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Pioneer 10 and Jupiter December 16, 2017

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Reading the ever interesting Spaceflight History one reference sparked my interest, that being to Pioneer 10, the first probe to send back photographs of Jupiter. Launched in 1972 it arrived at Jupiter late in 1973. It seems to me that those images loomed large in my youthful consciousness. Suddenly the Red Spot on Jupiter gained an immediacy that it had not otherwise had, and curiously rather than rendering it all more prosaic the fact that these came back with blurry photographs lent an even greater sense of distance. It reinforced the idea – very much in vogue then in a post-2001: A Space Odyssey/Space 1999 era that space was dark, empty and kind of scary. And exciting. Very very exciting.

And one interesting cultural aspect was the Pioneer plaque, which was very much the product of Carl Sagan’s efforts – and was there in case the probe was discovered by non-human life. Some argued it was not entirely a good thing to have on the plaque the location of Sol relative to 14 pulsars and the centre of the Galaxy. Another criticism was that of the naked figures of a man and a woman. And yes, there are intriguing gendered aspects to it – though according to wiki racial, not so much, at least as they are perceived by different ethnic groups.

After that – well, on it went into deep space leaving the solar system (just one of five human made objects to do so) and still communicating until 2003 − 31 years after it was launched and at a point 12 billion km from Earth.

And after it came Pioneer 11 which also did a Jupiter flyby but went onto Saturn. That’s another story though… (though this is fun) (and so is this!).

Understandably this mission was superseded both literally and historically by Voyager but those initial images were key. Because the richness of imagery subsequently seen meant that it was a process of discovery across many years – and right up to the present day too.

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Ageing actors… December 16, 2017

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This by Christina Cauterucci in Slate.com brings up an issue that drives me mad watching US television…

The impossible beauty of teen characters in film and TV is partially attributable to Hollywood’s aspirational human palette, which represents a limited range of acceptable physical characteristics. But it’s also an inevitable upshot of an industry that routinely casts actors in their mid-20s or even their 30s as bumbling pubescents. In a culture as shaped by media imagery as ours, the systemic misrepresentation of an entire age group has real consequences for how adults conceive of typical adolescence, and how teens measure themselves against it.

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and always liked the Cordelia character but she was played by Charisma Carpenter, already well into her twenties when she appeared. Sarah Michelle Geller was nigh on twenty and so on. Indeed recently looking up the current ages of the cast I was kind of shocked at how many were but a decade behind me in age – some, Nicholas Brendon who played Xander much less than a decade behind me, and this for a show which started when I was over thirty and was supposedly depicting teens.

Granted there’s James Masters who played Spike in his late 30s and early 40s and yet remained preternaturally youthful, which just goes to show that play a vampire character and there may be rewards.

Or Friday Night Lights which I think – bar a wobble in season two – was pretty fantastic…but check out the ages of the actors. Many were in their mid-twenties.

I can’t see this changing though. And Cauterucci notes that there’s a weird aspect in terms of women actors over 35 where younger actors are used in older roles.

Rebecca Feasey said. “The irony, of course, is that while we are happy to accept twentysomething performers playing teenagers, we are keen for thirtysomething actors to take on the role of fortysomething parents.” For women in Hollywood, once adolescence is over, menopause is just spitting distance away.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… American Football December 16, 2017

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Upon my sons recommendation I started to listen to this crowd. Having originally existed between 1997 and 2000, they released one album in 1999 called “American Football” . The album was critically acclaimed and over many years became a classic. In 2014 a delux version of “American Football” was released and the band reformed for a number of shows . The rerelease and shows caused interest in the band to grow considerably and they have been together since.
In 2016 they released a second album, also called “American Football”.
They’re not bad at all.
A piece on them here

UK Polling update… December 15, 2017

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UK Polling Report note that for the first time the Tories are fractionally head of the BLP in YouGov polling. It’s 1 per cent, well well within the margin of error.

But as with Fine Gael and Varadkar…

…some of the other results it does suggest a small boost for Theresa May from the progress on Brexit last week, but one that still shows the public judging the government’s negotiating efforts very negatively. 26% of respondents now think the government are doing well at negotiating Brexit (up five points), but 57% still think they are doing badly (down seven points). Asked who has the upper hand in the negotiations so far 50% think the EU are doing better and Britain are accepting their demands, 26% think there has been give and take on both sides and just 4% think Britain has the upper hand.

Still, notable that it’s just a ‘small’ boost for T. May compared to the much larger one we saw this side of the Irish Sea.

Changing hearts and minds… December 15, 2017

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If I had – shall we say – some attachment to the 8th Amendment I would be worried, very very worried indeed, about a most intriguing dynamic evident during both the Citizens Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee. Harry McGee amongst others referred to it:

In another hugely significant decision, a majority of the committee agreed to give access to termination up to 12 weeks, without any restrictions. In effect, the committee has backed the central recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly.
What was significant is that a number of members, who would have classed themselves as anti-abortion, have changed their positions during the three months of evidence from expert witnesses.

Isn’t this striking? That an issue so profoundly divisive in this society when aired in a reasonably dispassionate fashion, and in fairness, where the voices of those against provision were given space and opportunity to bring witnesses in (a facility which they used rather ineptly some might say), there was not merely a confirmation of views already held but actual changes of mind.

I find that heartening, and also fascinating. How often are minds changed in socio-politicsal areas like this?

Heads we lose, tails they win December 15, 2017

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There’s a piece by Fr. Kevin O’Reilly (who teaches at the Angelicum University about moral theology) in the IT where he writes about the 8th and related matters. Discussing the Committee he argues:

The committee is composed primarily of campaigners for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Of the “experts” called before it, something like 25 are on record as being in support of abortion. Many of them are campaigners for the cause. Only four of the experts who have appeared are opposed to abortion or are neutral on the issue.
One might say that an instrument of democracy is being used in a manner that is anything but democratic in order to remove the constitutional protection for the most defenceless members of Irish society.

First he attempts or appears to propose there must be equality of representation in terms of experts. Secondly, and perhaps even less compellingly, he is in a way attempting to present this as important when in truth he doesn’t actually believe there are two sides to be represented since he himself is adamantly against the idea of abortion full stop. So even equality of representation would be a cosmetic charade – a term he uses in relation to the committee.

And the further problem is that there is a body of expert opinion, a consensus as it were, that abortion is legitimate. That those who came before the Committee represented that is something he can complain about but he cannot deny such a consensus of those in medical practice exists. And moreover the Committee itself demonstrates that there is an significant majority (reflected by polls) in this state for repeal of the 8th and some form of extended provision of abortion, though where that lies remains yet to be seen.

Interestingly though O’Reilly then pivots to Katie Ascough…

Recently we witnessed the debacle at UCD in which the students’ union president, Katie Ascough, was voted out of office for upholding the law of the land. On the basis of legal advice, she had omitted information on abortion from a student publication.
It seems that the students’ union has a history of breaking the law with impunity, which tradition Ms Ascough did not uphold. Of course, to pursue criminal charges against young adults would be unseemly. It’s surely just coincidental that these pro-choice students support the “correct” view, isn’t it?

But that is to ignore the weight of the pro-choice and pro-information vote of the student body. By going against that Ascough was breaking her own stated willingness to implement student decisions. Of course Ascough had a number of choices. She could have resiled from the decision and allowed another member of her executive to do so. She could have resigned. But instead she decided to act differently from her predecessors and remove the specific information. Moreover she did this without reference to the broader student body.

For O’Reilly all this points to a ‘kind of political society’, one he laments:

Can we condone Government committees being loaded in favour of particular outcomes? What does it say of a society when a young, intelligent, honest, and law-abiding lady can be treated in such an uncivilised manner because she seeks to uphold the law of the land? One might quite rightly point out that student politics is not mainstream politics. The fact is, however, that today’s university students will be tomorrow’s leaders.

And then, and for one whose political life, including in relation to activism on abortion rights including information, this is quite ironic, he continues:

In the case of both incidents, what we have witnessed is the result of an ideology in which what is right is no longer grounded in the inviolable dignity of the person but is subjected to the will of those who exercise power in society – albeit subverting the instruments of democracy in order to do so. The trappings of democracy conceal a naked will to power that does not need to offer anything remotely approaching a reasonable argument in support of its designs.

And:

Irish democracy is moving towards a form of totalitarianism in which the support of reason for the weakest and most defenceless in society is unwelcome.

Given the manner in which the state itself was, and continues in part, to be used as a sort of weapon against the rights of women this is quite something. He ignores another reality that the very concept of abortion, or information about it, was effectively excised as best it could in the society for years (and hence the absurdity of information availability still being a legal issue). And it, of course, hyperbole. Which continues when he states the following:

It is impossible to find reasoned arguments in support of the moral legitimacy of wilfully destroying innocent human life. Pro-choice advocates would, however, be better off in the long term if they attempted to engage in reasoned dialogue.

On the one hand it is impossible to find reasoned arguments in support of the moral legitimacy of wilfully destroying innocent human life and yet pro-choice advocates ‘would be better… in the long term if they attempted to engage in reasoned dialogue’. To what end? If he frames these matters in that way there is no opening for change or persuasion.

And that’s what is perhaps most striking about the Committee, that some went in and came out with their minds changed. And the direction of that change is telling. It wasn’t that those who sought the provision of abortion became ‘pro-life’. Quite the contrary.

Still, intriguing ground he chooses to try to base a critique upon, that being the witnesses before the Committee and Ascough. Some of us would think it thin stuff compared to the past. Perhaps that demonstrates too that the old traditional ‘arguments’ are no longer working.

The sky has fallen! December 15, 2017

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Ryanair has agreed to recognise pilot unions for the first time in its 32-year history in a bid to stop the first pilot strike in its history from taking place.

32 years too late but a sign of the power workers have when they organize. Now what about other workers in that company? And how will or can pilots support them?

This Week At Irish Election Literature December 15, 2017

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The Winter 2017 Newsletter from Independents4Change TD Joan Collins

A Christmas 1921 Page From The Diary Of Michael Collins.

Net loss December 14, 2017

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This is not good. At least it’s not good for US citizens.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to enshrine new policies that could radically change the way you use the internet. In a 3–2 vote on party lines, the agency decided to move forward with undoing Obama-era net neutrality rules, which prohibited internet providers, like Comcast or Verizon, from blocking access to websites or charging websites a fee to reach users at faster speeds.

As the article notes, this may well have the effect of pushing users away from smaller sites to larger more corporate ones. Great.

What of the EU?

Following the adoption of the Digital Single Market Strategy by the Commission on 6 May, Heads of State and Government agreed on the need to strengthen the EU telecoms single market. After 18 months of negotiations, the European Parliament, Council and Commission reached two agreements on the end to roaming charges and on the first EU-wide rules on net neutrality on 30 June 2015,[51] to be completed by an overhaul of EU telecoms rules in 2016. Specifically, article 3 of EU Regulation 2015/2120[52] sets the basic framework for ensuring net neutrality across the entire European Union. However, the regulation’s text has been criticized as offering loopholes that can undermine the regulation’s effectiveness.[53] Some EU member states, such as Slovenia and the Netherlands, have stronger net neutrality laws.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series December 14, 2017

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

<blockquote>I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.</blockquote>

Any contributions this week?

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