Monday, 29 October 2007


J.K. Rowling and the gay character

(Here I demonstrate my ignorance of every aspect of this discussion: I have never written fiction, am totally clueless about the process of character creation, and have not read any of the Harry Potter books.)

My annoyances about Rowling’s revelation[1] are (1) that it comes (too) late and (2) seems gratuitous.

I suppose it’s possible that Dumbledore’s gayness was a fundamental part of his character as envisioned by Rowling from the beginning. (It’s possible that he was patterned after someone she knew.) Perhaps Rowling thought she had left clues in the text for those who would find them, and now, with the series finished, she is surprised and disappointed that nobody got the message. Perhaps.

But it’s my impression that she created a plot in which Dumbledore’s sexuality was of no moment. Readers had no reason to care about it one way or the other, and so did not. If Rowling seriously believed that it was that vital to understanding the character or to the development of the story, then she should have found a (better, more explicit) way to work it in.

So why this revelation– after everything is concluded? If his sexuality turned out to be of no concern to the readers, then why make an issue out of it now, except in the spirit of political correctness? It reminds me of all those “revolutionary, groundbreaking” 1970s authors who set out to write stories built around black (or indian native American, or whatever…) characters, stories that so often neglected the backgrounds and cultures inherent in such characters that they turned out to be about white people in appropriate costume.

And by waiting until after the books were sold and the movies were made, she avoided the consequences (whatever they might have been) of revealing Dumbledore's gayness earlier. Which was a smart move commercially, but it leaves me thinking less of Rowling as a person. It’s sort of, “Oh, by the way, now that I’ve got my money, I meant this all along.” Which shows minimal respect for her character, let alone the public.

Crossposted at Daily Pundit, where there's more discussion.

[1] Reuters, October 20, 2007: J.K. Rowling says wizard Dumbledore is gay

J.K. Rowling has outed one of the main characters of her best-selling Harry Potter series, telling fans in New York that the wizard Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts school, is gay.

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Saturday, 27 October 2007


"Intelligent guess" becomes policy, excuse for raising taxes. Who'd-a thunk it?

Neoprohibitionists in England make it up, get caught:

Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.
A “guess,” huh? How “scientific!”
The Times reveals today that the recommended weekly drinking limits of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women, first introduced in 1987 and still in use today, had no firm scientific basis whatsoever.
The disclosure that the 1987 recommendation was prompted by “a feeling that you had to say something” came from Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced it.
(sings:)“Feelings! Yo-oh-oh...” Oops, sorry!
He told The Times that the committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “we don’t really have any data whatsoever”.

Mr Smith, a former Editor of the British Medical Journal, said that members of the working party were so concerned by growing evidence of the chronic damage caused by heavy, long-term drinking that they felt obliged to produce guidelines. “Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee,” he said.
And what about that data?
...Subsequent studies found evidence which suggested that the safety limits should be raised, but they were ignored by a succession of health ministers.
By then it's “policy, right?
One found that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain. Another concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller.
And all this is of interest because...?
Mr Smith’s disclosure casts doubt on the accuracy of a report published this week that blamed middle-class wine drinkers for placing some of Britain’s most affluent towns at the top of the “hazardous drinking” list.

The study, commissioned by the Government, relied on the 1987 guidelines...
erm... “intelligent guesses?”
...when it suggested that men drinking more than 21 units a week and women consuming more than 14 units put their health “at significant risk”.
And... DRUMROLL!!!!
In a further attack on Britain’s drinkers, it was revealed yesterday that a coalition of health organisations is mounting a campaign to force a 10 per cent increase in alcohol taxation.

The story in The Times:Elsewhere:Via: Teresa

[1] Good summary of subsequent research findings in this article.

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Monday, 15 October 2007


"How many lawyers does it take to rescue an American soldier?"

Answer: Don't be silly. Lawyers don't rescue soldiers.

Starting at 10 a.m. on May 15, according to a timeline provided to Congress by the director of national intelligence, lawyers for the National Security Agency met and determined that special approval from the attorney general would be required first.

For an excruciating nine hours and 38 minutes, searchers in Iraq waited as U.S. lawyers discussed legal issues and hammered out the "probable cause" necessary for the attorney general to grant such "emergency" permission. -- New York Post
This astonishing story will be fodder for arguments on all sides of the wiretap issue. But it makes one thing clear: Nobody is taking this war seriously.

Faced with a soldier in enemy custody, the commanders, the Pentagon, the NSA lawyers, and the rest of the "intelligence community" all played cover-your-ass. No one said, "Run the damn tap. I'll take responsibility." After all, it might have been a "career limiting move."

Of course, getting killed by your al-Quada kidnappers is a career limiting move, too. Nice to know that if you get captured, the whole force of the United States government will be right behind you-- provided the lawyers say it's OK.

Via: IP

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Saturday, 06 October 2007


Why web design isn't easy: Case study- Campbell Soup product recall

While on the way in to work this morning, I caught the tail end of a radio news item about a product recall of Campbell's Chunky soup.  Since I frequently wind up cooking for "just me," my pantry is stocked with enough Campbell's soup to outfit a small convenience store.  And though the report didn't give any details, being the internet-savvy geek that I am, I knew it'd be a cinch to find complete details on the Campbell's website.  Silly me!


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Thursday, 04 October 2007


American Academy of Pediatrics - turning your kids into spies

Michael Graham:

“The doctor wanted to know how much you and mom drink, and if I think it’s too much,” my daughter told us afterward, rolling her eyes in that exasperated 13-year-old way. “She asked if you two did drugs, or if there are drugs in the house.”

“What!” I yelped. “Who told her about my stasher, I mean, ‘It’s an outrage!’”

I turned to my wife. “You took her to the doctor. Why didn’t you say something?”

She couldn’t, she told me, because she knew nothing about it. All these questions were asked in private, without my wife’s knowledge or consent.

“The doctor wanted to know how we get along,” my daughter continued. Then she paused. “And if, well, Daddy, if you made me feel uncomfortable.”

Great. I send my daughter to the pediatrician to find out if she’s fit to play lacrosse, and the doctor spends her time trying to find out if her mom and I are drunk, drug-addicted sex criminals.

We’re not alone, either. Thanks to guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and supported by the commonwealth, doctors across Massachusetts are interrogating our kids about mom and dad’s “bad” behavior.

We used to be proud parents. Now, thanks to the AAP, we’re “persons of interest.”

The paranoia over parents is so strong that the AAP encourages doctors to ignore “legal barriers and deference to parental involvement[1] and shake the children down for all the inside information they can get. [Highlighting mine - O.G.]
Communist playbook 101: Use the kids to spy on their parents.

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