Daily Archives: February 6, 2009

Nice, but hot

Over on the photoblog I mention it was 39C today – not what the news says, but that’s what it was out of the wind and in the sun on M’s balcony at noon. I was doing a brief house-sit, for reasons I won’t bother with here… But you can see one of his plants.

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It was at least cool inside, and it did keep me away from the computer most of the day. 😉 (Today’s other posts went up via automatic pilot just after midnight last night.) Called at The Mine too.

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No. Not too close… Photographing school boys is a no-no.

nephew Speaking of no longer school boys, English/ESL scored a visit via my grand-nephew’s (right) MySpace blog. He’d written last year (and I hadn’t seen this before):

With a new school year set to start today, I just thought that I should spread a little bit of cheer in the form of information. Yay!

HSC is a bitch, as we all know, and English is a subject everyone does, and it is a pain in the ass right across all levels. I, however have found a website that takes a little bit of the strain off the extensive English workload.

This website, hosted by former English HT of Sydney Boys HS (along with several other High Schools and Universities) and my Great Uncle…was one of the best resources I had when I was studying HSC English Advanced. But not only does this website cover English Advanced curricula, but ranges from ESL, English Standard, and even to Extension, and includes tips as to how to write proper essays, and guidlines on how to stick to answering the question.

I rate this website to anyone studying the HSC this year as it saved me a few times last year.

So Check it out!

Bookmark it!

Maybe it will save your HSC too…

Go Figure

No, I’m not linking him, but I was also pleased to read (and he is a Shire boy) a really impassioned statement on racism.

…I understand racism still exists. It is appalling that in today Australia, that barriers still exist. I for one am NOT a racist. However, I am an Australian. My heritage is that of English, Scottish, Mauritian, Aboriginal and a bunch of others. I have cousins of Malaysian descent. I was born in Australia and live my life as an Australian. I do not mingle in the business of others, and I certainly do not take offense nor exhibit prejudice to the heritage that of my own nor other around me.

I do, however, take offense to others who label me as a racist, BECAUSE I am what is ignorantly labelled as White Australian. It is an ugly term to be thrown around. My love for who I am and where I live and those who have lived before me does not make me a racist, nor does it make others like me racist. It is, in fact, those who use that term to label others who are the racist ones.

This needs to stop. We need to live together under the one flag. That is what the Australian Flag represents. It represents unity. It represents mutual respect…

Nothing to do with me, I assure you, all his own unaided thoughts. (I don’t see him all that often, though we just had a quick MSN chat in response to the English/ESL link, which I thanked him for.)

I was chuffed though.

Must correct my g-nephew: I was never H(ead) T(eacher) — just a dogsbody crew member, and of course ESL head, in the sense there was only ever one of us!


Friday intellectual spot 5: 3 Quarks Daily and Dissent

On 3 Quarks Daily recently is an essay that fits neatly with my own strong leaning towards pluralism (not exactly the same as relativism): Being Liberal in a Plural World by Namit Arora. His conclusion:

… Three things come to mind: (1) I would do well to realize that when it comes to values (such as those that inform secularism, social ethics, or human rights), the quest for objectivity is chimerical—I am in the realm of metaphysics and have no recourse to scientific verities. Indeed, even the idea of ‘human dignity’—to which we widely subscribe and upon which is built every edifice of human rights—is nothing but a useful fiction. (2) I should understand that the source of my actions has to be my own liberalism, which includes my own subjective view of our common humanity, the values we share, and the ideas and policies that I think will make the world a better place. (3) I have to take seriously at least what I hold to be the core values of my liberalism, such as a commitment to try and understand others and to modify my opinions in light of new discoveries.

Indeed, the only path open to me as a pluralist and a liberal is to try to persuade others of my subjective values, and to put my weight behind ideas and policies that appeal to my liberalism. Like everyone else, I come into the world, inherit ideas and traditions, project myself in time, and die. Cultures and traditions are not given but made; social values are contingent and agonistic. My liberalism may come to see some things as universally true—for instance, that abuse of power and public trust are universally bad, or that the right to free and fair trials tap into a universal value for justice, and so worth supporting in all contexts. Even if I think a value is not universal today—say euthanasia, basic literacy, or tolerance for consensual adult sex before marriage—I may believe that with effort it can become universal, and the world would be better for it. On other issues like school prayer, labor laws, censorship, or social welfare, I may require a lot more local context before taking a stand. Some other values I may be indifferent to but might (or might not) recognize their importance to others. Imperfect, but that’s all we have: one language game vs. another, though with real human consequences.

Last but not least, I should try to persuade others without being self-righteous or hypocritical. Nor is pomposity, railing at others, or calling them irrational or stupid the best tactic. Better to seduce via exemplary action. Know thy interlocutor. Successful persuasion may require any combination of ordinary human techniques: pleading, arguing, requesting, reasoning, illustrating, cajoling, praising, challenging, respecting, appeasing, sharing facts, bargaining, dining together, and so on. Alongside, I must remain flexible to revise my belief in my values, given new findings. I must also accept that, at times, open confrontation is unavoidable. That’s all there is—my belief in values that I think will lead to a better world, and trying to get others to see it my way on issues I care enough about. A sense of humor always helps.

Brilliant essay!

Over on that fine leftish US magazine Dissent are so many things! Of interest to me especially is China: A Threat to or Threatened by Democracy? by Edward Friedman. 

How can one know whether China will or will not democratize? In general, as Karl Popper showed in The Poverty of Historicism, political futures in even the middle distance are unknowable because of the inherently uncertain and contingent dynamics of politics. Therefore, an analyst should focus on the multiple factors that make different futures more or less likely.

In The Black Swan, Nassim Haleb shows that in the post–Bretton Woods age of unregulated financial globalization, an extraordinary volatility is ever more likely. Thus, practical wisdom suggests a need to hedge against the unknowable and gargantuan risks of sudden booms and busts. Not even the hedge funds know how much to hedge. Unless one can create new international institutions to regulate the new monies created since the dollar floated in 1971 and since new instruments (non-bank banks) were invented in the middle 1980s, the global forces at work will produce unimaginable futures.

The almost impossible problem is how to imagine China’s democratization potential in relation to the out-of-control and unpredictable workings of the new global economy. Are there ways to conceive the issue that might be more fruitful than others?

Despite the conventional wisdom, China is not a market-Leninist system in which the economic imperatives of wealth expansion are in contradiction with the political imperatives of control-oriented, anti-market Leninist institutions. China has already evolved politically into a non-Stalinist authoritarianism. Somewhat similar transitions occurred in nineteenth-century Imperial Germany and Imperial Japan…

Again, a really good essay, informed by a sense of history – which helps a lot.

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Posted by on February 6, 2009 in Chinese and China, faith and philosophy, human rights, intellectual spot


Friday poem 2009 #4 – Poetry on 3 Quarks Daily

I will also be referencing 3 Quarks Daily in the next post! You’ll have also noted regular items linked in my Google Reader, not least the item I usually label “poetry therapy”.

Jim Culleny is the Poetry Editor of 3 Quarks Daily. He contributes an original poem every week, and selects brilliantly on other days. His latest poem is one I kind of relate to – the age business at least, if not the physical prowess. Never big on physical prowess, me…

Past Prime

Jim Culleny

Knowing I once could whip
two 2 by 12 by 12s
to shoulder height
from a ground-level stack
without ripping a ligament;

or haul two sheets of drywall
at a time across a room alone
without reaching for the liniment,

I’m pissed at being humbled
by a mere rock-salt sack
I strain to lift and lug
and spread so as not to slip
and be laid up with a broken hip

Follows nicely from Robert Frost last Friday here.

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Posted by on February 6, 2009 in America, poets and poetry, USA, writing


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