The Null Device

2003/9/24

The EFA's response to, and refutation of, allegations of them being "the spokespeople of the porn industry", "doctrinaire libertarians" and defenders of child pornography. The allegations in question were made by Senator Harradine (a religious-right crank from Tasmania, whose vote has been vital to the government on occasion) and Senator Alston (the slightly less reactionary Minister for Communication, often referred to as "the World's Biggest Luddite"). (via Toby)

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The Dalai Lama: cuddly, celebrity-endorsed embodiment of Peace'n'Love and self-help and feeling good about yourself and universal acceptance, or bigoted reactionary snake-oil peddler, whose mediæval views are modulated by a hypocritical pandering to gullible, moneyed westerners?

In reality, Tibetan Buddhism is not a values-free system oriented around smiles and a warm heart. It is a religion with tough ethical underpinnings that sometimes get lost in translation. For example, the Dalai Lama explicitly condemns homosexuality, as well as all oral and anal sex. His stand is close to that of Pope John Paul II, something his Western followers find embarrassing and prefer to ignore. His American publisher even asked him to remove the injunctions against homosexuality from his book, "Ethics for the New Millennium," for fear they would offend American readers, and the Dalai Lama acquiesced.
I remember a public talk he gave at his headquarters in Dharamsala in northern India in 1990, after conflict between Tibetans and Indians there. He spoke in Tibetan, and his delivery was stern and admonitory, like a forbidding, old-fashioned father reprimanding his children. The crowd listened respectfully, and went away chastened.

All this reminds me of claims about various parties in the Middle East (on both sides) saying one thing in English for the benefit of gullible western liberals and another, considerably more warlike, thing in their people's own language. The moral of the story: the dumb Yanqui (and that includes Americans, Britons, Australians, Canadians and such) are mugs to be played as such.

But yes, back to the subject at hand. I once got a book "by" the Dalai Lama as a present from a new-age relative. Little surprise that it consisted of the most vapidly insipid pabulum, a lowest-common-denominator collection of self-help aphorisms with the Dalai Lama brand slapped on it. It's highly unlikely that its wisdom came from any tradition older then 1960s California. The Dalai Lama appears to have become the leading brand of guilt-assuagement for affluent Westerners whose TV doesn't quite drown out the awareness that they're living high off the hog amidst massive injustice and thus need to be reassured that they're good people and their positive thoughts cancel out any contribution their lifestyle makes to global suffering. Either that or he's just an incredibly successful conman. Or both.

And here's an article on rampant brutality in feudal Tibet; not quite the happy valley of bliss Richard Gere would have you believe. Mind you, it seems a bit pro-Chinese in places. And here's Hitchens' opinion on the Dalai Lama. (via MeFi)

buddhism christopher hitchens contrarianism dalai lama feudalism new-age religiots theocracy tibet 10

Today's InPress has a piece about Ninetynine, which reads much as the one before the Process launch last year did (and appears to have the same publicity photo). Though, interestingly enough, they refer to their upcoming release, Receiving the Sounds of Science Fiction (due out in Australia next year), as their "forthcoming album". Which makes one wonder exactly how many extra tracks the Australian release will have on top of the 5 that the US release has.

(The Beat piece on Ninetynine, in contrast, doesn't even mention Receiving the Sounds, but talks about their most recent album The Process, and its impending vinyl rerelease.)

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The Onion interviews Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian:

Q: O: What made you want to be an airline pilot?
SM: It's the kind of random job when you're that age. You never really seem to get beyond being a fireman or a policeman or an airline pilot, that sort of thing. One of the three. Actually, I don't like flying, so now it seems kind of funny to me. It would be one of my least favorite jobs now. Still, I would much rather be flying the plane than the steward. I mean, if I'm going to die, I'd rather have a hand in my own death.
O: A Hard Day's Night is on the list of your favorite films. If someone were to make a film about a day in the life of Belle And Sebastian, what would it be like?
SM: I think it'd be really boring. I'm not sure anybody would want to see it. It'd be a lot of us sitting around talking.

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The rest of the world was increasingly isolated on the global stage, as George Bush defied intense criticism at the United Nations over the war on Iraq.

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Napster comes along, spreads like wildfire by word of mouth and changes the way people think about recorded music. The RIAA sues them out of existence. Some years later, The Man buys the Napster logo, slaps it onto a sadomasochistically locked-down music-rental library, and engineers a Nike-style pseudo-culture-jamming campaign, with defacement of fake billboards, to give the New Napster some street cred.

For some reason, this makes me think of the JJJ "Enemy of Average" campaign; maybe because both are attempts to market a homogenised corporate turd-in-a-can as somehow "underground" or "subversive".

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Those stereotypes of crazy cat people may have some truth to them. A Czech scientist has found that a cat parasite causes behavioral changes in human hosts. Men infected by the toxoplasma gondii parasite tend to be "quiet, withdrawn, suspicious, jealous and dogmatic" (i.e., the typical cranky cat-owning misanthrope), whereas infected women tend to be "reckless and friendly", with slower reaction times (i.e., the typical flaky cat lady).

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Not that long after announcing a sweeping fire sale privatisation programme, the Free Iraqi Government has kicked al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya out of Free Iraq for being too biased against the US occupation. Rumours of CNN and FOXNews' new Middle Eastern operations getting their office space at a hefty discount have not been confirmed.

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The latest pharmaceutical hit with the Beautiful People of Hollywood is a KGB-designed anti-hangover drug. Originally designed to allow agents to drink opponents under the table whilst remaining clear-headed and unimpaired, the drug is being marketed as RU-21 by a US company. They are reportedly doing a roaring trade.

"Russians can out-drink anybody in the world anyway," said Emil Chiaberi, head of Spirit Sciences, which sells the pill in the US. "I don't know why they needed a pill."

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