Bits and Pieces October 6, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
I’ve got right back into British politics after a long period of disinterest. Not sure why, perhaps the Steve Richards on Gordon Brown triggered a renewed appetite, or more likely a life long hatred of the Tories. I’ve got Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge’s book on the Brown premiership ‘Brown at 10’ and it’s pretty good. Drier than Richards, and certainly not as readable, and with a rather smug ‘this is the definitive history’ tone in parts but some useful stuff ferreted away in the text and well worth reading. Meanwhile, the Weekly Political Review podcast from the BBC is pretty handy too as is Today in Parliament podcast.
Meanwhile, from a little while back an answer to the question ‘Is Dancing Prohibited in Islam?’ from Slate.com. That answer being ‘no’. Or not exactly, or as the article puts it…
It’s debatable. The Prophet Mohammed made a series of seemingly contradictory statements about the performing arts, providing ammunition for people on either side of this doctrinal dispute. According to some accounts Mohammed promised that Allah would turn musicians into “monkeys and pigs.” On special occasions, however, the Prophet seems to have enjoyed a little music. These ambiguities have led to divisions within Islam over the status of music and dancing. One split is sectarian in nature: Fundamentalist Salafists and Wahhabis generally view music and dancing as haram, or forbidden, while moderate believers accept them as halal. Mystical Sufis are the most dedicated dancers in the Muslim world, embracing whirling and other trance-like movements as a way to grow closer to Allah. Another division is based on class. Urban elites have historically refrained from dancing, viewing it as frivolous and beneath their dignity. The rural Muslims who account for the majority of the faithful, however, have developed rich dance traditions.
This really fascinates me because it’s both parallels and inverts dynamics we’ve seen much closer to home where certain aspects of culture are regarded as backward because they have seemed rooted in rural traditions and yet at the same time, or more or less, sexual and other liberation has seen the proliferation or expansion of certain more contemporary cultural expressions including dress, dance and so on. I’m always reminded at the sniffiness towards Gaelic and manifestations of more traditional forms of Irish culture that was widespread when I was growing up and long after – and in some ways, criticise all one might, was slightly pushed back by the success of Riverdance and other reworkings of that culture. It is more complex than that, TnaG, and other innovations had an interesting effect,, the Peace Process had a part to play (and then there’s the rise of Gaelscoileanna too). And the attitude to the language mirrored that (and for a more recent echo of that … for noting… in the Sunday Independent last week). And those attitudes seen here in respect of that were certainly class based, or had class aspects to them.
Recently mentioned the Pale Blue Dot photograph in this slot, but here’s a chronological view of photographs of Earth and then the Earth/Moon system from space – ironically with no Blue Dot photo. Fantastic stuff.
While on the topic of science, what of this? On the Media, the excellent NPR podcast/show about the media, had the following about 2012 apocalypse fears. Talking to Dr. David Morrison of NASA who fields queries from the public (and a very worried public too) about the rogue planet which is meant to precipitate this apocalypse there was the following:
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That has to do with the Planet Nibiru?
DR. DAVID MORRISON: A rogue planet which, according to these quite fictional interpretations of what the Sumerians thought, comes back every 3600 years, messes up the solar system and two times back brought along its inhabitants who landed on Earth and gave the glories of civilization to Sumer. It’s a crazy story. It’s an ancient astronaut story. If there were a rogue planet – and some people say it’s even much bigger than the earth – that was going to be here in less than four months, it would already be the brightest object in the sky. And its gravity would be affecting the orbits of all the inner planets.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What do they say when you tell them that?
DR. DAVID MORRISON: There are people that say, “Well, it’s coming up from below the earth, and so we can’t see it.” [BROOKE LAUGHS] Now, I think “below the earth” is a description that would apply to a flat earth. [BROOKE LAUGHS] On a sphere you can see the whole sky. They say, oh, there are 100,000 astronomers around the world that are all in the pay of the evil US government to suppress this information, that the government is spraying chemicals into the atmosphere, partly to make us docile and partly so we can’t see the incoming object. These are people that, that truly feel isolated.
I don’t know if that’s that funny to be honest, that what is basic scientific knowledge – that the Earth is a sphere – is apparently unknown to some of those concerned about it.
Less depressingly, here’s a site which examines math in fiction. Intrigued as to whether that concept at the heart of a science fiction story has any validity – fret no more. These guys will ensure that all is well.
And for our all important libertarian reference? What of this from New Scientist by way of Slate.com which looks at seasteads, floating cities/communities which are now being seen by some libertarians as perfect environments to establish their supposed utopias. The idea has been knocking around for donkey’s years. I remember at an RDS Show in the late 1960s or early 1970s (the same one where I saw the Wanderly Wagon wagon and realised it was effectively an empty prop – thereby giving me an useful, if disillusioning, life lesson about television and the nature of its constructs) there was a fairly fantastic model of an offshore city that was meant to be being constructed in the English Channel off the coast of Holland. It was all plastic and glittering glass and it looked fantastic. Which – in a sense – it clearly was.
By the way in the interview you’ll read the following…
JW: Cynics might say that you’ll end up creating offshore tax havens rather than paradise-like communities that nurture people?
GP: The seasteading movement needs to be wary of being perceived as simply offshore tax havens or even venues for money laundering or depots for arms merchants. It’s very important that we be perceived as undertaking activities that are for the benefit of humankind, as opposed to skirting the law.
Maybe it’s me, but I could see more than one near future thriller based around that idea of floating ‘depots for arms merchants’, though how very very telling that a champion of these seasteads thought of it first.