Friday, February 24, 2006

Bloody Mary. Not funny.

Missed the South Park 'Bloody Mary' episode, as I did? Here's a clip. Yawn. The talking cats were funnier. [Hat tip Clint Heine]

LINK: Bloody Mary (South Park) - YouTube

Talking cats

Talking Cats? You betcha. You want them? Here they are.

The person who sent me the link (thanks RT) warns, "Ok, it has nothing to do with freedom or liberty or politics, but it did have me suffering from crippling internal injuries due to laughter. It probably is quite a long download if you use dial-up."

LINKS: Talking cats - Heavy.Com

TAGS: Humour

Cue Card Libertarianism - Emergencies

University ethics classes and late-night bull sessions are replete with discussions of hypothetical and unikely moral dilemmas. Whose responsibility is an abandoned baby in the woods? Should I dive into a turbulent river to save a dying woman? What should I do if I my boat sinks and I wash up on a desert island only to stumble across a locked but well-stocked hut -- can I break in and use the food and shelter? What if there are two if us in a lifeboat but only food for one? What if (for a dose of humour) we're a brain in a vat driving a runaway trolley down a rail line with with only two forks with five people standing on one and nine on the other but... Etc. Etc. Ad nauseum.

You get the picture. Bogus dilemmas and fantastic situations discussed as if such things are the whole of ethics. They're not. One is invited to draw the conclusion from these discussions that life is as contingent as these situations describe; that general principles are useless for living; that life is simply a succession of emergencies and lifeboat situations with which we're presented and from which we need to somehow extricate ourselves. It isn't. If it were -- if life was just a series of emergencies -- then for a start we wouldn't have the concept of 'emergency' to describe such out-of-the-ordinary situations; and nor would we be able to function or to plan ahead.

Generally, the number-one task that faces us in emergencies is to get the hell out of them with ourselves and our loved ones intact -- there's not much in that on which to found a system of ethics. As Ayn Rand says in her article 'The Ethics of Emergencies,' "The fact is that men do not live in lifeboats-and that a lifeboat is not the place on which to base one's metaphysics."

If normal daily life was truly as contingent as the moral dilemmas suggest, then we'd be justified in declaring like Job that the universe is against us and devising moral principles or any system of ethics for such a universe would be pointless, since any crisis could emerge at any moment to knock our principles into a cocked hat.

If we did that we'd be foolish. Moral dilemmas are not the basis on which to build and establish any system of ethics -- they may help us to understand the context within our ethics work successfully, or to perhaps to discover the hierarchical structure of our ethical system, but they are not the place from which to begin devising such a system. A proper ethics looks at goals or values, and the long-range actions and virtues needed to achieve them. Lifeboat situations and the short-term actions needed to deal with them form only a very small subset of such a science.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series as it develops can be found here.

TAGS: Cue Card Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Ethics, Objectivism, Philosophy

Would Orwell or Marx have blogged?

Would Karl Marx or George Orwell have made good bloggers? Some opinions on that question here from a host of bloggers and commentators in a meditation on blogging from FT.Com's Trevor Butterworth. There is, says Trev, "a spectre haunting the blogosphere - tedium."
If the pornography of opinion doesn’t leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium.
"The point is," he says "any writer of talent needs the time and peace to produce work that has a chance of enduring. " The daily blogging treadmill, what some bloggers call "feeding the beast," stultifies output says Trev. And what happens to the blogger's material in the end? It's not even the stuff of tomorrow's fish and chip wrappers, is it?
And that, in the end, is the dismal fate of blogging: it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence. No Modern Library edition of the great polemicists of the blogosphere to yellow on the shelf; nothing but a virtual tomb for a billion posts - a choric song of the word-weary bloggers, forlorn mariners forever posting on the slumberless seas of news.
I guess our Trev has never considered archives, or collections of columns collected together as books?

LINKS: Time for the last post - FT.Com [Hat tip Arts & Letters Daily]
PC's Archives

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

'Crystal Chapel' Project - Bruce Goff


Sketch and model of Bruce Goff's 1950 Crystal Chapel project, and Bruce Goff in his studio in 1962. I have to say that his office looks way, way tidier than mine!

TAGS: Art, Architecture

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Ten Worst New Zealanders

A few bloggers have listed their ten worst New Zealanders, predictably including the likes of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson (or proxies for them) even though the economic golden weather we are presently enjoying is in many ways due to the reforms they both instituted (and which have been left largely untouched by the Clark-Cullen Government) -- and unpredictably including the likes of Sarah Ulmer. Sarah Ulmer for goodness sake!?

Another difference from the other list-compilers (apart from a sense of perspective) is that with very few exceptions I don't believe there have been any truly evil NZers in public life (well, maybe just the last two on my list). For the most part they've just been either bumbling mediocrities or slimy power-lusters who as a result of their meddling and manipulation have made others lives more difficult than they needed to be, (or in the case of Robert Logan or William Massey spread disease inadvertently).

And I've only selected nine, still leaving one spot for your own suggestions. Come on, convince me.
  • Robert Muldoon - an easy target, to be sure, and a deserving one. For nine years he lay across NZ's political, commercial and social life like a dead weight. Once his Government was finally deposed, the feeling of fresh air sweeping through the country was almost palpable.
  • Simon Upton - this poseur brought in and administered the worst violation of property rights since the war, the RMA, and presided over and was responsible for the tragic contaminated blood scandal. Asked before the fragrant fool headed off to a Paris sinecure whether he regretted anything in his political career, he proudly declared, "Nothing gnaws at my soul."
  • Lord Douglas Douglas Graham - speaking in the wake of giving millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to Ngai Tahu for things those taxpayers hadn't done, Graham declared: "The sooner we realise there are laws for one & laws for another, the better." No one did more for separatism in NZ than this former Minister of Apartheid and certified pompous arse. When first selected in the safe seat of Remuera one of the selection board confided afterward that it has always been considered that National could win the seat if it put up a donkey as a candidate - "and that's just what we've done this year," said the worthy gentleman. It is a fitting epitaph.
  • Julius Vogel - a Keynesian before Keynes, and a Muldoonist before Muldoon. An inveterate booster and meddler and a believer in big government -- we largely have him to thank rather than the later Fabians for beginning NZ's accelerating growth of government -- his profligate borrowing to pay for 'Think Big: The Vogel Years' almost bankrupted the small, young country, destroyed lives and dreams, and led to almost twenty years of depression. Unlike many of the others in this list, Vogel at least had the shame to leave NZ and retire in disgrace -- but not before extracting a taxpaid pension from the bankrupt government.
  • Russell, McVeagh, Simpson, Grierson, Bell, Gully, Sue, Grabbit & Run, et al - simply gruesome all of them. Hip-deep in sharp practice, legislative chicanery and monopolistic bullying the lot of them. Dick Cheney did a good thing when he shot one of their breed. I like to think it was intentional on Cheney's part.
  • Marie Clay - a turner of minds into mush. The woman whose 'Look-and-Guess' approach to reading taught three generations of New Zealanders how to be illiterate.
  • Colin McCahon/Ralf Hotere - producers of Emperor's' New Clothes for those too blinded by pretension to see it.
  • Pick a missionary - any missionary. Introduced native New Zealanders to Western mysticism when they were still enmired in their own, before earning their trust and using it to sell them out.
  • Te Rauparaha /Hongi Hika - these two stone killers murdered, enslaved, raped, looted and had eaten thousands of pre-European NZers (and more than a few Europeans as well), ceasing only when they could call on law and a new Treaty to protect their conquests. Truly evil.
UPDATE: Strong contenders for the tenth position so far: Graham Capill, Bert Potter, Bob Semple, Morton Coutts. Keep those suggestions coming.

TAGS:
History, New Zealand

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Questions about 'South Park'

Q: So when is 'South Park' producing a 'Dumb-Arse Mohammed' episode?

Q: Who was more viciously satirised in the 'Bloody Mary' episode -- women, Catholics, or Alcoholics Anoymous?

Q: Was it funny?

Q: Will you watch it again?

Q: Isn't it interesting how one episode of 'South Park' has attracted more widespread interest and outrage than news of a political party overspending by half-a-million dollars of voters' own money to win an election and become a Government ?

Ten Worst NZers - 1

Okay, you just know I'm going to pick up this meme. I'm taking suggestions for the list, but do be quick: who in your opinion is the very worst NZer ever? Supporting argument for your choice would be good.

Remembering three dictators

Today is Robert Mugabe's 82nd birthday, and the government-controlled Zimbabwe press is celebrating. As LibertyScott says, "May he never reach 83."

Today is also the day in 1956 that Nikita Kruschev came out against Stalin and his still thriving personality cult. Scott has a short summary of Kruschev's speech and of Stalin's bloodthirsty career -- one which cost between twenty- and thirty-million Russian lives.

Kruschev was somewhat self-serving in his denouncement -- it allowed him, he hoped, to publicly divorce himself from blame for the murderous shambles of the country and regime he was leading, and to lay the blame for all iniquities at the feet of his predecessor. As Ayn Rand once pointed out, Soviet Premiers were always self-serving and manipulative: their new Five-Year Plans for example were always announced to great fanfare and with the firm commitment that, although the last Five-Year Plan was a failure, this latest one would be a glorious success. Five years later of course, the same stament was made, the past was once again repudiated, and the lies and nonsense recycled again.

There is the less-than-artful deception of a conjurer in this, just as there is in Krushev's Stalinist repudiation.

LINKS: Mugabe's last birthday (please) - LibertyScott
Kruschev & Stalin - LibertyScott

TAGS: History-Twentieth_Century, Politics-World

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Quiz: Which Party?

Well, I'm not an anarchist, but for a quiz that doesn't recognise libertarian as an option, this result is pretty interesting. Try it out for yourself.


You scored as Anarchism.

Anarchism


100%

Republican


50%

Socialist


25%

Communism


25%

Fascism


25%

Democrat


17%

Green


17%

Nazi


0%

What Political Party Do Your Beliefs Put You In?
created with QuizFarm.com

TAGS: Quizzes, Politics

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TCM fin for now

TinCanMan is another one who's had enough of blogging. I suspect he's just not been sleeping, and he'll be back once he gets a full night's rest. That's what I hope, anyways.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bernini - 'Ecstacy of St Teresa'





More Bernini tonight, by popular demand. Tonight: Bernini's 'Ecstacy of St Teresa,' part sculpture, part theatre, part architecture, -- an integration of all three that transforms a simple story into great art.

Picture a Roman of 1647 seeing this. The light from above, the intimate chapel, the image of ecstacy, the puti lifting the robe... It's not too hard to see what Bernini was aiming at.

Ecstasy of St. Teresa, 1647-52, Marble, height c. 11' 6" (3.5m), Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome

TAGS: Architecture, Art, Sculpture

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Go, Rodney.

"Go Rodney." No, you don't hear that from me very often. But Rodney has come out in favour of ending the prohibition of P and cannabis - almost:
The Maori Party is at least consistent: they want to ban tobacco smoking because it’s addictive and kills.

The PM and the anti-smoking lobby are against the ban: they say it won’t work.

And the prohibition on P and cannabis does?
Bravo, Rodney! Go and tell him to keep it up, and to start shouting it from the rooftops. Perhaps ending the War on Drugs can become ACT party policy earlier than we thought?

LINKS: Prohibition - Rodney Hide

TAGS: Victimless Crimes, Politics-ACT, Politics_NZ

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Good gun people in Christchurch

Credit to the Greens's FrogBlog for drawing attention to what looks to be an excellent platform of speakers on the subject of gun control. Both Gary Mauser and John Lott I know of -- Lott's book More Guns, Less Crime is a deserved classic, and Mauser has been here before to explain why gun registration fails -- and some of the other speakers look to be just as good.

Even better that this Firearms Safety Seminar is hosted by the NZ Police, and opened by Police Minister Annette King. I hope she stays around to learn a little.

Of course, my evaluation of the speakers is just a little different to the Greens, just as my position on the right to self-defence is different. I maintain that people have a right to defend themselves. The Greens don't.

LINKS: In the right hands - Firearms safety seminar website
Gary Mauser's website
An interview with John R. Lott
Speaker: Why Gun Registration Fails - Libertarianz

TAGS: Self-defence, Politics-NZ

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Some propositions on free speech

The right to free speech means the right to express one's ideas without danger of coercion, of physical suppression or of interference by the state. 

Censorship is interference by the state in the expression of ideas. Laws against murder, rape, assault and child sex are sufficient to cover any violation of rights in the censor's current domain.

A private network refusing to publish your views or a bookshop deciding not to sell your pamphleted screed is not censorship - it is their choice.

A private network choosing to offend is their business. Choosing not to watch or to withdraw advertising is yours.

Bad ideas are still ideas. You should be just as free to air them as I should be to ignore them, or to pillory them, ore to refuse to give them a home.

Just as the right to pursue happiness doesn't require that you be made happy, the principle of free speech doesn't demand that anyone provide you with a platform and a microphone.

Just as the right to do what I like with my health and my life does not mean that I have to smoke cannabis, neither does the right to free speech mean I must offend. Just as I must take responsibility for what I do with my health and my life, so too must I take responsibility for what I say.

I may choose to offend, and I have the right to, but free speech doesn't mean I have to. However, anyone able to epater le bourgeosie has always been able to count on free publicity from those being epater-ed. Drawing attention to something you dislike may give that which you dislike even more attention. Think about it.

By itself, "I'm offended," is not an argument. It's just a whine.

Saying you don't like 'South Park' is not a call for censorship. Saying you want it banned would be. Saying "I don't like that," is not censorship.

Organising a voluntary boycott is not censorship. Organising a government ban however would be.

I may be offended, but I may not commit violence against those who offend me. I may boycott, but I may not behead.

Blocking traffic, threats, and forced entry are no part of the right to protest. They are respectively a traffic hazard, an initiation of force and an act of trespass.

"Hate speech" is an illegimate package deal. Laws against "hate speech" are illegitimate. Laws against conspiracy to commit murder are not.

The right to free speech gives the smallest minority the absolute protection of the state to air their views. The smallest minority is the individual.

My freedom ends where your nose begins. My free speech ends where your rights begin. The right to free speech does not mean that I may incorrectly besmirch your reputation by telling lies about you. This would be called fraud. Nor does it mean you may shout "fire" in a crowded theatre in which there is none, and in which the exit doors have been locked. This would be called fraud with menaces.

Speech is speech, not violent destruction.

Ridicule is better than bans.

Moral persuasion is better than force.

When tyranny occurs, it can be challenged from a thousand presses - but only if free speech and a free press has been valued in the interim; tyranny can never be easily challenged in the absence of the freedom to speak out.

Free speech has been more valued in the abstract than in reality.

"Freedom but..." is not freedom.

Forcing ideas underground does not eradicate them, it incubates them. Bad ideas are anaerobic -- the oxygen of free inquiry kills them. Bad ideas can only be fought with better ones.

If you don't like it, then just turn it off.  Don't get an arm of the state to do it for you.

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Free speech can be confusing

Free speech is an awfully confusing bird for some, especially if their thinking apparatus is left un-used for too long. There's been some awfully instructive cases in recent times. Chronologies have been amended to make the point clearer:
  • Danes post anti-Muslim cartoons. "Yay, free speech," say Danish editors and commentators. "Onya!" says a world full of bloggers.
  • Muslims protest cartoons and threaten beheadings. "Whoops," say cartoonists, who head into hiding. "Cartoons are so offensive that muslim threats justified," revise the commentators. "Free speech, but..." say Western Governments.
  • London-based Muslim cleric implicated in terrorism, but jailed for "hate speech." People cheer. London-based libertarians say "Free this prisoner of conscience!" Other libertarians says, "No! Jail him for his real crimes." London-based libertarians accused of being "less than idiots." Other libertarians accused of supporting hate-speech laws.
  • Austrians jail grandstanding holocaust-denier, David Irving. Burning Irving's books was not mentioned, but the Simon Wiesenthal Centre happy at the jailing. "Allowing free speech would be fascist," a spokesman for the Wiesenthal Centre almost said.
  • Wiesenthal Centre happy that Irving is jailed, but unhappy that former Nazi war criminals are still at liberty in Austria. Austrian Government happy that Irving is jailed for Nazi sympathies, and doesn't give a shit about former Nazis still at liberty in Austria. Totalitarian implications of jailing Irving ignored.
  • Helen Clark unhappy that Irving is jailed on a free speech issue in Austria. "Going too far," she says. Proclaims unfettered right to free speech.
  • Helen Clark bans Irving from entering New Zealand a few years before. Following desecration of Jewish graves, Madam Helen proclaims unarguable need to limit unfettered right to free speech by preparing to implement hate speech laws. Law for fetters on speech drawn up by Clark Government.
  • Helen Clark, unhappy that CanWest to air Southpark's 'Bloody Mary' episode, helps out ratings by declaring it "revolting," and calls for respect for other religions. Catholics agree, and plan boycott. No fatwahs. No calls for beheading. No embassies burnt to the ground.
  • Helen Clark then attacks Exclusive Brethren again -- they're a "a weird cult" she says. Comment from members of the cult is respectfully declined.
Free speech is a poor misunderstood bird. It sure does make for some strange bedfellows sometimes, and it's sure as hell clear that understanding of what it means is far, far, far less widespread than it might be, and really should be.

See how many you got right. If you scored eight correct propositions, then I agree with you. Please post your working below. Marks will be awarded for sound argument.

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Questions on youth rates

Here's a question for you.

You have a business selling burgers/fried chicken/coffee. Two people apply for a job. One is a sixteen-year-old who's never worked before. The other is older, with some experience and a good work record. The government says you must pay them equally. Whom do you employ?

Here's another question:

You started a business. You own it. Without you, this business would not exist. Whose business is it whom you employ and what you pay them?

Here are some supplementary question:

Why do Sue Bradford, Matt McCarten and Ross Wilson think they have a right to dictate to small-business owners whom they employ and on what conditions? Why do they think the law can ignore economic reality? And what will they say to the sixteen-year-olds who can't find employment because they're not yet worth what employers can afford to pay them?

LINKS: Bill scrapping youth rates to pass first hurdle - Stuff
Consultant questions abolishing youth rates - Newstalk ZB

TAGS: Minimum Wage, Economics, Politics-NZ

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Casa Batlló - Antonio Gaudi




A window (above) in Antonio Gaudi's Casa Batlló apartments, Barcelona.

It's a decorated box to be sure, but oh so imaginatively done.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Locking up holocaust denial

An Austrian court has jailed historian David Irving for three years for the crime of holocaust denial. Now, Irving deserves many things for his views, including contempt, but jail is not one of them. No one deserves jail just for their views As No Right Turn said yesterday when offering both background to this latest trial and some examples of Irving's odiousness:
[Irving's] statements can only be described as poisonous, anti-semitic lies, but Irving shouldn't be facing court or prison for them, any more than Turks should be for facing charges of "insulting Turkishness" for talking about the Armenian genocide, or Danish cartoonists should be for insulting (and in some cases, villifying) Muslims. If freedom of expression extends only to speech the majority agree with or find inoffensive, then it is no freedom at all.
Exactly right. In the words of a commenter at No Right Turn, "Thought crime is worse than Holocaust denial." Some years ago when David Irving was banned from appearing in New Zealand I sent out a press release from Bernard Darnton saying much the same thing:
The issue brings to mind the words of Mark Twain, who advised that it was better to stay quiet and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. In this respect, says Darnton, "when charlatans such as Irving receive the oxygen of publicity for their views - as he did in the libel action that bankrupted him three years ago - they become exposed for the fools they are. Such is the power of free speech."
You can lock up a person, but you can't lock up an idea however much you try. Locking up odious ideas with bans on free speech leaves them underground, there to fester and grow in the dark. Far better to let out in to the open and be exposed to the ridicule the deserve. Darnton again:
Banning the expression of opinions, no matter how vulgar those opinions are, costs us part of our civilization, part of our humanity. Bad ideas must be fought with good ideas. Ideas are products of our minds and our minds must be reasoned with and educated, not coerced.
In the current environment of confusion over the issue it's worth pointing out that we do not have the right to avoid having odious ideas espoused if the proponent can acquire a platform from which to espouse them. The demands of free speech however do not require that anyone provide the proponents of bad ideas with a microphone or a platform. Neither do they allow us to lock up people with whom we disagree.

LINKS:
Bankrupt, disgraced and now jailed: Irving sinks to new low - Times Online
Irving on trial - No Right Turn
Free Expression: How Free Should Speech Be? - Bernard Darnton
Tony Ellis an Embarrassment to Liberty - Libertarianz

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What Christianity has bequeathed the West

What Christianity has bequeathed the West is evident in the reaction of governments around the world to the challenge of Islamic violence, says Onkhar Ghate. "To fathom [the US] government's contemptible treatment of a handful of unbowed journalists," says Ghate, "you must see the roots of that treatment in the moral ideal Christianity bequeathed the West." Read on here.

LINK: Love thy enemy: The twilight of freedom of speech - Onkhar Ghate

Touchscreen to the future

Wow! Just think what this touch-screen 'graphical user interface' thingy (picture right) will do for, well, just about everything you could wish to do on a computer. I can't wait to see CAD drawing programmes use this technology instead of all the mouse-wriggling and keyboard-jockeying we currently have to endure.

I urge you to go and visit the site, and to make sure you stay around to watch all of the demo video. When you consider how ubiquitous are the awfully awkward keyboard and mouse, you just know there's the smell of the future about it.

Just more prooof that when it comes to computers that it's really early days yet. We've only just begun! Wow!

LINK: Multi-touch interaction research - NYU [Hat tip 'syfy guy' in this thread at DPF's]

Readership

I've learned something about you lot over the last couple of days. On Saturday I posted one piece on vaginal reconstruction, and immediately above it another on love. Guess which piece rated highest (and is still in the Top Five)? That's right, it wasn't the one in which Cupid was the hero.

Now there's a lesson in that, if I just knew how to find it...

LINKS: The chemistry of love - Not PC
Getting your vag done darling? - Not PC

Word cloud

Here's a 'Word Cloud' of my blog. Clearly there's been far too many sheep jokes of late around here.
Go here to create your own Word Cloud. [Hat tip Richard Chapple]

UPDATE 1: Just by way of contrast, here's what a Cloud of my Categories looks like, on the right-hand-side of my Del.Icio.Us links page.

UPDATE 2: I should point out that the Word Cloud generator seems to need Explorer to work successfully, so Firefox users who are trying to produce their own Cloud will need to right click and use the 'View this Page in IE' link.

LINK: Create your own Word Cloud - Snapshirts.Com
Not PC's Del.Icio.Us Tags

Two Davids

The chief artistic difference between the Renaissance period and the Baroque period that followed it was the difference between learning and applying. The Renaissance masters rediscovered classical technique and produced art that glorified this earth rather than some other dimension for the first time in centuries. The Baroque masters stood on the shoulders of those making this rediscovery, and made the most of the lessons learned to do something quite new in artistic history.

For the first time in art we see dramatic movement, great power, intense emotion; the expression of each of these became possible to the artists in the Baroque period because of the lessons learned by the masters of the Renaissance.

The two great statues of David that are separated by just over a century give the lesson. In his depiction of the great Biblical hero, Michelangelo fuses classicism with Florentine humanism. Selecting the psychologically-charged moment of calm -- the centre of the storm just before battle -- he shows the moment of decision, the act of mind that won the battle.Bernini however shows something quite different. For his piece he chooses the moment of action; the instant in which the battle is joined.

Where Michelango's David of 1501-04 is static, suggesting the later movement rather than showing it, Bernini's of i623-24 is all motion, all power, and displays the inner emotional intensity of the shepherd-warrior.

Motion and purpose, fused with emotion - all the very real essentials of life; this fusion was the leitmotif of the very best of Baroque expression.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Is blogging really over?

According to blogger Hog on Ice blogging is "over" -- it's over, do you hear! According to the Hog the Internet has become so congested it is "no longer a meritocracy."
In a market where not much is available, merit matters, because everyone is aware of the products that exist. People can compare the products and make choices based on quality. In a congested market, that doesn't work. You need help to get your product noticed. People end up choosing products that are well-known. Quality, by itself, is worthless.
I have to say respectfully that Hog on Ice is wrong. What he describes as signs of its end is simply bewailing change as the situation matures; what he cites as cyanosis are just indications that the blog 'market' is maturing, and as with all maturing markets eventually a few big blocs will likely come to prominence for many different reasons, and as do they such things as clearing houses for information, groups of like-minded bloggers andmarks of quality will become important.

When too much information abounds in the real world, the mature market provides clearing houses of information to filter it for us. As the Hog says, you need help to get your product noticed, but so too do consumers need help to choose their purchase. When there's demand, there is eventually a supply. In the mature market of the real world we have the Michelin Guide, the Conde Nast Guide, the Good Eating Guide, the Let's Go and Lonely Planet Guides, and consumer magazines and organisations of all stripes offering advice and guidance on what to buy, where to eat, where to go, and what you should do when you get there. These consumer guides themselves must of course pass muster in the market, and around the successful guides 'blocs' or groups of businesses form that rely heavily on the traffic created by their rating in in the guide.

As in the real world, so eventually I would suggest in the blogosphere. One successful blogging 'bloc' here in NZ is obviously the political blogs that refer daily to Blog Central, David Farrar's Kiwiblog, and in turn are referred to by it. It's a very loose informal grouping generated largely by daily use, and at present it's a highly successful one for all involved. If a reader wants to get a heads up on daily politics in NZ, Kiwiblog is generally a good place to start every day.

An example of an unsuccessful 'bloc' has apparently just folded, or is in the process of going belly up, and Hog on Ice cites it as evidence of the overripe blogosphere. Pajamas Media (PJM) was a formal collection of blogs with a $7 million startup fund that intended to revolutionise blogging, and set up those who joined the PJM bloc as part of an advertising and news-reporting behemoth. Reported the New York Sun in May last:

The venture will be called Pajamas Media, a not-so-subtle reference to the September remarks of a CNN executive, Jonathan Klein, who said a typical blogger has "no checks and balances" and is just "a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas."

...The idea of Pajamas Media is to use an extensive network of globally affiliated blogs to provide first-person, in-depth coverage of most major news events, including both camera and video footage...

Iowahawk had a pithier view at its initiation of the venture whose time has come and now almost gone. A PJM 'death pool' blog is now taking bets on when PJM will collapse completely. Hog on Ice is right that PJM was "a bad idea." As one who was approached to join the "extensive network of globally affiliated blogs" but who read the proposal and turned it down, it was clear that PJM was based on a bad business model. But to declare that because PJM is dead or dying then therefore "blogging is dead" or that such blog aggregations are not likely to be sucessful in the future is trying to make much too much stew from one bad onion.

The challenge in any mature market is to meet the market as it matures. By year's end the shape and substance of the blogosphere may well have changed beyond recognition -- maybe -- but to say that blogging is "over" is just insupportable on the evidence. The lesson for bloggers: Grow up.

LINKS:
Should You Stay or Should You Go? - Hog on Ice [Hat tip, somebody who'd rather not be linked]
Three political blogs make a run for the mainstream - New York Sun
The blockbuster OSM deal: what you need to know - Iowahawk
PJM Death Pool blog

Dear Ishmael...

Susan the Libertarian tells a talkback caller this morning about Free Speech :
So your caller Ishmael took you to task for not treating his prophet Mohammed with respect. Ishmael misses the material point with regard to freedom. Free speech is just that: free speech. It means we must allow others the right to say things we might dislike, or with which we disagree.

George Orwell said it well: 'If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear'.

Also Adlai Stevenson: 'My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular'.

The irony is that here in the west, Ishmael is allowed to state his viewpoint. I very much doubt that the courtesy would be reciprocated, should I try to do the same in the Islamist world.
LINK: More on Mohammed - Sus's Sound Bites

Keep prostitution legal

Dr Neil Benson's conversion of his doctor's surgery into a brothel has brought puritan opposition to legalisation of prostitution back out of the closet, and allowed them wheel out all their archived arguments from their campaign against legalisation in opposition to poor old Dr Benson and his prospective employees.

At a recent 'Stop-the-Brothel' meeting for example (described here by Julian Pistorius), Maxim's Scott McMurray "implied that Doubtless Bay will turn into the sex-capital of Northland ... [and] tried to prove that prostitution was always harmful, and that this harm should be 'prevented' by stopping prostitution altogether." But as Julian points out, "laws are not there to protect people from their own bad choices, but only to protect the individual's rights from being violated by others."

The puritan, of course, ignores that point. The puritan has a view of what people should be doing, and insists on imposing that view on others. The puritan, said HL Mencken, is one who lives in constant fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time ... and they just want to put a stop to it. Puritans appear when you least expect them -- perhaps we all have our inner prude? -- but the responsible puritan knows when prudery is appropriate, and when to tuck it up safely at home.

You might point out to the puritan that prostitution is simply about sex and about money, and ask them which it is they object to, and what gives them the right to interfere in other people's business? Or you might point out that it is their interference in other people's business that it is the real problem here.

Sadly, there are too many people about who will always wish to make your business their business. Not content merely with their own prudery, they wish to impose their straight-laced wowserism on those it repels, and to legislate moral standards for those who already have their own -- never mind whose business it is; never mind the wrong of letting the government intrude into our bedrooms; and never mind that any such intrusion never stops the behaviour they say they are trying to stop -- it simply drives it underground, removing the law's protection from practitioners.

Point out to the puritan the problems attendant on their rampant prudery and their attempted imposition of it upon sundry others, and they stamp their feet, hold their breath and count from zero to infinity until they're apoplectic. They refuse to listen, but the error of their position doesn't disappear so convieniently. Perhaps these puritans could take a leaf from Ayn Rand's book, specifically the recently released 'Best of her Q & A'). Asked whether society's so-called vices such as "dope peddling, bootlegging gambling and prostitution" should be forbidden by law:
In answer to your ... question: No, [such vices] should not be forbidden. Some of these practices are improper. Prostitution is evil by almost any standard of morality. So long as it itsn't forced on anyone however -- so long as a woman chooses to engage in that kind of activity (one shouldn't call it a profession) and some men take advantage of it -- that is between them and not the business of society. It is their moral degradation; but it should not be a legal crime -- society has no right to forbid it. The same applies to selling drugs.
'But,' cry some prudes in an attempt to disguise their busybody motives, 'the issue of prostitution isn't one of legislating morals. It's one of "safety." It's one of "harm reduction".' Well, all I can say in reply to such claims is: "Nonsense." "Safety" here is a proxy argument for puritanism. "Harm reduction" is a smokescreen for poking their nose into other people's business.

These people don't really give a shit about the women they claim to want to protect from harm. The "harm reduction" they call for would create serious and very real harms for the very women they claim criminalisation would somehow protect, just as it did before prostitution was successfully legalised -- harm to the women (and men) employed in the industry, who are put beyond the law's protection by being put outside the law by puritanism and ignorance.

If the puritans are successful once again in from criminalising the practice of prostitution, they will cause harm both to those employed in the activity and also to those from whom the choice is removed. Here's why: Women who choose to be gainfully employed in prostitution have made a choice. They make the choice because to them -- to them -- however unattractive the work, the choice to do it is better than all the other alternatives they might have.

What gives the puritan the authority to deny the right of these women to choose for themselves a better life in their eyes?

Indeed, if the puritans are right in what they say -- if prostitution is really and truly as bad as all their charts, stats and Powerpoint shows say it is -- then the alternatives open to the women who choose it are clearly few and far between, and worse even than what they do choose. If the puritans are right about how bad it is, then just how bad are the other choices open to the women who choose it for themselves, and how bad would it be to remove that choice? The puritan wishes to deny them the right to make what (to them) is a better choice than anything else they can be doing.

How much worse does the puritan make it for those women who do still choose to undertake that path for themselves? If the puritans really had their way and they do manage to recriminalise prostitution (because as I'm sure you know, making it illegal won't make it stop), they are quite prepared to see people either forced into those other, less preferable alternatives (to them), or foreced out beyond protection of the law.

The puritan seeks to ensure that no one, anywhere, is having more fun than they are, or is having their fun in a way that offends them. They should learn to keep their nose out of other people's busines, and perhaps to get on with sorting out their own sorry lives.

LINKS: Dr Neil Benson's Brothel - Julian Pistorius
Summary position on the Prostitution Reform Bill - Maxim Institute
Ayn Rand answers: The best of her Q & A' - Robert Mayhew

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'Bloody Mary'

I should probably be saying something about South Park's 'Bloody Mary' episode set to screen here shortly, which as you no doubt know has some Catholics somewhat annoyed, and Bishops calling for a boycott (I was about to use the metaphor "up in arms" to describe the reaction, but as that describes the Muslim anti-cartoon reaction somewhat too literally, I avoided that one.)

I probably should say something since it is a 'free speech' issue and there appear to be comments everywhere on the subject. I should say something but I won't because a) I expect you already know what I would say about the right of CanWest to broadcast what they wish, and the equal right of catholic bishops to drum up advertising for the show boycott CanWest programmes; and b) South Park is unwatchable rubbish anyway, so this episode is unlikely to be any different.

'Alone' - Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

'Alone,' by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. One of many rapid and evocative figure studies made by Lautrec. Observe how little he needs to tell the story, and how powerfully the spare presentation works.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Characters from literature. Who are you?

Another gosh-darned stupid quiz diappoints me, this time by declaring me Tom Joad instad of Howard Roark. I guess my hair must be the wrong colour.



You are Tom Joad

You're Tom Joad. You've had to scratch out a living with your own sweat. All your life you've loved the simple things like home, family, and freedom. When these things are threatened, you stick to your principles and fight honorably to right wrongs. This noble behavior, however, can lead to being a bit of a martyr.

Letter: The West has been tested

A great letter to the editor here by libertarian Richard Wiig. Its subject should be self-explanatory.

Sir,
The West has been tested, and it seems New Zealand passed with flying colors - freedom of speech is ripe for the plucking, and Islam is out to pluck it.
The cowardly calls for sensitivity and understanding that followed, in the wake of cartoon rage, amounts to little more than a call to give up free-thought and expression, and replace the vibrancy of the market-place of ideas with a guarded stultification, lest we offend Islam. Well, if you will allow me this expression in your paper - stuff that! Islam can get knotted.
With the advent of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, the West rose from the Dark Ages to surpass anything that had gone before. It made great strides in technology, the Arts, the Sciences all because of the freeing of the human mind from the constraints of oppressive religious dogma. Islam is out to shackle it again.
The editor of the Danish paper was asked if he regretted publishing the cartoons. He replied, "That is like asking a rape victim whether she regretted wearing a short skirt."
Make no apologies; do not give a single inch. It is for Islam to rise to us, not for us to stoop to Islam.

RW

Top-Five best first songs on first albums

Top-Five best first songs on first albums, an idea shamelessly stolen from Hi Fidelity. The first song on a first album should come out of the blocks with something never heard before; it should surprise, stun, start well and promise more. The promise is as important as the song.

Gloria, Patti Smith, Horses
Sunday Morning, Velvet Underground, Velvet Underground
Suspect Device, Stiff Little Fingers, Inflammable Material
Gutter Black, Hello Sailor, Hello Sailor
Slash n' Burn, Manic Street Preachers, Generation Terrorist

Highly commended:
Love Comes in Spurts, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Blank Generation
Blinded by the Light, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man, King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King
Ol' 55, Tom Waits, Closing Time
Holidays in the Sun, Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
You Got to Lose, George Thorogood & the Delaware Destroyers, George Thorogood & the Destroyers

Top-Five best last songs on last albums. Important criteria here is that they must be memorable, their mood must linger, and with the end of the band or the death of the artist, they must have a certain poignancy or magnitude -- or even a feeling of 'clairvoyance'.

Voodoo Chile (slight return), Jimi Hendrix experience, Electric Ladyland
Who Are You, The Who, Who Are You
Side 2, The Beatles, Abbey Road
Oh Sweet Nuthin!, Velvet Underground, Loaded
Redemption Song,
Bob Marley, Uprising

I expect debate.

Category: Music