Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Don't tell the babysitter, mum's dead

In Florida ... a man was arrested for keeping his mother at home for months after she died so that he could keep cashing her Social Security checks.

I see a Weekend at Bernie's style movie idea here...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stand-up guy falls down hole, nobody laughs

Yes, I'm probably going to hell, but I couldn't help but laugh at this story in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

After a wet winter, the ground opened and swallowed a 27-year-old schoolteacher at 9:30 p.m. Friday. He was in the converted garage of his family's home, where he lived with his pregnant wife, authorities said.

She escaped and called for help, but it was too late. State forestry department firefighters found Jason Chellew in a 10-foot-deep sinkhole with no pulse.

Despite San Francisco's notorious history of earth-shaking events (the San Francisco Earthquake, which killed as many as 6,000 people, occurred 100 years ago just last Tuesday), the sinkhole's cause somehow remains a mystery to authorities.

But if you can't find humour in the unseemly and tragic deaths of thousands of innocent people, surely there's room in your heart for a chuckle at just one. Chellew, said a neighbour, "was a wonderful, standup guy".

Until, that is, he fell down.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Australian death in Iraq

Today's Crikey editorial has put forth a little speculation regarding the first Australian death in Iraq - Private Jacob Kovco. Citing The Sydney Morning Herald's report, which begins "Private Jacob Kovco was around guns for much of his life", the question posed is, "What could be the significance of this, other than a coded suggestion that he knew better than to accidentally shoot himself in the head while cleaning a loaded gun?"

Hmm, a conspiracy afoot?

With all the current controversy surrounding the Howard Government and their "I know nuffink" Cole Inquiry responses, the last thing they need is for even more problems in Iraq. But sweeping something like this - if there is indeed a something would be insulting to both the Australian public and the soldier's family.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Is it in you?

Ever felt just a little strange when grasping a large, firmly shaped Gatorade bottle and quenching your cold, hard thirst? Well, there's probably a reason for it. Kids, look away now.

A giant, throbbing, glistening... Gatorade bottle

Their slogan just gained extra meaning. Ew.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How unnecessary

Feminists make me nervous. Not because I'm some horrible woman-hating chauvanist; more because I'm worried that deep down inside of me one is trying to get out. But I'm certainly a masochist; I adore Sylvia Plath, I was glued to Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch, and right now I'm progressing through Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? (answer: no) at a rate of knots.

And as anybody who's read her New York Times columns would already have guessed, it's good. Real good.

It starts slow(ish), mainly because Dowd finds it difficult to snap out of that acerbicly rapid-fire wit of hers and get with the point too often (the frustration is akin to Jim Schembri's occasional brilliance), but soon enough she is on track. The jokes flow on, of course, but they're focused.

The book is good because despite all temptations Dowd resists the opportunity to talk down: there are those asides, those digs at "us crazy men" and the incomprehensible world in which even the smart ones seem to dwell, but the comments are always insightful and the surface-sheen is really only there for show; there's plenty of substance underneath.

One troubling thing: the New York Times grammar controversy continues. On page 104 Dowd refers to "alpha [as in alpha males and alpha females and "alpha moms"] SUV's". Sports Utility Vehicles. SUVs. But she says "SUV's". God dammit.

I don't understand where the laws of grammar went out the window (but it's somewhere in the middle of New York City apparently), but it makes me angry. Next angry email stop: Maureen Dowd's inbox. I never did get a response from the Times though.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's still murder

Does anybody else find the entire concept of not holding soldiers responsible for their (politically instructed) actions rather ridiculous?

I know it's not the done thing to say so - in fact, if I shouted this aloud in a street in America I'd probably be handbagged to death by otherwise sickly sweet and perfectly reasonable Democrat-voting mothers - but I think, and always have, that soldiers should be held as accountable for their actions as you and I or the prime minister or president (wait, those last two don't count, do they?).

Really, since when did soldiers become mindless automatons? (The depressing answer to that question is, incidentally: when they were "programmed" day after day to act like mindless automatons:

Many people think killing is a natural act, but Col. Grossman argues that it isn’t. He discusses how new and innovative pop up targets, video-based firearms training simulators, and Simunition®-based training are used to facilitate overcoming this innate resistance. These devices are then combined with high repetition to condition a correct response even in the face of fear.)

Because whatever their training, soldiers are still human beings; living, breathing, thinking, decision-making human beings. And in the world I've always lived in, following someone else's instructions doesn't get you off the ethical hook.

I don't particularly care if these views are controversial either, because when the only other option is shutting up and essentially condoning the deaths of innocent people, there's a line dividing silence and protest, and I know which side I'm on.

It's not as if people don't know what they're getting themselves in for when they join the army. Understandably things were different in this world five years ago, and the likelihood of being called into action would have been much lower than today, but the basic gist of the army, as I understand it: they give you guns and training and angry drill seargants, and they teach you how to kill other people in the most efficient way possible.

It's not exactly Play School.

This isn't an argument for pacifism. I'm not a pacifist. This is an argument against blind loyalty, and an argument against the lack of responsibility for one's own personal actions. If I sign up for a job where I know a potential consequence is killing others in (often somewhat shady) "defence of my country" I'm making an ethical decision then and there. If I continue this position when a war breaks out or is declared, I am making another. Finally, if I am assigned to duty in such a war, I have one final decision. The penalties may be harsh to desert at this point, but there is no such thing as a situation where you're without a choice. Even making no decision is making a decision.

So if you're telling me that this war might be bad, that the innocent deaths are unnecessary, and that there's blood on the hands of these - American, English, Australian and so on - governments, then I'm sorry, but I fail to see why the soldiers aren't just as guilty.

It doesn't matter if you put the gun in my hand and tell me to pull the trigger, once I do it, I'm the murderer.

Young innocent children being blown up: one of the great things about America

Ah, that Bush. He really does have a way with words, doesn't he. Just like last week, when he told us that war is bad because it "creates a sense of uncertainty", Bush is making profound comments again.

This week Bush has been singing democratic America's praises because of all the dead kids.

Well, I think that's what he meant.

According to the latest weekly review at Harper's Magazine, Bush said: "one of the great things about America, one of the beauties of our country, is that when we see a young, innocent child blown up by an IED, we cry".

All hail Americans and their great compassion!