31 December 2005

2005 viewing and reading

Best New Release Film

Downfall :
hardly a conventional biopic but a penetrating insight into the minds of Hitler and some of his acolytes as the Third Reich crumbled.

Best Novel read

Saturday (Ian McEwan)

29 December 2005

Varieties of free speech

I recently came across this item from Spiked . While I don't agree with David Irving's holocaust denying think it's counter productive to threaten him with imprisonment for words he said years ago. He is variously described in the article as a "British historian" and a "racist crank", terms which you might think are incompatible with each other.

The case of Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish writer, is more interesting to me, not only because it is continuing at the moment but also because I'm reading Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation, which includes a lengthy chapter "The First Holocaust" on the 1915 massacres in Armenia. Fisk is well aware of Turkish sensitivities on this matter and draws attention (see pp 418 - 429) to some recent airbrushings and equivocations by the US and British governments and media. He also mentions (at p 430) other recent instances where discussion of the massacres has been aired in Turkey, while acknowledging the red rag responses they elicited .

Spiked, asserts that both cases are the same:

"both [ Irving and Pamuk ]could be incarcerated, not for physically harming another person or for damaging property, but for the words they spoke; both could have their liberty removed because they expressed views that the authorities - in Turkey and Austria - decree to be distasteful. And both of their trials are an outrage against the principle of free speech. You may or may not agree with what Pamuk said, and you probably are disgusted by Irving's weasel words. But this isn't about what either author said; it is about whether they should have the right to say it, and we should have the right to hear it. Freedom of speech, as its name suggests, does not mean freedom for views that go down well in polite society but not for views that stink: it means freedom for all speech, the freedom to think, say and write what we please and the freedom of everyone else to challenge or ridicule our arguments."

In today's Hurriyet the Turkish Justice Minister is reported as saying of the Pamuk case "All we need is democratic patience", whatever that means, though he "declined to give details of steps to be taken on the issue".

"Democratic patience" has, like most doublespeak, a bland fuzziness about it. Does it really mean "undemocratic impatience"? This would seem to be more in tune with the current environment of fear and anti-terror legislation.

27 December 2005

UK appeals against Hicks

The BBC reports that the British government is to appeal against the recent court decision that David Hicks is eligible to apply for British citizenship. The story is accompanied by a photograph of a very youthful looking Hicks: doubtless it predates his incarceration in Camp X-Ray.

Vale Mr Packer

The first I heard of Kerry Packer's demise was this morning when I tuned into his TV network to watch the test cricket, a game he'd reshaped to suit his own ends.

The love of cricket seems to have been one of the few things that he and I had in common, but I wonder whether those who succeed him, whether family members or others, will share the same commitment to supporting the game. The panel of experts assembled by Channel 9 this morning at the MCG to deliver their personal eulogies - Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell, Tony Greig and Bill Lawry - reminded me of how much a part of the summer living room furniture they have become over the last 25+ years. The sight of them together on the screen also reminded me that three of the four are older than me. Some of them will be difficult to replace.

If Kerry Packer was responsible (which seems to have been the case) for choosing Richie Benaud to lead the commentary team then he deserves to be remembered as a benefactor of the game.

26 December 2005

Christmas brought to you by whom?

Photo taken yesterday at the front of a local church. The sign in the foreground, with the sponsors' name featuring prominently, suggests that they, not the church, are running the event.

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22 December 2005

Incident in the Mall

I took this photo in Rundle Mall this afternoon.

I came upon the scene as the woman in the middle of
the picture was
being led away handcuffed. There
had apparently been some trouble between her and the child being carried by the officer on the left

being carried by the officer on the left.

I didn't hear anything about it on the news tonight so I'm intrigued as to what prompted the strong police response. Any ideas?
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20 December 2005

Wikipedia under scrutiny

The ABC reports that Wikipedia plans a "fixed" or "stable" version to counter "potential abuse of its live content".

The fundamental Wikipedia idea of allowing open access to contributors is good though it does allow errors of fact and opinion to be posted and to stand uncorrected.

Try looking up Wikipedia's articles on some towns and cities you know or want to find out more about . You'll probably find major differences in the information provided, and sometimes what you'd expect to find, such as the population, isn't mentioned.

On the other hand, as the story above reports, the British science journal Nature has put Wikipedia's scientific credentials to the test by asking independent reviewers to compare 42 of its articles with their counterparts from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

"Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopaedia," Nature reported.

14 December 2005

British (but not Australian or US) justice for David Hicks?

The UK High Court ruling that David Hicks is entitled to be registered as a British citizen contrasts sharply with the Australian government's inertia (or deliberate refusal to intervene) on the matter. as The Advertiser says

The decision may not stand for long though http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1927540,00.html

11 December 2005

Last spin for the Routemaster

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The BBC has reported the demise of the Routemaster bus on London bus routes:

The spindoctors have puffed the bus's alleged shortcomings, such as no wheelchair access, as hard as they can, but have not surprisingly ignored an assessment of the bus as "the best ever model" and "actually more accessible".

Does one need a PhD in industrial design to suggest that the rear platform could be modified to accommodate a wheelchair or two?

The companies who have grasped the opportunity to buy surplus Routemasters for a song and convert them into mobile bars etc have certainly shown a bit more initiative than Transport for London.

The real reason for the phasing out is shown in this photo, which I took in May this year: it is cheaper to replace one human being with an automated ticketing system and several security cameras.

Has anyone considered the potential security benefits of having a human observer to monitor passenger behaviour?

08 December 2005

More on the ABC favourite films

In today's Age Peter Craven has a piece about the ABC's favourite film show http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/movie-favourites-a-populist-grovel/2005/12/07/1133829659777.html. I don't agree with his suggestion that the survey should have been faked to produce a "more viable top 10" though I do agree with his conclusion that unless more is done to "treasure our film culture... it will be lost to history and we'll have a canon made up of last year's mush and modishness."

Response from Oxfam

Yesterday a person from Oxfam rang me to discuss the collectors doorknocking on my street. She stated that

  • The collectors were genuine
  • Oxfam has contracted an outside organisation (not named) to run the collection, and
  • This method has been used for about five years.

I did not ask, not was I told, how much of each dollar raised this way actually ended up with Oxfam.

06 December 2005

Oxfam diversifies its collection methods

Last evening I answered a knock at my door to find two young men standing there.

"Hi mate", said the one with the clipboard "have you heard of Oxfam?" I replied that not only had I heard of it but that I was a donor. End of discussion.

I wondered whether they were, despite their displaying what looked like Oxfam ID, genuine, so this morning I rang the Oxfam state office. I was told that Oxfam had engaged a contractor to collect door to door. I wonder how much of each dollar collected in this manner actually reaches Oxfam. In fact I wonder how much of each dollar that I donate to them actually reaches projects in the field...

05 December 2005

Next generation movie preferences?

Last night I watched ABC TV's program "My Favourite Film" which featured the top 10 films of a recent nationwide poll. http://www.abc.net.au/myfavouritefilm/top100.htm

The results show how far my preferences (see my blogger profile) differ from those of those who voted on this occasion. I can't say much about some of the films, eg Amelie, because I've not seen them, but then not all last night's panellists, of whom Stuart Macgill was both diligent in his viewing and perceptive in his comments, had either.

I'd expected the voting to reflect my stereotype of ABC (more specifically At the Movies) viewers: ageing, with middle to high-brow tastes. I'll need to think again about this and to fill the gaps in my film viewing. But I won't change my favourites for the time being.

02 December 2005

A man with his priorities right

According to this week's City Messenger (one of the Mr Murdoch's minnows). The Lord Mayor of Adelaide in his most recent fortnightly report listed the major events of the preceding 14 days. They were

1. Brian Lara's 226 in the Test.

2. Rupert Murdoch's visit to Adelaide.

3. Donald Rumsfeld's ditto.

I concur with this assessment.