Category Archives: Article Series

You Can’t Review That: Foreword

This article series, written by Jamie, appeared in Woroni in the second half of 2011.

I am quite proud of some of the content here, especially the review of a dream I had and, the culmination of my silly self-referential humour, the review of itself. It did also attract some praise and I had more positive feedback for this series than anything I’ve ever done. Interestingly, Myles Barlow had done his Review program the year before though I hadn’t heard of it. In fact I still haven’t seen it but I understand it’s very good and it sounds like something I would love/do.

— Jamie.

The Bible review attracted a few complaints, including one memorable effort from someone who said it was terrible, although they didn’t read beyond the first line. That’s not so bad as the first line was definitely the best.

Note the articles should be read top down, the original release dates of the articles have all been reversed so they appear in the correct order. 

Letter From Planet Earth: Foreword

Jamie wrote this column series for Woroni in the second half of 2012.

Each piece was written a day or so before publication because, unlike previous article series, the topics were time sensitive. I don’t like that kind of thing because I  prefer doing things which might conceivably have some value later on. I also have a general, but lighthearted disdain for op-ed pieces and don’t want to contribute to the cacophony. — Jamie.

The planet Gliese 667 Cc is real and was described shortly before the column was planned. The name “Gzorgax” was chosen for its unpronounceability  and generally suited the trope of zeds and exes in alien names.

Connoisseurs will notice a reference in the epistemology piece to Muhammad and his pederastic tendencies. In light of the controversy surrounding later lampooning of the prophet, it’s of some interest to note that there was not a single complaint; of course they may simply indicate the lack of readers.

Note the articles should be read top down, the original release dates of the articles have all been reversed so they appear in the correct order. 

SEASON 1, 2012 – Foreword

We wrote this back page column for the ANU student newspaper Woroni in 2012. We thought it would be funny to take statements that people believe are true, and treat them “seriously”. Not seriously as in references and experiments but seriously as in taking them literally and taking them to logical conclusions. What if the statement was actually true? The hope is to disprove the statement not with logic, but ridiculousness.

The idea was first thought of in reference to creationism and thus it’s the first article. The column evolves though, takes a bit of a detour at the Declaration of Independence and ends, as all good things do, self referentially.

We use a combination of the slippery slope argument with over the top complicated language to explore whether an utterance can be true. Hence the name:

perlustrate, v. to travel through an area in examination or survey.

asseveration, n.  the solemn or emphatic declaration or statement of something.

We haven’t seen this kind of absurd thing done anywhere else and we think it is pretty funny if we do say so ourselves. If there are people out there who think these are funny, or if you have seen something like this before, we’d love to hear from you.

Note the articles should be read top down, the original release dates of the articles have all been reversed so they appear in the correct order. 

Letter From Planet Earth: Republican Primaries

Hey Gzorgax,

Sorry, it’s been ages since my last letter and I hope all is well with you in the Gliese 667 system. These days everyone in my country seems to be really interested in the election happening in Earth’s dominant nation, America. It’s the election before the main election for the US presidency; this secondary election is called the presidential primary election. It’s to see who will battle Barack Obama for symbolic leadership of the executive and actual leadership of the UN.

The contestants are pretty interesting and the guy who’ll probably win has the name Mitt Romney: neither of which are normally names on planet Earth. He’s this dude who’s in a race to look more conservative than all of his rivals. This is an interesting challenge because he’s up against a guy called Newt Gingrich (newt isn’t a name either, it’s a kind of animal with similar physiology to your people) who postures as being the most family-values oriented, anti-elite of the bunch, although he did marry his former high school teacher, suggest an open marriage while divorcing a later wife, has a PhD and is a member of the elite.

There’s another guy called Rick Santorum. Rick is short for Richard, even though Richard is normally shortened to Dick, but I guess that might have been an embarrassing name so he probably thought he was dodging a bullet there. It’s moot anyway as “santorum” has become a byword for a substance that can result from anal sex (kind of like if you stuck your spawning rod in one of your mates’ obverse cloacae). Also, in one memorable incident he took his dead foetus home and had his living offspring play with it.

There’s also Ron Paul, but I think he might be from your planet so maybe you know him already.

This might sound like a strange collection of people to be running for a conservative party nomination and it looks like Romney will win. The thing he’s got going for him is that although he doesn’t play with foetuses, have a PhD, or have a name which, googled, mainly yields results detailing mixtures of sexual lubricant and human faecal matter, he does belong to a fundamentalist religion. I’ve told you about Christianity, well basically Romney’s a Mormon, which is a special kind of Christian that believes the basic tenets of mainstream Christianity are not sufficiently bizarre to test adherents’ faith and so supplements them with stories about magic underwear and the Garden of Eden being in Missouri. The Mormons are at core a group of hard working and self sufficient people who marched into the desert and somehow made a life for themselves in harsh conditions, thriving to the extent that they refused federal aid during the Great Depression. This combination of impressive conscientiousness and astonishing gullibility makes a Mormon the obvious leader of the modern conservative movement.

Anyway, let me know how things are on your planet.

As always, yours earthily,

Jamie.

Perlustrating Asseverations: Evolution

The theory of evolution isn’t complete, what about missing links?

Creationists and advocates of the theory of intelligent design (also known as “ID” or “creationism”) claim that scientists can’t account for the missing links between species and their ancestors. Researchers keep discovering new, intermediate species, but creationists point out that there is then a gap between the original species and the new intermediate.

The problem is that sceptics want to see the evolutionary sequence without any gaps. Well, it’s theoretically possible, although practically difficult to satisfy them. To provide watertight evidence of an unbroken chain of evolution from, say the earliest mammal to Homo sapiens, one needs to observe all the steps and because evolution occurs by random mutation, one really needs to be there for all the steps, from each generation to the next.

So we simply need to arrange for a procession of every single mating pair of the relevant organisms to pass in chronological sequence, before the eye — at the point of insemination — of the creationist in question. Only by observing the ejaculate events of all copulating pairs in the 39 million generation lineage from the earliest mammal to the first Homo sapiens, will the creationist’s heavy burden of proof be relieved.

But to truly guarantee that these inseminations are the ones that precipitate the birth of the ensuing offspring, one need also observe the actual birth, but thankfully not the lengthy gestation in between. This could be achieved, but only with excellent organisation in what amounts to a veritable Noah’s Ark of sex. After a mating pair was brought in front of the observer, pre-fitted with an intravaginal endoscopy, they would be rotated behind, the spent male discarded and the female kept in captivity for weeks or months, until she starts crowning, only to be brought back in front of the discerning creationist to look upon the disgorging of the foetus in a final verification of the genetic legacy from one generation to another.

Because 39 million generations of even brisk orgasms and parturitions will take some time, a truly dedicated Christian voyeur will be required. Assuming a stalwart protestant work ethic yielding 14 hours a day of non-stop observance of mating and crowning mammals (subtracting one seventh of their adult life because it would be anathema to watch thousands of animals coming on the sabbath), it’s possible to fit all this in 92.89 years.

 

The complicating factor will be that once the organisms being watched approach something resembling a human (say, the emergence of the genus, Homo about 2.5 million years ago), the devout Christian may encounter a scriptural injunction: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:28). As such the only way to continue to watch the carnal acts of proto-human women without damning one’s soul beyond redemption would be to cast away the offending eye. This would lead, in the final stages of the process, to legions of blinded creationists, unless of course they procured bionic eyes: a technological infeasibility and, until the medium term future, highly expensive.

Accordingly our model shows that it is best to observe the acts in a chronological manner, delaying the observation of the Homo genus until a time where the sin can be offset by bionic eyes that have become effectively free in the post-scarcity world, saving $11.5 billion.  However, as part of the observed lineage yourself, you might consider paying the $11.5 billion lest the final image to burn across the photosensitive electrodes of your cyborg eye be the shuddering head of your own father’s penis.

Q.E.D

The spreadsheet for calculations in this article can be found at: http://goo.gl/Mt848

Letter From Planet Earth: Gay Marriage

Dear Gzorgax,

I should really write more often. How is your planet going? What’s it like having three suns? Is Gzorgax a common name in Gliese 667 or were you teased growing up? Anyway, as you may know, people are getting pretty steamed up about this whole gay marriage thing here on Earth’s sunniest, funniest nation, Australia.

About two thirds of Australians now support equal marriage rights for same sex couples, although apparently it’s still highly traumatic for most parents who discover they have gay children. I guess people use most of their everyday emotional largesse on complete strangers and reserve their special inhumanity for those they love.

The argument against gay marriage is pretty unimpeachable: allowing marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman would change the definition of marriage. If there’s one thing this culture is enthusiastic about finding awful, it’s words that change meaning over time — like culture, enthusiastic, awful and all other words. The queer thing is that people are quite gay about changing the meaning of most words about human relationships, just not marriage. Random.

So the thing that has people, especially religious people, so mad is that you can’t just come along and legally change the definition of marriage. Well not again anyway, not since it was last changed by religious people. Judaism and Islam changed what marriage meant from a perfectly good institution used to allow females to be traded as commodities within and between tribes, to some crap about one man and several woman under God’s love — which, depending on your mood, sounds either saccharine, or kinky; while I’m on it saccharin should mean a sugar substitute and kinky should mean it has bends in it. Then Christians came along and ruined some of the fun and said it had to be one man, one woman, under one god. In fact Christians seem obsessed with the idea of only having one of each thing at a time — it’s like they’re playing relationship sudoku.

Meanwhile our Labor government will allow its members to take a conscience vote on the issue later this year. A conscience vote is when members of the House are given special dispensation to vote on an issue according to what they believe is right and virtuous. You can see why this is an unusual event. Ordinarily our elected representatives who are paid to serve the populous are strongly discouraged to acknowledge, or possess, a conscience.

Personally I’m actually hoping for a tightening of the definition of marriage even further, so that it allows me to marry myself. Maybe Christians will see that as a natural extension of their views and let me do it.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Perlustrating Asseverations: Discrimination

“You should avoid discrimination when hiring people”

There is an assumed opinion that one should not discriminate against people based on their gender, race or beliefs when hiring new people for a job. The idea being that one’s biological, ethnic and intellectual characteristics should not dictate one’s future, be it in their personal or professional lives. This asseverance seems difficult to refute, as discrimination has obvious associations with glass ceilings, eugenics and religious intolerance. But is it actually possible to avoid discrimination?

Because preconceptions, biases and the dominant cultural discourses are bound to cloud your own judgement, the first step in avoiding discrimination would be to remove your personal feelings from the decision making process. The easiest way to do this would be to employ some independent third party to make the appointment. You would require a disinterested, machine-like, humourless person who is willing to just follow your orders of impartiality without ever consulting their own conscience. Unfortunately such uber-efficient people are always prone to fly off into the worst kind of discrimination, cf. Germany c.1945.

You could try and remove people from the hiring process altogether and defer to a rule, by hiring on a “first in, best dressed” policy. Unfortunately, this would only discriminate in favour of punctual, and therefore German, people, which would inadvertently favour the Aryan race, in an act of racial discrimination, oddly redolent of the Nazis themselves.

The next option would be to use random numbers, by utilising the timings of the arrival of cosmic rays, as some theoretical physicists like to do. But leaving such a decision to the minute fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation comes at a cost. Even these fluctuations are tied to a cause; one will be weighing the decision to employ someone based on fluctuations that occurred to the space–time continuum at the very moment of the Big Bang. Making an employment decision based on the whim of the finger of God is to discriminate towards religions with such an idea of God, in a tenuous echo of the doctrine of predestination: the hallmark of the German theologian Martin Luther, progenitor of the very same protestant work ethic which drove the efficiency of the Final Solution.

Finally all that is left is to simply accept that the world is intrinsically deterministic and that your decision was predetermined, based on the initial conditions of the universe — but this would be blatant discrimination on the basis of the initial conditions of what cosmologists call a “goldilocks universe”, in another overt act of favouring blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Aryanist notions of goodness and an egregious example of discrimination against universes which didn’t have the chance to support life or sustain matter for more than a few nanoseconds.

Ultimately your attempt to avoid politically incorrect discrimination in the workplace will result in you inadvertently enacting, at the most fundamental ontological level, the monstrous, Ariosophic ideologies of Heinrich Himmler.

Q.E.D.

Letter From Planet Earth: Kony 2012

Dear Gzorgax,

Down here on Earth we’re tired of this damn Stop Kony 2012 thing. I don’t know if you have Internet fads like this on the planet Gliese 667 Cc, but people here are fed up with this flash-in-the-pan, emotionally manipulative, awareness campaign about Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. If there’s one thing we hate it’s lame-arse memes; and no meme is lamer than one about something as lame as children’s faces being mutilated and their parents being killed in front of their eyes. Lame.

Basically this activist dude called Jason Russell made a video about a deranged Ugandan warlord called Joseph Kony. The video has excellent production values and is both distributed via social media and about social media — the medium is the message, which is a popular 20th century cliche. Unfortunately the script of the film is riddled with cliches even more banal and the narrative of the film works mainly as an exposition of the self-indulgent director’s relationship with his cute, but precocious five year old son. Anyway, even you have Facebook now, so I’ll post the link on your wall.

The film’s message is so simple that even said precocious five year old with the annoying face can understand it. Still, you’re probably wondering precisely why people are so affronted by a successful effort to alert the Western population to the existence of a man who induces sexual slavery and possibly even cannibalism. Well, all I can say in this missive is that, luckily, the West has learnt from repeatedly being sucked-in by simplistic narratives from despots. After only a few hundred million resultant deaths in the last few millennia, we’ve now arrived at a stage where most of us are deeply sceptical about claims to truth. Ironically, this same incredulity means we are unlikely to let something like a humanitarian attempt to help Ugandans with their own problems with megalomaniacs go past without it being thoroughly critiqued by jaded commentators.

It doesn’t help Russell’s cause that he has a bit of the true-believer, glazed-eye look about him. But he is also a man who has successfully created a viral video, in an age when people do little else other than try to make viral videos. Most of these videos fall away and we are left with those that have been un-naturally selected by the webosphere for their excellent cats and superb auto-tune. To have cut through this morass and have people learn, however facilely, about a psychopath tyrant, is impressive — but annoying for fans of Shit People Say.

It’s worth noting, however, that Russell once said in an interview that: “If Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono had a baby, I would be that baby.” There are many horribly inhumane things that can be done to children and Joseph Kony has explored many of them. But even a man accused of such crimes as enslavement, pillaging, rape and inducing cannibalism has not yet been accused of the base act of inflicting both Bono and Oprah on the same child.

So you’ll see that the 27 minute Youtube video is lacking in that doesn’t account for Ugandans’ agency, the problems with the Ugandan military, or of the ethics of intervening in another culture’s problems. Which brings us to the overwhelming question, Gzorgax: would it have been better for Ugandans that this video hadn’t gone viral? You know the answer to that and you’re 22 light years away.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.