Thursday, January 28, 2010

Justice, Bangladeshi Style

So here's the situation: A 16 year old girl gets raped, to cover it up gets quickly married off by her parents, and it turns out she got pregnant from the rape. How do you think things go from here?

If you said the bastard who raped the poor girl gets dealt with harshly, guess again. He got pardoned by the village elders.

How did the husband react to finding out about his wife was pregnant with another man's unwanted child? He divorced her.

And the parents, how are they faring? Not so great. The fathers been fined with the threat of being outcast if he refuses to pay up.

And what do the village elders propose to do with the girl, who surely has already suffered more than enough? After letting off the man who raped her, threatening her family with ostracism, this poor girl was forced into isolation until her family accepted her punishment of 101 lashes.

101 lashes. With a whip. For getting raped.

That's one hell of an incentive to not get raped. Although I'm sure you have to weigh it up against the hell she'd have had to pay if shed kneed the guy in the balls or sprayed mace in his face. It's a bad choice either way.

Just what the hell were these village elders thinking? How is this in any way just? By what sort of messed up view of the world does this girl deserve punishment? And how is it that the rapist gets off free?

We like to think that just because our little corner of the world is pretty decent, things must be OK, but the sad truth is that for too many people, the world is not a very nice place at all. This is just one more reminder of this sad truth.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

China's Love Hate Relationship with Avatar

China just can't seem to make up its mind about the film Avatar. First, it banned screenings of the 2D version because it thought the movie was hitting a bit too close to home with China's own forced eviction of millions of people so that some mining can get done.

But soon after, in an attempt perhaps to catch some of the megabucks that Avatar has raked in, some Chinese provincial officials have said that the Hallelujah mountains in the movie were inspired by a more grounded mountain in their province, and have renamed the mountain from The Southern Sky Column (a translation I'm sure) to Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

I guess this is part of the Chinese duality. Rigid totalitarianism mixed with cash hungry pseudocapitalism.

Finally, a slightly tangential factoid, apparently China only allows 20 foreign films to be shown in cinemas each year.

End Post
Writing time: 14 minutes
Time since last post: 12 days
Current media: none

Friday, January 15, 2010

Not Everything Needs to be 3D

According to the Times Online, Avatar, in addition to making people depressed, is causing movie makers to want to go back and upgrade their movies to 3D.

Now I can understand why. 3D is cool, and a number of the movies mentioned would have been awesome if done in 3D, but the fact is that they weren't. And regardless of the amount of computer jiggery-pokery that gets done, it's not going to change the fact that going from 3D to 2D is really easy, but going from 2D to 3D is very tough.

The movies discussed are action movies that relied on lots of special effects the first time round, and depending on how much of the computer models still exist, you might even get some pretty good 3D in parts, but the more everyday scenes with just people and sets won't have that advantage, and will diminish the effect.

Such upgraded movies will also lack in comparison to made for 3D movies. Avatar does 3D well because it was planned as such from the beginning, and this gave the creators new tools to use when composing scenes and designing locations. Upgraded 2D films will not have these benefits and it will show.

All this improving of old movies to fit with new technology is not unprecedented. Classic black and white films have had color added to them later, to a generally negative reception. One of Orson Welles last requests a few weeks before he died was to not let Citizen Kane be colourised.

Now before you go calling me a neo-luddite or what not, let me sum things up on a positive note. Great 2D films, like great black and white films are great because of the art that went into them, the direction, the design, the acting, the writing, all of it. No one denigrates Citizen Kane because it's not in colour (no one with sense, anyway), they praise it for its merits. And so to if movie making transitions to 3D as a standard, people aren't going to mock today's greats for their lack of a third dimension. They will still praise the stories, the art, the greatness for what it is. Movie makers don't need to go add the latest gimmick to their movies.

On a final note, let it be said that no one should be surprised that George Lucas is one of those movie makers who can not wait to do this, and to be fair to him, if he does, I will go (to episodes III-VI at least)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

When Boogeymen Collide

In response to the guy who attempted to blow up a plane but only managed to blow up his groin on Christmas day, various countries have stepped up their "security" in an attempt to prevent this exact type of scenario happening again. The US have cracked down on people doing things in flight, forcing you to stay in your seat for the last hour and not have anything in your lap.

The Brits are beefing up preflight security (again). And their doing this with fancy new full body scanners that can see through your clothes and provide something that is a lot closer to a nude image of you than a clothed one. These images exist in a very fine line between decent and indecent, and are more likely to fall on the indecent side, as I'm sure the photos released to the press are not as clear as what is actually produced (it's a standard tactic to understate your capabilities).

And now the Brits want to use these machines on everyone, which is causing a problem. For most people, while they don't like have indecent images taken of them by low paid security guards and feel like it's an invasion of privacy, it's not actually illegal to do so. But there is a subsection of the population for which it is illegal to make an indecent image of. Who? Children.

That's right. Terrorism is butting heads with Child Pornography. Won't somebody think of the children? When the two biggest boogeymen of our day butt heads, who will win? Right now, Terrorism is losing as the suggestions for dealing with this is to just not scan children with the machines, but I expect Terrorism will come back strong once an under-18 terrorist wannabe pops up somewhere.

I think a better solution would be not to use these $150,000+ machines and not make indecent images of anyone, but then what would I know?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Around the World in 5 Stories

A few small items I'd like to comment on. Going in order of geographic proximity we have

1) Malaysian police had a busy new year's eve, raiding hotels to find unmarried couples there. Since Islamic citizens aren't allowed to be alone with members of the opposite sex, those caught are looking at up to two years in jail and a fine. Of course, the non-Islamic population of course are free to get jiggy with it.

2) The chairman of Thai Airways has resigned after getting caught avoiding excess baggage fees. Surely a perk of the job you'd think. But he took it too far when instead of the meagre allowance of 150kg for himself and his two companions got in first class, he brought 398kg back with him from a trip to Japan. Apparently a friend gave him some fruit for a temple in Bangkok. In addition, he got the fruit sent to the lost property office in Bangkok, conveniently skipping customs in the process. It's fair enough that he resigned, but he clearly wasn't trying hard enough to profit from his position. All this netted him only $5,000 dollars or so. If Thailand wants to improve its economy, it needs it's businessmen to take greater liberties with their companies. Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff couldn't have done what they did without huge companies to take advantage off.

3) Burma news now. The military leader of Burma has spoken to his people about the election happening some time this year. He has called on the people to make the "correct choice" when voting. I have no doubts about what he'd consider the right choice, and I'm pretty sure making the "correct choice" won't necessarily be the best for the people. Although given what happened last time the military allowed an election, I wouldn't bet on a freedom loving government coming to power. However the military has rigged the game a little, with the constitution requiring a quarter of the parliament being military members appointed by the head of the military so there's a little bit more of a chance they'll play nice after the election.

4) Out of Asia and into Africa now. A tribal king in South Africa facing 15 years in jail for charges including kidnapping, arson, assault and more is threatening to secede and take more than half the country with him in an attempt to get out of jail free. The king's supporters have called for the charges to be dropped and he be paid over ten billion US dollars in compensation for humiliating him. President Zuma has said that the claim the king can declare a new country in South Africa is ridiculous which is perhaps the best way to deal with such things, and a surprisingly sane reaction from a man with three wives.

5) And finally, a surprisingly sensible and rational policy from a political party. The French Socialist Party has announced that even though they are opposed to the burka, they are going to oppose efforts by the government to introduce a legal ban on people wearing them. It is good to see a party that is willing to say that they don't like something, but realize that legislating against said thing is not the best way to deal with the problem. Kudos to them for this.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Life is Hard for Beautiful People

Life is hard for the beautiful. All those online social networking and dating sites are full of people who are, well, not beautiful. And it wouldn't do to be seen online associating with someone of the non-beautiful inclination.

You might think might be an answer to this horrible, unfair dilemma. An online dating and social networking site where to join you have to be judged beautiful enough by the existing members sounds like just the thing for beautiful people wanting to avoid slumming it with the beautifully challenged masses.

But even with this great aid, life is still difficult for the beauties who walk among us. Apparently, over this Christmas/New Years period some members indulged a little too much and might have put on a little weight. Not too unusual an occurrence, but it was enough to get 5000 members kicked out for getting too fat. Those poor people. Being judged like that. It's so unfair.

Of course, once my application for the site gets approved, this post and any related disparaging remarks will disappear into the ether.