The Surrender of Granada, Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, 1882
Month: January 2023
Potential victims need cops to take out the bad guys
Unfailingly, whenever police act violently, as in Memphis, there are calls for legislative reform by the Democrats in the US. This usually consist of measures to rein in police, banning choke holds and the like, increasing the threshold for the use of force, and making individual cops open to being personally sued for perceived misconduct. The proposed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the current legislative measure du jour.
In the US, of course, race complicates an already complicated issue. Race hustler Al Sharpton, faced with the unpalatable fact that all of the cops indicted for beating Tyre Nichols were black, claimed that it would not have happened if Nichols had been white. Sad to say, he may be right; for once. Blacks commit a grossly disproportionate amount of violent crime. Why then wouldn’t police of any colour be wary and prejudiced in their outlook? It’s unfortunate. People should be dealt with as individuals, equally and civilly. But we don’t live in a perfect world. And we, law abiding citizens, depend on police to protect us.
As Det. Frank Keller (Al Pacino) says to his love interest Helen Kruger (Ellen Barkin) in the movie Sea of Love: “Come the wet ass hour, I’m everybody’s daddy!”
So what to do? We want the bad guys off the street. We don’t want to hamstring the police. We don’t want violent police.
When young, aged about eighteen, waiting in the early hours for a train on a section of deserted platform at Euston Station in London, I saw two policemen beat up a man who had been sleeping on a bench seat. I saw no provocation. Interfering would have been foolhardy; but, in fact, it didn’t cross my mind at the time. I sat up straight and checked that I didn’t look dishevelled.
Legislated rules of conduct are no answer. The only partial answer is to get the right people at the top; to create a culture of restraint and respect. And to harden recruitment. Police forces attract thugs and those of intemperate disposition. If they are not weeded out at the start, there’s half a chance they’ll run amok at some stage, whatever are the rules.
How To Cheat At Tennis
The term “line ball” is sometimes used to indicate an argument that could go either way. In tennis, though, any part of a ball that does hit any part of the line, is “in.” At the highest level of tennis, players flirt with the lines all the time, and there are many “line balls,” or, as they now seem to be called, close calls. The latter I discovered when watching broadcasts of the Australian Open matches. I also discovered, to my great surprise, that there were no longer any linesmen, or even any lineswomen. The Hawk-Eye system is automatically making the calls. And if anyone has questions about the call, there is an instant replay of the bounce of the ball, and super closeups of the impact mark of the ball on the court. Isn’t technology wonderful?
Looking for information about Hawk-Eye turns up these sources, among surprisingly few others:
and the wiki entry, Hawk-Eye.
The replay in “instant replay,” is not, strictly speaking, a “replay.” It’s actually a “preplay.” There are 10 (in some reports 12) cameras in the Hawk-Eye system. None of them are anywhere near the lines. The cameras are arrayed around the court in high positions looking down on the play. They record at up to 340 frames per second, and feed that information to the associated computers. [What they are looking at is the ball strike and the subsequent trajectory of the ball. On that basis, the entire trajectory of the ball, including the bounce, is predicted. The ball could, in fact, be called “out” before it crosses the net.] As was pointed out in comments, the previous sentence is, as far as can be determined from inadequate documentation, incorrect. It is only the ball tracking on the approach to the bounce that is taken into account. [See comment by Sancho Panzer.]
That explains why Hawk-Eye never shows any actual footage of the ball in the vicinity of the line. It’s a simulation. This will be obvious to cricket lovers. Hawk-Eye for tennis is a development of the original product for cricket. Those balls do not go through the batman’s leg and on to, or past, the wicket.
For something upon which so much rests, there is a paucity of public information about the system. The software is proprietary, and not even the mathematical modelling has been revealed. Not many questions about calibration seem to have been answered, and things like the number of cameras differ in different reports. In an article in New Statesman from 2015, Harry Collins discussed the accuracy of the system, and the secrecy surrounding it.
So we telephoned the firm to talk about [accuracy] and we hit a wall. As sociologists of science we had spent decades chatting with scientists about this kind of thing but suddenly we were told this information was private and lawyers were on call.
Hawk-Eye had been creeping in through the outside courts for a few years, but in 2021 Covid-19 was the rationale for its full-scale introduction across all matches in both the Australian and US Opens. Think how many Covid deaths were prevented by getting rid of all those linesmen around the court.
Let’s suppose that there is a lot of money to be won or lost in betting on the results of major tennis matches. Now imagine that some disreputable but technically adept persons manage to gain access to the software of the system. These nefarious people introduce into the system a bias factor that can be invoked from the control system, or better yet, remotely. The bias is only applied to very close calls to reverse them, with the direction of the reversal depending, of course, on the player.
Who would notice? Players are being conditioned to mistrust their own perceptions and go with the Hawk-Eye call. For example, at the Aussie Open in 2021, Dominic Thiem said, “If the electronic call is out, the ball is out, so there’s no room for mistakes. I like it.” Spectators, live and remote, are shown the “definitive” animation almost immediately. A major match between the world’s top players will often come down to matters of millimetres, and those are the very players who are aiming close to the lines more often.
One of the videos referred to above mentions International Tennis Federation testing of the system in 2006. “Results showed the system to have a mean error of only 2.6mm when compared to a high-speed camera located on the playing surface.” So why not just use the high-speed camera? A competitor, Foxtenn, has done just that. Their high-speed cameras watch the lines, and their replays feature not just the simulation of point of impact, but the actual footage of the ball. But the imagery is coming from a computer, so anything is possible.
That’s the general problem. The world is presented to us as digital information mediated by computers, and all the virtue can be hacked out of the virtual. Once you accept that you must take on faith the video imagery that you see, just as you must the digital photo images, destination Dystopia is much closer.
Take the White Pill!
A message from Michael Malice by way of Dara Macdonald.
The White Pill is an alternative to the Blue Pill, the Red Pill and the Black Pill.
Michael Malice traced the rise of the Soviet Union and its outposts in every country in the world, from the bloody revolution through the catalogue of horrors, the secret police, the torture chambers, the show trials, the labor camps and the mass starvation. There were always people in the West prepared to justify the bloodshed in defence of the evil empire. But then it fell (or did we speak too soon?) Still, for Malice and Macdonald the fall is a message that the good must never give up hope. This is the White Pill.
The Red Pill opens our eyes to some harsh facts of reality, the Blue Pill is a narcotic that enables us to ignore the facts and the Black Pill prompts apathy and resignation in the belief that nothing can be done about it.
The rise and fall of the Soviet Union is proof that the progressive version of history (as popularised today by Steven Pinker and Francis Fukuyama) that things are always getting better is plain wrong, but so are the nihilists that say that things will only get worse.
In other words, the White Pill view is the most factual as it says that things can get both dramatically worse AND drastically better.
What is most important is that WE don’t believe that everything is doomed, if we do, then the downward trajectory will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we continue to take the Black Pill and get our negative expectations confirmed by the media we consume we will demoralise ourselves out of taking action
Take a White Pill daily, or even three times a day, with or without your favourite beverage, and get on to live, love and leave a legacy by doing whatever can be done. Someone whose name eludes me once said that we can all aspire to make the world a little bit better every day in our own way, be it ever so humble.
Someone else put a citation from Edmud Burke in his email signature “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”
Open Thread – Weekend 28 Jan 2023
Parasite: Christianity with Korean characteristics
I was struck by a particular sequence in the movie the first time I saw it (on the TV, I’m have to confess) two or three years ago. WolfmanOz’s commentaries on movies brought that sequence to mind again. If you haven’t seen Parasite, it is probably best not to read this post, which is certainly a spoiler. I apologise for the quality of the video clips, which come from screen captures.
I know nothing of pre-Christian Korean religious practice or folk lore, but a cursory search yielded a whole Pantheon, represented, for example, like so.
It’s easy enough to see which ones are dangerous, and the convention that is used. It may be that all of the elements of Parasite can be accounted for in terms of Korean mythology. Nonetheless, major elements of the movie strike me as being specifically Christian.
The two main families of the story are the Kims – father Ki Taek, mother Chung Sook, daughter Ki Jung and son Ki Woo – and the Parks – father Dong Ik, mother Yeon Kyo, daughter Da Hye, and young son Da Song. The Kims are scroungers living in the lower reaches of the city in a sub-basement with windows at street level. The Parks are wealthy, living on the heights in a house designed by a famous architect. A successful contemporary of the Kim children is going overseas, and recommends the son to take over his tutoring of the Park’s daughter. This friend brings to Ki Woo from his grandfather a scholar’s stone, for no obvious reason. It’s a grace. Scholar’s stones, or landscape stones, are microcosms of mountainous landscapes; a kind of bonsai mountain.
Daughter Ki Jung’s talent for fraud begins to shine through as she expertly forges qualifications for Ki Woo, who, unlike his contemporary, is not attending university. Ki Jung is subsequently represented by Ki Woo as an art therapist for the Park’s son, Da Song. She immediately exerts iron control over both the son and the mother, showing an enviable ability to bend others to her will. This young woman is CEO, or at least, Vice-President (Human Resources), material. Mrs Park, obsessed with all things American, calls Ki Woo Kevin, and Ki Jung, Jessica.
By similarly polished deceit and manipulation, the Parks’ driver is replaced by Kim the Elder. The housekeeper, Moon Gwong, was inherited by the Parks from the original owner, the architect himself, so she is a tough proposition. In elaborate choreographed interactions, the Kims manoeuvre Mrs Park into dismissing her without notice. She is then replaced, of course, by Mrs Kim.
The whole family is now employed by the Parks, who then leave for a camping holiday to mark son Da Song’s birthday. The Kims are sprawled over the living room furniture enjoying the Park’s food and booze, as the rain begins to come down more and more heavily. Then Moon Gwong rings the doorbell and begs to be let in for something she has forgotten. Beneath the basement, hidden behind shelves and a blast door, is a deeper basement bomb shelter, and living down there is Moon Gwong’s husband, Geun Se, who has been emerging at night to get food ever since the Parks moved in.
The couple discover the family relationship of the Kims, and after some slapstick, they are restrained by the Kims in the shelter, when Mrs Park calls to announce they will be home in a few minutes. Only Chung Sook is supposed to be in the house. More slapstick. At this point, as father, son and daughter scatter into hiding, Mrs Kim serves dinner to Mrs Park, and Bong Joon Ho begins to reveal his purpose.
The three are trapped until the Park parents fall asleep on the sofa, when they escape from the house and into this startling sequence.
The colour keys in this are critical. As the descent begins, the dominant colour is green, most noticeable in the place where it changes – the road tunnel. As the Kims descend we see the green stripes on the walls and green characters on the footpath lights. The first bright burst of red is from the taillights of a car turning at the end of the tunnel as they shuffle towards it. From that point, the colour key is red. It seemed to me on first viewing, and does still, that this sequence is a descent into the Inferno; paradoxically, in the context of a flood, yet nonetheless obviously. Notice the son’s momentary reluctance to be swept down by the flood.
All of the reviews and commentaries that I have seen insist that the movie is built around class divisions and tensions. The division is deeper than that. It is the division between the earth-dwellers – the Parks – and the denizens of the underworld. The flawed earth-dwellers, snobbish, supercilious, gullible, live in the green world of the Parks’ garden, whose lawn and trees are the background to most of what happens in the Park home.
In Bong Joon Ho’s universe, it seems, the underworld is populated with demons, ghosts, the restless dead and lost souls, all of whom interact with the overworld and its people. When the Kims arrive at their flooded sub-basement, the correspondence of the underworlds is reinforced by intercutting the scenes as they recover what they can, with scenes from the underworld of the Park home, where Moon and her husband are bound, and the wife is dying from injuries sustained when she was kicked down the stairs by Mrs Kim.
Through this appalling chaos run themes of conscience and repentance, focussed on the mysterious scholar’s stone, which is what Ki Woo rushes into the sub-basement to rescue, and which rises through the floodwater to meet him.
Up to this point, the Kim family has expressed its optimism through its “plans,” as seen during the descent, and where the “plan” is often a plot or scheme. The refugees from the flood sleep in a gymnasium, and the son asks the father what the plan is. Ki Taek’s answer reveals a resignation of despair; Ki Woo’s reveals a resignation of optimism and the significance of the stone.
For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4
The Rock clings, follows, nags the conscience and, when necessary, leads, even into the valley of the shadow of death.
Despite two attempts, Ki Woo cannot be killed, or even permanently injured, with the stone. Note the spreading pools of blood and what looks for all the world like water on the floor from which Geun Se picks up the stone the second time.
Mio caro bene! Non ho più affanni e pene no ho più pene al cor. Vedendoti contento, nel seno mio già sento, che sol vi alberga amor. My beloved! I no longer know suffering and pain, I no longer have grief in my heart, Seeing you happy, I feel that in my heart Now only love abides. Handel Rodelinda Mio Caro Bene
The flies settle on Geun Se’s body as soon as he stops moving. The final trigger for Ki Taek’s rage is Mr Park’s disgust at Geun Se’s smell. This theme runs through the movie. The Kims’ scheme is almost brought undone when the son, Da Song, announces that all four smell the same. Back in the sub-basement, Ki Jung points out that their common scent comes not from common soaps or deodorants, but from where they live. As the Kim family waits under the table to escape the Park home, Mr Park muses on Ki Taek’s smell. It’s a bit like boiling a rag, and is sometimes smelled on the subway. The flies know, though, the smell of the dead.
Bong Joon Ho’s underworld is an eclectic Purgatory; one in which destinations are yet to be decided; to which redemption may come; from which resurrection is possible. It is the spiritual basement of the world. Looked at another way, this is the most sophisticated zombie movie ever made.
Ki Woo and Chung Sook survive the carnage, and return to their familiar underworld. Ki Taek retreats to that other underworld beneath the basement of what was the home of the Park family.
This final scene is filled with the most extraordinary joy. I think everyone feels it, and the credits close on this sense of spiritual elevation, whatever unsolved puzzles Bong leaves them with. The Good News is like that.
Flag flying on Australia Day
On Australia Day I fly the national flag from our front balcony. From both directions along our street it can be seen. Never once have I thought this action is a political statement. Until now.
Australians tend to shy away from overt displays of politics. Yes, we vote; that is a given in a compulsory voting system. But looking around the suburbs, among the callistemons, camellias or cacti, you would never know your neighbours’ political opinions or voting intentions. This is not to say they, or we, do not have them. It is just that we do not ordinarily share them with the neighbours via lawn signs and other showy displays. It is not our thang!
However, flying the flag is something different. Flag flying became de rigueur during the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when we were all encouraged to get behind our sporting heroes. As a sporting nation, this was not a hard thing to do.
From then on Australia Day really became a “fun-ly” patriotic day of BBQs, sporting activities and free events organised by community groups, state governments and town councils. Business got into the act by sponsoring different activities and events, both locally and nationally. All manner of Aussie themed merchandise from bunting and napkins to beach towels and bikinis gave retail sales a lift between Christmas and Easter, and for which the big (and small retailers) were truly thankful. Along with the AOTY awards, fireworks displays and citizenship ceremonies, the Australian Open, and what was once the Adelaide Test Match fixture, this was a day to celebrate being Australian.
My Australia Day flag flying has always fitted perfectly with the tenor of the day: pride in the Australian way of life, pride in its people and their achievements, and pride in our past and in our future.
This year, numerous large and important companies decided to ignore the day because of the ubiquitous “diversity and inclusion.” Some companies have even offered to allow their employees to work and take another day off at some other time. Message to these imbeciles, many people work on Australia Day and on the other national days and holidays throughout the year. Working Australia Day does not mean that Australia Day is of no importance to those workers. But such statements fit nicely with the current fashion to delegitimise us and our national day.
Will I take down the flag? Not on your life! Will I fly the flag on January 26 next year? You betcha! Today, I made a political statement.
WolfmanOz at the Movies #55
Born William Franklin Beedle Jr. on April 17th, 1918, William Holden became one of the most popular movie stars of the 1950s and is probably my favourite actor from that era.
After graduating from high school he became involved in local radio plays and by the late 30s was appearing in a number of uncredited roles in films at Paramount.
He got his big break in 1939 when he changed his surname to Holden after the assistant director on the big film he was going to work on was divorcing actress Gloria Holden.
The film was Golden Boy which also starred Barbara Stanwyck in which he played a violinist turned boxer. The film has dated now but it propelled him into leading roles in the early 1940s which was cut short when he was called up into the US Air Force where he acted in training films – somewhat quite different to Lee Marvin’s WWII experiences from last weeks post.
After the war he resumed his film career which was proving rather unremarkable until he landed the part of the down-at-heel screenwriter taken in by a faded silent film actress in Billy Wilder’s magnificently scathing drama of Hollywood in Sunset Blvd. (1950). It’s in my top 20 favourite films of all-time.
Holden was exceptional in a role he would make his own in the coming years playing a self-loathing cynical lead. He also helped set up in having Gloria Swanson delivering one of THE all-time great lines in movie history.
In the same year he also played opposite the superb Judy Holliday in the wonderful comedy Born Yesterday, and for the next few years he was on a golden run with hit after hit.
In 1953 he won the Best Actor Oscar in Stalag 17, again directed by Billy Wilder, for his outstanding portrayal as the enterprising and unsympathetic cynic who barters openly with the German guards for various luxuries. This mixture of drama and comedy was quite unusual for the time and still stands as one of the best POW films ever made.
Other films he starred in during this period included Sabrina, The Country Girl, The Bridges At Toko-Ri and Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing.
Although a little old for the main role in 1955s Picnic he bought a sensual air to his role as the wandering vagrant, never better exemplified in this lovely scene where he dances with Kim Novak’s character.
Holden then starred in David Lean’s The Bridge On The Rover Kwai which was a huge financial and critical success.
By the 1960s Holden was becoming less interested in his films and became more involved as a managing partner in an animal preserve in Africa where he fell in love with the wildlife and created the Mount Kenya Game Ranch.
In 1969 he has a great role as the outlaw leader Pike in Sam Peckinpah’s blood-soaked superb western The Wild Bunch, and was one of many stars featured in 1974’s The Towering Inferno.
Two years later he gave his last great leading performance in Network as the world-weary TV news division president; and two years after that he had another good role in the Billy Wilder film Fedora.
An alcoholic for most of his life, Holden died on November 12th, 1981, aged only 63, when he bled to death in his apartment after cutting his forehead from slipping on a rug while drunk and hitting a bedside table.
and the tease for next weeks post . . . The Man in Lincoln’s Nose.
Our wombat energy minister
How many mistakes can the Climate Change and Energy Minister make in three sentences? According to Mark Ludlow and Angela Macdonald-Smith, writing in the Fin Review last Friday (20th), Mr Bowen said (1) the war in Ukraine was responsible for 90 per cent of the global electricity price rises last year. He said(2) the move towards renewable energy would make Australia’s energy market less exposed to global shocks.
And (3) “This targeted short-term response was necessary, but so is the long-term plan to increase the uptake of affordable, firmed renewable energy, to reduce our reliance on volatile overseas markets and power Australia’s future as a renewable energy superpower.”
Reality check. 1. Energy prices were going through the roof in Britain and the Continent early in 2021, a year before the invasion of Ukraine that started on Feb 24, 2022.
2. Regarding the impact of global shocks, we benefit from high export prices for coal but that does not inflate the price of coal burned locally. We would have no shortage of gas if the state governments in Victoria and NSW would only allow it to be extracted
3. As for becoming a renewable energy superpower by way of firmed wind and solar power, this is just a very bad joke.
What is going to provide the firming if we exit from coal? We have effectively no grid-scale firming at present and no amount of so-called “big batteries” will help. Do the maths and compare the capacity of “big batteries” with the demand in the grid. The same applies to pumped hydro. Even if Snowy2.0 is completed, it will provide intermittent power that only matches a fraction of a the output of a coal station like Liddell that it is supposed to replace.
A conservative vagabond guest post
The New Conflict of Visions
How new constrained/unconstrained religious visions produce the political polarisation of today
I will explore the new conflict of visions that these new religions create and the political fall out of each, as follows:
- Part 1: The Conflict of Visions
- Part 2: Environmentalism
- Part 3: Anti-racism
- Part 4: Traditional Religious Visions and the Return of the Strong Gods
- Part 5: What can be done about this new religious war?