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May, 2008:

How a Google Search Works

Donncha has this wonderful YouTube video showing how a Google search works.

And the amazing thing is that it all happens in next to no time!

Sydney Censorship?

I’m sorry, but there is going to be nothing funny about this post.  I have posted before about child pornography.  That was about a US case where teens were charged with possessing child pornography – that is photo’s taken of themselves willingly and for their “own use”.  This is about a much more serious situation in Sydney.

Photo: Sahlan Hayes

In Sydney on Thursday (22-5-08) there was a police raid on an art gallery, and 20 photo’s of a naked 13 year-old girl were seized.  These photo’s were the work of an “internationally acclaimed” photographer, Bill Henson.  It seems likely that the gallery will be charged over two matters: displaying photo’s of naked children on the Internet; and, displaying indecent material.

Three issues concern me, and should concern everyone else.  First, why would a gallery consider risking it’s reputation by displaying such work?  It doesn’t matter that it is the work of an internationally acclaimed photographer.  These are photographs of a naked child; regardless of anyone’s intention they will be seen as being of a sexual nature by some people – society does not approve of children being exploited. 

Second, who was looking after the model’s interests?  A minor cannot sign a release, the very piece of paper that the “professional” photographer would require to sell the works.  The child’s parent would have had to sign the release, how can they consider this display as being in her interest.  This could very well be the undoing of an future reputable career, something to try to hide from, or to be ashamed of.

Finally, what was Sydney’s artistic community thinking?  We have other artists and gallery patrons publicly saying that they saw the police’s action as being “censorship” (The Age [^] and ABC [^]).  Their implication is of petty officials in an unquestioning adherence to an unjust law.  However, censorship is defined as being “suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds” ( [^]).  They are right, society finds this kind of material objectionable on moral and legal grounds.  This is the same society that the artists are a part, the society that gives these artists their freedom, their rights and their obligations.

Any self-respecting artist or gallery should be self-policing and self-censoring.  Bill’s fellow artists seem almost uniformly in favour of this work as being “artistic” and not sexualising children.  Do these artists not realise that western society emphatically disapproves of depictions of naked children?  How can they be so detached from the society in which they live? 

Judy Annear – senior curator of photography at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, “His work, in my opinion and in the opinion of my colleagues, … is [that it is] unfortunate if people confuse it with pornography”.  ABC [^]

Unfortunately pornography is in the eye of the beholder, and a lot of people find this material objectionable.  Yes, there is a line between art and pornography, but there is a massive grey area between the extremes.  It would be easy to say that society is over zealous in some aspects of child photography, with parents being banned from taking photo’s at their children’s sports days or on the beach. 

But this isn’t a borderline case, and would the artistic merit of the work be any different if the model was an adult? Discuss the border between art and pornography with adult subjects, and let the kids grow-up in peace!

Fridges to Help Slow Global Warming

The answer isn’t ‘leave the fridge door open’! 

It seems that Australia’s peak science research body is working had on the global warming problem.  The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have been working on smart fridges, that is fridges that talk to each other over a network. 

 Westinhouse Fridge

The humble refrigerator is the biggest current drain in the normal household, but it only draws power occasionally on a 30 minute to one hour cycle.  The CSIRO have reasoned that if fridges can examine real-time power grid usage statistics and talk to each other, and then co-ordinate their power requirements power usage peaks can be evened-out. 

Although this means that total energy usage will be unchanged, at least the demand will be more even.  This would result in the need for fewer power stations to cover the peaks.  An obvious extension to this development is to incorporate this development into other power-hungry devices that have some “discretion” about when they draw power – such as hot water units.

Source: The Age [^]

Disney-Pixar’s Wall-E

Back in September I posted about the ominous sounding Buy n Large.  The Buy n Large website [^] is a promo site for the upcoming Disney-Pixar film “Wall-E”.  On engadget [^] there is a post about the sneak peak at the about to be launched merchandise to promote the film in the US.

This is the “Ultimate Wall-E” a ten motored radio controlled robot, loaded full of sensor, and capable of being programmed; all for an amazing $US 190. 

It seems as though the irony of releasing merchandise for a movie about the effects of mass consumerism has been lost on the entertainment giant.  To paraphrase: buying lots of “stuff”, just so that you can have “stuff” – bad; oh by the way come on buy the really expensive toy robot.  Enough said!

View Upstream From Princes Bridge

Princes Bridge 2

This is the second view from Princes Bridge, this time looking upstream.  The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) takes pride of place, the lights are on for the AFL (Aussie Rules Football) game between the Carlton Blues and the Adelaide Crows.

Birrarung Marr [^] is on the left, on the City side of the River, is the most recently created major park in Melbourne.  The Aborginal name Birrarung Marr translates to “the banks of the river of mists”.  The park acts as a link between the CBD and the major sporting area of the MCG and the Rod Laver Arena, the home of Tennis Australia’s Australian Open. 

The 50 metre Ferris Wheel in Birrarung Marr is the southern hemisphere’s largest travelling Ferris Wheel [^].  A full-scale observation wheel, similar to the London Eye, is being constructed in Docklands, and is expected to open towards the end of 2008.  It will be known as the Southern Star Observation Wheel [^], and will rise to 120 metres, 15 metres less than the London Eye.