Blogging the Noughties: 7 — 2004

20 Dec

Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the seventh of a series.

No guarantee the links still work! These are taken directly from copies of the old Diary-X blog.


Boxing Day: You can read the Queen’s Speech now. "Discrimination still exists. Some people feel that their own beliefs are being threatened. Some are unhappy about unfamiliar cultures. They all need to be reassured that there is so much to be gained by reaching out to others; that diversity is indeed a strength and not a threat."

And just for fun, if you have never seen it before, check the science of Santa Claus.

Christmas Day: later: A surprise visit from M with gifts. 🙂 Also a letter had arrived here from his older sister in Shanghai, the gist: thanking him for reuniting his family during his visit earlier in the year… Very apt for the season…

As was the Queen’s Christmas Message, I thought. I still have considerable regard for that old girl. Can’t link to it yet as it is still under embargo, it only being morning in London: but we have heard it here is Sydney half an hour ago. It sent a strong message on pluralism and tolerance.

Christmas Day 2004: My dinner companion last night tells me he has now had AIDS – not HIV but AIDS – for nine years. He is just out of hospital, again, having had a sojourn there since I last saw him two weeks ago. He looks well, considering, and his spirits are as ever amazingly good. We talk of many things, such as the "political correctness", which he opposes, that makes some paranoid about Christmas. I too don’t accept we should be too namby pamby with all this "Happy Holiday" stuff: so far as Christmas symbolises peace on earth and goodwill to all men (I don’t mind the odd bit of so-called sexist langage either) I am all for it.

"After all," my friend says, "Australia is a Christian country."

"No it’s not," I reply. "It is I hope a secular country. Of course George Pell and Fred Nile would like it to be a Christian country, but it isn’t."

But of course it owes a lot to the Christian tradition. Really, the best we can do is cherry-pick the decent parts of all religions and live and let live, don’t you think? I find the God of so many in this world seems merely a cosmic extension on an earthly tyrant, prone to jealous rages, psychopathic attacks, and given apparently to punishing thought-crimes, or failure to accept the party line, with eternal flames in Hell. Or so your very traditional Christian or your full-on Muslim believer would have it. Jews seem much less fond of Hell. Perhaps they know deep down, after their historical experience, that Hell is here on earth and in the dark hearts of human beings. Especially of True Believers.

These thoughts might seem black for Christmas, but not really. As we think of good will towards all men and peace on earth, think of the enemies of good will and peace and reject their thoughts root and branch. Take George Bush’s little mate Gerald Allen for example:

Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. "Oh no," he laughs. "It’s my fifth meeting with Mr Bush."

Bush is interested in Allen’s opinions because Allen is an elected Republican representative in the Alabama state legislature. He is Bush’s base. Last week, Bush’s base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that "promote homosexuality". Allen does not want taxpayers’ money to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle". That’s why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.

I ask Allen what prompted this bill. Was one of his children exposed to something in school that he considered inappropriate? Did he see some flamingly gay book displayed prominently at the public library?

No, nothing like that. "It was election day," he explains. Last month, "14 states passed referendums defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman". Exit polls asked people what they considered the most important issue, and "moral values in this country" were "the top of the list".

"Traditional family values are under attack," Allen informs me. They’ve been under attack "for the last 40 years". The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is "Hollywood, the music industry". We have an obligation to "save society from moral destruction". We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society’s fabric in the minds of our children". We have to "protect Alabamians".

You may read a number of responses to this mindless drivel here on Broadway World. Why is the 21st century after the birth of Jesus still plagued with this steaming crap?

Master Allen would probably be horrified to learn that he is at least in this "crusade" – loaded word that – on the side of the likes of Abu Bakr Bashir and Osama bin Laden, but the fact is he is. Not all Christians, thanks be to God, are of Master Allen’s persuasion of course; not all drink deep of the cruel judgmental narrow zeitgeist that commands too much power today. For the true spirit of Christmas in action, go to Family Acceptance, another and better America.

I reject a vision of God as a magnified Gerald Allen, and I further no longer believe God has done much in the book-publishing department, so I rate the Qur’an as a wholly human product from a specific historical moment and cultural background, but with much good in it, as I also rate the Bible. This opinion of course will have Master Allen’s God and Master Bashir’s Allah condemning me to the eternal barbecue, to which my response is that timeless American Huck Finn’s. Even so, I do find it encouraging when believers draw at least rational conclusions from their dubious premises, as the lads in the Salt Mine’s Islamic Students’ Society do in their latest newsletter. It is brave of them to have written this too. They at least are making a contribution to peace on earth and good will towards men, in their own way:

There is a dangerous escalation of violence that is taking place around the world that is disturbing to most people. In the fight against terrorism, Western Nations are directly attacking terrorist organisations that recruit suicide bombers. When such action is taken, it is important to understand who or what is your enemy. Suicide bombings can only be prevented by understanding its causes and also its motivations. What would motivate a person to lash out so violently? This is something that needs to be understood in order to treat the problem of suicide bombing.

Most suicide bombers that are heard about on T.V or radio are Islamic militants that are opposed to the idea of Western Nations intervening in their country’s affairs. This leads to the question: Does Islam in any way endorse or encourage such violence? Islam is strongly opposed to violence, and recommends peaceful ways of sorting conflicts. However, in the Qur’an it says: "And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you. But do not transgress limits. Truly Allah loves not the transgressors."

This statement may be seen by some people as a justification of violence in Islam. The statement is saying you may fight against those who fight you, but you must not start the fight, and also that God despises those who go too far. This statement, if misinterpreted can lead a person to form incorrect conclusions about Islam in regards to violence. If a person becomes involved in a fight with someone else, then the fight should be resolved peacefully, however this statement is not addressing such a situation (unless it was a situation of self-defense), it is targeted to conflicts on a much larger scale. For example: If a sovereign nation is invaded by another nation and has many of its citizens killed, then the only option left for the nation is military action. This would have been an act of self defense as is the case with Iraq and how certain Iraqis feel about the American occupation.

This statement is also saying that if Islam itself is in danger, then violence is permissible, however this is not a justification to go on crusades against other religions. Islam does not allow crusades which have purposes of destroying other religions. In the Qur’an Allah clearly outlines, “Let there be no compulsion in religion…” (2: 256)

More importantly, suicide is forbidden in Islam. The taking of life is only allowed by the way of justice; i.e. the death penalty for murder. In pre-Islamic Arabia, retaliation and mass murder was commonplace. If someone was killed, the victim’s tribe would retaliate against the murderer’s entire tribe. This practice is directly forbidden in the Qur’an. Following this statement of law, the Qur’an says, "After this, whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave chastisement". No matter what wrong we perceive as being done against us, we may not lash out against an entire population of people. This is how Islam came to create peace and justice in the warring tribes of Arabia.

Discussion about suicide bombers leads back to the question of why do they do it in the first place. In the Palestinian territories, those who support suicide bombings claim that it is merely a tactic of war in defense of their land and homes. Living under siege, and without the superior weaponry of their opponent, they see it as a heroic act of martyrdom, not suicide. In their point of view, it is a final act of resistance, stemming from desperation. So with any such discussion usually between Muslims and Non-Muslims, empathy is required to understand how people feel. Often through having an acute state of mind about the affairs of the oppressed and the oppressor will lead to a better understanding. Hopefully, through discussion of this sort the ISSBH aims that stereotypes and myths are removed.

I don’t necessarily agree with all that, but it is encouraging nonetheless to see Muslim Australian teenagers writing and thinking in this way. And yes, they are very bright boys, let me tell you.

As for my dinner companion: I would much rather have spent last night with him than with Gerald Allen or any of his clones, including his influential mate. The world is the richer for my dinner companion’s ongoing wisdom and patent courage.

Peace to you all.

24 December 2004: Thanks to The Poet for drawing our attention to US Mistakes in Iraq: "In this weblog, a number of the major mistakes made by the US administration after the occupation of Iraq are briefly outlined. The issues involved are so complex that any brief presentation of these issues has to be over-simplistic. These mistakes not only led to the loss of ‘the hearts & minds’ of the Iraqi people but actually led to ‘gaining’ their animosity and resulted in considerable damage to Iraq and to America. A lot of innocent blood was unnecessarily spilled!" It is a "sidenote" on an Iraqi blog, A Glimpse of Iraq, where the latest entry is actually quite amusing.

Have a look too at Riverbend’s Christmas wish list on Baghdad Burning. Riverbend, Girl Blog from Iraq, is always worth visiting. Makes much more sense than Rumsfeld. But that isn’t difficult, is it?

Best wishes to all my readers: you could do worse than look at the latest Interlude meditation.

Oh yes: if you see a silver-grey Toyota Echo, make sure there is sufficient distance between your car and it, won’t you? 😉 Wonder how the twin rabbits went?

17 December 2004: Teeth still hurt 😦

Wonder how the Rabbitmobile is going?

16 December 2004: Started the day at The Mine, where I am again, having been to and from Bondi Junction by train for X-Ray, which the dentist now has. New appointment next week.

Interesting quote from the Salt Mine’s internal site: "Dr Andrew Refshauge, Minister for Education and Training, visited the school yesterday. He made a press statement about the performance of New South Wales students in an international study on performance in Mathematics and Science. Apparently New South Wales performed second only to Singapore in the study. Australia as a whole was further down the list. Other breaking news (unauthorised access to HSC results) meant that the statement did not receive any coverage in the news last night. There were some shots shown from here: glimpses from a Year 11 Physics class and questions relating to bullying and Clover Moore’s approval of an upbeat National Anthem. "

My latest Salt Mine blog may amuse you.

15 December 2004 – later: Bad news. I should have known, as a pretty good omen was that amid much sparks and smoke a power line fell down in Kippax Street right outside the dentist’s just as I arrived!

So, I have an abscess, it seems, but I think I knew that, and I must continue with the antibiotics and get a full mouth X-Ray in Bondi Junction. Then I will very likely lose two teeth. Eventually this will probably mean a partial denture. Other options are just two troublesome and expensive.

I feel God made a mistake in the dentition department….

"Left alone, abscesses can become quite serious. In the days before antibiotics and modern surgery, dental abscess was a common cause of death…"

"If you thought that dentists have only been inflicting pain recently, think again. New research has just shown that prehistoric dentists may have been using stone drills to treat tooth decay up to 9,000 years ago. Excavations at a site in Pakistan have unearthed skulls containing teeth dotted with tiny, perfectly round holes. Under an electron microscope, archeologists found a pattern of concentric grooves that were almost certainly formed by the circular motion of a drill with a stone bit. The scientists from the University of Missouri-Columbian suggest that such findings point to a stone-age knowledge of health and cavities and medicine. The holes, when drilled, would then probably have been filled with some sort of medicinal herb to treat tooth decay, something that has long since disappeared…"

15 December 2004: The good news first: my tooth problem (or rather teeth problems) calmed down during the day so that I was able to enjoy Yum Cha, including mango pudding, with M and a gathering of friends at the Golden Harbour. It is noticeable that having someone present who can request particular dishes in Mandarin does make a difference.

I then went to the Mine where I did a bit of work, after which there were farewell drinks at Fox Studios for Jenni, the Head Teacher Welfare, my immediate boss, and for a member of the Science Department. I had just one light beer.

The bad news: the teeth acted up overnight and I face the dentist later on today 😦

14 December 2004: I am told the Flower Power Christmas do may even rival Saatchi and Saatchi — well, those words were not used, but I do look forward to hearing how it goes.

Here are some timely words; may timely deeds follow:

We are all children of the same providence on a journey to the same destiny. Therefore, within the scope of humankind, there is a place for everyone. The things that make us different from one another can be regarded as assets that can be pooled in order to achieve a common purpose. This idea of variety within a unity is especially meaningful to us Indonesians, who live by our national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika "We are many, but we are one".

That was Indonesia’s new leader Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono at the International Dialogue on Interfaith Co-operation in Jogjakarta a little over a week ago. There is also some disturbing stuff on that transcript, if you care to look: a survey of Indonesian opinion, said to be reliable, found "that only 60% of those surveyed disagreed with that type of [terrorist] campaign explicitly, and what that left was 16% actually supported the bombing campaigns, and another 25% wouldn’t explicitly disagree."

13 December 2004: On ABC Local Radio last night it was comforting to hear William Storrar, Professor, Christian Ethics and Practical Theology, University of Edinburgh, arguing a case that is dear to my own heart. I hope they put up a transcript. Essentially he was saying that our current crop of right-wing neocon free marketeers have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and we should be more assertive about the principles behind the welfare state, for example, which he says was not after all a failure. Good to see a Presbyterian argument on this.

He was not being sentimental about the Left either; indeed anyone who wishes to be misty-eyed about the old Marxist left would do well to contemplate Martin Amis’s well-researched diatribe Koba the Dread. (Neil Ascherson struggles to rescue something from the obscenity that was Stalin in his Guardian review, but is really pushing shit uphill I feel.)

Or look at the amazing poisoning of the Ukraine opposition leader, a throwback if ever there was. (I can see Robert Mugabe already looking into the possibilities of dioxin; Leninist starvation tactics he seems to have mastered already.)

At the same time, what price the creatures on our own side? Since Mohamed El Baradei is not proving compliant enough for Washington, inconveniently telling the truth perhaps as Hans Blix did, "the US is tapping the phone of Mohamed El Baradei, hoping to gather information that would help Washington remove him as head of the UN nuclear watchdog, and hasten an all-out effort to force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions." They even thought up the brilliant idea of replacing the inconvenient Dr El Baradei with a proven lickspittle, our very own Alexander Downer, who would no doubt find whatever he was told to find. At the moment Alex is proving coy.

And that brings us to the David Hicks Affidavit published last week: the link leads to the full text of the affidavit lodged by Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks asserting that he has been tortured during his detention. There is an excellent documentary THE PRESIDENT VERSUS DAVID HICKS by Australian director Curtis Levy, and a site Fair Go for David Hicks. You can read the amazingly biased ramblings of a right-wing US blogger with an excessive trust in his own government on the subject of Hicks, if you care to. One representative of that bastion of democracy opines: "There is a lesson here for the soldier. Prisoners eat, shit and take up more time than they are worth." Nice.

The point of course is not what Hicks may or may not have done, which remains to be proven. What does matter is how the USA has adopted so much from the totalitarian handbook in their pursuit of people like Hicks that one wonders what the outcome of the War on Terror will ultimately be. Quite a few Americans worry about that too.

Been a while since I have had a political rant, isn’t it? Since the last election, and confronted with a self-destructing Labor Party, I have been too depressed to bother…

And the teeth. I see the dentist on Wednesday but got some antibiotics from Dr Banquo today, who amused me with a little rant on creationism. Apparently there is a Christian channel on pay TV and Dr Banquo religiously (?) watches a program on animals. Oh my God, look at what you might watch 24/7! The program Dr Banquo refers to seems to be this one. Dr Banquo says it is the funniest show on TV!

  • Quite a few typos today: I wish Diary-X had a facility for previewing before posting…

    12 December 2004: Sharan Newman’s, The Real History Behind ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Penguin 2004) really is honest, learned, user-friendly and entertaining in its own right, but sadly it is also the worst example of proof-reading I have ever seen. Here is just one example, and the text has far too many of these: "The story as put Gorth in Holy Blood, Holy Grail has it that Godefroi established the Priory to protect his bloodline…" This is not Sharan Newman’s fault; obviously the publishers omitted an intermediate step or two in order to flood the bookshops before Christmas. A shame: as I say, it is a very good book.

    spamtmpl Has anyone else been getting Holy Spam? Let me quote: 

    Hello Shellyjohnston,

    If you die tonight where will you go ?

    God is the most important thing in life.

    Without God we have nothing.

    Save yourself and the ones you love:

    Say, "Oh God, save my soul. I’m so sorry that I have sinned against you, but I have come home. I will serve you, Lord, the rest of my life. Deliver me from all my sinful habits. Set me free! I do believe Jesus died on Calvary for me, and I believe in His blood, that there is power in His blood to wash away all my sins, all my sins!" Say, "Come into my heart, Jesus; come on in, Jesus. Come on in!"

    If you meant it, He has come. If you meant it, Jesus is yours. Start reading your Bible, pray daily and believe that somebody’s listening; His name is Jesus.

    Send it back to perhaps? See also, for a wry laugh, Holy Spam, Batman. Still, the following Christian has his heart in the right place, and he says it all really, even if there is a typo: "…some Christians seem to think that because they’re doing God’s work, that it is okay. That they can disobey the printed and conspicious terms of use by their own hosting companies. Or worse, ignore outright the terms of use and/or desires stated on a church website such as Redland’s. Folks, as Chrisitians, not only are we NOT above the law, but are called to live by a higher standard. It is for this reason, I am imploring my Christian brothers and sisters to stop marketing via unsolicited commercial email. Not only is it ineffective and amateurish, it is illegal, unethical and abusive."

    Very true, Dean Peters. What’s more, if ever I had a drag name it wouldn’t be Shelly Johnston!

    The pic above comes from The Holy Temple of Spam.


    Lord Malcolm’s Christmas Picnic in the beautiful Sydney Botanical Gardens went well. I even spoke to the Empress and he even replied. Sirdan was missing, rumoured to be in Newcastle. Me – I have come home early with a hideous toothache (began yesterday) and a possible thunder and hail storm threatens outside, so I’m off now…

    Must contact the bloody dentist tomorrow.


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    Posted by on December 20, 2009 in blogging, decade


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