Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for February 2004

Please note: The posts on this page are at least 3 years old. Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
29
Feb 04
Sun

Hillsong Live Album Recording

Today is a leap day. Tomorrow another uni year starts. Bring it. Yes, mobile phone cameras suck:

Click for full sized image

26
Feb 04
Thu

Soup Plus

I’ve known about Soup Plus for years, but I’ve never gone until last Tuesday. It’s a place that plays jazz nightly from 7pm with a bar and restaurant. It’s an aging, but cosy little venue down some stairs on George St near the old Strand arcade. We saw the jazz trio (drums, double bass, piano/vocals) of Brendan Clarke, John Harkins and Andrew Dickeson on the night. Excellent stuff. $5 cover charge on Monday to Thursday nights. The food is fairly affordable, and a great place to chill out if you like jazz. Especially if you’ve had a hard, longish day at work and don’t feel like going home to cook.

25
Feb 04
Wed

The Passion of The Christ

A movie like The Passion was always going to come under intense media scrutiny and criticism. The film has garnered support from leaders of various denominations (even aside from the commendation claimed to have been uttered by the Pope that turned out to be a fabrication) and, interestingly, also a Rabbi or two. Nonetheless, the main two criticisms have been that the movie is anti-Semitic, and that the movie focuses so much on gore and Jesus’ physical suffering, that it is so far removed from any of the tolerance, love or forgiveness that director Mel Gibson claimed to seek in the film.

Virtually all the people I’ve spoken to do not see the movie as being anti-Semitic. At the very least, no one emerged from the cinema with a cold hatred for the Jews who “killed God”, and anyone who did probably had that feeling going in to the cinema in the first place. The concern arises over the depiction of Caiaphas (and the rest of the Sanhedrin) as a cold, deceitful, heartless instigator of the pain inflicted upon Christ. However, this is no different from any other movie with a sadistic antagonist. Just because Tavington in The Patriot had a penchant for more “brutal” methods of quashing the American revolution, didn’t mean all English were likewise cruel. On the contrary, there are numerous scenes where Jews were portrayed in kinder lights, such as Simon, the cross-bearer.

In any case, on a religious level, without Caiaphas’ actions, the prophecies never would have been fulfilled. The fulfillment of the prophecies was only necessary because man was sinful and nothing else could erase that. If you want to be picky, the Jews may have ordered Jesus’ death, but can anyone really think that Jesus, the Son of God, would have let himself be abused, let alone crucified, if it was not God’s will? (Mat 26:53; cf Mat 26:39) To come away with animosity towards the Jews of today for the acts shown in this movie is just not logical.

But you also can’t really blame the Jews for voicing such concerns, as inaccurate as they may be. Compared to the conflicted and reluctant character of Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas is definitely not portrayed in a positive fashion. I imagine it’s also touchy because Judaism has always denied Jesus as being the Messiah. In other words, Caiaphas’ disbelief that Jesus was the Son of God extends to the present for Jews today. Of course, this belief is entirely different from the motivation of Caiaphas wanting Jesus crucified in order to secure his position at the head of the Sadducees.

Another issue arises with Gibson inserting some scenes that are not mentioned in the Bible, but are part of Catholic tradition. For instance, when Jesus collapses when carrying the cross, a woman scuttles over to him, wipes his face with a cloth that later retains an imprint of Jesus’ face, and tries to offer him a drink. That woman is supposed to be St Veronica, who is not found in any of the Gospels. It is known that Gibson supplemented his Bible readings with the writings of two nuns,
Catherine Emmerich and Mary of Agreda. Such scenes are obviously not canonical, and to some it taints the Gospel (perhaps with reference to Rev 22:18). It is true that the movie might have been a little more interdenominational had Gibson left out these scenes. However, the movie is not a substitute for the written gospel. It is a dramatical re-enactment, and you’d expect that the Christians in the audience would be aware that what they are seeing is just like any other film based on a true story – not 100% accurate, nor claiming to be. It’s not a documentary, it’s not a Gospel substitute. It’s a movie.

More strongly, some believe the movie to be heretical in itself, violating the commandment about idolatry (Exo 20:4) by even attempting to depict Jesus. But again, the movie is not creating a figure of Jesus to be worshipped. No one’s going to be worshiping Jesus thinking he looks like Jim Caviezel (although it seems to me that any dark-haired caucasian with a beard like that will automatically look like a movie-Jesus). The movie isn’t trying to create an idol. It is merely an aid to understanding the Gospels.

That said, and away from any theological concerns, the movie does a wonderful job as a period piece. It was filmed in Italy, with dialogue in Aramaic and Latin and subtitles. Some people dislike subtitles, but to be honest, there’s not a whole lot of dialogue, and the majority of dialogue is taken straight from the Book anyway. It’s certainly refreshing not having to hear the actors speaking stilted lines in American-accented English.

One of the most contentious aspects of the film is that it is quite intensely graphic. For most of us, it will be the most gory movie we have ever seen. Not because it features the most people dying, or the most blood spilt, or the most gruesome methods of death, but because it’s essentially a two hour long torture session. That’s never been done before. The movie turns a single sentence, “He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15) into a thirty minute spectacle of Jesus getting his skin flayed off, inch by inch, by two burly Romans who are doubled over with exhaustion by the end of it all. There’ve been reports of people leaving the cinema – not so much because they were offended by the gore, but because they couldn’t stomach it.

Admittedly, the violence is overly emphasised (it’s hard to believe a man could endure that much suffering without passing out at least once), but it’s not gratuitous. Whether confronting (some would say punishing) the audience with so much of it was warranted is a matter of personal opinion.

I think it was warranted for a couple reasons. It is shows, in a very raw way, what Jesus went through. It’s certainly not the image any of us had of the scourging in Sunday school. To me, however, the real power in it is that, from a Christian perspective, we know that what Jesus really, really feared when he was praying in Gethsemane was not the physical agony he was about to endure, but the imminent spiritual separation from God (Luke 22:42-44). (It is interesting that Gibson replaced the angel in verse 43 with a leering Satan.) That spiritual separation scared him more than the crucifixion is telling indeed. There will be a lot of Christians saying afterwards, “look, you can see what the Lord had to go through to save us all”, but what he really had to go through is absent from the screen. We will never know what he really had to go through to save us – you can’t depict that sort of anguish on screen. So in place of that, Gibson has substituted it with something we all (Christian or not) can identify with – physical suffering. And that, I suppose, is the justification for upping the level of gore. For non-believers without an understanding of Christianity, the violence is something I imagine that would arouse curiousity.

Interestingly, the film only received an MA rating, which means it is accessible to all ages. As Ebert has noted, it either means that the ratings board will not award an R for violence alone, or that its subject-matter played a part in getting it downgraded to an MA.

One thing I would have liked to see is more about the resurrection, to round out the 2 hours of suffering we had to watch. Regardless, I do highly recommend this film. I’m not sure what atheists or agnostics who are set in their ways will get out of it, but it is a quite competent piece of cinema.

24
Feb 04
Tue
23
Feb 04
Mon

Tropfest

Huge amount of people in the Domain this year for Tropfest – 105,000 apparently. We rocked up about half an hour before the starting time and had a lot of trouble finding seating. The quality of entries this year was even better than last year’s. I pretty much agreed with the choice of winners.

  11:52pm (GMT +11.00)  •  Movies  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (4)  • 
21
Feb 04
Sat

Copyright Extended

I missed this when news about the “Free” Trade agreement with the US started filtering through over a week ago. Caught up among the rest of the concessions is that Australia has agreed to extend its copyright period for an additional 20 years. That means, works that have fallen out of copyright within the last two decades will once again revert to copyright at the end of the year. Copyright, as this Age article explains, is more restrictive in the US because the corporate intellectual property holders there wield a tremendous amount of power, and now that power has bled over into Australia.

  11:29pm (GMT +11.00)  •  Law  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 
19
Feb 04
Thu

Keyring Project

With all these photo projects going around, I reckon it’s only a matter of time before someone sets up a “Keyring Project”. I have a bunch of apartment keys, a car key, a Photon Microlight and a Victorinox Minichamp on mine. What’s on yours?

Be careful when you Photoshop

Photoshop generates small preview images for the pics it produces and hides them in the original image. If you change the image drastically, the preview thumbnail is changed too. But if you don’t make a major change, and instead just crop the picture and resave it under the original file name, the preview thumbnail stays the same and reflects not what your image currently looks like but instead what the original looked like.

This link takes you to the results. NSFW.

18
Feb 04
Wed

Grrr

I hate writing cover letters. Thank you, that is all.

One Perfect Day

Didn’t have the typical feel of an Aussie movie, which was a good change. Music track was great to listen to (or would have been had the stupid cinema speaker system not cut out every two minutes). Not too bad a flick, it was more than I thought it’d be.

17
Feb 04
Tue
15
Feb 04
Sun

I suck at Rise of Nations

There’s a stage in learning every RTS where you go up against another human and come out with a second asshole and thinking, "How the hell did they get so many resources, tech up, build cities and go to war so damn quickly?" I am currently at that stage.

US Electoral Processes

Both Australia and the USA are due for a federal election before this year is
out. In Australia, we already know either Labor or Liberal will gain a lower
house majority thereby making either Howard or Latham our Prime Minister. For us
Aussies, the US electoral system is somewhat more arcane. From what I can piece
together, this is what is currently going on. Let me know if I have got anything
wrong.

In Australia, we do not directly elect our Prime Minister. We elect our
preferred party by voting for that party’s representative at our local
electorate, and a Prime Minister is appointed from the ranks of that party. (The
Prime Minister must himself be elected in his local electorate.) By convention,
this is always the leader of that party, who is elected by the rest of that
party’s politicians. The public has no direct say in who should lead our
political parties, although it can indirectly influence things (such as Crean’s
removal after producing consistently low popularity results in the polls). In
America, the process is a bit more democratic than that. We know Dubya is
seeking his second four-year term in office for the Republicans. What we don’t
know is who will be running for President for the Democrats. Members of the
Democrat party must seek nomination for this, and run a campaign to get elected
by the voters. That is, ordinary citizens have a direct say in who should lead
the Democrats.

In order to be nominated to run for President, a candidate must win over a
majority of states. At a national convention, delegates represent states and
candidates. For a candidate to get successfully nominated, they must get 50
percent plus one delegate vote. In other words, they must win support from a
majority of state delegates. How do they "win a state", though? And exactly who
gets a say in these nomination processes?

Each state’s selection process is different, but there are two main mechanisms
by which this occurs: primaries and caucuses. Primaries are straight-forward
ballots: tick or number a box and whoever gets the majority of votes wins.
Pretty familiar stuff.

Caucuses are a strange but intriguing concept. Caucuses are essentially a series of "mass
meetings" where a group of people gather at a location – someone’s home, a
community hall, or wherever is handy. At these meetings, local supporters of the
various candidates (and I would imagine, sometimes the candidates themselves)
make speeches extolling the virtues of their candidate. After these speeches, a
vote is held, which may sometimes involve a physical division in the room where
one candidate’s supporters move to one side, and another candidate’s supporters
move to another. Any candidate which garners less than 15% support has "lost",
and his or her supporters must then pick another still-standing candidate to
support. This is where the supporters of other candidates attempt to persuade
these people to join their group. At the end of it all, one candidate will have
the majority of supporters, and this candidate gets to send a delegate
(representing him or her) to represent them at a higher-level caucus (or indeed,
the national convention). There are normally three or four levels or "tiers" of
caucuses, such as a local tier, county tier, district tier and statewide tier.
The statewide tier (at a state party convention) usually selects the statewide
delegates which then go to the national convention. Each district tier caucus
also selects district delegates to go to the national convention. Caucus
attendees tend to be older adults.

So now you sort of know what it means when you hear "Iowa caucus" and "New
Hampshire primary". It seems that the trend is moving towards states using
primaries rather than caucuses.

Apparently for the Democrats, delegate support at the national convention is
proportional. For example, if a candidate wins 40% of a state’s votes, they’ll
get 40% of that state’s delegation’s support at the convention.

Note that should, in the event of Bush getting his second term, both
Democrats and Republicans will have to hold candidate nominations for the 2008
elections as Bush cannot stand for a third term.

Primaries and caucuses can be open, closed, or "modified open", which affects
who is allowed to vote in them. In a closed system, only voters registered with
a particular party may vote. In an open system, anyone may have a vote,
including people not registered with any party. However, a Republican voting in
a Democrat primary/caucus, forfeits the right to vote in the Republican
primary/caucus (ie, you may only vote once).  In some circumstances, a
person participating in an opposing party’s primary/caucus will automatically be
re-registered under that other party, which makes them think twice about
tinkering with an opposing party’s voting. In a modified open system, registered
voters are restricted to voting in their own party’s primary/caucus.
Unaffiliated people may vote in either party’s nomination process. It seems
though that some sneaky provisions automatically register unaffiliated people
with the party whose process they decide to participate in.

All this means that candidates have to extensively campaign in each state (which
is both financially and physically taxing). In turn, a nation may get to know a
previously obscure candidate quite well. Howard Dean, once considered the
forerunner for the Democrats lost Iowa in one of the first caucuses held. His
popularity further declined after making a wildly emphatic speech where he
claimed he was going to "take back the Whitehouse" before sealing his place in
Internet techno remix history
with a deranged screech of "Yeeeeeaah!"

John "who the hell is he?" Kerry has since taken over as a more viable choice for nomination as a Presidential candidate and media coverage on the man has multiplied. The national convention should be held mid-year where the whole Democrat party will finally rally behind their nominated man who will fight against Dubya for the Presidency.

13
Feb 04
Fri

Backbench Issue 5

Issue 5 of Backbench is now online after a prolonged hiatus. Just curious, how many of you actually read the articles on it?

12
Feb 04
Thu

Savings Accounts

I have two main bank accounts for my cash. One is a debit card account which I use for day to day cash purposes (“working capital” in accounting-speak) and whose balance constantly scrapes near to zero and earns bugger all interest. A second account is a savings deposit one which stores a larger portion of savings at a higher interest rate. These days, many banks are offering these types of accounts at a higher interest rate than term deposits, so it makes sense to store money in these since they don’t come with the withdrawal limitations imposed on term deposits. Underneath is a round up of several “savings maximiser” type accounts a few banks are offering. They’re all a good deal, offering 24/7 access to your money, and generally are completely fee-free.

Citibank Online Cash Manager
– 5.25% pa interest, calculated daily
– No minimum balance
– No account-keeping or minimum balance fees
– Withdrawals: 2 free withdrawals per month. Additional ones are $2 each.
– Debit card available

St George DragonDirect DirectSaver
– 5.0% pa interest, calculated daily
– No minimum balance
– No account-keeping or minimum balance fees
– Withdrawals: No withdrawal fees. Withdraw only via Net or Phone banking

ING Savings Maximiser
– 5.0% pa interest, calculated daily
– No minimum balance
– No account-keeping or minimum balance fees
– Withdrawals: No withdrawal fees. Withdraw only via Net or Phone banking

HSBC Online Savings Account
– 4.5% pa interest, calculated daily (or 0.5% pa for balances under $2000)
– No minimum balance. Require $2000 to open account
– No account-keeping or minimum balance fees
– No apparent withdrawal fees
– Debit card available: unlimited transactions from HSBC ATMs, 5 free transactions per month at any other ATM
– Cheque book option available

There are other more subtle differences. Some of these accounts have a slight delay in withdrawing money, and some are Internet-only accounts (which means you can’t access your money through an ATM). Read the FAQs for more information. A good combo would be the HSBC account as a working capital account, and the Citibank one for savings. There aren’t many HSBC ATMs around town, but as long as you don’t have to use the ATM more than five times a month, that should be fine. Note that interest rates always fluctuate, but they are accurate at this moment. ING, the first bank to offer these types of accounts, have had rates as high as 6.5%. Also, from time to time, some banks run promotions which offer cash bonuses (around $20) for opening up an account.

11
Feb 04
Wed

Optometrist Appointment

Since 18 months ago it seems that the eyesight in my right eye has declined a little more, taking it to 575. My left eye is stable at 525. There’s a point during the checkup when the optometrist gets up really really close with one of those magnifying eyepieces to peer into my eye. It may be just me, but I find the image of him squinting up close, head turned at a 90 degree angle, comical and I swear I have to bite my tongue to stop laughing. I wasn’t laughing when he told me I needed a new pair of glasses and hit me with the bill. It’s a half-rimmed pair of Hugo Boss frames, and I don’t understand how a little bit of metal wiring can cost so much. All the other brands were in the same price range as well. Health care can be so expensive.

10
Feb 04
Tue

Jazz

Just bought tickets to see the last Michael BublĂ© concert at the Opera House. Should be good. I’d also pay to see James Darren but I don’t think he’ll be coming to Australia any time soon. He’d make a good convention guest for Holodiction, actually.

MyDoom

I’m still receiving MyDoom e-mails by the boatload. It sometimes takes over half an hour each day to download them all on dialup. When will they ever stop?!

9
Feb 04
Mon

Est.

Est. is the restaurant that sits one level above the Establishment bar on George Street. The restaurant is surprisingly insulated from the sound below. When we went in at 7pm on Saturday, the bar was absolutely deserted. When we came back down from dinner at about 1am, the bar was packed and in full swing, yet we couldn’t even hear the thump of the backbeat from upstairs.

Est’s interior is elegant. The architecture inside, with its high ceiling and pillars, lends it an older feel which is not that common in restaurants. We had the private room (used to accommodate groups of eight or more) and I found the lighting was too dim for my tastes. What is it with dim lighting anyway? It’s annoying when you can’t make out your meal or the person across the table. And it’s not romantic when everyone’s perpetually squinting. There’s not much of a view out the window onto George St either, but otherwise, the setting and ambience is comfortable and relaxed.

Est.
At Est.

The Est tasting menu had seven courses – two entrees, two mains, a cheese platter and two desserts. They give you an option for three of the courses. As usual, each item on the menu had at least one word we’d never heard of before. The squab pigeon was cooked rare and had a pleasingly mild taste which contrasts with the strong flavour of pigeons cooked in Asian restaurants. The muscat grapes on the cheese platter had a fantastic tang. The mango, lychee and tapioca soup with the lime-tequila sorbet was terrific. The final course had an almond milk sorbet floating in a shot of liquor, along with an apricot and ginger souffle. Being allergic to liquor, I unfortunately did not make much headway into the dish before having to concede defeat amid the snickering of friends. It’s excellent mod Oz cuisine. The restaurant is a three hatter, but in my opinion it is still missing that “extra bit” that puts it on a different level from perennial favourites Tet’s and Rockpool.

Another Est. pic
Apricot and Ginger Souffle, Almond Milk Sorbet and Fresh Cream

The tasting menu was $120 a head. Apart from the two bottles of wine, we went through 11 bottles of water. They kept topping up our glasses and had we known the water was charged at $10 a bottle, would have been a bit less “thirsty”. Booking the private room incurs a 10% service fee, which we paid in lieu of a tip. Service in the room is patchy because the doors are shut and you can’t signal the attention of a waiter, but they appear to top up water and wine often enough. Good place to go to if you have a large group.

Comment of the night (topic was on companies forcing men to take paternal leave):

Kit (genuinely confused): But why would you want to take paternal leave?
Skye (incredulous): Uh, to see and take care of your baby maybe?
Kit (pausing to think): Oh yeah. They cry and stuff don’t they.

Photos above are from Shaf’s camera. You need a fairly strong flash when it’s that dimly lit and my camera wasn’t cutting it.

21 Grams

This movie is pretty disjointed and disorientating at the start. It not only skips between different groups of people who initially appear to have nothing to do with one another, but it also skips backwards and forwards through time. Luckily for us, things begin to gel towards the end. It’s a fairly enjoyable watch if you like movies done in a style reminiscent of Memento.

Enterprise: Impressions of Seasons 2 and 3

I’ve spent the majority of the last 24 hours catching up on my Enterprise eps. I’m sad to say that season 2 was composed of mostly uninspiring, insipid plot-driven episodes. There seems to have been a move away from anything deep or meaningful, and towards a hostile-alien-of-the-week style show. That said, there were a couple decent episodes. For example, “Cogenitor” (2.22) was refreshing. For once, they meet aliens who are understanding, friendly and patient even when insulted by Redneck Tripp who sees fit to apply human values to an alien culture. It’s another episode foreshadowing the development of the much maligned Prime Directive, and a significant one given the hard hitting consequences of Tripp’s actions. The writers continue to use the decon chamber as a soft-porn room. Not that I’m complaining, but those episodes tend to be awful in all the other departments.

Interestingly, in Season 3, Berman and Braga saw fit to rename “Enterprise” back to “Star Trek: Enterprise”, thereby bringing it solidly back into the franchise. Season 3 introduces a more solid arc of continuity, centred around the Xindi and a mysterious section of the galaxy called the Delphic Expanse, a sort of Bermuda Triangle where ships really do get abducted by aliens. Because it’s linked to the temporal cold war, the writers play around with time too much and the whole season is one big continuity screwup. I’ve learned to look past that, but it’s still pretty annoying when you have to suspend disbelief just so you can see what point the writers were trying to make. And there’s a lot of weekly “Captain Archer saves the world again” stuff happening which gets pretty tiring. Let’s hope something good comes out of this Xindi storyline.

5
Feb 04
Thu
4
Feb 04
Wed

New Template

To address the liquid vs non-liquid layout debate, people who prefer a liquid layout for larger resolution screens and who don’t mind viewing long lines of text, can click on the “liquid” link down the left sidebar to change to said template. As usual, if there are bugs, let me know.

Law Degrees Around the World

Looks like getting an undergrad law degree in different parts of the world is slightly different from others. I did a bit of research…

In England
Available as an undergraduate course as a Bachelor of Laws, abbreviated to LLB (Legum Baccalaureus, where LL signifies the plural form). In Oxford and Cambridge, it appears a BA in Law is awarded instead.

Postgraduate courses are not required to practise law. The typical postgraduate law degree is the Master of Laws, abbreviated to LLM (Legum Magister). Oxford awards a BCL (Bachelor of Civil Law), which, despite its title, is a postgraduate degree and covers Common Law.

In the US
Law is a graduate course, meaning for US residents, a four-year undergraduate degree (typically a BA or BS) must be obtained before entrance into a three year law school is granted. While an LLB is occasionally awarded to law school graduates, the more common degree awarded by US universities is a Doctor of Law, abbreviated to JD (Juris Doctor). It is a professional “doctorate” which is similar to the MD that medical doctors use. Lawyers do not use “Doctor” as a title, of course, but “Esq” is sometimes used by the pretentious.

Foreigners holding a Bachelor’s degree from a common law jurisdiction are usually required to study for an LLM degree in the US before they can practise law there.

In Australia
Law, like the US, is also a graduate course, meaning that all law students must hold another degree first. The slight difference is that enrolment to law school can be granted as long as a student also enrols in another degree (such as a BSc, BCom, BE, etc.) simultaneously. This is called a Combined Law course. The first three years are spent completing the first degree (or four years, if honours is undertaken). Interspersed among those three or four years are the first year’s worth of law courses. Once the first degree is obtained, the student then goes on to complete the law degree over the next two years. In effect, a combined law degree compresses the two degrees and reduces the total time for completion by a year. Like the US, graduate entry is also available for those already holding an undergraduate degree.

Monash University in Victoria has started to offer US-style JD degrees.

[Update: The ANU does have a standalone LLB program that takes four years to complete – see comments for more details. UTS also has one, so it looks like the entry requirements are set on a per university basis.]

In Civil Law countries
A Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) is given in civil law jurisdictions to university law graduates. It is a bachelor’s degree and it is not necessary for the candidate to have another degree before obtaining the BCL. This allows, with some extra training, someone to become a lawyer, or train to become a judge.

Law Doctorates
Normally either called a PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy) in Law, or an SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science).

3
Feb 04
Tue

Gunbound

Gunbound is similar to Worms and is played completely online. It’s been developed by a bunch of Koreans, so once you get past the badly phrased english, it’s pretty decent. Download it. If you have an account and play, leave me a note with your username (mine is inferno04) so I can add you to the buddy list and we’ll see if we can have a game. This includes you, ambrosis and your $30 clothes of doom.

Amusing

What you’d do for food

Janet Flashing at Superbowl

Over at Expect Nothing, Nebu featured a comment related to this incident reading:

Some people still have morals. I wanted to watch a football game, not see a woman half naked. Yes, you are free to look at nudity all you want. Its called porn!!! It takes up half of the internet. To me, it is the individuals own problem if he wants to see that. Just tell me when it is there so that I dont have to see it as well. As they say, your freedom ends where my nose(or eyes) begins.

It produced a large number of ascerbic responses mainly of the “get over it, it was only a tit” variety. Eg:

Sorry, aero, but Janet Jackson’s nipple piercing, while large, wasn’t large enough to poke you in the eye. The ‘your right to swing your arms ends where my nose begins’ paraphase from John Stuart Mill is quite specific in what it refers to–initiation of force (and not figurative ‘force’ you’re referring to). There is no such thing as a ‘right to not be offended.’

The latter type of people are missing the point. The point is not drawing subjective lines of morality, which is already a problem in today’s society (since we can’t figure out where to draw a line, we shouldn’t draw one at all and declare open slather! It’s never too young to be exposed to porn because hell, it’s inevitable anyway!) The issue in this case is that there are certain censorship guidelines which are there for a reason, and these should be adhered to. What happened was wrong (asssuming it was not accidental, and no one does think it was), and people have a right to be up in arms about it. Would it be any different if Timberlake ripped off her pants?

Another example – just because something as trivial as swearing is an integral part of society, it still doesn’t mean I would like walking around hearing profanity as every second word in the street. But in the same token, just because I don’t think they should have pulled that stunt on national TV doesn’t mean I don’t want to see a copy of the picture or video clip. There is a difference. When I walk into an R rated film (NC-17 is the US equivalent I believe) I have an idea of what to expect. Some people don’t like the graphicness of the violence or sex portrayed in those movies, so they avoid them – not because they haven’t been exposed to them before, or that it will “destroy their fragile minds”, but because they just don’t enjoy it. Censorship itself is getting laxer, and I don’t see a problem with this – society changes, so these guidelines should change with it. It’s not up to the performers to take matters into their own hands.

And of course the comment above that “there is no such thing as a ‘right to not be offended'” is utter crap. That’s why there are laws against “acts of indecency”.

The Empire Trilogy

The Empire Trilogy (Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire, Mistress of the Empire) is a fantastic read. I really enjoyed it. Co-authored by Feist and Wurts, you can really see the impact a woman has had on Feist’s writing (and I’m sure vice versa, although I haven’t read any of Wurts’ novels). This is positive given the fact that the protagonist is a woman. The writing is much richer, more subtle and much more insightful from a character perspective than Feist’s other work. In my opinion, it stands on the same level as the classic Magician (indeed, the timeline of the Empire Trilogy runs concurrently with it).

The story is about a woman named Mara who lives in Tsurannuanni, a society with a long-established tradition of honour and strict social hierarchy. The trilogy examines how she discovers and overcomes the shackles of mindless adherence to tradition. The society portrayed is definitely inspired by Japan’s, with a figurehead Emperor and a Warlord presiding over several clans and houses (a Shogun essentially). Ultimately Mara begins, with some outside influence, to question the old ways. Traditions, without sound reasons to ground them, are a stagnating force. The justification that a break from tradition is undesirable because of the tumult that comes with change is not sufficient enough reason against it. Conversely, there must be also be a logical reason to break from the tradition which may be one as simple as that the tradition is illogical.

Freedom from authoritarian rule, emphasis on the Rule of Law and the abolition of the caste system are big social reforms that the authors think should exist in order for society to progress, and for fairness and equality. Through the three books, strong and reasonable ethical arguments are made for them. However, there are more subtle perspectives of the authors which show a Western mindset in a novel which is otherwise quite perceptive about cultural relativism. One of these is the tacit approval of the monogamy Hokanu practices with Mara.

But nonetheless, the book makes good comments. “Bad gut feelings” and “it doesn’t feel right” attitudes either spring from experience, tradition, or from experience derived from tradition. When those attitudes come from the latter two, that is when close-mindedness exists and reason falls by the wayside. Not to say that we should be all reason and logic like the Vulcans – intuition can be valuable thing – but that intuition always be tempered with reason.

One mundane, but relevant example, is the use of credit cards for payment. When younger, we are often taught that credit cards are an evil thing that will lead you to a lot of debt (and they do!). But, if used properly, credit cards come with benefits that outweigh paying in cash – interest free periods and frequent flyer points being the most obvious. However, once that first instinct of avoiding credit card use is overcome, a new instinct is formed. And that is to avoid paying cash where necessary, because you get points if you use the card. Especially for large purchases, and even if you have to pay a 2% fee for credit card usage. Points redeem at a rate of about 1%, and in a 45-day interest free period it is unlikely you will be able to earn 1% interest on money. That is, you actually lose out. Yet, somehow paying by cash is instinctually undesirable.

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Feb 04
Sun

The List

By popular demand, The List is back. Hit the “show whole list” to see it.

Digicam Info

Found a few informative links related to digital photography. This first article explains why when you affix a standard lens to a DSLR the focal length (zoom) changes and is given as an “equivalent” millimetre rating.

The second article, which is fairly technical, attempts to compare relative image quality between digital media and traditional film media. Interestingly, an 11mp camera like the Canon 1Ds will output photos of a quality that marginally exceeds standard 35mm film. This means that all the benefits of film cameras are slowly being eroded away. Once the price for processing digital images falls to a level comparable to processing rolls of film (it’s still always nicer to have photos you can physically handle), film cameras will really start to wane.

DOFMaster is a program that prints out “circles of confusion”. The circles give you the range that will be in focus (the depth of field) given a certain aperture and focal length.

Law Prize

Was woken up this morning by a call from Monika telling me to look at p 15 of today’s SMH… it seems I have won a uni prize for Torts. She took out both the Crim Law prizes which is amazing (incidentally, I know who to go to now if I find myself being clapped in irons and having my rights read to me).

An e-mail from Shish directed me to Column 8 where there’s someone mentioned with almost the same name as me.



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