Harry Potter spoiler alert…

…he’s not real.

But you already knew that, as did I. He’s a fictional character – Frodo Baggins isn’t real either, and gasp, neither is James Bond. So imagine my surprise when I read a news piece about a literary conference on Harry Potter, going on in Scotland this week.

At first I thought it was tongue-in-cheek, because things like ‘politics of goblins’ was listed as a discussion topic and presentation, but then other topics were listed – such as the influence of various fiction writers on, presumably, popular culture – which led me to think that it was actually serious. The latter could make sense – there is nothing wrong with analysing the way in which certain events and items change our lives. Many events and conferences have surely been held to discuss the way the Suffrage Movement affected society. But I can’t help feeling a bit uneasy about a conference that may well have academic merit being billed as a bunch of people in wizard hats talking about the aerodynamics of the golden snorch* (or whatever it’s called – I’m not really au fait with the world of the Potter).

At the end of the day, no matter how much the Potter books are perceived to have changed our society, they remain a series of books for children. They aren’t exactly War and Peace, or Les Miserables. The conference organiser defends the conference by noting that the books are really long and therefore could generate lengthy discussion. The point that the books were works of fantasy aimed at kids seems to have been missed. There’s a gap in logic there – long-winded and high-selling does not necessarily equate to sophisticated literature. Heavens, if that was the case, we’d be running conferences on the Da Vinci Code – which was not real either, but nevertheless sold like crazy and had a movie made of it too.

I’m uneasy because there is a public perception that many academics are out of touch with reality, or don’t deserve funding because the research they do is not seen to be ‘useful’. If this was a serious academic conference, it should have been pitched as such. If it actually was a bunch of adults in wizard hats mulling over whether the goblins were mistreated by their owners, well, that’s just silly.

*edit: It’s a snitch, not a snorch, apparently. This is a snorch:

credit: real monsters wiki


Meddlesome Catholic Church can’t do statistics.

I can’t figure out if this piece of “research” is for real or not. It could be bad journalism, but is most likely a combination of bad journalism and bad application of statistics for a thinly veiled jab by the church at all young women who aren’t married and with 3 kids in tow.

Reported in the font of all reputable knowledge (not!), the Melbourne-based News Ltd paper Herald-Sun, is a story that the Catholic church has decreed a ‘man-drought’ in Australia, with a huge decline in available men aged 25-34 years old.

The church tells the newspaper that there are only 86,000 eligible men between 25 and 34 for over 1.3 million women of the same age bracket. This seems like a massive mismatch of gender. I went outside over the weekend and was not overrun by hordes of desperate females – it all seemed that pretty even numbers of both men and women were walking around the place.

Apparently this magic number of 86,000 was achieved by taking the total men (1.343 million) and subtracting the following groups: 485,000 married, 185,000 de facto, 7000 gay, 12,000 single parents and 568,000 men earning less than $60K per year.

I was staggered that no-one seemed to notice that they’d based their analysis on a fundamental flaw: they seem to think that every single woman aged 25-34 is single. There was no equivalent extrapolation of how many of the 1.3 million girls would be similarly categorised as ‘inappropriate’/’ineligible’. This obviously means that none of the women of the equivalent age would be either married, de facto, gay, parents or poor?? That all of these 1.3 million young ladies are wringing their hands because all they see around them are smug marrieds, filthy de factos, children out of wedlock and poverty-ridden hipsters (why else could they not afford belts for their trousers??)? This begs several questions:

  • Who are all these ineligible men married or de facto’ed to? Cougars, obviously because there are 1.3 million 25-34 year old women out there looking for men, or so we’re led to believe.
  • Who decided that having a child would make a person ‘ineligible’ as a male?
  • What on earth does money have to do with anything? And why the arbitrary figure of $60K?
  • How does this crap get in a newspaper anyway? Wait, it’s the Herald-Sun. I’ve just answered my own question.

And to top it off, we also have the endorsement of this ridiculousness by a federal Liberal MP.

Somebody open a window – let some of the stupid out.