Saturday, August 23, 2003

I LIKE BURKINA-FASO as much as the next guy, but what the hell is some of the most important real estate in American journalism doing being given over to this touching tripe?
CAT TOAST OR JUST TOAST? Observers of the American media will recall that a few years ago the Boston Globe suspended a conservative columnist, Jeff Jacoby, for failing to acknowledge his use of part of an e-mail that had lately been making the rounds on the subject of the Declaration of Independence.

I wonder what the penalty for that sort of thing is in Australia, specifically at the Sydney Morning-Herald? (We already know that if your name is Philip Adams and your employer is the Australian, one's sentence is continued receipt of a paycheck). The reason I ask is because, reading Pat Sheil's colum in the "Spectrum" section of the Herald today, I came across one of the more blatant re-uses of a bad Internet joke I've seen in ages. No link, but here's some of the offending bit:
Recent theoretical work suggests that given (a) a dropped kitten will always land on its feet, and (b) a slice of toast will always land buttered side down, the world's energy problems could well be solved simply by strapping a slice of buttered toast to the back of a kitten and dropping it off a ledge...

The result? An eternally rotating, hot-buttered feline, spinning just above the floor....
Yawn. Although he claims that he got the idea from "a recent letter to New Scientist magazine", that publication made the joke back in 1997 - which is about when I remember reading it in my own e-mail inbox. (I remember it clearly because I sent it to some people around the office and was quickly upbraided by the resident cat-fancier).

Sheil's crime hardly rises to those committed by other journalists but it's pretty amazing that it occured to no one at the Herald that the entire joke on which this column hinged was over five years old - an eternity in Internet time. It's especially ironic considering that just a few weeks ago Sheil had written a report about a successful Web hoax played on the New York Times involving hunting naked women with paintball guns in the Nevada desert (phwoar!).

Ultimately, I reckon that taken in the context of other examples of how the Herald works to cut down on environmentally-unsustainable originality being printed on its pages, Sheil was simply following the Green mandate to reduce, reuse, recycle.

Friday, August 22, 2003

GARETH PARKER has come up with the best expression to describe Australian idiotarians I have ever read.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

YES! Achewood is back to five days a week!
MIRANDA DEVINE WEIGHS IN TODAY with a fairly straightforward column today about Australia's bluenoses, a.k.a. "wowsers", who seek to make sure every pleasure is a guilty one:
There is a certain type of person ever present in Australian life, devising ways to deny pleasure to the rest of the population. In Norman Lindsay's day wowsers were churchgoers purse-lipped about nudity. But now that the churches are empty and their moral restraints cast aside, today's wowsers have had to find fresh fun to eradicate, like alcohol, cigarettes, Big Macs, vanilla Coke, cars and air-conditioning.

The neo-wowsers are obsessed with health and eco-concerns in just as mean and censorious a way as their forebears were fixated on sex and nudity. They are on a sacred mission to save the decadent self-indulgent masses from destroying themselves with Krispy Kreme doughnuts and global warming. They seize every opportunity to wag a finger and tut a tongue at people's remaining pleasures.
All very well and good, and absolutely nothing there I don't agree with. And her later criticism of Bob "The Designated Driver" Carr's campaign against the demon drink is especially appreciated, given that her employers ran a two-day puff series about the awful role alcohol plays in Australian life earlier this week in anticipation of the State Leader's coming campaign to make this an even drier continent.

The problem is that Miranda Devine is, on certain issues, something of a wowser herself: Back in 2002, she wrote a column (one of many on the subject) saying that SUVs, or four-wheel-drives, or whatever you wish to call them should be forever banned - using the ultimate cop-out of the soft authoritarian, Won't somebody think of the children?. Furthermore, if you take your pleasure in members of the same sex, well, don't even think of getting married, lest you horn in - so to speak - on her view of moral institutions. (Better, presumably, that gays be promiscuous and anonymous rather than open and monogamous members of one of the most conservatizing institutions around, namely marriage).

According to Devine, I suppose, we're all supposed to enjoy our vices - so long as she gets to approve them first. I don't drive anything more complex than a golf buggy, and I certainly don't bat from the Paddington end (not that there's anything wrong with that), so I guess I'm safe.

In the meantime, Bob Carr can have my martini when he pries it out of my cold, dead, Montecristo-stained fingers.
THE BIG BANANA REPUBLIC? I'm no Pauline Hanson fan (her politics were far more left-wing than the inner-city types who hated her so much would ever admit), and I'm sure she did some shonky stuff - but did she really deserve three years in a maximum-security lockup? Things may be different in Queensland, but here in NSW, it seems you can barely get thrown in jail for anything any more.

UPDATE: Bernard Slattery has more. Read it - especially if you're not from Australia and don't know what the fuss is about.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

A BIG THANKS TO EVILPUNDIT for directing me to a fix for a scrolling problem I didn't even realize I had.
THE LEFT COAST NO MORE, OR, WHY ARNIE CAN WIN. Remember when Michael Moore got booed off the stage at the Oscars? Here's more proof that the zeitgeist is changing in California - at least among television audiences.

On Dr. Phil today, the subject was pet peeves, and one of the guests was a woman who was annoyed that her husband couldn't stop voicing his opinions (the good doctor ignored the most obvious solution, namely, that the guy needs a blog) on any and everything under the sun. As Dr. Phil was ticking off a partial list of the fellow's bigotries and prejudices, he came to the item, "All Republicans are stupid."

Predictably, this garnered some applause and woo-hoos from a few in the audience - who were quickly outnumbered by full-throated boo-ers. And no, they weren't shouting "Boo-urns."

Granted, this wasn't the sort of audience that normally goes to the Oscars, but the show is still taped in Hollywood.

The times, they are a-changin'.
ESPECIALLY THE "PEACEFUL" ONES, RIGHT? Check out this howler in the New York Times' "news analysis" (read "front-page editorial") on the bombing of the UN building in Baghdad. After endless paragraphs designed to build the case that the attack was, in fact, a three-corner billiards shot against the Americans, we are told that
Car and truck bombings are a signature tactic of religious-based Middle Eastern terrorism. The technique was used by Hezbollah in its fight against Israel and spread around the world over the last two decades, including the attacks against two American embassies in East Africa that intelligence agencies attribute to Al Qaeda.
Gee, I wonder which religions they mean?

There are other great lines that suggest the ghost of Howell Raines is still stalking the halls of West 43rd Street, including "Ansar [al-Islam] is a small fundamentalist group accused of having links to Al Qaeda" (I guess the Times' editors missed the 16,000 words in the New Yorker detailing those connections which might inconveniently suggest that Bush was right about anything), but you'll have to read the whole piece to catch others.
THE SEVEN GREAT INTERNET CAFÉS OF THE WORLD. Aussie backpacker travel agency STA Travel is at the moment running a print ad campaign urging young people to stop saving for a house and get out and see the world. Their slogan runs something like, "live adventures that will make your grandkids proud."

Now I've encountered a lot of backpackers (Aussie and otherwise) around the world, and for the most part, when they talk about travelling to meet people from other cultures, they mean meeting fellow backpackers from around the world in the internet café districts of the world's capitals.

I'm not sure what STA Travel has in mind is for, many decades hence, little tykes to be saying, "Hey, Nana Ashleigh, tell us again about getting really high and banging that Dutch dude at the Kathmandu youth hostel!"

(Speaking of advertising and saving for a house, there is no clearer sign to me that the much-discussed Sydney real estate boom is about to crash like it was being driven by Ted Kennedy than the number of storefront mortgage brokerage joints that are springing up all over the place. Having been involved at the front and back ends of the dot.com boom - though sadly not the middle bit where everyone was making scads of dough - I think I'm pretty well-equipped to know when a cycle has hit its "last suckers trying to make a buck" phase.)
STILL LOOKING FOR THE REAL TERRORISTS. Check out the juxtaposition of these two headlines on the Sydney Morning-Herald's website:
20 killed, 105 hurt in suicide attack on bus...
Israeli vigilantes threaten peace plan
See a coupla posts below for the whole story on the "Israeli vigilantes". But, of course, it's all the same to the Herald.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

FOR ONCE, SOME ANTI-AMERICANISM that I can fully, 100% agree with - from Tim Dunlop, no less.
BECAUSE RADICAL LEFTISM HAS WORKED SO WELL BEFORE. The Washington Post reports that Joe Lieberman is making a shot at becoming an electable Democratic candidate for president:
Lieberman, whose lead in national polls belies his precarious political standing, is increasingly taking aim at the other eight Democratic contenders and throngs of activists who want to repeal future tax cuts, limit global trade and provide expensive health care coverage to millions of Americans.

The Connecticut senator also is ripping into opponents of the war in Iraq, hitting Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for showing "ambivalence" about the conflict and calling former Vermont governor Howard Dean unelectable for opposing it outright.
Predictably, more orthodox members of the party - who believe in diversity of everything but ideas - are upset:
Lieberman, whose lead in national polls belies his precarious political standing, is increasingly taking aim at the other eight Democratic contenders and throngs of activists who want to repeal future tax cuts, limit global trade and provide expensive health care coverage to millions of Americans.

The Connecticut senator also is ripping into opponents of the war in Iraq, hitting Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for showing "ambivalence" about the conflict and calling former Vermont governor Howard Dean unelectable for opposing it outright.
Lemme tell you, when you're on Donna Brazile's bad side, you're doing something right. Hell, I might even vote for him (if for no other reason than it would drive the Islamists even nuttier than they are). More importantly, so would a lot of other people who aren't thrilled with Bush but see the rest of the Democratic field as positively dangerous.
BLAMING THE (RIGHT WING) JOOOOOOS. If you're a faithful New York Times reader, you already know a few basic things - like, "right wing" is simply shorthand for "right wing death beast", and that Israel carries at least as much guilt as the Palestinians for the situation in the Middle East. (How dare they take little sliver of desert and turn it into a prosperous democracy! The nerve!)

But these truths are normally considered by the Times' editors to be self-evident - no need to spell it out and give the game away. Until now. As I type, the paper's web site features the following story from tomorrow's paper:
Israelis Worry About Terror, by Jews Against Palestinians: At the faltering start of a peace effort opposed by many right-wing Israelis, worry about terror attacks by Jews is growing.
Got that? The real danger to peace is not Yasser Arafat, Hamas, Hezbollah, or the huge number of Palestinians who would happily erase Israel tomorrow for the sake of some ancient wounded pride. Nope, it's Israelis - and right-wing ones, to boot.

The article goes on to detail fears about a "Jewish underground group who were aiming to carry out attacks on Palestinians" and claims that "at the faltering start of a peace effort opposed by many right-wing Israelis, worry about terror attacks by Jews is growing." This is because an unnamed "security official" (hasn't the Times learned its lesson about unnamed sources?) says that seven Palestinians have been killed in shootings attributed to Israelis in the past two years.

Excuse me if I keep my panties unwadded for this one. Yeah, yeah, it's a terrible thing, ask not for whom the bell tolls, yada yada yada, but seven dead Palestinains over two years is nothing, especially when seven dead Israelis is considered a pretty good day's haul by most residents of the West Bank and Gaza. (Note, too, that Palestinians run around and fire off their weapons in celebrations of Israeli deaths; on the other side of the coin, dead Arabs lead to troubled handwringing by anonymous officials to the bureau chiefs of the Western media).

As Chris Rock once said about O.J. Simpson, "I ain't saying that what he did was right. What I'm saying is, I understand."

BACK TO MY ROOTS? Went into a trendy Oxford Street record shop yesterday; since when is country music known as "roots music"? That was the heading they had smacked over their surprisingly comprehensive section of shitkicker tunes (Merle Haggard, etc). Is old-school country undergoing some sort of hip revival I am the last to know about, under the guise of some trendy vaguely pseudo-academic name?

I guess it's like the joke about Klanners playing "Roots" backwards so it has a happy ending: when you play "roots music" backwards, it has a happy ending, too. (You get your car back, you get your wife back...)
YOU MAY ASK YOURSELF: WHY THE NEW NAME? One, I couldn't remember the password to start posting again on my old site. Two, I thought I might as well embrace the ABC's mistake some months ago when it pointed people, prematurely, in this direction.
IT'S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL. Via Slatts comes this bizarre tale of a blogger run over and killed by another (drunken) blogger.

Amazingly, the event didn't take place in the parking lot after a drunken blog bash.

Monday, August 18, 2003

WHIP IT! Claire just got home from school where the campus Student Union and Student Associations - paid for with no-pay-no-play dues extracted from students (and their spouses) - are sponsoring something called "Sexuality Week".

This means that she was able to get a free helping of fairy floss (a.k.a. cotton candy) in return for listening to a woman who "looked like a brickie's labourer and talked like Martha Stewart" demonstrate that just because one is on a budget doesn't mean one can't come up with creative ways to inflict pain in the bedroom. Among the best tips were "wrap a piece of ironbark in leather" to make a great spanking device "that leaves a fantastic bruise" ; "visit a two-dollar shop, buy a sack of clothes peg, and put them on all the sensitive bits"; and, if your partner isn't sure how into pain they are, start dripping the candle from far away before bringing it closer.

I think it's painful enough knowing that we pay $190 a semester for this - why am I not turned on yet?
YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. Staffers at newspapers and magazines are used to getting bizarre letters from cranks and schizophrenics, ripe with conspiracy theories and cramped handwriting that runs out to the end of the page. In my experience in journalism, recipients generally tack the best of these notes up on office doors or cubicle walls to give passers-by a chuckle.

Not so at the Herald, where they actually print the things!

Check out a smattering of what people who slept under the newspaper last night before thoughtfully recycling it into shoe-liner thought about the blackout in New York City. There is, of course, the moral equivalence:
Pity the poor New Yorkers. Having Americans live without electricity for one day, when a great majority of the world's population live without food and electricity for an indefinite period of time, is just unthinkable.

Perhaps one day the plight of those living in Third World conditions on a permanent basis can make the front page headlines.

Bobak Nanva, Burwood, August 16
And I'd like to hear about all those planes that land safely every day, instead of hand-wringing stories about the occaisional jumbo that smashes into a mountain. Sheesh!

Meanwhile, in the same vein, we hear from Gillian Scoular, who asks,
I wonder if the New York blackouts have generated empathy for those in Iraq who are still without power or clean water since the visitation of the "coalition of the willing" several months ago.
I'm not sure, but having a wife who is reliant on Bob Carr's state rail system to get to school makes me damn empathetic to those poor Italians whose train schedules went pear-shaped after Mussolini was hanged.
THEY SAY THAT COCAINE is God's way of telling you you have too much money. I suppose blogging is His way of telling you you've got too much time on your hands. Nevertheless, here I am.

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