Trenchant Lemmings
"Arrive in a clown car, bursting with anger."
Robert Weaver
Sydney, Australia
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The weblog description is a misquotation from Steve Aylett's Indicted to a Party: What to Do, Who to Blame.
The weblog title links to the "No Country Redirect" version, for whatever that might be worth.
April 18, 2011

[T]he last two speakers of Ayapaneco, although neighbours, are not on speakers. For one thing, they speak different versions of the language and don’t accept they way the other talks. In any case, they don’t like each other; no one, including them it seems, can remember why. So Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez, living 500 metres apart, do not use the language that only they can speak, because the great thing about language is that it is for communicating with other people.

April 13, 2011
Watching The Clock II

In the New York Review of Books, another article about The Clock.

Repetitions occur, and appear to be meaningful. If we see a lot of James Bond and Columbo it is because time, staged time, is their natural milieu. Fake clocks drive their narrative worlds: countdowns and alibis, crime scenes. This may also account for the frequency of Denzel Washington.

The Clock makes you realize how finely attuned you are to the rhythms of commercial (usually American) film. Each foreign clip is spotted at once, long before the actor opens his mouth. And it’s not the film stock or even the mustaches that give the game away, it’s the variant manipulation of time, primarily its slowness, although of course this “slowness” is only the pace of real time. In commercial film, decades pass in a minute, or a day lasts two and half hours. We flash back, we flash forward. There’s always a certain pep. “Making lunch” is a shot of an open fridge, then a chopping board, then food cooked on the stove. A plane ride is check-in, a cocktail, then customs. Principles dear to Denzel - tension, climax, resolution - are immanent in all the American clips, while their absence is obvious in the merest snatch of French art house. A parsing of the common enough phrase “I don’t like foreign movies” might be “I don’t want to sit in a cinema and feel time pass.”

April 12, 2011

Incidentally - it was news to me, when I researched how to cast a valid vote prior to the state election, that you could indicate preferences above the line in the Council election, a reform I'd been in favour of for a while (though I can see why the major parties weren't falling over themselves to publicise the change). Though unexpected, that was not, however, the weirdest feature of the NSW system - this was.

If you go to the candidate lists you can access the pdfs of their declarations that they have never murdered a kiddy. Coz you've got to the draw the line somewhere, right?

Above the Line

"In all fairness, and for true democracy, allow everyone to have their name above the line."
Two or more candidates may form a group. Where there are 15 or more candidates in a group, they can request that a group voting square be printed on the ballot paper to be used for ‘above the line’ voting. A group of 14 or less cannot request a group voting square.

Where 15 or more candidates from a registered political party request to form a group on the ballot paper the party name or abbreviation will be printed below the group voting square. The party name or abbreviation will also be shown ‘below the line’ below each candidate’s name.

If there are less than 15 candidates the party may still request to form a group on the ballot paper, however they are not entitled to a group voting square and the party name or abbreviation will not appear ‘above the line’. Candidates’ names will appear ‘below the line’ with the party name or abbreviation.


A group of 15 or more candidates not nominated by a registered political party may form a group on the ballot paper. They can request a group voting square be shown ‘above the line’, however the group cannot be identified ‘above the line’. The word ‘Independent’ cannot be shown below the group voting square or against candidates’ names ‘below the line’.
...just in case you were wondering what she was on about.

Not that there's any good reason any group of fifteen people who can get their shit together to register as a group ticket on the Legislative Council ballot, but can't get their shit together to register as a political party at least twelve months prior to the election (which in New South Wales is held after a fixed term), shouldn't be allowed a group name, except, of course, that if they were, almost none of the minors would bother registering as a political party.

April 07, 2011
In the Area Under "Do Not Write In This Space" He Wrote "OK"

My attention is drawn to the Australian Electoral Commission's report on informal voting in the 2010 Federal election. Note:

In the 2010 House of Representatives election there was a national informality rate of 5.55 per cent. This was the highest informality rate recorded since 1984, and represents a substantial increase from the 3.95 per cent recorded at the 2007 House of Representatives election.


More than half of all informal ballots in 2010 had incomplete numbering or were totally blank (27.8 per cent with a number '1' only, 2.6 per cent with other forms of incomplete numbering and 28.9 per cent blank).
Ballots with "incomplete numbering" are, of course, ballots where the voter has clearly indicated at least their first choice but failed to preference all of the other candidates. It's clear who these people were voting for, but due to the regulations put in place by the Coalition government these votes are not counted. Instead of the previous AEC approach - counting any vote where the intention of the voter was clear - the Tories insisted that valid votes must follow exactly the voting instructions provided. Their reason for so insisting is pure politics, nothing but an attempt at voter suppression, based on the assumption that people likely to make errors are either less educated or of a non-English speaking background - i.e. more likely to vote Labor.

5.5% voted informally out of a voter turnout of 13,131,667, of which 30.4% failed to number all boxes after numbering at least one. More than a quarter of the informal voters were people who wrote "1" next to their preferred candidate and then stopped. That's about two hundred thousand people who clearly expressed their choice of candidate, but whose votes were ignored.


At Japanese art and culture site Pink Tentacle, a selection of woodblocks featuring giant catfish:

In November 1855, the Great Ansei Earthquake struck the city of Edo (now Tokyo), claiming 7,000 lives and inflicting widespread damage. Within days, a new type of color woodblock print known as namazu-e (lit. "catfish pictures") became popular among the residents of the shaken city. These prints featured depictions of mythical giant catfish (namazu) who, according to popular legend, caused earthquakes by thrashing about in their underground lairs. In addition to providing humor and social commentary, many prints claimed to offer protection from future earthquakes.


This print shows a namazu engaged in a fierce game of "neck tug-of-war" with the god Kashima. A group of earthquake victims root for Kashima, while those who typically profit from earthquakes (construction workers, firemen, news publishers, etc.) root for the catfish.


Q&A: Alternative vote referendum - What do opponents of the change say?

Defenders of the current system say it generally leads to stable government and has historically reflected the will of the public in that unpopular governments have been voted out.*
UAE joins Gulf forces to restore Bahrain's stability
“The UAE has decided to send a security force ... in response to a request by the sisterly kingdom of Bahrain to help and participate in strengthening security and internal stability,” [Minister of State for Foreign Affairs] Gargash said.
Whatever the circumstances, it's a dead giveaway: if you use the word "stability", you're an enemy of democracy.

(Well, unless the circumstances involve architecture or tectonics.)

* The two halves of this sentence are, in essence, contradictory, but never mind.

April 06, 2011

“It was like this weird surreal scene that one doesn’t expect at the National Gallery.”
Rene Magritte throws down his bowler hat in a fury and storms out.


Your correspondent spent most of the last week in the wilds of Iceland, blissfully out of Wi-Fi range; as soon as you come back into town, and catch up with the news, you wonder what sort of madhouse your country has become. Kristallnacht in Marrickville? People’s cultural identity being assessed by holding up a bunch of swatches to their skin, to see if they match the décor? And the Prime Minister gives an address named after the most unlikely, un-Australian Labor leader in history to damn a whole political party for not sharing in the “delight of family and nation”?

These three events — Andrew Bolt’s appearance on accusations of racial vilification, the revival of attacks on the Greens as some sort of Nazi party, and Julia Gillard’s strange, strange Whitlam Oration — have all been discussed at length in the past week, but not as the expression of a single process, which they are.

Each in their own way represent a desperate desire not to acknowledge a profoundly changed world, retreating into past fantasy as a substitute for a vision of the future. Throw in Greg Sheridan’s bandwagon-jumping mea culpa on multiculturalism, and you have a picture of a carping and negative political culture, structured that way for obvious reasons.

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