Saturday, February 26, 2011

Plimer encouraged

Not only does Cardinal George Pell believe in the Virgin Birth, he also believes nitrogen is a greenhouse gas.

The Cardinal’s latter error is perhaps inevitable, since he’s apparently invested a lot of faith in Professor Ian Plimer’s ‘anti-warming’ tract Heaven and Earth, which is not known for its veracity.

It’s all come out in Senate committee hearings, in which Dr Greg Ayers of the Bureau of Meteorology has felt obliged to make a statement to provide balance in response to the Plimer-Pell creed. Tim Lambert has background and details.

One of the highlights is Greens Senator Scott Ludlam’s suggestion that, if Plimer desires a right of reply to Ayer’s statement, “He can publish another work of science fiction.”

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Where’s Osama?

Detail above is a small part of a much larger oil-on-canvas by Chinese artists Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An.

You can see the whole thing here. You can hover your mouse over individuals to display names, and click to go to a Wikipedia entry on a selected individual. (And yes, Osama is in the pic... somewhere.)


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Latest ‘last word’ on Assange

“I think Julian Assange’s personal life might be the saddest confirmation that all the information in the world, all the openness in the world doesn’t prevent you from being kind of a prick sometimes.”

  • Jaron Lanier — computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author

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Serious Lawyer Shit IV: My Sweet Law Suit

One of the most well-known music copyright infringement cases was that of George Harrison lifting the tune for his 1971 hit ‘My Sweet Lord’ from a 1962 hit song called ‘He’s So Fine’ by the Chiffons.

Whatever one might subjectively judge the relative merits of each song to be, Harrison’s plagiarism — ruled by the court as “unconscious plagiarism” — was about as clear cut as these things can be, as can be appreciated from this youtube video.

Beyond his replacement of the ‘Doo Lang’ mantra with some perhaps more edifying ones, I personally prefer what Harrison did with the tune. He always maintained that ‘My Sweet Lord’ was inspired not by the Chiffons’ song, but by the Edwin Hawkins Singers 1969 gospel hit ‘Oh Happy Day.’

I’ve thrown together a mix that may give an idea of how Harrison may have conceived his version of the song.

The most remarkable aspect of the whole affair was the startling fact that none of the stellar crew who contributed to Harrison’s recording — not Eric Clapton, nor Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, not even King-of-Pop Phil Spector who produced the record — not one of them did Harrison the service of tapping him on the shoulder and saying, “Hellooooo, George, isn’t this a bit of a rip-off of the Chiffons?”

Another interesting bit of trivia is that ‘He’s So Fine’ ended up being Harrison’s song after all, when he later bought the rights to it.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hitch should know better

This recent column by Christopher Hitchens is bound to confirm an article of faith of his fellow travellers: namely, that human rights groups and NGOs generally are anti-American just for the sake of it, if not because they’re inherently perverse, or even evil.

Hitchens’ rhetoric is, of course, characteristically effortless:

Even in a week that concentrated all eyes on the magnificent courage and maturity of the people of Cairo, a report from Kabul began with what must surely be the most jaw-dropping opening paragraph of the year. Under the byline of the excellent Rod Nordland, The New York Times reported: “International and local human rights groups working in Afghanistan have shifted their focus toward condemning abuses committed by the Taliban insurgents, rather than those attributed to the American military and its allies.” . . .

The story became more mind-boggling as it unfolded. One had to ask oneself what had taken the human-rights “community” so long. . . .

The turning point, in the mind of the human rights “activists,” appears to have occurred in late January, when a Taliban suicide-murderer killed at least 14 civilians in the Finest Supermarket in Kabul. Among the slain was a well-known local campaigner named Hamida Barmaki, whose husband and four small children were also killed. One wonders in what sense this was the Taliban going too far — women are killed and mutilated by them every single day in Afghanistan. Yet let the terror reach one of the upscale markets or hotels that cater to the NGO constituency in Kabul, and suddenly there is an abrupt change from moral neutrality.

Before joining Hitchens in his railing against the dastardly “moral equivalence” of those ironically quote-enclosed “activists,” it might be noted that Hitchens in his lazy reading of Nordland’s article seems to have missed the fact that, long before January, groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had been calling for the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed by the Taliban.

Hitchens’ angle here, of course, is to retrospectively validate his long-standing support for the ever-lengthening war in Afghanistan. In a re-definition that renders the term concentration camp almost meaningless, he notes without irony that “during [the Taliban’s] period in power, it ran the country as a vast concentration camp,” etc.

No-one would deny the egregiousness of the Taliban’s authoritarian rule, which virulently and tragically metastasised tendencies already inherent in traditional Afghan tribal culture. But Hitchens’ looseness here with language is the hallmark of a partisan tract.

Hitchens should know better, and I believe he does and moreover is plainly capable of far better. But on certain topics, evidently requiring a retrospective twist, Hitchens can be quite unreliable.

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