I thought this was a joke until I saw this; how anyone can be so full of malice is beyond me. A more vivid illustration of the statement that religion and morality are not one and the same is hard to imagine.
In reading this Wired article on the impact Bittorrent is having on network utilization and TV viewers' ability to timeshift, I am reminded of a post I made back in September in which I said the following:
in an age in which internet-based broadcasting is doing away with the old limitations on choice that were used to sell the notion of public TV, the common good would be far better served by abolishing public corporations like the BBC and ZDF, and making the prime spectrum they occupy freely available for open spectrum technologies like spread-spectrum and ultra-wideband. Old-style broadcasting based on slicing up spectrum as if it were necessarily a scarce resource is horribly inefficient, and must die for the same reason packet-switching is ringing the death knell of old-fashioned telephone services.
Expanding on the parental dilemma I noted earlier, it appears that a book's already been made which explores this issue, in an even more difficult form and it's called Sophie's Choice. As the book has it, a woman arrives at the Auschwitz concentration camp with her son and daughter, and is then forced by a sadistic guard to choose which one of the two will be allowed to live; should she fail to choose, both will die. Thankfully, this isn't the sort of problem most of us will ever have to face in the course of our lives, but it does pose an interesting conundrum: how does one go about making such a choice, and surely it's better to choose one child over another for whatever wrongheaded reason than not to choose at all, and condemn both to certain death?
Across the blogosphere, a lot of energy's been put into defending the claim that Social Security is fine as-is, but as this story makes clear, Social Security's defenders have failed to take one extremely important factor into account: the current revolution underway in medical and biological knowledge, and the high odds that it will lead to far greater and more rapid increases in lifespan than current estimates take into account.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 - When the federal government assesses the long-term financial problems of Social Security, it assumes that increases in life expectancy will be slow and measured. But many population experts say they believe that Americans' life expectancy will increase rapidly in the 21st century, making the program's financial problems even worse.
The sheer scope of the disaster that has been unfolding in South-East Asia is such as to make one numb to it all, but sometimes one comes across a story that puts the human cost in terms that are difficult to contemplate without even the hardest of hearts being moved.
A mother who was swept away by the tsunami knew she could not hold on to both of her young boys and had to decide which one to let go of.
"I knew that if I held on to both, we would all die," said Jillian Searle, from Perth, Western Australia. "I had to let go of one of them and I just thought I'd better let go of the one that's the oldest."
As her strength waned, and still clinging to her two-year-old son, Blake, she appealed to a woman nearby to grab hold of five-year-old Lachie. Although the other woman tried to hold on, she was forced to let go and the boy slipped from her grasp in the water.
"I pleaded with a woman to take hold of Lachie," Mrs Searle said. "When we saw her later she said, 'I'm really sorry, I had to let go of him'."
Mrs Searle knew that Lachie could not swim and was afraid of water. But she knew that the wave was too powerful for her to try to hold on to both.
This is the sort of choice every parent must dread making: who wants to play favorites between one's own children? How can a parent bear to make the pronouncement that one child is more valuable than another and deserves to be spared? From the child's point of view such a choice must be even more damaging: it can't be an easy thing to go through life knowing that when push comes to shove, your parents would be happier with you dead and your sibling alive than vice versa. All sorts of ugly moral questions are raised by such decision making, and yet this catastrophe forced one mother to make it. Fortunately, in this case, it all ended up for the best:
Lachie had managed to stay alive by holding on to a door handle, his head just above the water.
"He told us that he was dog paddling as fast as he could because that's all he knew," Mr Searle said.
"When he let go of the handle the water had become shallower and he was able to get out."
Lachie was then rescued by a security guard.
Yet, despite this good fortune, and despite how lightly this family got off by comparison to the more than 125,000 people who are believed to have perished, I cannot help but imagine that there will be grave consequences in terms of how the members of this family relate to each other down the road. Will this boy go through life perpetually thinking himself second choice with his mother?
In lighter news, Oliver Stone comes up with some interesting but less-than-convincing excuses to explain away the failure of his "Alexander the Great."
The Hollywood film director Oliver Stone said yesterday that the flop in America of his �83 million production about Alexander the Great was 'dismaying', confessing that more people watched it on the opening weekend in Croatia 'than in the entire' Deep South.
Mr Stone said: "I still think it's a beautiful movie, but Alexander deserves better than I gave him. There was clear resistance to his homosexuality. It became the headline to the movie.
"They called him Alexander the gay. That's horribly discriminatory, but the film simply didn't open in the Bible Belt."
He said that he should have cut it from three hours to two-and-a-half "and taken out the homosexuality for the US market and for countries sensitive to such things, like Korea or Greece".
I think this is a bit of a stretch. Do we really need to blame the Bible belt for the failure of a movie that drew in less than overwhelming crowds on both coasts? Perhaps Mr. Stone just made, you know, a bad movie?
Critics have ripped it to pieces. One wrote: "Easily the most fantastic self-destruction I have witnessed in years, Alexander is sordid evidence of what happens when Hollywood producers, burned-out directors and unenthused stars stand in a circle and set fire to $150 million. The real Alexander isn't just rolling in his grave, he's clawing his decayed eyes out."
Mr Stone said it was "always" an uphill battle with the critics. He was hoping for "a breakthrough" after being off the screen for five years. "But I was surprised by the hardness of the reviews."
Well of course he was surprised. No one sets out thinking "I'm going to make the worst movie since Ishtar", and as the saying goes, every child is attractive in the eyes of its own parents - which doesn't mean the rest of us have to agree with the judgment.
A vile libel is being perpetuated against my person by the usual suspects, and as I've been denied the right of response on the forum on which it was made, it seems I have no option left to me but to contemplate legal action, and fortunately I am currently domiciled in a country where defendants have to actually do the work of establishing that their assertions are true. It will be interesting to see established in court of law in precisely what sense I can be likened to Walter Duranty.
If "Scott M" and "godlesscapitalist" don't have the decency to retract their claims and apologize on the very blog on which they slurred my name, they can both expect to be served with a summons in the near future, and Mr. "godlesscapitalist" will find out in short order that the veil of anonymity he's hiding behind is surprisingly piercable.
PS: I've now served them notice both by email and by posting in the comments section (which notice was quickly deleted), but they seem to entertain the delusion that this is all a big joke. We'll see who's laughing soon enough ...
PPS: Some instructive comments on here for those who think being domiciled in one country grants them immunity from legal action in another. Freedom of speech cannot mean freedom to tell lies about other people.
There's an interesting discussion going on at Catallaxy right now about the rationale behind the pricing of movie tickets.
Unlike almost any other good or service with sub-markets, they do not discount slow-moving stock. Your typical badly scripted, directed and acted Australian film costs the same amount to see as something that both David and Margaret gave five stars. Cinemas reduce supply, but shifting duds to smaller cinemas in the multiplex and by shortening runs, but keep prices the same, even though, like airlines, if there are empty seats when the service starts the potential earnings are lost forever.
Nor is there much obvious connection between the cost of supply and the price charged; a $100 million Hollywood special effects extravaganza has the same ticket price as something made for $1 million with a hand-held camera. Again, it seems to be supply and not price that they hope will vary, with the costs of big budget films to be spread over many more paying customers.
Curious, isn't it? Everything said in these two paragraphs also applies in the UK and (at the very least) the northeastern United States, so this is no mere Australian peculiarity. I don't have time to think too deeply about the issue right now but it's certainly worth revisiting later on.
"God, I'm hot from that tea. Woo. All the sudden, I'm like, woo, warm! That actually happens to me if I have a hot drink? Yeah, yeah."
"Great Danes are just, like, so great, aren't they? They're just, like, big dogs! I know! Yeah, yeah, Great Danes are great. Oh, my God, they just so are."
Et cetera, et cetera. Then again, we don't pay our sweet young things to be erudite, do we? "Don't you worry your pretty little head, dear ..."
PS: For the record, I don't think she's just playing up to an image of what's expected of her. Rare is the attractive celebrity with much going on between his or her ears, at least in my experience. She does have good taste in surgeons, though.
Here's an old but good post by John McWhorter on a vexing subject: why is it that some languages become much less inflected with the passage of time (e.g. English) than others (e.g. German)? A moment's thought should make clear that it cannot be universally true that all languages monotonically become less inflected as time goes by, as that would imply that whatever tongues were spoken 50,000 years ago would have required truly superhuman powers to acquire.