Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Law is an ass....

I've had this feeling building up in me for years that Law in general really needs some fresh thinking and serious reform.

I suppose the Mr. A case this week tipped me over the edge into something close to a state of rage. I'm not going to go into this in detail but let's just state a few stark realities...

The difficulty with the existing piece of law it seems related to not allowing for the defense by an accused that they genuinely thought that the girl was over the correct age. In the Mr. A case the guy admitted he KNEW the girl was 12 years old at the time. However because of the technicality of the piece of law being deemed imperfect due to the non-allowance of defense of genuine assumption by an accused of age of victim - it was decided the entire piece is flawed and we throw out the whole damn piece of legislation - both currently and historically. Mr. A knew he was guilty of a crime, so did his defense team - and Mr. A even apologized for what he did as he was released. It seems the Judge could not take any other decision as it would involve the court in "a process akin to legislation".

What a disaster. If we can't allow Judges to make intelligent moral decisions in the stark irrefutable logic of justice then the law is indeed an ass.

I'm not just talking about Irish Law. It's the same Worldwide. Everything is about minute technical detail - Law and Justice are two different worlds when it comes to the written detail. Yet we allow (rightly I believe) considerable outcome variations to occur by using random juries to decide guilt or innocence and the level of sentencing (within ranges) is at discretion of a Judge - so that two seemingly very similar cases can have wildly different sentences by different judges. I believe the execution of true justice must become a foundation of all interpretation of written law. Furthermore I think the performance of individuals in the legal system (from solicitors upwards) needs more than self regulation from within, it needs outside independent monitoring.

All I'm asking is that we laterally rethink many of the parameters which make up LAW and give us what we all want - JUSTICE.

Monday, May 29, 2006

It's such fun to beat the crap out of fit young tennis players!

Being on the wrong side of 50 and overweight, I don't expect to be much good competing in sports against guys half my age. I regularly play tennis against hot shots in their 20s.

The number of times I win is amazing and extremely gratifying! The fit young big hitters have excellent court coverage abilities but sometimes overhit or get frustrated with themselves. My skills I suppose would be good placement of shots, consistency and reasonable power on forehand when I get a clean opportunity to hit hard. Although overweight I've some sort of basic fitness and can last through long matches (but taking longer to recover between long points!).

It's good to know one is not totally past it in an energetic sport after half a century on the planet. I wish I had taken up tennis seriously in my teens. I was almost 40 when I started playing in any proper way. I would encourage everyone to enjoy some sport and start as young as possible - but certainly don't be discouraged by starting when older.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Da Vinci Code - The Movie

Okay, I went to the movie lastnight.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy it near as much as I did the book. I was pleasantly surprised.

Firstly it was beautiful visually. The Louvre looked amazing on the big screen and likewise all the other wonderful buildings. The flashbacks were very well produced, looked brilliant and got the intended messages across very well. Other good visual effects also helped get across the various ideas being explored which otherwise could have involved much longer dialogue. I thought the moving camera work (no doubt with elements of computer graphics) over the inverted pyramid at the Louvre at the end was well done. I also liked the way they kept the aurally beautiful French language in many of the Parisian scenes.

To me the finer details of the acting skills, the mechanics of the plot - murder, police work, chases etc. were all of minor interest compared to the stimulation of both thought and senses with all the core ideas explored. The mysteries of early Christianity and development of the various Churches have always interested me and I like history of art and great historical buildings. I didn't feel the 150 minutes of the movie sailing past. I founded it absorbing to watch.

Of the actors I thought Ian McKellen was the best. I was expecting Audrey Tautou as Sophie to be poor from reading Sinead's review. Audrey was certainly a bit staid for a lot of the movie (and unhealthily skinny!) but towards the end she had a number of scenes where her acting skills came out. Regarding Tom Hanks - of course he is a good actor - but he just doesn't quite impress me as the professor Langdon of the book. He somehow visually fails to get best impact from the important lines he delivers. It's more a role for a Harrison Ford or Kevin Costner type - who seem more expressive as thinkers.

Having read the book with all it's absorbing detail - the movie was never going to get through everything. The pace and energy of the one or two day sequence of events also somehow came across better in the book.

Overall it's a movie I enjoyed on many levels and would watch again.

Friday, May 19, 2006

More on The Da Vinci Code...

As the book and now the film release hype reaches a crescendo I can safely say I'm sick of reading about the Da Vinci Code. However, I'm not sick for the obvious reasons of disliking Dan Brown's work. I'm nauseated by the literary and general artistic snobbery which is almost triumphantly displayed by expert critics. Rarely is a self respecting decent critic seen to publicly praise the work.

I think in truth what probably subconsciously irritates many purist critics is that the book presents its ideas so entertainingly without overworking the reader too much. It also touches on so many subjects which only experts in each field should be qualified to have a considered view on. It has elements of an "Introduction for Dummies" book in terms of art history, places and Christianity. Worse - it goes on to make conclusions in the fictional plot which are rather speculative to say the least.

I liked the book for two reasons...

1. It helped further enhance my existing interest in history of art, famous places and history of Chistianity and religions generally. The concept of the suppression of females in religion was also a well raised subject. Hence it did for me and evidently millions of others what any really good book should do - allows the reader to take something useful away from it, learn something, provoke thought and encourage further research. I wasn't for one moment convinced by the "garment" created from the cutting and stitching of fabrics of raw materials but it definitely provoked more study into actual facts. There was plenty of encouragement offered to the reader to think a bit differently and laterally.

2. It was a good yarn in a well tried and trusted thriller or detective format.

Yes the book was designed and written with maximum commercial success in mind. Yes it was using well understood shrink-wrapped psychology in keeping the reader interested and wanting to keep reading. Yes it had ingredients designed to make big numbers of vertical marketing groups read it - Christians, non-Christians, clergy, women (and men) irritated by overdose of male roles in religious hierarchal structures, thriller novel lovers, detective novel fans, casual history fans, lateral thinking fans, holiday readers, readers who want something easy to digest, young, middle aged and old people etc. Yes it is very American in how it's full of punchy ideas and yes it also avoided complex expressive literary writing styles. But so what I ask? The fact is that most of these elements tend to be seen as negatives by highbrow critics.

Here's a question partially related - in experiencing something new, should we criticise a well designed multimedia PC based self learning software package for the masses which maximises visual and aural stimuli as well as using psychologically proven teaching techniques in favour of drudging through research and going and listening to a plethora of badly delivered live lectures by experts? Each has their place and their merits.

The Da Vinci Code brings traditionally less studied subjects - raspberry flavoured by presentation skill and controversy - closer to the unwashed masses. This can irritate many well read critics.

However study of lateral ideas in art and religion should not be a domain for snobbery - it is for anyone who wants to feel liberated in thoughts away from their everyday lives. Shakespeare plays were always designed for the common people of England when they came out - now Shakespeare is largely in the realm of the artistic snob.

I'm going to be different to most critics and say The Da Vinci Code is a good book. I know hundreds of millions of intelligent people will support me. I doubt if the film will be a better overall experience but if it comes any way close then it can't be bad.

(PS - My first impressions on the book last year are on my blog of 1st Sept 2005.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Adware, Scareware....I'm being attacked...Aaagh!!!

Wow, I've had a busy week or so at home fighting infestations on the home PC which is connected to broadband. This surprised me as I already have plenty of anti-virus and adware/malware protection, good security levels and firewall settings etc.

It seems a few of my daughters clicked on some weird adverts which arose directly or indirectly while on Bebo and before long I had nothing but trouble with loads of various strange uninvited programs and hidden files hopping around the PC.

The most cunning of these was manifested by a flashing security sign on the bottom toolbar which regularly launched a small pop-up saying that the computer was infected with a Malware type virus and to click for more help. In doing this I was directed straight to a very plausible looking website called which could fix the problem. This was very professional looking - with impressive picture of a Spy Falcon retail software box, loads of information and testimonials etc. You could download the software for a reasonable cost by giving credit card details. I was slightly tempted until I noticed that nowhere was there an address for the company nor a way of e-mailing them. Then a bit of Internet research showed it to be a Scareware thing - a complete scam.

Another problem was infestation of Internet Explorer - even though my home page was blank - by launching IE I was directed to another security site which was also very impressive - but yet another complete scam.

I ended up working very hard in most of my spare time over the last week finding how to sort out all the problems - via Internet searches, forums, talking to experts etc. I was successfully killing loads of problems and hidden files - but many were returning and one nasty program in particular - Smitfraud - was very hard to shake off. The other thing is that full scans can often take hours to execute - so you are going away, coming back, revisiting overnight etc. Eventually the only product I could find to really fix everything for good was XoftSpy - which I bought yesterday online for 48 US Dollars. It was also very fast at scanning. I would highly recommend it.

I'm left stunned by the ferocity of attacks and damage which can be carried out from the Internet and the incredible plausibility of some of the anti-virus software scams out there which can grab money by the poor user being conned. Then there are these nasty hidden key loggers etc. We are all used to the silly stuff which comes in by e-mail - false banks etc., and you know never to open unknown e-mail attachments - but this was on a different level of cunning.

On a scale of 1 - 10 on computer skills I might be a 5 or a 6 from working professionally in the telecoms industry. However, God help those who naively expose themselves to the raw Internet! No wonder Internet Security is such a growing business for profit making. It's like a constant war keeping evil away and probably getting worse!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Smell....the sense of the past

Our impressions of the distant past are mainly influenced by the written word, items, places, visual images as well as sounds such as music and voices.

Do we ever stop to think about the smells of the past? It's certainly not the first thing which comes to mind. In my casual readings of history, novels and watching documentaries I've often been hit by secondary thoughts that the distant past would have been unacceptable to us today in terms of bad smells.

We've rightly become rather intolerant today to bad smells and lack of hygiene. Most of us shower and change clothes daily, our houses are kept clean etc. We have very efficient chemicals, cleansing facilities and waste disposal infrastructure. We are intolerant of unclean bathrooms and we give out hell if a restaurant etc. has dirty toilets. Waste of all sort must be disposed of efficiently and rapidly go away from us in terms of visuals and odours.

Picture life in cities say 100-150 years ago. Washing, cleaning and personal hygiene was very difficult and labour intensive. Most of the time people would smell badly - their bodies, clothes, breath, teeth etc. Even the irregularly washed clothes with the crude soaps used would have smelled unacceptable in today's terms. The houses would smell badly too from a plethora of odours. Public baths were built and were irregularly used by the unwashed masses.

Out in the street horses were used for transport and dogs and cats were running loose. The place would have been riddled with the stench of fresh dung.

Buildings were damp and cold, open fires in houses and industry generated smog, food hygiene was poor - all generating more unpleasant smells. Disease was common, medicine was crude and ineffective - the smell of ill-health was regular. People smoked from unfiltered cigarettes and pipes anywhere they liked. More bad smells.

I suspect people used smell as a serious sense in the past. At one level they would not have been upset by the regular background of bad smells and on the other hand they would be able to make so many useful judgments in the richness of foul odours which made up their world. They could probably make all sorts of assessments of different people and places by their smells. A rather wild animal-like tool in today's terms.

Today we welcome pleasant odours as in florals and perfumes etc. However we are so revolted by anything even on the edge of a bad smell that everything is done to eliminate the chance of it ever hitting our nostrils.

We forget that the distant past was an extremely foul odoured place. Our sense of smell as a tool is slowly becoming redundant in our thankfully sanitized modern world.