Friday, February 27, 2004

Whiney Songs Re-Redux

I was thinking over the issue of whiney pop songs recently, mainly because there have been so many comments nominating whiney songs that I had completely overlooked, such as the Kinks' Tears of a Clown. That started me looking for whiney songs written by other highly rated pop-groups and the list started to grow embarassingly; John Lennon has at least two to his credit, Yer Blues and The Ballad of John and Yoko. The latter stretches the boundaries of the category, because it has nothing to do with lost lerv and everything to do with having a martyr complex.

Here's a whiney song about sexual frustration, that I've run through the Google translator with the usual pleasingly absurd results. Andrew Marvell, eat your heart out.

Mrs. Will operate - it now is or never
gives me your love, and
I will pour your heart with the tenderness without end

that I know that you want to see to me, but you have fear
of what I could have on my thing of the spirit
you from me be safe can
to take large care of your love
whether you become me you mine give to let

Mrs. Will operate - it now is or never
gives me your love, and
I will pour your heart with the tenderness without end

Made nobody say to you never only the facts of the pit of the life
there is so much for you must learn,
and I would teach you fortunately,
if I could reach only you
and recover your love in the return

Mrs. Will operate - it now is or never
gives me your love, and
I will pour your heart with the tenderness without end

Now Where Did He Get That Idea?

This is probably not the best time to mention this, but this report from The Age (link via Tim Dunlop) has me wondering which newspapers John Howard has been reading recently.

Remedial Google Practice

Up until a few days ago, I'd never heard of Francisco de Eguia; he gets a mention in The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas as, seemingly, the first person to carry smallpox to Mexico in 1519. It's only a passing mention on page 96 so I'm unable to tell you if he had any other claims to fame. Later, another Francisco de Eguia served in the Peninsula wars - he may have been a member of the noble and ancient lineage of Eguia whose arms are:

Of gold, with five panelas of gules put in sotuer, and bordura of sinople with a gold chain.

I don't know what that means either; the best I can come up with is that it's a gold shield with five red (gules) panelas in a sotuer. A panela is either a pan (Portuguese) or a small cigar, or one of those hunchbacked heraldic animals that look like roadkill. So a sotuer could be either a heraldic stove, some kind of humidor, or a road.

It's a bit stiff that the reputation of a noble house with such a fine (if incomprehensible) escutcheon should be remembered more for the fact that an early de Eguia was Mexico's Patient Zero (especially if, as is quite possible, he wasn't a real de Eguia at all). So, if you happen to go to Spain and find yourself a guest in a house where they have a shield with five red panelas in a sotuer hanging over the mantlepiece, it would probably be tactful to avoid mentioning Mexico.

While we're on the subject of the international trade in infectious diseases, it's worth mentioning that while the Spanish and Portuguese explorers might have taken smallpox to the New World, they did take home one unpleasant souvenir of their own; syphilis. In Syphilis and the Shepherd of Atlantis, Stephen Jay Gould tells the story of the naming of syphilis with the help of Nahum Tate's English translation of Girolamo Fracastoro's Syphilis sive morbus Gallicus (Syphilis or the French Disease):

To Naples first it came
From France, and justly took
from France his name
Companion from the war....

If then by Traffick thence this
plague was brought
How dearly dearly was that
Traffick bought!

If you want to read more of Nahum Tate's writing, a good place to start is his famous revision of King Lear in which Edgar gets the girl.

Afterword: The Slave Trade is where I found much of the information for that Who Am I question earlier this week.

Thursday, February 26, 2004


As several commenters have pointed out, the post below gets it wrong: here's the passage from the judgement that I missed, thanks to inept use of the technology.

1159 The applicants have pleaded that the Commonwealth had a policy that called for the removal of part Aboriginal children without regard to their individual circumstances. Using the purported existence of such a policy as a lynch-pin, the applicants have then argued that that policy was imposed by the Commonwealth on those who were responsible for the administration and implementation of the legislative schemes that were contained, first, in the Aboriginals Ordinance and, then, in the Welfare Ordinance. The next step in the applicants' argument was to the effect that the Commonwealth, having imposed its policy on the Directors, had thereby caused the Directors to refrain from acting in accordance with their own opinions or had caused the Directors to act without having regard to the interests of the children.

1160 That submission suffered from a lack of support from the documentary evidence. I have already set out many of the writings that were tendered on the subject of "policy". The 1952 principles were clear and concise and I see no reason to withhold from saying that they applied four years later at the time when Peter Gunner went to St Mary's. The position that existed in Lorna Nelson's time was not so clear cut however. It would probably be necessary to go back to the situation that existed prior to the Second World War. Even so, there was nothing in any of the writings that would justify a finding that all part Aboriginal children had to be removed or that all illegitimate part Aboriginal children had to be removed or that all illegitimate part Aboriginal children living in native camps had to be removed. Then, if one moves from "policy" to "implementation of policy", the evidence failed to establish that there even was, at any time, activity on such a scale that it could be said that a general policy of removal was then being enforced. The writings of the patrol officers to which reference has been made have indicated that there was a matter of selectivity based on the personal circumstances of the individual children. As I said at the outset of these reasons for judgment, the evidence does not deny the existence of the stolen generation and there was some evidence that some part Aboriginal children were taken into institutions against the wishes of their parents. However, I am limited to making findings on that the evidence that was presented to this Court in these proceedings; that evidence does not support a finding that there was any policy of removal of part Aboriginal children such as that alleged by the applicants: and if, contrary to that finding, there was such a policy, the evidence in these proceedings would not justify a finding that it was ever implemented as a matter of course in respect of these applicants.

1161 These conclusions do not, however, bring the claims of false imprisonment to an end. To establish imprisonment, it will be sufficient to prove that there was a constraint on an applicant's will that was so great as to induce him or her to submit to a deprivation of liberty; physical force need not be used. A mere taking and detaining will be sufficient and it can be effected as a result of the accumulation of the actions of two or more persons. Thus, it could be that the combined actions of Miss Shankelton and Mr Penhall might be the catalyst for the cause of action.
[My emphasis]

I think that's enough; right now I have some serious sulking to do. Anyone who doesn't consider this an adequate retraction can "porcreateagte with my handsomee loinmds, loinmsns" (I think that last is an MSN Messenger plug-in or something).

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Not So Condensed Andrew Bolt

(We read Andrew Bolt so that you don't have to)
In today's column " Why I won't change" respected journalist and commentator Andrew Bolt tells us why he goes on, in the face of constant carping and misinformed criticism of his motives; he's doing it all for the kiddies. To protect them from lies such as:

Between 1910 and 1970 up to 100,000 Aboriginal children were taken forcibly by police or welfare officers. Most were under five years old. They are known as the "stolen generations" ...

To be Aboriginal was enough. They were taken because it was Federal and State Government policy that Aboriginal children -- especially those of mixed Aboriginal and European descent -- should be removed from their parents ...

Bolt refers to the Federal Court Hearing into the case, which is also summarised here. He says:

That hearing cost at least $10 million and ran for a year, talking to all kinds of witnesses. It was, [Robert] Manne said early on, the best investigation we'd get into the worst area for child stealing.

But the findings? That Peter Gunner's mother had in fact signed a form to permit her son to go to a home in Alice Springs and get some schooling. That Cubillo couldn't be said to have been stolen either, not least because her mother and grandmother had died, her father had vanished, and it was hard to tell who in the hard bush was actually looking after the little girl.

But more than that, the court said it hadn't found anyone who'd been stolen in the NT, and the "evidence does not support a finding that there was any policy of removal of part-Aboriginal children such as that alleged by the applicants".

Here's a little challenge; visit either of the two links to the Federal Court transcript or summary. Call up your browser's "Find in this Page" function and enter the text in bold in the search dialogue. Now click the "Find" button.

I've been trying this for the past ten minutes and the results have been rather interesting to say the least. Especially when you consider point 200 of O'Loughlin J's decision:

200 The extracts from the documents that have thus far been identified are sufficient, in my opinion, to justify a conclusion that the Commonwealth Government had, since about 1911, pursued a policy of removing some part Aboriginal children and placing them in institutions in Alice Springs and Darwin. The material is not sufficient to sustain a finding that this policy applied to all part Aboriginal children. On the contrary, it would seem that it did not have such a general application. The probabilities are that the policy was intended for those illegitimate part Aboriginal children who were living in tribal conditions whose mother was a full blood Aborigine and whose father was a white man. The Commonwealth, in its final submissions, claimed that it cannot be determined whether the policy was consensual or forced, and if it was forced, the extent to which that was so and was justified by normal welfare considerations. I agree that words to that effect are not to be found in the writings that were tendered in evidence. But there are two comments that must be made in respect of that submission. The first is that there were no words in the written material that would have prevented non-consensual removals. The second is that Aboriginal people would not have been concerned with the formalism of a Government policy. What would have concerned them would have been the practical implementation of that policy by patrol officers at the grass roots level. [my emphasis again]

It looks to me like Bolt has verballed Judge O'Loughlin, in the same way that Phillip Adams verballed Dubya. I look forward to the calls from Prof Bunyip, Tim Blair et al for Bolt's dismissal. He's been just as naughty as Phil.

Hawking Watch

Some people will be very disappointed if there is not an ultimate theory, that can be formulated as a finite number of principles. I used to belong to that camp, but I have changed my mind. I'm now glad that our search for understanding will never come to an end, and that we will always have the challenge of new discovery.wIthout it, we would stagnate. Goedels theorem ensured there would always be a job for mathematicians.I think M theory will do the same for physicists. I'm sure Dirac would have approved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Situational Ethics

The Common Man has posed an interesting moral conundrum.

Whiney Songs Redux

In a comment to The Ten Whiniest Songs in the History of Pop Music, James Russell asked what the criteria for whininess are. I suppose it's a fair question - what does it take to make a truly whiney song?

The first, obvious requirement, is a good dose of self-pity. I don't think there's going to be any controversy over this one. Whiney songs are about feeling sorry for yourself. It can be the result of a broken heart (Sylvia's Mother) or unrequited lerv (Living Next Door to Alice) or chronic failure to find a lover who shows proper consideration for your finer feelings (A Good Heart) but self-pity is a constant.

That's why Meatloaf's Two Out of Three Ain't Bad didn't make the list; it's more of a sleazoid, commitment-phobic song than a whiney song. I briefly considered listing Julie London's Cry Me A River but that would have been an obvious mistake; it's far too scornful and sarcastic. A great song about lost lerv but not at all whiney.

The second major requirement is that the self-pity of the singer be made very evident; the singer must really whine. It's all in the vocals; the extended "pleeeeeeze" in the chorus of Sylvia's Mother is a paradigm case of the whiney vocal, as is Feargal Sharkey's agonised "I kno-ow". If the singer isn't up to a really good whine, a whiney song needs a whiney musical accompaniment, especially one that's heavy on minor chords and portentous musical effects (Nights in White Satin).

Put those things together, and you have a whiney song. I'm only sorry that I left What About Me off the list. It's a hell of a lot whinier than Arkansas Grass (which is still a pretty damn whiney song).

Mr Alston's Curious War

If a football team has a doctor, a stretcher and an ambulance on the sidelines, this does not mean that it is predicting or warning of the likely occurrence of serious injury. It is merely taking sensible precautions in case the worst case scenario eventuates.
Former Senator Richard Alston's submission on ABC bias to the ABA.

Mr Alston's complaint relates to this AM report, which he described in his letter to Russell Balding of 28 May as "an example of a beat-up". Now that I've seen Mr Alston's submission to the ABA, it's possible to present a revised transcript of the AM program, showing how the item should have been presented to avoid "beating it up":

LINDA MOTTRAM: International aid agencies are saying that they're well prepared for the war..

Having spent six weeks reporting from Baghdad, our Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy is now in the Jordanian capital, Amman, and he joins me on the line now.

Mark, what are the aid agencies saying, what estimates are they making of the likely refugee count from this conflict?

MARK WILLACY: Well Linda, we've got groups like the Coogee Juniors Ladies Auxiliary and the International Rugby Union warning of a possible crisis, as they put it, in Iraq, mainly because of a shortage of half-time oranges there and the possibility of hundreds of thousands of kids might invade the field at half-time. But I've been told that they have plenty of linament and bandages on hand, so we shouldn't be worried if the play gets a bit rough.

Muin Kassis is working with the Coogee Juniors Ladies Auxiliary here in Jordan.

MUIN KASSIS: As a Jordanian myself, I think I'm born and raised here and I know the conditions in this country, and I think the Coogee Juniors Ladies Auxiliary have done a tremendous job. Is that enough for your listeners? I have to go and cut orange quarters now.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Who Am I?

Born in 1632 I was educated at Westminister School and Oxford. In 1663, while teaching at Oxford I became an investor in the company of Royal Adventurers into Africawhich held a monopoly on the English African trade - including the slave trade, which comprised a quarter of its income.

In 1670 I drafted a constitution for the new colony of Carolina, the "Grand Model". Under this constitution, the common people had no voting rights nor could they leave the land they worked on without permission of the land's owner. The "Grand Model" also included a paragraph describing slavery as an "institution to be accepted."

In 1672, when the company of Royal Adventurers was wound up, I invested 400 pounds in the its successor, the Royal Africa Company. I invested a further 200 pounds in the Royal Africa Company in 1675.

In 1690, in a major work of political philosophy, I described slavery as a "state of war continued between a lawful conqueror and a captive".

I died in 1704.