A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

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Monday 30 December 2002

Another week rolls around. Long-time readers will remember The Git spent several weeks writing the Diatribe in E-Prime:

E-PRIME, abolishing all forms of the verb "to be," has its roots in the field of general semantics, as presented by Alfred Korzybski in his 1933 book, Science and Sanity. Korzybski pointed out the pitfalls associated with, and produced by, two usages of "to be": identity and predication. His student D. David Bourland, Jr., observed that even linguistically sensitive people do not seem able to avoid identity and predication uses of "to be" if they continue to use the verb at all. Bourland pioneered in demonstrating that one can indeed write and speak without using any form of "to be," calling this subset of the English language "E-Prime." Many have urged the use of E-Prime in writing scientific and technical papers. Dr. Kellogg exemplifies a prime exponent of this activity. Dr. Albert Ellis has rewritten five of his books in E-Prime, in collaboration with Dr. Robert H. Moore, to improve their clarity and to reap the epistemological benefits of this language revision. Korzybski felt that all humans should receive training in general semantics from grade school on, as "semantic hygiene" against the most prevalent forms of logical error, emotional distortion, and "demonological thinking." E-Prime provides a straightforward training technique for acquiring such semantic hygiene.

To understand E-Prime, consider the human brain as a computer. (Note that I did not say the brain "is" a computer.) As the Prime Law of Computers tells us, GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT (GIGO, for short). The wrong software guarantees wrong answers. Conversely, finding the right software can "miraculously" solve problems that previously appeared intractable.

The Git found the exercise intriguing, though it added considerable time to the daily task of writing The Diatribe. The Git can't say that the time was wasted as the effort of recasting thoughts in E-Prime generally leads to clearer thinking and exposition of ideas.

The Anatomy of SlaveSpeak by Frederick Mann expands somewhat on general semantics and follows pretty much a lot of where The Git's thoughts have led him:

"Reframing means looking at a familiar phenomenon from a new angle. Any situation can be looked at in a wide variety of different frameworks, and each one is capable of throwing a new light on the subject... [T]he ability and willingness to set aside the conventional framework (temporarily) is one of the key skills of invention and discovery... [T]hese pigeon holes into which we classify things and situations, events and people, are themselves arbitrary and artificial: convenient and useful for some purposes -- but one, not the only way to view the world. The pigeon holes can be suspended (temporarily) and new ones brought to bear, without cost and with profit.

There is another important dimension to reframing. Once we accept that the same thing can be viewed in many different ways, all of them potentially useful, it is no longer necessary to impose our view of things on other people, we can accept theirs as alternative viewpoints, valid for themselves, and potentially enriching our understanding of the situation."

In A Tale of A Tub Jonathan Swift wrote: "...[A]t a Grand Committee, some Days ago, this important Discovery was made by a certain curious and refined Observer; That Sea-men have a Custom when they meet a Whale, to fling him out an empty Tub, by way of Amusement, to divert him from laying violent Hands upon the Ship. This Parable was immediately mythologiz'd: The Whale was interpreted to be "Hobbes's Leviathan," which tosses and plays with all other Schemes of Religion and Government, whereof a great many are hollow, and dry, and empty, and noisy, and wooden, and given to Rotation."

-oOo-

It amuses The Git no end that from time to time, he reads of Bloggers who find the term Blog offensive and/or ugly. The term, for those who don't know, comes from the contraction of Web and Log.

A Log is a written record of events on a voyage and to The Git's way of thinking, life is a voyage of discovery. Douglas Adams compared the World Wide Web to an ocean and pointed out that you can't understand it with a riverbank mentality. There's that voyage metaphor again.

Those who eschew the term Blog prefer Journal, or Diary: A daily written record of (usually personal) experiences and observations, or Daybook: The daily written record of events (as arrests) in a police station.

The Git never came to terms with diaries, except as appointment books and repository for scribbled cryptic notes that he never quite seemed to understand the significance of when later rereading them. What is laughingly called his handwriting plays a significant role in this. So, rather than call him a diarist, journalist, or a policeman, you can call him a Blogger and he won't mind in the least.

Thought for the day:

Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.

Albert Camus

Current Listening:

The Cranberries -- No Need to Argue


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Tuesday 31 December 2002

From my Inbox:

Dear sir,

Please allow me to start this message by complimenting you on the contents of your web site. One rarely meets such thought provoking writing, even if not agreeing completely with everything there. But the subject of this message is that I also remembered seeing the movie you mentioned in your 27th December post, "Sharks and Small Fish". Only I remembered that the said movie was a German one, and started searching. One of the links was <http://us.imdb.com/Title?0050478> - the article in the Internet Movie Database referring to "Haie und kleine Fische" which is, I believe, what you were looking for. I hope I was of any help.

Season's greetings,

Felix Mendes

Many thanks, Felix -- that looks like it. I note the viewer rating is rather low, but then it's a movie designed to radically alter your perception rather than give ephemeral pleasure. This makes many people uncomfortable. A bit like this website really. The Git would be most surprised, not to say disappointed were his readers to agree with everything here. The purpose is to provoke readers to think for themselves, be unafraid to change their minds and celebrate our differences rather than pretend there are no differences to learn from.

And from my very good friend, Tim Gadd:

I'm currently reeling under a huge increase in my tinnitus, which has the hallmarks of being permanent, and probably the result of my trying to take an anti-depressant again (though only as a sleep aid). Ironically I'm now left with an even louder noise to stop me sleeping, and nothing to help me sleep through it. Please kick me if I talk about taking one of these bloody things again.

I read your recent mention of the book which contends that Aboriginal history since European arrival has been largely manufactured. I don't feel I'm in possession of anything remotely resembling the facts, and therefore don't really have an opinion -- other, perhaps, than to note that the hypothesis is possibly correct, but to think therefore, that nothing bad had happened to aboriginals at the hands of Europeans would be rather ridiculous.

This is my way of sidling up to my main point. I sometimes think about the word 'indigenous'. It annoys me sometimes that I'm not indigenous. That I don't, apparently, belong anywhere. Miriam-Webster defines indigenous as

1 : having originated in and being produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment

Well, I definitely 'originated' here. So did my father, and his father, and his father, and his father. Prior to that my ancestors 'originated' in England, Scotland, and possibly Ireland. The next three definitions don't seem to be applicable to human beings, which leaves us with 'occurring naturally in a particular region...' I'm not even sure that the phrase 'occurring naturally' is supposed to be applied to human beings. I don't usually think of human beings as 'occurring', though I suppose that technically they do. Actually, now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure that I occurred the other day.

This seems to leave us with two possibilities. Either 'occurring naturally' means the same thing as 'having originated in', by which I take it to mean 'being born in', with regard to human beings. If that is the case, anybody born in Tasmania is an indigenous Tasmanian. I'm fairly sure though, that this can't be right, because when people talk about 'indigenous Tasmanians', I'm pretty sure they don't mean me, or for that matter the Chilean kids who used to play outside the shop where I used to work, or some red-haired, freckled bloke from Chigwell. The other option though is that 'occurring naturally in a particular region' means that you originated in that region. This means that being born here isn't enough; your type has to have been here ever since examples of your type existed.

Ok, I can see how the Gadds have only been in Tasmania for 7 generations (unless one of Tracy's kids has had kids and I forgot about it. Actually that's a fair bet, so let's say 8 generations) , and I certainly don't contend that my 'race' (whatever the hell that might be) 'occurs naturally' in Tasmania in the sense of this having been the first place they ever existed. However, we also know that the Aboriginal race migrated here from Asia, at some point in time which varies a fair bit depending on who you talk to, but would seem to be at least 40,000 years ago. So, if I've got this right, before they arrived here, they were someone else - right? Otherwise they couldn't be indigenous, because they actually originated in Asia. Well, Africa, if you want to get technical about it.

Now, I'm pretty sure that people who call Aboriginals 'indigenous' are also well aware of the fact that they originally came from somewhere else, so the only way I can see that you can get this indigenous tag to stick is if you say that they turned up here and then evolved into a different race after they arrived. By that I mean if you sat a modern day aboriginal down next to one of the blokes who came over here from Asia, they would look conspicuously different at the level of physiology, not just what they were wearing or what they were having for lunch: different to the point that someone knowledgeable in such areas could say "Ok, this is Race A, and this is Race B". I don't know whether that's the case or not, but let's say it is. So aboriginals get to be indigenous. Just as an aside, race A can't be Java man, because from what I've read it looks like he might have been here already when they turned up, but they called him 'Yowie'. Oh yeah, now that raises a side issue. Can you be indigenous if you originated here, but someone else originated here before you did? I won't follow that, because it's getting a bit off track, and besides, I'm not sure whether Java Man qualifies as a human race -- which would have been convenient. "Go away, we're indigenous" "No you're not -- you're proto-humans, so it doesn't count" (does this sound something like what Europeans would call Manifest Destiny?)

What about me? Well, I can claim British and Scots ancestry, so presumably I'm indigenous to the British Isles. But to call anybody in the British Isles 'indigenous' seems pretty far-fetched. The place has been invaded so often that it's a bit of a standing joke. They once had a competition to find someone who hadn't invaded Britain, and it turned out they were fairly sure about the Toltecs, but that was about it. And since it's dubious that any of these invaders could be thought to be indigenous to the places they invaded from either, you have to come to the conclusion that at no time in history have there been indigenous people in Europe.

This is all pretty dismal really. And they call Aboriginals homeless and displaced. I never even had a place to be displaced from.

There's one other possibility, though. I might have been wrong about that definition of 'indigenous'. Maybe, rather than meaning 'never having existed anywhere previously', it just means 'having occurred here for quite a long time' -- which would raise the question, how long do you have to be somewhere before you're indigenous? 100,000 years? 10,000? 4,000? 300? Or would being born here be enough after all?

Lloyd Rees once said, if we've got a Dreamtime, it would have to be in Europe. There's something to that, I think* Furthermore, about 50% of my English ancestors were forcibly displaced from England by the Patriarchy of the time, so piecing these two ingrongruous items together, it seems to me that, just OTTOMH I ought to be able to claim land rights in Surrey and Nottinghamshire. I don't think I can claim anything in Glasgow, because the Crammonds seem to have left there of their own free will. This isn't certain: for all I know an angry mob chased them out of town, but they did name an historic part of the city after them. Maybe I could have a bit of that. Might be worth a few bob.

*I didn't want to complicate things further, but I rather suspect that Dreamtimes pre-date land rights claims, in this peculiar scheme I've thought up. I suspect my Dreamtime is probably in Scandinavia, as there are an awful lot of Gadds there, and I think the name probably got into English via the Viking Invasion. Hence, I'll have to settle for a parcel of land in Surrey, but I'll take my dreamtime in Norway. I think that's very postmodern, don't you?

I don't think for one moment that Keith Windschuttle is saying that nothing bad ever happened. He pointed out in a radio interview that during the most notorious slaughter of Tasmanian aboriginals, the sweep of a large part of the island by a line of armed Europeans, not a single Aboriginal was sighted, let alone killed. The diaries of those involved, many of them readily available in the State archive, all refer to this and the superior bushcraft skills of the natives that enable them to elude capture. So, the historians that refer to this "slaughter of sixty or more natives" are making a completely unsustainable claim. If I recall correctly, the sweep wasn't even intended as a killing spree, but to capture them for transport to Robinson's Flinders Island re-education camp.

There were of course deaths on both sides and I make no doubt that Windschuttle refers to such of those that are documented. The Git cannot claim to have made any comprehensive study, but he has read many references to co-operation between the Europeans and natives. The idea of a long military campaign between them appears to be very recent.

Indigenousness is problematic in that most countries are defined by political boundaries rather than natural ones -- thus indigenous is a political definition. From all early accounts there appear to have been far more problems between Australian Aborigines than between Europeans and Aborigines. Aborigines from different tribes were rivals, whereas Europeans were a useful source of food and superior tools. Europeans, were rather more often welcome than they were hated.

Certainly, the Europeans were not always welcome everywhere, all the time. Think of most countries' relationship with the US. We all enjoy the fruits of America's technological prowess -- computers for instance. Many even seem to enjoy what passes for food in America -- Kentucky Fried and MacDonald's! On the other hand, we often resent the cultural imperialism implicit in the fuckhead evangelists trying to sell us weird versions of Christianity we have no use for, not to mention the CIA's penchant for undermining democratically elected governments.

So, coming back to indigenous and its political nature: being political it's all about power of one group over another. Aborigines, by accepting the appellation of indigenous while those of European ancestry are not, are merely playing the stupid games that the terrorcrats wish them to.

-oOo-

Today we are off to see The Two Towers and The Git will be visiting an old friend afterward. It seems that the Jethro Tull albums he had borrowed survived the fire as they were on the floor.

Thought for the day:

My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not its institutions or its office holders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags--that is a loyalty of unreason, it is pure animal; it belongs to monarchy, was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it.

Mark Twain

Current Listening:

Paul Simon -- Songs from the Capeman


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Wednesday 1 January 2003

Quite a lot to write about, but as SWMBO pointed out to me, there's also a fair bit needs attention in the garden today. Having slept around twice as long as usual, The Diatribe will have to wait.

In the meantime, greetings on the first day of a New Year that promises to be at least as interesting as the last. Hopefully, it will bring prosperity, enjoyment and so forth wherever needed. A prayer from Michael Leunig:

God give us rain when we expect sun. 
Give us music when we expect trouble. 
Give us tears when we expect breakfast. 
Give us dreams when we expect a storm. 
Give us a stray dog when we expect congratulations. 
God play with us, turn us sideways and around. 
Amen

Thought for the day:

The first three minutes of life are the most dangerous. The last three can be pretty dodgy as well!

Anonymous

Current Listening:

Pink Floyd -- Umma Gumma


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Thursday 2 January 2003

New Year's Eve was a pleasant day -- we enjoyed LotR: The Two Towers immensely, though The Git will refrain from pontificating on it. Given the amount of verbiage already out there on the topic, it hardly seems worth the effort of adding to it. Suffice it to say that The Git thinks that anything that stimulates people to go out and buy books and read them is A Good Thing, particularly if they are books the academic establishment cannot see any value in!

-oOo-

Part of the day was spent browsing Lin Stanton's shop: Aeroplane Records, conveniently located next to an "adult" bookshop for those so inclined. On this occasion, The Git purchased a couple of those dubious el-cheapo CDs that are releases of famous artists by companies with no obvious connection with the music industry. Usually, you are lucky if one of the tracks is worthwhile, but some contain several interesting renditions. On this occasion, a Donovan recording and one by Steam Packet were the prize. The Donovan CD is a gem, having only one duff track, Make Up Your Mind to be Happy, where he fails to reach a high note. The audience applauded enthusiastically enough, though. The highlights are Young But Growing and Young Girl Blues. The compilation is called Colours and the label is Tempo. A steal for approximately $US3.

The Steam Packet CD, entitled The First '60s Supergroup, was pushed aside by Thomas having successfully downloaded Neil Young's On the Beach, one of several recordings that The Git either failed to purchase when released, or was stolen over the years. The Git's taste in music is such that it's only once in a blue moon that one of the albums he seeks becomes available either from Aeroplane Records, or "illegitimately" via the Internet.

Like the poorly recorded live album Time Fades Away, On the Beach was not a commercial success for Neil Young, but the former remains one of The Git's favourite recordings. On the Beach never made it into my collection and The Git can't recall hearing it for some twenty five years. He suspects it's going to be played daily for the next week, or two at least. Of course the recording industry consider what I am doing to be piracy, though from my point off view, they are attempting to deprive me of my listening pleasure. The Git suspects that the reason for On the Beach not making it into the collection in 1974 was that it never made its appearance in the record stores The Git frequented at the time.

The recording industry is crying foul over the Internet depriving it of sales. Quite how the Internet is preventing the recording companies from releasing recordings is beyond The Git's comprehension. He notes with some relief that The Small Faces Ogden's Nut Gone Flake and The Pretty Things' Get the Picture are available again, at last, but almost everything else that he wants to acquire is completely unavailable! If it's profitable to release mediocre tracks like the final one on Donovan's Colours, surely to goodness there must be a profit in releasing the likes of On the Beach.

-oOo-

Yesterday afternoon's trip to the garden was waylaid by the rebroadcast of Philip Adams' late Night Live on Radio National. Philip was interviewing American documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns (Baseball, Jazz, The Civil War). Needless to say, it was a superb meeting of of the minds of two of the planet's most interesting people and The Git wishes fervently that he could have a copy to listen to once more! Interesting observation by Ken Burns that even though The Civil War was the largest audience for a documentary in the US, proportionately the audience in Australia was greater. Interesting observation by Philip Adams that elimination of the 6% non-US content in Australian TV broadcasting will lead, we are promised, to a lifting of trade-sanctions against importation of Australian produce into the US!

Thought for the day:

"Curing poverty equals allowing people to get rich." This very simple truth has eluded some of the deepest thinkers in the world's advanced nations.

P. J. O’Rourke

Current Listening:

Neil Young -- On the Beach


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Friday 3 January 2003

Correspondence time:

Hello,

Just as piece of trivia: the creator of the Klingon language used in "Star Trek" made it so that there is no verb "to be" in it.

This was fine until the movie "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" where one of the Klingon characters had to recite, in Klingon, the third soliloquy from _Hamlet_: "To be, or not to be...".

I never learned how they got around the problem.

-- David Magda <dmagda at ee.ryerson.ca> Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. -- Niccolo Machiavelli, _The Prince_, Chapter VI

Perhaps another reader can help!

-oOo-

From Tim Gadd:

Have you ever taken the test on this site

It attempts to evaluate your political position based on a dual axis of left-right and authoritarian-libertarian.

For what it's worth, my score is around -5, -6.

Economic Left/Right: -0.75 
Authoritarian/Libertarian: -5.13

I find it ironic or perhaps just curious that someone with a left-right score of -.73 would enjoy listening to Philip Adams. He's inclined to annoy _me_ on account of being too left wing, and I scored -.5

Actually I'll clarify that. Phillip Adams himself doesn't annoy me; the ABC annoys me, and it annoys me when the ABC puts out supposedly unbiased current affairs programmes which are blatantly left-wing, just as much as it annoys me when commercial media put out supposedly unbiased current affairs programmes which are blatantly right-wing (actually, since we've just used the twin-axis thingie, it might be more accurate to say that the commercial media is blatantly authoratarian)

An example of what I mean: Adams once hosted a live debate about One Nation, and cracked some joke at one point that there might actually be some One Nation supporters in the audience - i.e., the idea was absurd, and it was absurd because the audience and panel were a bunch of dyed in the wool socialists having a discussion about people they percieved to be rednecks. As it happened I probably agreed with much of what was said. That wasn't what annoyed me. What annoyed me was that the national broadcaster should be so partisan that it could safely snigger at the right, because it's assumed none of them are evening listening. It was a very similar feeling to what I used to get at university seminars, where it was so taken for granted that everybody in the room either voted Labour or Green, that everyone would just make disparaging remarks about One Nation or Liberals.

As a matter of fact, I used to think that One Nation was not totally without merit, though it was almost totally without brains. Assuredly it took those ideas which were not without merit, and turned them into positions which were often obnoxiously reactionary, but I've always contended that the real reason for the existence of One Nation at all was the total gutlessness of both the mainstream Right AND Left to address people's very legitimate concerns about subjects like land rights and affirmative action.

I suppose you could excuse the ABC for Adams' show on the basis that it is editorial, not documentary.

Tim (apparently a socialist libertarian)

While I share your loathing for the extreme LW bias of the ABC/Philip Adams etc, at least what they broadcast is often literate, intelligent, witty, entertaining, challenging etc. If there was a similar RW broadcaster, I would listen, but Alan Jones? Hawk! Spit! John Laws is capable, but seems determined not to use his undoubted talents in any intelligent way.

The lack of declaration of bias is worrisome. The apparent unconsciousness of bias more worrisome still.

Just as I don't allow Robert Wyatt's extreme LW bias get in the way of my enjoyment of his music, I don't allow the ABC's LW bias prevent me enjoying their broadcasts. Come to think of it, how many, and who are, RW rock musicians of stature?

Right, but Wyatt is just some guy, and he's up front about his political leanings. Ditto Attila the Stockbroker. You could hardly enjoy his stuff (e.g. 'Privitization Explained to the Stupid' or 'Jingo Bells' - have you heard these, BTW?) if you were bothered by them being left wing. But Robert Wyatt and Attila the Stockbroker don't have any responsibility to try and be impartial.

Come to think of it, how >many, and who are, RW rock musicians of stature?

That's a very good question, and one I've often asked myself. There are certainly rock musicians of stature who happen to be right wing, but you wouldn't know it from their music (e.g. The Ramones, The Beach Boys). I guess what you're asking is 'where are the right-wing rock _songwriters_ or right wing rock _songs_ of stature?'

It hardly seems appealing though, does it? The right wing equivalent of Midnight Oil, writing passionate heavy rock songs about the virtues of a free market economy, or protesting about socialised medicine.

Thanks for the correction. I thoroughly enjoyed all of Attila's material I have heard. Meeting him at The Wheatsheaf I deemed a great privilege :-)

-oOo-

And it's back to book-writing for the rest of today...

Thought for the day:

When a liberal sees a person in distress, his conscience urges him to pass a law to force me to help.

Roy Halliday

Current Listening:

Steampacket -- The First 60s Supergroup


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