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The Egg Dance

I’ve recently got back from Amsterdam. Now I suppose it is moderately unusual to collapse into giggles in the Rijksmuseum’s section on Dutch 12th-17th Century art but I managed it. This is a detail from the picture that made me laugh…

That is a detail from The Egg Dance by Pieter Aertsen.

What made me laugh though was the caption next to it…

At right, in this brothel, a young man does an egg dance to the music of a bagpiper. While dancing, he had to roll an egg within a chalk circle – without it breaking – and to cover it with a wooden bowl. This ‘pointless’ amusement, along with the dissolute behaviour of the other figures, served as a moral warning against debauchery.

Emphasis mine. I just loved the phrase “This ‘pointless’ amusement”. Sums up life really. Less, seriously though, this was painted in 1552 and I guess you had to make your own amusement back then. The Rijksmuseum does also boast a large collection of impedimenta for drinking games. An inventive (if drunken) lot those renaissance Dutch.

In fact it stuck in my mind so much that upon my return I googled (I think the term is so ubiquitous as to have lost the capital like “hoover” has) the picture. I found this.

Now one of the first things I wondered was why the Rijksmuseum was so sure it was a brothel. To me (and my wife) it just looked like a fairly chaotic party in a home…

At the back of the room an old man is playing the bagpipes. Because of its shape, the instrument often symbolised the male genitalia. In the window is a jug containing a leek, a vegetable of the onion family. A sixteenth-century viewer would immediately have realised that the scene was a room in a brothel. Onions were supposed to be a stimulant. All around lie onion flowers, leek leaves and mussels, which were supposed to have the same quality. It was also thought to be true of eggs, the theme of the painting.

OK, the bagpipes I kinda got already. That’s a bit of a classic (cf Hieronymous Bosch)…

… Or indeed this. It is amazing how, across culture, time and geography, symbolism can be both steady yet sometimes obscure like the leek. Though that might explain the perennial appeal of Sir Tom Jones (or why, as I type, the Welsh are giving the Scots a hammering at the Rugby). This evening I shall be in the peculiar situation of cheering on France). Anyway back to my point.

From the same source (I almost hit “sauce” – hmm…)…

Pieter Aertsen has given this piquant scene a moral message that appears to reflect his own moral reservations. A joker is depicted on one of the wooden boards on the table, left, and on the other a goat jumping. These are cards in a Tarot set. In the sixteenth century everyone would have understood that these symbolised drunkenness and lust. The reel above the fireplace on the right is a sign of folly: in fact ‘reeling’ is still used today to describe a person swaying or staggering from the effects of alcohol.

The Egg Dance is one of the earliest paintings of a peasant scene. The elongated form suggests it was designed to be hung above a fireplace. This kind of genre painting was popular among the burghers of the cities. The moralistic message was often an excuse to paint a piquant scene. Aertsen was also commissioned to paint large religious works for churches. However, many of these were destroyed during the Iconoclast fury.

Emphasis mine. There is something almost reassuring about the continuity of this moral hypocrisy. We see it in modern times with the Islamosphere and the idea that a normally dressed woman is a hussy. And elsewhere.

“…the American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs” and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

- Sayyid Qutb (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood who are currently sexually assaulting “inappropriately hijabed” women and girls in Egypt” describing a Methodist tea-dance in Colorado in 1950.

Qutb apparently died a virgin having failed to find a woman “pure” enough for him. It would be farcical but for the Hell that has followed in his wake.

Or what about the most sanctimonious of businesses – the Co-op and it’s “Crystal Methodist”? The Co-op sells “ethical water” (whatever that might be) and it’s ordained Methodist preacher bank boss was using crystal meth, crack cocaine, ketamine and rent boys. Oh, and the bank had a “black hole” of over GBP1.5bn.

My favouritist newspaper in all the World is of course the Daily Mail which routinely in it’s “News” section includes scare stories about the sexualization of girls and women being driven into eating disorders by being “forced” by the media into looking like models and starlets right next to the “Femail” column (how cute) which is supposed to be about women’s issues (yeah, right). It includes stuff like this all the time.

So, to tie this all together… I’m not sure how but in some sense (and there are different variations but the basic tune is always the same) “elites”* of all descriptions will always find some sort of justification to indulge in the sins they would deny the plebs or… Well, something along those lines. Qutb is an outlier but there is still the same infernal moral arrogance of “I can see this for I am pure but you can’t”. It is the same as the burghers of Amsterdam all those years ago titillating themselves whilst feeling (or pretending to feel) morally superior to the lower orders.

Apparently there are things in the dungeon of the British Library that are so vile they can only be accessed in the presence of a couple of trustees of the British Library and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I bet Prince Philip has had a gleg…

*A term in political discourse I hate because when I was a lad “elite” meant the SAS and such. And not just gits.

The Overhead.

The Internet c.1800s...

That was the semaphore system built by Claude Chappe in France around the time of the French Revolution. If the idea of big semaphore machines connecting a nation (indeed internationally) reminds you of the “Clacks” on Discworld then you are in the right ball-park – almost. There is a key difference which we shall come to though and it is a biggy.

Anyway, this is the size of the network…

... and its reach.

Now here is the big difference. What is the modern, electronic, internet as we know it used for? It is a chaos of chatter and (in)sanity, logic and weirdness, bank transactions, Christmas greetings, pornography, blogging, tweeting, facebook, gaming, terrorist plots and how to build a bomb or how to cook a risotto. It can be anything from an interview with One Direction or a seminar on quantum entanglement. It is humanity in toto.

The French clacks wasn’t (that is the “biggy” I mentioned) and neither could it technically be nor was intended to be. The inventor had this rather disingenuous thing to say,

“Chappe once claimed that a signal could go from Toulon to Paris – 120 stations across 475 miles – in just ten or twelve minutes. But he could not make that claim for a full message, even a relatively short one. Three signals per minute was the most that could be expected of even the fastest telegraph operator.”

In modern terms that is 1/20 bit per second (roughly – the Chappe code had a signal space of 98 symbols (2 beam positions and 7 positions each for the “arms” = 2x7x7=98) which is near enough the size of the standard 7 bit ASCII code – 128 symbols – to compare with allowing a bit of wiggle on human factors). Difference is the first common(ish) home modems worked at like 2000 bps or 40,000 times that speed. Sending a signal as simple as, “Advance at noon, reinforcements will meet on your left flank by 1pm.” would be nightmarish. And that is assuming absolute accuracy in transcription at all stations along the way. It need not be said that 2000bps is dismal. A slow ADSL line is over a thousand times faster and if BT Reach-Around has deemed fit to bother with laying fibre even ADSL on Cu is laughable. Sky (my broadband, TV and landline provider keep on trying to get BT to get us into the C21st – to no avail so far). There are always BT vans prowling and doing nowt. I’m not surprised. I used to work for BT and trying to get them to do anything to the porpoise is like assaulting Broadmoor with soft fruit. They might technically be private but they still behave like a state monopoly. Utterly complacent Bertram Blunts plus ultra.

Anyhoo, back to those old French folk. Not only was the system technically very limited (in that it was fast but with abysmal bandwidth) and therefore unsuitable for general communication but it was never intended for such use. Chappe again,

“…took it for granted that the telegraph network of which he dreamed would be a department of the state, government owned and operated. He saw it not as an instrument of knowledge or of riches, but as an instrument of power. ‘The day will come,” he wrote, ‘when the Government will be able to achieve the grandest idea we can possibly have of power, by using the telegraph system in order to spread directly, every day, every hour, and simultaneously, its influence over the whole republic.”

Chilling but not a million miles away from how our Lords and Masters see the internet. Fortunately they don’t really understand TCP/IP and all that jazz and I don’t think they understand the importance of a technology they simply don’t understand (they don’t understand much tech stuff). But they try, hence such things as the unbelievably poorly thought out violent and extreme pornography bill or assorted attempts around the globe to make pornography an “opt-in” service (for the sake of the children, naturally). And will it stop at porn? Does it ever stop? No, of course not!

Now obviously, there is a difference here – almost an inversion. The old French mechanical “clacks” was a way to govern and the modern internet is a way to keep tabs on the governed. This morning for the first time ever I used my bank card contactless (I’ve forgotten my PIN!!!). Some bugger at the NSA or GCHQ now knows what toilet paper I buy, the brand of ciggies I smoke and that I drink semi-skimmed milk. And yeah, I know they could harvest that from the chip anyway but… as a true believing physicist I find action at a distance, “spooky” ;-) That’s a quote from Einstein by the way though Newton himself was not 100% happy with gravity working like that. General Relativity is at least a locally realistic theory. It may be (usually) more mathematically complicated but Relativity makes far fewer metaphysical assumptions than did Newton. Newton has a fair few mad old dears stashed in the attic clad in their wedding dresses. But I digress…

The simple truth is that by hook or by crook any advance in comms will be seen by our Lords and Masters as a potential means of control. Whether it is owning the entire shooting match or just spying on it is a mere matter of tech to the L&M. Tech they will, thankfully, cock-up profoundly but they do try, bless ‘em.

All quotes from “The Information” by James Glieck.

Tor – Not just for drug dealers…

Tor Project Logo

Over recent weeks there has been a great harrumphing of editorials about how the usual internet bogeymen (pedophiles, drug runners, terrorists and alleged assassins) have been utilizing Tor to carry on their business away from the prying eyes of law enforcement agencies. This has recently been brought to a head with the arrest of Eric Eoin Marques the owner/operator of “Freedom Hosting” in Ireland, the main provider of Tor hosting services. (more…)

QOTD

This comment fell foul of a CiF censor.

Mankind has a long history of people who were absolutely convinced that survival depends on everyone else adopting their belief system.

Steven Goddard at Real Science.

The truth will set you free at loggerheads with greenie Graunie gatekeepers.  It makes you wonder what these people are afraid of.

Trogger*

The Daily Wail is up in sanctimonious arms about a “notorious internet troll” they have exposed.  Why is the Wail’s blood up?  Because uncompromising blogger Old Holborn verbally slaughtered a couple of sacred cows that no one dare tell bad taste jokes about.  And it caused the twatterati to descend into a frenzied virtual lynch party.

This is the face of one of Britain’s most notorious internet trolls.

As his alter ego Old Holborn, Robert Ambridge is responsible for a series of vile and offensive Twitter posts that have brought him death threats.

Apparently death threats are not as vile and offensive as taking the micturation out of a taboo subject.

Thousands were outraged when Ambridge, who appears on his Twitter page with his identity disguised by a plastic pig mask, tweeted about the Hillsborough Stadium disaster. He posted a picture of two overweight women and claimed ‘this is what crushed the 96’.

Whereas the millions who have never heard of OH and are too busy having a life to tweet probably couldn’t give a stuff.

Moral outrage.  The most persistent bane of our post normal society.  A dangerous threat to free speech.  Is OH offensive?  I’d say yes, having read his blog on and off over the years.  Sometimes I agree with what he says and on other occasions I think he’s a git.  I wouldn’t issue a death threat to shut him up though no matter how offensive his remarks.  Nor would I be insisting that “something must be done” to silence him.  If he wants to be a git making gittish remarks designed to annoy authoritarian gits then that’s his prerogative.

Ambridge, 51, a recruitment consultant and father of six from Braintree, Essex, also made disgusting comments about the murder of James Bulger which deeply upset his mother. But an unrepentant Ambridge claims people who are offended by his comments have only themselves to blame.

Yes, being offended on the behalf of someone you’ve never met has become a full time sport for the perpetually affronted brigade.  My reaction?  OH is being a controversial git gleefully poking what he knows is going to be a hornets nest to provoke a reaction.  The adult thing to do, if you are offended by him, is ignore him, not give him the oxygen of publicity.  But it seems we are not dealing with adults and that includes the journalists and the police.

‘It is not my responsibility what other people find upsetting. I didn’t target anyone. I didn’t send an email. They chose to read what I wrote. If they don’t like it, they should turn it off. I don’t care what people find offensive.’

Because making crass remarks might be offensive to those prone to outrageous bouts of herd apoplexy but it is not an offence in law.   It certainly isn’t a hound ‘em and flog ‘em out of gainful employment offence.  Oh wait, yes it is.  People have the right not to be offended.  By anyone or anything.  Anywhere or at any time.  And the authorities will be there to mollycoddle wounded feelings and take names.  All in the name of social inclusivity and clamping down on naughtiness to make the world a better place for everyone who is happy being a touchy-feely herdthink drone.

Justifying his tweet about Hillsborough, he added: ‘This is dark humour. People might not like my humour but I think it is funny and it gets a chuckle.’

So where is all the outrage about taking the mickey out of fat people?  Don’t they deserve to be treated with sensitivity?  Well no, because it is socially acceptable to believe that all fat people are greedy and stupid and deserve all the derision they get even when they don’t. Unlike Merseyside’s tragically deceased they aren’t a protected species when it comes to verbal abuse or offensive jokes.  Either everyone is a target or none at all.  I’ll settle for everyone because none at all is a tyranny.

This week, the self-proclaimed ‘satirical terrorist’ will seek to justify his vitriolic internet posts in an ITV documentary called Fear And Loathing Online.

Well yes, OH can be quite loathsome when he puts his mind to it.  However the only fear in this particular Wail story comes from the death threats of the morally outraged.  OH hasn’t actually threatened anyone, merely piddled them off.  Not the same thing.  So how come he’s the only pariah in town right now?  Have the thousands of column inches dedicated to our not bombing Assad being wrong, wrong wrong, finally run out of steam?

Ambridge agreed to be filmed without his pig mask, although his face was not shown. But The Mail on  Sunday traced Ambridge to his dilapidated Victorian home in Braintree.

Matthew Hopkins journalism at its most odious.  I’ll assume that howling mobs, pitchforks and flaming torches were optional extras not available on expenses.

With an appearance more akin to Coronation Street’s hapless cafe owner Roy Cropper than a cutting-edge satirist, he initially denied he was Old Holborn.

So what is a “cutting-edge satirist” supposed to look like?  And who wrote the benchmark specifications for the physical appearance of one?  Fatuous journalism at its most infantile.

But later, speaking at the wheel of his battered Toyota vehicle, gap-toothed Ambridge said: ‘I am there to upset the apple cart. It is a form of entertainment. Trolling is like putting a fishing line in a shoal of fish and seeing what you can get.’

I can see a pattern building here.  It’s not just OH’s opinions that are low rent.  His dilapidated house, battered Toyota and crooked teeth are proof that the Wail is dealing with a lowlife scumbag who needs to be put in his place – six feet under if the Twatter mob get’s its way.  He hasn’t broken the law.  The fact that he’s overweight, white and middle aged isn’t a criminal offense although the Wail is trying to build a case on those shifting sands of stupidity.  He has six children.  So what?  I am led to believe he has worked hard to bring them up instead of relying on the state to do it.  That isn’t a crime either.

Ambridge worked for Alchemy Recruitment in Braintree until April, when he was first outed as a notorious online troll. Following his Hillsborough comments, people bombarded the firm with phone calls and threatened to burn down its offices.

OH is a blogger who stirs the smelly stuff with a big spoon and then muses upon the fruits of the fall-out.  He’s certainly not everyone’s cup of cha.  Internet trolls lead the unsuspecting into an ambush which isn’t OH’s modus operandi at all.  But then, given the inferior, poorly informed and lacking a shred of research dross that passes for journalism these days, I suppose the confusion is understandable.  After all the newfangled  blogging media has only been around for a decade and a half – give or take.  Not enough time for the legacy media to catch up.

However, the ancient practice of witch-hunting is alive and well in the twenty-first century.  Anyone associated with someone possessed of free speech a penchant for controversy an aversion to political correctness the Devil’s evil forked tongue and tail is fair game and must be purged for the good of society. Don’t you just love this popular resurgence of a deeply unsavoury hysterical historical custom?

An investigation was launched by Essex Police over tweets relating to the Boston bombing, as well as the Hillsborough disaster and the Bulger murder. Ambridge has since left the company.

So are they going to investigate everyone who believes OH is entitled to his opinion no matter what sacred cow he’s tipped?  Are they also going to investigate the death threat tweets and emails he and his former employer received?  If not, why not?  Or is it now legal and acceptable to put someone in fear of their life for upsetting the herd or because they employ someone who has?

Police said the CPS is considering whether to pursue a case of criminal communication through social media involving a 51-year-old man from Braintree.

Clearly there is a certain demographic that never found its way out of the infants playground.  It is not the job of the police to nurse bruised sensitivities and pander to the chronically indignant.  Their job is to investigate, arrest and charge actual criminals, not harass people who upset the mores of self-indulgent, social puritans. So OH caused offense with his crass and very black humour.  So what.  It’s not like he was caught red-handed molesting kiddies, drowning kittens or mugging old ladies for their bingo money.

I was disgusted by the people who happy-danced at a certain old lady’s funeral a few months back.  But they were entitled to do that. I was content to mutter “gits” at the TV screen.  I certainly wasn’t motivated to hunt them down and send them death threats on behalf of the bereaved family.  Nor do I expect the police to “investigate” the matter as a possible “hate” crime.  Yes there was hate.  A lot of it.  But was it a crime?  Hardly.

 

*  It seems the Wail doesn’t know the difference between a controversial, politically incorrect blogger and a troll, notorious or otherwise.  Hence, Trogger.

A Brave Man…

Yang Jisheng. A Chinese academic who has written a book that might do Mao’s memory irreparable damage. Yes, it’s about the Great Famine that resulted from Mao’s absurd and evil schemes. Yang Jisheng – at great personal risk – dug out the archives on a period of human insanity and vileness that ought to be at least as well known as the Holocaust or Stalin’s purges.

Here’s a taster (for want of a better word).

A decade after the Communist party took power in 1949, promising to serve the people, the greatest manmade disaster in history stalks an already impoverished land. In an unremarkable city in central Henan province, more than a million people – one in eight – are wiped out by starvation and brutality over three short years. In one area, officials commandeer more grain than the farmers have actually grown. In barely nine months, more than 12,000 people – a third of the inhabitants – die in a single commune; a tenth of its households are wiped out. Thirteen children beg officials for food and are dragged deep into the mountains, where they die from exposure and starvation. A teenage orphan kills and eats her four-year-old brother. Forty-four of a village’s 45 inhabitants die; the last remaining resident, a woman in her 60s, goes insane. Others are tortured, beaten or buried alive for declaring realistic harvests, refusing to hand over what little food they have, stealing scraps or simply angering officials.

When the head of a production brigade dares to state the obvious – that there is no food – a leader warns him: “That’s right-deviationist thinking. You’re viewing the problem in an overly simplistic matter.”

I have just been out to buy cat food because kitty’s cupboard was bare. Now that is not “right-deviatonist thinking” – that’s arithmetic. You have twelve pouches of cat food and the cat eats twelve pouches then poor kitty then has none and I have to get my boots on. This blog is called “Counting Cats” and at some level little Timmy (who is not exactly a maths professor at Cambridge) has a stronger grasp on arithmetic than a Chinese Communist apparatchik. He at least has a folk conception of zero and will mewl until the situation is ameliorated and because I am not a Communist apparatchik but a reasonable, rational human being so do I.

I increasingly regard Communism as a religion – a bizarrely humanly invented one. It’s the only way I can understand the squaring of “never jam today” with the fact there clearly isn’t any jam, nor was there, nor will there be and jam doesn’t happen by wishing it to be so. I guess what I’m saying is these committed communists (and Yang Jisheng was one in his youth – even when his father starved to death in front of his eyes – another reason Yang Jisheng is a brave man – to challenge everything you were brought up to believe and admit you followed a false prophet for years is intellectually brave).

I say a “bizarrely human invented religion” and I need to clarify what I mean. This is hard. What Communism (in most forms) does is create a quasi-religious mythology that manages – all too often – to get away with the seeming paradox of championing the “ordinary Joe” whilst deifying whatever “Great Leader” lives in the palace. But there is another paradox and it is the conflation of “religion” and “science” (and the scare quotes are there for a reason). The reason of course is that it is neither religion nor science but a load of hokum dressed-up in pseudo scientific terms and expressed in an almost transcendental manner. That is Communism’s power. It touches both the bases of a quasi-mystical “worker’s paradise” where money is too cheap to meter (religion) with what appear to be scientific arguments that this state of affairs is not just desirable and doable but inevitable if only everyone believes enough. Like bringing Tinkerbell back. It’s a heady brew appealing simultaneously to both idealism (of a sort) and a faux rationalism. Do I dare go further and suggest the obvious contradictions here fit with a belief in the dialectic and thesis hitting antithesis as the engine of progress?

I don’t believe that because I can see when the cupboard is bare. As I said so can a relatively simple critter such as the Dear Kitty. Yes, Mao refuted by a cat! No where have I heard that one before? I can also spot intellectual bankruptcy as well as cat food deficits. And it is intellectually bankrupt. Occam’s razor cut’s the throat of Communism. I mean there is either no food because of colossal mismanagement (I also regard such epic mismanagement as actually evil in somewhat the same way I regard homeopathy, quacks, cults and any number of other frauds*). Of course some of the agents are poor misguided souls who like Agent Mulder “want to believe” and some just wish to gain power and stuff and see this as a convenient vehicle and the synergy of faux-science with faux-religion is a powerful vehicle for that. Just get your ouija board out and ask the shade of L Ron Hubbard. Some of course are just thugs and some just terrified of those thugs. Yang Jisheng became neither and for that I salute him.

*Examples of Communist intellectual bankruptcy might include Lysenkoism Or Stalin’s truly bizarre objection to Fermi-Dirac statistics in Quantum Mechanics – Fermions within a system all have to have different quantum states – so they “don’t collectivise” was Uncle Joe’s objection. The idea of Joe Stalin being well-up on cutting edge physics is peculiar enough but what is really weird is that that is bizarrely atavistic as well as showing some (deranged) understanding of physics it is a prime example of someone who would undoubtedly have called himself a materialist objecting to the nature of… matter itself on a spurious quasi-religious “make it so!” basis. There was also a bizarrely vile attempt under Uncle Joe to produce a subservient soldier/worker class (Morlocks?) by attempting (against both any er… conceivable ethics or even brute biological science) to cross humans with gorillas. Deranged science and deranged ideology hand-in-paw. Some women actually volunteered to be (artificially) inseminated with Ape jizz. Seriously. Now that really is pseudo-science allied to some sort of “vision thing”.

The Arab Autumn

I suppose you’ve all heard about the appalling attacks on the US Embassy in Cairo and the Benghazi consulate. The obvious reason that the Benghazi attack is bigger news is the murder of the US Ambassador and three other staff. Both attacks of course were apparently precipitated by a movie on Youtube. I shall mainly concentrate on the Egyption outrage despite (perhaps because) the other has displaced it on the news…

Now this is curious. It has some distressing parallels with the MoToons of Doom fiasco.

A trailer for the film, which is understood to be called either The Innocence of Muslims or Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims, was first uploaded to YouTube in July to little attention.

Last week, however, a version was dubbed into Arabic and posted on the same YouTube channel and it was rapidly copied and viewed tens of thousands of times, before being shown on a Egyptian TV channel.

Sound familiar? In 2005 nothing happened for months until Clerics did a tour of the Middle East to whip-up outrage. Then all Hell broke out. Utter rabble rousing (though obviously not entirely spontaneous) and manufactured outrage just like this time. Why did they show this on Egyptian TV if not to create a restless mob? And who I wonder dubbed the movie into Arabic? I appreciate I use the word “mob” but obviously all of this is organised chaos. The craven response to the MoToons didn’t placate the Islamists in 2005 and certainly it hasn’t changed their attitudes since as many subsequent incidents attest including of course these two attacks on diplomatic property and diplomats.

So what has been the response from the USA? This was what the US Embassy in Cairo put on it’s website after the Embassy was stormed on the 11th of September and the flag torn down to be replaced by a black one bearing the inscription, “Allahu Ackbar”. That specific flag is associated with many Islamist groups including Al-Queda…

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of other.

The Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gomaa said this about the movie two days before the attack:

Freedom of speech does not warrant desecrating sanctities.

Do they have the same speech-writer?

Now I don’t know if this is the specific graffiti pictured but apparently at least one of the scrawls read:

“If your freedom of speech has no limits, may you accept our freedom of action.”

From the Islamic Awakening Forum.

Quite.

PS. I’m not sure about this but I have heard from various sources (can’t remember where, sorry) that in Egypt the word out on the street was that the movie was financed by Copts. Hmm…

All Your Game Are Belong To Us

2012 may be the 60th anniversary of the first videogame: a version of Noughts and Crosses for the Cambridge EDSAC. It certainly seems to be the earliest I’ve ever come across, and I say “seems to be” because there’s always the possibility it’s been mis-dated; I can’t confirm it. Here it is (without the subroutines that actually make it work; by modern standards it’s tiny, but still a bit long to include here):

[OXO]
T56K
[M3]
PFGKIFAFRDLFUFOFE@A6FG@E8FEZPF
@ !8!7!!!!!!!*NOUGHTS!AND!CROSSES
@!5!4!!!!!!!*!!!!!!!!BY
@!2!1!!!!!!!*A!S!DOUGLAS#N!*C#M1952
@&@&*LOADING!PLEASE!WAIT#MMM
..PK
T45KP192F [H-parm]
T50KP512F [X-parm]
T46KP352F [N-parm]

Somebody might well have had “Tic Tac Toe“ running on the ENIAC in 1948, but Cambridge were among the first to realise that the cathode ray tube memory monitors used at the time could double as displays of useful (or fun) output data: this really is video game… of sorts. It seems fair to give A.S. Douglas some credit, at any rate. You can get an EDSAC emulator, with the full program, here. Nobody in their 20s will find it odd to play a game that was written before they were born (although they might have trouble with the telephone-dial controller) but for those of us who remember the excitement of actually having Pong at home it’s a rather strange experience.

It took a long time before anyone attempted to get a videogame rated by the censors. My memory’s a bit hazy on it: as I recall, it was a text adventure version of Frank Herbert’s The Rats, but I’ve read otherwise. I do know it was 1985, at the height of the “video nasty” scare, and was universally seen by gamers as a marketing ploy: get a rather pedestrian title slapped with an 18 certificate, and it’s instantly transformed into catnip for underage boys. The early videogame entrepreneurs understood how people’s minds work.

How things have changed:

Those who stock games could be sent to prison for six months or fined £5,000 if they are caught selling 12-rated products to youngsters.

All games will now be rated by the Video Standards Council, which has the power to ban products from Britain if it considers them too explicit.

It has the power to say they’re banned. They never seem to learn, do they?

The Kulturminister, Ed Vaisey, called it a “simplification of the ratings system”. Yeah. The system remains exactly the same as it was yesterday (and it’s quite a good one; I’ve no objection to – voluntary – labelling that gives people an idea of what to expect); all that has changed is that it now has the threat of force behind it. The ratchet has clicked another notch.

Dr Jo Twist, chief executive of The Association of UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie), welcomed the new system.

Oh, what a shocker. They always do.

She added: ‘As we mark the start of PEGI as the single video game age rating system, we’re delighted to use the opportunity to help parents to make informed decisions about which video games to choose for their family.’

or else.

Generation Porn

From The Telegraph

A generation is growing up skewed by internet pornography, court hears, as 12-year-old who raped a schoolgirl is spared jail.

A generation of youngsters may be developing a skewed view of sex from pornography, a court has heard, after a 12-year-old schoolboy raped and sexually assaulted a younger girl after copying a hardcore film he watched on the internet.

This raises many questions. For good or ill in the UK the age of criminal responsibility is ten. Now the girl was nine so 7 years below the age of consent and fundamentally that would appear the issue here. So if the age of consent is a legal (though arbitary) fixed point why not the age of criminal responsibilty? How can a court recognise one but not the other?

Simples. It can blame this thing they call they internet. They can blame a vast impersonal external force that makes people do very bad things. This is much easier for many people to cope with than the fact that kids can be nasty. How nasty is interesting though here.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard the boy, now aged 14, was allowed “unfettered” access to adult websites before forcing a nine-year-old to perform a sex act on him.

Now considering a non-custodial sentence was imposed can we safely assume she was merely coerced into giving him a blow-job or even that this was a case of “show me yours and I’ll show you mine… going too far?”

Hard to tell but it is fairly obvious to me that at least The Telegraph and the perhaps the court put the internet on trial at least as much as the boy. And that worries me. Not because I look at porn but filters and opting-in to the “pervert list” provides government with the technology to filter or block… Well anything. A while back I posted the image of Leda ravished by the Zeus in swan form. I honestly couldn’t see that as porn as such. The Met told the gallery though that it was. Despite no complaints from the public. See how arbitrary it can be?

Is porn a skewed view of sexuality? Hmm… It is a highly stylized form. Nobody ever ejaculates in anyone in porn – the “money shot” is the money shot and must be seen. I don’t think anyone normal (whatever that means) gets their ideas of actual sex from porn. And I mean here porn marketed as porn and not stuff sold as high art or “sex scenes integral to the plot” or whatnot. Mostly I have to admit the later two categories I tend to find more arousing. This (oh, er missus!) raise an interesting question about porn. Essentially it’s definition is undefinable. It is all in the eye of the beholder. There are things that are undoubtedly generally considered obscene and that someone somewhere will get turned on by but don’t do it for me. The internet porn aggregation types will include categories like “ugly”. I guess porn is a great leveler here. Young, old, black, white, gay, straight, transexual, ginger, blonde or brunette someone will pay you to pleasure yourself with a root vegetable. Quite how the likes of Harriet Harman think this sexist (women in porn are generally better paid than men) or exploitative is beyond me.

What I think is up (oh er, missus!) is a sort of bizarre moral shift. Over the last few years in the UK we have seen a great deal of liberalisation of sex as like done but not as portrayed. Over the course of my adulthood the gay age of consent has dropped from 21 to 16 (same as the hetero one), the strict liabilty sodomy laws have been struck. Yes, technically (I do not recall any convictions, mind) buggering a woman consensually was illegal though you had a sort of “decriminalized” special dispensation for giving it up the arse to a geezer. This made no sense to me. So, I’m happy with the state of affairs now? No. It is even dafter because it seems to me legislation is like fighting an air-mattress. The minute you crush one side down the other goes up.

Tim Worstall has this.

On that post commentator Pogo sums it up almost in a nutshell in the comments.

The law has created the ludicrous situation where a pair of 16-year-olds can quite legally bonk themselves stupid but commit a serious offence should they decide to video their connubial bliss…

Not only that but with parental permission they can even be married! What Pogo in his short but sweet comment doesn’t mention is the criminal act is making the video (or taking a photo, or working up CGI or drawing a sketch…) not the distribution of this for money or larks. We essentially have a situation where a sixteen year old girl can give her boyfriend oral pleasure (which inevitably means seeing an erect penis very close-up and in 3D) but isn’t allowed to photograph the upstanding member purely for her own latter edification or indeed to look at other erect members in movies or magazines or via the internet. In a very real sense we have the perverse position that having sex is allowed before seeing sex is allowed and the seeing is more tightly regulated than the doing. The driving age in the UK is 17. This is much the same as saying you can legally drive a car at that age but you have to wait until you are 19 to watch that bumptious arse Clarkson on “Top Gear”.

Ultimately – I dunno – this is either stupidity, knee-jerk hatred of porn or a stalking horse for the state to control the internet which is where porn lives (and not under hedges like when I were a kid). Take your pick. It’s all either mad or bad or probably both.

Or is it just a rearguard action by the MSM against the internet?

Custer’s Revenge.

From Wikipedia…

Custer’s Revenge (also known as Westward Ho and The White Man Came) is a controversial video game made for the Atari 2600 by Mystique, a company that produced a number of adult video game titles for the system. The player character is based on General George Armstrong Custer. The game was first released on October 13, 1982, and has received significant criticism because of its crude simulation of a rape of a Native American woman.

Like a sophisticated rape would have been better?

In the game, the player controls the character of Custer, depicted as a man wearing nothing but a cavalry hat, boots and a bandana, sporting a visible erection. Custer has to overcome arrow attacks [is it just me or if people are firing arrows the very last thing I want is to be is cock out!] to reach the other side of the screen. His goal is to have sex with a naked Native American woman tied to a pole.

To be fair the graphics are so pants quite how one tells she is either Amerindian or indeed even a woman is beyond me.

Custer’s Revenge quickly gained notoriety upon its release. Sold in a sealed package labeled “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS” and selling for $49.95, it acknowledged that children might nonetheless see the game. The game’s literature stated “if the kids catch you and should ask, tell them Custer and the maiden are just dancing.” The makers elected to preview the game for women’s and Native American groups, an act which some thought was a publicity stunt.

Now I have via the magic of the emu played “Custer’s Revenge” (I had to try it – God curse me!) and it is dreadful. Fifty bucks for that back when that was a lot of money! But clearly the marketing was genius. It occurs to me that if the women’s and Native American groups hadn’t made such a fuss the game would have just died a death and would not be the most notorious thing ever set on silicon. I like old videogames. Around the same time (actually a year before) Warlords came out for the Atari VCS and that is a great game – to this day I play it and I can beat anyone of you at it even post-pub. It has things like game-play and tactics and stuff. The thing is Warlords is fun. Incidentally (and thirty years after my first go) that was coded by a woman. With like real tits and everything. Unlike the piss-poor low-rez object of “Custer’s Revenge”. Which is the point isn’t it? Who defines what is pornographic? “Custer’s Revenge” is only so if you think it so. That’s what I mean about the marketing genius. A dreadful game and not even pornographic (the graphics are crude in the sense of blocky rather than in the sense of obscene*) raised to the heights because it offended**. I would argue it was only bought (it has no other redeeming features) because people wanted to be naughty and they were told this was naughty. It wasn’t. It was merely dreadful.

I mean if you get off on visuals that blocky you are perma-banned from my Lego box.

I guess ultimately what I am trying to say was “Custer’s Revenge” was not incidentally obscene or even pornographic (it was sold in ’82 – video porn – possibly including Native Americans existed and they had curvaceous tits unlike the block lady) but was deliberately obscene because it had nothing else to offer and it was made so because it would be taken seriously becaause people who would object which was precisely what the company behind it ($50 in ’82 recall) wanted. If the feminist and Amerindian groups had just been “That’s a terrible game” and not an obscenity it would have been stetted (good games need tactics). But people always want an obscenity (“the Human Centipede”) and obscenity is always created by those that campaign against it.

I don’t think it is obscene (as such) myself. I have said it is a dreadful game but what really gets me is that games like that only exist because people think pr0n dodgy which means numpties will buy it because despite it being a truly dreadful game (and computer and video games are our greatest art-form if done right) it is given a surly dirtiness by the likes of Mary Whitehouse and that is the only reason it was ever saleable. As I said, Pr0n is entirely made by the prod-noses. It would generally be considered risible if it wasn’t vaguely banned. Although I don’t know! As Woody Allen put it, “Sex is only good if it is dirty”.

*A pornographic game that isn’t even obscene is truly shocking. It makes me think of the “Royal Nonsuch” in Huck Finn.

**And yes it was grotesquely offensive. Off course it was. It had to be because it wasn’t any good.

For the children…

I’m an IT tech*. I am 38. My wife is 33. I have a cat and he is a minor but a complete innocent (he doesn’t have any bollocks for a start) and certainly no interest in pr0n – or at least not what you or me would regard as pr0n – I dunno about you but the torture and killing of small mammals doesn’t do it for me. It does it for Timmy and he is only seven so clearly the TV and internet is to blame. The cute little sod.

Therefore to protect the children I don’t have I shall have my internet hobbled by the government unless I sign-up to the preverts registar. Now I am not really into ‘net pr0n – I’ve had a look, obviously, and so have you and it’s like whatever. In fact, truthfully, much of this has been intellectual curiosity – the categories that exist such as the truly stupifying ones like “ugly” intrigue me. Why? To the very limited extent that I like pr0n it’s tasteful images of very attractive naked women of the sort you find on Met Art or Domai that I like. Domai even has (or had) a positive review on it’s front-page from the Daily Telegraph which is enough to make a retired Colonel’s monocle pop-out. But so what? That is my kink (I am given to understand a not uncommon one and indeed nothing that would look out of place at the North End of Trafalgar Square) but that is not my point. As Ian B said recently if the photo shows an illegal act it is the act that ought to be illegal and not the photo. The photo of course ought to be gold-dust to those prosecuting the act itself – “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury can you deny it was the accused pictured here with a tub of vaseline, a gimp and a cocker spaniel?” As long as we all play nice (and no spies end-up dead in bags) and it is consensual (that doesn’t really include the dog) then we are adults and do adult things like have sex in all the myriad forms that takes (enough to blow Sigmund Freud’s eyebrows off! – Yeah he’s meant to be woo woo but he isn’t is he? I mean if you get off on potty-training then seek professional help and not my bed-chamber) and that is cool. I mean I once met in a club (Queen’s Court, Leeds) a gay bloke who only fancied straight men. He was good-humouredly bitterly amused at his predicament. Takes all sorts I guess.

So, what is wrong with this nonsense?

The first and most obvious thing is the assumption that because many households have children everyone must have censorship put upon them. But that is not really what it is about. Of course actually seeing in the flesh is fine (until the Republic of Gilead is established) but an image is something else (just out of interest – do they know how high they create the image?). The last lot who thought that had bones through their noses and thought photographs took their soul or something. Yet this is an acceptable form of policy discussion in Britain in The Century of the Fruitbat.

The second (and I am not hanging my hat on this peg – my objection is vastly more one of principle – but it must be noted) I always turn Google SafeSearch off. It is a crude tool and will block all sorts of things. I will give good odds that the government filter would make it difficult for gynecological cancer patients to access discussion forums etc because they involve “rude” words. It inconveniences me looking up stuff on graphics cards and fighter jets…

The third is the assumption that pr0n is “corrupting”. Is it really? I grew-up during the early eighties and the VCR revolution. I grew-up in the age during which pr0n didn’t exactly grow on trees but seemed by a process of abiogensis (as yet unexplained by science) to be readily found under hedges. Didn’t do me any harm. I even recall Jordan when she was a 34A. I thought she was well fit**. I think she was 17 at the time so call me a retroactive peado. But seriously nobody springs into life as a sexual adult upon the moment of their 16th birthday. For me (and I bet for you) there was seeing people in magazines and movies and thinking them foxy (and if you’re at all like me I bet you’re embarrassed by a lot of the ones you hada crush over in your callow youth – and yes, that applies just as much to female readers – perhaps more so – I remember the lasses in my year at school going mental over Bros. Sweet Jesus. They had the Grolsch bottle tops in their shoes and neckerchiefs and all. My mum, in her youth, was hit by Beatlemania but… Well, how very dare I compare that with Bros? And even my Mum said that whilst as a teen she liked Paul but on sober reflection she reckoned George was the looker. But anyway, isn’t being a kid about being a bit naughty? How else do you learn? Well, I guess there is “sex and relationships education” which sounds like enough to put anyone on the permanent slack. But whilst that is to do with sex it’s about as sexy as genital warts which are also to do with sex but not sexy. Unless you are into that sort of thing – somebody will be. God help them!

The fourth is that obviously if it’s pr0n today by a week on Tuesday all bets are off as to what else shall be banned. For our own good you understand. Again not a point I hang my titfer upon because whilst there is the thin end of a slippery slope here pr0n is worth defending in itself. It is not just a line in the sand (though it is) but important in it’s own right. That is the first principle of defending lines in the sand anyway. Defend each line because it itself matters. Not because abandoning might lead to tyranny. Tyranny will already be there anyway, waiting for us, in a ’70s gown, legs akimbo.

So it comes to the climax. Oh err missus! And it comes to this. I don’t really do pr0n because he has a wife you know. She has a vagina you know (of course she has – she’s a woman!). And indeed like tits and everything. So what earthly use is Pr0n if I have free access to Coke, not Pepsi (or indeed Shirley)? Well, I dunno! I suspect it adds to the general gaiety of nations. I mean anything banned in North Korea or Iran is good, right? I like pr0n in principle. I like attractive women getting their kit off. Now men doing the same… Well, I’m a liberal-type (unlike Hattie Harmann) so fine. There is a market. But what really winds me is this. At university I did a physics degree and a night-class in life-drawing. We had two models. One was a bloke and the other was a bird who looked like she had just walked out of the studio of a Pre-Raphaelite. Now, this was weird. I mean I tried to draw. And he was trickier than her (men are apparently) but what got me was this. I was a single(ish) heterosexual man and she was an extremely attractive naked female yet I had to wield my pencil, not my cock and what really got me was (a) how it was all done in the best possible taste (b) I almost took the job as a model but didn’t not because it was getting nekkid but because it was holding poses until your legs fell off and (c) the guy who ran the course was a postgrad art student and it was like this. I tried very hard to place on paper an image of this lovely lady (and also the bloke) but I have never felt more naked than when the bloke who ran it took a look at my drawing and said, “Keep trying!”. I actually felt more naked than she did! We just saw her body. He saw my soul. I mean she was just beautiful but was my rendering of her? Let me put it bluntly. At the end of the evening I would bundle-up my piccies and I would much rather get nekkid myself than show them to anyone. I think I did better with the geezer oddly enough.

And here is the point. Were those models exploited personally? No. Was it pr0n? Depends how one looks at it but I would say there was no difference. Really. Did it exploit? I can’t recall what I paid but the models were on like 7 quid an hour which was OK money at the time (I considered it – early ’90s) so is that an exploit? I think not. I think not because I didn’t feel an exploit was going on. It just felt nice. And by buggery – if I am to learn to draw then I guess someone has to get their kit off or it’s still-life’s of baskets of fruit (Imagine studying art in Tehran!). No. Almost the entire schtick of porno-phobia is not about the specific alleged exploitation of the models (we’d have a beer afters – that’s how exploited they were) but this bizarre generalization that it is every women who are obscurely exploited whether they chose to model nude or not. Despite the fact there was a male model too! Despite the fact the female model was perfectly happy. And despite the fact this wan’t pornography (though how does one define that?). No. If you ask me it comes down to one thing. There are women (and men) who people are prepared to pay good money to see in the nip. And there are men (and women) who are pig-ugly. Life is not fair. Certainly not to politicians. And they hate it because nobody will give ‘em 7 quid an hour to model. They have to ponce off the tax-payer instead and sit on moral high-horses. Purely because the populace is prepared to pay Eric Pickles and Tessa Jowell not to disrobe doesn’t mean we ought to be banned from seeing genuine lookers in the nip. That is why they think it generally immoral. ‘Cos they are ugly and they can only take a moral high-chair rather than get their tits out. I bet Pickles has bigger ones than Jowell, mind. That is a horrible thought.

*I have seen things on HDs you people would not believe… And no it wasn’t attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. The one that springs to mind was a video of a naked and heavily pregnant woman declaiming her own poetry. It was emotional. Oh, it was explicit alright but that is not the same as erotic. I had to ask for details because the presenting problem was a fucked IEEE1334 which to all intents, purposes and tastes – the tongue can be a diagnostic tool – had had marmalade jammed in it. It was flatly denied that any child had touched the machine despite the fact the disk also had a lot of Barney the Dinosaur on it. Really nice Acer laptop buggered by a kid. Either that or something unspeakable and dreadful had happened to it. I did re-jiggle the softwares so the performance art looked “OK” for a certain value of “OK” (reasonable raspberrys) but I don’t do hardware with laptops. There is no jam in it for me, so to speak. Perhaps the moral to this story (if there is one and there isn’t) is that kids probably do more harm to computers than vice-versa.

**In a kind of filthy shag, not date sense. That’s “filthy” in a good sense. Seeing as I was a spotty teen who was good at maths and all that it was all fairly hypothetical anyway. Obviously nowadays I wouldn’t touch her with a disinfected 36″ hitting stick. Though if Cate Blanchett and Uma Thurman decided to oil-wrestle on my living-room carpet…

A classical education is clearly not required by the Met.*

While London looks increasingly like a city under martial law it is nice to see the Met still have time for pursuing nonsenses as well as going round looking like characters from some post-apocalyptic FPS game…

There were no complaints from the public when a Mayfair gallery exhibited a dramatic modern rendering of the ancient Greek myth of Leda and the swan in its window.

But the sensitive souls of the Metropolitan Police took a different view when they spotted Derrick Santini’s photograph of a naked woman being ravished by the bird.

Personally I quite like the picture and I think it’s a bit more “artistic” than “ravished”.

An officer took exception as he passed the Scream gallery in Bruton Street on a bus. He alerted colleagues and two uniformed officers from Harrow arrived to demand the work be removed.

“Alerted”? I mean this morning a copper in Leeds on his way into work spotted and then alerted his colleagues and then apprehended a double murder suspect. That’s “alerted”. And why two coppers? I dunno though in the current climate of Olympic and Jubilee paranoia I guess it’s lucky they didn’t send a SWAT team.

Jag Mehta, sales director at the gallery owned by Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s sons Tyrone and Jamie, said: “We asked them what the problem was and they said it suggested we condoned bestiality, which they said was an arrestable offence. The show, Metamorphosis, had been running for a month and was really well received.”

Now that is the nub of it is it not? Bestiality is illegal though to be fair I’ve always tended to see it as it’s own punishment. But is “condoning bestiality” or indeed condoning anything actually illegal. Or did the cops just take offence and make it up? Like when they made-up a death penalty for being a Brazilian electrician in South London?

The final day of the exhibition was on Saturday and the gallery was taking down the artworks when police arrived. Ms Mehta pointed out that for prim Victorians, the myth of how Zeus, in the form of a swan, raped young Leda and produced Helen of Troy, was an acceptable form of erotica. But the explanation that the picture was based on a legend that had inspired countless generations of artists failed to cut the mustard with the police, she said.

They didn’t know anything about the myth. They stood there and didn’t leave until we took the piece down. They asked us whether we had had complaints and we said quite the contrary. Lots of people were intrigued by it.

As I said I rather like it. What is this about, really? I suspect at some level the cops were acting due to the our old friend – the absurd and illiberal Violent and Extreme Pornography Act. To summarize. This act potentially makes almost any image deemed pornographic potentially illegal. Everything from an old copy of the Sun (with Sam Fox aged sixteen back when that was legal) to this rather famous example of Japanese art**. Yes, it is retroactive and yes it applies to paintings or drawings or CGI as well. It is not just victimless thought crime (though it is) but it’s a also a strict liability which means that if a court decides it is Frankie Vaughn or could be construed as such you’ll be taken up the Gary Glitter.

It is understood that the incident was not recorded by police as a crime.

Because it wasn’t one. Or shouldn’t be. God knows. The law doesn’t.

*Or even a passing aquaintance with English law or Peel’s Principles of Policing. Or a Terry Pratchett Watch book.

**A peculiarity here is that this image would be regarded as very naughty by the Japanese due to the depiction of pubic hair. In comparison here it would appear now that a shaven woman is more likely to get you into trouble for making the image look child-like. Yes, an image seen to be of a child regardless of the model’s actual age can be illegal. Yes, the actual age of the model is no defence. And neither is the purpose for which the image exists. Here is a theoretical example. Let’s imagine my wife (33 – but still sometimes gets IDed for buying wine which like nude modelling is an 18+ thing) and I take some foxy piccies of her in the buff. I have potentially committed a child pornography offence even if it is entirely for private purposes. Of course if this photo-shoot ends with us having sex that is OK but filming or photographing it might be illegal if it was deemed by a court as a representation of a minor. The fact that this was an entirely consensual act between a married couple for their own fun with no intent to sell this is as kiddie-porn would not be a defense. This is strict liability recall.

Such Things As Communism Could only Dream of…

Cats seems to think this is sinister. It ain’t got nothing on this though. It’s a long article but well worth reading in full. I’m excerpting bits to give the flavour.

On the surface, Shustorovich’s project is a public-spirited attempt to bring Russia’s education system into the digital era. In the 2010-11 academic year, around 300 year-six pupils from 11 schools in cities across Russia, from well-heeled Moscow to the rural Siberian city of Tomsk and the mining stronghold of Magnitogorsk, were loaned a portable hybrid e-book and tablet computer with which to learn, do their homework, revise for exams and — soon — order lunch from the school cafeteria.

But this isn’t solely a social experiment. Shustorovich, 45, wants to create Russia’s next platform for digital interactions, one that his business controls. With every keystroke and swipe on his devices, he is building a giant real-time spreadsheet of personal data. Once millions of teenagers get used to learning, interacting and connecting via Shustorovich’s proprietary system, then what need will this and future generations have for social networks such as Facebook? “Facebook is Facebook,” he says. “But adding a social network on top of the [educational platform] will be very easy.”

Unlike other electronic classroom aids, E-OK isn’t designed merely to complement books and desktop PCs, but to replace everything a pupil uses to study. Connected wirelessly (and soon via 4G) to the school’s year-six and -seven curricula — with years five and eight due to be added shortly — the devices aim to reboot how children learn, teachers teach and principals run schools. By gathering data from classroom test scores, exam results and attendance records alongside statistics from mandatory school medical checks and even food ordered by the catering staff, the system creates a real-time data chain which loops from individual schools, through regional hubs, to the Ministry of Education — right up to the Kremlin. Last June, prime minister Vladimir Putin signed a directive ordering Russia’s ministers of education and communications to evaluate and report to him personally. Both ministers have since reported back “favourably”, says Shustorovich, speaking in support of E-OK’s implementation in schools.

The trial has shown her the project’s huge potential: “The information flows from the child, to the teacher, to me and all the way to the district prefect.”

E-OK is Shustorovich’s brainchild, and the sheer scale of his vision quickly becomes apparent. He intends to rewire one of the world’s greatest bureaucracies — the Russian state.

Ultimately he intends that every child in Russia’s 50,000 secondary schools — some 16.5 million — will have their own tablet. “[The situation's] so fluid right now. But if we continue to get the sort of traction we’re getting, eventually we’ll be in every school in the country.” [He has the Russian patents and they are pending elsewhere...]

“We had three aptitudes which made us unique players,” he explains. “A long history of being conversant with technology, because we produced a huge volume of scientific information. Second, we had the experience with dealing with internet products in a financial way — our electronic sales of scientific journals and information for universities is in the high-nineties per cent [of overall sales]. And the third was that we knew how to develop school curricula.”

“…when they get their hands on our device, it’s transformative for the psyche.”

Do I need to comment further?

The moral panic that runs and runs…

… and takes on many forms.

I recall as a very small kid there was a moral panic over Space Invaders and that was over thirty years ago. Ever since this panic has periodically risen like a zombie on you didn’t put enough (virtual) ordnance into. Computer games have been blamed for almost everything: addiction and ensuing social misfittery, obesity, violence, militarism, school shootings, RSI, satanism, peadophile “grooming”… Not even class-A drug use has been blamed for such a variety of things. Makes you wonder why so many things. Wouldn’t one social evil be enough if it were true?

This courtesy of the BBC and a charidee is the latest installment in a longer runninng series than Final Fantasy…

Social workers at Wings South West said the result was that the social skills of gamers were going downhill.

A computer games advice charity said youngsters were in danger of losing empathy and the compassion of “genuine relationships”. said youngsters were in danger of losing empathy and the compassion of “genuine relationships”.

Yes, you read that right. A computer games advice advice charity. I have now heard it all.

Paul Bowser, who works with young people at Wings South West in Bideford, said: “We have a number of young people who most of the time look almost stoned, not necessarily on drugs, but just with sleep deprivation because they’re gaming all the time.

How do you know they aren’t actually stoned? I mean Occam’s razor and all that.

“It’s certainly different from a few years ago, partly because the technology wasn’t there.”

Except it was, wasn’t it? Because an Atari VCS2600 wasn’t exactly an XBox 360 but it looked amazing to the kids back then. Then the Spectrum, Amiga, a series of PCs and that’s just my gaming machine history. Each one was spankier than the last.

Robert Hart Fletcher, who runs Kids and Media, a charity giving information about children’s use of digital media, said: “Gaming is a phenomenon that’s been around quite a while.”

Now we are starting to see the effects in behaviour of young people.

Now as I said at the start this moral panic is not new. The way it is articulated changes over time but it’s the same thing.

“In the past people had genuine relationships with empathy and compassion which has been replaced by this virtual relationship where they are not necessarily having to show empathy or compassion.”

Oh, what drivel from another rent-seeking technophobe! Technology allows unprecedented social contact. I wonder if he is aware that most people people know on Facebook for example are known to them in “real life”?

“That’s starting perhaps to affect the way they interact on a day to day basis.”

Bradley Bown of the Game store in Plymouth said more education should be available to parents about the controls available.

Bradley – typical. Industry keeling over over in the face of ridiculous demands from what are quite frankly self-serving pressure groups rather saying, “Sod Off!”. Anyway Brad me old China who do you think shall provide this education? For (I assume) a gamer yourself you’ve made a bit of a tactical cock-up there.

For what it’s worth I don’t think any of these nonces really know anything about gaming. Almost proper all studies have shown it improves hand/eye co-ordination reflexes, and teaches things like problem solving tactics and planning. I had to lay-off playing Hardwar many years ago because I’d found myself knocking up an Excel spreadsheet to maximise my trading strategy. I just had an epiphany that in other circumstances someone could be paying me to do that!

PS. In the context this is interesting and the suggestion of gaming PTSD is deeply stupid and insulting.

About that Wikipedia Blackout…

I’m not about to start a whole involved debate about Copyright in the Internet Age, becuase it’s almost teatime and I’m famished (although I expect the comments thread will probably turn into one, as is the way of such things) but as far as the blackout itself goes… well, it turns out it’s not as black as all that. It’s a javascript thingy, and if you browse in with JS disabled, the site’s all still there and working. It’s only blacked out for people who don’t know how the internet works.

Which, since the protest is aimed at people who don’t know how the internet works, is actually quite clever.

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