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Nothing else will happen this week, and nothing at all for several weeks round next June

In the same way that I didn’t care about two people I’d never met and and am not likely to meet getting married and was really quite sick of hearing about it by the time it actually happened, I don’t care that they’re now expectant parents. I’m not being curmudgeonly here. I’m delighted when people I know break the happy news that they’re having a baby, but I manage the disappointment of not hearing about it from the >99.9999% of the world I’ve never met and am overcome with indifference when it’s a sleb. What I said of the weddingathon is just as applicable now:

Despite my long standing republicanish tendencies I don’t harbour any ill will towards William and Kate. Okay, it does annoy me slightly that unless Australia ditches the monarchy he’ll be ‘my’ king one day, but that’s not his fault. The poor bugger never asked for the job and for all any of us know may turn it down when the time comes. So no, I have nothing against them, but I don’t know them and they don’t know me and it’s vanishingly unlikely that that will ever change, which means I have nothing but indifference towards them either. Sorry if this isn’t entering the flag-waving spirit that seems expected of everybody British born, but I’m just not prepared to jump on the bandwagon and sit here pretending that it’s in any way meaningful to me.

And there’s no reason anyone else should apart from the fact that millions are adherents of the cult of celebrity, of which the British Royal family is very much a part. Somewhere in Vietnam there’s probably a Mr and Mrs Nguyen who are also expecting their first child, and the indifference of rest of the world is such that not only does it not care, it doesn’t even know whether or not Mr and Mrs Nguyen exist. Worse, parts of it are probably only dimly aware of the country they live in because some good movies have been made about a bad war there.

Putting it another way, have a look at this screencap of a Google image search.

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 11.14.00

Do you personally know any of the people in the images? Do you feel the need to express joyous feelings towards the ones you don’t know? Obviously you hope people’s pregnancies go well because you’re a weapons grade shit if you sit there wishing all the various horrible pregnancy complications on someone, but do you feel like e-mailing photo libraries asking for your congratulations to be passed along to any of the couples in the images? No? No inclination at all? So why will millions be mailing St James’ Palace?

This is something that happens to most people sooner or later and I don’t get why I should be expected to express happiness, or any emotion at all, for Wills and Kate when nobody thinks I should for any of the other 7 billion people who aren’t in my own social circle. I do get that it’s welcomed by some who can expect to get away with releasing bad news while most of the world and media are distracted for several months, and I do get that it’s welcomed by the media themselves who can milk it thoroughly for cheap news of poor Kate’s latest bout of morning sickness.

But I don’t get why it’s of more than academic interest to the rest of us and why any couple expecting a child should also expect to have to release images of the fucking sonograms to the press. Or for that matter break the news much earlier than planned because a hospital admission would only lead to press speculation otherwise.

So now we all know, okay? Any chance we can leave it there and just have the one day of multi-page coverage when the royal sprog/s is/are dropped? I ask in hope, but no real expectation, of not seeing the news filled with speculation of the baby’s name, sex, weight and eventual height and fashion preferences for the next several months.

“I’m not a monster anymore…”

… says convicted serial killer Paul Steven Haigh, representing himself in his appeal to have a minimum prison term applied to his sentence, sorry his life sentence, make that his six life sentences so he can have a chance of parole.

Over a period of nearly two hours on Monday, Haigh read a series of essays to the court about topics such as remorse, callousness and sympathy.

He described his six murders as “horrendous”, “abominable” and “repulsive”.

“What I am today [is] a far cry from the monster of yesteryear,” he told the court on Monday.

Haigh said he was not incorrigible and should not be denied his freedom.

I’m not one for writing off and denying even the hope of eventual freedom to even the worst criminals. I’m not saying let ’em out – not denying awful criminals the hope of eventual release is not the same as actually releasing them. They should still have to earn their release and satisfy everyone that they’re not a danger. That many have apparently pulled wool over the eyes of those who make the decisions doesn’t say the principle’s wrong, just that it’s not always being done all that well.

So it’s not for me to say whether Haigh is or isn’t incorrigible and should have a chance of (as opposed to a guarantee of) freedom one day, but is it for him either? I realise this is a bit Catch 22 but I’ve always felt that someone who really is completely overcome with remorse for their crimes would accept that their punishment by incarceration is appropriate. On the plus side he hasn’t killed anyone since he’s been inside… apart from just that one guy:

Haigh, who has spent more than 30 years in prison, was also convicted of killing sex offender Donald George Hatherley, whom he helped hang in a jail cell at Pentridge Prison in 1991.

He told the court on Monday he was assisting Hatherley to commit suicide.

And of course that’s also illegal anyway. Still, he hasn’t killed anyone for more than 20 years, which is nice. So should he have a minimum term and therefore a chance of parole? Like I said, I don’t have the answer but I think dim prospects of release are fairer than all hope removed. However, I think he probably should spend some more time in the prison library. In the biology section.

He told a story about a butterfly becoming a caterpillar and said: “Though I don’t claim to be a perfect butterfly yet, I am not a caterpillar either.”

A butterfly becoming a caterpillar would be an example of regression, surely? Though to be fair there are enough examples of journos fucking up the basics of the animal kingdom that he mightn’t be guilty of that at all.

One for the Ambush Predator’s zoo

I’ve noted before that with the move online newspapers have found they have far more space than they used to, and on slower news days seem to have often given in to the temptation to fill up some of that vast space with, well, shit. To be fair they always did this with the dead tree editions before there was an internet and they’ll probably continue for as long as the cult of Sleb exists no matter what the medium. No major crimes, wars, political stupidity and/or ill advised affairs? No problem, just write half a page of repeated gossip about some soap actress and follow it up with a page and a half of speculation.

But with the move to the digital media newspapers came up with a brand new form of crap padding: images. Almost every article, no matter how mundane, must be accompanied by a picture. David Cameron made a speech? Quick, get me a photo of David Cameron in case everyone’s forgotten what the fucker looks like. And make sure it’s a picture of him talking in case the readership has forgotten what making a speech is as well. Shooting incident? Get me a picture of a gun right now, even if it’s the wrong gun. Yes, even if it’s not the right kind of gun. Warble gloaming and claims about the hottest decade on record? Get me an image about something hot… yeah, of course a stock photo of a hot girl will do just fine. I’ll be in the gents for ten minutes if anyone’s looking for me.

But where they often smash through the bottom of the barrel is with filler in the form of a pointless picture gallery, such as this one about a train crash yesterday south of Melbourne. Why? What extra information does The Age think we’ll get from 16 photos of train wreckage that we can’t already glean from one of the initial articles plus follow ups and video? Worst of all is when the gallery exists solely because of some minor entertainment story or for no apparent reason at all, because that’s when they seem to give the job to work experience kids, bored couriers waiting for someone to sign for a delivery and, perhaps in the spirit of Douglas Adams’ Megadodo Publications, random people who wandered into the building by mistake and haven’t found their way back out yet.

Why the fuck I even click on these sometimes is beyond me – I’m sure someone will say it’s an addiction, which may be the topic of an upcoming blog – but from time to time I do. And just now I spotted one that belongs in JuliaM’s collection of wolverines labelled as bears, deer standing in for moose, jaguarundis with ambitions of being jaguars, and infinitely interchangeable buffalo and bison. The gallery is about celebrities who look like animals, and in it Liza Minelli is somewhat unkindly compared with an emu.

Personally I don’t see much emu-ness about her in that picture but these things are necessarily subjective. The thing is I don’t see much emu-ness about the picture on the right either, and that might be because I’m pretty sure that it’s a fucking ostrich.

The neck of the Emu is pale blue and shows through its sparse feathers. They have brown to grey-brown plumage of shaggy appearance; the shafts and the tips of the feathers are black.

Wikipedia

This would be bad enough if it was The Teletubbygraph and its dyslexic approach to zoology again, but in this instance it’s an Australian website stuffing up the identity of a bird that doesn’t exist anywhere apart from Australia, the coat of arms of Australia and, until he died, under the fake arm of an Australian entertainer. So for people everywhere chained to desks without food until they’ve made a pointless photo gallery for the online edition of some newspaper here’s a very easy way to tell the difference: ostriches are the ones with the teeth.

This is an ostrich

You’re welcome.

And in other news…

Nice to see that the media are all over the hugely important issue of Tom Thumb, er Cruise being divorced by Katie Thingy… not Perry, the other one… Holmes! Yes, that’s it, now where was I? Oh yes, being divorced by Katie Holmes and wanting sole custody of the kid (unless it’s kids). The state of the marriages of all actors should be a matter of huge concern to absolutely everyone and far more important than such trivialities as, say, some uncontrollable wildfires in Colorado that have destroyed hundreds of homes, caused millions of dollars of property damage and appear to have resulted in at least one death. In fact this prioritisation of the coverage of news events is such that I have just one question for the media and everyone in it:

 

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

 

 

A little bit of politics?

This is CCTV footage of a man with a fire extinguisher putting out the eternal flame at Melbourne’s Shine of Remembrance at 8:20 yesterday morning, and is being reported by both press and broadcast media as vandalism.

A man who snuffed out the Eternal Flame at the Shrine of Remembrance could face additional penalties under laws designed to give the war memorial special protection from vandals.

And…

A HEARTLESS vandal used a fire extinguisher to put out the Eternal Flame at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne yesterday morning.

Police have released CCTV footage of the man and want the public to help track him down.

That second quote there is The Herald Sun being so keen to help catch the guy that they put the rest of the article, including the man’s description, behind the paywall.

/facepalm

For what it’s worth he’s apparently Caucasian, early 40s, slim build, about 170cm tall (or near enough 5’7″ in old money), and wearing a dark jumper, and I would say that he’s also a prick for doing that. But I can’t help feeling that if he’s caught this is going to turn out to be something a bit more complex than simple vandalism. Take another look at the guy: does he look like a vandal? Is he acting like a vandal? And was what he did a wanton act of property destruction that’s typical of vandals?

To my mind it’s no to all three – he looks like a guy on his way to work, which at that time on a weekday he may well have been, and he behaves like someone who’s thought the act out in advance and gone out with the intention of putting the flame out, nothing more and nothing less. It’s vanishingly unlikely that he just happened to find a full fire extinguisher lying around in the street and decided to use it on the flame, and if he had and had also been your stock vandal you’d have expected the extinguisher to have ended up being hurled at something breakable. Nor does his dress or age seem like that of someone committing a random act of vandalism. Instead it seems more likely that he’s decided to put the flame out for some reason, gone and bought an extinguisher in advance – one that’s large enough to do the job but small enough to go in a bag – for that specific purpose, and then quite cooly gone about doing just that. It’s also something that will cause outrage but not any permanent damage. Didn’t leave the extinguisher behind either, I notice.

This may legally be vandalism but I suspect the motivation for it is something a bit different, and wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be some kind of fucked up anti-war or anti-capitalism protest. And I say fucked up not just because I wouldn’t agree with it as a form of protest but because people who do something designed to provoke outrage from the general public in order to draw attention to whatever cause they’re into normally do so with the expectation, if not the intention, of arrest. The Femen protestors in the Ukraine who keep showing up at public events and getting their tits out, that muppet who swam in the Thames while the university boat race was on, people who chain themselves to things, they all do it with the aim of getting lots of attention and accept the risk of arrest as a fair price for it. What they don’t do is calmly flash boobs in a random direction when nobody’s around or swim in rivers on a completely unimportant day, and then equally calmly leave the scene. I just can’t help feeling that this guy was getting something personal off his chest, and I’d be astonished if all of this hasn’t already occurred to Victoria Police’s investigators.

He may be a dickhead for what he’s done but he seems unlikely to be your typical vandal, and I’d have thought it’s at least possible that that difference might lead police to him. So why is the media happy simply to paint him as a common or garden vandal and run off some fairly brief copy about it, some of which is behind paywalls anyway?

I know the Americans take their religion seriously these days, but…

… using live canon to sink a ship? Does this involve pelting it with King James Bibles until the sheer weight, or perhaps mass is a better term, gives it a permanent baptismal? Or is it that semi-literitis has struck The Teletubbygraph yet again?

The climate supergrass

No, not the Climategate 2.0 email release lat last year. Not the Himalayan glaciers, which even the Grauniad concedes are pretty much the same now as they were a decade ago (it’s still “a concern”, natch – it’ll always be a concern as long as someone’s being paid to be concerned about it). Not even the German environmentalist turned sceptic, Fritz Vahrenholt, who’s written a book describing how he’s stopped believing in warble gloaming and now think’s it guff (H/T WUWT).

In fact the climate supergrass isn’t that kind of grass at all. It’s a grassy type grass, but we’re told it’s super at longevity and is probably the oldest living thing on the planet.

Australian scientists sequenced the DNA of samples of the giant seagrass, Posidonia oceanic, from 40 underwater meadows in an area spanning more than 2,000 miles, from Spain to Cyprus.
The analysis, published in the journal PLos ONE, found the seagrass was between 12,000 and 200,000 years old and was most likely to be at least 100,000 years old. This is far older than the current known oldest species, a Tasmanian plant that is believed to be 43,000 years old.

Not this one *

Prof Carlos Duarte, from the University of Western Australia, said the seagrass has been able to reach such old age because it can reproduce asexually and generate clones of itself. Organisms that can only reproduce sexually are inevitably lost at each generation, he added.

In other words it’s not a 100,000 year old individual plant at all. It’s just been producing clones for that long. Never mind, that’s not the interesting bit anyway.

But Prof Duarte said that while the seagrass is one of the world’s most resilient organisms, it has begun to decline due to coastal development and global warming.
“If climate change continues, the outlook for this species is very bad,” he said.”The seagrass in the Mediterranean is already in clear decline due to shoreline construction and declining water quality and this decline has been exacerbated by climate change. As the water warms, the organisms move slowly to higher altitudes. The Mediterranean is locked to the north by the European continent.
“They cannot move. The outlook is very bad.”

If climate change continues? If? Carlos, climate change has been continuing throughout the whole time this grass has been around (and much longer) and yet it’s still here. I mean, here’s what Posidonia’s been putting up with in the last twelve thousand years, the lower end of the estimates of its age.

From joannenova.com.au - click for linky

And here, covering the time from the best estimate of 100,000 years to the upper limit of 200,000, is a temperature reconstruction for the last four thousand or so centuries. The horizontal dashed line show contemporary temperatures.

Vostok ice core temperature reconstruction via climate4you.com - click for linky

In other words it’s been putting up with worse than we can throw at it, assuming that we are in fact throwing anything at anything climate wise, for far far longer – possibly for about as long as our species has even existed. And not only has it survived but we’re given the impression for the talk of how resilient it is that it’s done really well up ’til now. But despite coping with temperatures a couple of degrees warmer at least once and possibly more in its history, and also despite the barely whispered admission that there’s been bugger all warming for fifteen years, we’re supposed to believe that Posidonia is suddenly in a lot of trouble?

Yeah, riiiiight. Look, if they’d just stuck at the bit about coastal development I’d buy it, but these days it seems impossible to resist working in the spectre of warble gloaming. Without really believing it I’ve made cynical remarks that if you don’t mention warble gloaming at least once in your paper you lose funding and struggle to get any more published, but when it crops up like this, when we’re told a species that’s survived greater extremes is under threat because it’s getting too warm or because of the even vaguer and non-specific threat of climate change – something that predates human industry by almost the entire history of the planet – you have to wonder if it really is that important to name drop it.

Not that it’s fooling people as well as it once did. From the comments at the Tele it seems people are starting to look out for this kind of thing.

Snakey_Pete
22 hours ago
What a load of bull-poo. Is it possible to get any funding at all without it being linked to AGW extremism? This thing has been around for hundreds of thousands of years; it’s going to be pretty immune from variations in climate, whatever the cause.

Almost as an afterthought coastal development and water quality is mentioned, but we don’t want to dwell on that. No point in tackling those issues until after we have learned how to control the climate.

alangsmith
1 day ago
Yet another ‘climate expert’ trying to get us to believe in the dreaded ‘climate change’. This plant, if it is 200,000 years old, has been around long enough to see off much more extreme changes in climate than have occurred of late. As my grandfather would say ‘pull the other one’!

erikbloodaxe
1 day ago
The thing’s lived through a 100,000 year full-blown ice age for Chrissakes! Also, the Holocene maximum and other periods warmer than now. You don’t get to 200,000 without being adaptable.

Dale Long
2 days ago
I am amazed that scientists are so accurate in determining the age of seagrass by narrowing it down to a 188,OOO year window and then claiming that “climate change” is killing it off. Shoot! We don’t even know how old Nancy Pelosi is. And yet, global warming hasn’t melted her face! God must be laughing at the inanity of our so-called intelligence.

Predictably enough they’re met with shouts of ‘denialist’, a word that isn’t even in the bloody dictionary, from the Telegraph comments sections’ relatively recently acquired horde of reliable lefties and believers, though I didn’t notice any of them actually tackle the point that this grass has seen bigger changes in the past.

Funny that.

PS – one other comment bears repeating because it takes up another point with the article, or more likely The Telegraph’s reporting.

dalekdave
1 day ago
“As the water warms, the organisms move slowly
to higher altitudes”

Latitudes surely?

For the Tele these days that’s actually not all that bad, though less important than failing to ask about the changes Posidonia has already lived through.

* For those outside Oz, that’s Tasmanian Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Green Party. He is most definitely not 43,000 years old. Oh, or a plant.

Partisan press

It’s now been a day and a half or so since Chris Huhne resigned, and what’s been the reaction of the low carbon, eco-friendly, windmill loving, Dirt Hour co-founding Fairfax press down here? Well, see for yourself.

That’s right, not a thing. No mention in The Age since last November and similar results in sister papers WA Today and Brisbane Times. Oddly the other big Faifax daily, The Sydney Morning Herald, does have it, though they’ve just used Bloomberg’s report. Meanwhile The Australian thinks it’s a worthy enough story to write their own article but being one of Rupert’s you have to pay to read past the second paragraph.

Make of that what you will. Maybe it’s just distance and that they know the British media don’t give much coverage of resignations here below Prime Ministerial level (unless there’s a semi-riot outside a Canberra restaurant which led to it). Or maybe it’s that resignations are rare despite the federal government often producing two or three good reasons for an Australian minister to fall on their sword in less time than it takes a British one to get home from the airport.

iPads are for pussies

Both my readers (hi, Mum) will probably be aware that I’m a bit schiz when it comes to Apple. I’ve been using Macs for years and will always tell the technophobes who are constantly asking me, an infrequent Windows user, how to do something on their PC – usually fix it – that half their problems would go away if they moved to OS X. “Oh, but I’m comfortable with Windows, I don’t want to have to learn how to use OS X” is the usual reply, which is fine except for two things: firstly, they clearly haven’t learned how to use bloody Windows if they keep ringing me up and asking me why their computer’s stopped doing something it should and whether I think it’ll work again if they de-frigg the hard drive (the honest answers being “How the hell should I know” and “Unlikely, but why didn’t you just try that before calling”); secondly, the learning curve to use OS X to the same standard as they can use Windows is a hell of a lot shorter than the one they coped with when learning Windows, not least because they’re familiar with such things as desktop icons, folders, contextual menus, aliases (i.e. which is Apple for shortcut) and what a mouse is just from using Windows.

But that doesn’t mean I’m an advocate for Apple themselves. I like the products – actually just some of the products, but I’m getting to that – but I can still despise the company. I think they’ve swallowed their own hype that “Macs just work” to the extent of being unable to accept that even Apple’s quality control will let the odd dud through, they’ve refused to honour warranties because their computers hate passive smoking too (I really wish I was making that up), and they seem to have an almost constant copyright/trademark war over every teensiest thing, especially if it begins with a lower case i, and with almost everyone (an Aussie supermarket with a logo that’s kind of like apple peel – really, Apple). This leaves me with a foot in both camps, that of the Apple haters and that of the Mac fanbois. I’m just glad they’re not separated by a picket fence or I’d be very uncomfortable even on tiptoe. As it is I’m quite comfortable telling anyone who’s a casual user and less than keen on doing the computer version of oil and filter changes and setting the plug gaps that they’d probably have less aggro if their main desktop computer was a Mac, but also that they should hand over their money through gritted teeth because I think that the Apple themselves are a bunch of bastards.

And I’m probably less of a fanboi because of the Apple products I don’t like. I’ve said for years that Apple are unable to make a decent mouse with a gun at their heads, and though that’s less true these days it’s a fact that the mouse that came with my current Mac, the machine I’m using right now, has never been out of the box because I’d had one before and thought it was shit (to be fair the $75 Logitech mouse I was using and loved died last week, and they don’t bloody make it anymore). Nor am I enamoured with their mobile devices, partly because my own row with them was over a MacBook Pro, partly because I’m becoming sufficiently middle aged and farty to be content with a mobile phone that makes phone calls, and partly because despite my inner gadget head wanting one I still can’t work out what I’d actually use an iPad for. Plus I’ll always think of this when the name’s mentioned.

Above all I can’t work out why the hell I’m supposed to drop between nearly A$600 (for the very basic one with no 3G and little storage) and nearly a grand for the top end on something that’s less of a computer than a $300 netbook. Okay, because I don’t have children obviously I’m not able to appreciate its <sarc>obvious function of being a toy for toddlers</sarc>, but I do have pets and they’re about as bright as a mildly retarded toddler. And if you think I’m buying them an iPad then you are simply fucking insane.

Oh, God, no.

If you thought you’d seen everything as far as iPad applications go, you haven’t seen the RSPCA’s cat app.
Designed for techno-cats who already have everything, it features games for felines who would have enjoyed playing with a ball of yarn in the days before computers.

Are you serious? Look, I love cats and in particular I love my cats (who didn’t wake me up at 6.30, unlike another quadrupedal member of the household), but I’m realistic about things. I can tell you with certainty that “felines who would have enjoyed playing with a ball of yarn in the days before computers” would still enjoy playing with a ball of yarn today, and they will tomorrow as well. As will all cats for, at a conservative estimate, the next few million years. Many long term cat keepers (the old joke is that dogs have owners and cats have staff) will tell you that they’re capable of real affection and even very limited two way communication once you’ve learned to “speak” cat. But most of us will admit that they can’t even grasp the concept of a mirror, much less a computer, so to talk about cats who would have enjoyed playing with a ball of yarn before the computer came along is anthropomorphising a bit much.

There is even a virtual ball of yarn…

/facepalm

… not to mention a game where puss has to protect cheese from invading mice.

This is… oh, let’s just have a look at it, shall we?

So basically, the aim of this game is for the cats to protect the cheese…

You sure? You checked with the cats? Because I suspect that as far as they’re concerned the aim is to make the funny flat prey things die.

Little Simmy here’s just 8 weeks old, but she’s obviously the cleverest. It only took her less than a minute to work out if she’s double taps the app it’ll go to the main menu.

She’s done no such thing. Cats move quickly – ever heard the expression ‘cat-like reflexes’? – and both fight and catch small prey by rapid batting with their front paws. Little Simmy’s not double tapping shit, she’s still just trying to make the funny flat prey thing die.

I hope.

You DO know there's more than one kind of double-tap, right?

Moggies can also pit themselves against other cats to work out which one is smartest.

No they can’t. Look, they’re no more able to conceptualise who or what is smart than they are computers. Unless you’ve taught them elementary maths all this guff with the high scores is little more than a random number generator. This isn’t for the cats – like the whole thing, it’s really for the owners staff.

Okay, I know, I’m being a bit unfair. I do realise that nobody’s suggesting that you buy an iPad just for the cats, though I’m sure someone with more money than sense will, and I did see that the app is free. Clearly it’s aimed at cat staff who are also already iPad owners and who work for cats who spend most or all their time indoors,  which isn’t unheard of in a country where there’s a genuine feral cat problem and, as a result, places where there are cat curfews and even bylaws restricting cats to the property. But Jeez, we talk wistfully about the long(ish) gone days where we made our own entertainment and then stick several hundred bucks’ worth of electronics in front of an animal that by nature is predisposed to entertaining itself. Cats, even house cats, will be as happy with some relatively inexpensive toys from the pet store and even cheaper ones like scrunched up envelopes and Post-Its as they will with a computer game. Most of all they’ll be happy with another cat around for when they want furry company and enough room to bugger off and be alone when they don’t, a sunny spot or two to sprawl in on nice days and a selection of warm spots when it’s shitty outside. That’s pretty much the list of priorities and I don’t think they’d be a lot different even if cats were brighter than they are.

If they were the smartest species on the planet I reckon they’d have invented central heating before the wheel and have email that’d let you know what the other cat’s arse smelled like when they clicked send, but maybe they’d also appreciate the effort that’s gone into an app like this. Maybe even little 8 week old Simmy would double tap it for the menu. As things are… nah, ours will be happy with being fed, petted and looked after plus a selection of $5 toys, bits of scrap paper and all the bogong moths they can catch. And I’d bet the same could be said for cats in general.

Random Failygraph

I’ve mentioned before that since being online a lot of newspapers fill their virtual pages with crap that they would only ever put in the print versions on the very slowest of slow news days. Galleries are probably the best example of this trend, and often appear for almost no discernible reason. The only apparent reason for the Teletubbygraph bothering with this one of top movie FBI agents is that there’s a new film about about J. Edgar Hoover. And because knocking these lists and galleries together is a job handed out to work experience folk and people who just happen to be walking past the building, or so I’m beginning to believe, fact checking isn’t always all it should be. And so we have…

Except in the film Costner’s Elliot Ness refers to himself as a “Treasury Agent” and the real life Ness was an agent for the Bureau of Prohibition, which did indeed come under the Treasury during most of its existence. The FBI didn’t even exist under that name until two years after Prohibition ended and four years after the conviction of Al Capone in 1931, pretty much the last event of the Costner movie version (and which the real Ness didn’t actually have a great deal to do with). While the Bureau of Prohibition was moved from the Treasury to the Justice Department in the period in which the movie was set it did not become part of the Bureau of Investigation, the FBI’s name prior to 1935, until a couple of years later in 1933 (when it became known as the Alcohol Beverage Unit), and in any case it was less than a year before Prohibition ended and it was returned to the Treasury where it became a forerunner to today’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

In short, the movie Ness wasn’t an FBI agent, never described himself as an FBI agent and was never referred to as an FBI agent, and nor would the real Ness have called himself an FBI agent as nobody at all in the period would have been called one simply because no agency existed with that name. All of which could be checked on various websites in fifteen minutes or so and on Wikipedia alone in less than half that time. Unless of course you’re doing a photo list for the website of something that still likes to consider itself a serious broadsheet newspaper for no better reason than there’s a new film out about Hoover.

Best I can say is that it could have been worse.

Image of Jesus seen in picture of Jesus

Well, it’s about the last place the faithful no, gullible and/or desperate for their 15 minutes have actually looked for an image of their lord and saviour, various of them having claimed to have seen him in clouds, random bits of wood, chocolate bars and even ruined cookware.*

Toby Elles, 22, made the discovery after burning the food when he fell asleep while cooking.
After lifting off the scorched bacon Mr Elles, from Salford, Lancs, could not believe his eyes when the Christlike image stared back at him.
The face is complete with eyes, nose, a beard and is framed by long flowing hair.

Well, let’s have a look then.

Okay, I’ll grant you that it looks kind of like a bearded man, but does that mean it’s Jesus and not some randomised scraps of carbonised bacon fat? Not only does it seem unlikely that Jesus, who was Jewish if I recall, would choose to re-appear in bacon fat [and personally] I think it looks like John Lennon without his glasses.

However, let’s for a moment assume that this is a benchmark for what the Son of Man looks like, and of course ignore the fact that what Yeshua of Nazareth actually looked like probably wasn’t the medieval bearded guy from church windows or the BeeGee lookalike from more contemporary Christian art but a regular 1st century Palestinian male. So, if that’s an image of Jesus who’s this guy in the sock?

Sarah Crane, 38, said she was stunned when she saw a bearded man staring back at her from the laundry line.
Her boyfriend agreed the crumpled grey “holy sock” bore an uncanny likeness to the traditional image of Christ, and the couple took photographs to show their friends.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. I’m going to regret this, but let’s have a look anyway.

Really? Look, firstly that doesn’t even look like a bearded man. I can see a face-like pattern, though that’s perfectly natural and happens to people all the time, but to begin with I thought it look more like a robot than a human face before finally deciding that actually it reminded me a bit of Eddie from Iron Maiden album cover art.

Of course we’re talking about the classic 1980s Eddie

And secondly, even if it did look like a bearded man it doesn’t look like the bearded man in the frying pan who, it’s suggested, is not John Lennon but our Redeemer, though unfortunately neither of them look a lot like I’d expect an ancient Palestinian to look and nor do they look like Jesus of Marmite Jar or Jesus of Cheap Interior Door.** And of course there’s a reason for that: not everyone with a bloody beard is Jesus. I mean look up there at Eddie… see it? Beard. And Eddie the Head isn’t even slightly saintly, much less Christ like. I shouldn’t need to spell this out but beard ≠ Jesus.

Plus, and I realise this is obvious to both my readers, these things are not Jesus but are the leftovers of a couple of ruined slices of cured pig meat, a cheap sock, a few cents of plastic with some random blobs of yeast extract, and a fucking door. In fact the only three things that links these and any other example of the Jesus-appears-in-random-everyday-object phenomenon is their different looking Jesuses, their essential non-Jesusness that follows from the inability to agree on what Jesus looked like, and their being obsessed over by nutters. And by nutters I don’t mean religious believers, though no doubt some are, but dedicated non thinkers who’d rather believe that they’ve been blessed by an entity whose existence is unproved, and if you ask me pretty doubtful, than that human beings are so naturally predisposed to recognising patterns that they see them in things that are random and patternless.

I mean, what’s the alternative? Yes, the bloke who burned his bacon might like to think how miraculous it was he didn’t die in the fire, but other people do die in fires all the time. Are we to believe that the Good Lord saves those who nod off while making bacon sarnies but not from dodgy wiring that they don’t even know about? And the others, what do we make of those? Are B group vitamins particularly holy? Blessed are the squeaky doors, for they shall inherit the earth? Is the Bible wrong and Jesus actually say unto Peter “You are my sock, and on this sock I shall build my church” or does he just want to cure corns and verrucas?

Not if the experience of the sock Jesus woman is any indication.

They even talked about creating a shrine to the sock but then the face was lost when they moved it.

I was half expecting the Ascension to be mentioned at this point but fortunately for both my head and my desk it never came up. Instead, and almost as laughable, this:

“We think it’s a bit of a sign – but for what we don’t know.”

Well, I can think of a couple of things that it could be a sign of. One is that you might just be a fucking idiot, and the other is that with electronic media making the space for online news practically infinite every day is a sufficiently slow news day for this stuff to be included, even if it’s so ridiculous and embarrassing that nobody wants to put their byline on it.

I hope that 2012 will be the year this guff goes out of fashion in the MSM, but I’m not holding my breath. In fact I’m afraid that if that happens at all it’ll only be because the 2012 Mayan apocalypse non-prediction and associated cockwaftery will be taking centre stage instead.

And there’s no point saying “God help us” because if he’s there at all he’s probably too busy laughing.

* For those with the patience of Job or who find the whole thing funny (the only way I cope with this kind of lunacy) The Tele has a whole gallery of this stuff.
** Linking that really went against the grain.

A little light failure from The Teletubbygraph

Click for linky

Please, someone give the photo drones at The Telegraph an atlas for Christmas, or at least help them download Google Earth and show them how to work it. At the rate it’s going downhill and screwing up junior school level stuff I’m going to have to stop taking the piss out of The Daily Mail.

Fellas, there’s no such place as Forrest Act, but there is a suburb called Forrest in the ACT. This isn’t ‘Act’ being shouted. It stands for Australian Capital Territory. Saying Forrest Act is like saying Port Augusta Sa or Newcastle Nsw or even, to use something the photo drones may have heard of, Washington Dc. Let me put it another way:

Got it, photo drones?

And yes, David and Janean Richards are in the Forrest that’s in the ACT because a few seconds on Google found them mentioned in The Canberra Times, so I reckon we can be pretty sure it’s not some weird town called Forrest Act since Forrest ACT is within spitting distance of Parliament House. See?

Er… do you think the photo drones know that Sydney isn’t the capital?

Advanced calculus for journalists – UPDATED

Lesson #1:

Police said a 32-year-old Derrimut man was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with fractures, while a 27-year-old Taylors Hill woman and a Richmond man and woman – both believed by paramedics to be aged 19 – were transported to the Sunshine Hospital with minor injuries.
An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said another man who was injured refused to be treated.

It doesn’t equal 5 either.

UPDATE – Lesson #2, from Professor Bucko of the Department of Inadvisable Cervid Power Modifications:

First up we have the story of an unexpectedly low turnout of Christmas shoppers this weekend.

Immediately following that we have the story of an unexpectedly high turnout this weekend.

Less is less. More is more. Less is not more.

Hopefully these aren’t too difficult for the subeditors to keep up with.



That’s not a hack – this is a hack

As I mentioned back in July The Age, the Melbourne based sister paper of Sydney Morning Herald, was all over the News of the Screws phone hacking scandal like flies on a piece of shit.

The thing is that Gingery Dullard, unlike the Yanks, may have rather more cause to investigate the Aussie media. And interestingly it’s not the Murdoch owned mob but their competitors, the Graun friendly, lefty-loving, phone-hack hating Fairfax group, who have been accused of being up to no good.
THE editor-in-chief of The Age, Paul Ramadge, has refused to detail his personal involvement in the newspaper’s unauthorised access of an ALP database now being examined by the Australian Federal Police.

And how did this happen?

The Age accessed the database from its own computer terminals using an unauthorised password provided by an undisclosed source.
“This story came through entirely appropriate journalistic methods,” Ramadge said. “Entry to the ALP database came via a whistleblower who raised concerns about private information held on it.
“This whistleblower had authorised access to this material and we reported in the public interest.”
[…]
The Age used material obtained from the database to inform a story run in the final week of the Victorian election campaign about Labor keeping a “secret” file on citizens. Several people whose details were accessed were contacted by the newspaper before publication. Others, such as Mr Faris, were contacted after publication and assured their information would not be stored or misused.

Okay, so they may have had good reason but it sounds like it’s fair to ask the question. And even if they have good reason if they commit a crime in the process does it somehow un-crime it? I’m not sure a good reason would let me off something as trivial as a speeding offence – actually I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t – so I can’t help thinking that if a crime has been committed with good intentions it’s probably still a crime and that there’d be a case to answer.

And this week a police investigation looks more likely as the body overseeing elections in the state have got involved at the same time as a member of the public has placed the blame squarely on the newspaper that was so tumescent with joy when bashing the Murdoch rags in distant country for listening to people’s voicemail.

A VICTIM of The Age’s hacking of an ALP database has come forward claiming the newspaper breached her privacy, as The Weekend Australian reveals the Victorian Electoral Commission asked police to investigate the claims of illegal activity.
Claire Watson, 24, has expressed her concerns about how and why The Age accessed personal information about her, which she had agreed to share with a local MP but not with the newspaper. The public servant, who appeared in a story by Age journalist Royce Millar last year as part of the broadsheet’s investigation into the ALP database, said her views had been “distorted” and “words had been put in my mouth”.
“I feel my privacy has been breached by the journalist, not the ALP,” she said. “I agreed to share information with the ALP, but not with The Age. He seemed dodgy and was pleased with himself. He was so indignant with the ALP, but it is clear he was hacking my file. He was trying to whip me into outrage about it.”
[…]
“The journalist kept trying to put words in my mouth; he was saying it was outrageous, but I didn’t think it was outrageous,” she said. “The whole thing was weird. I tried telling him I wasn’t outraged as I understood large organisations keep that sort of data. I think it is reasonable and good practice to keep the data.”
She said she was more concerned Millar had then accessed the information.
“He knew a lot about me – my date of birth, where I lived, my phone number, opinions I had shared with a local MP . . . he was hacking into my file.”

As with the voicemail thing ‘hacking’ seems to be an inappropriate term for what looks awfully like a simple, old fashioned leak, but for whatever reason people seem to want to believe that any electronically stored information that isn’t given out voluntarily must have been hacked. I think this is a bit like insisting that when you can’t find your car it can only have been stolen rather than thinking that you just forgot where you left it or you parked in a tow away zone, but the real point is that if this is all hacking how did The Age have the front to throw so many stones at the Murdoch media for the phone not-hacking when they too had been accessing information they had no bloody right to? Was the temptation to throw those stones and hopefully damage their competition at the Melbourne Herald Sun and The Australian so strong that they forgot they lived in a greenhouse?

An injunction by The Age against Victoria Police to stop the removal of computer equipment remains in place since Thursday’s eight-hour raid. Two detectives from the e-crime squad remained at The Age overnight to ensure none of the computer equipment, which had been pulled apart, could be tampered with.
A spokesman for the Victorian Electoral Commission confirmed to The Weekend Australian that it had been the first to raise the issue with police.
Electoral Commissioner Steve Tully is believed to have been concerned about the manner in which the database was allegedly penetrated by The Age.
[…]
The Weekend Australian believes that police have been given access to ALP records and computer equipment but that there are mixed views in the party about how to handle the hacking issue. This is because of the potential blow-back on the Labor Party if The Age were to campaign against the party. “It’s not something we wanted. There are some senior people who just want it to go away,” a source said.
However, the fact the VEC approached police means investigators will have to push ahead with their inquiries. Either way, it appears police were honour-bound to proceed given the potential offences at stake and the role the VEC plays as an independent and impartial statutory authority.

And as I said back in July, since The Age isn’t part of the Murdoch press and is fairly strongly left leaning politically this is not something British readers can expect to see in The Grauniad. You kind of get the impression that bashing lefties for their misdeeds and alleged misdeeds is against some kind of lefty journo code, but it’s only fair to give The Age a little credit for running the story themselves.

Click for link – incidentally, I don’t know if Paul and Royce Millar are related

Now, remind me. In all those column inches in The Graun slagging off companies for perfectly legal tax avoidance and minimisation was it ever mentioned that Guardian Media did the same thing or did we have to find out from Guido?

Tell me this isn’t a coincidence

First, there’s this:

A chief examiner at one of Britain’s biggest exam boards was recorded boasting about the lack of substance in the company’s tests – and their disbelief that it has been cleared by the official regulator.
Steph Warren, in charge of Edexcel GCSE Geography, said that teachers should pick her company’s exam because “you don’t have to teach a lot”.

And then there’s this:

Now I do realise that these are from different countries but the UK and US have quite a lot in common, including the modern sleb culture and persistent worries about dumbing down of edumacation – ‘dumbing down’ is an American phrase, after all. If you want a more UK-centric example of sleb-fascination as an alternative to news you don’t have to look far. Looking at The Daily Mail’s site now their sidebar consists of the following (and I really don’t blame if you don’t read every line of this):

  • Something about Sinead O’Connor getting married again
  • A story about the average weight of British women
  • Something about Anna Nicole-Smith, who is apparently still dead
  • Something about Angelina Jolie
  • Something about Jennifer Lopez
  • Something about X-Factor judges who are apparently called Gary, Kelly and Tulisa (who, who, who and who gives a fuck?)
  • Something about someone called Selena Gomez and Justin fucking Bieber
  • A story about a single father raising twins
  • Something by Jan Moir about someone called Caroline Flack
  • Something about someone called Kimberley Walsh
  • Something about someone called Irina Shayk
  • Something about Charlize Theron’s clothes
  • Something about someone called Chelsee Healey
  • Something about someone called Kate Upton
  • Something about Prince William’s wife’s clothes
  • Something about Declan Donnelly’s car
  • Something about Katie Price
  • Something about someone called Lea Michele
  • Something about someone called Kris Jenner being upset about something Daniel Craig said
  • Something about someone called Alicia Douvall
  • Something about something called a Kardashian (who are apparently not Star Trek aliens but real people… for a given value of real)
  • Something about someone called Amanda Seyfried
  • Something by Jizz Loans
  • Something about someone called Harry Judd
  • Something about Paris Hilton
  • Something about Beyoncé whatsername
  • Something about Twiggy
  • Something about Salma Hayek’s tits
  • Something else about that Caroline Flack person again, but not by Jan Moir
  • Something about a coat owned by Emma Watson, Natalie Portman and someone called Kristen Stewart
  • Something about someone called Anna Massey in something about a loony in Broadmoor
  • Something about someone called Amy Childs
  • Something about Ray Winstone being in something
  • Something about David Jason being in something
  • Something else about Angelina Jolie
  • Something about someone called Jacqui Ainsley
  • Something about Louise Redknapp’s shampoo
  • Something about Sacha Baron Cohen
  • Something about someone called Kara Tointon
  • Something about Venus Williams
  • Something about someone called Kelly Rowland and someone called Amelia
  • Something about something called JWoww (who seems to be a person but sounds like a cleaning product)
  • Something about someone called Jennifer Hudson
  • Something about someone called Kitty Brucknell
  • Something about a transexual trying to turn him/herself into Barbie (just more plastic, I assume)
  • Something about someone called Jennifer Garner
  • Something about one of Michael Jackon’s kids being in a film or something
  • Something about someone called Christine Bleakley
  • Something about that Grilled Bear bloke meeting Mrs Queen
  • Something about someone called Andrew Garfield
  • Something about someone called Pat Sharp and her daughter, and someone called Mark Wright
  • Something about Andie MacDowell’s daughter
  • Something about someone called Rachel Crow
  • Something about another one of the Kardashians
  • Something about someone called Kris Humphries
  • Something about someone called Dianna Agron and someone called Sebastian Stan (almost current affairs in that he sounds like he might be a country)
  • Something about Shakira
  • Something about someone called Coco Rocha
  • Something about Jessica Alba’s sprog meeting Santa
  • Something that might be about sexual abuse in Mormon communities, but might be more about some Mormon piano group
  • Something about someone who’s someone’s widow being angry with Alec Baldwin for whatever he did on that plane
  • Something about Michael Jackson’s doctor getting a prison visit
  • Something about that Katherine Heigl who used to be in Grey’s Annoying Me
  • Something about that Tiff Needell who used to be in the old Top Gear
  • Something about someone called Toni Collette
  • Something about Kirstie Alley’s current size
  • Something about Demi Moore’s daughter’s arse
  • Something about something called Chord Overstreet (who seems to be a person but sounds like gameplay from Guitar Hero) and someone called Emma Roberts
  • Something about someone called Demi Lovato (who seems to be a person but sounds like musical notation)
  • Something about someone called Jennifer Hudson
  • Something about that Amy Childs again
  • Something about someone called Selma Blair
  • Something about Jessica Alba
  • Something about Lady Gaga
  • Something about Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Something about Cheryl Cole
  • Something about Christina Ricci
  • Something else about Katie bloody Price
  • Something about handbags
  • Something about shops
  • Something about shopping
  • Something about Tom Cruise
  • Something else about this Demi Lovato
  • Something else about this Emma Roberts person having a tattoo like the one in that book about the girl with a tattoo
  • Something about bridesmaids wearing tuxedos
  • Something else about Tom Cruise
  • Something about someone called Kendra Wilkison
  • Something about someone called Kevin Federline
  • A story about a fake doctor doing bad cosmetic surgery in the US
  • Something about new Top Shop branches coming to your local high street, providing you live in Australia
  • Something about someone called Abigail Breslin
  • Something about someone called Danny O’Donaghue and Tom Jones
  • Something about Jersey Shore
  • Something about Brad Pitt’s hair
  • Something about someone called Ali Larter’s son
  • Something about cocaine and Charlie Sheen and someone called Brooke Mueller
  • A story about how Christmas drives everyone fucking nuts
  • Something about that horsey woman from Sex and the City
  • Something else about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
  • Something about a body scanner, but at clothes shops to help you buy stuff rather than airports to help delay you while you’re treated as a suspected terrorist
  • Something about some people called Arg, Mark and Dougie
  • Something about Lindsay Lohan
  • Something about Nigella Lawson
  • Something else about Emma Watson, but apparently not her coat this time
  • Something about someone called Adele
  • Something about money and divorces
  • Something that might be about sexual abuse in Mormon communities, but might be more about some Mormon piano group, and appears to be exactly the same something as the something about sexual abuse/Mormon pianists from earlier
  • Something about someone called Jeff Probst and someone called Lisa Ann Russell
  • Something about someone called Patrica Klanic whose husband is a soccer player and has been accused of rape
  • Something about Blur
  • Something else about Andie MacDowell
  • Something about Cameron Diaz
  • Something about David Cameron’s hair (for fuck’s fucking sake I’m fucking losing the fucking will to fucking live here)
  • Yet another fucking thing about this Caroline Flack and someone called harry Styles
  • Something about Prince Harry and his brother’s wife’s sister, except not really because they’re only lookalikes (that’s it – when I’m finished with this I’m going to book a holiday where I’m legally allowed to shoot things)
  • Something about Katy Perry
  • Something about that woman who looked all upset when Jeremy Clarkson said he wanted to shoot strikers and how she used to have a damp spot for Jason Donovan
  • Something about a model who’s going bald
  • Jesus H. Christ in a fucking mothership, something else about Tom fucking Cruise
  • Something else about a Kardashian, possibly one of the ones from earlier but I’m so far past fucking caring at this point I just asked Mrs Exile to hold a mirror up under my nose
  • Something about Prince Charles not understanding Peter Kay’s jokes or something
  • Something about Madonna likeing Prince William’s wife’s clothes
  • Something about someone called Gamu
  • Something about someone called Zac Effron kissing Michelle Pfeiffer
  • Something about Dawn French’s clothes

For those that skipped much of that list it’s 125 articles, 95% of which involve slebs, and close to 0% of which involve actual news. Okay, sure, they do put a lot of shite in the sidebar and more newsy news in the main bit, but even there Sinead O’Connor puts in an appearance along with one or two things about house prices (wouldn’t be the Mail without them, would it?) while the story about exams being made easier appears nearly halfway down the home page.

Coincidence? I find that hard to believe. Whether it’s just an effect of successive governments prioritising the appearance of educational success over actually educating or whether it’s a deliberate attempt to create Orwell’s proles, the undereducated 85% who were conditioned to have little or no interest in the world but were easy to manipulate. As always I tend to go with Hanlon’s Razor and assume stupidity and cupidity over conspiracies, but sometimes I do wonder.