Filed under perplexed

AP nixes ‘homophobia’

No to Homophobia merchandise, credit ABC News

The Associated Press has dropped the word “homophobia” from its style book (used by journalists in the US and internationally), arguing that a phobia is a state of mind and possibly a mental disorder, and that it’s not appropriate for reporters to ascribe a mental disorder to people who make anti-gay statements.

I have to say I agree with the sentiment – homophobia is a poor-fitting word for anti-gay statements and actions, although it might well describe the motivation behind them. It’s also lexicographically contradictory – homo and phobia are from Greek words meaning “the same” and “fear of” respectively, so logically homophobia should mean “fear of (people who are) the same (as me)” – the opposite of homophobia as we understand it.

Words have tremendous social and political power so it’s important we have useful, well-understood terms to describe actions we are trying to call out. Everyone knows what “sexism” and “racism” are (although there’s been some discussion about the meaning of misogyny lately).

This is a long-winded way for me to get to a question: if “homophobia” is off the menu, what alternatives are there?


Why I’m not participating in Earth Hour

We won’t be participating in Earth Hour at Bag End tonight, just as we haven’t in previous years. Apart from the fact that we’re on solar power here, so turning off the lights for an hour, a week or even a year won’t reduce our CO2 emissions, I think Earth Hour is a crock.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour, which since 2007 has been promoted by the WWF and the Fairfax press in Australia, seems innocuous enough at first glance. If you’re concerned about climate change, turn your lights off for an hour, shut off the TV and sit in the dark. The promoters of the event make a big deal about figures showing lowered electricity demand during the annual event, and claim their event raises awareness.

Awareness is not action. Climate change is the possibly greatest threat human civilisation has ever faced, and the increasingly gloomy predictions of runaway global warming this century and beyond are a call to action. Most of the people who participate in Earth Hour won’t take any substantive action to reduce their greenhouse emissions, because Earth Hour peddles the dangerous mistruth that you can combat climate change through small-scale actions like changing to fluorescent light bulbs or using ethanol-blended fuel.

To prevent global warming, the developed world will have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% by 2050, and even then some warming will occur before the global climate stabilises. Even the small amount of warming that has occurred to date has had significant effects, with more severe storms, widespread drought and glacier melt. Species have already become extinct. I’m sure I don’t have to go through all the science in detail.

The changes that will be required to prevent a global catastrophe are huge, and every day that passes without coordinated global action increases the scale of what is needed and the cost of acting. Symbolic actions like Earth Hour may increase awareness about climate change, but they also risk encouraging complacency – “We did our bit during Earth Hour; now we can go back to driving our kids to school in huge 4WDs and flying around the planet at the drop of a hat.”

Earth Hour doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions in any meaningful way (in fact, all the paraffin-wax candles burning tonight will go a fair way to cancelling out any saving). You could have Earth Hour 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it still wouldn’t be enough. You can’t shop your way out of the climate crisis – the only solution is to massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, and move quickly to a renewable energy-based economy. Climate change is a looming catastrophe that needs a ‘war effort’-like response, not a bunch of middle-class do-gooders sitting around by candlelight and singing Kumbayah.

So I’m against Earth Hour, and won’t be playing along tonight. If you happen past my house at 8:30 tonight, it’ll be modestly lit with low-wattage bulbs powered by solar energy, as it is every night. If you choose to participate, good on you, but I hope you’ll be fighting for real action as well.

OTOH if you’re one of the loonies joining the ‘Human Achievement Hour’ protest, I hope your SUV kills you.

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She’s dry alright

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this living-in-a-bushfire-prone-area thing. In the last week we’ve put the fire plan into action three times – that means preparing to defend the house against a fire reported in the area. The latest of these is currently burning 2 kilometres away, and as I write this the house is locked up, the hoses are at the ready, the gutters are blocked up and full of water, and I’m watching the planes and helicopters buzzing back and forth as the CFA deals with the fire.

All of this is happening in utterly dreadful weather – it’s 45ºC outside, there’s a vile wind blowing, and the air smells of smoke.

While all of that is hard, I think the hardest part is the constant apprehension of impending disaster. Even when there’s no fire reported in the area, on days like this you find yourself sniffing the air for smoke, watching the skies, listening to the radio, and always expecting that something bad is about to happen.

Today is the 29th of January, and so far this year we have had not one drop of rain, and there is no prospect of rain in the next week, probably more. I do not remember ever in my life going through a whole month – any month of the year – without any rain at all. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the last time there was no rain in January in this part of the world was 1930. We depend on rainfall in this house because the only water we have – for drinking, cooking, showering and gardening – comes from rainfall harvesting. We’re doing OK for water at the moment but it won’t last forever without some rain.

Honestly I wonder where this all will end.


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The new century

War, famine, pestilence … I’m finding it hard to keep my chin up and keep from getting depressed by the less-than-wonderful world I find myself living in. Wasn’t the 21st century supposed to be all hovercars and robot maids?

Seriously, between the bird flu pandemic, terrorism, official terrorism, hurricanes, global warming, mayhem, social collapse, AIDS, famine, poverty and christ-knows-what-else, sometimes it feels like there’s little hope at all. That’s where I am right now.

I feel like I’m living through a terrible, endless, barely-defined war. Every day I think of George Orwell. Every fucking day.


According to your ABC, the guests at Chuck and Millie’s reception were reduced to tears of laughter when H.M. The Queen told a joke:

The guests were also treated to a moment of levity with the sovereign as she made the first toast to the heir to the throne and the former Camilla Parker Bowles, now known as the Duchess of Cornwall.

“I’ve got two things to announce to you of the greatest importance,” the Queen said, according to comedian Stephen Fry.

“The first is that the Grand National was won by Hedgehunter,” Queen Elizabeth said.

“The second is to say to you that despite Becher’s Brook and The Chair (fences in the race) and all kinds of other terrible obstacles, my son has come through and I’m very proud and wish them well.”

She really needs to get some better material. Maybe she could work blue.

In related news, John Howard has blown an undisclosed amount of taxpayers’ dollars on a Fred Williams painting called Sapling Forest 1962 as a wedding gift to the couple:

Sapling Forest 1962

C’mon Johnnie, it’s a second wedding, you’re not supposed to get a proper gift. What’s wrong with a nice pair of monogrammed towels, or a jaffle iron or something simple? It’s not like these two don’t have a houseful of paintings already, and this one is definitely not Charles’s taste, as it does not feature any dogs, guns or castles viewed through the mist, so it’ll probably end up in the garage.

Again many 500 I fuck

Our holiday accommodation in Daylesford last weekend came with all mod. cons, including a DVD player and a selection of cheaply pirated movies from Hong Kong. In a moment of inspired lunacy, we decided to watch The Last Samurai with the English-for-the-hearing-impaired subtitles on.

Again many 500 I fuck

Now let me see if I’ve got this straight…

1. Before the election, the treasurer warned that if we voted for the Labor Party, interest rates would rise. The conservatives, we were told, were the only party we could “trust” to “keep interest rates low”.

2. So Australia voted for the conservatives.

3. And interest rates went up.

4. Now, the treasurer says if we don’t hand over total control of the industrial relations system to the union-hating, union-busting conservatives, interest rates will rise. Industrial relations “reform”, we are told, is essential if we want to “keep interest rates low”.

5. (Your move).

The future leaders of the free world

Just hours to go before Dubya’s annual State of the Union love-in. Anyone want to open a book on the number of times the word “freedom” will appear in the transcript?

Update, 18:36: Twenty-one times.

Meanwhile, a survey of 100,000 US high school students found that one third say the first amendment goes too far in allowing freedom of speech, assembly, press and worship. Half of these kids believe that newspapers shouldn’t be allowed to print stories which haven’t been approved by the government and three quarters reckon that flag burning is a crime. (BBC story)

If these kids are tomorrow’s congressmen, senators and presidents, then tomorrow’s United States is starting to look a lot like today’s North Korea.

The price of fame

Been looking at my server logs.

In the 24 days since the beginning of this year, has had 22,549 unique visitors, registering 374,495 hits.

Of those visitors, 1479 were by various bots, crawlers and other non-human entities, so let’s disallow them. A total of 4232 hits were on the comment script, of which 99.9 percent were spammers, and about 99 percent of those spammers were stopped by MT-Blacklist. Let’s adjust the numbers to allow for that, too

That leaves 20,838 happy, shiny people, an average of 868 visitors a day, about a 50% increase in the last two months. If things keep going at this rate, I’ll have more readers than The Australian within two years. Bigger than Rupert Murdoch! :-)

But a lot less rich. Obviously, I make bugger-all out of this site, and I don’t expect that will change, but it’s currently costing me $39.95 a month for hosting, plus 5.5c for each megabyte over 20GB. For January, that’s looking like a total of close to a hundred bucks. The next plan up has unlimited data transfer, for sixty-some bucks a month, so I guess that’s where I’m headed. Still only about $2/day for all the joy and happiness and obsessiveness that this site gives me, so I can’t complain.

And no, I won’t be selling advertising space on this site. Advertising is a scourge, and you’d just Adblock it anyway.

Gratuitous, perhaps, but offensive, never

My nomination for the “Best UK Weblog” category of the Queeries award (see this post) has caused something of a storm in a teacup in far-off Scotland, where my erroneous nomination has gravely distressed one of my co-nominees:

Queer Day removed a nominee from our first annual Queery Awards for Best UK Weblog. Ironically, we recently learned an Australian weblog,, somehow found itself in the UK competition. Perhaps nominating participants assumed buggery was a strictly British practice – we’re admittedly baffled. And while Buggery will remain listed under Best UK Weblog, another UK nominee asked to be withdrawn. “Would you please remove my site, Naked Blog, from your Best UK weblog poll. I don’t wish to occupy the same platform as an unpleasantly-named site featuring a gratuitously offensive picture. (The site in question isn’t even British, so far as I can tell.)” Voting in all categories continues through Sunday at midnight.

Let’s address the old queen’s concerns in turn. But first, there’s still a little time to vote for me. Go! Quick! Closes soon!

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