Dull thoughts on a shiny, shiny world.
cactoblasta's Articles
May 12, 2009 by cactoblasta
It's amazing how influential our perception of certain words is in determining fact from fiction. Just off the top of my head I can think of heaps of words that immediately add a little something to what I perceive a person is saying:

clearly - I can't even back this up

It's beyond me - I am resorting to hyperbolae because I don't care enough to think

trust me - I am the last person to trust

family values - my family is bigger than my IQ/I'm a convicted pedophile/I'm cheating on my p...
January 22, 2009 by cactoblasta
There seems to be a bit of a jealous streak running through the JU commentary on Obama these past few days. What's up with it?

The man is clearly clever. He has an Ivy League education. He rose to the top of a political institution. He writes good speeches and hires good speechwriters. He has a good understanding of technology and hires people capable of using it for fun and profit.

The man is clearly athletically gifted. He plays basketball frequently and is probably the fittest (both in ...
August 31, 2008 by cactoblasta
I came across an interesting article today which talked about McCain and his charming tendency to describe every international situation as Armageddon cometh. I had never really put it all together in my head previously, but news.com.au blogger Tim Dunlop (blogs.news.com.au/news/blogocracy/index.php/news/comments/foreign_policy_hyperbole_ah_mccain) has brought up an interesting point about America's favourite former POW/senator.

As president, his authority and international capacity for actio...
August 31, 2008 by cactoblasta
We're all familiar with the argument that police forces and the like profile because it's effective. People of a kind tend to commit more crimes than others, so they get focused on. This could be based on anything a 'lifetime of experience' has suggested - profiling black people for theft, gays for child molestation or women for shoplifting, middle-aged white men for fraud and corporate crimes.

The results of a study by the British intelligence service (MI5) suggest this cannot be applied to ...
July 27, 2008 by cactoblasta
Political nicknames are a popular pastime. Australians all know who Little Johnny, Mad Mark or Saint Kevin are. Americans are familiar with Clint-in and probably others I don't know straight away.

But what's behind these names?

I've recently noticed there seems to be a bit of a movement for opponents to refer to US presidential candidate Barack Obama as Hussein. In some ways it makes sense, as it is his middle name and lots of people are referred to by their middle name.

I guess what bu...
June 22, 2008 by cactoblasta

As those few regular readers of my rarely updated blog would know, I am something of a snob. I like nothing better of a lazy Sunday afternoon than a few productive hours of sneering at my inferiors.

Like any good snob, however, I have my particular areas of expertise. In my case it's the written word.

I can't abide people who can't, or even worse won't spell words correctly. leet-speak is fingernails down the melodramatic chalkboard of my soul. People who use unnecessary contractions in text messages are equally likely to earn my ire - it's been well more than five years since phones have had predictive text. Don't be so unbelievably lazy and learn to use it!

But that's just pedantry. Where it reaches snobbery, where the metaphorical upturned nose is presented to the shameless hussies and manwhores of linguistic impurity, is in the extent of a pose.

May 22, 2008 by cactoblasta
There's a lot of things to admire about the past.

Sure, it was a time of less attractive people, where ugliness was a deadly virtue and fun was a practice popularly frowned upon, but there are some things it did well.

Bloodymindedness coupled with wilful ignorance - the secret to many a successful relationship - was always a great strength of those days of yore. When the beforetimers did things, they did them for no discernible good reason and without a hint of planning, much like one woul...
May 5, 2008 by cactoblasta

I hate poetry.  I always have.

It is uniformly horrible, like a song without a tune, just words without meaning and emotional fervour without a story to give it purpose.

Poetry is the lowest form of prose. With it, any moron thinks they can pen something truly remarkable. They think that it makes them clever, or witty, or a tragic and sensitive soul who needs a hug, a punch or a lover - all three if you're paying.

May 4, 2008 by cactoblasta

 

So tonight I went and saw Lars and the Real Girl, a twee American film set in some desolate snow-covered wasteland.

It's all about this guy Lars who, in response to something, buys an anatomically correct girl doll and treats it like a girlfriend.

Sure, it all sounds a little independent film-angsty, but in actual fact it's a really good movie.

 

April 25, 2008 by cactoblasta
Every single person has a mythology that speaks to them. It's a philosophy that appeals to their head and their heart, an amalgamation of everything they believe in, with just the right amount of drama and pragmatism.

For me it's always been Catholicism. Don't get me wrong - I've always had a soft spot for comparative religion, and am as happy reading about Tiki gods and Horus as anyone.

But when it comes to mythologies that make a beeline for my imagination, it's Catholicism hands down. F...
April 22, 2008 by cactoblasta

Cactoblasta would make the best president for three reasons. He will get respect from foreign nations, he has all the necessary experience, and he will lead the nation through the turbulent times we face.

April 20, 2008 by cactoblasta

We all know the value of a good dictionary. For a child or a young adult making their way in a world of antiquated literature and the diseased mutterings of the overly erudite, a dictionary is a good friend, a fine companion and an essential aide in gaining the vocabulary of adulthood.

Where it fails is in any other usage. Now, don't get me wrong - a good dictionary can probably stop a small bullet in a pinch, or be used for starting a fire.

But when you're looking to define your position in an argument a dictionary is a liability.

You see, dictionaries aren't written by the spectral god of the English language, or put together by a magical team of accuracy pixies in a mystical fairyland of unconvincingly rhythmic hammers and toys.

April 15, 2008 by cactoblasta

I have a habit.

 In the greater scheme of things it's not a bad habit. Certainly it's one I can live with. A fat pay-out from your charity of choice would of course be a wonderful help, and several weeks in the luxury of a prestigious detox clinic wouldn't go astray if you're willing to finance it.

But it's a hard habit to break.

 You see, I'm a habitual devil's advocate, a serial trivialiser, an adherent of argument and pettiness for their own sake. I would argue the sky green to spite someone who annoys me. In person I'm quite good at it. Baffling people with bullshit and outlandish statements is merely the first level; the true art lies in creating a towering edifice of fast-spun philosophy, pseudo-religious koans and the very real suggestion of fact which combines to persuade others that there's something to the whole. No one is ever quite sure you're serious about anything, which adds a layer of potential authenticity to even the most abysmal garbage. Your consistency in argument becomes more convincing than your argument itself, which is always a happy situation. It's the foundation of economics and the wellspring of our modern age. 

 

March 24, 2008 by cactoblasta

As a foreigner I make absolutely no effort whatsoever to keep my opinions to myself on US politics. And so I'm taking this opportunity once again to stick my nose where it's not wanted and make a few statements about what's happening in the world's most natural disaster-prone country these days. 

You see, I'm convinced that Barack Obama should be the next president. It's not really because I'm a sucker for a pretty speech, although as a card-carrying member of the champagne socialist literati I do love anyone in possession of a way with words. It's not even because he's black, and therefore his token should have its time blah blah blah.

No. It's not about that at all.

As a thoroughly fickle man, for me it boils down entirely to appearance. I think the American people feel the same way. Who was the last genuinely ugly president? Carter, maybe, although he did have the benefit of being more attractive than Nixon. But that was the 70s, when body hair was rampant and people thought polyester clothes made them smell good. The LSD most of the world took in that decade was responsible for worse than ugly presidents, in my view, but we digress.

McCain (coincidentally the name of a ready-to-microwave meal manufacturer) and Clinton just don't compare.

March 7, 2008 by cactoblasta
So a few weeks back one of the world's foremost studies on attitudes to war, peace and apathy in Islam was released to the media (but not the public).

I was waiting for Brad to post it up, as demographic surveys of Muslim countries are one of his regular topics.

But he hasn’t yet, so I thought I’d mention it and throw it up to JU.

Looking at the handful of figures that are out right now, I think everyone can probably find something to point to and say, “Wow, I’m ...