Friday, December 30, 2016

So 2016 is killing astronomers too

Vera Rubin discovers some stuff no one can actually see.

This year has involved a lot of deaths of a lot of people, which has clearly never happened before.

To be fair, we are talking some real giants, I mean we've lost Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard and probably even some others. It looks like the death toll of well-known-and-loved people from various entertainment fields will just keep growing until 12:01am, January 1, 2017 clicks over ... assuming this is in fact due to some sort of Witch's Curse and not just the natural attrition of a generation of post-WWII entertainers from the '60s, '70s and '80s passing on and becoming the repository for a collective grief over a social era being destroyed by neoliberalism while civlisation is threatened by twin horrors of climate change and the disturbing rise of the far right.

But more than just gay icon George Michael, bi--open-minded-and-questioning icon David Bowie and "all sexual preferences in the Known Universe" icon Prince who passed away. Vera Rubin, an insanely smart woman who revolutionised our entire understanding of the universe also left us. The astronomer, who discovered dark matter and died Christmas Day aged 88.

Sure 88 is not a bad age to go, but I am sure Rubin's death caused much grief for her family, friends and the POOR FUCKING JOURNALISTS tasked with WRITING ARTICLES, like AT CHRISTMAS, about DARK MATTER.

Some journalists got off easy, getting to write pieces about Carrie Fisher, filled with a variety of the sassy quotes she helpfully provided through her colourful life and with the opportunity for some cool "cinnamon bun" retro images. Or they got to write about George Michael, with the clear-cut excuse to play "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" unironically for the first time since the journo was in primary school, coz like it was "research"!

Others were tasked with explaining dark matter in short news pieces, forced to desperately try to think back to year 11 Physics and reassuring themselves they must know SOMETHING about this shit and thinking "OK let's start with matter... that is easy... matter is... SHIT what does matter mean, what does Wikipedia say? [furious typing] Right... so matter is 'everything'! Well that's easy! Everything is everywhere! And therefore dark matter is...

"What, he invisible part of everything??? WHAT THE FUCK! HOW CAN YOU BE THE INVISIBLE PART OF EVERYTHING??? Jesus... and this invisible shit no one can see or properly makes galaxies spin as fast as they do???? WHY THE FUCK COULD VERA RUBIN HAVE NOT DIED *NEXT* WEEK WHEN I'M ON FUCKING LEAVE!"

The answer seems to be basically dark matter, and for that matter dark energy and probably anything else the physics community deems"dark" (like there is a competing theory called "dark fluid" and something else called "dark flow" that no amount of re-reading its Wikipedia entry makes it make any more sense to me), exist to make mathematical equations work that wouldn't otherwise, at lest that is what I have gathered from a couple of SBS documentaries I was mostly paying attention for.

Still...  Vera Rubin seemed pretty cool.

'I'm not bragging or complaining, I'm just talking to myself man to man...' This has nothing to do astronomy, it is just I wrote an angry rant about Jacobin Magazine and Merle Haggard, which was the highlight of my year.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

There are poor-hating hypocrites and then there is Bronwyn Bishop.

Brownyn Bishop thinks dole bludgers are flying helicopters to their drug dealers, or something.

Huffington Post reports:
Former MP Bronwyn Bishop, who was forced to resign as Speaker of the House of Representatives after using taxpayer funds to take expensive helicopter rides, claims "many" people with depression are "rorting" the welfare system, and are "drug addicts".
Yes Bronwyn Bishop, whose "own abuse of the parliamentary expense system was so egregious that it spawned its own '-gate' suffix in Choppergate". Brownwyn Bishop, who:
...was forced to resign as Speaker in 2015, after she chartered a $5200 helicopter flight from Melbourne to Geelong -- which would have been a 90 minute road trip in her Commonwealth car, also paid for by the taxpayer -- for a Liberal party function ...
She also famously billed the taxpayer $88,000 for a 15-day official visit to Europe in 2015, and nearly $43,000 for an 11-day trip to Asia.
Leaving aside the surely self-evident point that Bronwyn Bishop manages to slander an entire group of people without any recourse while simultaneously stigmatising people who use and abuse intoxicants while proposing stripping them of their only source of funds in a move that probably wouldn't help them or society too much... it is worth noting Brownyn Bishop's achievement here.

This is a country with a very long tradition of politicians with six figure salaries, almost unending perks and gold-plated pensions cynically bashing welfare recipients while slashing taxes for the rich. After all, Bishop was just echoing similar comments by ex-PM and loyal backbencher Tony Abbott, who made repealing a mild tax on mining companies a centre-piece of his campaign for power.

There is nothing new about some cynical pollie going bludger-bashing with ridiculous ill-though out logic in a bid to set different sections of the working class against each other, score some cheap points and -- most importantly -- get the Murdoch press tabloids and shock jocks off their backs because if they DIDN'T say this shit, the screeching would be about THEM. It is basic self-defence for a major party politician to bash the defenceless before the right-wing media bashes them for not bashing the defenceless.

That is all to be expected, it is how our political system functions. Murdoch mags and shock jock screechers wail, and politicians join in on harmonies.

So far so "Australia Is The Greatest Country In the World Or It Would Be If Not For All the Bloody Bludgers and Bleeding Heart Pollies Wasting Our Hard Earned Tax Dollars, Christ Some Of Us Actually Work For A Living (TM)". 

No, what is impressive about Bronwyn Bishop's intervention is the hypocrisy is so insanely intense that it manages to be unavoidable. And if there is something the mainstream media of all stripes like to do, it is avoid political hypocrisy, if only because otherwise they'd talk about nothing else and there'd be no time left for the cricket scores.

It takes some extreme bullshit for the stench to be even noted. Others in her position would take their parliamentary pension and just shut the fuck up. Not Bronwyn Bishop. Fair play, I suppose.

'You tell me anyone without a job should go out and die...' Brownyn Bishop's comments are hardly new, but fucking evil enough to drive me to post a song by anarchist industrial band iNsuRge, who I haven't listened to since about 1997.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

OK 2016 wasn't great but don't panic, Tony Abbott's on a crusade to promote Western civilisation

'So the really great thing about Western civilisation up until 1955,...'
Many treat this year like it has little to commend it, and OK it is has been a bit of a bumpy ride, sure, but it is important to look at the positives. There was one development, in particular, I firmly believe history will record as of profound historic importance. A huge turning point for humanity.

I refer to the day it was announced that Tony Abbott had been appointed director of a new think tank to "promote" Western civilisation. On October 4, in a rare piece of good news, The Guardian reported:
Tony Abbott has been appointed a director of a new centre for western civilisation – a thinktank which he says aims “to promote a more widespread study and understanding of the western canon.”
If nothing else, this should end Western civilisation pretty quickly. And not before time, or we could face World War III or another season of The Farmer Wants A Wife.  Don't forget, there was no bigger "promoter" of Tony Abbott's prime ministership than Tony Abbott. Western civilisation looks as doomed as the 2014 federal budget and Prince Philip's now-retracted knighthood.

Those worrywarts concerned about a Trump presidency potentially bringing on a nuclear war... it is hard to see Western civilisation staggering on long enough for that even to be a factor. I am not sure when the former Prime Minister and onion lobbyist takes up his position, but if it is January 1, we might not even make it Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration.

There was thunder, there was lightning
Then the stars went out
And the moon fell from the sky
It rained mackerel, it rained trout
And the great day of wrath has come
And here's mud in your big red eye
And the poker's in the fire
And the locusts take the sky
Well, the earth died screaming
While I lay dreaming

Friday, December 16, 2016

2016 got you down? Fear not, in 2017 Cory Bernardi says you will 'hear more from him'

A self-described voice of common sense.
Worried after a rough 2016 that 2017 might be worse? Don't worry, this week Cory Bernardi says we can expect here more of him next year! 

The SMH reports:
He has never been among the shy and retiring elements of the Turnbull government backbench. 
But Cory Bernardi has sounded an ominous warning to his Liberal Party colleagues for 2017 - he's going "all in" to bring about the type of political change that American voters were thirsting for when they put Donald Trump in the White House.
That is what this country needs. A political offensive by an over-exposed far-right ultra conservative fundamentalist climate denier who has insisted Syrian refugees are perfectly safe in the Middle East and suggested gay marriage could lead to bestiality.

Bernardi has said some pretty offensive shit in his time, like that time he said, "Why then the levels of criminality among boys and promiscuity among girls who are brought up in single-parent families, more often than not headed by a single mother?"  But suggesting if we let gay couples marry, people might want to marry animals is surely the most offensively absurd.

Not only does it appear to equate gay sex with bestiality, it is just so out of step with modern values. Because, sure we all know a barnyard animal can show you a good time, but they just aren't marriage material! So typical of Bernardi's outdated 1950s morality. Like, it's the 21st century, we don't actually have to marry all of our one night stands! Move with the times!

Bernardi insists on his website that "common sense lives here", which may be true, but does it pay rent? I don't know what that last comment means either, but it makes as much sense as else to do with that site so fuck it, the line stays.

Really, why wouldn't we hear more of Bernardi? The far right are on the march throughout the West, so even here in the slow, backwards Australia, they feel sure this is their moment! They are taking the power back from the tyrannical elite of social workers, school teachers and Guardian subscribers who run the banks, or something.

So we all get to watch the squabbles over scraps of power between the more fundamentalist Christian far right types like Bernardi and Kevin Andrews, the "climate change is a UN globalist plot" wackos like Malcolm Roberts and the "I just don't like the coloureds" faction, headed by Pauline "We are being swamped by Asians and/or Muslims" Hanson.

All have a strong overlap in their concerns/neuroses, of course, but also their own territory of Batshit Crazy Island to protect and seek to extend.

As we slide further into Hell next year, it is nice to know our descent will be accompanied by the screeching of time travelling madhouse inmate escapees from 1951.

Anyway, here is Lily Allen because of course I'm going to post this track.

'You're just some racist who can't tie my lace, your point of view's medieval...'