Monthly Archives: December 2011

And the sooner they die the better

Film critic Roger Ebert has some theories as to why cinema audiences are falling:

2. Ticket prices are too high. People have always made that complaint, but historically the movies have been cheap compared to concerts, major league sports and restaurants. Not so much any longer. No matter what your opinion is about 3D, the charm of paying a hefty surcharge has worn off for the hypothetical family of four.

3. The theater experience. Moviegoers above 30 are weary of noisy fanboys and girls. The annoyance of talkers has been joined by the plague of cell-phone users, whose bright screens are a distraction. Worse, some texting addicts get mad when told they can’t use their cell phones. A theater is reportedly opening which will allow and even bless cell phone usage, although that may be an apocryphal story.

4. Refreshment prices. It’s an open secret that the actual cost of soft drinks and popcorn is very low. To justify their inflated prices, theaters serve portions that are grotesquely oversized, and no longer offer what used to be a “small popcorn.” Today’s bucket of popcorn would feed a thoroughbred.

What the theatres appear to have forgotten is that going to a film is a discretionary entertainment expense. If it’s less convenient (you can’t pause, you can’t watch it at the time you feel like it), more expensive (vastly so), and you feel like you’re being ripped off (the food and drink prices are insulting), then why on Earth would you choose it over alternative means of entertainment? Who enjoys being treated as a mug?

It’s got nothing to do with “piracy”, which the entertainment industry dishonestly exaggerates and uses as an excuse for everything wrong with their business models.

The only reason the cinemas have survived this long is the temporary monopoly they have on new releases, a monopoly they’ve long since ceased to deserve. I won’t miss the cineplexes when they go the way of the drive-in. I’ll welcome their demise.

Merry annual gift-giving family celebration!

And a happy arbitrary calendar change holiday, too.

PS Have you ever got a bit stroppy on your birthday thinking about your advancing years and chucked a temper tantrum involving hurling hailstones at an entire city? No?

I told you it wasn’t okay, Jebus.

Only way to save lives is to encourage the running of safer refugee boats.

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Collective is, of course, completely right:

Refugee Action Coalition coordinator Ian Rintoul said Australia’s decision to criminalise people smuggling had played a role in the tragedy.

“Australia’s push for Indonesia to detain asylum seekers and to criminalise people smuggling directly leads to the kind of tragedy we’ve seen yet again,” he said. “If the government is worried about people losing their lives at sea, they should decriminalise people smuggling so that the voyages can be planned in open and seaworthy boats.

“The policy of detaining asylum seekers in Indonesia means [they] risk imprisonment if they contact authorities if they are concerned about the seaworthiness of any boat.”

Very true, and one more reason why those who feign concern for the safety of refugees on boats but whose solution is leaving them in danger in Indonesia and making sure that the system encourages the running of disposable boats and incompetent, disposable crews, are utter liars.

As I’ve argued before.

Again:

George Newhouse, of Shine Lawyers, who is acting for the survivors of the SIEV 221 tragedy, said the heavy penalties for people smugglers meant smugglers often hired untrained “stooges”, many of them children, who had no idea what they were doing.

“To make matters worse, the government’s policy of confiscating boats means the vessels which are used to transport asylum seekers are often unseaworthy – with disastrous results,” he said.

“Just a year ago we saw the worst Australian shipping disaster in living memory when the engine broke down on SIEV 221 and the young unskilled crew had no idea what they were doing or where they were going.

There is only one way to save those lives, and treating the refugees who arrive here even more cruelly is clearly not it. The way to save those lives is to make sure the boats are seaworthy, and that means not pretending that “people smuggling” is some kind of crime. It means destroying dangerous boats and prosecuting those who run them, but returning the boats and crews who run safe boats.

There’s precisely no other solution that will save those lives. Leaving people who are so desperate to flee in the dangerous location from which they’re fleeing is certainly not it.

UPDATE: had inadvertently left out link to earlier post on this subject. Fixed.

Once upon a time there was a lovely little sausage called Charlotte

Seriously? That’s a Charlotte Bronte manuscript?

It looks like Baldrick’s novel.

Obvious thing sunk in

Any songs you heard a thousand times before you finally actually listened to the lyrics?

This was mine, today. I had never listened to what it was really about, “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range:

Hold on! This bloody popular hit is a blunt lefty song about how social progress can be achieved, after all, even in the face of stiff opposition. About how “that’s just the way it is” is a weak argument for maintaining an unjust system. And 25 years later, we’re still having to make that point.

It’s a bit of a bonus, really, because I’d still have liked the tune, even if the lyrics had been written by Ayn Rand. But I’d have felt dirty about it.

Come on, I can’t be the only person taking a quarter century to finally register what a song is actually about. Make your embarrassing admissions in the comments.

Wanted: a hell of a lot of neutral Wikipedia editors

You know that post the other day about wanting Wikipedia to be neutral and accurate, but being thwarted by its editorial policy that means it would prefer to publish lies?

This post over at Pure Poison describes part of the problem – the fact that those interested in pushing those lies, or using Wikipedia as a promotional tool, or using it to smear the people they dislike, are more dedicated to that aim than any disinterested person could be. It’s a problem that neutral editors could fix very quickly – if there were enough of them interested in the Melbourne media and subjects about which they write to keep an eye on those articles. But since there aren’t, they don’t.

So I’m hanging up my editing, uh, gloves. They win. I do not have as much time as the vandals do to use Wikipedia to boost their own credentials and smear others. It would take a team of independent editors, bloody-mindedly committed to the idea of Wikipedia as a believable source, to take them on. To do it alone… you’d need to have as much time, and be as committed to fixing their sabotage as they are in making it. And I don’t, and I can’t be. I tried, and it’s just crazy.

It kind of stings a bit, to lose that faith that the Wikipedia model can work in the long-term. But what else can an ordinary person do?

I’d feel sorry for them, if their flaw wasn’t stupid nastiness to others

It must be sad when all your positive days are behind you, and all you can do with your remaining time is rail stupidly against equality and justice. Or when more and more of society moves on from the bigotry and prejudice you championed, and you’re left howling hysterically at the moon.

Pity Margaret Court and Bill Muehlenberg. Their time has passed, and history will judge them unkindly.

PS I tried publishing this comment at Muehlenberg’s silly rant, “When Darkness Descends Upon a Nation”, railing against the ALP finally deciding to stop advocating discrimination against people for no good reason. The comment is still unpublished, a week later:

I take it you lot have missed the part where your churches won’t have to solemnise any marriages you don’t want to – just like now. Continue reading

This is a thing that should happen

Lego asked the Internet if it wanted them to make Minecraft-themed Lego sets. They got their answer very quickly:

Okay, we get it. You have a passionate community who wants to see Minecraft themed LEGO sets. It just took three server outages to prove it to us, but yeah, we’re listening. ;-)

They might even have something to announce before Christmas.

Wikipedia would prefer the lie, apparently

Were you aware of this Wikipedia rule?

Misuse of primary sources

Exercise caution in using primary sources. Do not use trial transcripts and other court records, or other public documents, to support assertions about a living person. Do not use public records that include personal details, such as date of birth, home value, traffic citations, vehicle registrations, and home or business addresses.

Where primary-source material has been discussed by a reliable secondary source, it may be acceptable to rely on it to augment the secondary source, subject to the restrictions of this policy, no original research, and the other sourcing policies.

What this means, in practice, apparently, is that say there was a false birthdate on an article about a living person, and you knew it was false because you had, say, a bankruptcy record for that person with the correct date. Guess what? It cannot be corrected, because that document cannot be uploaded or relied on in any way. Whereas if it were claimed on some anonymous webpage that the false date was correct, that would be acceptable as a source.

Now, of course Wikipedia should not publish a living person’s address, or the other material listed at the end of the first paragraph. And if the subject has an issue with his or her full date of birth being used, then clearly the year – but the CORRECT year – would be appropriate. But refusing to accept primary evidence when there’s a dispute about what that correct year is? That’s just crazy.

Oh, and also, if you know enough about the subject to know that the birthdate is wrong? You’re conflicted and shouldn’t correct it, anyway.

Keep that in mind any time you’re about to rely on some data in Wikipedia because you assume that if it was an outright lie somebody would’ve corrected it by now. Maybe they’ve tried.

Digital distribution the future of software? Only if you don’t mind having stuff you’ve paid for deleted

Game publisher Electronic Arts has a special new power it’s given itself over products consumers buy from it – the power to block them from playing their own software.

It’s like if you bought a car from Holden, and then said something publicly that Holden didn’t like, and so Holden came around and disabled your car and it was now worthless.

Meanwhile, EA and other dinosaur publishers think they can charge more for a digital download than a physical product, as part of their cunning strategy to delay digital distribution (from which they profit handsomely, having no physical costs and no retailers to cut in on the profits).

Which, given what they want to do with it, is possibly a blessing in disguise.