Friday, March 18, 2005

Autumn Signs

(Updated with photos!)
Despite this year's summer having done its damnedest to do autumn out of a job, there is one sure-fire sign in Melbourne that the misty season is a-cumin in for real, and that is when you start seeing hot air balloons suspended, like christmas baubles, over the Yarra on still mornings.

Originally uploaded by arf.

Little Missy loves balloons (as you do at her age). The trouble is that she likes her bed even more so in the early morning (which is quite unlike her attitude in the late evening, I might add!).

Oh well! The hour's coming off in a week or so. Maybe they'll get together then.

Meantime, we have an old crepe myrtle which has actually managed to flower this year (in previous years, its buds have been about a month behind the rest of the local myrtle population, and have dropped off when the weather got colder).

A bit of rain works wonders!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

State of Fear: The Land of The Big Lie

David Brin's been writing a long and rambling piece on the dichotomy of modernism vs romanticism in today's society. He recently held up Michael Crichton as one example of the romantic (ie neocon) movement's attack on modernist values, especially his latest novel 'State of Fear', which deals with one man's attempts to thwart the machinations of an evil eco-terrorist movement's attempts to persuade the US government that global warming was a reality.

The underlying text being that global warming is a hoax, with no verifiable evidence.

The last edition of New Scientist had a review of the novel by one Jeremy Leggett, a member of Greenpeace International and author of 'The Carbon War'.

You can imagine what he thought of it. (you can even see what he thought of it here, if you have a NS subscription).

He started by describing an apparently common misconception among Americans that it was Greenpeace activists who blew up a french boat in New Zealand. (In case there is any doubt, it was the Greenpeace ship 'Rainbow Warrior' that was blown up by French operatives to prevent it from going to the French nuclear test site at Muroroa. One person was killed.. from Greenpeace).

He then went on to set the record straight on at least one of Crichton's mythconceptions: that the conclusions of the 1995 report of the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) had been subsequently doctored to indicate that human activity was having a discernible impact on the environment.

What woppers!

...but you know what they say: don't ever let the facts get in the way of a good story. Crichton clearly hasn't, and all the notoriety will, no doubt, ensure a good lot of sales.

More evidence that the big lie is on the increase comes from the vehement reaction to a speech made by US Sen John Byrd, where he likened a proposal to limit the debate time in the senate as a tactic worthy of Nazi Germany. (ironically, the big lie was a tactic favoured by Goebbels)

Oh, the outrage! How dare he equate the centre of democracy with that despicable dictatorship. Such comments are beyond the pale! Burn the witch! etc...

But, why shouldn't he make such comparisons? His point was that gagging the senate was precisely the tactic used by Hitler to stifle opposition under a shroud of legitimacy. If you use the devil's tools, what does that make you?
Methinks they did protest too much
And, as Harvey Wasserman points out, whereas Nazi Germany had concentration camps, the US now has Guantanamo Bay, and a substantial prison gulag consisting of 2.2 million people in for victimless crimes.

Meanwhile, Australia has places like Baxter detention centre, a non-place for non-people surrounded by its non-electric 'energised' fence (9,000 non-volts). You can read more about that here.

Another form of the Big Lie is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). The theory is that, if you can spread enough threats, rumours, innuendo, gossip, and a few porkies (oh , sorry, misinformation), then you can sap confidence in a product, or an activity, or an opinion. (Condoms are permeable to the AIDS virus? Would you want to consider switching to Linux if SCO is going to threaten legal action for licensing fees?. Or if Microsoft is going to start enforcing software patents? Are refugees Al Qa'eda infiltrators? Do they throw their children overboard?)

It's a time honoured activity but, as SCO has discovered, it doesn't work so well these days, because people are more interconnected: they can comment to themselves, or to each other via emails, blogs, wikis, etc. And there are likely to be more dispassionate observers than there are active fuddy duddies.

So, is it game over for FUD, or can the practitioners of the Big Lie adapt?

It will probably persist for a while yet!

Meanwhile, Tim Bray has commented recently on a flurry of reports that people are getting sacked for blogging. Fair enough, if you're bad mouthing your employer in public, but I can't help wondering: is it just a scattering of unrelated events, or the preliminary feelers for something more sinister?
... Gotta go, the boss is coming! ;-)

More Taradiddle: Battlestar Galactica

Remember Starbuck, and Apollo, heroes of one of the most godawful SF series in existence?

They're back.

Try as he might, JMS doesn't seem to have the clout to get another B5 project off the ground, and yet execrable rubbish like Star Trek:whatever just gets a rubber stamp (well, until recently, that is, when even the suits noted that the old cash cow's impulse engines are stone cold)

...and as for remakes of Battlestar Galactica?
oh, puh-leeeze!!!
The mini series came and went about a year ago. I didn't bother watching it: common wisdom being that, if remakes are generally so-so, what is the so-so of awful?

Now the follow-up series has started and, by chance, I happened across it a week or two ago.

Huh? Grunge? Hand held cameras? Real human pathos? This is Battlestar Galactica?

The beast appears to have been turned inside out. The only common points of reference are that:
  • humanity has been whupped into near extinction by a group of alien nasties
  • alien nasties are called Cylons
  • heroes names are Apollo, Starbuck, and Adama
  • villian's name is Baltar
  • the effects are state of the art (when they appear: the producers apparently having learnt the 'Dr. Who' law that a decent story will cover for crap effects, but not vice versa)
Based on two episodes' viewing, the result is inifinitely better*. Will it continue? I'll have to see.

The only other thing I want to add is that the art of subversive political messages isn't dead: last night's episode featuring the human gov't reaction to a group of terrorists who have taken hostages. Their demands? The restoration of democracy!

Homework: compare and contrast with today's political stage.
*A more in-depth review can be found here.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Why Bother Going? Check This Out!

Just published on the Cassini news site: an eclipse of Rhea by Dione
Don't be fooled by anyone saying the money could be better spent elsewhere, in the overall scheme of things, the funding for Cassini is peanuts (and the yield is coconuts!)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Shadow of a Memory

It looks like the proposed B5 movie ('The Memory of Shadows') is no more.
According to JMS, the options have lapsed, and it's going nowhere in the foreseeable future.

It's disappointing, but I applaud JMS' s stance on production values: Star Wars with brains is always going to be a tempting prospect to the viewing public. Not so much to the production companies, who appear to prefer 'dumb and easy' as a temptation to the masses (who aren't as dumb as they think!)