“Silence is consent … I refuse to consent.”

(image: Encyclopaedia Metallum)

(image: Encyclopaedia Metallum)

The following just-published news story has a bearing on an episode of hypocrisy that caught my eye … and gave me more food for thought about one of our themes: What is it ‘right’ to do in the face of wrongdoing?

Or put another way, How should we then live? Read on…

Paul Haggis Renounces Church of Scientology in Blistering Letter

By Kyle Buchanan. Movieline.com | 25 Oct 2009

The Church of Scientology has long claimed many of Hollywood’s most elite talents amongst its members, but now, one famous Scientologist is leaving the church, and he’s not going quietly. In a candid, confrontational letter to Scientology top brass that’s just been published online, Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis (Crash) details the abuses and cover-ups that have forced him to to leave Scientology after 35 years. It’s a must-read.

The letter was originally published in four parts on the blog of ex-Scientologist Marty Rathbun, and it’s directed at Scientology’s current national spokesman, Tommy Davis. In it, Haggis takes Davis to task for doing nothing after the church’s San Diego branch publicly sponsored the anti-gay Proposition 8.
Continue reading →

Vendetta

Persephone

Avenging Angel

I love the sound of the word Vendetta!

Vendetta! Say it with me, Vendetta! It has such a lovely ring to it. It almost feels as if you’re in Italy, with a great big knife, pumping it in and out of your worst enemy’s chest. Vendetta! Vendetta! Vendetta!

But the word itself, dissected by dictionary is, “…[] a blood-feud between families or other parties…” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vendetta). Hmmm… I think the sound and the imagery of vendetta can be so much more. Let’s explore shall we…

Vendetta, I think, depends entirely upon your conviction to the task at hand.

For example, returning to my earlier story of Robin Hood: Robin’s deceptions, lies and conciliations with Nottingham have become a thing of legend, in fact, today, the Merry Men and the new Robin Hood uncover more and more underhanded tricks that he (the old Robin) and the old Nottingham left behind (our order, you see, is apostolic).

I openly opposed Robin when I returned from Europe. Our little jaunt nine or so years ago made Robin a hero in certain circles. Today he and I are enemies. And while he no longer holds the post of Robin Hood, he and I, the Merry Men say, have a vendetta.

Shortly after returning home from Europe I met one young impressionable man whose mouth dropped in awe when he realized that I actually knew this Robin Hood personally. Continue reading →

The difference between a ‘disc’ and a ‘disk’…

They’re pronounced the same, but, technically speaking, there is a distinct difference between a disc and a disk. Continue reading →

“SHUT UP!”

Re my earlier post on censorship … look at this.

Creepy.

Critic — a definition

Whitney Balliett, 1926-2007  (image: lifeinlegacy.com)

Whitney Balliett 1926-2007 (image: lifeinlegacy.com)

A critic is a bundle of biases
held loosely together
by good taste.

— Whitney Balliett, Jazz critic and book reviewer for the New Yorker magazine 1954-2001.

Yep, that about sums it up. Does it for me.

(Of course, like beauty, ‘good taste’ is in the eye of the beholder.)

Sacred cows and calls for censorship

"Stop talking about it?" Huh?

"Stop talking about it"? Huh?

“Don’t mention the war”
— Basil, Fawlty Towers

I took some interest in a recent comment on a discussion forum which attacked a journalist for reporting bankruptcy proceedings being undertaken against a failed property developer — accusing the journalist of improper motives for the story.

The critic himself has a somewhat unfortunate track record in business and has demonstrated a striking sensitivity to his own actions being examined in a context of anything less than hero-worship.

In my work with Olly Newland I’ve had a bit to do with turning over stones in the investment jungle to see what creatures scuttle out from under — some of these self-described ‘experts’ are spruikers telling the gullible they are the country’s ‘top’ investors and developers, ‘millionaire-makers’, doing it all because they ‘really want to see you get rich’ or they’re on a mission for God or ‘for the poor’ overseas.

Their often long-winded sales spiels drip with golden promises, dreams coming true, ‘breakthrough strategies’, early retirement … and a life fulfilled by getting rich-rich-RICH! (Oh dear.) These sales pitches, sadly, seem to be frequently accompanied by misleading optimistic statements and [in my view] inadequately disclosed sales commissions etc.

Sometimes these reptiles are qualified professionals Continue reading →

Wow, BRILLIANT writing!

Garrison Keillor (Image: DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM)

Garrison Keillor (Image: Dennis Oda - doda@StarBulletin.com)

Petulance and the Prize

By Garrison Keillor

New York Times October 14, 2009 – NYTimes.com

Evidently some people were disappointed that Dick Cheney didn’t receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and believe me, I sympathize — I thought Philip Roth should’ve gotten the literature prize instead of that grumpy Romanian lady with the severe hair — but it was Mr. Obama whom the Norwegians wanted to come visit Oslo in December and stand on the balcony of the Grand Hotel and wave to the crowd along Karl Johans Gate, and, face it, Mr. Obama is going to draw a bigger crowd than Mr. Cheney would have. When a man has shot somebody in the face with a shotgun, people are going to be reluctant to line up en masse in his presence lest he get excited again.

From his loooong opening sentence (above) to this wonderful quote: Continue reading →

Exodus?

I’ve always thought when facebook and twitter got mainstream the kids would leave for somewhere ‘cooler’… as happened to MySpace.

Now Miley Cyrus (1.1 million followers) has [reportedly] bailed on twitter… too trivial, too intrusive, too demanding, too ADHD-inspiring would be my guess. Watch her rap yourself, and observe her own entertaining ‘explanation’…

Twitter followers are not friends. For many, facebook ‘friends’ are often not friends either. Insincerity abounds. (Just like the ‘real’ world?) In my view there’s a lot of the commercial equivalent of ‘cupboard love’ happening on the internet, you know:   Continue reading →

Ripples flow from this brave woman’s stand

Liskula Cohen (Image: The Independent)

Liskula Cohen (Image: The Independent)

There’s a good article on The Independent website about the Liskula Cohen/NYC model case, which I mentioned earlier.
The more I read about this gutsy woman and what she’s standing up for the more I like.

Having been victimised by someone lobbing slimeballs at her from behind a mask of anonymity, she pursued Google to identify the anonymous ‘blogger’, and has now sought and gained a defamation judgement against the newly-outed Rosemary Port who spent her time and energy to set up an anonymous blog called ‘Skanks in NYC’ (well, there’s a clue right there).

I take note of Chowbok’s point inferred from his recent Robin Hood post, that the definition of ‘bad person’ and ‘bad action’ when left to the courts can be problematic. Continue reading →

Domain renewal skulduggery? Or scam?

I got an email out of the blue yesterday reminding me that a domain name we maintain for one of my authors Olly Newland was due to expire and needed renewing.

The email looked like this:

ISP_reminder

Note the expiry date: 2009-10-04.

Following the conveniently-provided link (“If you wish to continue using your domain name please click on the link below. Click here to renew.”) took me to a page at the website  http://www.domainrenewal-online.org  and provided options to “renew” for 1, 2, 3, 5 or 10 years. (Look at the prices!) Continue reading →

How to protect yourself from extortion: Er, live a ‘clean’ life

David Letterman Reveals Extortion Attempt Over His Affairs – NYTimes.com
By Bill Carter October 1, 2009

David Letterman, the late night talk show host, said on his show on Thursday that he had been the victim of an extortion attempt over charges of sexual affairs with staff members, claims that he conceded were true.

Mr. Letterman said on ‘The Late Show,’ on CBS, that he had been approached by a person who wanted $2 million not to go public with information that Mr. Letterman had been in sexual relationships with women who work on his show.

Mr. Letterman said that he had testified before a grand jury and had admitted to the relationships. ‘My response to that is, yes I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would,’ he said on the show. ‘I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family.’”

This tale of [alleged] extortion recently reminded me of a time when I was warned that someone was “looking for dirt” on me and had probably hired a private detective to follow me and report on my activities and who I met etc.

I laughed. Well good luck to him, I responded. What’s he going to find? I’m not a drug dealer and I don’t have a mistress, so he’ll get bored pretty quickly.

In that situation, it seems the best defence is being unremarkable (at least in certain regards).

They say ‘The best revenge is living well’. And, in my view, living ‘clean’ is part of that. What hooks can a blackmailer get into you if you have no ugly secrets? Exactly.

William Safire, the famed newspaper columnist who died recently had a twist on that:

Writing well is the best revenge.

[Update: Dorothy Parker, apparently.]

writingwellisthebestrevenge

While, sure, I’m occasionally accused of ‘ranting’ or writing ‘purple prose’, I do my best. I liked Safire’s exhortations on clear writing, including his wonderful Rules for Writers, and I admired and was inspired by (and try to emulate) his ‘call-a-spade-a-spade’ approach, as highlighted in his NY Times obituary: Continue reading →

Today’s ‘Word of mouth’

Credibility, celebrity and their effects…
How many? Crikey!

How many? Crikey!

Stephen Fry, whose Twitter followers now number 770,000, recently spiked sales in a book he liked…

A book of short stories has leaped up Amazon’s book charts to become second only to Dan Brown after Stephen Fry endorsed it on his Twitter feed.
Early today (10th September), the actor told his near-750,000 followers: “You will not read a more dazzling book this year than David Eagleman’s Sum. If you read it and aren’t enchanted I will eat 40 hats.” The book subsequently rose by nearly 250,000% in the Movers & Shakers list.

Full story…

Does anyone suspect Fry gets an ‘affiliate’-type kickback for his recommendation?
I certainly don’t. I think his endorsement is based on his honest opinion. (Unlike some of the breathless pitches spread around by shameless hucksters as part of their apprenticeship to various “internet marketing” travelling circuses.)

Fry blogged this: Continue reading →

The Internet, Robin Hood, and his Merry Men

Let me tell you a fairy tale, if I may.robin_hood-300

There was once a man named Robin Hood and he had a band of Merry Men, and yes there was also a Sherriff of Nottingham, and a contingent of motley Hench men.

One day Robin Hood and his Merry Men did something very bad and hurtful to Nottingham and cost Nottingham tens of millions of dollars. Damage in hand, Nottingham approached the Court of the land and received a cease and desist order and the right to subpoena, not just the data from the Merry Men’s computers, but also the very great internet servers of Yahoo and Google, which lay far beyond the borders of Sherwood Forest, but regardless, Nottingham got what he needed.

There was one computer that Nottingham was very interested in getting his hands on, and that was that that belonged to Friar Tuck, Robin Hood’s chief of communications. The good Friar had been a thorn in the side of Nottingham for years. Tuck had devised a simple communication tool for the Merry Men to keep in touch. The Good Friar simply took the individual emails that had been sent to him from each of the Merry Men and incorporated them into one giant email which he named “The Friar Tuck Letter” and then sent it out to all of the Merry Men who lived at each of the four corners of Sherwood Forest. This way the Merry Men would know what each was doing, and how each was coping with Nottingham’s cruel and unyielding rule. While this unusual communication tool was not sanctioned by Robin, Robin was happy with the arrangement all the same; Tuck was doing good work.

After the subpoenas of the Yahoo and Google servers I was gravely afraid, for this is where I served Robin Hood. Continue reading →

OK, now this is getting silly …


Blogger told to stop advising on immigration

A blogger who came to New Zealand from Britain has been warned to stop giving immigration advice on her blog – or face prosecution under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act.

The Immigration Advisers Authority says Helen Winterbottom was breaking the law by posting on avalonsguide.com, and has told her she must get a licence if she wants to continue.

Registrar Barry Smedts said the authority had issued 18 warning letters since the law came into effect on May 4, but he believed Ms Winterbottom was the only blogger to have been warned.

But the former pharmacist said she was only ‘speaking her mind’ on her blog, which she started last November, and did not have any intention of becoming an immigration adviser.

Ms Winterbottom said she did not have the written warning, but had been told by the authority that one of her blog entries broke the law.

…. The Immigration Advisers Act requires anyone who gives immigration advice, whether directly or indirectly, whether or not for gain or reward, to be licensed unless exempt. [emphasis added]

Those operating without a licence face fines of up to $100,000 and jail terms of up to seven years.

Full story NZ Herald – Tuesday Sep 22, 2009 By Lincoln Tan

Unless I’m missing something, it’s starting to get a little silly when people can’t express an opinion on their blog about the law and its implications without getting threatened with jail and large fines. What happened to fair comment? Continue reading →

Q: Where does conflict come from?

A: Our innate Superiority complex

It is strangely easy for us as human beings to see ourselves as separate from others … or in an ‘us’ while ‘the others’ consist of a ‘them’ — and, naturally, we regard ‘them’ as inferior to ‘us’ in every measure that matters.

In the same way that herd animals recognise their own and expel outsiders as intruders, we humans are tuned for the differences that define our ‘in’ group as apart from the ‘other’ group. And, we are ready for conflict. We expect it.

People have tried to explain the conflict between groups. Notably Tajfel’s experiments with ‘notional groups’ dismantled the until then widely-held idea that conflict between nations (scaled-up groups) resulted from competition for scarce resources creating a history of conflict that self-perpetuated.

Broadly, his work showed that very little is required for one group to regard itself as superior to another group — morally, intellectually, physically — you name it.

All that’s needed for Group A to think itself ‘better’ and more worthy and deserving than Group B is:

For Group A and Group B to ‘exist’

That’s all it takes. No history of conflict, no competition for scarce resources, no experience of the ‘other’ culture to assess and meaningfully evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the ‘other’ group. No knowledge. Not even a meeting…

All that’s needed: An IN group (‘us’) and and OUT group (‘them’). The rest is pure psycho-babble, or post-facto justification for decisions and evaluations already made on the basis of our bias. Continue reading →