Monday, 26 May 2014

Lost, The Dome, Revenge and Resurrection...

 TV Series - they start off so well, and they pull in the viewers, and then the makers spoil it. Instead of rounding off with a great conclusion, they introduce a twist, and then another, and then another, and that's when it begins to make no sense at all. Viewers abandon it.
'Lost.'  It started so well. By its 4 or 5th 'season,' I'm not sure if anyone was still watching it.

'The Dome.' What an intriguing premise - an impermeable dome that suddenly envelops a whole town, isolating it from the rest of the world. I did start watching that, and enjoyed the first season, though quite annoyed when the 'finale'  was no finale at all. 

I decided not to bother with it any more, and so I'm not at all sure what happened - was there a second season that started, and then was chopped because its ratings were too poor?

'Revenge.'  Another series that looked great, but instead of the villains being caught out, there's a twist - what else?  There are bigger villains out there. And more and different villains. I gave up on that as well.

'Resurrection?'  Another intriguing premise. I didn't even start watching that.


So here are several shows that started well, but instead of finishing well, they dwindled into more and more feeble episodes because the makers just can't let them finish!  It would be much better to make a satisfactory conclusion while people are still interested. Is it because the TV series makers have so few ideas for new series that they keep the old ones going far too long? 

'Downton Abbey' is a bit different. It started as a quality show, but then there was the second series, and it had deteriorated - more of a soapie by that stage. But they picked up their game, maybe because of some good acting, maybe because they hired new writers, and their viewers returned. It now has a very big fan base.  I've even started watching it again myself.

Some series do last forever and stay fresh. Other series should come to a satisfactory conclusion, leaving viewers pleased with them and more likely to become involved in the next good idea.

What particularly provoked this complaint is an advertisement for a show that I've never actually watched - 'The Good Wife.'  It seems it's to have 'a shocking twist that nobody will see coming.'  I've come to know that when a TV series says there's to be a twist, it means something like an attempt to breathe new life into the dying. 

Maybe the twist is that they're all going to turn into zombies?

You like zombie stories?  Here's about the only one that I know -

'I've Been Deader,' by Adam Sifre.
Fred's just an ordinary zombie until one day he learns a trick. The undead had a good run at the beginning, but once the breathers get organized, it's only a matter of time before zombies go the way of pet rocks and sea monkeys. They need a hero. They need Fred. Fred is a natural dead leader with a flair for poetry and a fierce love for his son, Timmy. Unfortunately, as far as the undead are concerned, the only good Timmy is a dead Timmy. Things look grim for the undead until Fred flies into a rage trying to make popcorn and discovers he has a talent for controlling zombies. Now the undead are organized and, like the unions, in a position to destroy America. Is there no one who can stop them? More importantly, do we want them to? "I've Been Deader" tells its story through a series of short chapters designed to read like flash fiction. Today's readers want it fast, short and entertaining, and that's what I give them. Being undead never felt more alive.


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Sunday, 4 May 2014

Think you should 'Soldier On'? PLEASE don't!

Look at this ad - 

Audrey has a  nasty cold, but being a 'Soldier On' sort of person, she takes a Codral Cold and Flu tablet, and proceeds to infect everyone else at the party she goes to.
That young man who went to touch the chocolate cake she made while suffering her nasty cold?  It's very difficult to maintain food hygiene when you have a heavy cold. Maybe he was lucky he did not get that stolen taste.

This one is about Bob, who is powerful because 'He Codrals.'  But he appears to be in a big office, no doubt air-conditioned, and with many workers. These are ideal conditions to spread his virus. 
Bob,  (powerfully, no doubt)  will infect a fair portion of  his workmates. 

This one is a man who breathes on numerous people as he goes to work, and ends up bellowing about how he is 'soldiering on.'  If you have a nasty cold, your breath should not be shared. It contains the virus that is hurting you and will hurt others when shared.
Flu can kill.  Even a cold can kill someone old, sick or very young.
'Soldiering On' is selfish.  Take the day off.  Take as many days off as you need, and stay home!  Do not casually infect all of those around you, but do your best to keep your nasty germs to yourself. 
Bosses:  Send sick workers home.
Mothers:  Do not send sick children to Childcare or to school. (I know it costs, but you must cope somehow.)
One day, this over-crowded world is going to experience a flu pandemic that will wipe out millions of people. It's inevitable.  If people treated every cold and flu as potentially serious and very infectious, maybe it is not inevitable (Or at least the year can be pushed back a bit.) 
Do not Soldier On.  Keep your illness to yourself, thank you.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Changes to the Racial Discrimination Act


The Racial Discrimination Act 1975, as it stands,  stifles free speech, and limits the capacity to solve social problems because discussion has to be so carefully expressed that it becomes useless.  

There are changes proposed that would remove the clause that allows a person to make a complaint because they feel 'offended.' In other words, because their feelings are hurt. Unlike the laws against slander or libel, being factual in the 'offensive' statement is no defence.

The changes retain and strengthen the law against incitement to violence against a person because of his/her race, and against intimidation. 

This is what is proposed: 

Attorney-General for Australia
Minister for the Arts
Senator the Hon George Brandis QC

Government Media Release, 25th March, 2014.
Racial Discrimination Act

25 March 2014

The Government Party Room this morning approved reforms to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (the Act), which will strengthen the Act’s protections against racism, while at the same time removing provisions which unreasonably limit freedom of speech.

The legislation will repeal section 18C of the Act, as well as sections 18B, 18D, and 18E.

A new section will be inserted into the Act which will preserve the existing protection against intimidation and create a new protection from racial vilification.  This will be the first time that racial vilification is proscribed in Commonwealth legislation sending a clear message that it is unacceptable in the Australian community.

I have always said that freedom of speech and the need to protect people from racial vilification are not inconsistent objectives. Laws which are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech.

This is an important reform and a key part of the Government’s freedom agenda. It sends a strong message about the kind of society that we want to live in where freedom of speech is able to flourish and racial vilification and intimidation are not tolerated.

Exposure Draft
Freedom of speech (Repeal of S. 18C) Bill 2014

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 is amended as follows:

1.       Section 18C is repealed.

2.       Sections 18B, 18D and 18E are also repealed.

3.       The following section is inserted:

 “ It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if: the act is reasonably likely:  to vilify another person or a group of persons; or  to intimidate another person or a group of persons,

and the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons.

2.       For the purposes of this section:   vilify means to incite hatred against a person or a group of persons; intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm to a person or to the property of a person or to the members of a group of persons.

3.       Whether an act is reasonably likely to have the effect specified in sub-section (1)(a) is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.

4.       This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.”
(a few minor punctuation points of the above have been changed from the original direct copy) 

Particularly important points: 
'Laws which are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech.'
and  Whether an act is reasonably likely to (vilify or intimidate) is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.
In essence, the changes to the act would mean that  a person or group cannot complain merely because they feel offended or insulted.  

The act as it stands, does indeed limit free speech.

It limits little things  -  I was standing next to my fishpond, and talking aloud to the goldfish. One was black, and I said something like, 'Hi there, black feller.' Now 'feller' is just a casual term for a male, and black, of course, because it was black. But then I cringed. Had the Aboriginal family next door heard?  Would they be offended?  They shouldn't be - there's nothing wrong with being a 'blackfeller,'  not a thing to be ashamed of,  nothing to be insulted about. And yet, they could claim offence and it could even be feasible to make a complaint.  

How very silly.

It also limits big things. There are some very big problems among specific races and cultures now in Australia, some home grown, many imported from overseas. The first requirement of attacking a problem is to define and to understand the problem. That cannot be done if people cannot air the facts in case someone claims to be offended.

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt outside court.
Photo: Vince Caligiuri
The proposed changes came about after the commentator, Andrew Bolt, was deemed to have broken the law when he wrote about fair-skinned people who choose to identify as Aboriginal.

Andrew Bolt’s article (2009)  has not been reproduced here  in case it gets me into trouble as it did Andrew Bolt. In essence, it points out that claiming Aboriginal heritage, no matter how far removed and unlikely, can give real advantages to those who choose to do so. There are jobs and there are awards in the arts only open to Aboriginal people.  Bolt named several individuals who have received such advantages even when their Aboriginal heritage is not readily apparent. I’ve seen claims that there were factual errors in what he said. Maybe there are, maybe there are not.

He was sued.  He lost the case.

But I know it does happen.  
Here are two examples from my own personal experience

1.       An acquaintance of mine once boasted to me that if she chose, she could claim she was Aboriginal because she knew someone who was Aboriginal and who would be prepared to  say that she was also a part of that Aboriginal community. That was one requirement satisfied. She said nothing about the other requirement – an ancestor who was Aboriginal. 

      A few years later, she made her claim that she was Aboriginal. This was 1980s, almost as ‘politically correct’ a time as now.  It would not have been acceptable for the government employee who looked at the claim  to demand further proof  than a statement by herself and by her acquaintance. And it certainly would not have been acceptable to point out her fair skin and red hair, or the fact that she was never known as Aboriginal as a child and nor were her parents.

      So her claim was accepted, she did some sort of course in Aboriginal Counselling, and  then applied for and was appointed to a well paid government job that had been set aside for Aboriginal applicants only.  It only lasted a couple of years  – I don’t know why.

2.       Another acquaintance, an immigrant from Holland. She was married to an immigrant from England. So how did their son manage to be on the government assistance, Abstudy,  rather than Austudy?  (Abstudy was for Aboriginal children.)   I have no idea how she claimed her son was Aboriginal.

 We come in all colours.  Colour does not make us unequal.  Sometimes, culture does. We must be able to discuss aspects of our culture that are bad for us and bad for our country. And whenever someone objects, if what was said is factual, then that has to be a total defence.

Some cultural practices are bad.  Simply bad.  Some defend the mutilation of the genitals of girls, for instance, by saying it is 'culture.' Forced marriage, underage marriage - aspects of culture.

from Wikipaedia.
The ideal length for a bound foot was three inches
Remember that the Chinese used to cripple girl children by binding their feet so that they grew up with tiny, dainty feet that men found sexy?  It was culture.  It was condemned, and the practice fell out of favour. No little girls are crippled in that way any more. 

But what if it was happening now?  Would we be afraid to speak of it because that would imply that the Chinese culture was inferior?

We must be able to discuss problems. We must be able to discuss other cultures and what they do right and what we find very wrong. We have to be able to breathe freely. This amendment is sensible, it is just, it is needed.


Andrew Bolt concluded in his article:
Let’s go beyond racial pride. Beyond black and white. Let’s be proud only of being human beings set on this land together, determined to find what unites us and not to invent such racist and trivial excuses to divide. Deal?
Sounds a great idea to me.




Thursday, 1 May 2014

The right to an opinion.

In her biography on Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall  wrote the phrase:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

(often misattributed to Voltaire himself,  Wikipaedia)

But now?  

The National Basketball Association on Tuesday imposed a lifetime ban on Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, delivering an unexpectedly robust set of sanctions for racist comments that may also compel the real estate billionaire to sell his team.

The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, said at a news conference in New York that an inquiry had established that Sterling expressed the remarks heard on a leaked recording, which were “contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multi-ethnic league”.

Silver said that the 80-year-old billionaire would also be fined $2.5m, the maximum allowed under the NBA's unpublished constitution, and that he would now press the NBA's governing body of other team owners to force Sterling to sell the Clippers

Directly quoted from Jon Swaine in New York,,

But this was a private conversation.  PRIVATE.   It was secretly filmed and then publicised, so then Sterling is in trouble.

But is this right?  Is this fair?

We are entitled to our opinions, and the spying on and reporting of private conversations is what makes a police state - think Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, present day North Korea.  It does not matter what opinions we have, we are entitled to them, and we are entitled to air them in conversation.

His punishment -

A series of major corporate sponsors involved with the Clippers announced over the weekend that they were breaking their associations with the team. Silver said on Tuesday: “This has been a painful moment for all in the NBA family. I appreciate the support and understanding of our players during this process.”

Donald Sterling
Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star, mayor of Sacramento and an adviser to the National Basketball Players Association, said Sterling’s punishment should serve as a warning to "every bigot in this country".
"It doesn't matter if you are a professional basketball player worth millions of dollars, or a man or woman who works hard for their family," Johnson said at a press conference. "There will be zero tolerance for institutional racism, no matter how rich or powerful."

Johnson had said earlier on Tuesday that the players’ union urged Silver to inflict “the most severe sanctions possible” on Sterling.

Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles, mayor, also praised Silver’s announcement. "Those are exactly the sorts of strong statements we need to stand up against these hateful comments," Garcetti told CNN.

Directly quoted from Jon Swaine in New York,,

But what law did he actually break?

Maybe we should look at the ex-girlfriend's conduct.  Is secretly filming a private conversation  against the law?  Maybe it should be. 
Deliberately making trouble for her - what is he - her sponsor?  her john?   That was nasty and it was spiteful.

I do not agree with his sentiments. In this climate, I doubt if anyone would have the foolishness or the courage to come out and say that they did, though I have no doubt that Sterling is not alone.  Instead, anyone with a public profile will jump on the bandwagon and also condemn him. 

But I'm not talking about whether he is right or wrong or whether you agree or do not agree, he has a right to his opinion.  He is entitled to say what he thinks. 

As Voltaire didn't actually say: 

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."