Monthly Archives: July 2017

Champagne soaked boys and home security.

Nearly cracked up laughing when my house mate, a feminist, told me the organisers of the Vuelta a Espana bicycle race have decided that this year there would be male ‘podium assistants’ and there will be no kissing. Apparently the Spanish organisers were inspired by a similar move to include males by the organisers of the Australian “Tour Down Under” who reportedly believe the practice of kissing and the cyclists shacking up the champagne bottle and giving the girls a shower is sexist. Seen plenty of motoGP riders and F1 drivers spray each other and the crowd but anyway, logic would have it that if women have a problem with this type of behaviour, they could simply refuse to be podium girls.

LOL – I know one motoGP champion who would not be complaining if the girls were given the flick altogether and, was it not in ‘Republic’ that Plato suggested the way to get soldiers to fight harder would be to give the bravest amongst them first choice of the boys?

It’s expected this will be expanded to Formula 1 and motoGP and it will be interesting to see who between podium boys and podium girls gets the most camera time. Advertisers will be sitting in front of their televisions stopwatch in hand as will feminists at the ready to write angry emails if the girls get a second less on-camera time than the boys. In the words of doctor Gonzo – it just gets weirder.

Also – yes you guessed well – it’s our prime minister again and this time he announced on the public television not many watch and in the middle of the working day, that essential to our safety is putting the intelligence agencies, the federal police and border patrol under one super ministry. Yep that’s it, putting intelligence gathering and covert operations, policing and covert operations and border control under the authority of one minister is supposed to make the country safer from – drum roll please – terrorists. Not much mention of pedophiles and only in passing drug dealers this time.

Now, normally, let us say that as an investigative journalist, political dissident or member of a greenie group opposed to a coal mine the government supports, you would have two types of opponents. One, those who are required to respect the law (your local police for example) and the second, those who are not always required to respect the law. That could include Intelligence officers who might be given a task to complete and where the only rule is the eleventh commandment. “Thy shalt not get caught”.

Imagine you were the target of such an operation and survived and wanted redress. You might go to the police or in Australia to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) who might instruct the federal police to raid and seize compromising documents from the spooks or even drag the spooks into a dark cellar to be questioned by a yellow-eyed woman with her sleeves rolled up. No chance of that happening now. Spooks and federal police will be under the control of one minister. I think they want to call this the ‘ministry for home security’ but maybe a more seventies-style South American name might be better such as, “Ministro supremo para la protección del poder estatal”.

Home” “Security” and “Ministry” (preaching the good word?) who is going to see anything but ‘good’ in that?

If you understand Spanish or know how to use Google translate, click here for the article about the podium boys.

Legislation driven by fear.

 

And strengthening state continues with today the prime minister announcing proposed changes to the ‘call out’ (the army) legislation because allegedly the New South Wales police didn’t do a good job dealing with a ‘terrorist’ incident in 2014. What happened was that an unhinged person took hostages in a Sydney cafe and after a stand-off the police went in and a few people were killed. The police came under a lot of criticism for how they handled the incident, most of it unfair as they could not know how determined this man was, whether he had explosives, what type of weapons he had, etc.

The armchair generals who are never put in a position where their own lives might be at risk and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, decided the army should have been called in. Allegedly they would have done a better job at neutralising the threat presented by a lone person with mental health issues holding a gun to the heads of a few persons on a coffee break. Delicate situation for sure, but a skilled negotiator might have been able to de-escalate the situation whereas the arrival of the military more likely than not, would have had the opposite effect.

What the prime minister is proposing is dangerous to democracy in that it removes checks and balances that were wisely written into the constitution and in federal law to protect the civilian population from the excesses of power whilst at the same time providing for emergency usage of the military when and only when, the resources of state police have been exhausted.

Section 119 of the constitution says that,

The Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion and, on the application of the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence.

What this guarantees is that a state cannot call out the army against civilians who might be protesting whatever as is their democratic right. To further limit the ability to call out the army in situations of civil unrest, there is also section 51A of the defence act which says that in the case of a state requesting call out of the army, federal ministers must be satisfied that,

                     (a)  domestic violence is occurring or is likely to occur in Australia; and

                    (aa)  the domestic violence would, or would be likely to, affect Commonwealth interests; and

                     (b)  if the domestic violence is occurring or is likely to occur in a State or self-governing Territory–the State or Territory is not, or is unlikely to be, able to protect Commonwealth interests against the domestic violence; and

                     (c)  the Defence Force should be called out and the Chief of the Defence Force should be directed to utilise the Defence Force to protect the Commonwealth interests against the domestic violence.

The above is what the prime minister claims needs to be changed to protect us from nut cases in cafes. I doubt it would make any difference and a better strategy would be to give more training to local police, if there is indeed a clear need, in the art of negotiating with the mentally unhinged. What these changes will do for sure is remove checks and balances from the threat of a bad federal government, and no nation is immune from electing the wrong persons, having the ability to call out the army against protesters without having to first receive a request from the state government which might be on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

I think most would agree they would prefer to be blown up than leave our descendants with less freedom than we enjoyed and this and other recent changes giving more power to state is an example of the dangers Franklin D. Roosevelt was referring to when he said in his 1933 inaugural speech that, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

 

And yet more surveillance. RIP Liu Xiaobo.

Depressing this morning listening to our prime minister together with top brass from the Australian Federal Police going on about why the ability to force tech companies to decrypt communications is essential to protecting us from – drum roll please – terrorists, drug dealers and pedophiles. The usual suspects and none better to strike fear in the populace. To the civil libertarians who might question this breach of human rights, his argument was that we should not put the entire population at risk to protect the rights of a small and criminal minority. Sounds logical and who would argue that, well, no amount of lost freedoms is too great where the lives and virginity of children are at risk? Certainly not Hitler who from memory, made pretty much the same argument in Mein Kampf.

The truth is that the number of terrorist organisations capable of committing a successful attack is less than forty years ago, pre Internet, and all those terrorist organisations of mid last century simply faded away because of a lack of popular support and Islamic terrorism will do the same. There was no need then nor is there now for a permanent loss of civil and political rights. Drug dealers and pedophiles? They do not need Internet access to commit their crimes and at best these proposed laws will create an inconvenience for the petty criminals and one they will quickly overcome. In fact, it is known that terrorist organisations that are well-organised and capable do not use clear net social media, download-for-free encryption nor even the dark net to organise their attacks but rather rely on old and tried systems of covert communications such as code books, messengers and face-to-face meetings in safe locations such as a cave in Afghanistan. Furthermore, no wide spread loss of freedom and rights will ever prevent a person with sexual hangups and feelings of being downtrodden and ignored when they should – in their mind – be ruling the planet from constructing a bomb, renting a truck or buying a hunting knife from the hardware store. What will go a long way to preventing such lone wolf and other attacks would be a society in which you are not only what you have and where people have equal right and opportunity to be heard and in which they feel accepted as equals. Not just ‘tolerated’ like we do the kid next door who annoys the crap out of everyone with the drum set he got for Christmas.

The prime minister certainly chose the right day to announce yet another loss of civil and political rights because today is also the day those who believe in freedom and are prepared to fight for it, lost Liu Xiaobo. The Chinese hero who put freedom ahead of his personal safety starting from Tiananmen Square in 1989.

An inspiration and example to all who believe in democracy.

OK… I mentioned before a print business which is coming together but slowly in part because of equipment sourced from overseas going missing. Just like the bike trailer. The latest is a press which is both heavy and rather big and that unloaded in Newcastle which is just a hundred kilometres north of Sydney was sent to Perth which is on the other side of the Australian continent where, it was ‘lost’ until I requested a refund. Miraculously found, it is now on a truck, or so I’m told by the transport company, and on its way back. All up since been unloaded in Australia it will have made a nine-thousand kilometre detour before landing, hopefully, God willing and planets aligned, on my door step. The bad news for my little enterprise is that this press is just one of six items which appear to be experiencing difficulties in finding Katoomba.

Work also continues on the animation project. I’ve got to the point where my character kicks and tosses a skull around an abandoned factory, will make sense when and if I post the finished result here, but animating this sequence is proving to be a challenge in that I can’t find suitable reference. How fast does a skull fall after been kicked in the air? 9.81 metre/second square you will say.

screen shot of blender animation interface.

Character preparing to throw skull into the air. Animating this sequence without reference is proving to be a challenge.

And the book for young persons which is taking the lead over book two which is dark and for older and wiser persons. I don’t think anyone who has never written a book can realise how bloody difficult it is! For starters you are faced with the problem of trying to hold the entire thing in your head. Notes help of course but the sense of approaching writing a book as similar to building a house becomes obvious. Have a plan, detail your characters, are they driving the story or is the story driving them, lay out the foundations of the whole construct, build it up and only then worry about the colour of the curtains. Still not easy but better than your character liking plums in chapter two and despising them in Chapter fifteen. This young person targeted novel started out as a script for a short children’s animation, got put aside as most projects do, was resurrected and has gone from light story for little kids to something a bit more involved and profound for somewhat older kids. I will finish it if only because the learning journey makes writing this story well worth the effort. If you’re bored I’d strongly recommend writing a book. Believe me, it takes you into another world and you don’t see the hours fly past. Great fun and much frustration – if that makes sense.

 

 

Heroes in our thoughts and prayers.

There are those who talk and those who do.

I received the letter below from the ‘White Helmets’ – heroes who risk their lives to save others.

      Dear Paul,

   In response to the tragic fire at the Grenfell Tower in London the White
   Helmets have sent a letter to the firefighters responding. We're sharing
   it with you because it is an inspiring testament that humanity has no
   borders.

   To the London Fire Brigade from the Syrian Civil Defence [White Helmets]
   in Daraa, Southern Syria:

   We were saddened to hear about the loss of souls in the Grenfell Tower
   fire, including Mohammad al-Haj Ali, a Syrian from our home of Daraa who
   had fled to London seeking safety from death and destruction.  
   We appreciate your efforts to search for bodies for days in a row and we
   feel your pain because this horror is our daily reality. In Daraa, we’re
   under the heaviest attacks we’ve ever seen in this deadly war. Hundreds of
   airstrikes have destroyed entire neighbourhoods and fires are everywhere.
   Just like you, our teams are rushing towards the blazes and we do all we
   can to rescue the injured.  

   The past 16 days have seen 88 people killed and nearly 35,000 civilians
   displaced from their homes.

   A civil defence centre was targeted and destroyed, and 5 volunteers were
   injured in the bombing -- as you know it’s a terrible thing to see your
   teammates suffer.

   You have been so generous to us, donating equipment to our teams when you
   met with our teammates in London. We’ve received trainings from British
   experts in search-and-rescue and firefighting. Who knows, we might have
   been trained by the same people. And who knows we might also be saving the
   lives of the friends of Mohammad al-Haj Ali here in Daraa.

   We feel we have so much in common. We all risk our own lives to save as
   many lives as possible as fast as possible. Our hearts are with you and we
   wish we could help you in your search for victims.  
   We send you strength for your mission and we hope to meet you one day.

   The Syria Civil Defence [White Helmets] of Daraa

   PS. If you'd like to share this letter of solidarity on Facebook, [
https://act.thesyriacampaign.org/go/517?t=1006&akid=467.487734.y9bjbK ]click
   here. 

   --------------------------------------------------------------------------

   [ https://act.thesyriacampaign.org/go/175?t=1001&akid=467.487734.y9bjbK ]The
Syria Campaign is an independent advocacy group campaigning for a
   peaceful and democratic future for Syria. Our mission is to elevate the
   voices and demands of Syrian heroes.

   Want to know what's happening in Syria? Start here with these figures
   telling you who is killing civilians:
   [ http://act.thesyriacampaign.org/go/395?t=1002&akid=467.487734.y9bjbK
]http://whoiskillingciviliansinsyria.org/

   We take no money from governments to maintain our independence and rely
   solely on donations from individuals and philanthropic foundations. Donate
   to The Syria Campaign [
https://act.thesyriacampaign.org/donate/donate-to-tsc/?source=footer&t=1003&akid=467.487734.y9bjbK
]here.

   Follow us on [
https://act.thesyriacampaign.org/go/226?t=1004&akid=467.487734.y9bjbK ]Facebook
and [ https://act.thesyriacampaign.org/go/227?t=1005&akid=467.487734.y9bjbK
]Twitter.


A weird statement, a printer and a photograph.

Weird things happen such as a guy coming over to your place of residence to declare art should be about ‘spreading good in the world’. If it were a kid I’d give him a pat on the head and compliment him on having such a noble thought but such a simplistic comment coming from an adult left me scratching my head and not least by the question of what might have caused this sudden and irresistible need to set me straight on what art is.

The temptation would be to simply answer there is no such thing as ‘art’ and even if there were such a thing, it is less than certain it would have any ability to ‘spread good’.

I know some might bulk at the suggestion there is no such thing as art including this person who appears to have concerns about my ‘art’ which I can assure you he has never set eyes upon but whatever and who cares, whether there is art or not is an interesting question. We could say that before mass media, cameras and cheap books there was ‘art’ and that it fulfilled an important social function in providing guidance to the masses in how they shaped their lives. Maybe it is this art this guy meant? I’d hate to wake him up to the reality those days are for the most part gone.

The reality today is and as said by someone from the Frankfurt School of philosophy and social theory, that marketing and advertising have replaced art and religion. The operative word being ‘replaced’, one swapped for the other, and it’s true if we agree that people when seeking meaning and direction in life are by far more likely to be influenced by a lifestyle advertisement appearing on their Facebook page than Chris Ofili’s “Virgin Mary Encrusted with Elephant Dung”.

Should we consider a Facebook advertisement ‘art’? That could be debated as well but what we could say for sure is that the Facebook advertisement would be a by far more effective way of “spreading good” than a pretty drawing of a flower by unknown.

OK – maybe stating there is no art is a bit rough and as Kokoschka replied when asked what he thought of modern art, he said “It’s actually very good art in that it is dehumanized art that perfectly reflects a dehumanized society. I paraphrase sorry, but even if ‘very good art’ the question of its relevance to contemporary society remains. I liked what feminist and academic Camille Paglia had to say on the subject in an interview with Vice magazine.

“ – the fine arts have become very insular and derivative. There is good work being done, but it too often reminds me of ten other sometimes better things over the past 100 years. The main problem is a high-concept mentality. There’s too much gimmickry and irony and not enough intuition and emotion”. 

Critic Camille Paglia thinks “Revenge of the Sith” is our generation’s greatest work of art. Vice magazine, November 28, 2012

In other news the ‘good’ is that I finally received part of the kit I need to start printing shirts. Still chasing up the rest but feeling more confident I’ll be up and running in a few weeks.

Haven’t posted any pictures for a while so here is one I snapped this afternoon and decided to call “The Lovers”.

Two stuffed personages outside a wooden door with graffiti and miscellaneous objects.

Note to English speakers – I will change the default language to proper English some time soon.

Blessings.