One billion reasons to make shit up. by underground

Not for the first time I have just had an argument with someone about the validity of “historian” Gavin Menzies’ work. Despite selling copies of 1421 by the shelf load, his theory that China discovered the world has been well and truly dismissed. The criticisms of established and respected historians make for hilarious reading. The fact his ‘ancient’ maps are written in modern Mandarin is comical. His follow up 1434 is refuted with equal ease. It truly is a wonder anyone swallows a word of his writings. So why do people believe his theories?

People love conspiracy theories. It’s fun to think there is more going on. Man never landed on the moon, Elvis is still alive and aliens crashed at Roswell. Some like to think the authorities are lying to them. Often they are, and there are countless proven examples. But almost as if they doubt their credentials, perhaps jealously of their vast intellects, some love to dismiss academics. Slated for being out of touch with society in their ivory towers, people believe scholars are pulling the wool over their eyes. Global warming? Hoax. Evolution? Lie. Established history? Bullshit. Each with their own motive, academics spin a web of deceit, enticing society to follow a tall tale which influences their worldview.

Menzies is in good company. A certain David Irving flew in the face of criticism and denied the Holocaust. And no doubt there are a few sales to be made from neo-Nazis, even though, like Menzies’, Irving’s theories a based on dodgy evidence and outright lies. But the more academics that criticise it, the more nutjobs that buy it. Ian Wishart clearly knows the formula too!

Menzies must have made a killing from his books. They have been hugely popular in China and have even been quoted by Chinese President Hu. And with China’s massive population, and the potential sales, there are one billion reasons to make shit up.


The true meaning of Christmas by underground
December 28, 2008, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Life, Philosophy, religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As an atheist, I am fortunate enough to get to see Christmas for what it truly is, or rather what it ought to be. It is not just a repackaged pagan festival, or an over commercialised advertiser’s dream. Christmas is more than lying to Children about Santa and Jesus, more than losing years of your life due to the stress of malls and more than satisfying the greed of spoilt Westerners. It has been said before and it is as simple as it sounds, but if Christmas is to have any redeeming qualities it is as a reason for people to get together, putting aside any animosity or rivalries, stresses or difficulties and enjoy a good meal. Maybe seeing each other for the first time in the year, some having perhaps traveled to get together and share their experiences of the year, Christmas is a good time to put your feet up and relax from another hard year of work or whatever.

To me, this is far more important and meaningful in today’s hectic and troubled world than turkey and carols. What I have described above is universal, unless you know no one. Most of the existing Christmas traditions are either outdated or counterintuitive. Christmas should either be de-Christmasised or another day should be set aside for unsullied getting together. Who the hell really likes Christmas carols anyway? Most are absolutely terrible songs, so why put ourselves through hearing them almost nonstop for over a month intensively each year? And must we stuff ourselves sick? The cost is considerable, the stress of preparation no doubt insurmountable and the waste unimaginable. When a modest meal would suffice, why suffer through a dry turkey? Let us share a good meal (don’t get rid of trifle just yet!), but is glutony mandatory? And yes, I appreciate all the incredible presents I got, but I hate to think what stressful episodes my family had striving through malls buying these things. I know I didn’t enjoy shopping!

I’m not really one for traditions that cannot be justified. Of course the magic of Christmas is great for the kids, we need not take that away, but perhaps Santa could stress the importance of time spent with good friends and family as opposed to stuffing down chocolate and demanding the flashest new gaming console.

I’m not even going to start on the religious aspect as I need not to, as fewer are celebrating their own brainwashing with every passing Christmas.

Christmas should be about family and friends. There is far more to be gained by valuing them than any outdated Christmas tradition.

Kiwis beating the Aussies – Take that Murdoch! by underground

Deborah Coddington is not the only one to be impressed with this year’s TWN, AUT’s student newspaper. The Australian Journalism Education Association were equally impressed, awarding TWN the “Ossie” award for ‘best regular student publication 2008’ in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. And not did we win that, we also won a second category – the ‘Dr Charles Stuart Prize for Best Student Publication (Any Medium)’.

It would be interesting see what the standard of publication we were up against and compare how different journalism schools approach the challenge of producing a newspaper. The skills one learns from doing so are valuable in ‘real world’ journalism, as I am now finding out. I recommend all journalism students who are interested in getting into any aspect of print journalism to take any such paper on offer at your university/institute.

Good luck to the TWNers for next year, let’s see if you can make it two in a row! Continue reading

The tranquility of disconnecting by underground
December 10, 2008, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Life, Philosophy, Quotes | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s hard to run a blog when you haven’t got internet at home. In fact I haven’t got a lot of things at my new house. Ever since moving to Thames, a small Coromandel town with a population in the tens of thousands, from Auckland, which has over a million residents, I have had to live without a few things.

Some things you only appreciate when you have to go without it. Standing in the shower with my clothes on, I imagine how convenient a washing machine would be. Still, washing my boxers in the shower was marginally better than standing under the house in my flat’s outdoor laundry, washing my clothes with dishwashing liquid like I did the night before. You can’t get grass off cricket pants with dishwashing liquid no matter how hard you try. Still I’d go without a washing machine rather than a fridge. A week of buying ice every day to go into a chilly bin has me yearning for the luxury of a fridge freezer.

The lack of some luxuries allows you to experience life not plugged into the electronic grid. When you don’t have a tv you have so much more time to read. Without internet you find time to enjoy nature, or good company.

Perhaps being deprived of household luxuries is exactly what this 24-year-old needed. Having lived at home with my parents all my short life, I have become accustomed to the luxuries of wireless internet on my laptop and Sky TV on a plasma screen. Leaving the home finally and living outside of Auckland for the first time in my life, I am loving the change of scenery in Thames. Despite its lack of some electronic necessities, my house is a nice wee little set up.

There is a lot to learn and I’m learning it. I made the mistake of leaping into the shower immediately after the power got turned on. I’m learning about bills and the price of milk. I’m learning about how people in small towns are so much nicer than in Auckland. I’ve never said “hi” to so many strangers.

Eventually I’ve caught up with the 21st century. The fridge is running smoothly – no more food poisoning. And the TV I’ve borrowed off my brother works well, apart from the fact we are only getting one channel. Still, the Playstation One plays okay. And I’ve finally got the internet at home. Dial up though!

Still got to get myself a washing machine though…