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

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Choice is choice, bro'

"Australian MPs want a full union, or at least a single currency, with New Zealand. A committee of the Federal Parliament in Canberra says the strong ties between Australia and New Zealand suggest a merger could be desirable and realistic."

Mayhap... mayhap. There might be serious constitutional problems, though:

"Australian lawmakers acknowledged the hurdle posed by national pride, not to mention the problems any union would cause for rugby World Cup organisers who stood to lose a powerhouse participant in New Zealand’s All Blacks."

'Cause, like, Wales can never field a separate football team against England in the World Cup again, now they're both part of the United Kingdom.

One other aspect of the report kind of falls into the "Shouldn't that go without saying?" category:

"However [the Australian parliamentary committee's] chairman Peter Slipper says it is not an attempt to annex New Zealand or to mount a compulsory takeover. He says any change would have to be voluntary..."

Well, uh, yeah. I can't see Howard drumming up Australians as cannon fodder for a trans-Tasman war of imperial conquest... especially not against regiments of Maori soldiers chanting the haka. No blood for sheep!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Exclusive Brethren

Interesting SBS documentary last night on the Exclusive Brethren sect and their involvement (very furtively) in Tasmanian and New Zealand elections, especially opposing the Greens.

Now, I myself (rejecting the dogma that "humanity is the disease, voting Green is the cure") usually put the Brown Shirts last on my ballot paper, but even so I think the XBs' methods -- basically, anonymous shit-sheeting -- are contrary not only to basic decency but also to their own big black-leather-bound King James Bible (Words of Christ in Red).

When Jesus said, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no, and any more than that comes from the evil one", not only was [H]e limiting the voting membership of the Conclave to a maximum of 120 cardinals, with those aged 75 or older being ineligible to vote (but not ineligible to be elected), and requiring a two-thirds majority of votes until at least the tenth ballot, but [H]e was also warning against using deception. One can argue over whether this is subject to the normal Biblical exception of necessity to avoid a greater evil (Rachab and the spies, the midwives and Pharaoh, Samuel and Saul, etc), but the Brethren can hardly claim their lives are in danger if they put their names to their leaflets.

Two points in particular intrigue me:

(a) XBs don't vote themselves, but they want to influence how other people vote?

(b) XBs apparently refuse to own (inter alia) computers or fax machines, rejecting these as intrin. ... ah, as inherently evil. Yet apparently they are happy to *rent* fax machines, and hire website designers to run their websites?

What on earth gives here?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pro Bono privato

You say... you want... diamonds and rings of gold? Well effin' eff orff, tahxmahn, thay're all stashed in the Netherlands, t'be shure.

See Timothy Noah's "Bono, Tax Avoider: The hypocrisy of U2", Slate Magazine (Tuesday 31 October 2006).

And note that in Latin, "U2" is "tu quoque".

UPDATE: Ni Marx, ni Jesus (apologies to Jean-Francois Revel).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bummer of a week...

... not only for Rove, but also for Rove.

UPDATE: K. Beazley is particularly distraught.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Truth Laid Bear

Just discovered today that the Father McKenzie blog is ranked at # 25312 and rates as a a Multicellular Microorganism!

Second category from bottom.

Woo hoo!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Maintaining the rage

SOME of Australia’s top entertainers have angered the Federal Government by refusing to perform for Australian troops in Iraq for political reasons. The Whitlams’ Tim Freedman is among a group of artists who have knocked back requests to play for Diggers because they don’t support the war. "I was asked, and decided not to go," Freedman told The Sunday Telegraph. "I went to East Timor and enjoyed the experience. I understand how hard the soldiers do it. In this instance, I don’t agree with the war..."

-- Peter Holmes, "Aussie singers snub Iraq Diggers," NEWS_com_au (24 September 2006)

Yeah, well, when you're a pop singer who names his band in honour of Blessed Gough, but who also performs at concerts for a nation of "mulattos" whom the Great One deemed unworthy of self-government, then ideological consistency is clearly a Very Important Thing for you, isn't it...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Never ask a Lady her age

'Victoria Hill won’t specify her age. Not meaning to be rude, of course. It’s just that, after [her] starring in four (yet to be released) films in the past year – most notably as Lady Macbeth in Geoffrey Wright’s "Melbournised" new [version of The Scottish Tragedy] – Hill’s agent counseled her that a date of birth can become a use-by date. She’s not ready to be put on the shelf just yet..."

Weekend Australian (9-10 September 2006), Magazine p 13.

Oooooo... a challenge! A mystery! A gauntlet thrown down to the intrepid investigator! Lemme see, I bet if I click on the IMDB, or even walk to the library on Monday and check Senator Robert Hill’s entry in Who’s Who... But first, let’s finish reading the Saturday papers:
'... After 16 years slogging it out in theatre collectives and television commercials, the 35-year-old Hill now has four film roles in the can...'

Sydney Morning Herald (9-10 September 2006), Spectrum p 8.

Oops. New agent?

But wait... both Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia say "18 February 1978". What the Sam/ Hill...?!

Perish the thought that the Sydney Morning Herald itself could get such basic facts wrong. Or that the all-seeing, all-knowing IMDB would "keep the word of promise to our ear,/ and break it to our hope."

If "politics is show business for ugly people", Ms Hill is doing her bit to continue Australia’s proud tradition of joining the two realms by family ties.

For yea, just as former Prime Minister (1971-72) Billy McMahon did begat Julian McMahon, and even as former Labor Senator Michael Beahan did begat Kate Beahan, and former Prime Minister (1993-94) Bronwyn Bishop did begat Angela Bishop (who, apart from interviewing visiting A-listers, also plays Rose's mum in Doctor Who), and Andrew Peacock did swap spiritual energies at one time with Shirley MacLaine... Jeff Kennett’s son Angus made a famous breakout into modeling... And Eric Bana’s dad-in-law is Chief Justice Gleeson of the High Court of Australia (no, not that Gleeson).

There's also a Canadian division.

Next: Geoff Wright "Melbournises" Much Ado About Nothing ("Veniadikt, the married man...?")

MacDuff? Isn't that when you go on a raid to steal computers?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Union of the snake

Vale Steve Irwin, a man who fit 88 years of living into only 44 years of life.

The first time I saw Crocodile Hunter on TV, I assumed it was a Glyn Nicholas spoof. How wrong I was. Glyn's real spoof, Russell Coight's All Aussie Outback Adventures, is as sedate as an English butler compared to the real Steve Irwin.

On the principle of nil nisi bonum de mortuis, now is an appropriate day to correct the misapprehension put about by The Onion in December 2002, with its faux-headline "Crocodile Hunter The Same Way In Bed". Let this "bug-eyed, khaki-clad yokel" speak for himself as to that point:

Andrew Denton: You said that getting married was the scariest day of your life. Why was that?

Steve Irwin: Scariest day of my life, mate. ‘Cause, um...

Andrew Denton: Did you have a khaki tuxedo?

Steve Irwin: I had… I don’t know, some penguin suit and it was black.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Steve Irwin: It wasn’t khaki, so I’m already out of my element. And a tie! I was panicking. Absolutely panicking...

Andrew Denton: So what got you over the moment of panic?

Steve Irwin: Um... (Laughs) I don’t know. I made it. I just made it. I just beared with it and got there. But I was panicked, mate. I was so panicked. My wife’s going to kill me when I tell you this, but I’ll tell you ‘cause it’s this kind of show. He just sucks it out of you, doesn’t he? And I’ve seen that about your show! So I’m so scared, so anxious, so incredibly out of my element, you know, we get back to the hotel… uh, the motel - you know, nice honeymoon suite and that - and I... I couldn’t consummate the marriage, mate! I was freaked!

Andrew Denton: Really?

Steve Irwin: Yeah. I sat there and ate a steak instead...

- Interview with Andrew Denton on "Enough Rope", ABC-TV (6 October 2003)

Goodbye, Steve.

UPDATE 1: An eyewitness report to the contrary. How in blazes did I manage to glean three (3) news items on this topic over the 2002-05 quinquennium?!

Monday, September 04, 2006


Our tolerant multicultural society is so tolerant and multicultural we’ll tolerate your intolerant uniculturalism. Your antipathy to diversity is just another form of diversity for us to celebrate.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Schapelle Corby case cuts across Left/Right lines

UPDATE: Now Bolt is taking on Mark Steyn, over whether the Muslim population of Malmö, Sweden, is 25% or 40%. For heaven's sake. Doesn't Andrew realise that all right-wing columnists are supposed to march in intellectual lockstep?

But what the frakk does The Spectator have against Australia?

'For Mr Blair, after the brief spell at university and having been back for holidays, naturally knows better than the rest of us that Australia is the model to embrace. Here is that most tedious dinner-party companion, the sanctimonious bore who bangs on about how dreadful everything’s become over here in the UK – the filthy streets, the terrible schools, etc. – who announces that the minute the last child is finished with uni, he and Pamela are emigrating to Oz. Well, it’s all so clean over there, isn’t it, and all that space! Everyone surfs, they’ve never heard of asthma, the food’s unbelievable, and you can buy a beautiful bungalow in one of Brisbane’s best suburbs, with a pool and a couple of acres, for the price of a garage in Highbury Fields! Honestly, it’s quite beyond me why anyone in their right mind wants to stay in nasty, stinky old Britain when there’s heaven on earth to be had in Australia.

One can understand the charm of a country with no history for a man who regards any event before 1 May 1997 as, at best, an irrelevance and, at worst, an encumbrance. And so much the better if Australia has come to share his own distaste for the old world of Europe, gazing longingly over the Pacific, just as Mr Blair looks across the Atlantic towards big brother America.

Distanced by vast oceans from the rest of the developed world, as devoid of culture as of history, Australia’s sole method of establishing a global identity is winning at sport. "At the Commonwealth Games you once again showed the world the exuberance and sheer style that is modern Australia," Mr Blair schmoozed the Canberra Parliament. "You also won rather more than the rest of us!" Of course they did. The country with the closest parallel to the Australian sporting fixation is South Africa, and despite the public face of liberalism it boastfully presents, Australia is as close spiritually to an apartheid state as the democratic world knows today...'

- Matthew Norman, "Blair thinks he is the Wizard of Oz", The Spectator (1 April 2006).

[Sigh] Yes, yes, it's true that Australia may not be as egalitarian, unprejudiced, open and non-hidebound a society as Great Britain, where Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Normans, Welsh, Scots, Northern Irish, Southern Irish, Pakistanis and West Indians have dwelt together in glorious harmony for centuries. But likening Australia to Setheffrika? That's a way low blow. Almost as low as Eric Ellis sneering at Mercedes Corby (a convert to Hinduism, BTW) for being infra dig, and at Schapelle's supporters for being Indonesian-hating racists, while somehow omitting the (you would think) highly material detail that Mercedes' husband Wayan Widiartha, the father of her two children, is Indonesian. Ooops. Might spoil The Spectator's stereotype, eh? eh?


Left, pro-Corby: Margo Kingston.

"... Australian citizenship doesn't matter much to this government. Unlike just about every other nation whose citizens were incarcerated and tortured in Guantanamo Bay, we've let the Americans do what they will with Hicks and Habib. Until the public screamed too loud, it was also happy for Corby to be thrown to the wolves for the sake of friendly relations with Indonesia...."

- Margo Kingston, "Democracy not a spectator sport", Northern Rivers Echo (26 May 2005)

Right, anti-Corby: The Spectator.

[...] Surrounding Our Schapelle is a cast of characters made for the tabloids: a screeching big sister (Mercedes), a dope-smoking Dad (Mike) and a hysterical Mum (Ros). But why "Schapelle"? The Chappell brothers, Ian and Greg, dominated Australian cricket when the Corbys’ younger daughter was born. Australians everywhere were naming their boys after these heroes. That was tough for Aussies with daughters. But Ros — or so the story goes — spotted the feminine possibilities in "Chappell", and named her new daughter with what she imagined was a certain je ne sais quoi of Euro-sophistication to give her new daughter a leg out of the grim Aussie suburbs.

Portly Ros and the beer-gutted Mike have long been estranged but they’ve briefly got back together for the sake of their daughter. Mike, who has cancer and a magnificent salt-and-pepper beard, has taken to visiting his daughter in prison in the Ocker-Abroad uniform of shorts, singlet and flip-flops. When someone suggested to him that he might wish to smarten up a bit out of respect for the local culture, he showed up at the jail the next day in a singlet bearing the logo of Indonesia’s national beer brand, Bintang. Mike likes to shriek "Schapelle’s cummin’ home, she’s cummin’ home," thrusting a triumphant fist in the air as the hacks scribble away. "How’s that gunna happen, mate?" the [media] hackpack inquire. "In a plane, mate, in a plane," yells back Corby, before he’s whisked off. [...]

But the elite aren’t calling the shots on this one. There has been talk of a "redneck coup". And the circus shows no signs of packing up. A new lawyer has just been appointed to handle Our Schapelle’s appeal. I met him last week, and he did not disappoint me. His name is Paris Hutapea, and he carries two sidearms (a Beretta and a Walther), sports shiny blue suits and an impressive mullet, and drives to work in a Humvee. His fingers drip with opal and diamond rings. He and big sister Mercedes should hit it off.

- Eric Ellis, "The whingers of Oz: Xenophobic hysteria over the conviction of Schapelle Corby", The Spectator (11 June 2005)

Left[ish], anti-Corby: Madonna King.

[...] How daft a situation when the Salvos, who helped a million Australians last year, were forced to announce that no funds would flow beyond our borders in order to secure the same level of donations as previous years?

How un-Australian is it to turn the verdict delivered against Corby – who might or might not be guilty – into a boycott of Bali; a move that risks damaging Indonesia's tourism economy, pushing thousands of innocent people into the poverty spiral?

How un-Australian is the response by some Brisbanites to abuse store-owners specialising in Indonesian furniture, or to scribble abuse and threats on billboards, road signs and fences between here and the Gold Coast where Corby's family lives?

And to top it off, how cowardly and un-Australian is the attack perpetuated in our back yard that closed the Indonesian embassy, quarantined staff, and threatened to send relations with our neighbour spiralling downwards? [...]

- Madonna King, "Think before you make a stink", Courier-Mail (Brisbane) (4 June 2005)

Right, pro-Corby: Tim Blair.

[...] About 51% of Australians believe Schapelle Corby is innocent, according to one poll. A far greater percentage, judging by various comments, believe Corby and her kin are guilty of high-level boganism. “I think ther[e] are more important things to be concerned with in the world then [sic] some bogan hairdres[s]er cow”, wrote one internet elitist. “It must be bogan and racism season”, wrote another, on the issue of a Bali boycott. A third wondered at the etymology of “Schapelle”: “We can only assume that her bogan parents thought it would be nice to use the French for ‘name’.” Bogan-loathing increased following televised coverage of Corby’s sentencing, which showed the reaction of her family. Instead of seeing understandable human grief, many saw only a pack of ravening white-trash Corbeasts. Prejudices beyond racism are clearly at play here. [...]

- Tim Blair, "Enough to make you nuke", The Bulletin (8 June 2005)

Schapelle Corby’s terrible crime, and the hostile, bigoted reaction of many Australians to her sentence, threatens Australia’s delicate and valuable friendship with Indonesia. To calm the situation, Prime Minister John Howard last week asked that “we all pause and understand the situation, and recognise and respect that when we visit other countries, we are subject to the laws and the rules of those countries”. Quite right. As one online leftist remarked: “In the end, a good and respectful relationship between Australian and Indonesia is much more important than the fate of Schapelle Corby.” Yet there must be more that Australia can do to restore the good relationship built between the two countries following our generous tsunami donations, and now endangered by those encouraging a Bali tourist boycott. I urge that Howard invite Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Australia, so that the pair may discuss the issue and finally arrive at a satisfactory outcome.

But the prime minister’s invitation would only be a first step. The next would come somewhere between Jakarta and Sydney, when a covert baggage-handler, operating under Australian government instruction, would add 3kg of high-quality Afghan heroin, 2kg of uncut Bolivian cocaine, 1kg of hydroponic marijuana, four child pornography DVDs, and 120 MDMA tablets to the president’s luggage. Also, several panda cubs and one or two handguns. The baggage handler need not worry about leaving any fingerprints, as this “evidence”, when discovered by customs officials, won’t be tested. Nor will Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s angry denials be videotaped; instead, he’ll be reported to have instantly asserted ownership over the drugs, DVDs, protected species and weapons. In fact, according to customs staff, the president would at one point attempt to ingest all the drugs at once while screaming obscene abuse about Phar Lap and Ruth Cracknell.

Then would come the president’s trial, before one of our finest narcoleptic magistrates and a jury selected randomly from Bali bomb survivors, East Timorese refugees and Corby family members. Despite the best efforts of his legal team (three TAFE engineering students), Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono might expect an unusually harsh sentence: something in the range of 7000 years, plus hanging (and don’t forget the $13,000 fine!).

The final step would be relatively simple, beginning with an email (subject line: “prisoner exchange”) from the prime minister to the Indonesian government. Events thereafter would swiftly restore the post-tsunami harmony both nations have recently enjoyed.

- Tim Blair, "Corby II: Revenge on Susilo. There's no reason the Indonesian president shouldn't enjoy a spot of good old Aussie bag-handling", The Bulletin (1 June 2005)

Right, anti-Corby: Janet Albrechtsen.

[...] There is a sneaking suspicion that Corby is getting just a teensy weensy bit more than your average Australian sitting in an overseas prison. Why? Because, well, she's a good-looking Gold Coast girl who has become one of Australia's most recognisable faces. [...] You know too many Australians are overdosing on compassion, with scant regard for reason, when mainstream talk starts suggesting that Corby's courtroom demeanour and good looks somehow demonstrate her innocence. Where does that kind of logic take us? To the position that we should wash our hands of ugly and poorly-groomed defendants because they must be guilty? [...]

-- Janet Albrechtsen, “Legal reason taken prisoner by compassionate spin”, The Australian (1 June 2005).

Addendum 1:Speaking of "bogans" (aka bevans, booners, westies, mooks), the wonders of Google have at last cast some light on the mysterious origins of that term.

Addendum 2: pace Eric Ellis, anyone who "carries two sidearms" and "sports [...] an impressive mullet" can do even better wom[e]n-wise than Mercedes ...

Addendum 3: It gets better. Mr Hutapea's first name is "Hotman". Snigger all you like, but using that handle may avert the considerable embarrassment that could arise were Mercedes to write "Consult Paris H. re videotape evidence" in her diary.

Addendum 4: Not often you can slide a stanley knife between Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair, but the Boltcutter is in the Corby skeptics camp:

[...] Yes, Corby may be as innocent as she says. But picture how she must look, and how we all now look, to an Indonesian, whether a judge or a citizen. Here is a surfer girl who worked as a bar hostess in Tokyo’s nightclub area, flying into Bali for reportedly the fifth time in six years. [...] Keep picturing. The Indonesians learn that Corby, although having no criminal record, comes from a wild and woolly family. One of her brothers is in jail for burglary and stealing, her mother is on to her fourth partner after having six children by three men. Her father had a minor conviction some 30 years ago for possessing marijuana. Sure, none of that makes her guilty, but how would all this make Corby seem to an Indonesian? Here’s a tip: Not like she came from the responsible land of the straight-and-narrow. It gets worse. Corby’s defence team is soon headed by a salesman who looks like a spiv and is a former bankrupt who still owes creditors plenty. [...]

-- Andrew Bolt, "Corby and the mob", Herald-Sun (Melbourne) (1 June 2005)

Addendum 5: Like Marvin in Pulp Fiction, Ernie Saluszpopuli doesn't even have an opinion on l'affaire Scsàpélkörbyi: "Depths and the maiden", Weekend Australian (18-19 June 2005). Which leaves the Online Trinity of the Willing deadlocked, 1-1-1 Yes-No-Abstain, over SC's innocence.

Addendum 6: Welcome Tim Blair readers!

Addendum 7: Only one way to break the one-all split on the Right... to call the venerable Truthful Godlike one out of retirement. And he's...err, he's for... no, wait, he's against... err, he's something on the issue. "Corby's plight lets loose the rednecks from the jungle bar", The Australian (10 June 2005).

Addendum 8: There is another explanation for the origin of "The Bogan" ... and (as one overhyped but iconic Seventies franchise nostagia piece would put it), it was long ago and it was far away...

In another time, long before the Empire, and before the Republic had been formed, a holy man called the Skywalker became aware of a powerful energy field which he believed influenced the destiny of all living creatures...after much study, he was able to know the force, and it communicated with him. He came to see things in a new way. His 'aura' and powers grew very strong. The Skywalker brought a new life to the people of his system, and became one of the founders of the Republic Galactic...As you know, the 'FORCE OF OTHERS' has two halves: Ashla, the good, and Bogan, the para-Force or evil part. Fortunately, Skywalker came to know the good half and was able to resist the para-Force; but he realized that if he taught others the way of the Ashla, some, with less strength, might come to know Bogan, the dark side, and bring unthinkable suffering to the Universe. For this reason, the Skywalker entrusted the secret of THE FORCE only to his twelve children, and they in turn passed on the knowledge only to their children, who became known as the Jedi Bendu of the Ashla: 'the servants of the force'. For thousands of years, they brought peace and justice to the galaxy. At one time there were several hundred Jedi families, but now there are only two or three.'

SMH aggregating again

In a previous post I commented on the laziness of the Sydney Morning Herlad in referencing old news as if it were today's. Well, they're at it again:

THE Vatican has never been a fan of Harry Potter, but its chief exorcist
has gone one step further and condemned J. K. Rowling's fictional boy wizard as
downright evil.

"Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness,
the devil," says Father Gabriele Amorth, the Pope's "caster-out of

The books contained numerous positive references to the satanic art,
falsely drawing a distinction between black and white magic, he told the Daily
Mail in London. In the same interview, Father Amorth said he was convinced that
Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler were possessed by the devil.

Note the use of the present tense regarding Father Amorth's statements. The apparent source? The UK's Daily Mail. Yet a cursory reading of the "offending" article reveals the datedness of The Sydney Morning Herald's material. The Daily Mail has the courtesy to oblige us with the WHEN, as well as the WHO and the WHAT of the story:

In the past Father Amorth has also spoken out against the Harry Potter
books, claiming that reading the novels of the teen wizard open children's minds
to dabbling with the occult and black magic.

Father Amorth, who is president of the International Association of
Exorcists, said of the JK Rowling books:"Behind Harry Potter hides the signature
of the king of the darkness, the devil."

He said that Rowling's books contain innumerable positive references to magic, "the satanic art" and added the books attempt to make a false distinction between black and white magic, when in fact, the distinction "does not exist, because magic is always a turn to the devil."

IN THE PAST. Get it? Like, say 2002? Or at least March 3, 2006, when the Sydney Morning Herald most recently published this material.

Good grief. At least take the effort to check if not acknowldge the ag of your source. Otherwise next we'll read that World War 2 has just ended, or that Neil Armstrong has only just stepped onto the surface of the moon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

If Jean-Luc Picard were a real Frenchman...

1. The Prime Directive would have a proviso that reads: "... Except where necessary for the purpose of testing antimatter torpedoes as away far as possible from Sector 001."

2. Romulan ale wouldn't be illegal as such on Earth - it would just never get past the Enterprise's one-ship blockade.

3. Whenever Q or a Ferengi started the "the greatest monsters in your planet's history - Hitler, Stalin, Khan Singh..." speech again, Picard would interrupt with "Ah, but you fourgaird, do you not, ze greatest monstair of all - ze Duke of Wairllingtong!"

4. L'Academie Starfleet would fine cadets for saying "Phasers on stun!" in English. Instead they would have to say "Ajustez les armes que émettont les courants des particules chargés et phasés, s'il vous plaît, parce que ils étourdont mais pas tuent les adversaires."

5. Picard would resist seduction by Vash and instead would ask her suspiciously: "Your parents, madame! Why is it, zat zey name you 'Cow'?"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Katha Pollitt makes a very good point in favour of government assistance for parents, against the complaints of the "child-free" movement:

'... Rightly (conservative version) or wrongly (liberal version), the workplace is structured to suit men, preferably men with stay-at-home wives. The qualities rewarded there – self-reliance, ambition, single-minded devotion to work – make women unfit for marriage and vice versa.

By the time they are ready to settle down, their male contemporaries are married or looking for younger, softer women; if it’s not too late for a husband, it’s likely to be too late for a baby; if they manage to produce one, they’ll confront the fundamental incompatibility – practical, psychological, emotional – of motherhood and career.

With some variations, this narrative of forced choices and biological deadlines, in which feminism is either irrelevant or itself the problem, forms the theme of many recent highly publicised advice books. Sometimes the young unmarried woman is told she is having too much fun and will pay later; sometimes she is told she is miserable, and no wonder – while men postpone commitment, her eggs are already scrambling...

None of these writers [whom Pollitt is reviewing -- most prominently, I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson] seems to believe that caring for an infant could be made less exhausting, less harried, less solitary. But surely it could be quite different. After all, men (and now women) who join the military get a plethora of benefits from a grateful nation: in the United States, for example, they get scholarships, free medical care for life, extra points on civil-service exams and much more.

... If governments are worried about low birth-rates, as many are, they could do a lot better than lecture uppity women one day and offer paltry child bonuses the next. Free tuition for life would be more like it, along with free childcare, mandatory paternity leave (men in Britain have recently been granted two weeks’ paternity leave) and a Real Men Change Nappies campaign...'

-- Katha Pollitt, "In the family’s way: Superwomen who want it all, companies which depend on men with stay-at-home wives. How can they fit together?," The Guardian (9 September 2003)

But then she goes and spoils it all with an obligatory Bush-bitch on her favourite topic:

'... As the growing movement against abortion shows, self-determination for women is still controversial...'

Nice day's work, Katha. You're trying to refute the "child-free" lobby's complaint that "having children is a voluntary lifestyle choice, a hobby that parents should fund out of their own pockets". But then you impliedly concede that it's okay for children, like pet animals, to get put to sleep (Freely Safely And Legally) if they become inconvenient to your lifestyle. Put a band-aid on that foot gunshot wound ... And you wonder why young women these days don't want to label themselves "feminists".

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Daleks "gliding like priests"... Someone has lost it

"Halfway through the second series of new-century Doctor Who, and it’s looking dicey. The problem became clear to me in episode five, 'Rise of the Cybermen', as the relaunched 1970s arch-villains stamped in their silver moon-boots across the stately home’s front lawn. Fundamentally, they just aren't Daleks, are they? The first series, the one that was on last year, had Daleks, hordes of them, and what a delight they were: gliding like priests, talking like Nazis, chimerical yet simple, and with that unpleasantly ambiguous relation to the ground beneath them. I wasn't aware I had missed them until, suddenly, they were back. And back, too, was that sound made when the Doctor is arriving or departing, the scraping, groaning contractions of the Tardis - so wonderful, warm yet terrifying, the sound of childbirth, I always think, as heard by the baby.

When I was young, though - I dimly remember - the Cybermen did seem quite scary, with their blank, square faces and cruel, insatiable appetites for human whatever-it-was. But actually, most of that mystery came not from their appearance, but from their name. Back then, no one really knew what 'cyber' meant, though we sensed a sinister power: it was always clear that it meant something geared at some point to take over. This sense of awful potency lasted pretty much through the 1980s, powering the gorgeous prescience and horror of William Gibson’s Neuromancer novels, only to peter out, pretty much, by the mid-1990s, as the dull commercial reality - the real 'consensual hallucination', to re-purpose Gibson's phrase - of Internet shopping kicked in. There was also, after 1977, the Star Wars problem, and the visual similarity of the Doctor’s second-best adversaries to C-3PO, the trite butler-robot. Which is why Cybermen no longer impress us. The metaphorical connections no longer lead adults, at least, to things we find exciting - unlike priests, Nazis, our shabby 1960s and 1970s childhoods...."

- Jenny Turner, "Across the Tellyverse," 28(12) London Review of Books (22 June 2006)

.... "Priests"?

Even the casual reader can tell that Ms Turner had a Protestant upbringing. To Catholics, "priest" evokes the image of snowy-haired Father Tim, with his red nose, his twinkling eye, and the Irish lilt in his voice, teaching young street urchins that they can be a winning football team if only they Believe In Themselves.

Whereas to Protestants, "priest" evokes a gaunt-faced, burning-eyed bonze, wearing a metal skull-cap with a pair of ram's horns attached, his chest bare but for a couple of richly-bejeweled bandolier straps, and waving a staff with bits of birds' skeletons jangling off it as he slaughters a bull before some ponderous gold idol.

Somehow, the idea of a group of Daleks sitting at the parish hall bingo table, smoking and roaring with laughter at off-colour jokes, with a pile of empty Baileys bottles beside them... just does - not - compute.

PS: And yes, I know that priests, like Daleks, come in different models. But I can no more easily picture a Dalek as a dedicated, somewhat intense late-twenty-something Vietnamese-Australian than as Father Tim, a-tarl, a-tarl. And how would the Jesuit Daleks wear elaborate gold poison-rings on those sink plungers? Would they have a coin slot for the bribes to be discreetly deposited, like a vending machine?

PPS: More similarities and differences between Daleks and priests...

[-] One lot are often depicted as cartoonish super-villains who have some fiendishly clever plan to take over the universe. The other lot are copyright-owned by Terry Nation.

[+] Favourite verb ends in "-ate".

[+] Both are surrounded by thick white smoke.

[-] Daleks have flashing lights on them all the time. Priests only have flashing lights on them when they become corrupted. A giant neon sign magically appears (ex opere operato) on the said cleric's forehead, flashing the words "Warning! Corrupted Priest!" If you know a priest, and he doesn't have such a flashing neon sign, then he can't be a corrupted priest. It's objectively not possible.

[-] Daleks do acknowledge the supremacy of the Emperor.

[-] Better a Rusty Priest than a rusty Dalek.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Presidential attire

While the USA distracts itself with peripheral side-issues like flag-burning amendments and Intelligent Design in schools, la grande nation devotes its atttention to real political questions:

"The French taboo over politicians’ private lives has crumbled further with the publication of photographs of Segolene Royal, the left-wing favourite to succeed President Jacques Chirac next spring, on the beach in her bikini. Ms Royal, who is 53 next month and favourite to win the Socialist nomination later this year, is unlikely to suffer from the flattering first pictures to be published of a female politician in minimal attire...."

- Charles Bremner, "Socialist in a bikini has the French in a sweat," The Australian (10 August 2006)

Since the bikini was named after a Pacific atoll that was used for nuclear testing, I can't think of anything more appropriate for a French President to wear.

Pray that the custom is not continued, though, if France ever elects another M[a]cMahon as its leader...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Islam and the old Communism

UPDATE: Tanveer Ahmed, "Why Islam is the new Marx," The Australian (11 August 2006)

* * * *

Stephen's earlier post on this topic brings to mind two passages I read a year ago:

The first is from Bertrand Russell's The Theory and Practice of Bolshevism (London, 1921, pp 5, 114), quoted by "ibn Warraq" in Why I am Not A Muslim (NY, 1995, p 163):

Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam... Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism [sic] rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.

The second is from Dave Crouch's article "Bolsheviks and Islam: Socialists can learn from how the Bolsheviks approached the Muslims of the Russian empire", in 280 Socialist Review (December 2003):

... Marxism is a materialist worldview and so is thoroughly athiest. [Sic. Deweyism may be fairly athy, but Marxism is even athier still. - ed]. But because it understands religion to have roots in oppression and alienation, Marxist political parties don't demand that their members or supporters are [scil. be] atheists too. So atheism was never included in the Bolsheviks' programme. Indeed, they welcomed left-wing Muslims into the communist parties (CPs). The Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted in 1923 that in some former colonies as many as 15 percent of CP members were believers in Islam. He called them the 'raw revolutionary recruits who come knocking on our door'. In parts of Central Asia, Muslim membership was as high as 70 percent.

The Bolsheviks took a very different approach to Orthodox Christianity, the religion of the brutal Russian colonists and missionaries. Party policy in Central Asia, endorsed by Moscow, stated that 'freedom from religious prejudice' was a requirement for Russians only. So in 1922 over 1,500 Russians were kicked out of the Turkestan CP because of their religious convictions, but not a single Turkestani.

This was part of Bolshevik policy to try to make amends for the crimes of Tsarism in the former colonies....

(Not sure whether I'm allowed to quote that much, since the article does have a big fat notice saying "Copyright © Socialist Review". But who gives a? La proprieté, c'est le vol.)

... And all that Muslim goodwill stood the Bolsheviks and their heirs in such good stead six decades later, didn't it.

Now that's an interesting policy: "affirmative action" with a vengeance. I'm sure devout, believing Muslims would be queuing in droves to join a Communist Party that told them "Of course, objective scientific thought proves your primitive faith in Allah, the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur'ân to be a ridiculous superstition. But since you have been oppressed by Russian Orthodox colonialism for centuries, that makes it a progressive superstition".

That's what it boils down to... That "superstition" (= supernatural belief) is tolerable among the Little Brown People, as part of their quaint primitive customs - although white Europeans whose societies are post- (rather than pre-) capitalist are held to higher standards of intellectual rigour.

I once got into a debate with some Australian neo-Trotskyites who ended up arguing that vilifying Catholicism would be "progressive" in Australia but "reactionary" in Northern Ireland. So: following the Russian Bolsheviks' logic, if the Communist Party of Iran ever were to win power, it should admit practising Jews, Christians, Bahá’ís and Zoroastrians, but not practising Muslims, as members. So what happens when the Communist International holds its World Congress and the Marxist Muslim delegates from Dagestan get to sit alongside the Marxist Christian delegates from Iran? "Fraternal greetings, comrade. If you lived just a few hundred miles northeast in my country, you would be expelled from the Party for your reactionary religious superstitions". "Indeed, comrade, and you for yours in my country". Workers of the world, unite!

Marxism in a nutshell: "People are basically good, and that's why the world is so f$%#$%#$ed up".

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The evils of hopping

The latest from the land of Tony and Cherie Blair: Cross-country running at school can breach a student's human rights.

Cross-country running in schools could be a form of child abuse that breaches human rights, teenagers have been told.

A textbook used in citizenship classes claims the traditional activity is a form of physical abuse.

The guide, which tells pupils their legal rights, suggests cross-country is as damaging as bullying.

PE teachers and health experts yesterday described the guide as 'indefensible'.

More than 30,000 copies of the book have been sold to schools across Britain by Coordination Group Publications, one of the country's biggest educational publishers.

The guide is targeted at 14 to 16-year-olds and designed for use in citizenship lessons, which became compulsory in secondary schools four years ago.

In a chapter titled 'Your Legal Rights', pupils are told: 'You have the right to be protected from emotional or physical abuse.'

The book goes on to give just two examples - bullying and cross-country

This reminds me of the horrors of the "hop" in Tomkinson's Schooldays, a wonderfully satiric episode of Ripping Yarns, poking fun at all things proper and British by Michael Palin and Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. Summary of the culminating "hop" event below:

"Finally Tomkinson is put to the ultimate torture: the hopping race, which no boy from Graybridge had ever survived. As he was on the point of death, he was approached by Grayson with a sniff of a certain interesting substance, and
perked up, and became the first ever Graybridge winner. He was welcomed back as the new school bully (Grayson having taken up an offer of a place at Eton), and
had the moral dilemma of how to reform the system.

He violently hits the little boy who congratulates him."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Theological bumper stickers

Re-issued in honour of Mel Gibson:

[not all of these are mine]




































Tuesday, August 01, 2006

In-flight Hassels...

"You dare - accuse me - of smuggling budgies?"

Former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff was unable to board a flight from the UK on Wednesday because he was ill, not drunk, his publicist has said. Press reports claimed the actor, 54, was intoxicated and could not board the flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles. Hasselhoff's publicist Judy Katz said that "was totally untrue" and that the actor felt unwell after taking some medication for a recent arm injury...

- "Hasselhoff 'Not Drunk' at Airport", BBC News (28 July 2006)

Budgie-smugglers... the dregs of humanity. The International Community must act now.

At least the 'Hoff didn't start ranting about how the Rotarians control the world's finances...

PS: That last one is behind the subscriber wall. Here's what Benny Morris said:

"In Article 17, under "The Role of Muslim Women," the charter [ie, the Covenant of Hamas, the movement's constitution and platform, finalized in August 1988] states:

'The enemies have understood that role [and] therefore they realize that if they can guide and educate [the Muslim women] in a way that would distance them from Islam, they would have won that war. Therefore, you can see them making consistent efforts [in that direction] by way of publicity and movies, curricula of education and culture, using as their intermediaries their craftsmen who are part of the various Zionist Organizations which take on all sorts of names and shapes such as: the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, gangs of spies and the like.... These Zionist organizations control vast material resources.... Islam ... will wipe out those organizations which are the enemy of humanity and Islam.'

Rotarians and Masons had better watch out..."

UPDATE: Radio Triple-M does its part:

"We're on a mission to clean up the pools and beaches this summer with The Cage's Budgie Smuggler Amnesty. We want you to mail in a photo of your Dad or partner in a pair of Budgie Smugglers as well as the actual Budgie Smugglers themselves..."

Update 2:

"No 'budgie smugglers' for APEC photo: PM", Melbourne Age (3 September 2007)

Friday, July 28, 2006

What planet are...

'Let's get this out of the way right now: Much as we hate even to touch on this question, there are in fact people who have seen baby Suri. Among them: producers Frank Marshall and Kathy Kennedy (they're married; she produced War of the Worlds). They saw the baby in Telluride, Colo[rado], very recently and told friends that all seemed quite ordinary...'

- Kim Masters, "Suri Cruise Spotted in Telluride," Slate (20 July 2006)

Telluride? Are the Cruise-Holmes channelling EE "Doc" Smith now instead of L Ron Hubbard?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Issues with Authority (update)

UPDATE 4: Yes, Kidman it is. A blonde evil Coulter... hmmm...

Paul Bettany has been cast too. No, not as the boatman to the world of the dead, but as Asriel. What with that and playing "Silas", is Bettany hell-bent (no pun int'd) on burning all his bridges with the Catholic Church? Why? I mean, for Nicole Kidman, her reason's obvious: she's angry about the RCC refusing her a church wedding with Keith Urban. Yes, Nic, it's harsh, I know, but the RCC could hardly lecture Protestants (at least, in goood conscience and with a straight face) about how it's Rome alone who "still dares to condemn as sin the now commonplace practices of... divorce [and] remarriage..." if it simply handed out div-... err, annulments[*] like lollipops to the celebrities in its pews. Even though you were "only 23" when you married Mr Cruise, you knew full well he was a Scientologist. Deal with it.

[*] Apparently annulments (excepting, of course, the six that Henry VIII obtained) and divorces are completely different things, and only religious bigots with an agenda would confuse the two.

UPDATE 3: Probably just as well that the director of American Pie was pulled from the helm:

LYRA: Stop! Don't drink that wine!

LORD ASRIEL: Why? Because the Master of Jordan College slipped poison into it?

LYRA: No, because Cardinal-Inquisitor Stifflerius and his jackass-daemon Floridio pissed in the cup it while you were away barfing on Serafina Pekkala...

UPDATE 2: Abigail Nussbaum summarises His Dark Materials in a nu[ss]shell. (Link via the Andúril-Stone of Brisingamen).

UPDATE 1: Call it the Pullman Effect:

THE film version of The Da Vinci Code is attempting to reduce the offence that the best-selling book caused to Roman Catholics. Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film starring Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen, is reported to have been so concerned that it has consulted Catholic and other Christian specialists on how it might alter the plot of the novel to avoid offending the devout. Film officials have held talks with Catholic groups and other organisations despite Dan Brown, the author, insisting that “it’s only a novel and therefore a work of fiction”, the New York Times reported yesterday. [...]

-- Dalya Alberge, "Da Vinci plot may get new twist to placate Catholics", The Times (UK) (8 August 2005)

Methinks someone in Hollywood's been comparing the box-office figures for Saved! (now re-titled Temporarily In a State of Grace! to placate Catholic audiences) against those for The Passion of the Christ (now re-titled The Passion of Mary And Her Son Wossisname, Y'Know, That Bearded Guy What First Invented Chairs and Tables, And Then Got Flogged By An Orc, also to placate Catholic audiences).

Date: 1 July, 2001
From: Head, Projects Section
To: Second Vice-President, Financing Division
Re: Another Freakin' Gibson Revenge Fantasy? In Aramic and Latin? Fracturum Da Mihi!

The precedent doesn’t inspire confidence. One of the world’s top movie stars, for decades a heart-throb to women around the world, decides after years of hedonism and spiritual emptiness to embrace a controversial minority religion, one often regarded with suspicion by outsiders, even sometimes labeled a "cult" and banned by countries such as France and Germany. Eventually, his devotion to his faith leads him to invest his own money, reputation and career into producing a film that will dramatise and convey his theological beliefs for a mass-market Hollywood audience...

… And we all remember what a fine advertisement John Travolta’s Battlefield Earth was for Scientology , don’t we. But Mel Gibson’s Passio Christi was much more successful as an advertisement for Semi-Sedevacantist Traditionalist Catholicism.

* * *

First the original scriptwriter (Tom Stoppard) was sacked; now the director (Chris Weitz) is off the project too. You'd almost think that someone up there doesn't want Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy to make it to the big screen. Keep searching, Ph.P, and one day you will find the Chosen One Who Was Prophesied, and then you can really show the world how foolish all that messianic religious superstition is.

Monday, July 24, 2006


This is a day that will be long remembered. At last I have found out the true lyrics to the John Williams Star Wars theme music. No, not the execrable "Life Day" song that Princess Leia sang to the Wookiees of Kashyyyk in the 1978 Star Wars TV Holiday Special, but a considerably more oomph-y number sung by none other than Bill Murray, originally on Saturday Night Live. Here he reprises it for two US radio jocks, Lex and Terry. (Warning: this comes as a rather large MP3 audio file that you'll need to download.)

More Star Wars news: Lucasfilm has announced that Peter Mayhew will be starring as Chewbacca in Episode III. And a petition is doing the cyber-rounds seeking a sympathy cameo for "the Star Wars kid". This unfortunate Quebecois teenager made a video of himself swinging a broomstick around like a lightsabre - but only because he had to, like, y'know, film something for a class assignment, you understand. It wasn't like he, like, wanted to pass himself off as some kinda wannabe Jedi. Then some of his classmates copied the video and distributed it over the internet without his knowledge or consent, causing much embarrassment. Bastards. Now it's travelled around the cyber-galaxy almost as quickly as Cherie Blair singing "When I'm Sixty-Four", or the story of the even-more-unfortunate Claire Swire. One maestro set it to a dance track, with a techno-remixed version of the Williams score and samples such as Obi-Wan Kenobi intoning "You cannot escape your destiny". So now others have taken pity (Pity? It was pity that stayed his hand ! - wait, sorry, wrong Dark Lord) on this kid, who goes by the Tim-Zahn-ish name of Ghyslain, and sought to compensate him by getting Emperor George to grant him one of those ¾-of-a-microsecond-long roles (like Anthony Daniels' bare-face cameo as a space pilot in the Coruscant bar scene) that will never be noticed by anyone who doesn't have a DVD player, a visible bum-crack that starts immediately below the ponytail, and way too much spare time. Who says there's not Balance in the Force?


UPDATE 6: Ship of Fools has included a website on this topic in their "Fruitcake Zone". Ouch...

UPDATE 5: Yes, some may well say. But Andrew Rilstone - does not think so:

"In 1938 it was understandable that a pair of young Jewish artists might have wanted to imagine a champion. A Messiah, even. So there is no way that Superman can be Jesus. (His adversary is called Luthor, for goodness sake.)... Mario Puzo's script for the 1978 Superman movie had Marlon Brando drawing fairly explicit parallels between the origin of Superman and the birth of Jesus, even though it is blindingly obvious even in Puzo's own script that the real parallel is with Moses... Spider-Man, Frodo Baggins, Neo, Leo DiCaprio, Indiana Jones – Hollywood turns all its heroes into Christian symbols. (All except Aslan, obviously.)..."

UPDATE 4: Julia Baird agrees:

... Some say he is Jewish, as he was created by two Jewish cartoonists and could be viewed as part of the golem myth - the legend created to protect persecuted Jews in 16th-century Prague. In his early years, Superman often engaged in battles against the Nazis. His birth name was also Kal-El, which is similar to the Hebrew Kol-El, meaning voice of God. The scholarly consensus, though, seems to be that he must be Methodist, largely because Clark Kent was brought up in the American Midwest...

Superman is not the only superhero thought to be religious - Wonderwoman fancied ancient Egyptian religions, Batman is said to be a lapsed Anglican or Catholic (because of the crosses on his parents' tombstones), as is the Hulk. Rogue from the X-Men was raised as a Baptist, and Spider-Man prays to what is assumed to be a Protestant God...

- "A Sunday sermon from Superman", Sydney Morning Herald (22 June 2006)

IT'S KABBALAH-IN' TIME! [updated]... It's official: Ben Grimm, a.k.a "The Thing" in Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four, is Jewish. And devoutly so. Link via James Lileks, who comments: "Reed Richards? Episcopalian, I’d bet. Silver Surfer? Unitarian."

The religious affiliation of fictional super-characters is an intriguing topic. Some are, err, confessedly Catholic (X-Men's Nightcrawler, DareDevil's Matt Murdoch), while others are obviously Baptist or Methodist (Superman's Jonathan and Martha Kent, Spiderman's Aunt May). Other characters, though, are harder to call.

Some years ago, one of Superman's creators (either Jerry Siegel or Joe Schuster, I forget which) mentioned in an interview that they made Kryptonian society crypto [so to speak] Hebraic in many respects, much as Leonard Nimoy did for the Vulcans. For example, Kryptonian male names end in -El, while female names end in -a[h]. Not surprising, since JS and JS were Jewish themselves.

This may explain Jerry Seinfeld's Superman fanhood. Australian radio comedy duo Martin/ Molloy's take on this news: "Superman, Jewish? Must have had a really difficult time trying to circumcise him!" Presumably Kal-El's not Orthodox (his super-hair doesn't grow -- which is fortunate, since nothing on earth can cut it -- therefore no long curls at the temple; and his hat would blow off as he flies!). Any potential marriage between Superman and Lois Lane could well be contrary to the Orthodox Jewish (and Catholic) prohibitions, if one classifies their relationship as "sodomy/ bestiality" rather than "involuntary infertility".

OTOH, as has often been observed (eg, in apostate Anglican Bishop John Robinson's book Honest to God), Superman also has many parallels to Jesus Christ. (Guy with super-powers who looks like an ordinary human arrives on Earth... adopted by kindly couple... grows up, goes off into barren wilderness to communicate with his Father, then realises his mission... etc. RC readers might add, "Main bad guy is named Luth[e]r".) Alan MacDonald noted in his book Movies in Close-up that when Steven Spielberg (who was raised Jewish and has become more observant in recent years) was filming ET: The Extraterrestrial, someone pointed out to him the parallels between ET and Jesus. (Arrives on our world from the sky ... Heals people by touching them... Has glowing red heart... Dies but returns to life, then ascends... Protestant readers might add, "He and his friends persecuted and driven into hiding by bad guy who carries a set of keys".) Spielberg's response was "Look, I'm Jewish, I don't want to hear about this".

Deeply ironic: Two of American popular culture's most instantly recognisable figures, both close analogies of Jesus, both created by Jews.

UPDATE 1: And yes, I know Jesus and disciples were Jews too, of course. But I'm talking 2,000 years later, now that Christianity and Judaism have diverged into two very different religions, after centuries of (some) Christians calling Jews "deicides" and (some) Jews echoing Maimonides' sentiment: "Jesus of Nazareth, may his bones be ground into dust..." And while Christianity and Judaism share many points in common, those are not the points that either ET or Superman exhibit: descending from the sky, using super-human powers, etc, are specifically Christian rather than Jewish attributes of a Messiah.

UPDATE 2: My impeccable source informs me that ha-Thing is not in fact the first Jewish superhero, nor even the first for Marvel. Katherine "Kitty" Pryde, a.k.a Shadowcat/ Sprite of The Uncanny X-Men, was identified as Jewish years ago. (Don't ask me how: not being a Democrat Congressperson or a Guardian columnist, I don't possess finely-tuned Jewdar capable of detecting hidden Hebrews in unexpected places). Perhaps Kitty was ethnically Jewish but non-practising, whereas Ben Grimm is the first to actually practice the rituals of Judaism (eg, reciting the Shema) on Marvel's pages.

(And when The Thing takes on The Hulk, the resulting orange vs green blur is a metaphor for Nothern Ireland...)

UPDATE 3: It turns out there are plenty of other Jewish superheroes. Here (via The Volokh Conspiracy) is a long list.

In any case, from my (medium-level) reading I don't think many superheroes (as distinct from kindly adoptive parents who bake great Thanksgiving pies) are really religious in any meaningful sense. The Catholic ones I mentioned tend to be tormented by guilt -- as you would too, if you either looked like a devil or dressed like one -- and to spend a lot of time hanging around churches, but otherwise aren't distinctively Catholic. They don't, for example, ask themselves whether letting the bad guy fall to his death from a cliff edge, because he refuses the hero's helping hand, counts as "direct or indirect formal or material complicity with homicide" pursuant to the Doctrine of Double Effect. Nor, for that matter, can I picture, say, Peter Parker asking himself "WWJD?" before deciding whether to continue hot pursuit of Doc Ock, or pause to stop a granny being run over.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Take me out, into the black, black of Night

UPDATE: Slate partly recants its earlier hostility towards Captain Shyam.

Finally got around to watching M Night Shyamalan's The Village (2004) on DVD. The last DVDs I watched before that were (as my co-blogger may have mentioned) the Firefly TV series and Serenity movie, by Joss Whedon. I am struck by the similarities between the two...


1. Story created by a famous and much-criticised screen auteur who attended prep school on a different continent and who has sought, generally successfully, to revive the genres of the supernatural thriller and the superhero saga.

3. The populace are colonists who live in American Old-West-style farming villages, who are ruled by stern-faced "Elders", and who speak a strange patois of portentously ponderous 19th-century Americanese.

4. Their hard-scrabble farming communities are periodically attacked by mysterious, cannibalistic half-human raiders with hidden faces.

5. Origin of said raiders is a mystery and those in power know something about said origin that they ain't a-fixin' to reveal publicly.

6. One character, not "right in the head", suddenly stabs another with a knife.

7. Hero[es] forced to make risky but unavoidable journey from the fringes to civilisation to obtain modern medical assistance for dying friend.

8. Compare Joaquin "Lucius Hunt" Phoenix with Sean "Simon Tam" Maher:

Click image to expand.

poor River's brother #1

Click image to expand.

poor River's brother #2

9. And compare Christina "Bridget/ Saffron" Hendricks with Bryce Dallas "Ivy Walker" Howard (or should that be Bryce "Ivy Walker" Dallas Howard?).

Click image to expand.

Christina Hendricks

Click image to expand.

[Ritchie Cunningham had a daughter? With whom? Turanga Leela?]

Both of whom also look way too much like Murdoch journalist Elisabeth Meryment (who interviewed me once, over a decade ago) for my liking:

Click image to expand.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oprah says she and friend are not gay

- but have some very idiosyncratic ideas about their psychological health, Seinfeld and Bill Gates...

AP - Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gayle King want to be clear - they
are not gay

In the August issue of O, the Oprah Magazine, the US talk-show host explains that some people misunderstand her close friendship with King.

"I understand why people think we're gay," she says.

"There isn't a definition in our culture for this kind of bond between women. So I get why people have to label it - how can you be this close without it being sexual?"

In a long article, Winfrey, 52, and King converse about their 30 years of friendship and "four-times-a-day phone calls."

The two friends say they would have no problem telling the public if
they were in a sexual relationship.

"The truth is, if we were gay, we would tell you, because
there's nothing wrong with being gay," says King.

Says Winfrey: "Something about this relationship feels otherworldly to me, like it was designed by
a power and a hand greater than my own.

"Whatever this friendship is, it's been a very fun ride."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Anagrams, pentagrams, whatever

UPDATE 2: Seeking further answers to this ancient mystery, I re-watched the 1976 original again on DVD. Purely for research, of course. It's not like I'm getting obsessive or anything. Two interesting pieces of trivia...

1. Bob Munger, a Hollywood producer credited as the film's "religious adviser", mentions in the DVD bonus material that he's a born-again Christian and he sold David Seltzer on the plot of The Omen as a way of getting the [W]ord out.

So maybe Omen does have more in common with Left Behind than I first thought; ie, Omen is to Left Behind as The Passion of the Christ is to The Jesus Video.

2. Originally the Thorns were called the "Thorpes", because Seltzer, an American, wanted to make the family a UK political dynasty and he said "There was this guy in the British Parliament at the time, named Jeremy Thorpe..." Indeed there was. He was also indirectly commemorated in "Dr Who", in one episode (screened while JT was leader of the UK Liberal Party) where someone refers to the UK Prime Minister as "Jeremy". Which makes two links between these two great British low-budget monster sagas.

Correction: Actually there are three links. Not counting "naff mid-Seventies tufts-over-the-ears hairstyles" and "waa-waa background music that's meant to be frightening".

UPDATE 1: O-o-o-ka-a-a-ay.... Sounds like The Omen might yet get pulled from cinemas, like other Liev Schreiber remakes:

"She talks about a prophecy," [defense attorney George] Parnham said. "These children of hers needed to die in order to be saved," he added, "because Andrea Yates was such a bad mother that she was causing these children to deteriorate and be doomed to the fires of eternal damnation". Parnham said that Yates believed she had the sign of the devil, 666, burned on her scalp, and she begged therapists to look at her head. What they found, Parnham said, was not the sign of the beast, but scabbing from where Yates had tried to pick away the numbers she thought were there...

-- Lisa Sweetingham, "Defense: Yates killed kids to save them", CourtTV (27 June 2006)

Just saw The Omen (2006 remake) at the cinema. A few random thoughts...

1. Cinema foyer still festooned with posters for The Da Vinci Code. If I were the Pope, I'd be tempted (NPI) to take Dan Brown to a private screening of O-06 and then at the end quiz him: "So! Now you do want us to send out secret order of Darth-Maul-style assassin monks around Europe, no?"

2. The Pope is played by an actor named Bohumil. Which has got to be one of the funniest movie-credits ironies since Richard Marx performed the main song for a film about deposed Romanov tsarina Anastasia (1997) -- or since Frida Kahlo, an unrepentant Marxist, was played by the world’s second-most-famous Hayek.

3. Given the film's plot, it's more than a little disturbing that star Liev Schreiber's name is an anagram of "SHEER EVIL CRIB". And that no one else on the planet seems to have spotted that before me.

4. Also that writer David M Seltzer's name is an anagram of "DMZ DEVIL STARE". And that no one else has realised this either.

5. But Julia Stiles' name only anagrams to SAT JUL LIES. Ummm... okay... maybe one could link that to "Tues 6 Jun 2006" at a stretch. A big stretch.

6. And "Damien Thorn" is only an anagram of "MADE IN NORTH". Although given how (according to the original Omen III: The Final [sic] Conflict [1981]) ThornCorp plots to take over the world by controlling its food production, maybe this is a, you know, North/ South First World/ Third World thing.

Okay... Enough with the anagrams, before I start plastering the walls and ceiling of my priest's hole with them. So dark the con of man...

7. In Omen I, Damien seems to know what he's doing. But in Omen II, he's [SPOILER ALERT] shocked -- shocked! -- when Neff tells him his true origin and destiny. Soloviev handled this side much better, a century ago.

8. Ironies... Mia Farrow did play the mother of Satan's child in Rosemary's Baby, but this time [SPOILER ALERT] there is no, uh, human mother.

9. Is this, like, international year of not using the most obvious Rolling Stones song for the movie theme? We at Father Mackenzie strongly endorse this, deeply opposed as we are to all cheap hijacking of Sixties/Seventies cultural icons.

10. David Seltzer was a lucky man in Hollywood. He was given that rarest of mercies, a second chance. An even better second chance than George Lucas had: Seltzer got to re-write and re-film his big mid-'70s 20th Century Fox hit on a fresh canvas, not merely tinker with CGI editing to insert images of dragon-like creatures and to clarify who fired the first gunshots. So what does Seltzer do with this chance? He still spells Damien's surname as THORN, with no E. Strewth, David, heaps of people spell it with an -E on the end. It's like "Clark/e". You can spell it either way. The problem is, if you spell it without an -E, the Antichrist's name "Damien Robert Thorn" is only 665, one short. (Hey, my names are also 665...). So Damien still misses the mark (so to speak), leaving Ronald Wilson Reagan as the leading contender.

11. Re Damien’s visit to the zoo. (1) Why is it that Talking Beasts in Narnia can’t recognise the Antichrist walking among them, but Dumb Beasts in England can? (2) Shouldn't Damien be off chatting with the Burmese (or Brazilian) python? (As well as thanking the huge, mysterious black dog for watching over him, and trying to hide his distinctive head scar under his thick hair?).

12. So are they now going to re-make Damien: Omen II and The Final Conflict as well? The final scene of O-06 [SPOILER ALERT] may have eliminated the need for the second movie in the trilogy. The problem is, The Final Conflict just wasn't credible. I can suspend disbelief enough to allow magic daggers and jackal surrogate mothers; but the idea that a man can get to the White House despite a long string of mysterious and unresolved deaths of those around him is too fantastic.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


UPDATE: Have you, like me, ever wondered what became of Vanilla Ice? Here's some clues...

* Appearing on some BritPop TV show ("Thooose jeans are pretty bahgggy... boot we all wont to knoo... whayre orr thoose parachoote trewsers?" "Ah burned em.")

* "In '94 I tried to kill myself by overdosing on heroin, cocaine, esctasy, and anything I could get my hands on. At one point, my friends were dumping buckets of cold water on me as I lay on my bathroom floor in convulsions. At that point I had over eighteen million dollars in the bank, and I still couldn't find happiness in being rich or famous..."

Serious s.....tuff, dude.

A million-dollar lawsuit against rapper Eminem was dismissed by a US judge who concluded her ruling with a rap verse. Sanitation engineer DeAngelo Bailey, who attended school with the star, alleged he was defamed as a bully in his song Brain Damage. In court, Judge Deborah Servitto rapped:

‘Mr Bailey complained his rep is trash, so he’s seeking compensation in the form of cash.

‘Bailey thinks he’s entitled to some monetary gain, because Eminem used his name in vain.

‘The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact, they’re an exaggeration of a childish act.

‘It is therefore this court’s ultimate position, that Eminem is entitled to summary disposition.’

While Mr Bailey is specifically named in the song, Eminem lawyer Peter Peacock told the court that previously he seemed to be ecstatic over his name being used in the CD and even told his friends about it. Judge Servitto, from Michigan, ruled the lyrics were covered by the ‘substantial truth doctrine’ or contained the distortion and hyperbole of satire. Both forms are protected by the US First Amendment.

- "Eminem ‘bully’ is rapped", This Is London (20 October 2003)

Next: Judge Leonie Brinkema tells Zacarias Moussaoui "Stop! collaborator, and listen ..."