Thursday, January 22, 2015

No idea

The sloppily researched article
Yesterday US President Barack Obama delivered his second last State of the Union address. To mark the occasion, I noticed this error in one of my sister's New Idea magazines. New Idea is one of Australia's best selling women's magazines, with a mixture of celebrity news (both real and fabricated), recipes, health, and fashion, dished up with a side serving of occultism in the form of horoscopes and psychic medium telephone hotlines. 

Presumably the pressures of putting out a weekly magazine mean that sometimes production errors slip through unnoticed. I skim read the magazine in five minutes, but noticed this blunder in an article about Oprah Winfrey and her celebrity friends. As you can see, the caption reads that Barack Obama first ran for President in 2009. It is common knowledge that American presidents serve 4 year terms, and that since George Washington, presidential elections have always been held in leap years.

Pardon my snobbery, but New Idea has never been troubled by the need to uphold high standards of print journalism. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pedantry corner awakens

Sloppy spelling is now endemic, extending from print media to all forms of electronic media. According to the Fox News news ticker, US President Barack Obama just "singed" into law a new defence bill. They actually meant "signed."

Obama has a passable singing voice, and he has implemented some controversial measures by bypassing Congress and making executive orders. His political opponents can take solace in the knowledge that the US Constitution does not grant the President the power to make laws by singing them.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One of life's little ironies

Naomi S. Baron has released the findings of a survey comparing use of e-reader devices to printed books. These findings corroborate with similar studies, which consistently show that readers of printed books have better concentration levels, and retain more of what they read than those using e-readers.

At work we have an iPad as a way of encouraging students to use our ebook platform, and I also recently bought one of my own. I went to town loading it up with some free and public domain ebooks, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.

I may or may not download some non fiction titles as well, because I prefer to read them more carefully. The irony comes from me using the internet to express the opinion that it's better to read in print than online. What do you prefer?

Monday, January 12, 2015

In fact, some people make a very good living that way

In honour of the recent release of Dumb and Dumber To, and a National Geographic Channel documentary on the 1990's, comes this very amusing clip of Jim Carrey parodying rapper Vanilla Ice in a sketch on In Living Color. 

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Do your research properly

In educational circles, National Geographic publications usually rate pretty highly as a reference source. On the other hand, its cable television channel, the National Geographic Channel, can be a bit hit and miss.

Take for example JFK: Seven Days that Made a President. By and large it does a solid job of detailing the seven key days in former US President John F. Kennedy's life that helped shape his character and defined him. They include the day in 1934 when he nearly died as a teenager from a mystery illness; the day, in August 1943 when as a PT boat captain his boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer killing two of his crew; the first televised presidential debate with Richard Nixon in September 1960, his May 1962 birthday gala in New York with Marilyn Monroe; the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, his June 1963 civil rights speech, and the day of his assassination in November 1963.

By the time she performed at President Kennedy's birthday gala, Marilyn Monroe was on a downward spiral. She died three months later. It is well known and thoroughly documented that she died at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles.

The documentary says that she was found dead in a rented New York apartment not long after the gala. Errors like this are completely avoidable in this era of information overload, where it is simple to check and double check your sources. There's something to be said for diligent and thorough research.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Another day, another news story about the unpopularity of the Abbott government. One of my American friends asked me to explain why Tony Abbott is an unpopular Prime Minister.

There are plenty of reasons. He is a Catholic conservative and once trained for the priesthood so "progressives" don't like him. He served as Health Minister in the Howard government. He opposed access to the abortion pill RU486.

The pro choice camp campaigned against him with the slogan "get your rosaries off my ovaries." This also harmed his image with women, and for a long time he has been smeared as a misogynist.

Some of his opponents resort to histrionics and claim that he is trying to turn Australia into a Catholic theocracy. I've had face to face conversations with people who make this allegation, and have firmly but politely told them that they are being alarmist. This will never happen.

The last reason is that his government has had to make unpopular decisions to bring government spending under control. This happens every time a Labor government is voted out. Labor governments are very bad at handling taxpayers' money, without any thought given to the consequences. Time and time again it is left to Liberal governments to repair this damage, and cop the political flak for doing this.

It seems that the Australian electorate has a short memory. Right now Labor is more popular than the Liberals. They forget that the former Rudd government was by and large a dysfunctional shambles. Julia Gillard led a more disciplined and cohesive government, but it still lacked fiscal discipline. That is the reason why the Australian government's finances are in such a parlous state now. Unless the Abbott government improves its opinion poll ratings between now and the 2016 election, it faces the very real prospect of being voted out of office after a single term.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Hi-Fi Club

Compact discs were meant to replace vinyl records, but vinyl has made a comeback. Old vinyl records are highly collectable, and current artists are releasing their albums on vinyl. Some people may now be regretting throwing out their vinyl records collections. Other people have kept them, not because they knew they would become fashionable again, but simply because they have an aversion to throwing things out.

In Christmas 1981 Bert Newton teamed up with the Debney Park High School band to release the spoken word single, Bring Back the Spirit of Christmas. I distinctly remember my mother buying this single for herself and for a couple of friends and relatives. She still has it today. A few thousand people bought it, helping it to become a minor hit around Australia.