The Internet is why we can't have nice things - 10 Things
While our Federal leaders hem and haw over the scary, scary possibility of Australia having marriage equality and the ghastly consequences of celebrating love and joy, our State governments are rolling their eyes like a passive-aggressive housemate saying "oh that's fine, don't get up, I guess I'll just do it then." As Tasmania and South Australia busy their own legislation, a cross-party coalition within the NSW Parliament has given notice that there will be a vote on legislation recognising same-sex marriage next year. And it's got a decent chance of passing too: the working group includes Labor, Coalition, Green and independent MPs, party leaders have indicated they'll allow a conscience vote on it rather than enforcing party lines, and when Fred Nile made his predictable Christian Democrat noises about it, everyone rolled their eyes and then loudly talked about him as though he wasn't there (probably).
As predicted in this very column mere days ago - honestly, 10 Things is basically the modern day equivalent of eviscerating a chicken and reading portents in the auguries - the Australian online sales event Click Frenzy demonstrated the robustness both of our online infrastructure and the care local retailers put into their corporate sites when the whole thing crashed pretty much as soon as it went live, with the Click Frenzy site tanking along with those of participants Myers and Toys R Us. They might have seen what was coming when David Jones - who pulled out of Click Frenzy and had their own special heaps-less-mainstream online sale a few hours earlier - promptly crashed their own site during the afternoon. And to those who found trying to take part a baffling ordeal, take heart: you may have missed out on a bargain or two, but that increase in your blood pressure could last a (truncated) lifetime.
Even as Jennifer Saunders is about to have her Spice Girls musical Viva Forever launched on the West End stage comes news that R Kelly is planning to take his epic Trapped in the Closet series to Broadway and that he's currently adapting the pieces for the legitimate stage. It's happening even as he works on his forthcoming album, the themes of which are summed up in the following sentence: the album's called Black Panties. So yeah. There you go.
As the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like secession; and like a planet full of angry partners threatening to walk out of the door right now, I mean it, don't think I wouldn't, our maps of the world may need to be heavily re-textaed before too long. Sure, Quebec and Western Australia are big fans of the periodic secession threat, Scotland's voting to leave the UK in a referendum next year, Texas is showily threatening to secede from the United States in the wake of the US election (leading the city of Austin, Texas, to ask to secede from Texas) even as Puerto Rico vote for full US statehood, and this weekend the Spanish election will not only decide which person gets to preside over years of economic turmoil and instability but is also being used as an unofficial plebiscite whether the relatively-wealthy Catalonia region remains part of the country - although Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo has already said that any calls for Catalonian independence will be dismissed. And Spain has form on this: in 1934, the last time Catalonia decided they were a state, Madrid responded with military action - so, um, good luck with that?
And the Sesame Street sex scandal continues with the news that Elmo performer Kevin Clash has officially resigned from the show as a second person has come out of the woodwork claiming he was also Clash's underage lover and asking for US$5 million, please. One Cecil Singleton reckons he met Clash on a "gay chat line" (ooh! how retro!) in 1993 when Singleton was 15 and Clash was 32. "This is a sad day for Sesame Street" the Sesame Workshop said in their official (under) statement.
Israel has paused in its plans to send ground troops into Gaza and US secretary of State Hilary Clinton has flown in for talks aimed at suggesting that everyone just cool out for a bit and stop with all the bombing ahead of Tuesday's UN meeting in Cairo aimed at turning the ceasefire into a lasting peace. It's not clear, however, whether she's be meeting with Hamas leaders in Gaza (although she will be speaking with Palestinian leaders unconnected with the Gaza leadership), or indeed whether the US will actually be supporting a brokered truce. Russia's UN representative Vitaly Churkin has been openly dismissive, telling the press "One member of the Security Council, I'm sure you can guess which, indicated quite transparently that they will not be prepared to go along with any reaction of the Security Council." Whether or not he then pointed at Clinton and made jerk-off motions was not reported; but let's just assume that yes, that's what happened.
But if you were concerned that things were calming down in the middle east, take heart: it looks like the volatile relationship between Congo and Rwanda is about to escalate to a full-blown war. The Congolese Government (backed by the UN) has accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel forces that are currently surrounding the eastern city of Goma, which the Rwandan military have denied even as they mass their forces along its western border. The rebels have offered a deal to allow them to withdraw which Congo has denied, missiles have been fired into Goma which Rwanda are whistling innocently and looking aggrieved when asked about, and the UN admit that rebel forces have gotten past their military positions. "We are not facing a conventional force," explained Hiroute Guebre-Sellasie, head of the UN's North Kivu peacekeeping office, which raises yet another terrifying possibility: are the rebel forces actually shapeshifting monsters of occult power?
In order to fight malaria, one has to in some ways become malaria: and that's why Melbourne's new bio-secure laboratory in Parkville's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is importing mosquitoes from Africa and India in order to create the disease locally in order to infiltrate it from within using science. Of course, we're assuming that there's no way that something as huge and obvious as a malaria-carrying mosquito could possibly get out of a building, possibly disguised as an air-conditioning tech, but we're pretty excited both by the possibility of destroying one of the planet's most deadly diseases and the fact that the facility is described as an "insectary". Seriously, how lovely is that word? "Insectary". Just rolls off the tongue. "Insectary". Nice.
Who says there are no second acts in popular music? Failed poplet Samantha Jade will get to go through all the merry hell of trying to carve out a career in the shrinking music industry all over again having just won the finals of Australian X Factor, getting a deal with Sony and - far more lucratively - a car, which she could at least sell for money. She's about to head off on the X Factor Live arena tour with a bunch of carless non-winners from the show, including The Collective aka The Australian One Direction That No-One Gives A Shit About.
And finally: how freakin' good is science? Good enough to take a picture of a planet 170 light years away, that's how freakin' good. The Subaru 8-meter telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii pulled off this incredible feat, taking an infrared shot of the "super Jupiter" HAT-P-1 which is 13 times more massive than our own kickarse gas giant and busily orbiting Kappa Andromedae. Incidentally, said star is freakishly young - about 30 million years old, compared with our own sun which is 5 billion years old (and still not looking a day over 3.5 billion), so it's interesting that planets would have coalesced so (relatively) quickly. But hey, Kappy, we're not judging: you need to develop a stable retinue of orbiting planets at a time that's right for you, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Your system, your choice.