November 26, 2010

Horse 1129 - Why Can't We Have Nice Things?

Is it?

Something which has been bothering me for a long time, is that in just about every facet of modern life, we seem to be surrounding ourselves in ugly or boring things. If I want to go out and replace my worn out furniture, I can not seem to find anything which looks remotely nice. Things today are produced with only a short term end in mind, and as such don't appear to have the thoughts of a craftsman poured into them.
You can see this right across architecture, White Goods, Brown Goods, motor cars, music, etc. etc. etc.
It often feels like the only things that are made with their aesthetic beauty in mind anymore are someone's dinner in a high class restaurant and possibly high-end watches.

I wanna know WHY we can't have nice things?

Before the advent of photography, painters and sculptors had a different purpose for art. If they were trying to capture how someone looked, it was usually done through rose-tinted glasses because they were being commissioned by either the person who wanted their likeness painted, or they wanted one of their family or friends painted. The motivation although tied with with money was to make their subject look nice.
With the painting of landscapes, although the artist would on occasion try to invoke a sense of fear, or perhaps sorrow in their work, in general they still managed to capture the beauty of view in at least one aspect.

Even with industrial manufacture, items which were mass produced were often things of beauty. A hundred years ago, people put thought into making ironwork for railings and fleur-de-lis which often stood as a regal, political, heraldic or symbolic device, now suddenly found itself on the front fence of the houses of workers. One of my favourite subjects the motor-car, used to be styled by people who still thought about creating machines which looked beautiful. Something as humble as the Austin A30 which by all accounts was a terrible motor car mechanically and would be beaten by a Toyota Yaris, still looks asthetically nicer 50 years on. The Ford Cortina Mk1 is also a better looking and prettier car than today's Ford Focus.
Radio sets used to be massive pieces of furniture which would often adorn the parlours and sitting rooms across the land. Today we have plasma screen TV's which fulfil largely the same sorts of function, but an old radio is a warm looking thing whereas today's recto-linear TVs, MP3-Pod machines, Tablets, all somehow look cold and aloof.

I think that the same can be said for music. When an Austrian nobleman comissioned a symphony in C which defied all earthly description, the composers who crafted their pieces did so with all the care than any true artisan would.
Now it can be said that practically anyone with a decent computer and sound editing software can potentially produce music. The charts today are flooded with largely talentless individuals who can be autotuned to perfection or autotuned with weird effects. I seriously doubt whether anyone is actually trying to make beautiful music anymore.

Mankind it must be said has been endowed with all sorts of ingenuity, and an incredible drive to explore, build and create. I totally understand the need to make a dollar; I even accept the fact begrudingly that some people are hideously greedy in pursuit of that dollar, and perhaps to some degree why we often need to surround ourselves with material possessions BUT if we are going to do this, then why must we forcibly subject ourselves to ugliness?

This post from elsewhere in the blogosphere also touches on this subject:

November 24, 2010

Horse 1128 - Religion Isn't The Cause Of "Poison"... It's People

This post comes from the jumping off point of this article from the ABC's Unleased website:

Religion for want of a better word is a set of practices based on or that follow as a result of one's faith. To put it more simply: Faith is where and what you believe in; Religion is what you do about it.

Everyone who has ever been born on this planet has believed in something, even atheists. Athiests might not believe in god/s but they do believe in an abscence of them; by definition this is still a belief in a position. It follows that everyone who has ever lived has their own unique religion of sorts (including atheists), and although it might not necessarily be an organised religion, the fact still holds true that everyone has their own religion.
If it is true that everyone has their own religion, then for their religion to be "poisonous", this can not be the fault of the religion but of the people themselves who formally make up the religion if it is a collective one, or even the individual.

This is why I think that Mr Hodge is quite wrong is saying that:
Yet, there is no fool-proof way to define “religion” that will include such belief systems as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism while excluding nationalism, political ideologies, capitalism, pop culture, sport and more.
If there is is no fool-proof way to define “religion”, then why have I done precisely that and included EVERY possible belief system. If religion is what one does as a result of one's faith in whatever that happens to be, then it doesn't even need to make mention of buildings, organisations, or the existance of god, gods or an abscence of them.

Getting back to the point about religion being "poisonous", or rather the people who make up a collective religion being the cause of that poison, then you don't need to go to any religious institute to find evidence of this. One merely needs to open the newspaper on a daily basis to read about man's injustice to his fellow man, or even look at the headlines on the ABC's own news website:
Belanglo teen killed with axe - Fatal shooting police 'tried to warn patrons' - Police restore calm after Yuendumu violence - Vic Coalition unveils child abuse, sentencing reforms.
I cite all of these and thousands more on a daily basis as proof of mankind's internal poison. I haven't got around to even mentioning religion's part in all this because quite frankly I don't need to. The problem isn't religion but people themselves.

How is "religion" connected to this hideousness I hear you ask? Obviously if religion is what one does, then the people who killed the teen with an axe, or the perpetrators of child abuse or the people of Yuendumu, must all be following their own internal religions; however twisted and not normal they happen to be. Every individual must be held accountable for their own actions, and if religion happens to be what one does, then one's actions and one's religion must be either identical or else mesh together very well indeed.

Of course it is very easy to stand back from all of this and act "piously" for want of a better word, but if we're all following our own internal religion and we all happen to be the root cause of that "poison", then is it little wonder that society seems to progressively get worse? That violent crime increases over time?

Maybe there was some wisdom after all in "the good book" which society seemingly has laid aside because it was no longer "relevant". Collectively are our throats are open graves? Do our tongues practice deceit? What are the results of that poison anyway? Is it difficult to hear cursing and bitterness the second you step out onto the street? If you switch on the telly of a night can you find people who are swift to shed blood? When the GFC hit, were people quick to mark up ruin and misery in their moral accountbooks along with losses financial?

Maybe there was some wisdom when it was said of mankind that there was no one righteous, not even one and that there is no-one who understands; no-one who seeks God. Just what is the point of religion anyway if together we have become worthless and there really is no-one who does good?

It seems that to pinpoint religion as “poisonous”, and to identify its origins in human nature, would lead one to think there is something very defective about human beings themselves and their nature.

Isn't that the very point of Christianity anyway? That there is in fact something hideously defective about human beings themselves in their nature? Christianity itself starts with the very assumption that both collectively and individually that everyone who has ever been born on this planet is flawed, defective and utterly incapable of making peace with their creator. It assumes that everyone does carry round a poison which makes us unacceptable to our creator, and it explains very easily why mankind as a whole and people individually need a saviour from that poison.

But to suggest that it is religion's fault for poisoning society simply defies both common sense and logic. Somehow I think that Mr Hodge needs to go back have a check of his workings, and then get back to us.

November 19, 2010

Horse 1127 - Apple Gets to the Core of Music.

The two thoughts in this are connected, buy only just:

Part A:
This week Apple made an announcement which had the world's practically cooing for the scoop before anyone else got it. When I heard news of the upcoming "big announcement" my first thought was that iTunes was going to announce a something related to "the cloud" or maybe a paid subscription service.
Apple announced in May that it building a data server farm in North Carolina. Presumably it's got something to do with Apple TV, though the idea of iTunes in the Cloud has been kicking about for a while, which I guess would be like Spotify which currently operates in Europe.

If Apple was going to go down the cloud storage route for music, then in theory you could have your iCloud pod machine with only a minimal flash drive in it, and then run a micro-payments system at say 0.5 of a cent per song; the iCloud would send off some sort of request into the cloud play the song, and then delete the song from the flash drive.
I imagine that it would be a similar business model to XM Satellite Radio mashed with pay-per-view which would be essentially a pay-for-service affair rather like cable TV.

Part B:

Instead we only got the rather paltry announcement that the Beatles catalogue was finally on iTunes. Wow... really, just wow... sigh.
I think that it's a sad indictment on the current output of the record companies if almost 50 year old music is able to cause a stir. When you consider that they're whinging about falling music sales, I think it makes a pretty strong statement. What this does say is that EMI, Virgin, Warner et. al. should start producing music that lots of people actually would like to buy.

When you have bands who grind away in sheds, garages and playing small venues like pubs and RSLs, they tend to produce music that appeals to more people on average than manufactured pop idols.
Bands and musicians who have to learn their craft, tend to produce higher quality of music than technicians who in principle aren't musicians, playing with computers in a back room. This is compounded when those same people with computers can turn people who already can't sing into autotuned marvels, with an electronic drum beat.

I that you'll find generally that when rock music sits atop the music charts, that there probably a higher turnover in music sales. This might sound ridiculous, but I think that you're more likely to pack out very large stadia with a rock concert than a dance outfit.
No offense to Ke$ha (who according to the Herald, went skydiving over Sydney yesterday), but she isn't exactly going to fill the SCG in the same way that U2, The Rolling Stones, or Green Day might do. In fact it was the Beatles themselves who played the first major stadium concert in history, before a crowd of 55,600 at Shea Stadium in August 1965.

I don't think that it's actually fair to blame flagging music sales on illegal music, when for the most part with the age of the digital download, you can buy a song for $1.29. In a world where glorified no-talent shows like Pop Idol, X-Factor, spit out saccharine "singing sensations", is it little wonder that when the TV show's season ends, no-one cares anymore?

Almost 50 years after the Beatles started making music, their records are still able to cause a stir for the simple reason that they put in the effort and learnt how to be real musicians.
Image isn't everything despite what you've heard because music itself is an aural experience not a visual one. If record companies simply just shut their eyes and actually listened to the crud they're putting out, maybe they might be able to sell proper music again.

November 11, 2010

Horse 1126 - What "core partnership"?

Mr Bush mentions Mr Howard just three times in his 500-page Decision Points.
The only other reference is a footnote to observations the former president makes about Tony Blair, who features heavily in the Bush tome, reflecting the primacy of the US-British "special relationship".
- Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Nov, 2011

With regards yesterday's post of what Ms Clinton called the United States' "core partnership" with Australia, I wonder exactly a) what she could have meant if it was mentioned just three times in a former President's memoirs and b) just what the heck does Australia gain from this so called "core partnership"? What is in it for us?

Actually there is a fair question - What is in it for us?

Foreign policy in Australia from before federation has been to do whatever Big Brother happens to tell it to do. There is not a single example (save maybe in WW2) where Australians were fighting in a theatre remotely connected to their homeland.

Big Brother Britain sent us to South Africa, the fields of Europe twice, North Africa, and in return the Menzies government formulated a plan called the Brisbane Line to surrender northern Australia pending invasion.
Big Brother America has sent us to Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Iraq twice, Afghanistan and when Australia asked for a wee bit of help with conflicts in East Timor, we were politely told where to go and how to get there.

What I find really surprising is this photo and link:
With their hands over their hearts, President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard perform a military pass and review at the Washington Navy Yard Sept. 10, 2001. Commemorating 50 years of military alliance, the President and Prime Minister spoke to assembled military personnel, shared lunch and spoke privately in the Oval Office.

Take note of the date Sept 10, 2001. Did the memories of the day that followed completely obliterate his memories of the day before, or was Mr Howard and the "core partnership" just so umimportant that it didn't even figure?

Formally the United States, Australia and New Zealand signed the ANZUS treaty in 1951, but in 1985 when a visit of USS Buchanan was denied by New Zealand because of nuclear weapons launching capabilities that the ship had. Negotiations eventually broke down and the United States suspended its treaty obligations with New Zealand.
If the United States officially called someone whom it formally had a treaty with "a friend, but not an ally", then surely this should have been worth noticing.

The way I see it, Australia has sent troops and hardware to die on fields all over the world for the benefit of other nations and since the end of WW2 almost exclusively at the request of the United States. If a former President can't even be bothered to remember the existence of a nation's leader which he supposedly had a "core partnership" with, can it be really be said to exist at all?

November 10, 2010

Horse 1125 - Hillary thinks that the US and Oz is a "core partnership"
"I think that the core values of the Australian people, the quality of life, the standard of living, the aspirations that Australians feel are very much in line with the way Americans think and act.
So our relationship is essential to both of us. That doesn't mean we won't have relationships with others, but it does mean that this will remain the core partnership."
- Hillary Clinton, reported in the SMH, 9th Nov.

How nice. Ms Clinton seems to think that the United States and Australian relationship is somehow one of the US's "core partnerships". Something however doesn't quite add up here thought. Namely, why is it that Hilary Clinton of all people is the one to say that the US-Oz relationship is a "core partnership"? If it really was so important, wouldn't it have been the President himself to say that?

I think back to those heady days of May, before Ms Gillard became Prime Minister:
US President Barack Obama's postponed visit to Australia has been rescheduled for June 18, featuring an address to parliament and a weekend in Sydney.

This means to say that even before Ms Gillard became Prime Minister, Mr Obama had already reneged on a promise to come to Australia. Sadly this wasn't even the first time this had happened:
US President Barack Obama and his family will visit Australia in late March, the White House has confirmed.
Mr Rudd initially invited Mr Obama to Australia when he was last in Washington in late November.

Let me get this straight: The then PM Kevin Rudd invited Mr Obama to visit Australia all the way back in November of 2009. Now obviously Christmas seems to have gotten in the way and he was supposed to arrive in March. That didn't work out and he was then supposed to arrive in June. That also work out and so he sent Hillary to arrive in his place.

I ask you, does this sound like the actions of a leader or a nation who truly believes in the existence of a "core partnership"? Perhaps this is similar to the idea of Mr Howard's "non-core promises", in that a "core partnership" must be something which can be ignored easily.
Certainly that's true of the American people because many American citizens think that the US Government ignores them as well. Perhaps there there is a grain of truth to what Ms Clinton says. When she says that "the aspirations that Australians feel are very much in line with the way Americans think and act". We both think that the US Government ignores us when it is convenient.

I think that if Australia wanted to be more important to the United States then we need to move on from our "core partnership" and move to a new "hard core partnership". We could start by charging rent on all the land occupied by US Military bases as part of this so called "core partnership", because you're not hard core unless you live hard core and the legend of the rent is way hard core... partnership.

November 02, 2010

Horse 1124 - Q and A Transcript - 1st Nov 1605.

TONY JONES: Good evening and welcome to Q&A, which tonight is live from the House of Lords itself. To answer your questions tonight: the "Bard of Avon", theatre owner and playwright William Shakespeare, prominent pro-Catholic spokesperson Guy Fawkes, Member of Parliament and Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire Edmund Sheffield, statesman, scientist and KC Francis Bacon and celebrated alchemist and mathematician, John Dee. Please welcome our panel.

Remember that Q&A is live from 09.30 Eastern Time, so join the Twitter conversation by sending in your carrier pigeons, or mail us by hiring a herald and runner. But let's go to our very first question, which comes from Lord de Rouge from Didcott.

LORD DE ROUGE: Given the patronage of His Majesty of one particular theatre, does the panel feel that the arts generally shall suffer henceforth a hideous degradation?

TONY JONES: I think that we should hear from William on this first.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Prithee, shall I compare thee to a lady with birth pangs? There is wailing and much shouting, but whence the babe be born, a great celebration may be found amongst its family.

GUY FAWKES: You say that but you are the very one in receipt of poor a thousand crowns a year from the king's own purse.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Thou art a knave!

GUY FAWKES: Call me a knave again and a thousand times a knave, and yet thou are not fit to be even called a beggar.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: What is this nonsense?

GUY FAWKES: It is you and people like you, and indeed this great parliament who resides over in your own words "this realm, this land, this England", who beg for the King's shilling and marry get it, for thou art little more than a blaggard who dost sit at the end of the King's chamber and play for sport? No sir, thou playest for monies.
Even thy great theatre which thou call "the Globe", is not a globe but a temple to thy own self-aggrandising, and a coffin to thy spirit. Dost thou pay thy taxes as the peasant folk do? Not a bar of it. Not a bar.  Thou dost not only withhold thy taxes but thou playest for monies from the peasantry who can ill-afford to surrender the bread from their table.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Prithee good sir, wouldst thou hold the wages back from a merchant? Consider this very frame upon which thy eyes are set and thou tongue which flashes quick against to be the very frame of a merchant who trades not in rude goods, but of wit, merriment and mirth. The theatre doth employ more than merely players but singers and minstrels, and magick men, and orators. Indeed this very House of Lords, be a theatre of our Lords and Masters, some of who derive their monies from oratory within this place.

TONY JONES: If we wouldn't mind, I'd like to hear Lord Sheffield's thoughts.


TONY JONES: Do you think that the King favouring one theatre over another is a bad thing for the arts?

EDMUND SHEFFIELD: Well I... er... that is to say... it could very well be that if one thing leads to another thing that maybe... what?

TONY JONES: Do you think that the King is playing favourites?

EDMUND SHEFFIELD: That is to say... I should jolly well hope so. He is the King.

TONY JONES: I think that we'll leave that question there. Our next question comes via a foot messenger from the Duke of Salisbury and we writes: "Good evening yon Q and A. My question is directed towards the 'playwright' William Shakespeare. Did thee or did thee not really write and conceive all of those plays, sonnets and poems thyself, or did thou hav'st a ghost writing apprentice?

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: As far as the east is from the west, I shalt swear on this land itself that I wrote every play, sonnet and poem, and every skerrick, iota and dot myself.

FRANCIS BACON: Swear thou mightst, for thou art adding lying to thievery.


FRANCIS BACON: Audere est facere - to dare is to do.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Pay him no attention, for he is a cad and a bounder!

TONY JONES: I think we have a comment from Lord Sheffield.

EDMUND SHEFFIELD: I quite like plays... and lashings of sack...

TONY JONES: I think we have had quite enough of Lord Sheffield at the moment...


FRANCIS BACON: This... William... is a lair of the most voracious kind. Most prudently he did not write every play, sonnet and poem, and every skerrick, iota and dot himself, for 'twas by my own pen that words doth flow, 'twixt the mind and the parchment. 'Twas mine eyes that saw these words doth form and dance upon the pages and 'twas my own mind which bore these words.

TONY JONES: We have a comment from the floor...

AUDIENCE: Why Mr Shakespeare will my children great and grand be forced to sit and study your texts?

TONY JONES: We take that as a comment...

JOHN DEE: Can I just say that it is reasonable for the King to employ players, wise men, armorists and alchemists as he sees fit? He is the King and has the Divine Right to do with His kingdom as he pleases.

TONY JONES: It looks as though we have a message brought to us via the medium of song, brought to us by the House of Lords own interns. They like to call their piece an Intern-ette.

HOUSE INTERNS: 'Twas long ago in days of old,
Whence men thought to turn lead to gold.
May what we ask from us to you,
Is can this task ever be true?

TONY JONES: I think that this question is best directed to John Dee don't you think?

JOHN DEE: Thank you.


JOHN DEE: I do not view the world or its learnings as different pursuits, but all learnings as facets of the same enlightenment. All things both corporeal and ethereal have their being in the two realms of the visible and the invisible. Once one begins to understand the pure verities of the invisible and ethereal realm, I believe it will be possible to alter the qualities of a thing in the visible and corporeal realm.

TONY JONES: Do you think that it will be possible to turn lead into gold?

JOHN DEE: I can not see why not.


GUY FAWKES: I have seen Lords who can turn large fortunes into little ones...

EDMUND SHEFFIELD: I have seen potatoes...

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: I have seen the world will end in fire, and the world end in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favour fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate, to say that for destruction ice, is also great, and would suffice.

FRANCIS BACON: I bet thou stole that as well...

TONY JONES: I believe that we have a question from a lowly peasant on the floor, a Mr Peter McDow.

PETER McDOW: Ahem...

TONY JONES: Peter?...

PETER McDOW: Oh yes... Ahem... Mister Shakespeare, In your recent play "Othello the Moor", you cast both Moors and Catholics in a poor light. What do you really think about Moors and Catholics?

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: I merely reflect the gaze of the people. I care not for the reflections therein...

EDMUND SHEFFIELD: All Catholics are a nuisance and should be either shot, or rounded up and burned.

TONY JONES: Do you really believe that?

EDMUND SHEFFIELD: Of course!... them and the Jews, the Moors, the French, the Scots, all manner of street urchins and the poor... especially the poor. I would be happy if a great fire engulfed this City of London and burned all of the poor of this city to a crisp.

TONY JONES: That's a little harsh...

GUY FAWKES: It would be from one of whom poverty has never set foot on his doorstep.

TONY JONES: We have a question from the floor from a Mr Robert Catesby.

ROBERT CATESBY: Given the anti-Catholic sentiment in the last question, does anyone think that an attack on the King or Parliament may occur soon?

EDMUND SHEFFIELD: God forbid such a thing to ever occur!

TONY JONES: But would it be technically possible?

JOHN DEE: I don't think a Lord with a great army could mount an attack on the Parliament in the streets, though a wise man might if he were studious, decide to deliver his terrible arsenal under cover of night fall.


JOHN DEE: This great house of swill has a vast undercroft underneath it. If one could disguise gunpowder, masquerading of barrels of wine, then perhaps one could store thirty or fortyfold of barrels?

TONY JONES: We have a comment from Francis...

FRANCIS BACON: May I just say that printing, gunpowder and the compass: These three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world; the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes, in so much that no empire, no sect, no star seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.

TONY JONES: Can I just ask Guy... As a noted Catholic, you're not averse to controversy, what do you think of his theory?

GUY FAWKES: Remember, remember the First of November,
Accusatory firey and hot,
I see no reason, and certain no season,
To confirm or deny such a plot.

TONY JONES: Well I guess that you've heard it first here on Q and A, and what a poetic way to end the show. Tune in next week when we're off to the beach at Portsea where we'll hear from John McEwen, all star Doug Anthony, the PM Harold Holt, Lionel Murphy QC and Jim Cairns, provided that the Doctor shows up in his blue box on time again.