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That latest Star Wars trailer… April 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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There’s not much point in me adding much to the avalanche of verbiage about the most recent Star Wars VII trailer. But, that said I can still remember being 10 and finding the sheer grittiness of the world rendered by Lucas in 1976 amazing. It’s not that it entirely discarded the antiseptic futures of 2001: A Space Odyssey (though of course this wasn’t a future at all but a past and a past elsewhere), but that it pitched against that futurism an alternative beaten up and lived in futurism of air cars that looked as if pieces were falling off them (and the Empire was modern and the Rebels not so much, interesting that). The irony was that it ushered in an era of blockbuster films that ultimately rested far too much on CGI and in doing so lost much of the grittiness.

If you’re interested in all this can I recommend the ever excellent Incomparable’s hour and thirty six minute dissection of the new trailer. I’m sort of with panelist John Siracusa on this in not wanting to know much/anything more about it until I go to the cinema. The ‘prequels’ stomped over my memories of being 10 and watching the original, and being a bit older and watching the first sequel (I never got around to watching Return of the Jedi in the cinema). It will be interesting to see what Abrams does with this and whether it matches or exceeds his Star Trek reboot. One can only hope.

Speaking of Abrams related projects, I’ve got to admit to finding Person of Interest more than usually enjoyable despite, or perhaps because, of its absurdity.

And speaking of space… April 25, 2015

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And speaking of the remarkable, again in relation to astronomy and related areas. This too from Slate is worth reading to see how creationists see astrobiologists as a serious threat… for:

They place astrobiologists among the ranks of the “Darwin Brigades” who have always been “eager to undermine human exceptionalism,” since “the alleged ordinariness of the human race was vital in establishing common ancestry as a plausible theory.” Astrobiology, they argue, expands this line of thought, since it holds to the Darwinist belief that life started by accident and that—under the right conditions—it can emerge anywhere with a liquid solvent (preferably water), energy, and organic compounds. This delusion, the Discovery Institute adds, undermines human exceptionalism on a cosmic scale by proclaiming that the Earth is not particularly special, just one among billions of potentially life-bearing planets.

And for them…

The Discovery Institute claims instead that, the more data we gather about the Earth and other solar systems, the more clear it becomes that the cosmos was designed specifically with us in mind: “Someone decided that life should exist in this universe and made sure that Earth received all the proper protection and environmental benefits it needed to become the home of humankind.” And, of course, scripture is always available to provide supporting evidence. “The Earth’s uniqueness brings to mind what the prophet Isaiah recorded thousands of years ago: ‘For thus says the Lord—Who created the heavens, God Himself, Who formed the Earth and made it, Who established it and did not create it to be a worthless waste; He formed it to be inhabited—I am the Lord, and there is no one else.’”

Given the actuality of the universe around – and the reality of life as it is lived that’s quite a contention. But there are other problems, the article notes that very concepts such as habitability are contextual. It’s not difficult to posit wildly different universes which could allow for life, or not. And within this universe it’s not difficult to posit wildly different environments which could allow for life or not.

There is an (unrelated) actual secular/scientific version of this approach, as the article notes there’s the ‘rare Earth’ hypothesis which argues that the contingent nature of life is such that it may have only appeared a very limited number of times in the history of the universe. I tend to the view that that is perhaps too pessimistic. The sheer volume of galaxies, stars, planets etc is such that it would seem to me that it must have appeared many many times, albeit the frequency range at any given point is a different matter. And of course, as noted on here only a few weeks back, the question of intelligent life is another matter again.

The article concludes:

And that’s what really worries the missionaries of intelligent design. The discovery of extraterrestrial organisms would confront them with two unpalatable conclusions—that evolution is the driving force behind life, and that God has plans that don’t necessarily include us. For creationists, it’s far more comforting to pin their faith upon a dead universe.

Interesting.

Asimov’s Foundation from HBO? April 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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That sounds like it could be good, at least HBO have high quality control. Though how they intend to make what is in some respects quite a political piece of science fiction (sad puppies take note) is another question entirely. Though in a world where West Wing/House of Cards, etcetera, are hits that’s perhaps not quite as difficult as it might have once seemed.

An art quiz… April 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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…from Slate. Try it, I was surprised that I did pretty okay. A bit of guesswork and application of logic, but I got 13 out of 16.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… North Sea Radio Orchestra April 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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It’s not often someone suggests I might like to listen to a group based on the recommendation that they’re a cross between Neu and chamber orchestra and…while… er… some of their stuff is a bit twee that’s okay and I shouldn’t let it put me off. Further investigation uncovers a description of North Sea Radio Orchestra as ‘a small orchestral ensemble led by a married couple’ – not words that would usually be calculated to inspire any great affection on my part. And yet…

That description was taken from a review of the group on BBC which also notes that they ‘have made two previous albums which used poetry by the likes of Chaucer, Hardy and Tennyson instead of pop lyrics. Occasionally sound like the music Oliver Postgate used to backdrop Watch With Mother. They feature a bassoon. North Sea Radio Orchestra really should be smug, boring and irrelevant. So how do they make this stuff so exciting?’

Good question.

The short answer is probably because Craig and Sharron Fortnam, who are at the heart of the ensemble, cleave to a template pretty much their own – one which is classically inflected, contains elements of folk, electronica and so on but combined in a way that allows those influences to swim in and out of focus sparingly. It’s pared back, resolutely not rock, and all the better for it. The range of references in reviews are interesting, from Vaughn Williams, to Zappa, the Incredible String Band, Neu (natch), Tortoise, Kate Bush and more.
And yes, no surprise that prog has embraced them to its tricksy little heart, not least given that Kavus Torabi and MelanieWoods of Knifeworld and Sidi Bou Said are just some of those who have worked with NRSO previously while there are other connections to Ginger Wildheart, the Cardiacs, and a classical outfit – Instrumental – who cover Orbital and so on.

NSRO’s most recent album (and their third album proper) is I a moon – released in 2011, from which the tracks below are taken. Well worth a listen.

Berliner Luft

Morpheus Miracle Maker

Heavy Weather

The Earth Beneath our Feet

Mitte Der Welt

The luxury of a granny… April 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Odd reading this piece in the IT on a meeting of No campaigners in UCD, one of whom suggested before the event that – well, read on:

Speaking before the event, Dr O’Connor said of UCD students: “There was a movement of students to contact their granny to get them to vote “Yes”.
“If this referendum is passed, there will be students who won’t have a granny, who won’t have a mother, who might have two fathers or no father.
“The luxury of a granny will be denied to those children if this referendum is passed.”

This is yet another argument from supposed perfection that comes across as almost entirely detached from reality.

There are already many children who, for one reason or another, don’t have the luxury of a granny. This referendum doesn’t alter that in any way. Nor is it clear why even assuming surrogacy was used – ‘cos that’s what he’s getting at, it would per se mean a granny or grannies would be out of the picture. Though astute of him to recognise a not entirely immaterial aspect of the Yes campaign, an effort to reach out on the human level. Thing is though, that one has to wonder has he thought through the luxury granny argument, because the flip side of the argument is presumably, your grand daughter or grand son or their friends may be lgbt and the right to marry should be theirs.

Meanwhile the redefinition of marriage argument continues to leave me particularly puzzled, particularly since it is now visiting lampposts near me on a daily basis. I note this before,

“The way I see [the referendum] is a change in marriage, a redefinition of marriage moving from our present understanding, which is the union of man and woman to a new understanding of marriage as genderless,” Dr Murray said before the seminar.
“To move away from our present understanding to a new understanding would involve changing marriage in a way that would be detrimental to the principle that children have a right to be raised by their mother and father.”
The rights of children to be raised by a mother and a father if possible… are weakened and destroyed by the change,” he said.

Is he right about it being genderless? I’m not sure that term is appropriate. But more to the point isn’t what he describes a sort of status quo. The ‘right’ for children to be raised by their mother and father is as it stands already compromised by reality. Families break up already, marriages likewise, it’s hard to see why allowing marriage equality fundamentally changes that.

Childcare and class politics… April 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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A very interesting piece by Virpi Timonen – Professor of Social Work and Social Policy at TCD – in the SBP at the weekend on childcare, and how grand parents are shouldering a considerable weight in terms of child care for parents unable to find affordable alternative childcare. Timonen notes that there is a strong class aspect to this, albeit the term isn’t used that baldly. I’ll quote at length because I believe it is important to consider the point in detail:

The demands to provide childcare fall disproportionately on those who are arguably least resourced to say no: grandmothers with lower levels of education (and in worse health than their better-off peers), whose children struggle most to finance childcare, and in some cases are trying to cope with the added challenges of lone parenting and family breakdown. The pressure to look after grandchildren in this situation can be overwhelming, and the consequences of long-term heavy involvement can put the grandparents’ mental health at risk.
We are now starting to unravel the consequences of this unequal distribution of heavy-duty grandparenting. We already have evidence that intensive grandchild care increases the risk of depression, especially for those grandparents who don’t engage in social and leisure activities. Further work is needed to tease out the factors that bring about the depressive symptoms; but it isn’t hard to imagine the stress and frustration that arise for grandparents in situations where they feel, as one interviewee stated, that she “really didn’t need another child in my life . . . but wasn’t left with a choice”.
Grandparents from higher socioeconomic groups tend to draw boundaries around childcare early on. They are strongly oriented to (and can afford) the ‘Third Age’ activities that are incompatible with time-intensive grandparenting; extensive childminding would not sit well with trips abroad, spontaneous lunches with friends, hobbies and commitment to voluntary work. This is partly facilitated because their adult children also tend to be higher earners and hence better able to pay for formal childcare.

None of this, I suspect, will be a surprise to many of us. The reality of our supposedly ‘flexible’ economy is the work of many at the margins, in low paid employments, with wretched hours and insecurity, and those around them to pick up the pieces of all that that entails. Simply put it is near impossible to have a job without a support structure behind it and given the patchy nature of state structures in these areas clearly that means recourse to family. It’s as if there are layers and yet further layers of exploitation reaching always deeper into families.

Another problem for the government… but could it fall? April 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Depps asks about the Siteserv issue here, and it’s a good question. In the space of a week it has grown and grown to dominate the media. What’s notable is how the narrative being put forward is one that has moved from ‘nothing to see here’ to ‘never liked the look of that in the first place’.

So, earlier in the week we learned that:

The Minister of State at the Department of Finance has said the sale of Siteserv by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation was viewed at the time as “the ordinary course of business”.

Responding to a question from independent TD Catherine Murphy during Topical Issues this evening, Simon Harris said IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, was not required to consult with the Minister for Finance to approve the sale of Siteserv at the time.

And now we read:

New details have emerged today about the breakdown of relations between the Department of Finance and IBRC over the sale of Siteserv and other issues.

In July 2012, three months after the sale of Siteserv, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told IBRC Chairman Alan Dukes he was “very uneasy” about the relationship between his department and IBRC.

That’s not entirely surprising. Last month one will have read that:

The minister said his officials “were made aware of certain aspects of the transaction which raised concerns with some of the quality of some of the decisions taken in respect of the transactions”.

And:

Among these concerns were the fact that law firm Arthur Cox had acted for the purchasers and vendors in the deal and that payments were made to the shareholders in Sitserv.

Say what?

Speaking of what, what next?

Actually what next? This can’t be good for the government, but how bad can it get? Any thoughts?

This Week At Irish Election Literature April 24, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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Starting off this week with a Yes to Marriage Equality flyer from Fine Gael (who are also using the ‘Yes Equality’ logo)

A Labour Marriage Equality leaflet (also with Yes Equality logo)

Finally it’s the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis this weekend… and heres a leaflet from A Vice Presidential Candidate which includes a defence of the Galway Tent

Workers’ Party Election Manifesto April 23, 2015

Posted by Garibaldy in The Workers' Party.
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The Workers’ Party, which is running 5 candidates, launched its manifesto today, which can be found here.

From the Manifesto

‘The most damaging cuts here have been engineered by the five Executive parties. Along with the business community, they have campaigned for a reduction in Corporation Tax: something which even the Tories did not propose.

To offset the cost of lowering Corporation Tax for big business, Sinn Fein, the DUP, SDLP, Alliance Party and Ulster Unionists, are taking 20,000 jobs out of the public sector and are significantly reducing public spending on education, public transport, the community and voluntary sector and the arts. They will make up the shortfall by selling off public assets like the Belfast Harbour Estate.

These are not Tory Cuts; they are the price the people of Northern Ireland are paying for lowering Corporation Tax’.

The WP election broadcast is here, starting at about 1 minute in.

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