Thursday, November 27, 2008


the smoking bogey

American movies. No no, no such thing. Individual sensibilities. And yet and yet. Movies watched over three days, half bullied or fully bullied by the foster kid, also an easy way to assuage guilt, for not going bowling gokarting arcade gaming paintballing macdonaldsing laser skirmishing. Movies made in America. Movies featuring Americans at least. Four over three days, Kill Bill One, Kill Bill Two, Very Bad Things and Thank You For Smoking. All full of death and flippancy but at least no blood in the last. 
They bleed into each other in my mind. Kill Bill's silly manga. Know nothing about though. David Carradine's Kung Fu face looking more like his old man. Trailers and Mexico and the Japanese mafia, what they call them, Yakuza. Jacussi. Steamy stuff. Long Uma Thurman's face, changeable as Cath's in its way. Two long films, too long, superheroes, fight scenes, uninteresting superinflated characters, but I liked the trailer guy. Long tradition of multiple heaps of dead baddies, especially in cartoons. The buried alive scene, always a consciousness raiser, killed by the silly fist trick. How would you feel? Might've made the effort to surface, when a young bud. Now no longer. Relax, don't panic, slowly use up the oxygen, slip away. But really who gives a, with the unbeatable sword, the old master, the squished eye, the cardboard baddies, the unreal realism. Getting jaded perhaps. Still, always prefer good old fashioned character development. Always been weak on plot myself. Those dance fights, heads popping like corks, fountains of blood jizz, startling at first then diminished returns, slipping down in the chair, consciousness fading.
And before or ofter that, who cares, Very Bad Things, men behaving badly, Jews and Gentiles, all boorish noisy, unlike my charming mens cooking group. Obnoxious then jawdroppingly horrible, but my boy insists its a black comedy, stay with it, don't give up, improves after the first couple of deaths. Black comedy, a new concept for a teenager, he had to explain and explain. Accept the early deaths of innocents, a balloon boobed pro, a black security hotelman, as foreground to more self-destructive shenanigans led by whatisname, well-known actor, the prime nasty. Whatisname featured in that movie whatsitsname, Heathers perhaps, with weird Winona, my old flame. The Very Bad Things chopped up the bodies, disposed of them in kosher fashion and proceeded inevitably to fall apart at the seams, so with whatisnames help they dwindled in number until Cameron Diaz disposed of whatisname because she wanted everything to go right for her wedding. It was a satire. I laughed twice. 
Thank You for Smoking was a satire too about an advertising exec or maybe a lawyer, anyway an apologist for Big Tobacco, Nick Naylor, I only recall that name because the foster boy mentioned it after, and the theme was, is it really a good thing to pursue a job because you're good at it without really reflecting on wider implications? Peter Singer would not approve. Nick's young son adores his wiliness and wants to be just like him which puts us into a very very slightly tense and worried state, and that's what the film's about, why are we laughing, but we do, which is probably healthy. He has regular pub confabs with a very sexy woman representing Big Booze and a fat fuzzball representing Big Guns and they compare notes on who is responsible for most deaths. An unlikely theme for a movie, almost makes it admirable. Asked to recall what happened in the end, I couldn't. Not as unfathomable as the last batman movie, indeed not unfathomable at all, but not too memorable either, apart from that sexy alcohol woman.  Oh that reminds me of Katie Holmes, a journalist who fucked Nick for a story, for the mortgage because everyone has a mortgage, they say but I don't. Anyway again I gave the movie ticks for audacity, and for Nick being more or less unrepentent in the end, but of course Big Tobacco finally lost Big Time but not as much as Yul Brynner or Humphrey Bogart. 


Saturday, November 22, 2008

why anti-semitism?

In his book on ancient Rome and Jerusalem, Martin Goodman suggests that it was the Romans who first became 'anti-semitic', demonising the Jews in order to justify their their overly harsh response to Jewish rebelliousness in 66CE. Their campaign to put down the rebellion ended with the complete destruction of the Jewish city four years later, and a subsequent diaspora that hasn't been matched, in terms of impact, by any other.
Jewish restiveness was apparently not the result of a general hostility to Roman overlordship, it was more 'reaction to maladministration by a low-grade governor'. The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus seems to have been completely unplanned, a spur of the moment decision by a general fed up with the toll taken by a stubborn, do-or-die phalanx of Jewish fighters.
Yet there's likely to have been another important factor in the decision to raze Jerusalem. Titus was the son of Vespasian, who, after the tumultuous year 69CE in Rome [which saw three caesars come and go], was in the running to become emperor himself. A glorious defeat, even an annihilation of the Jews [who had humiliated Rome by destroying the equivalent of a whole legion, an even without precedent in Jewish history], would clearly improve Vespasian's chances of gaining the laurel crown.
Before this rebellion, Jews were tolerated and even respected at Rome. Herod the Great managed to gain the patronage first of Mark Antony, then of Octavian, and his great building projects in Jerusalem matched the scale of those of Augustus in Rome. Later, Herod's grandson, Agrippa, gained the affections of Tiberius, as well as two later caesars, Gaius [Caligula] and Claudius. Due to their patronage, he was able to rule over even more territory than his grandfather. All this changed after 70CE, and the new Christian sect, keen to distance itself from the Jews and to gain the favour of the all-powerful Romans, found it highly politic to ratchet up their own anti-Jewish attitudes, blaming the Jews for not sufficiently supporting their Man in Heaven, and even for conniving at his death. 
Could anti-semitism, that monumental Western negative force, really have sprung from such arbitrary beginnings? Well, yes and no. More no than yes, I'd say. Or rather, its beginnings were believable enough, but its burgeoning growth would have to be sustained by other factors. 
One factor was the burgeoning growth of Christianity itself. At the time of Christianity's acceptance as the official religion of the empire, Augustine, that charming intellectual and sensitive soul, a truly worthy Church Father, argued that the Jews shouldn't be converted to the True Faith, but kept in their parlous state of subjection as an example to all of the wrong path taken. Such sentiments testify to the fall of Jewish stocks in society under the Romans in the centuries following the fall of Jerusalem.
The Jews themselves were much more tolerant of Christians than vice versa. They were accustomed to break-away versions of their faith, and the gospels, if any of them are to be trusted, provide proof of the more or less good grace with which Jesus' apostate preachings were tolerated.

This is a sketchy account of the origins of anti-semitism, but its growth as a force in the west would require much further analysis, some of which is given in Niall Ferguson's The War of the World, though his book really only covers the matter in detail from the nineteenth century. Why were all Jews officially expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1322, from Spain in 1492, and so on and on? Clearly they were the victims of their own success to some extent. Ferguson gives the figures for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the Jews were vastly over-represented not only in business and banking, for which they have been traditionally reviled, but in the arts and the sciences, in academia and politics, in every area of endeavour that demands a bit of brainpower. It's likely that this over-representation reaches centuries back. Expelling the Jews [and confiscating all their worldlies] was always a good ploy for cash-strapped monarchies needing to shore up the support of their subjects, but this only partially explains the phenomenon of anti-semitism, which is wrapped up in notions of ethnicity, in-groups and out-groups and, later, toxic concepts about race.

I might go into this in more detail in another post, but then again I might not.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

drifting and gospel dating


Currently suffering a touch of emotional and intellectual drift and sadness, which often happens.

Via Pharyngula, I've been listening to a talk by the atheist biblical scholar Hector Avalos. In it he showed a papyrus fragment of New Testament MS, the earliest dated fragment, called P52, which he mentions as dating from around 125CE. The purpose of showing this evidence was to underline the fact that we have nothing whatsoever from the time of Jesus to prove his actual existence. It interested me, though, in terms of addressing again the dates of the gospels. This fragment is from John, which I seem to recall is generally agreed to be the last-written gospel. In fact, according to this site, the fragment's dates are estimated as between 125 and 150CE. It has not been carbon dated, according to Avalos, it has only been dated through paleography [hand-writing]. However, though there are no other extant manuscripts dating before the third century, the gospels are dated according to the events recorded within them [eg the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE, apparently prophesied in Mark, possibly because it had already happened], and according to their political treatment of the Romans and the Jews [there were obviously great tensions between them both before and after Jerusalem's destruction], as well as the use of Latinisms and other possible markers. Scholars are generally agreed that the writing of Mark, the earliest gospel, falls between 65 and 75CE. 

Avalos is keen to cast doubt on the very existence of Jesus, which is very easy to do. He says in his talk that the name Jesus isn't mentioned in fragment P52 - though he doesn't deny that it's a genuine fragment of John. The above-mentioned site gives a translation [the MS is in Greek] which, through reconstruction of the missing words, mentions Jesus and Pilate a number of times [both sides of the papyrus are written on]. It was discovered in Egypt, which suggests, well, nothing much more than the gospel had spread to Egypt by that time.

Another, smaller and older fragment, 7Q5, from the Qumran caves, is purported to be from Mark, but the evidence is very doubtful.  

I happen to have been reading a bit on anti-semitism lately - first, only sketchily, in Rebecca West's book, in which she merely points out William Joyce's anti-semitism, but more powerfully in Niall Ferguson's The War of the World, which looks at all the cultural, economic, imperial and other forces swirling around in the first half of the twentieth century. Amongst all that is European [and American] anti-semitism and its role in WW2. And I'm also reading Rome and Jerusalem: the clash of civilisations, by Martin Goodman, which focuses primarily on the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, its causes and consequences. The book has a brief epilogue entitled 'the origins of anti-semitism', which I read this morning [though I've only read a fraction of the book itself]. 

So there's always material to write about, to keep depression at bay. 

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Fiona Patten, Sex party convenor

The birth of the Australian Sex Party is something to celebrate, though I'm not expecting it to sweep the scene. I think though that we've reached the stage, even if it's only due to an increase in diversity, that we can seriously, if not too seriously, use the sex word in the title of a political party. Its stated aim, or one of them, is to counter what it sees as the growing influence of religious groups as lobbyists, and of Family First as an essentially Christian conservative party. The influx of Moslem immigrant groups, and other religious immigrants, might also be a concern regarding the maintenance of a truly secular polity. I'm hoping that secularism and the promotion of a sexually healthy and more open society can find common ground to work within.
I note that sex education, for example, is on the ASP agenda, and having noted the appalling response to a more inclusive attitude to homosexuality from the arch-conservative religious school of one of my previous foster-kids [who just happened to be a confused young homosexual], I feel strongly about defending a secularised, inclusive sex education system.

There are many focus issues, even if they're not so high on the agenda now that the economic crisis is carrying all before it. Sex education, abortion, gay marriage, the puritanical [and killing] conditions attached to overseas aid, censorship, the funding of religious schools and institutions, issues around prostitution and pornography, sex discrimination, sexual health issues, drug laws and other civil liberties issues, to name just a few broad areas. The whole idea of this party - the only sex party I'd ever have the chance of being invited to, I suspect [as an overweight, middle-aged single male] - is quite rejuvenating, and I'd quite like to get involved as more than just a member. I've bookmarked the site and I'll pay a membership fee and I'll email them re volunteering. I have writing skills to offer, at least. Of course I might have to tread carefully as a foster carer who receives, in that role, considerable support from a religious charity, though they've never mentioned religion to me and I doubt that all their workers are True Believers. Still, combining foster care with libertine causes might make for a tough juggle. 

I've already spoken of this stuff to my current foster kid [who's seventeen and about to fly the coop] and we discussed a couple of the issues, namely gay marriage and abortion. On abortion, he thinks it shouldn't be freely available, but only under certain conditions, such as not having the funds to care for a child, or being too young, or too old... and he also thinks the father of the child should have a say. Like most teens, he puts his finger well on the general dilemmas but hasn't thought through the details, the implications for each particular case ... but then he finished with the view that each individual case should be taken on its merits, which is fine but it doesn't take us too far. The whole discussion made me aware how little I know about what happens when a woman presents for an abortion. Presumably she has counselling choices but may not take those options. Presumably the father doesn't rate a mention? There are quite a few ethical issues kicking around just there. 

The lad also argues that gays shouldn't be allowed to be married, because marriage is a Christian ceremony and the Bible's dead against homosexuality. He's dead against the Bible himself, but he somehow seems to feel that if you're gay you wouldn't want to be married, or a Christian, because of Biblical injunctions against homosexuality. I pointed out of course that there were many homosexual Christians and that marriage isn't just a Christian tradition, and of course he said he knew all that... and he modified his view to allow at least civil gay marriages, which are presumably outlawed still by the current Federal government. Again I felt that I should bone up on the issues. Earlier this year, Federal Labor worked on reforming all they could reform re discriminatory legislation around gender and sexual orientation, but they stopped short of giving gay marriage the go-ahead. Why? What was their rationale? How instrumental was the Christian Rudd in this decision? And as to the reforms, have they now passed through both houses and become law? 

There are plenty of other issues to investigate and monitor. There is apparently a strong will within this Federal government to overturn the Harradine-inspired policy which ties overseas aid funding to an anti-abortion message, but it hasn't happened yet. And then there's this proposed internet filter...

This article on the Harradine policy is an online version of one I read yesterday in a doctor's surgery. Possibly a bit sensationalist, but not bad for a fashion rag, I thought. 

Hopefully I  can make a real connection with this party, but I'll have to change my shy ways. Apparently they're launching the new party at Melbourne's Sexpo, and I've never been able to dig up the courage to go to one of them....

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Monday, November 17, 2008


Historian Niall Ferguson describes it as Kipling's finest poem, and of course its still-puncturing refrain still lives on. The god message doesn't move me, but something does, in this remembering, collapsing time 

God of our fathers, known of old--
Lord of our far-flung battle line--
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine--
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies--
The Captains and the Kings depart--
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away--
On dune and headland sinks the fire--
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe--
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law--
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard--
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!


Monday, November 10, 2008

the treason problem

Klaus Fuchs - a bit naive, a bit arrogant

Rebecca West's collection of essays, The Meaning of Treason, is both reportage and meditation. The edition I've been reading was published in 1952 and it deals with the treason of Nazi collaborators such as William Joyce [Lord Haw-Haw] and John Amery, the more or less incompetent founder of the British Free Corps, an organisation mired in haplessness. The later essays, however, treat of scientists who sold secrets to Soviet Russia, including Allen Nun May and the controversial physicist Klaus Fuchs. It's worth noting that these trials were conducted in, and contributed to, an atmosphere of anti-communist paranoia that came to a head with McCarthyism in the USA. 
In spite of the title, I'm not sure that West has come to terms with the concept of treason. Then again, I'm not sure if it's possible to come to terms with it or wholly capture it - it's a slippery and ever-contested concept. West's book is naturally of its time, a time buffeted by the most damaging war, perhaps, in human history. Considering this, West's judgment and those of her contemporaries seem measured and humane enough. Compare the response to September 11 [not an act of treason but yet somehow seen as a betrayal "of our freedoms''], when the tragic and senseless murder of 3000 people was seen as sufficient reason for invading two nations, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, imprisoning countless numbers of their inhabitants, suspending habeas corpus, dispensing with the Geneva conventions, encouraging the use of torture, creating secret prisons and so much more besides. At times like this, when a nation sinks so low, the line between treason and whistle-blowing becomes hard to draw. 
Rebecca West was faced with no such problems when she wrote her book. The defeat of fascism had laid bare all its murderous and nihilistic horror. Communism under Stalin had revealed itself as equally bereft of value. Still, treason isn't really about different systems of governance, it's about your country versus everyone else's. It's about the meaning of ''my country''. It's about patriotism, the flip side of treason.  
In her epilogue to the essay collection, West returned to the central concept, perhaps feeling she needed to sharpen the focus. She began by anticipating Peter Singer's notion of the expanding circle; the self, the immediate family, the larger community of interests... and then country. 
Born and bred in England, he will find it easier to understand the English than the rest of men, not for any mystical reason, but because their language is his, because he is fully acquainted with their customs, and because he is the product of their common history. So also each continent enjoys a vague unity of self-comprehension, and is divided from the others by a sharp disunity...
We can all sense what is being gotten at here, and it raises interesting questions, because it suggests that treason [and patriotism], isn't necessarily about nationhood, but perhaps more about [the betrayal or upholding of] a shared heritage, which may or may not be tied to a nation state. One can imagine being accused of treason against Athens in ancient times, for example, or even of being a traitor to the Aboriginal cause, but to claim someone as a traitor to the European Union seems way too fraught, the ''unity of self-comprehension'' being altogether too vague and too riven with competing allegiances to carry conviction. 
West goes on to say - but I'm oversimplifying, I know - that this simple pleasure in shared heritage has been 'lately' muddied by rationalism, by which
the ardours of patriotism were to be abandoned, and replaced by a cool resolution to place one's country on a level with all others in one's affections and to hand it over without concern to the dominion of any other power which could offer it greater material benefits
I would suggest though, that at all times there have been characters, and more than we might like to admit, who have switched national allegiences as frequently, and often for much the same reasons, as pro footballers have switched clubs. Think of Alcibiades, who worked just as hard for Sparta against Athens as he ever did for his birth state, and then again for the Persians against the Peloponnesians, or Josephus, the controversial adviser to Rome on all things Jewish. In troubled times, the self, the centre of that circle of affections, often becomes paramount. 

To us now, Nazi or Stalinist sympathisers seem beyond the pale for reasons having little to do with treason, unless we use the term in the sense of betraying the whole species. Still, we are able to make concessions – for the Brits of German background caught between two sides, for the hapless, uneducated POWs who joined the British Free Corps in exchange for kinder treatment from their captors, and even, though to a lesser degree, for those leftists who genuinely believed that communism would provide us all with something somehow better.

In an odd passage [she can certainly be obscure at times] West seems to mock and dismiss the internationalism which many would nowadays claim as a basis for shaking off or transcending the quasi-primitive charms of nationalism: 

So the evil moment of fascism came and was clear: not surpassed in evil since the days of the barbarian invasions. The devil of nationalism had been driven out of man, but he had not become the headquarters of the dove. Instead there had entered into him the seven devils of internationalism, and he was torn by their frenzies.

This is more sensationalist than illuminating, but West seemed to believe that this internationalist spirit was a product of a rationalism more dangerous even than the misguided nationalisms that had so recently damaged Europe, and the sphere of Japanese adventurism. It was defeated, she claimed, by the simple reassertion of ordinary folks' claims to their own heritage in the aftermath of the war. I think the term ideology should replace rationalism here, and her remarks are clearly better suited to socialist/communist 'blank slate' ideology, internationalist in spirit, than to fascism, with its focus on nationalist/cultural bloodlines. West's critique is both eloquent and at times hopelessly muddy. In the end it's about cherishing your own - not too much, for ... All men should have a drop or two of treason in their veins, if the nations are not to go soft like so many pears. Of course she’s right that we have to appreciate the small values, the small virtues, those that Nietszche sneered at in Zarathustra. That we shouldn’t aim so high that we lose sight of our foiblesome neighbours and their strivings. The question is, whether people should be punished for giving their all to an idea or a set of ideas rather than to their neighbours, as a matter of principle. It will depend, of course, on the idea, and on the neighbours. The problem with communism was never its international appeal, it was an appeal to a vague utopian concept of equality and social engineering. To sell your neighbours into danger for something so vague and dubious was both naive and arrogant. Was it treason? Probably, yes, but perhaps not quite as commonly understood. The meaning of treason remains unresolved, indeed never more so in an age of increasing global co-operation. In fact, with treason not having much of a profile in the courts these days, the question, both of treason and of patriotism has clearly become increasingly vexed. May it continue to be so - it might just be a sign of maturity. 

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and you get more

ain't drugs

These words affront me every time.
Drugs are not recreational 
Drugs are drugs

And cars are cars and brains are brains and 
stupidity is stupidity and imagination is precisely and
pins are not ever needles and love
cannot possibly be pain, and sex is, 
and a smile is nothing but a smile, please be

a word is only a word but always a word
and that is the word that it is

a dictionary is another word for a liar
and that is a lie 
by definition

We live in narrow times that are always coming to an end
- at least to this little ego

on hubristic claims to custodianship

we must save the planet, I hear
parroted by kids and such
and the Anzacs died to save us
except they didn't
they just beastly died
and our planet isn't dying
but so many of our prey are
and so it goes, and will go
until maybe we all go
to nothing
and the planet will spin on
throbbing and thickening
with life, but not as we know it


Sunday, November 09, 2008

three wee poems

the bush

This morning I woke up to rare spring rain.
the thyme had been thinning greying
in the desert front
midst of cobwebs and drooping straps
carelessly dealt with.

With rain it shines and enlivens.
No watering can can compare.
It's all it should be
all of a sudden.

By afternoon dull thiness is back, almost,
for hope's colour just remains
and a tiny trace of body, or mind.

life long learning

Treason, strange word nowadays
in a world of sharing
your secret's with me
your face my book

William Joyce was hanged.
He hated Jews.
That wasn't nice.
his poor parents died before him
which was a good thing

and if he were alive today
ever in his prime
to witness his death and aftermath
and ever after
wouldn't he feel the fool

Time wounds all heels 
and heals all wounds

thank you 

Your music somehow does it

the mood
for spare stark words

I feel precise and languid
warmly human and sans nonsense

a kind of love
disembodied unfortunately
but that has its place
a place that saves


Saturday, November 08, 2008

trying to keep calm

but my tail is wagging

Much of today, a Saturday, was spent volunteering for the city council, overseeing kiddies frolics in Rundle Mall on Christmas pageant day. November 8 seems way to early for all that stuff, but they do it the same time every year. It was fun enough and got me some much-needed exercise. Afterwards I hung around Borders and bought two books I could ill afford, The Blind Watchmaker and another history book, but one I sense I'm going to argue with a bit, The War of the World by Niall Ferguson. My life has crumbled so much that really reading is the major solace and focus now, I've become largely invisible in the real world, but I did at least have some pleasant conversation with the lovely Huey, a fellow volunteer who talked me into the gig. I work with her at a city community centre on Mondays, and she's applied for a job and wanted encouragement from me. I thought she had a good chance of getting it, and she suddenly said, I'm sure quite innocently - I tell you what, if I get the job, we'll go out to dinner, is that a deal? 
My immediate thought was - am I hearing this arright?  Is she talking about just us two, or maybe the whole staff of the community centre? She's a very attractive woman, and of course much younger than myself. A couple of months ago, she confided in me quite unexpectedly regarding the sudden break-up of her marriage, and then I felt a spark, though I dismissed it as the usual desperation on my part. In any case, it gives me a fillip - my body might start getting the attention it needs from me again. I'll have to check through her application to make sure she gets the job - English isn't her first language.

Must change the subject. 

With all the poo the USA's in at the moment, the election of Obama shows things haven't changed, the black guys still get the worst jobs. Still, it's pretty exciting, and I was unexpectedly tearful when the victory was announced, it's kind of miraculous, even though I've supported him since before he started moving ahead of Clinton in the fight for the Democratic nomination, and it restores my faith in the American public somewhat, though the claim that now the possibility of becoming US President is open to anyone with sufficient merit is clearly bogus, and will be so for as long as Presidents and wannabe Presidents have to utter those puerile words ''God bless America" after every speech. Those founding fathers must be spewing in their gravies. 

But there are plenty of reasons not too get too excited about Obama as a pacifying diplomat. In the first Presidential debate, I think it was, he just happened to slip in the claim that Venezuela - a democratically elected government that just happens to be a bit antagonistic to US foreign policy - was a rogue state. More US arrogance, pure and simple [and chilling too - let's not forget the CIA's murderous intervention in Iran in the fifties and Chile in the seventies, democracy my arse]. Today he had a go at Iran. I'm not so much annoyed that he claims Iran supports terrorist organisations. Presumably he has proof and I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt [though evidence must be produced, and we'd expect something a darn sight better than the shite served up as evidence against Iraq]. What I am concerned about is that a state bristling with nuclear weapons somehow imagines that it has the right to prevent any other nation from developing similar weapons. Hypocrisy, pure and simple. Motes and beams in eyes. Of course I don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons. I don't want any country to have them. I certainly don't trust the US with them, not after eight years of Bush and his Cheney gang. 

So I'm with P Z Myers on this. No reason to get too carried away.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

keeping occupied

As everyone worries about the economistupid, except all the poor people I know, and I don't know any rich ones, and as others anticipate an extraordinary moment in US political history, as do I very much, I struggle with life and death issues in my own sad meagre life but am buoyed and cheered as always by investigations outside myself. Homo floresiensis returned to my consciousness via an intriguing SBS doco. When last it left it the sceptics seemed to be gaining the upper hand, describing insisting the hobbit was a case of pathology, or hobbits were a case of pathology, microcephaly probably. I an amateur though well they might or must be right, floresiensis upsets too many applecarts, you can't have such a small and small-brained humanoid dating to only 13000 years ago without pathology, there's no possible fit otherwise, but now I hear apparently well-credentialled and richly experienced specialists, on teeth and bones and brains, arguing no way, this isn't pathology, this is genuine hominid enigma, and one of them makes connections between australopithecine bones, dating near two million years ago and never known to have come out of Africa, and the islandic floresiensis just north of Australia. 
Islands, they say, always throw up anomalies, and this is a whopper, it can hardly be underestimated, with a brain around 400 cubic centimetres, less than half that of homo erectus, the human ancestor thought to have brought us out of Africa. How can this much more recent, much smaller-brained species or subspecies, with wrist bones like those of chimpanzees, have survived almost to the present day [it seems to have been a tool-maker on the level of homo erectus]? The generally or previously acknowledged thinking about human evolution has been that of progressively increasing brain size, though the neanderthals who survived to 30000 years ago were an uncomfortable anomaly, but now all is up for grabs and people are wondering about Orang Pendek and there have been discoveries written up from Dmanisi, Georgia about a smaller-brained version of homo erectus in Asia, dating back 1.8 million years, and experts point out that there is so tiny fragmented a fossil record regarding human ancestry, hardly enough to build any coherent theory, and cherished theories can be smashed by so little a floresiensis, it's no wonder scientists are so passionately pro and con. 
So that was engrossing and I wished for a while I Coodabeen a paleontologist and maybe I Coodabeen if I hadn't been such a wastrel or dreamer, a paleontologist chatting with same, exciting each other and arguing with each other, stimulating each other to take home our ideas together and apart and think on them and work on them and examine and write further, modifying theories, creating revolutions.
Meanwhile I sit sometimes with no light and sound wondering what to do, getting fat and old as the external exciting world recedes, and I think, then I think no, avoid that, and soon the US election results will be out and that'll be fun, I'll be able to talk to someone about that maybe.   

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pavlov's cat