It’s been a while *ahem* since I’ve posted anything here, but I note with pleasure the traffic stats showing that a significant number of people still read the site, normally having found it via search engine queries. So it stays. :)
However, with the increasing ubiquity of other forms of online discussion and the predictable habit of blog discussions turning into ideological pissing contests, I’ve reluctantly decided to both disable comments to and remove existing comments from this blog. It was a difficult decision, as there were some excellent discussions — both those with my worldview and those who oppose it — and you did contribute to what makes this blog’s content what it is today. (Despite the present cobwebs).
This decision was not made in a vacuum. There has been an increasing trend through what’s left of the traditional “blogosphere” (now hardly recognisable with sites like Google+, Tumblr, etc, becoming so popular and used as such) to disable comments. There are more effective ways to talk and doing so reduces the temptation to turn a given post into a YouTube-style verbal battleground.
If you want to chat, theres always Twitter: @Jumile
Finally remembered to check and fix all the images in all posts to date. I think I got them all, but please let me know if I missed any.
Next on the list is fixing the local/relative link references…
It’s been a while, so I updated the Podcasts & Vodcasts page.
Two years flies by, doesn’t it? I’m fast approaching the two year mark of when I moved this blog to a decent hosting provider in response to experiencing the Slashdot Effect from a picture I shared while hosting on a budget hosting provider. Unfortunately the “new customer” pricing is history, and they’re asking for 4 times the price I paid for a reduced service. Not going to happen.
Rather than shop around for a better deal elsewhere, I’ve decided to move the blog back to WordPress.com. The HurtlingThroughSpace.com domain will point to the new location but – as WordPress.com does not support Feedburner – all subscribers will need to resubscribe. Apologies for this, but it’s not my choice.
In addition, I expect some links and images will be broken throughout the blog. Please bear with me while I track them down and fix. If you find any I’ve missed, please let me know.
Update: It seems that Feedburner does now work with WordPress. You can resubscribe to the Feedburner feed for this site here:
Most of us are familiar with the scene in the fantastic 1999 film, The Matrix, where Cypher and Neo are chatting about their introduction to life outside the matrix via Morpheus’s offer of a choice between the red and blue pills. Cypher laments that he wished he’d taken the blue pill instead, making it clear he’d have preferred to be living a happy fantasy rather than risking everything by fighting against the machines.
One of the great things about Cypher’s character is that you can empathise with him. Nobody can blame him for wanting a simple, easy life — especially as he’s not The One. At that point in the film we all know that he’s just as likely to end up a smudge on the ground as make old bones.
I mention The Matrix because that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. And this is where I may lose you as a reader. Either way, so it goes…
Over the last few weeks I’ve been consuming the works of two prolific writers and speakers, both world experts in their fields: Noam Chomsky and the late Howard Zinn. Chomsky (now 82) is regarded by many as “the Einstein” of his field of linguistics and cognition at MIT, though outside the classroom he talks almost exclusively about political science. Zinn was regarded similarly in his field of history at Boston University.
I first encountered Chomsky in the early 2000s via his book Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies [Amazon|UK], a collection of essays and papers focussing mainly on Central American politics and history over the last 40 years. It’s an astounding book that left me truly stunned, wondering about the rest of the world if even half it it was true. He provides full references and consistently avoids a simple answer to, “If the mainstream media is wrong, biased, controlled or corrupt, then where should we turn to get reliable information?” His answer is typically a variation of Ben Goldacre‘s, “I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.” There is no single source, type or medium of reliable, unbiased or uncorrupt information. You need to look at the mainstream, the margins, including sources you may dislike, and analyse what’s going on for yourself.
Damn. I’m going to have to think for myself. And that’s the point.
Zinn is a fairly recent discovery for me, though most people know him via his groundbreaking A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present [Amazon|UK], where he included the viewpoints of non-Europeans in the discovery and conquest of North America. I’ve not yet read it, but I understand that it’s a polarising work, and your reaction to it will depend upon whether or not you’re prepared to revise your views on official history. Interestingly, the FBI kept a large file on him, most notably due to his influence on Martin Luther King, Vietnam anti-war campaigning and the McCarthyist hysteria of the time.
And this is where I think many of Chomsky’s and Zinn’s detractors come from: many seem to regard them as un-American or even traitors. Both authors present alternative versions of recorded history, removing the infantile notion of good (us) versus evil (them), and add insult to that injury by presenting other reasons why such things did or are happening in the first place. It’s not as simple as the official version; it’s not even as simple as the counter-accusations or popular conspiracy theories. It’s a complex mix of power, greed, acquisition, control, domination, influence and coercion, and furthering of interests.
The use of past and present tense is deliberate — these things are still happening. Consider the endless stream of major and minor wars in the 20th and present century, the provision of “foreign aid” weapons and training to brutal and sadistic regimes, the quiet growth of internal enforcement agencies into international intelligence agencies (as has just happened with the DEA), the dismantling of union-protected workplaces that made our workers cheaper than those in some developing countries, and national elections of leaders whose candidates can be differentiated only by their party’s logo. To name a few.
Neither Chomsky nor Zinn pretend to be 100% certain about everything they say. Both admit they may be wrong, and are open to evidence-based correction. Nor should you take it from me as fact, an amateur hack who spends his spare time consuming non-mainstream information, wondering about the world and sharing the occasional thought here whenever I’m not playing computer games or socialising with friends. Use, refine and practise your analytical skills and skepticism to examine what these men say, compare it against what you see, know and/or suspect, read the papers and articles to which they refer, and then judge for yourself.
There is no universal truth, and I’m not declaring that this is it — but it makes you think. However, if you’re unwilling to have your perception of world history and current events challenged, you may want to choose the blue pill…
Here are some of Noam Chomsky’s works that you might want to look at:
- An American Addiction [Amazon|UK]
- Case Studies In Hypocrisy [Amazon|UK]
- Class War: The Attack On Working People [Amazon|UK]
- The Clinton Vision: Old Wine, New Bottles [Amazon|UK]
- The Emerging Framework Of World Power [watch online]
- For A Free Humanity [Amazon|UK]
- Free Market Fantasies: Capitalism In The Real World [Amazon|UK]
- The Imperial Presidency [Amazon|UK]
- The New War On Terrorism: Fact And Fiction [Amazon|UK]
- Propaganda And The Public Mind [Amazon|UK]
- Prospects For Democracy [Amazon|UK]
Here are some of Howard Zinn’s works that you might want to look at:
- Artists In A Time Of War [Amazon|UK]
- Class And War In US Society [AK Press]
- Heroes & Martyrs [Amazon|UK]
- History And Democracy [free download]
- Howard Zinn On War [Amazon|UK]
- The Myth Of The Cold War [free download]
- Stories Hollywood Never Tells [Amazon|UK]
- War And Civil Disobedience [Amazon|UK]
- You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train [Book: Amazon|UK; DVD: Amazon|UK]
(I haven’t read or seen all of these yet). Both have released many more works, but I think that will keep you busy for some time.
If you’ve been reading this blog since about this time last year, you’ll know that one of my personal heroes is Tim Minchin and that I love his Christmas song, White Wine in the Sun. It is my favourite Christmas song, bar none.
This year it’s been freely given to an Australian Christmas compilation CD, with proceeds due to go to the Salvation Army. Whatever your opinion of the homophobic proselytising paramilitary religious organisation, they have stunned most observers by complaining publicly that the song does not meet with their ideals. Apparently they’ve chosen to put their proselytising above their charity work. It beggars belief, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview that Tim gave recently on the matter that I thought worth sharing:
Your song “White Wine in the Sun”, which includes lyrics critical of Christianity, caused controversy last week in Australia when it was used on an album of Christmas songs sold to raise money for the Salvation Army. What’s your take on the fuss?
I think the Salvos are idiots. I didn’t know they would benefit from the CD, but by the time I found out I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss. So I gave my song free, then they turn around and say that they don’t agree with the sentiment of the song. Obviously, they are talking about how I think Jesus is not magic. Part of me is hugely outraged by what imbeciles they are, to bite the hand that feeds them and put their proselytising above charity.
It’s a terrible paradox that most charities are driven by religious belief. I believe very strongly in giving only to secular charities, because I don’t think there should be a back end to altruism. I won’t make this mistake again. I tweeted that if people want to buy my version of the song independently, I’ll give the proceeds away, as I did last year, to the Autism Trust, a non-proselytising charity.
Christmas means much to billions of people who don’t believe in Jesus, and if you think that Christmas without Jesus is not Christmas, then you’re out of touch, and if you think altruism without Jesus is not altruism, then you’re a dick.
This is the version that will be on the CD, sung by Kate Miller-Heidke:
A beautiful version, isn’t it?
Here is the tweet that Tim talks about in the interview above. From 21-Nov to 1-Jan you can buy the song from iTunes for the princely sum of 79p (or equivalent) and proceeds will go to the National Autistic Society, following this recent update.
Many people are familiar with the ‘Twitter joke trial’ here in the UK, where a chap discovered that his nearby airport was closed due to snow, so was not going to be able to spend the weekend with his girlfriend, and sent the following humorously frustrated tweet in January this year:
Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!!
I knew it was a joke, he knew it was a joke, we all knew it was a joke, but someone at the airport decided not to see it as a joke after having searched social networks for references to themselves. Possibly in the same way that some celebrities, companies and cults trawl through Internet archives looking for people to sue.
Not only was he arrested on one charge and later convicted of something completely different (the “arrest him now and find something that’ll stick while he’s in custody” approach), he’s had his appeal overturned — despite the able assistance of David Allen Green (also known as @jackofkent), the lawyer who successfully assisted Simon Singh in his libel defence with the British Chiropractic Association.
In response to the appeal being overturned, many people who had been following the case’s progress used Twitter to show solidarity by re-tweeting his original tweet using the #IAmSpartacus hashtag (original reference). And as I write this post I can still see people re-tweeting it. Humanity can be fantastic, especially in the face of what many of us consider to be a travesty of justice.
Whatever your thoughts on the wisdom of the tweet ‘in this day and age’ (if ever there was an Appeal to Happy Days fallacy, that is one), the reaction of the airport management, or the subsequent arrest, conviction and appeal failure, Charlie Brooker has — I’m sure some of you will be shocked to discover — something to say about it:
The moment I’ve finished typing this, I’m going to walk out the door and set about strangling every single person on the planet. Starting with you, dear reader. I’m sorry, but it has to be done, for reasons that will become clear in a moment.
And for the sake of transparency, in case the powers-that-be are reading: this is categorically not a joke. I am 100% serious. Even though I don’t know who you are or where you live, I am going to strangle you, your family, your pets, your friends, your imaginary friends, and any lifelike human dummies with haunted stares and wipe-clean vinyl orifices you’ve got knocking around, perhaps in a secret compartment under the stairs. The only people who might escape my wrath are the staff and passengers at Nottingham’s Robin Hood airport, because they’ve been granted immunity by the state.
Read the rest of the article here: The words you read next will be your last