Search engines can bring unexpected results, like how Google has decided to make The Canberra Times look like it's moralising on the debate about paedophillic imagery.

Reminds me of a story I was going to write about a guy who gets killed by an angry mob after search engine results paint him as a paedophile.

Things to do in Albury when you're dead

Apparently the coffin here fell out of the back of the hearse while going around a corner. Guess the corpse wasn't ready to go!

Beauty in dial-up

This is an image from Boing Boing that's been given the Firefox 3 on dial-up treatment. It's a cool effect, wonder what it looks like on naked women?

The Dark Knight

I saw the new Batman movie yesterday and, once again, I marvel at how Christopher Nolan and his writing partner brother have reinterpreted the superhero to comment on contemporary issues.

In Batman Begins they rewrote the cornerstone of the Batman story by having Bruce Wayne's father shot by a crim who was then assassinated outside court, like the way Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby after appearing in court for shooting US president John F Kennedy. At the time I couldn't understand why they'd want to make Batman a metaphor for the president but after the second film I got an idea.

Batman is the most flawed of the well-known superheroes, a vigilante prone to excessive violence in some of the more adult graphic novels like Frank Miller's Dark Knight. As Bruce Wayne he's a playboy with wealth and power who acts like he's living up the bachelor lifestyle. As Batman he thinks he's above the law, able to act where authorities are unable.

The presidential comparisons continue in The Dark Knight when Bruce Wayne arrives at a party triumphantly stepping out of a helicopter in a moment that reminded me of George W Bush's 'mission accomplished' press conference.

One of the best things Nolan added to the Batman story was in the first film when Bruce Wayne's father explained his charitable actions as noblesse oblige, the French term referring to the honorable and benevolent behavior required of persons of noble birth. It took the idea in Sam Raimi's Spiderman movie that "with great power comes great responsibility" and used it to give a little bit more credibility to the motivation for becoming a masked crime fighter. I also liked how he made Batman a ninja because they've also been whitewashed as freedom fighters.

In the new film The Joker makes terror videos where he humiliates hostages before killing them and gets the footage screened on the news to terrorise the citizens of Gotham City. Batman uses extensive wiretapping and undertakes an extreme rendition that would do the CIA proud. And there's a bit of the War on Terror in how passengers are held hostage.

I guess the idea of using a JFK reference points to this heavily idealised president as being the model by which all those since are judged.

Anyway, I'm going to rewatch the films and think about these comparisons further. They're good fun and the sounds are also fantastic.

PS - I just did a search and see Andrew Bolt has already viewed Batman in a similar light and, as much as I don't want Batman to be Bush, I think it's great to see moral ambiguity in an onscreen hero - especially in an American film.

PPS - I think Andrew Bolt makes a very convenient and self-serving argument. For a start, in rewriting The Joker's role in the Batman story, it's not so clear to say the two are representations of Osama Bin Laden and George W Bush. Where's the scene where it's revealed that Batman's father profited from supporting The Joker earlier in his criminal career?

If the two characters are different sides of the same coin, it's because the Harvey Dent character shows they are still the same coin. The film goes to great lengths to show that it's human nature to perceive this good/evil binary and clearly shows that Batman is losing his moral ground and becoming a criminal. This is why Batman must run at the end and Harvey Dent is made into the hero - it's the simple explanation that the people of Gotham need to get on with their lives and act like humans.

Humanity is a very thin veneer on an animal that still responds to base instincts that are now given the guise of modern trappings. (Adam Curtis' documentaries The Power of Nightmares and Century of the Self cover the two themes I've raised here brilliantly and are thought-provoking and highly recommended viewing.)

It seems to me that Andrew Bolt's criticism of Tony Coady exemplifies this need for complex actions to be shown in a good versus evil light. Yes, bombing Japan helped end the war but I'd guess that there would be many people who still view this action as "an act of terrorism far greater than any single act of terrorism since by non-state actors". History is written by the victor and personally I think the US, like Batman in The Dark Knight, is struggling to maintain the moral high ground in the War on Terror because it's obvious that they have had a role in creating their enemies. After all, the US provided Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons and funded Osama Bin Laden when it suited their national interests. It also suited their national interests to create the fiction that these two figures were working together as part of the so-called 'intelligence' used to justify invading Iraq.

If there's anything to be learned from Batman it's that people want simple narratives with a good guy and a bad guy when reality is much more complicated. I'd guess that Andrew Bolt knows this all too well.

All to briefs

Now, let's turn our attention from universities to underpants.

Some years ago my friend Emily confided to me that she felt more confident when wearing good underwear. Ever since I've often reflected on this, probably partly because I was always keen to see Emily in her underwear.

At the time I thought it explained how deep her commitment was for aesthetics. Later, while studying feminism at university, I wondered if it was an example of femininity as masquerade, the argument that being a woman in Western society is largely a matter or wearing the right combination of make-up, clothing and attitude or something. I think this was in Judith Butler's discussion of Joan Riviere.

Anyway, for me underwear has largely been a practical choice. It's something I rarely share with anyone and, when it's serving its function, it's out of sight and mostly out of my mind. For this reason I'm often amazed at how much underwear costs, it seems exorbitant the idea of spending more than a few dollars. So I was a bit cross when one former girlfriend named stole a pair of my boxer shorts as a souvenir and, when the opportunity presented itself, I stole them back.

Boxer shorts have been my choice of undergarment for the last decade or so. I like the looseness and, when I learned I had a low sperm count while writing an article on donor insemination, it seemed a healthy option too.

Recently my partner fell pregnant with our third child and I began to get annoyed at how the cheap boxer shorts I'd bought were becoming uncomfortable, the elastic waistband was becoming abrasive because the manufacturers have been saving on cotton by not folding it over at the top and the waistband would get those little balls. (If you know what I mean!) So the option of briefs, where you can buy seven pairs for less than $10, started to appeal to me.

I was amazed to discover they also appeal to my partner. As soon as I tried on a pair and asked her opinion, she started acting very affectionately and said she'd always preferred briefs. It's been nearly a couple of months now and I'm still amused how she'll stop what she's doing to watch me walk to the shower in my new undies.

I can take confidence from that.

Another four minutes

After more weeks of watching Timbaland, Timberlake and Madonna in the single Four Minutes, I've come to appreciate it a bit more and reckon I might have been a bit harsh in my earlier assessment.

This reevaluation is in part because my son has been telling me how much he likes it and I like hearing him discuss Madonna in the same terms he uses for discussing superheroes because, let's face it, Madonna is a modern superhero and she's still raising the bar for women after more than two decades. So the idea of her saving the world is starting to make sense and I've started to enjoy this cartoon aspect of the chorus.

I also liked hearing my partner imitate the way Timberlake says 'Madonna'. I know elsewhere in the song his vocals are treated like a turntable but he has this natural ability to sound like one too. The fast/slow/fast cadence he employs when saying Ma-dohh-na is a good example of drawing inspiration from beatboxing I reckon.

The other thing is that I've got an interpretation of the film clip to share.

There's this bit in the clip early on where you see a painting hanging on a wall and if you look it's like a boyish young man in a pair of rubber shorts, which would fit with all the fetishistic imagery Madonna uses in her clips.

When you pause on one of the few frames in which it appears you can see it's a painting that seems to show a young black man emerging from a peeling layer of lighter coloured flesh and the shorts are the pinker shade of another layer of flesh.

I like the idea that this could illustrate how there are no human races, only one race with varying shades of tan. In the context of this clip, however, I think it illustrates the idea that Timbaland is bringing a primal and black (in the African American sense) groove to the track and Madonna, who has basically been described as a strap-on by Aphex Twin, is caught up in the sheer pervasiveness of the Timbaland sound. It acknowledges the huge influence he's had on popular music.

This idea makes sense of the blackness that's pursuing Madonna and Timberlake throughout the clip, cutting through the extras over the course of four minutes and catching our two heroes right at the end. The blackness is the unavoidably funky Timbaland beat that the man himself introduces in a black setting at the beginning.

(And, I should acknowledge, the thing that really spelt out how black the Timbaland sound is was the film clip for his tune with Flo Rida, Elevator. It seems there's only one white face in the film clip, the boyish looking DJ. No doubt that's deliberate. A bit like the recent Soulja Boy clip for Donk, which I guess is about arses, where there's only one white face among the young black folk and he's an older looking bloke. It's like an inversion of all those politically correct sitcoms, ads, university prospecti and even girl groups like the Spice Girls where there's one black face among an otherwise white group.)

I'd guess that Madonna has only got four minutes to make the most of Timbaland's oversaturated sound because, let's face it, American R&B and commercial hip hop are really struggling at the moment. I reckon you can see the trend is moving from the 'boom-tee-boom' sound the Timbaland typified toward something more like four on the floor doof of European dance music. In part this is a natural progression for the super compressed beats that started the mastering wars because it is the most effective way for music to move a speaker, as the push of a bass drum gets to use the suck of sidechained compression on the pull of the upbeat. The other thing is it makes it easy for DJs to mix, for bootleggers to mash-up and for the divide between raves and clubs to be overcome. It also fits with the way R&B have adopted autotune used heavily to sound like a vocoder. Just listen to tracks like Chris Brown's Forever or Ne-yo's Closer for examples of both the doof beat and the robot trend in vocals.

However, I still reckon tracks like Four Minutes would sound better if performed on real instruments. Like if the synth brass were replaced with an actual brass marching band. If Madonna had jumped on the Daptones sound like Amy Winehouse did then she'd really be in the cheerleader position for saving the world IMO.