You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Moonleyting (update #3)

After achieving his goal of ensuring the re-election of the fahscist Bush and Howard juntas, Mark Steyn was permitted by Karl Rove and the Project for a New American Century to take a well-earned sabbatical. So, instead of featuring two or three new op-eds each day, SteynOnline has lain fallow since the second week of November:

For personal and family reasons, this website will be on hiatus for a while. My thanks to all of you for sending our readership rocketing during a wild election year, and especially to those who contributed comments, song parodies and psephological analysis. Please click on the mastheads at right for plenty of good reading material from my eminent colleagues around the globe. See you again soon. Mark

However, it seems you can take the boy out of the Internet, but not the Internet out of the boy. While putatively lounging on some St-Tropez beach with his wives, his sons, his menservants, his maidservants, his cattle, his goats, and the alien that dwelleth within his gates, Steyn has been sneaking off late at night to smoky Internet cafes to upload his more recent thoughts:

(1) "Species come and go -- and so do we" (London Telegraph, 13 December 2004)

(2) "An Englishman's home is his dungeon" (London Telegraph, 14 December 2004)

(3) "Purrs of self-satisfaction" (The New Criterion, December 2004)

(4) "In praise of 'Jesusland': Whatever their faults, America's Christian fundamentalists are a lot smarter than Eutopian secularists" (The Spectator, 18 December 2004 -- free registration required)

(5) “Say ‘Merry Christmas’ while you still can”, The Telegraph, London (21 December 2004)

(6) “Americans have their holidays in perspective”, Chicago Sun-Times (2 January 2005)

(7) “American stinginess is saving lives”, The Telegraph (London) (4 January 2005)

(8) “On tsunami’s shore”, The Washington Times (4 January 2005)

(9) “Broadway’s Last Good Time: Cy Coleman (1929-2004)”, 295(1) The Atlantic Monthly (January/February 2005), pp 210-11 [requires paid subscription]

(10) “Polygamy? It makes good tax sense”, The Telegraph (London) (28 December 2004)

If that's a "hiatus", I'd hate to see Steyn on black filtered coffee.

But Steyn hasn't even had the decency to link to these on his official homepage. I had to find them by setting the All-Seeing Lidless Eye of Minas Googhûl to alert me whenever it trawled by the phrase "by Mark Steyn". You can run, but you can't heyd from the Eye.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Pope Defends Nativity Scene

The Pope defending the nativity - in Italy? Sounds a little strange but in these politically oppressive times almost anything might happen. The heart of the matter:

Recently, several teachers in northern Italy announced their decision not to set up Nativity scenes in their schools this year, ostensibly out of respect for religious pluralism and to avoid offending non-Christians.

Hmm. Yes. Shall we expect the Saudi Arabians to put a veil over the mosque at Mecca to avoid offending non-Muslims? Or the Thais to put away their gold Buddhas to avoid offending non-Buddhists? On that topic, we know what hppened when the Taliban took a dislike to other culture's religious symbols - witness what happened to the Bamiyan Buddha. But then of course, iconoclasts will always be with us, so it might be better to be safe than sorry.

What do you get when you cross an iPod with a walkman?

A retropod of course! Although the men in suits at Sony are not impressed...

....Consumers likely will be misled and deceived into believing that Sony is somehow connected with the iPod personal stereo when in fact it is not. Moreover, they will be misled into thinking that Sony is backward in its design of products and is going away from miniaturization, as the size of the tape player housing is quite large by today's standards....

Genocide 2008

From The Onion...

Nigeria Chosen to host 2008 Genocides

Annan said he first noticed the full genocidal potential of soon-to-be embattled Nigeria in September, when the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force threatened to shut down oil production.

"With so many poor and powerless people involved in messy, years-old conflicts, the situation is likely to be ignored long enough for things to get really ugly," Annan said. "And, of course, the slow-to-move, ineffectual UN will do everything it can to help shepherd Nigeria into a combined religious, political, and economic disaster of horrific proportions."

...which is interesting considering the post I received recently from the youthmultimedia gruppe identifying a flm about the tragedy / travesty that was Rwanda in 1994, in a film called Hotel Rwanda.

I once worked with a soldier who served in Rwanda as part of the Australian contribution to the UN peacekeeping contingent. He was an excellent operator but basically, he didn't want to talk about it. I am pretty sure he must have been present at the Kibeho massacre. The only story he was willing to tell was about Rwanda was the one about a Landrover 110 rolling over and one of the occupants receiving the barrel of a Steyr rifle impaled through the thigh - ouch!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Bob Geldof vs Osama bin Laden

I have been listening to the radio a bit lately and as it nears Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid - because there is always the obligatory playing of the Band Aid classic from 1985 "Do they know it's Christmas". Probably not, as my mother used to say, as they are mostly Muslim. The song spawned an even bigger Bob Geldof' contribution to solving the problem of the Ethiopian famine, the mega event of 1985 known as "Live Aid". The US contributed too, with a flakey "We are the world" single by "USA for Africa" but the big man about town at the time was Sir Bob.

Now all this stirred a spark of pride and hope in humanity and gave the West a nice feeling that $70 million could be raised to help the porr starving Africans.

So what happens when there another "similar" situation just a couple of years later (1992- 1994) in neighbouring Somalia, the US launches Operation Restore Hope. Surely a debacle of Clintonesque proportions beeing played out on the world stage. Inspired by visions of starving Africans and in support of a lame-duck UN effort, the US goes at it hammer and tongs and gets a shellacking for its efforts. Nothing like seeing the bodies of your troopies being dragged around downtown Mogadishu to keep the home fires burning. See Blackhawk Down to find out what I mean. The US leaves, tail firmly between legs, mission unaccomplished. And apparently RPG rockets fired by the Somalis were supplied by none other than Osama bin Laden.


"It cleared from Muslim minds the myth of superpowers," Osama bin Laden said of Somalia in his interview with ABC News journalist John Miller in May 1998.
"The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and
realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after
a few blows ran in defeat."

So... Bob Geldof inspires Live Aid for the relief of Ethiopia...inspires the UN/US relief of Somalia...inspires Osama to go the full Monty and attack the "paper tiger" that is the US. September 11, here we come. Next stop, Iraq.

And this is ignoring the UN "hands free" approach to Rwanda in between times.

When will rock stars learn to pull their heads in and save us all from their whiney, needful pleas to save the starving? If it wasn't for Bob Geldof, we wouldn't be in this mess we're in now. Bob, it's time to pull on the old rocker t-shirt and get up on stage one last time. This time, it's "Dead Aid". Conspiracy theory? You bet!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Political Puppets

And speaking of AU-THOR-I-TAH:

`...The film stars all marionettes that make up Team America, a secret task force that infiltrates terrorist organizations and makes a big find when they discover a dictator who has a weapon of mass destruction. The movie is largely a satire of Jerry Bruckheimer films. "... We really realized that Bruckheimer films are musicals. They take Aerosmith songs and put them against montages..." said [Trey] Parker...`

-- Jerry Katz, "Team America: World Police Set Visit!", (17 August 2004)

After Team America: World Police, I wouldn't give Matt and Trey much hope of securing the rights to any Aerosmith songs for future Parker/ Stone productions.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Deicide dropped from Pullman adaptation

The forthcoming Hollywood adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is to sacrifice many of the film's anti-religious sentiments in an effort to avoid a backlash from America's Christian right.

Director Chris Weitz has upset fans of Pullman's Carnegie-winning books after he admitted in a website interview that the books' Authority - a malevolent but feeble deity - will appear in the planned films as a representation of "any arbitrary establishment that curtails the freedom of the individual".

The fans may not be happy, but Weitz, who made American Pie and About a Boy, reportedly has the full support of Pullman.

Yes...must avoid offending the Christian Right. otherwise you'll find yourself lying dead in the street after cycling to work with a knife in your chest pinning down verses from 1 Corinthians 13. BTW, "de-deifying" Pullman is a little like "de-ringifying" Tolkien - it kind of removes the raison detre of the whole anti-Christian saga. Perhaps the director can substitute an apple pie for the central theme, and see how his goes down. Stiffler - be warned!

Thursday, December 09, 2004


From the SMH:

Dripping with stars and dummies ... that's the new waxwork nativity scene devised by Madame Tussauds.

The London wax model emporium has unveiled its Christmas special, with Australia's Kylie Minogue hovering above proceedings as an angel.

Actors Samuel L. Jackson and Hugh Grant join Irish comedian Graham Norton as the shepherds.

But England soccer captain David Beckham and his wife Victoria have been cast in the roles of Joseph and Mary, while Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Duke of Edinburgh and US President George W. Bush are the three wise men.

Graham Norton? Who on earth is that? (I like the line "He is a stranger to political correctness but manages to get away with murder because he is so utterly charming". Perhaps Sam Newman or John Laws could learn a thing or two.)

Steve's post below shows that Australian Prime Minister John Howard is no "right-wing social engineer". Now, we learn, George W Bush is not a theocratic zealot either:

Bush didn't make abortion an issue in his campaign except in condemning partial-birth abortion - a position most Americans share. He would have preferred to avoid the same-sex marriage issue, but the Massachusetts Supreme Court forced his hand. And it was John Kerry, not Bush, who made stem-cell research a political issue.

It may be true that religious conservatives helped Bush win re-election. And while some evangelical leaders have expressed their expectation that Bush will act promptly on some of their pet issues, others have been more temperate...

The bland truth is that Bush is unlikely to deliver on religious conservatives' expectations in any dramatic or immediate way simply because it isn't his style. As Michael Gerson - Bush speechwriter and policy adviser - puts it, Bush is an "incrementalist." And as such is misunderstood by both his allies and enemies...

Neither Bush's personality nor his ideology meshes with the profile of dogmatic social engineer. On stem-cell research, for example, Bush basically split the baby down the middle...

(-- Ouch! Metaphor wince!)

...funding research on existing stem-cell lines, but withholding funding for new research that would destroy human embryos. On same-sex marriage, Bush supports a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman, but supports some form of civil union to extend legal protections to same-sex couples.

Bush surely has been honest about his religious conversion, from hard-drinking frat boy to leader of the free world, but his message isn't quite on the level on glossolalia. Millions of Americans have changed the direction of their lives through spiritual growth, and other American presidents have been far more "religious" in their public conduct.

Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school while he was president. Bill Clinton toted his personal Bible to church. During the recent presidential campaign, John Kerry frequently affirmed his Catholicism.

Bush's invocations of God, meanwhile, are never gratuitous but are appropriate to context - a funeral, or prayer breakfast, or the finishing touch on a State of the Union address: "God bless America." Hardly the rantings of a theocrat.

One can find other references to God, most notably in Bush's articulation of what is surely the central narrative of his presidency: "Freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty God's gift to every man and woman in the world." Again, this is not rain dancing. Such is the seed that grew the United States of America.

In other words, the notion that Bush is imposing his religious beliefs - or that he is going reshape America in the image of some fundamentalist fantasy - is a bum rap. Indeed, some close observers of the Bush-evangelical dynamic predict that Bush will have caused more consternation than consolation among his conservative Christian brethren before the first year of his second term is up...`

-- Kathleen Parker, "Bush the un-zealot", (8 December 2004)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

"... When I Fight Authority, Authority Always Wins..."

I predicted something like this (while lurking at Mark Shea's weblog) months ago -- that the film version of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy would radically tone down the anti-religious preaching of the books. There are, it seems, no atheists in box offices:

`The Hollywood adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, in which two children do battle with an evil, all-powerful church, is being rewritten to remove anti-religious overtones. Chris Weitz, the director, has horrified fans by announcing that references to the church are likely to be banished in his film. Meanwhile the “Authority”, the weak God figure, will become “any arbitrary establishment that curtails the freedom of the individual”. The studio wants alterations because of fears of a backlash from the Christian Right in the United States. The changes are being made with the support of Pullman, who told The Times last year that he received “a large amount” for the rights...'

-- Sam Coates, "God is cut from film of Dark Materials", The Times (8 December 2004)

Think of it as payback for the de-deification of CS Lewis in Shadowlands. (Rumours that God was removed from the script as the result of a threatened ACLU lawsuit cannot be confirmed.)

You can hardly blame Mr Pullman for choosing the better part of valour. It's not as if attracting the anger of fundamentalist and traditionalist Christians (although ISTM that the God depicted in Dark Materials owes more inter-testamental Judaism than to Christianity) would result in a mere boycott of cinemas and loss of dollars. Instead, it could put PP's very life in danger. Who can forget the horror when Martin Scorsese was stabbed to death in 1989 for his perceived "blasphemy" in directing The Last Temptation of Christ? Or the time Andres Serrano was burned at the stake in 1997 for submerging a crucifix in urine? I won't even begin to discuss the atrocities that were inflicted on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice by crazed vicars -- atrocities described by the then Archbishop of Canterbury as "grievous, but regrettably necessary for the cleansing of all who shall profane the holy name of Jehovah".

I'm uncertain how far film-makers can simply switch villains without thereby "compromising the integrity of" (wonderful phrase, that) their material. Consider The Sum of All Fears, book versus film. Or compare the 2004 Manchurian Candidate with the 1962 original. Change the villains from Chinese Communists to global capitalists and you immediately reverse the film's message -- from "Let's have a chuckle at these paranoid 1960s Cold Warriors spotting fantastical Red plots in every corner" to "Don't you realise that the big corporations can control our minds through implanted chips?"

Now that it's become theologically kosher for good Christians to go see the Dark Materials movies, I want to open debate over the casting thereof. Foremost: who shall play Mrs Coulter? (Not to be confused with Miss Coulter -- one is beautiful yet utterly compassionless, the other...). Pullman himself has nominated Nicole Kidman, but I cast my vote for Marina Sirtis. Like Mrs C, Marina combines Mediterranean background with a refined British accent; she fits the books' physical description; and, as Star Trek: Nemesis has shown, she can alternate her normal sweetness and innocence with bloodcurdling sadism when the script requires.

That's because it doesn't take a rocket scientist...

Under the stewardship of the country's most powerful religious figure, Iraq's fractured Shiite Muslim majority has closed ranks and produced a unified list of candidates for the parliamentary elections set for Jan 30.... The names of the 240 candidates will be released later this week, said Hussein Shahristani, the nuclear scientist charged by Sistani with organizing the list....

- Anthony Shadid and Karl Vick, "Candidate Slate Shows Shiites Closing Ranks: Sistani Backs List for Parliamentary Vote", Washington Post (Tuesday, 7 December 2004), page A-20.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

It's beginning to look a lot like...

From The Herald-Sun on Sunday...

HOW scary that we've bred - or imported - so many people so angered by Christmas that we no longer dare use the word in public. But why do we cave in to them so easily?....What is odd is that this vandalism - or what the United Nations would call "cultural genocide" - is done in the name of "tolerance", as approved by our multicultural commissars, when it actually shows an intolerance that's manic.

I say "let Christmas be Christmas". Shout it out loud and proud from your rooftops. We are everywhere...

What would Jesus advertise?

Some discussion on the youth multimedia list generated from an ad made by the United Christian Church (USA) but refused broadcast by the media bad guys at CBS, NBC etc etc

Original Post:
WOULD JESUS BAN THIS AD? John Nichols, The Nation The United Church of Christ wants to spread a message of respect and inclusion for all. But the mainstream media won't let them. Watch the ad that that the networks found too "controversial" to air.

My response:

I can't speak for CBS or ABC or the UCC for that matter. After watching the ad, it's probably possible to read the accusations into it,although I found the associations between the images and the meaning derived bythe networks fairly subtle (call me ignorant but when I see a woman put her arm around another woman and hear the voiceover "wherever you are on life's journey", it doesn't make lesbians spring to mind).

What I would like to point out is "about" section of the rest of the site (

Some areas of interest:
1. The United Church of Christ publishes The New Century Hymnal—the only hymnal released by a Christian church that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God.

Although see for an alternative view

2. The UCC's Golden Gate Association ordains the first openly gay person in history as a Christian minister: the Rev. William R. Johnson.The ordination of the first lesbian minister follows soon after. In the following three decades, General Synod urges equal rights for homosexual citizens and calls on congregations to welcome gay, lesbian and bisexual members.

An alternative view on this "first" may be understood by considering the Episcopalian's efforts on this front and the response of the rest of the global Anglcan communion (see

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Battlestar Lilektica

James Lileks nails the Larsonverse in two paragraphs:

[…] I watched the first episode of Battlestar Galactica’s new season. Not something I ever thought I would look forward to, given how much I loathed the original. I mean, if you were eight years old and watched it in your Underoos and have great love for it because it was part of your childhood, that’s fine. Sad, but fine. At the time we quasi-adults thought it was stupid, and an obvious ripoff of The Genius Of George Lucas. (In retrospect, they just showed us what Lucas probably would have done if he’d had to produce a weekly series.) I watched the two-hour special on Sci-Fi [cable channel] only because Ronald D Moore was connected to it. He could re-envision My Mother the Car and I’d watch it. (In his version, the “mother” would be some sort of holographically stored personality matrix based on the character’s dead mother, loaded into a GPS program to humanise the user interface; he buys a new car, hears his mother’s voice. As the season goes on the computer program based on his mother begins accessing emotions and memories the software writers did not intend to include, but were unintentionally added to the matrix due to the program’s cross-correcting synaptic relay duplication algorithms, or something like that. In Moore’s hands, it would be believable and touching.)

Anyway. The new series has not yet broadcast here in the states, but it’s coming. Bottom line: Yes. Yes, indeed. It’s very good. Even the Courtney-Love-as-Starbuck thing works. The slogan for the show: "The World is Over". And that’s exactly how it feels. The show has a pervasive ache to its tone and timbre, and I applaud all involved. I can only hope that the people behind the 80s version of Buck Rogers watch it and soil themselves in shame. If Twiki ever went up against Jar-Jar I’d root for the Binks. Which says a lot. To be exact, it says “bidi bidi bidi”. Meesa hate that. […]

My own two reasons for being pleased that Ronald Moore is the man behind this third-millennium re-imagining of Baa Baa Black Sheepon are --

(a) firstly, that Moore (and Berman, Piller and Braga) helped rescue Star Trek from its Roddenberryian self-indulgence to make it a real drama. (Gene himself, being the rational scientific humanist that he was, spat the dummy over the script for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country because it dared to depict Starfleet officers using "dirty tricks" and covert ops).

(b) secondly, that I predicted this as long ago as 1997. Before the dark times:

Projected highlights from the forthcoming TV spectacular Battlestar Galactica: The Next Generation

1. The narrator's introduction ("There are those who believe… that life down here… began out there… ") has been altered by replacing "brothers of man" with "brothers of one".

2. Colonial Warrior uniforms are no longer caramel-brown, but a fetching pastel blue, with 6-cm-high white skivvy collars and no pockets. Capes (now maroon) are attached with velcro instead of with Barry-White-strength gold chains. Furthermore, Fleet uniforms are now complete re-designed approximately every 2.3 yahrons in the hope that, by adapting, they can defeat the Cylons.

3. The Warbook computer screen in a Viper's cockpit has replaced green-screen DOS with Windowons '95.

4. John Colicos plays a smirking villain with a Ming the Merciless-style goatee.

5. The Fleet rediscovers its long-lost ship, the Pegasus.

6. Muffit is programmed to evolve itself into a real flesh-and-blood daggit. In sympathy, Dr Wilker activates its long-dormant tree-marking chip.

7. Citizens of the Twelve Colonies no longer devote their lives to the accumulation of cubits, but instead to seeking out new nouns ending in "-on".

8. Count Iblis is found living in a wrecked spaceship on a desolate planet populated by ear-dwelling, mind-controlling bugs.

9. Sidearms are no longer pistol-grip but, instead, resemble TV remote-control units.

10. Adama lives on as a holographic computer program who emerges, projected from his time-vault, at 25-year intervals to explain why the Fleet should have found Earth by now.

11. Cylons now have the ability to adapt in battle, and can no longer be slaughtered in waves using the same simple Viper manoeuvres.

12. Due to pressure from the Colonial Health Commission, Starbuck has abandoned his cigarons for a nicotinon patch.

13. The Ships of Light reappear, and a guy named "John" puts the Galactica's crew on trial for the crimes of humanity.

14. Colonial Warriors find late 20th-century Earth and, to save the planet, must rescue two whales in time to help thirteen teenagers win their baseball game.

15. Actual battle scenes are now limited to a maximum total of 59 seconds per season.

16. Cy (now the Galactica's security chief) lectures his unruly son, Cy-II, that "Cylons do not risk their honour by varying their vocoder tone."

17. Upon his promotion to Captain, Colonel Tigh shaves his head to get that mean-mutha/ Othello look.

18. The voice of the Galactica's shipboard computer sounds suspiciously like that of Glen A Larsen's wife.

19. Apollo makes a cameo return as a crusty old admiral.

20. Cassiopeia goes about in a figure-hugging red jumpsuit, and interrupts all her socialatorial sessions by asking at regular intervals: "The important thing is, how do you feel about this?"

21. Pyramid card games in the Warriors' quarters now include Stephen Hawking as banker, but are still interrupted by red-alert signals.

22. At least once per episode, at least one member of the Quorum of the Twelve reminisces about some wild stunt Adama pulled off while a young recruit at the Fleet Academy.

23. Starbuck has put on 40 kilos and grown a beard, but still manages to score the most nubile space maidens.

Mind you, 1997 was also the year when my response to the Hollywood sci-fi news teasers was "Great! Lucas is making another Star Wars film! That'll be excellent!" and "Uh-oh... They say some horror movie schlockmeister from Nizzillind wants to film Lord of the Rings... I can see it now: it's going to be awful, a cross between Legend and Once Were Warriors..."