06 July, 2007

Eurovision Party 2007

Its kinda past Eurovision now, but here's a little thinking back to the highlights of the competition.

Firstly, the good:



The, bad:

SWITZERLAND - Vampires are alive... WTF?

And the downright hilarious:

UKRAINE - Dancing Lasha Tumbai

02 July, 2007

The Dawn of Neo-Apartheid

So here is my big post about the current state of the Indigenous peoples of Australia. At face value, the government response to the "Little Children are Sacred" report (link) is racist in a sense, mainly because it discriminates against Aborigines on the basis of race. But this leads into the biggest problem and focus of this post. There is a stark contrast between the perspectives of the Western "rulers" of Australia (we have more socio-economic power than most Indigenous people) and the perspectives of the Indigenous peoples of Australia. I'll elaborate on the differences of perspectives in another post, but for the sake of this post I wish to frame it in the context of current issues.

Before I go on further talking about the current "national emergency", I would like to think that the government tries to eliminate child abuse throughout all of Australia, and doesn't think the the problem is isolated to Indigenous communities. Having said that, current policies seem to have a whiff of racism, in the context of paternalism. Lets take a look at some of the key responses set out by the government for the current "national emergency":
  • "ALCOHOL and pornography will be banned in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory as part of unprecedented federal intervention aimed at stamping out widespread child abuse." News.com.au - 21 June 2007
  • "Mr Brough said the scrapping of the permit system – which restricts non-Aboriginal access to indigenous land – applied to town centres and not homelands or sacred sites, with communities able to apply to the Government for exceptions under special circumstance like funerals." News.com.au - 21 June 2007
First issue: Will banning alcohol and pornography help in these communities? People who have addictions will be able to find these elsewhere. The "Little Children are Sacred" Report suggests that a range of solutions to alcohol as a problem, but doesn't suggest banning it. One of the most important solutions (in my own opinion) is:
"That, in consultation with Aboriginal communities, a significant media campaign for Aboriginal communities be designed to both promote healthy alternatives to drinking alcohol and to convey information about the negative impact of alcohol with an emphasis on the relationship between excessive consumption and the increased incidence of child abuse and other family violence." (Page 29 - emphasis is mine)
Second Issue: This is the most contentious of all the "solutions" put forward. How will reducing land rights and indigenous control of communities reduce child abuse? It is easy to see this as a "land grab" by the federal government. This may not necessarily be true, but reducing Indigenous control over land is incredibly insensitive to Aboriginal cultures.

The country is a hugely important aspect of Aboriginal culture and identity. "Country is a place that gives and receives life. Not just imagined or represented, it is lived in and lived with" (Deborah Bird Rose - Nourishing Terrains - pdf). It is the disconnection from the land, the disconnection from identity that has caused many social problem within Indigenous communities. It may sound quite irrational from a western perspective, however, there is also a demonstrated link between health in Aboriginal communities and "Caring for Country" (Healthy Country: Healthy People - pdf).

I'll finish off with another nice quote from Deborah Bird Rose:

"People talk about country in the same way that they would talk about a person: they speak to country, sing to country, visit country, worry about country, feel sorry for country, and long for country. People say that country knows, hears, smells, takes notice, takes care, is sorry or happy. Country is not a generalised or undifferentiated type of place, such as one might indicate with terms like ‘spending a day in the country’ or ‘going up the country’. Rather, country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness, and a will toward life. Because of this richness, country is home, and peace; nourishment for body, mind, and spirit; heart’s ease." (Deborah Bird Rose - Nourishing Terrains - pdf).

We find it hard to understand this perspective, governments more so, but we must be accommodating to these perspectives, we must be not just tolerant but we should accept the alternative "truth" of the knowledge and culture of Aboriginal people in Australia. That is when we will be treating them as equals.

25 June, 2007

Native Title Myths

I'm still working on my other post, a response to current issues, but in the mean time I think it would be beneficial to go through some myths about Native Title, and what it means in Australia. These myths and misconceptions I have heard from speaking with other people, listening to the media and from reading a number of articles. It is by no means a comprehensive list of misconceptions about Native Title in Australia. If anyone has any questions about Native Title, I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability (I have some cultural heritage management knowledge, but I'm not a lawyer).

Myth 1: Native Title means that all our land can be taken.
Native Title is only applicable over land which has a demonstrated continual connection with land for Indigenous people. When this connection has been demonstrated, Native Title will only apply on land in which that Title has not been extinguished. This is the result of the Mabo decision.

Myth 2: Aborigines can take over our backyards.
Most people's backyards are freehold properties. Freehold land has had all Native Title extinguished. That means your backyard is safe and it is impossible for Native Title to ever be successfully claimed by and a claimant group.

Myth 2.1: But Aborigines claimed Perth.
Aborigines claimed the land over Perth for technical reasons. All freehold land, and other land in which Native Title has been extinguished, will never be part of the claim. The claim was simply a claim over all "claimable" areas left in Perth, meaning all non-extinguished land.

Myth 3: Aborigines are going to force farmers from their land.
The Wik decision found that Aborigines were able to claim Native Title over pastoral lease land, when that claim does not impinge on the land-holder. This court case decided that Native Title is a bundle of rights, and as such Aborigines can claim Native Title over pastoral leasel land, and will be given Title and Rights over the land for only a segment of the entire Title which does not conflict with the land-holder. This means that Aboriginal parties can undertake traditional activities, such as hunting, clearing, and traversing the country, when these activities are not in contradiction with current activities.

21 June, 2007

While we are waiting...

I'm currently working on a new post regarding the Aborigines of Australia. There is a lot in the news lately, a lot of misleading statements, false remarks, and racist representations. I hope to deal with these issues and hopefully convince whoever reads my post that we should take a step back from brink, and look at the Indigenous People of Australia as the genuine owners of the Land and treat them with the respect that they deserve.

In the mean time, I will leave you with a single part of the Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse "Little Children are Sacred" (this is the report on which the government is basing it current reactive approach to dealing with child abuse in Aboriginal communities) - take into consideration how this issue has been portrayed by government and the media. Note: Emphasis mine.

Myth: Aboriginal men are the only offenders

While the incidence of sexual abuse of Aboriginal children
is a significant problem, it does not follow that all
Aboriginal males are offenders, or that Aboriginal males are
responsible for all offending against Aboriginal children. It is
the Inquiry’s experience that the sexual abuse of Aboriginal
children is being committed by a range of non-Aboriginal
and Aboriginal offenders – and these are a minority of the
overall Australian male population.

As would be expected in any community, most of the
Aboriginal men the Inquiry spoke with found the idea
of child sexual abuse abhorrent and advocated severe,
sometimes fatal, physical punishments for offenders.
The Inquiry recognises that Aboriginal communities, and
Aboriginal men, must be supported to better address the
abuse and violence in their communities, but remains
concerned that, at times, Aboriginal men have been
targeted as if they were the only perpetrators of child
sexual abuse in communities. This is inaccurate and
has resulted in unfair shaming, and consequent further
disempowerment, of Aboriginal men as a whole

The entire report can be found here (note: pdf document).

Update: Just to make things more clear, I put the emphasis in that quote, it is not found in the original document (contrary to what some blogs said when they misquoted my emphasis of the quote). Its not important, but I'm a stickler for details.

05 June, 2007

Another list of films

Here is a list of films that I have found to be very good, but also quite intellectually stimulating. I know that sound really pretentious, but for the sake of description and categorising, that is how I perceive these films. To be on this list, I have actually had a discussion of each of these films with someone else who has seen the same film.

The New World - A film by Terrence Mallick. It tells the story of Pocahontas. It is a huge movie, with wide open shots. It instils a sense of tranquillity, the calm before the storm of European colonization of the New World. It deals with Pocahontas and the clash between civilizations. My only gripe? It is too far embedded in the notion of the Noble Savage.

Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut) - A film by Ridley Scott. The original film is boring, confusing and messy. The director's cut is neat, nice and epic in scope. I recommend watching the director's cut. It deals with the Crusades, largely from the perspective of Balian of Ibelin who is somewhat an active-observer to the entire Crusades. This film asks about religion, the nature of our faith and of God. At about 3-hours, it is quite lengthy. It is important to watch the Director's Cut, the original film does not make sense.

Fantastic Planet (La Planète sauvage) - I've talked about this film in a previous post.

Silent Running - Again, I've talked about this film before.

Ten Canoes - A story within a story. The story of a young man and what happens when he listens to his elders, or when he doesn't. It is a description about the nature of story-telling in Aboriginal society from a white director's (Rolf de Heer) perspective.

Ashes and Snow - An art film from Gregory Colbert, narrated by Lawrence Fishburne. A poetic description of the connection between people and animals. Highly evocative visuals, film score and narration.

The Prestige - What is magic? What are secrets? How far would people go to find the answers to these questions.

The Last King of Scotland - A young doctor's slow decent into realising that a charismatic leader is more monster than human.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada - A sad movie about people who are distant, emotionally and socially. The disconnect between us all and how modern society doesn't seem to be quite well when it comes to interpersonal connections.

The Mosquito Coast - Peter Weir film, starring Harrison Ford. Ford goes anti-capitalist, goes bush and lives with a notion of the noble savage. He takes his entire family along for the ride. As they detach themselves from the world, they become more desperate.

Incident at Loch Ness - A fake documentary by Zak Penn, starring Werner Herzog. Its a funny film and get more and more sillier as the film progresses.

Grizzly Man - A documentary film by Werner Herzog. Timothy Treadwell is a grizzly bear activist. This film focuses on his relationship with the bears, which ends with an attack by a grizzly.

04 June, 2007

My T-Shirt Design

I have had a request about what is written on the T-Shirt that I have designed. Truthfully, nothing really has been written, it is just a long paragraph of nothingness. I designed this shirt as sort of a satire about university, where university and the related work is just reiterating and rehashing everything, which is largely meaningless. Anyway, without further ado, here's the full text. It is in an image format, and the colours have been changed so that no-one can steal my design!

To see a larger version, click on the image.

I might make some other designs. They will be linked through the cafepress banner on the side of the blog.

01 June, 2007

Inherent cultural relativism in the interpretation of the Bible

I've heard people talk about the Absolute of the Word of God. That may be so, but at what point does the Word of God cease being an absolute concept and is altered/changed/adjusted into a relativist concept? Some people talk about the Bible as the Word of God, does this mean the Bible is absolute? How can it be absolute when you have different translations of the original text?

This is my starting point for arguing that inherently the Bible is a cultural relative phenomenon that must be approached as such to understand the relevance and importance of its message. On the issue of translations, if the Bible were originally written in Hebrew (Old Testament) or Classic Greek (New Testament), how can we who read the translated English versions argue that what we are reading is the "truth"? Doesn't the actual process of translation make the end product an exercise in cultural relativism? You see the different translations, King James, NIV etc., why are these different? A translation will need to be approached in the context of the culture that it was written, and only then can a more-correct translation be made. If the text was an absolute, would it not require only a simple literal-translation of the words?

Language changes through time, this often is a reflection of reality or the way that reality is perceived shapes the language. If language is a direct reflection of our culture wouldn't the manifestation of The Word in our own language(s) be a step in the alteration of the Absolute into the relative. Cultural terms, phrases and sayings must be used to explain concepts that may not be fully understood in a different cultural context. So when the Bible was first written down, that would constitute an act of cultural relativism, whereby through its very nature as a written document, any Absolutism is lost. Therefore, we must approach older texts and even cross-cultural modern texts in the context of the author and the cultural setting to understand its meaning.

I'm not arguing that the Absolute cannot exist, but I argue that the Absolute does not exist in the context of people/human. It cannot exist in our minds, because we are cultural beings and will therefore be shaped and moulded in that form. The absolute can only exist in a non-cultural framework, but this can never exist. If people were a-cultural (without culture), that would make us just like the animals.

26 May, 2007

My top five sci-fi movies

Here's a list of what I perceive as the best science fiction movies around. These movies are classics in terms of film and science fiction. Of course, you may notice some notable films that didn't make the list, such as Star Wars. I really love Star Wars, but that's more of a fantasy movies and as far as films go it just ain't that good.

Firstly, some notable mentions (coincidently both films have "run" in the title):
  • Silent Running - (1972) - A sad movie, with a commentary on the state of the environment and our perceptions towards it. Stars Bruce Dern and is directed by Douglas Trumbull.
  • Blade Runner - (1982) - A good movie, a prototypical cyberpunk film. I'm a sucker for a good cyberpunk. Directed by Ridley Scott, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Stars Harrison Ford in probably his best role.
So here's the list, starting at 5 and finishing at the Number 1 film:

5 - Fantastic Planet (1973)

An animated film which from the seventies. Sure the animation isn't that good, and sure it may seem a little dated, but the immense fantasy of the world and the artwork makes up for any short-comings. The story tells of a race of creatures called Oms who live an existence as pets for the giant Draags. This film is really a story of role-reversal, what if Humans became subservient to another gigantic species. The Draags have a completely different culture from the Oms, so they assume that any semblance of intelligence is just a "cute-thing" that the creature is doing. This film is important from a social/behavioural/cultural viewpoint. Particularly as the Oms have been dispossessed from their original home world, Terra.

It is originally a French film entitled, La Planète sauvage and was created by René Laloux.

4 - Dune (1984)

This film is epic in scope, has a solid story base, strong visuals and an evocative film score. A pity that it was poorly executed, and is one of the weakest films in this list. The biggest problem is trying to create a filmic version of an epic novel. It is based on a story by Frank Herbert (who novel could be argued as a philosophical thesis) and was directed by David Lynch. It tells the story of Paul "Maud'Dib" Atreides, heir to the Atreides throne. It is set on the planet, Dune, also known as Arrakis, a desert planet. This planet is home to the Fremen, an indigenous people who believe that Arrakis was created by God "to train the faithful". The harsh conditions enabled the Fremen to be superior warriors to fight an evil empire. (That's why we must keep an eye on the "insurgency" in Iraq, perhaps the Coalition of the Willing has created circumstances where the "faithful" can be trained). I'm only scratching the surface with this rough outline, there is a struggle, mysticism, religion, and ecology, just to name a few. It is easy to see that David Lynch may have been out of his depth in making this film. It is hard to visualise "plans within plans" and "schemes within schemes". The score by composer Brian Eno and 80's has-been group Toto gets an honourable mention. The main theme/overture is very memorable.

An early 70's film was going to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (who has been quite influential in this list) with art from H.R. Giger (see the next film). Trom what has been released of the pre-production work, although it would have been a huge departure from the Novels, would have been quite an interesting experience. His ideas later developed into his comic book stories, The Incal, The Metabarons, and The Technopriests.

3 - Alien (1979)

This star of this film and its follow-ups is not Sigourney Weaver. It is the monster created by H.R. Giger. An almost humanoid creature that shows no emotion, but is extremely intelligent. It is a reflection of the darkness of people, both physically and in the way in which we act. We are vicious in achieving our goals and would hurt our peers for our aims. This alien is dark, evil, nasty creature with the some-what human face. The best films of this series are the first film and last film, Alien Resurrection, where the fine line between the monster and humans is blurred and we are left thinking about who is the greater monster. This movie is an important reflection on the darkness of our species.

It was filmed by Ridley Scott, who I regard as one of the best directors around.

2 - The Fifth Element (1997)

This film is sort of a easy going, light-hearted adventure. It was directed by Luc Besson. It doesn't take itself too seriously. What makes this movie so good is the quality of it and the world that was created. I really enjoy the diversity in the scope of the world. A lot of this film has been influenced by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius. Overall, this film is really an enjoyable experience, both visually and in terms of audio. Diva Plavalaguna? A stand-out point of the movie!

1 - 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Ok, this Arthur C. Clarke storied, Stanley Kubrick directed film. It is a monolith as far as sci-fi films go. It involves a huge epic story line, and huge questions. Where do we come from? What does it all mean? It deals with the Savage ape theory (I don't really agree with this theory), exo-genesis, evolution and lots of other things. It really is quite a remarkable film. It combines very effective visuals with an immense storyline.

So here's an open discussion, what do other people put in their own top five?

24 May, 2007

Truth? That's bullshit!

Why is it that when there is a contradiction, there is instantly an idea that one must be true and one must be wrong? Let us take, for instance, the conflict between science and religion, namely the debate over whether evolution or intelligent-design(creationism) should be taught in children.

You have one side arguing that life on Earth derives from a process called evolution, which was developed by Charles Darwin (simultaneously with Alfred Russell Wallace1). On the other side you have people arguing that life shows "intelligent" design to it, meaning that there was an "intelligent" designer behind the creation of life. There is a contradiction here. One side says it was a natural process, ape-ancestor to man. The other side says, man, designed by an intelligence. The very nature of our society is to interpret this as there is one person being wrong, and one must be wrong, because there can only be one truth. Only one interpretation of the truth2.

So I argue that this is where most conflict is derived from. There is the idea that there is only one truth to all matters. But looking at the world, we are consistently faced with contradictions and are easily able to deal with both truths:

  • We know3 that scientifically it is impossible for a woman to get pregnant without there being two gametes to complete a fertilization developing into a zygote. However, 2 billion of us believe that it has happened, and yet we can live perfectly fine with this contradiction of two "truths". (This example came from Annie Ross)
  • It is often that we exemplify our beliefs and its truthfulness from the very fact that our faith is strong. In the same stroke, however, we argue that others' beliefs are not true even though they would argue that they have the same strength of faith. It is a contradiction that we all readily live with. (Reference to the closing scene of God on My Side - Andrew Denton)

1 Everyone seems to forget poor little Alfred Russell Wallace. This dude developed the Wallace Line. He was a pretty smart cookie.
2 I understand the irony of me talking about the "wrongness" of there being only one truth and the one truth is that there are possibly many, contradictory truths. It hurts my head too.
3 An interesting side note, the word know in Ancient Greek is οίδα which in Modern Greek directly translates into the word for "I have seen". One could argue that the idea of truth as being something that one has seen. Effectively, most of western epistemology derives from Ancient Greek philosophy.

Some little points that are related to this topic that I haven't dealt with here, but I may talk about later: Post-modernism versus modernism; Lewis Binford (that's for all you archaeology people out there!); Processualism and post-processualism (again, archaeology bums!); cultural relativism; epistomology

Welcome to my blog.

A bunch of people I know have their own blogs. So I followed the masses and started making this. I've also had a bunch of ideas that I wanted to write about and I haven't had a good outlet for those ideas. So basically, this place will come to function as the place where I dump all my writings and musings about the world.

Posts will probably be quite sporadic. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will be able to post with increasing regularity.