29 August 2008

Don't Let Journalism Die!


As you've no doubt heard, Fairfax Journalists have gone on strike this weekend to protest the axing of 550 jobs in the company.

Fairfax say that their papers - including The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Financial Review - will be published this weekend regardless, using "strike breakers"...otherwise known as "scab labour".

So, show your support for journalism, and the rights of workers, by boycotting Fairfax papers this weekend. Show Fairfax management that journalism still plays a huge part in Australian society and we won't stand by and let this happen.

And hey, it's the easiest protest you'll ever be involved with - all you have to do is not buy the newspaper!

Please sign up below to show your support and spread the word, or join our group on Facebook.

26 August 2008

Intermittent Tuesday Book Club


Always interested in expanding my mind then boring you all senseless with the details, I've been doing a little reading lately. Based on a recommendation, I started with The World Without Us, a study of what would happen to the world if all humans somehow, someday, were no more. It was thought provoking, if a little confused due to a lack of a central hypothesis.

By far the most profound book I've read in, well, ages, is Letter To A Chrisitan Nation by Sam Harris. It's only a slender volume, under 100 pages, and takes only an hour or so to read. But it's a book that could change the planet. Harris writes directly to the Christians of America, asking in effect, "Are you kidding me?" Some quotes:

“The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.”

“It is terrible that we all die and lose everything we love; it is doubly terrible that so many human beings suffer needlessly while alive. That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion—to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions and religious diversions of scarce resources—is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity.”

87% of Americans say they “never doubt the existence of God.”

“A person who believes that Elvis is still alive is very unlikely to get promoted to a position of great power and responsibility in our society. Neither will a person who believes that the holocaust was a hoax. But people who believe equally irrational things about God and the bible are now running our country. This is genuinely terrifying.”

It's all based on facts and logic, and impossible to dispute in the clear way Harris lays out his arguments. And it's witty. Many people, to take one example, believe they have been cured of disease through the power of prayer. Which begs the question, if God can cure cancer, why has he/she never made a single amputated limb grow back? Why does God hate amputees?

I could talk about this book for longer than it would take you to read this book. So read it, come back and we'll talk about why religion is nonsense and the Bible a load of codswallop.

22 August 2008

Funnier! Sweeter! Fatter!


Well the Olympics are drawing to a close. Thank God for that. Maybe we'll get some decent shows back on TV - although Ten is making us suffer through 6 solid nights of Australian Idol next week.

Australia has - let's face it - not done as well as may have been hoped this Olympics. This can be exemplified by our cycling team: in Athens they won five gold; in Beijing they've managed one silver. Fingers of blame are already being pointed - at the Federal treasury. "We need more funding!" goes the cry from John Coates on down. Instead of admitting that maybe we're a bit crap these days, the poor workman blames his tools and wants more money. Well, maybe we could ask Stephanie Rice to chip in some of her endorsement dollars? Me, I'd like to see a Nobel prize winning tally, and demands for more funds to help Australia excel at winning the things.

EDIT, Monday: The SMH makes this point beautifully in this piece.

So what about the suprise of the games - Great Britain? I remember watching Clive James, sometime in the Nineties, ask the comedian Victoria Adams why Britain did so poorly in international sporting competitions. She replied, "I think it's because we can't be arsed, really". It seemed fitting. Britain leads the world in producing superior comedy shows and confectionery, and as I'm a big fan of comedy and sweets but have little time for sports, it was enough achievment to give to the world. But no. Now they want sporting achievement too. As long as they don't let the standard of Cadbury Dairy Milk buttons and BBC sitcoms slip, then that's fine, but it does seem like a great nation is selling out it's main legacy.

(Incidentally, why are English sweets so much better than American candy? Since living in Sydney, where shops selling foreign confectionery abound, I've taken the opportunity to try all the products I've read about my whole life but have never sampled. And whilst English chocolate makes me weep with joy, American candy is invariably disappointing, meagre, and has no flavour at all whilst still tasting bad. I had my first Tootsie roll the other day, and would rather give an elephant a rim job than go through that again).

So now it's Australians who can't be arsed. Forget what I said here, we're the fattest and laziest nation on Earth. Stand up and be proud Australia, if you can put down the pie, drag yourself of the Jason recliner, and overcome the wheezing.

21 August 2008

For Once, I'd Like To Be Wrong


Sommething is rotten in the state of NSW, is the headline of the article in today's SMH. I'll say. The culture of corruption, smugness and slackness in Rail Corp is now starting to affect the rest of the NSW public service.

Those public servants are only indicative of the real problem - emulating their political masters. A letter writer in Saturday's SMH described the Iemma government as the worst political administration ever visited upon an Australian electorate. It's hard to disagree.

So far, for most of us watching carrcrash Iemma government is a source of irritation, and fodder for stand-up comedians. But re-watching The Day of the Roses, the mini series based on the Granville rail disaster, last week, the whole thing seemed like less of a joke.

At Granville, a packed morning peak hour train derailed and hit the supports of an overhead bridge, causing it to collapse on the train beneath. 83 people died. The causes of the disaster? Smugness, slackness, muddle by and cost-cutting viewed as a higher priority than safety. Watching the re-enactment of the inquest, I was left with a sense, not that "this could happen again", but amazement that a disaster of such magnitude hasn't happened already. What, after all, would stop it? Why would the government be such a disaster in other areas, but doing a great job on rail safety?

~~~~~

On a lighter note now - Lord knows we need one - last week John Howard held a
farewell dinner (nine months after leaving office) for all his "true believers" in Western Sydney. Guests paid $100 a pop to dine, reminisce and hear a speach from their defeated hero. They also received a show bag - containing a tea towel, a John Howard DVD, two energy-saver light bulbs, three Ferrero Rocher chocolates, a mini-bottle of Bundaberg Rum, and a copy of Gourmet Traveller's January 2006 issue.

Who on Earth selected this stuff? What was the rationale behind it? I'd love to know. So much of the Howard era made me feel the need to take drugs, and I think I'd need some to understand this. In a funny way I've missed that feeling.

15 August 2008

Dial P for Purity


Who says Christians aren't trendy? They have their own bandwagons to jump on, just like everyone else. First it was WWJD? bracelets, now it's purity rings. Presumably the next step is for young Christians to have "DANGER! No entry" tattooed on their public mounds.

The theory behind a purity ring is that it symbolises your pledge, to God and yourself, to remain a virgin until marriage. The ring will then not be taken off until it is replaced by a wedding ring.

The problem, as has been pointed out previously, is that most people who make viginity pledges break them. And once they do, they are less likely to engage in safe sex and less likely to seek treatment for STIs. Apocryphal evidence would also suggest that those who are breaking virignity pledges are less likely to do so after mature consideration during a loving relationship, and more likely to get smashed at a party and wake up wondering who the hell that is next to them.

But of course, if there is a way to make money, someone will find it. Purity rings are big business, helped by the fact they are worn by such "celebrities" as Jordin Sparks, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Why is it always teens who wear these rings? Are there any 26 year olds who openly wear them? An awful lot of 18 year olds are still virgins, Christians or not. If there are any proper grown ups out there who are sincere about wearing a purity ring, please prove me wrong, but for Miley Cyrus to wear one is meaningless - chances are at 15 she'd be a virgin anyway. Besides, we all remember the last pop princess who vowed to remain a virgin till marriage...


Maybe the fact that young Christians feel the need to wear these rings says something about their culture. To quote Miss Manners: "Polite society does not recognize such a thing as a chastity ring. It is so polite that it presumes that a lady is chaste unless publicly proven otherwise."

11 August 2008

Olympian Vicariousness


Boss, in front of TV: Come look everyone, we're about to win gold in the 400m relay!*

Me: If I had enough energy to get up, I'd be there in the pool.

It may seem contradictory that Australia is one of the world's great sporting nations, and also the fattest nation on Earth. Not at all. The athletes excel at sports so the rest of us don't have to.

Taking pride in their achievements allows us to feel that we somehow had something to do with it, even if we watch the coverage in a darkened room, nursing a hangover and bruised legs. Actually I have made one contribution - the taxes I've paid which have gone to the AIS.

Whilst I'm on the subject of the TV coverage, poor job Channel 7. I'm not sure what's worse, abandoning three hours of coverage on a Sunday afternoon for a dull AFL game, or not actually showing the "evening highlights" promised at the start of the session. (Four hours I waited last night to see the gymnastics). I'm capable of Olympian shouting at the TV.

I had obviously intended to boycott the games entirely due to China's communist regime, but I was invited to an Opening Ceremony party, and I figured, What the hell? I just won't tell them.

*In the end, "we" got bronze.

07 August 2008

August Check In


Yes, things have been quiet here lately. But I have a good excuse! (I usually do). I've been sufferring a medical condition which is affecting my ability to concentrate and write. Rather than suffer the shame of posts not up to my usual standards of investigative wit, I'm taking some time to recover. We know what's wrong now and it's nothing serious, so I hope to be back to normal soon.

In the meantime, I'm considering adopting this tactic:

Married To The Sea