Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Keep in type

Sometimes I despair of the media.

Sheriff Arpaio produces another birther screed, and every news outlet reports it as fact - here, here, and here, for example - without even googling to see that it's already been disproved.
Which is still giving them too much credit; the birther hypothesis is so utterly fatuous that it should be self-refuting, and the newspaper should add "This is, of course, completely bananas" to every mention, without waiting for precise disproof.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Larkin about

From the new collected poems:

Morning, noon and bloody night
Seven sodding days a week,
I slave at filthy work, that might
Be done by any book-drunk freak.
This goes on till I kick the bucket:

From somewhere selse,
"As Camus put it, “It is necessary to fall in love … if only to provide an alibi for all the random despair you are going to feel anyway.”"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Whale not at all ho

The trading losses at J.P. Morgan have now swelled out to 5.8 billion. The trader apparently responsible is named Bruno Iksil, known as the London Whale.  And what I find absolutely fascinating is that I can't find a picture of him on Google.

Anonymity like that doesn't come cheap.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The inquiry into abuse in the defence forces has found that back in the 50s there were things happening like

"Young men were given ‘Regimental‘ showers which comprised being scrubbed with a wire brush and often thereafter “nuggeted” which involved having boot polish rubbed on their genitals and anus."
The latter of which I remember being a reasonably common occurrence at Geelong Grammar's Timbertop in what, 1961? When I was, let me see, fifteen. That and/or being thrown into a wicker laundry basket and shoved under the cold shower. 

And while I'm not recommending it, it wasn't at the time seen as that big a deal. Boys being boys, would have been the view.  In itself, it wouldn't even have been regarded as bullying, because it wasn't all that individual - happened to me today, you tomorrow, just about everybody over the course of the year, if you'd missed out the dorm would probably give you one on that ground alone.
We were all in a single year, so there wasn't any Top Shit/New grub or bastardisation/breaking in element; you'd get nuggeted as, at that moment, last among equals.

Again, someone's quoted as saying
It wasn't considered to be abuse by those involved, it was just 'part and parcel' of the ordinary routine to toughen you up, and to sort out whether a cadet was of the 'right stuff' for arduous Army service.
The best judge of suitability of character here was not the Military Establishment through its selection process, but rather the cadets themselves. They were left to do what they thought was necessary to produce the right outcome, and the Military Establishment distanced itself from these events for obvious reasons …
which may be true, but is shown by Timbertop not be necessary.  We weren't sorting out the wheat from the chaff.  We did it because it was fun, and because it lent an air of excitement to life, and because it seemed a good idea at the time.

Failures of memory..... I'm totally unable to remember the ostensible reasons why anybody got nuggeted.  I'm even unable to remember whether I myself ever was - I think so, on the grounds of general probability, but I may have managed to weasel out of it.  Which shows, I suppose, that I really didn't regard it as all that significant.  I can remember being told that as everybody else in the dorm had been caned that year I was going to get nuggeted if I wasn't caned by the end of third term, and I certainly managed to weasel out of that one - both of those ones - by keeping out of sight on the last day.

All boys, I must stress, nothing to do with masters.

Yes, some would have taken it much harder - for all I know it may have destroyed their lives, as so often comes up in inquiries.  Can't remember any suicides at the time, but apparently these things recur in later life.  All I say is that such possibilities meant less than nothing to us at the time, not so much because we were evil as because none of us ever gave a second's thought to anybody else's feelings.  It just wasn't a consideration. We were utterly engrossed with ourselves.

I'm sometimes concerned that we seem to be drifting back into a belief in childhood innocence. Children are utter bastards, and the Lord of the Flies is something of a documentary. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Donald poster went for

$4,216.25 (includes 15% Buyer's Premium) with a prior estimate of 400-700.  If it didn't go to the War Memorial I'll be terribly disappointed.

By which I mean

I'll be damned

Bearing in mind that here 'Pro' means 'prophylactic'; condom.  Donald is anticipating Howard the Duck and Beverly.

And it's Australian!

This rare poster is the only one we know of and we believe of Australian issue. Text at top reads "And Me With Out A Pro[phylactic]! Be Sly VD Is High." Great art depicts Donald Duck in an Australian soldier's uniform while behind him is an attractive woman in a tight slinky dress lying in wait behind a large plant. Donald has an exasperated look on his face as he is without a prophylactic. At the lower right is insignia "4MCD," we believe to be for the Fourth Medical Corps Division. Art is signed "Cyril Jones."

Don't know what those leaves are meant to signify.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Our Man in Havana was a documentary

Reading Neil Sheehan's A Fiery Peace in a Cold War - a history of the US nuclear missile program.

One interesting snippet. One officer in the program -
"After the budget for his rocket engine program was originally decimated in mid-1950 by the more immediate needs of the Korean War, Hall decided to fake an intelligence report of a monstrous Soviet rocket engine to frighten the Air Force into leaving his money alone. He would provide a design drawn in what was known of Russian style of an engine rated at one hundred metric tons of thrust. His friend was then to slip it in to intelligence channels as a genuine report picked up in the Soviet Union.  A drawing of Hall's bogus Soviet whopper engine was duly submitted.
Later, a senior colonel entered his office and castigated him for failing to press hard enough to retain my program for large rocket development. The program was saved!"

The thing being that Sheehan sees nothing wrong with that - indeed, he sees it as a feather in Hall's cap, a clever ruse.  At a time, mind you, when there were live suggestions around the American military to bomb Russia before they could develop a missile program, suggestions that this fake would strengthen.

When Wormold submitted the plans of a Soviet missile base in Cuba - was it really that foreseeing? anyway, it looked, as I recollect, very much like a vacuum cleaner - the ready acceptance by London was probably because it supported the views of one faction in the British Blue Streak program.

"At one point, he decides to make his reports "exciting" and sends to London sketches of vacuum cleaner parts, telling them that those are sketches of a secret military installation in the mountains. In London nobody except Hawthorne, who alone knows Wormold sells vacuum cleaners, doubts this report. But Hawthorne does not report his doubts for fear of losing his job. In the light of the new developments, London sends Wormold a secretary, Beatrice Severn, and a radio assistant codenamed "C" with much spy paraphernalia."

The Guinness movie is difficult to find on DVD - oh, no, there it is.  Add to cart.

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