Covid’s variant of Munchausen by proxy

Minding my own business watching TV late the other night. I am assailed by professor Michael Kidd, who is apparently deputy chief medical officer. He warned me that I needed to stop the spread; to wear a mask when inside in crowded situations, to keep my distance from other folk, to wash my hands. Is this a time warp, I query? Groundhog Year. Fated to relive 2020 indefinitely.

Who are these people? Have they nothing better to do? Work on curing cancer or at least prescribe stock standard medicines for routine conditions. There must be something more useful for them to do than flogging a dead horse. No, they can’t let it go. In my view they are mentally disturbed, suffering from a variant of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

They want us to be sick. They need us to be sick. Quarantined. Restricted to our homes and beds. Masked. Estranged from our fellows. Plied with experimental vaccines. Over Covid, keeping worrying. Long-Covid is waiting to get you. And who knows what deadly strains are on the horizon?

I see no way out of this. Rationality fails when dealing with the mentally deranged; and that has been one unsung side effect of Covid. Some say that time will eventually solve the problem. I don’t know? They (assorted medicos, media hacks, and pollies) will be champing for the next disease to exploit, if this one eventually fails them despite their best efforts to keep us permanently alarmed and housebound.

WolfmanOz at the Movies #45

Great movie endings

Sometimes the ending of a movie can elevate it to another level – think of The Bridge On The River Kwai, Casablanca and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest to name a few classics.

So the following 3 selections are from lesser known films that have an outstanding ending/climax.

With the release in 1995 of the superb crime thriller The Usual Suspects it introduced the movie world a couple of new great talents in actor Kevin Spacey and writer Christopher McQarrie.

The film follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint, a small-time crook, who is one of only two survivors of a massacre and fire on a ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. Through narration and flashback, Kint tells the interrogator a convoluted story of events that led him and his criminal companions to the boat, and of a mysterious crime lord – known as Keyser Soze – who controlled them. 

The final revelation of who was Keyser Soze is a masterful juxtaposition of editing, sound mixing and a total surprise for the audience as to who was the mysterious master crime lord.

In 1978 saw an excellent remake of the classic science-fiction thriller Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, starring Donald Sutherland.

The updated plot involves a San Francisco health inspector and his colleague who over the course of a few days discover that humans are being replaced by alien duplicates; each is a perfect copy of the person replaced, but devoid of human emotion.

Donald Sutherland as the health inspector manages to evade being replaced and returns to work . . .

And finally, in 1971 came the release of Luchino Visconti’s haunting adaption of Thomas Mann’s classic novella Death In Venice.

The film, set at the turn of the century, stars Dirk Bogarde as composer Gustav von Aschenbach who travels to Venice for rest, due to serious health concerns. In Venice, he becomes obsessed with the stunning beauty of an adolescent boy named Tadzio, who is staying with his family at the same hotel as Achenbach.

In the climactic scene, a dying Aschenbach sees Tadzio at the beach, and to the setting of Mahler’s marvellous Adagietto from his 5th Symphony, we see him die in a scene of stunning beauty.

So, what are other great film endings/climaxes that Cat enjoyed and/or found memorable ?


Guest Post: thefrollickingmole – The Unseriousness of Modern Prison ‘reformers’

It’s becoming quite clear there will be a push for large numbers of current inmates to be released from jails as the new drip, drip of the campaign emerges.

Led by the assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh it will be presented as a pragmatic budgetary exercise, saving millions of dollars as non violent crims are released or diverted from prison.

Australia could free a third of its prisoners with little risk to community, new research finds

Exclusive: Study says reduced incarceration of non-violent offenders can deliver savings to taxpayers and get more people into work

Andrew Leigh’s own uni thesis was on de-incarceration, making much the same arguments that it would be an economic plus.

In his own article for the Guardian, Leigh makes much of crime rates going down “despite” more people committing crime being locked up. Rather than drawing the obvious conclusion, that more crims disabled by incarceration = less crime he has a much more fantastic view; that is, that large numbers of crims in jail and lower crime rates shows too many are in jail.

Anyway, I’ll fisk this particular article as it’s the most recent in the steady “It’s the responsible thing to do” propaganda campaign.

Continue reading “Guest Post: thefrollickingmole – The Unseriousness of Modern Prison ‘reformers’”

Book review: The scientific method

J Scott Armstrong and Kesten Green, The Scientific  Method: A Guide to Finding Useful Knowledge. Cambridge University Press, 2022.                                 

Science and academic life at large have changed out of recognition since the second world war under the influence of rapid growth, increasing government control and the politicisation of the allocation of research grants.

The world of science is in a bad way and academic studies in the philosophy and social studies of science have not helped. The philosophy of science took a particularly unhelpful turn in the 1930s when the subject became an academic speciality in Vienna and elsewhere on the Continent. The school of thought known as logical positivism or logical empiricism became embedded in the universities of the anglosphere when many exponents, notably Rudolph Carnap and Karl Hempel, occupied prestigious chairs when they fled to the west to escape from Hitler.

The most popular reaction in the form of Kuhn’s paradigm theory and social studies of science has been equally unhelpful because it was led by exponents of cultural Marxism or fellow-travellers who rapidly took control of the humanities and social sciences.

This book is not a contribution to the academic literature, it is much more important and helpful than that.  It is actually more than one book, in a single set of covers. One of the books is a practical handbook or an operating manual for working scientists who are trying to make sense of information and solve a scientific or practical problem while in contrast philosophers of science are concerned with the fashionable problems in the academic literature at the time.

The core of that book is a series of checklists to help scientists to navigate on the journey from the beginning of a research career to particular research projects from the start (selecting a topic) to the end, including publication and verbal presentation of the findings. Good practice in all of the elements of the process should become second nature for researchers who are well taught, well supervised during their doctoral studies and well mentored by senior colleagues later on. However not all postgraduate students are well supervised because supervision is an art and a science in itself which not all academics master

The first list is “self assessment of self-control” in a chapter on what it takes to be a good scientist. The prospective scientist is advised to think hard about the pros and cons of a research career.  The 1925 novel Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis could be prescribed as a text to learn about the trials and tribulations of idealistic researchers.

The hero of the book is a radical and independent medical researcher who adheres to strict principles of scientific methods. The central drama of the book is Arrowsmith’s discovery of a special kind of cell in the blood that destroys bacteria and his dilemma in the face of an outbreak of bubonic plague on a fictional Caribbean island. His scientific principles demand that he should test the therapy before its mass use on the Island, even at the expense of lives that might be saved.

As for the exhilaration of advancing the frontier of knowledge, the authors cite a survey of students in the doctoral programs in economics at eight leading universities in the US. The survey found that 18% of the students experience moderate or severe depression and 11% think about suicide in a two-week period. Not surprisingly, economics is dubbed “the dismal science.”

There is a short checklist on identifying important problems and a long list of things to attend to in planning and executing the data collection and analysis.

After drawing out conclusions, the scientist turns to disseminate the findings. There are progress reports and seminar papers on preliminary findings along the way but the critical products to maintain tenure and ongoing grants are papers published in peer-reviewed literature. Hence the talk about “publish or perish” that has been an ongoing refrain at last since the 1960s when I first became aware of it.

The checklist starts with “Explanation of findings and why they are credible and useful.” It has to be said that many claims of usefulness in the softer sciences tend to strain credibility.  These are the projects that regularly attract criticism from conservative critics of the major grants allocated by bodies such as the Australian Research Council.

The largest checklist concerns writing the paper. By the time the researcher gets to this point he or she should be thoroughly familiar with this particular literary form but familiarity does not guarantee that the beginner or even experienced scientists will do a good job. The most important suggestions are at the end of the list: “Use editors to improve clarity and rewrite until the report is clear and interesting.” By editors I presume they mean colleagues, preferably experienced in report writing.

The last three checklists are concerned with sales and marketing. This is the work that some of the most conscientious and committed truth-seekers overlook, find distasteful or dismiss as beneath the dignity of scholars. This probably did not matter so much a generation ago when there were less scientists and good work would usually be picked up by influential workers and given due attention including all-important citations. This is no longer the case unless the researcher has the necessary connections in place, otherwise they have to be reached by well-organized efforts to contact and cultivate them.

Talks and oral presentations are important and it is surprising how badly some leading scientists perform, without attention to the details and the preparation that make all the difference. Serious work, practice and coaching are required to develop advanced skills in talks and presentations and the effort will be well rewarded when the scientists has an opportunity to put their work on display at seminars and conferences.

The authors provide valuable advice to scientists and there is more! The book begins with a survey of the problems that afflict science at present and, it ends with practical suggestions for improvement that can be taken up by the range of stakeholders in the scientific enterprise.  There are chapters on assessing the quality of scientific practice, the problem of advocacy, concerns with the effectiveness of peer review and the complications that arise with government funding and direction of research. The positive suggestions are offered to university managers, journal editors, governments, courts, the media, and interested individuals.

The Scientific  Method: A Guide to Finding Useful Knowledge. Cambridge University Press, 2022.      

Mater’s Musings #63: Lest We Forget

Here’s a contemporary historical account that the AWM could use for its proposed Frontier War display. Might even be of interest to Mr Pascoe.

Continue reading “Mater’s Musings #63: Lest We Forget”

“When Mr. Wedge first landed at Port Phillip he found seven families of natives residing in their huts near the encampment which had been formed by the settlers who had just arrived with sheep. The most friendly understanding subsisted between them. About a fourth of the number were hunting. They returned in the evening with a plentiful supply, consisting of edable roots which they had dug up Kangaroo rats and calkeit or a species of ant in the fly state collected from the hollows of trees. Notwithstanding this, however, they possessed either of food or convenience, especially knives and blankets. One of the blacks in particular named Murradonnanuke manifested a very earnest desire to be on friendly terms, and has been mainly instrumental in confirming the peaceable intercourse that has since been established, although pointed out by Buckley as one who was much dreaded by the other chiefs on account of his treachery.

These people are, we regret to say decided cannibals. They do not however, indulge in this horrible propensity, except in two cases, the one in consuming the bodies of hostile tribes killed in battle, and the other, we shudder to relate it, on their own offspring. The women are accustomed to nurse and suckle their children until three or four years old, and in order to get rid of the trouble and inconvenience of finding sustenance for two should a second be born, before the oldest is weaned, they destroy the youngest immediately after its birth. There are some mothers also among them who destroy their offspring from mere wantonness, and one female the wife of Nullumbord was pointed out to Mr. Wedge as having destroyed ten out eleven of her children.

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WolfmanOz at the Movies #44

Demonic Possession

It’s now 49 years ago that William Friedkin’s supernatural horror classic The Exorcist was first released (actually at Xmas in 1973).

The film is based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, which it follows very closely in depicting the demonic possession of a young girl and her mother’s attempt to rescue her through an exorcism conducted by a pair of Catholic priests.

The cultural impact of the film, which also encompassed its treatment of Catholicism helped it become the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture whilst it also became the biggest grossing box-office film of all-time (until the release of Jaws in 1975).

This is an unusual horror film in the way it is structured in that it doesn’t really have a main lead as it is largely an ensemble piece. Plus its main driving force, for me, is the crisis of faith in the character of Father Karras. The film was directed by William Friedkin who was the hot director at the time after the phenomenal success of The French Connection,

The film starts, eerily in Northern Iraq, where Father Merrin encounters a large statue of the demon Pazuzu.

The film then locates to Georgetown where an actress’s daughter gradually becomes possessed and is confined to her bedroom. After trying numerous medical tests, her mother, in an act of desperation, turns to Father Karrras, and, despite his ambivalence concludes that an exorcism is warranted where Father Merrin is summoned.

Ultimately both Father Merrin and Father Karras die during the exorcism but Karras sacrifices himself in tricking the demon to possess him as he hurled himself out of the window to his death.

The film is an exhausting experience with the viewer continually assaulted with images and sounds that still horrify today. For many the impact it had was visceral in that some viewers suffered adverse physical reactions, fainting or vomiting towards scenes in the movie.

Over the years it was followed by numerous sequels and prequels, none of which came remotely close to repeating the original’s success and impact.


US 2022 Mid-Terms Thread

The latest indication of national sentiment:

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