predictions he put out albums.

Bowie didn’t invent the internet but he was one of the first people to see it’s potential. I remember going to bowienet back in 1999 and being blown away. Oh! So that’s what this thing is for. He was the first artists to have downloadable content on the back of an album. Before that he wrote an entire album about the Pre-millennium tension 1995’s Outside (which is one hell of an album and sounds almost as fresh today as it sounded revolutionary back then).

Then in 2002 he released “Heathen” listening to it now, holy hell it’s a good album. It blew my mind at the time, here was a great album from a man nearing his 60’s not only that this was an album that my partner at the time bonded over, got obsessive about. So much so that I persuaded her to leave the house to go to an actual concert. 2004’s Reality tour. It was Friday Feb 27th 2004.

I was sceptical. Although I was totally going. I had seen some of Bowies Glass spider tour recently and I thought that he was phoning it in on that tour so I didn’t have high hopes for this one.

Boy was I wrong.

He was invigorated. Clearly enjoying himself and more than capable of not only delivering the hits but delivering new takes on old material. His stripped down version of “Life on mars” left me with chills.

His version of “Let’s Dance” a song I had never rated…made me love the song.

His performance of “I’m afraid of Americans” surprised me because it was the Trent Renzor remix version and it killed. Stupid Melbourne audiences who always sit on their hands and show appreciation with a golf clap were suddenly dancing and singing along.

Flash forward 12 years and here we are.

Two albums later. He disappeared for 10 years to be a father. I can totally understand that. Still I didn’t think I’d see another album and yet there they are. The Next Day and Blackstar two albums that I have not yet made my mind up about. Even though I’ve owned The Next Day since it came out.

In the days since I learned that he had died I keep flashing back to a place and a time.

I am cooking in a kitchen at a beachouse near Rye, we had just been fishing that day we had mostly caught flathead I am trying to make something French using what was frankly the wrong fish.  But there is a boom box on the counter and Best of Bowie is playing. We are on holiday, just the two of us, on a well-earned vacation, that night we will go to a local park lie on the grass and watch the shooting stars for hours and talk. Bowie in the background the whole time as it was the only Cd’s we had thought to bring. But we didn’t get sick of the two disc set. But the memory that sticks with me most is humming along to Rebel Rebel as I smiled to myself cooking the person I loved dinner in what was a perfect moment.

One more thing:

The year I was born 1976 Bowie was busy, the next year for him was insane on levels that only cocaine can explain.

Feb- Releases the classic album “Low” which was written and recorded in January Low contains the landmark song “Sound and Vision”.

Starts rehearsals for Iggy Pop’s UK tour which he will play keyboard on.

March- Tours the UK with Iggy Pop then the US then Canada

April- Iggy Pop releases “The Idiot” which David Bowie co-wrote and produced in March. American Tour continues.

May- Finishes Canadian tour with Iggy Pop

June- Records “Lust for Life” with Iggy Pop which he once again co-wrote and produced the album which is considered a proto-punk classic and is completed in 8 days.

July- Attends the premier of “The man who fell to earth” a film he made in December of 1976

August- Goes back in the Studio to record “Hero’s” an album which is considered one of the finest in his catalogue.

September- Hero’s is released Bowie goes on a press junket to promote it.

October- Bowie tours around the world to promote Hero’s

November- Discovers the band “Devo” and flys out to America to promote them.

December- Writes and records new narration for a live version of “Peter and the Wolf”

 

I’m getting tired just reading about it.

 

So if we include Peter and the wolf that’s 5 albums two of which are considered to be among the most important albums of the 70’s and three tours. Suck it…..everyone else.

 

 

And now ruining Hi-fi

largeLast week a friend of mine and I went to see the “Devialet Phantom” a new kind of sound system that will totally revolutionise how people with ears behave. It’s suppose to be all things to all people. A compact, beautiful single unit that is an engineering marvel which wives and people who are astheticly inclined will love as well as an Audiophiles wet dream. A system that sounds as good as $20,000 systems that costs a paultry $3,000AUD. It saves space, it makes sweet love to your pets and in the event of a water landing it can act as a folation device.

It’s been getting rave reviews. The kind of reviews that make it hard to ignore. Professional reviewers are having to pay for their units as when they hand them back Devilalet can’t get the drool marks off.

A lot of people reading probably won’t know this but I used to work in high end hi-fi. It was a great job in a lot of ways. I got to play with and hear systems costing over $100,000 and because the store I was at had very few customers I got to sit around watching movies all day. I love hi-fi and I have a lot of opinions about it. And my bat like senses tell me that when something claims to be this amazing: it’s bullshit. But I also love technology and Im ever hopeful so we went and we heard. What did we think?

Well what does it claim? It claims to be blutooth, check, it claimes to be wifi, check, it claims to be revoltuinary….um….not too sure about that one…it claimes to be 3000 watts. WHAT?! I’m  going to go ahead and say “no” to that one. 3000 watts is the kind of power you run through statium speakers, the kind of power that you need serious and massive transformers to just attain. This little unit may be mostly one piece of alumimum and that may add to it’s strenght and durablity but there’s no way that it’s pumping out 3000 watts. It’s just not. This is the kind of hyperbolic bullshit that hi-fi enthisuasts have had to put up with for years. Fudging the ratings for speakers and amps is basically a hobby for most maufacturers. It also claims to have 0 distortion (impossible to tell really) and 0 hum (I didn’t hear one but then we wern’t allowed to turn it up without a signal going thru it but I’d be surprised)

Most people have never heard a system that costs more than $10,000 or spent much time with systems that are over $30,000 but my friend and i had. And not ruin your Chirstmas….. but we were bitterly disapointed. This technological marvel sounded about as good as a Bose system (which having worked for Bose, I dont rate). Maybe a little better.  Yes it’s true that there is an impressive amount of bass produced from such a small unit. But everything else was terrible. A good $20,000 system will blow your head off. Heck a good $3,000 system will make you believe in an interventionist God. A good system will immerse you in the sound, it will make your recordings come alive, it will reveal detail and power that you’ve never heard before. It will make the hair on your arms stand on end. This system did none of that. I’ve been impressed by single units or small speakers before noteably the B&W soundbar which costs half the price of this. Ok so it looks like a Corellian Corvette from Return of the Jedi but other than that I was left totaly cold. If this were less than a grand then I’d think about it. But for $3,000 you can get a pretty good system. Shop around and know what your doing you could get a really, really good system but here’s the kicker. If you want to get the best out of these things you need two of them as technically this is mono… and you also need a dialoge unit to make them work together so your really shelling out $7000AUD and for that kind of money you can get a freaking spectacular system that really will blow your socks off and make this sound like the cheap hyperbole that it is.

*(Whilst we were there we also listened to the Qsound bookshelf speakers that come in around $600 and for my money they blew this thing away, acutally they were so awesome my friend bought a pair)

 

 

Obligatory Force Awakens Review

THIS IS NOT SPOLER FREE

I saw it. I liked it and now I must endlessly analyise it to suck all the mystery and joy out of it.

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The good.

The original Star Wars was a movie with a few things going for it. Visually it was stunning, it had scale, it had heart and it had a seemingly vast imagination. These things made up for any other deficiencies that may have been present.

The Force Awakens has the visuals, and the scale and the heart. And in spades. It also has some things that the original Star Wars didn’t have much of. Humour and Nostalgia. The new characters are pithy, vivacious and charming. The film wastes no time and has a pleasing blend of action, dialogue, pace and character development. This is a well-made film. Look it’s good. It starts strong. It looks like Star Wars, it feels like Star Wars MUCH more than the prequels ever did. The Characters feel like themselves. Han Solo is Han Solo, older but still recognisably him. Leia….er….seems a little out of practice. C3-P0…is….super annoying…wait sorry good things…good things…erm….Finn! Finn is great…no wait he’s a new character. Admiral Ackbar…is pretty good…but he refrains from speaking about traps. Which is a shame.

The new Storm Trooper design is perfect. Actually most of the designs in the film are great. But the Stormtroopers, flame troopers and the new Tie pilots are brilliant.

The Bad.

There’s no getting around the fact that Kylo Ren is a Darth Vader lite. He’s I can’t believe it’s not Darth Vader. He’s just one calorie not evil enough……

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Anyway.

It’s kind of forgivable because well he’s leias son, he has more Anakin in him than Luke…etc….There is a family theme going on and I get it but his aesthetic…? Lame. Why wear a helmet you don’t need to?

Lack of imagination. The Ren thing highlights this. There’s the Death Star, its back, it’s bigger, but no-ones fooling me into thinking it’s anything but a Death Star. So the rebels have to get plans to the rebel base and then go blow up a death star? Where have I heard this before? Seriously? This is the plot to your movie?

Specific annoyances:

Snoke: Snoke is the name of the cooperate villain from an Adam Sandler movie, not the name of the Emperors successor. When we say “How do we defeat Snoke?” the answer sounds like it should be with a musical number and montage.

Also huge lack of imagination there too. Please Kylo Renn should be alone. There shouldn’t be thousands of Sith lords waiting in line for the pleasure to ascend to the throne. Imagine a story where Ren was completely mysterious till the Bridge scene. Then he takes his helmet off and he’s a boy and Han’s son.

Can anyone just pick up a light-sabre and be confident and good enough that they can hold their own against an experienced swordsman? Because Finn and Rey both do it. There is an argument to be made that Ren has never really fought with a light-sabre…..who would he fight? But Luke trained him right? And he killed all the other Jedi apprentices. So it’s not like he’s never used one before, he’s just not practiced. All those years of training must count for something. Anyone who’s even played with a sword knows that you don’t start with a sharp one, not because you’re a danger to others, but because you’re a danger to yourself. The likelihood of you cutting off something important is very high. Higher if that blade is a light-sabre. Never mind actually being good enough to fight and win. Ok so Rey has the force…..but that’s a pretty thin reason. I mean people still need training. And what’s Finns excuse? Sure he gets beaten but he does pretty damn well for a while there. He even wounds Ren. And yes Ren has just killed his father and been shot by Chewie’s Bowcaster which has been established is no joke. But even so. That’s pretty incredibly and I mean that in the sense that it stretches credulity.

Ok and speaking of look Ma! No Han. That was a genuinely emotional moment. Which was somewhat let down by the fact that Leia and Chewie didn’t have a moment when he came off the Falcon. Leia went to Rey instead. Who exactly is Rey to you? As opposed to your husbands best friend and your friend of over 40 years?

BTW: As cool as Han’s admiration for Chewie’s Bowcaster is…..is it remotely possible that in the 40 odd years they have been friends he’s never seen it fired?!?!? Or was that Space Alzheimer’s setting in?

Of course there are lots of other questions I have.

Where did Snoke come from? Who the hell was Max Von Sydow supposed to be? Where are the Knights of Ren that we heard so much about before the whole thing started? Why would you waste such an awesome character as Captain Phasma? Hopefully these questions will be answered in the 2nd film. And let’s hope that doesn’t consist of an ice world, a trip through an asteroid belt and Rey going through training only to leave to save Finn who is trapped on some kind of Cloud city…..

Ok so it seems like I’m complaining more than I am enjoying the movie but despite these issues that wasn’t the case at all. A friend of mine said it played it safe. It did in a sense but I honestly don’t think that was the problem didn’t seem like lack of courage to me it seemed like a failure of imagination. Even so it’s a very enjoyable movie that does tap your sense of nostalgia.

I give this movie 6 out of 10 swooping millennium falcons.

Your zeitgeist needs an overhaul

I think when I was at school and Uni if I didn’t care about the essay that I was writing I would either put “Zeitgeist” or “Christ Allusions” in and know that I would get at least a grade higher than I would have simply for using those terms correct in context. In this case however my usage is heartfelt.

toygun-main

After battling with Ammosexuals all day (thanks to Phill for the term) I have come to a few conclusions.

  1. I would much rather be one of the victims of a mass knifing than a mass shooting
  2. Making a bomb is a LOT harder than buying a gun, even in Australia and if you want to make a bomb that does not contain nitrates (the most common bomb making materials therefore the most common ones that are tested for at airports et al) then you are stuck doing temperature controlled reactions which are REALLY hard and you are MUCH more likely to blow yourself up than your intended victims. But since people don’t know this they think that if they take away guns people will use bombs. Because they are idiots.
  3. The people who are pro-gun seem to be desperate to keep their guns, not because they need them but because of some terrible imagined threat that has never and probably will never eventuate.
  4. They seem to think that the perfectly reasonable measures that Japan has put in place (remember that like Australia it is not IMPOSSIBLE to get a gun it’s just very difficult) mean that Japan is a police state. Which if you take the definition that Japan is place that has a police force where the police have guns but the general population don’t then that is correct. However if you use it in its correct definition of “A police state is a state where the police force is used to enforce the will of a select few rather than the general population” then it’s total bullshit.
  5. They rightly point out that Canada has almost as many guns as the US and Canada has nowhere near as much gun related crime as the US so guns can’t be the problem. And this is true in a way. But it makes the issue so much more difficult. Because what that seems to say is that it’s the people themselves. It’s their psyche, it’s their education, it’s their attitude, and it’s their upbringing Or something else. And who wants to change that? No-one aparently. Switzerland. Yep they have guns, but everyone gets a course on how they work, what they can do, gun safety, how to use them and when to use them. Why to keep ammo in a locked box away from the gun. So it’s not the same. Education. Would it help? I don’t know but it’s something you can try without resorting to a gun ban or buyback and it might save lives. But don’t worry if that’s too much trouble for you. I mean there have only been 455,000 deaths to gun violence since 9/11 so there’s no rush. No guns without military service might be something you might want to look into too. After all that’s the Swiss model you seem so keen on.
  6. You need to check your privilege US. My uncle instilled in me gun safety. He was rigorous about it. Don’t ever load a gun unless you’re ready to use it, don’t ever point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill whether you think it’s loaded or not, don’t ever put your finger on the trigger of a gun until you are ready to kill something. The first thing you do after you have fired a gun is to make it safe. Make sure the gun is cleared unloaded and safe before putting it away. I’m not even saying these rules are exhaustive but they did make me respect what a gun is and what it can do. I was afraid of it and that was good. I still am. I never feel caviller around guns. But despite being a good shot and familiar with guns and gun safety I would never feel comfortable entering a fire-fight with a perpetrator, the risk of me hitting someone else in a stress situation seems far too high. Don’t get me wrong I’m an above average shooter. But I’m not combat trained. I wonder how many people who advocate this idea are? I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I shot some poor innocent bystander by mistake.
  1. People seem perfectly comfortable trading people’s lives for what seem like really sensible precautions. Precautions like in Japan where you have to have a:

– A Class on gun safety

– A written test

– A psych evaluation

– A rigorous background check.

Oh NO! Whatever would you do if you needed a gun in a hurry?

Ok think of a situations where you need a gun in a hurry. Just give me one legitimate one.  YOU NEVER NEED A GUN IN A HURRY UNLESS YOU WANT TO HURT SOMEONE.

  1. When we outlaw guns only the outlaws will have guns. For rebuttal see Japan.