Sunday, August 27, 2006

until the twelfth of never

Technical and other difficulties have contributed to a too-long absence.

I was invited to a candlelight vigil for David Hicks on Wednesday and had every intention of attending, but circs prevented, so to assuage my guilt, I'd like to draw attention to an excellent analysis of the legal quagmire Hicks is embroiled in, by former federal Attorney-General and supreme court judge Kep Enderby. It was on Okham's Razor and can be listened to here. The gist of it is, though, that Hicks is being held more in the sense of a prisoner of war than as a criminal, and can be so held 'until the end of hostilities'. Since the 'war' we're talking about is America's self-declared war on terror, which has no end date, and will never have an end date under this or similar administrations, IMHO, this could well mean that Hicks will end his days in prison, never having been charged with anything.

This piece back in April, and (some of) the commentary attached to it, is also very informative on the case.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

the old confessional dilemma

Divided responsibilities - Monty broods in I Confess

Been engaging in some heavy reading of late - in science, in psychology and philosophy of religion, in moral psychology and philosophy. Also faced with and trying to avoid heavy issues re Lebanon, Hezbullah and terrorism. So, for a break, some reviews.

Have recently - actually not so recently - seen a couple of Hitchcock films, of varying quality.

I Confess came out in 1953 and took full advantage of Montgomery Clift's capacity to convey the quiet intensity of a priest bearing the burden of a murderer's confession. However the plot has a few gigantic holes, and the improbabilities drop the whole thing down to B level, IMHO.

Clift is Father Michael Logan, who finds that a man named Keller (O E Hasse) - whom he knows well - has stolen into his church late one night. Logan enters the church and confronts Keller, who wishes to make a confession. He's murdered a local identity by the name of Villette, apparently inadvertently, while robbing him. Hitchcock cleverly shifts the scene of Keller's confession midway through, from the confessional box to his own home (or perhaps rooms in the priest's house, for he's a refugee whom Father Logan seems to have taken in, as both he and his wife appear to work around the house), where he unburdens himself before his distraught and anxious wife Alma (Dolly Haas).

In the scenes that follow, Keller reveals himself as a real slimebucket, and I felt uncomfortable about the demonisation of this vaguely mid-European refugee. What's more, it's a bit hard to sort his manipulative nature with his confession. However, as it happens, a revealed connection between Villette and Logan offers Keller an opportunity to pin the blame on the priest. Too convenient to be quite convincing, I find - but you can choose to let go of the wobbly plot and wallow in the black and white camera work, the abounding shadows and crosses, the twitches in the corners of Clift's mouth, the awkword love scenes with the equally fascinating Anne Baxter (but now I'm confusing characters with the actors who play them). Clift is particularly watchable, in an understated, unAmerican way. Witness the look on his face when forced to meet and greet Keller, knowing what he knows.

The film's ending was particularly absurd, for mine. After some courtroom drama, Logan is found not guilty of the murder of Villette, with the jurors taking pains to explain that there wasn't sufficient evidence to convict. The judge begs to differ with the verdict; nevertheless, Logan walks free. The hostile crowds outside underline that this is an O J Simpson-style decision - Logan's life will never be the same. It's all too much for Frau Keller - she breaks away from her husband and rushes to Logan and the detectives surrounding him. Clearly she's about to divulge the secrets of her confessional, but before she can do so, her husband shoots her - in full view of this huge crowd. Somehow, though, he escapes undetected, until he’s tracked down – to a theatre. Logan approaches him, revealing his courage to all (apparently it was under question) and is only saved from certain death by a well-aimed shot from a pursuing policeman, which strikes Keller in the shoulder. Ridiculously, Keller leans on his wounded arm against the stage and goes on expatiating upon his crimes and misdemeanors, in a scene as hammy as anything in the unintentionally hilarious Howard Hughes vehicle, The Outlaw (released in the same year). I must say something about that worthy film soon.

A film [I Confess, I mean] worth watching from the perspective of mood, performance and photographic texture, but spoiled by a defective narrative and a few too many melodramatic gestures.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

recycled water - way of the future

dual reticulation - purple means don't drink - is a start at least

This site, which features people far more expert than I am about water resource management (they're scientists in the main), confirms what I said in the last post, that the yuk factor is having a disproportionate influence on the debate. The consensus seems to be that the Toowoomba decision revealed a failure in communication on the essential issues and that short-term political campaigning and scare tactics won the day. The story can't be allowed to end there.

The fact is that treated waste water is becoming more and more a part of urban water supplies worldwide. In Australia, the driest continent and becoming drier every year, Adelaide is leading the way. Already 21% of our waste water is recycled, far more than that of any other major Australian city. Sydney is worst, with only 3%. One of the main reasons for Adelaide's good showing, admittedly, is the fact that we have a lot of farmland around our sewage-treatment plants, with farmers more than willing to buy the treated water. Sydney's treatment plants are on the coast, surrounded by built-up suburbs with a built-in yuk factor. Not that there aren't suburbs - in Sydney as well as Adelaide - willing to use recycled water. Mawson Lakes in Adelaide's north is one such. It uses the recycled water for garden and toilets, employing a dual reticulation system that looks like becoming the way of the future - at least until recycled waste water for drinking becomes acceptable. It seems to me that dual reticulation - with water for express non-potable purposes being minimally processed - has some fairly obvious inherent hazards to it. Better, I should say, to bite the bullet and go all the way.


water mainly

where we get our nasty water from - our local resources have become degraded, subject to 'diffuse pollution', over time

Struggling with ill-health and looking forward to being doped-up as from this morning, am still managing to keep up with a few things thanks to friends.

Last night attended a conversation-talk from the Californian climatologist and current Adelaide thinker-in-residence Stephen Schneider. I've written elsewhere on global warming and my tentative conclusions - but I can't find the stuff to link to. Anyway, I'm generally of the view that of course global warming is happening, and it's very likely that humans are contributing to it, though the extent of the human contribution is very difficult to determine, and the possibility of a natural cycle occurring can't be ruled out, especially given our limited historical data.

It's also fair to say that the global warming sceptics have rather more of a crusading, ideological tone to their arguments than the advocates, as for example, this anti-Schneider site. The evidence, in any case, is against them.

In any case, there are other reasons for energy-conservation and developing alternative, cleaner and greener energy resources. Reducing our own massive ecological footprint is inherently positive and improves the conditions for a greater diversity of species. Still, it would be worthwhile to know what we probably will never know, to any great degree of accuracy - whether, or how much we, as a species, are contributing to the hurricanes and other climatic conditions that have caused so much human suffering of late.

Water is another environmental issue much in the news. The failure of Toowoomba City Council's attempt to reuse waste water as its regular drinking or potable water supply has been something of a disappointment to those concerned about our current squandering of a scarce resource. I intend to bone up on this issue so that I can write some pieces informing myself and others on what looms as possibly the most important global issue for the 21st century. The June-July Cosmos magazine has an article on water as resource in Australia for starters. My initial feeling is that the negativity about the uses of recycled waste water isn't very soundly based (the yuk factor), and that it will be overcome over time, especially as reservoirs continue to fall, and no valid alternative is likely to present itself.

Partly related: I heard an interview with a dentist this morning on the subject of water and tooth decay. It seems that Australia has plummeted from having the best teeth in the developed world to having the second-worst. The drinking of bottled water and the avoidance of tap water is at least partly to blame. Certainly I won't be buying spring water ever again.


pavlov's cat