Monday, November 28, 2005

Pullman vs Lewis #2

Another thing... Philip Pullman accuses Lewis of sado-masochism because of the scene at the end of The Silver Chair where Caspian, Eustace and Jill go into the school grounds and give the school bullies a good seeing-to with the flat of their swords.

Obviously Mr Pullman wasn't bullied at school, otherwise he might have enjoyed this scene more. Anyone who was bullied at school would appreciate this scene. It's not so much that one would actually want to carry it out, it's just a cathartic thing to read.

Also, the Narnia books are fairy tales - i.e. a fantasy version of life, where people get their come-uppance in a fairly graphic way. As in the Brothers Grimm fairy tales (Märchen), such as the original version of Cinderella, where the Ugly Sisters cut bits off their feet in order to fit into the fur slipper (not a glass slipper) which Aschenpüttel (Cinderella) wore to the dance, and the reason they are discovered is because blood oozes out over the side of the slipper. (The Grimm version was bowdlerised by Perrault, the French author who popularised the story. These are psychological symbols, not actual events (see Bruno Bettelheim's excellent The Uses of Enchantment for more examples).

As it happens, I think CS Lewis did confess in one of his more candid moments to SM leanings, but I think he would have been reasonably careful to keep them out of his writings for children.

mad ostrich

Mort the Ostrich - fabulous site discovered by Green. It's amazing what you can do with a copy of Paint, Flash, and a sense of humour.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pullman vs Lewis

I love Philip Pullman's books (apart from his propensity for killing off characters - I was really sad when Roger and Lee Scoresby were killed) but I wish he wouldn't keep on having a go at CS Lewis. He's been at it steadily since 1998, and has had another go recently because the Narnia film is about to be released. At least he likes the Swallows and Amazons books and hasn't had a go at those.

I count both CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien as influences in the process of my becoming a Pagan, because of their positive attitude to the natural world and the old gods (for example the bit at the end of Prince Caspian, where Aslan releases the river god from the 'chain' imposed by the Bridge of Beruna that was built by the Telmarines, and Bacchus and the Maenads dance through the woods). I was a Christian when I first read the books as a child, but later realised I am a Pagan, partly because of the wonderful magical worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth, partly because of reading Puck of Pook's Hill and Wizard of Earthsea and of course other factors in my life and spiritual development that had nothing to do with books. I also thought that Aslan was a much nicer deity than Jehovah, and therefore couldn't possibly be the same being, even though Lewis implies at the end of Voyage of the Dawn Treader that he is.

Pullman complains that Lewis's books are peddling a version of the Christian message: "It's not the presence of Christian doctrine I object to so much as the absence of Christian virtue," - well, Pullman's books unashamedly (and far more blatantly) peddle an atheist or at least an agnostic viewpoint. The only bits in the Chronicles of Narnia where it becomes a bit obvious that the stories are an allegory for the Christian story are the sacrifice of Aslan on the Stone Table in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (but then he is a sacrifice in Edmund's stead and not instead of the whole world, and it is the "even deeper Magic from before the dawn of time" that brings about his resurrection), and the bit at the end of Voyage of the Dawn Treader where he appears to the children as a lamb and tells them that they must get to know him better in their own world.

Also Pullman has taken a lot of his ideas about the Garden of Eden myth from Gnostic thought, and has not acknowledged this (though I suppose it's just possible that he came up with it independently). I think he is right, though, in his interpretation of the myth.
"I thought wasn't it a good thing that Eve did, isn't curiosity a valuable quality? Shouldn't she be praised for risking this? It wasn't, after all, that she was after money or gold or anything, she was after knowledge. What could possibly be wrong with that?"

The other allegations that Pullman makes are that the Narnia stories are racist, sexist and mysogynist. Granted, the Calormenes are a fairly obvious parody of the Arabs, but they are not portrayed as all bad (think of Emeth in The Last Battle) and there are attractive aspects of their culture. Also, the Telmarines are just as bad as the Calormenes in many ways, and they are clearly white Europeans (even if they entered Narnia via an island in the South Seas). As for the charges of sexism, when the boys occasionally make a disparaging comment about girls (e.g. in Prince Caspian when Peter says that the trouble with girls is that they can't carry a map in their heads), the girls respond in a fairly spirited manner with an equally biting comment about boys. Another possible example is when they treat the girls in a chivalrous manner (e.g. when Caspian gives Lucy his cabin in Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Eustace complains because his mother is a feminist) - Lewis is clearly on the side of chivalry. But it has to be remembered that before chivalry was invented (by women in the 12th century), men treated women like mere chattels. Chivalry may be old-fashioned, but it is not misogynistic.

The other specific incident that Pullman criticises is from The Last Battle, when Lucy explains that Susan has lost interest in Narnia because she thinks it's all just a silly game that they played when they were kids, and now she's more interested in clothes and make-up. So Susan remains in this world while all the others go to Narnian heaven (from which you can see the heaven of this universe). Pullman claims that "One girl was sent to hell because she was getting interested in clothes and boys." This claim is simply not supported by the text.

So, in denigrating Lewis and Tolkien, secularists have entirely missed the point that the books may express a Christian worldview to a certain extent, but they are also about the mythopoeic worldview and spirituality in general, and children are not so gullible that they will uncritically soak up everything from a writer, but are capable of reading critically (I know, because I remember as a child disagreeing with some of Lewis's comments about things). Also, his portrayal of Jadis (the Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) did not put me off witches - I just assumed that there were two different kinds of witches, the wicked sort that you find in fairy-tales, and the village wise-women variety that dispense herbs and healing. That said, I think the portrayal of witches in His Dark Materials is absolutely brilliant, and I wish I'd thought of the idea of daemons (which, incidentally, are very similar to the idea of the external soul explored in The Golden Bough by JG Frazer).

Many people read both the Narnia books and His Dark Materials without ever drawing the parallels between the fantasy world and this world. I've seen Christians happily reading Pullman without turning a hair about the portrayal of their God, and atheists happily reading Lewis without noticing the Christian allegory. Maybe it's because these works are about parallel worlds, and not explicitly about this one, even though you can get to the parallel worlds from this world. Tolkien was a keen advocate of the concept of applicability (being able to apply ideas from fiction to life in general rather than to a specific set of circumstances) and he hated allegory (which was one of the reasons he disliked the Narnia books). But both the Narnia series and Pullman's work are applicable and not allegorical.

Whilst I am concerned about Pullman's attacks on Lewis (who is, after all, dead and hence unable to defend himself), I am also concerned about evangelical Christians trying to hijack the Narnia books and use them as a vehicle for the Christian message, and also about them attacking Pullman's work (or for that matter, JK Rowling's work) because they are afraid of it undermining the Christian message. If the Christian message was that great, it wouldn't need protecting or promoting, people would be instinctively drawn to it.

For goodness' sake, everybody just simmer down and realise that literature is literature, children do have critical faculties and are capable of reading between the lines, and these are, at the end of the day, just stories. We may be inspired by the characters in stories, but we read many different stories, and get different world-views from different authors, which enables us to understand that there are many different possible views of the world, and synthesise our own individual world-view from the many different versions available to us.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

demotivational images

Despair, Inc.: a plethora of beautiful images designed as a healthy remedy for those pompous motivational posters.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Moon trees

The trees that went to the moon - wow, what an amazing story - I had no idea that one of the missions to the Moon actually took tree seeds with them - it was one of the crew of Apollo 14, Stuart Roosa. And these trees were planted in various places in America. Cool.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Libertine

Great acting, interesting chiaroscuro sets, good writing, and lots of steamy scenes with Johnny Depp with not much on. However we still came away from the film feeling a bit depressed. The moral of the story is "Aren't condoms brilliant?" - except they weren't commonly used during the reign of Charles II. (They had been invented by the Romans, but weren't very pleasant.) Johnny Depp did a marvellous impression of Father Jack (looking scabrous and with a filmy eye, slouching in a chair and shouting "Drink! Drink!") and Samantha Morton was very good as an actress who couldn't act, and was then coached by Johnny's character (it takes considerable acting skills to be able to depict a person who can't act). Also I couldn't help noticing that even when Johnny Depp is covered in horrible syphilitic scab make-up, he still has lovely bone structure... Ultimately, as my friend commented, the film depicts a person who has his self-destruct button permanently pressed. Nice cameo role from John Malkovich as Charles II - shades of Dangerous Liaisons, I thought - there were quite a few parallels with that film. Also I liked the device of a prologue and epilogue, borrowed from the plays of the period - a neat Verfremdungseffekt. Also the way the film appeared to end with Wilmot's death, but then actually ended with his stage death in the play about him written by an acquaintance of his, George Etherege.

Johnny Depp Zone
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

Friday, November 18, 2005

killer app

Is it too much to ask? All I want is the ultimate application.
  • The ability to parse text like Excel (Text → Data to Columns function) - useful for breaking up text and inserting XML tags between bits of it

  • A global find and replace function like the one in Text Pad, with regular expressions, and which remembers your previous search strings and replace strings and stores them in a drop-down menu for you to reuse, but also has the ability to search and replace multiple lines of code like the find and replace function in Dreamweaver

  • A directory tree display and site manager function like the one in Dreamweaver (where you can select multiple files from different folders)

  • A pretty-print function like the one in XML Spy

  • The ability to customise how the text appears in code view (another great XML Spy feature)

  • The ability to display XML Schemas graphically (XML Spy and oXygen)

  • The ability to easily expand and collapse the DOM tree (also from XML Spy)

  • Drop-down tag and attribute editor for XML and XHTML (Dreamweaver and XML Spy)

  • and drop-down property and value selector for CSS (Dreamweaver MX 2004)

  • Built-in code validation (XML Spy)

  • A design view like the one in Dreamweaver and the ability to transform XML using XSL like in XML Spy

I'm sure there's more but I can't think of them at the moment. If all the various software for editing code had all of these features, it would be so much nicer. Particularly annoying is the lack of a global find and replace function in XML Spy (you can only do one file at a time).

erosion of habeas corpus

Synesis: Magna Carta? Wossat then?: "Magna Carta? Wossat then?
No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.
(Article 39 of Magna Carta)"

Excellent post by Synesis on the erosion of the right of habeas corpus represented by the increase of the police's detention powers to 28 days.

not even numbers

Reg Keys: Letter to Tony Blair: "to you, the dead are not people; the dead are not names; the dead are not even numbers.

You did not, on 1 May 2005, know how many British forces have been killed."

white phosphorus

BBC News: US used white phosphorus in Iraq

If you use something as a chemical weapon - even if it is not classed as one - then it is a chemical weapon. White phosphorus was fired into the covered positions of insurgents, to "flush them out". In that case it is being used as a weapon, not as a smokescreen, and it has a chemical effect on human flesh, burning it down to the bone, therefore it's a chemical weapon.

no compromise

BBC News: UN human rights team will not visit Guantanamo
The UN has formally rejected a US invitation to visit the Guantanamo prison camp, saying it cannot accept the restrictions imposed by Washington.

UN human rights experts said the US had refused to grant them the right to speak to detainees in private.

I think the team made the right decision - one which highlights the criminal way in which the US treats detainees, in both Guantanamo and Iraq.

even MI5 against ID cards

BBC News: Ex-MI5 chief sparks ID card row

Even Stella Rimington (ex-head of MI5) thinks ID cards are a waste of time.

The argument put forward by the former government crime advisor Lord Mackenzie, that an ID card would have prevented the Soham murders (by preventing Huntley from getting the job in the first place), may well be true - but the existing system of safeguards should also have prevented him from getting the job in the first place, if Humberside police had been using it correctly. It is also cynical in the extreme to use this kind of emotive argument to try to whip up support for the flagging ID cards scheme.

Related articles: Ex-MI5 chief lukewarm on ID cards (16-11-05)
Minister rejects ID card fears (17-11-05)

surveillance overload

Gatso 2: rollout of UK's '24x7 vehicle movement database' begins | The Register - even scarier than ID cards. Really. I mean, how did they sneak this in without even getting parliamentary scrutiny?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

DVD for sale

Anybody want to buy Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers? Only £11.
The Shadow War has ended, leaving hundreds of civilisations devastated by the conflict. It is up to the ISA, with the help of the Rangers, to rebuild what the great war destroyed and to maintain peace among the worlds of the ISA. The Legend of the Rangers pilot movie deals with the Ranger crew of the Liandra, a semi-organic ship based on Minbari technology. The Rangers encounter a previously unknown alien race, called the Hand, whose lethal power is far greater than any force previously known to Earth or any other world in the Interstellar Alliance. The Legend Of The Rangers is a movie spin off from the hugely popular Babylon 5 series.

Nick and I both bought a copy of this at the same time, so now I'm selling the surplus one.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

multifaith army

Armed Forces' first Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh chaplains officially welcomed to their positions (BBC News)

Hmm, I wonder how many Pagans there are in the armed forces? I know of one. There must be more. I wonder how long it would take to get a Pagan chaplain? In fact, the MoD should be able to say how many they've got, as it is possible to get your religion printed on your dogtag.

There are 183,000 Christians, 305 Muslims, 230 Hindus, 220 Buddhists, 90 Sikhs and 65 Jews. It's excellent that the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs now have chaplains (the Jewish personnel already had one).

who runs the web

BBC News: US retains hold of the internet: "There are other larger social justice issues to be tackled, such as how to ensure freedom of expression and information for everyone on the net, an issue which bloggers will be watching closely."

I would have thought the internet should be governed by an international body, but if that means allowing certain governments to impose tighter censorship on the web (as the US government argued it would) then it would not be a good thing. Also the issue of widening access to the web in developing countries needs to be tackled - 14% of people on the web in developing countries compared with 62% in the US is a yawning gulf by anybody's standards.

See also: The net and politicians don't mix, by Paul Twomey, head of Icann.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Darth Sheep

Darth Sheep That's the scariest-looking sheep I've ever seen.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Museum of Witchcraft

Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle.

If anyone wanted to visit a museum with fascinating exhibits and really user-friendly labelling, this is the place to go. I find it interesting that a museum run by people with no curatorial training (as far as I know) actually has some of the best labelling I've seen. It's also run by an independent body and receives no public funds. Though some other museums helped after the floods by donating display cases and advice about conservation of the flood-damaged objects.

killing joke

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing.

He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

See also: Flexible Dubya

Both sent to me by a friend via email.

Friday, November 11, 2005

chariots of fire

Today I did 11km in total in the gym, and burnt 325 calories. 8 km in 15 minutes on the exercise bike, 2 km in 15 minutes on the cross-trainer, and 1km in 5 minutes on the rowing machine. A personal best so far. While watching the heart-rate counter on the machines, I tend to think of the film Gattaca... And during the cool-down part, I tend to hum the music from Chariots of Fire in my head, as it is a nice slow rhythm to move to.


peace poppy
remembrance poppy

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred Owen
September - October, 1917

TLA number plates

Pip has created the ultimate geek experience: the TLA number plates pool on Flickr. They're mostly file extensions and other acronyms known to geeks, but quite amusing.

When I was a kid, we had a game to pass the time on long journeys, where you had to make up words to go with the letters of a number plate, e.g. WHW might be World Heavyweight Whistler. Maybe you could get extra points for spotting a number plate that already is a three-letter acronym.

post topics

I just came up with this idea, so I'm feeling rather pleased with myself...

Using to tag posts on Blogger

One of the things that Blogger lacks (user-friendly though it is in many other ways) is the ability to group blog entries by topic. I have solved this problem using

Getting set up
1. Create a account and add buttons to your bookmarks toolbar.
2. Set up a 'blog' tag bundle
3. Set up your topic categories (give them the prefix blog_ if you want to use to track other types of link)
4. Add all your previous blog posts to your categories using the procedure below.
5. Change your template so that you have links to each blog post category under the heading (or wherever is appropriate on your template) - and be sure to republish entire blog after changing the template.

1. From now on, whenever you create a post, open it in a new window or tab using the permanent link.
2. Click on the 'remember this' button on the Bookmarks toolbar.
3. Select your categories, e.g. blog_blogging, blog_geeky
4. Add notes if required. Click save.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

in the name of God, go!

Guardian Unlimited: Simon Hoggart: Hubbub then humiliation: Crispin Blunt arrived with the crucial slip of paper. Mr Blunt is a Tory MP who helped push Iain Duncan Smith on his way out two years ago. Yesterday he had a walk-on part in what might be the defenestration of Tony Blair. Rosencrantz and Crispin Blunt! His voice boomed out as if the hand of history were round his throat.

"The ayes to the right, 291! The noes to the left, 322!"

The next thing he should have said was: "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go". (The words uttered by Cromwell to the Long Parliament and Leo Amery to Neville Chamberlain.)

Apparently a large swathe of the population thinks that the 90-day detention period is a good idea. They clearly haven't noticed the ludicrously long list of people wrongly detained under the existing anti-terrorism legislation: Walter Wolfgang, Sally Cameron, David Mery, and probably numerous others that we haven't heard about, including many innocent Muslims who appear on lists of al Qaeda suspects.

Among human rights campaigners there remains an uneasiness that innocent people are being added to lists and accused of crimes they have never committed
- Barnie Choudhury

no to racist quotas

NUS Statement on Glees Report into extremism on campus

The Glees Report apparently advocated that universities should be allowed to have no more than 8% minority ethnic students, in order to prevent the fomentation of terrorism. That is outrageous and utterly racist. It would be blatant discrimination.

fuzzy boundaries

Salam Pax on religion: "You, I and the whole world talks these days of Sunnis and Shia and Kurds as if they are homogeneous groups. We have lost all nuance and differentiation. As if no Sunni had a Shia neighbour ever. As if Kurds never lived in central Iraq. As if my Shia mother never got married to my Sunni father. AS IF EVERY SINGLE IRAQI TAKES HIS/HER ORDERS DIRECTLY FROM THEIR IMAMS.

Stop trying to label me and then either punish me or bestow your sympathy on me depending on that label you just stuck to my forehead. I don’t believe in your bloody gods. Where does that put me in Iraq? Nowhere I guess, unless the Kurds start taking refugees."

Exactly right - identities (religious or ethnic or political or sexual) are not monolithic and discrete. Just because I'm European, doesn't mean I'm a Christian. Just because I'm a Wiccan, doesn't make me a duotheist. Just because I'm a web developer, doesn't mean I'm 100% geeky. And fortunately for me, none of my various identities makes me a target for persecution (at the moment) or kidnappers.

protect Bloggers

Committee to Protect Bloggers :: Sign the Petitions

Please sign the petitions to save three bloggers from imprisonment and torture.

Omid Sheikhan petition
Mojtaba Saminejad petition
Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman petition

Joe's uncle

The Woolamaloo Gazette: Sit down to stand up - reflections on the death of Rosa Parks: Tuesday, October 25, 2005

This is a great story about Joe's uncle, an ordinary unsung hero, doing the decent thing, and sticking to it. Thanks Joe.


"In a free society you don't need a reason to make something legal, you need a reason to make something illegal" - The West Wing 2:15
- quote at the bottom of my boss's email. I like it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Went to the gym today and did 2.5 km on the cross trainer (225 calories) in 15 minutes; 5km on an exercise bike (75 calories) in 10 minutes; and 1km on the rowing machine in 5 minutes. So that's 8.5 km in total. Hmm, that's half a kilometer less than last time. Still, I more than doubled the distance on the step machine.

Monday, November 07, 2005

museum usability again

I sent this email to Jakob Nielsen...

From: Yvonne Aburrow
Sent: Monday, November 07, 2005 4:18 AM
To: Jakob Nielsen
Subject: Usability for museums

Hi Jakob

Recently I have become aware of an annoying example of poor usability and accessibility. It is the way museums label their exhibits. Frequently there is a number next to the object, and this refers to a panel with explanatory text. This is OK for small objects where there is no room to add captions next to the objects, but frequently it is employed for large objects, where the aesthetic value of the object is often seen as more important than its meaning.

Unfortunately this makes it very difficult for people with dyslexia to enjoy the exhibition, because by the time they have transferred their gaze from the exhibit to the interpretation panel, they have forgotten the number, and have to go back again. I myself am not dyslexic but frequently have this problem anyway! In one museum we visited, there was a costume exhibition, and the distance between the numbers and the explanatory text was so great that a lady who was both short- and long-sighted had to
change her glasses each time.

The solution is simply to place a short explanatory caption next to the object (e.g. 14th C English spoon), and a longer piece giving the context below or beside the display case.

If you feel like writing an Alertbox about this issue, I would greatly appreciate it.

And he replied:
Thank you. It's a classic usability problem to place labels or instructions too far from the object they relate to, and it's also a classic warning sign of poor usability when you have to introduce an extra UI element (here the number) to connect/relate items as opposed to relying on direct mappings. Maybe one day I will visit a major museum with my usability hat on and write about it.
I also sent a similar email to some museums I visited recently, and one of them responded to the effect that they will take my feedback into account when designing new displays. I also posted about it on the FISH list, and someone passed it on to the MDA forum, and I got an email from them asking if they could forward my comments to a museum accessibility mailing list. Hurrah!

the nature of consciousness

What is consciousness? What is its origin? Can it exist outside the human brain?

The way I see it, consciousness pervades the universe, but is more dense and focused in certain locales. (Compare matter, which is also unevenly distributed.) We are foci (or perhaps nexi) of consciousness, and so are deities. We arise out of the underlying consciousness of the universe, which has been described in a number of spiritual traditions: the Neoplatonic "one god", the Tao in Chinese thought, the Pleroma in Gnostic thought, and Wyrd in Northern thought, are related concepts (though not interchangeable). I see it as an omnipresent impersonal underlying energy. But precisely because it is omnipresent, it cannot be locally focussed, and its awareness (if it has one) is entirely other, and incomprehensible.

Neoplatonism was a late development in classical paganism, probably in response to Christian monotheism. Most of the ancient classical mystery traditions were either henotheist or polytheist (though the one that has come down to us via Lucius Apuleius was syncretist: It is interesting to speculate why there was a shift in the focus of religion towards the underlying energy instead of the beings who arise from it (apart from the obvious one of people being forcibly converted to Christianity). And now there is a shift back to polytheism proper (i.e. believing in many deities as individuals, rather than regarding them as aspects of a greater unity). Perhaps this is because people are having more in-depth encounters with the gods.

Consciousness (both incarnate and discarnate) arises out of the underlying energy, and can dissolve back into it. But while it is manifested, either in its own realm or ours, it is distinct and individual (I am talking about both human and divine consciousness here). Can gods die? I don't know. Certainly the gods of Valhalla are said to need Iduna's golden apples in order to maintain their immortality. I quite like Terry Pratchett's theory of how gods occur, expressed in the book Small Gods. But I think gods are entities who have continued to exist for thousands of years. However, the way we perceive the gods may well not be what they actually look like, just the "clothing" we put on them when we see them.

Discussion of consciousness dissolving back into the underlying energy reminds me of the question of what happens when we die (an appropriate post-Samhain subject) - there are many possible theories here:

  • death is the final dissolution of consciousness, that's it;
  • everyone dissolves back into the soul soup;
  • everyone goes to an afterlife;
  • everyone is reincarnated as an individual;
  • only initiates are reincarnated as individuals, everyone else goes back into the soul soup (this theory is found among some South American 'shamans');
  • the impersonal soul or essence is reincarnated, the personal spirit gets recycled into the soul soup;
  • the impersonal soul or essence is reincarnated, the personal spirit goes to an afterlife to be with the ancestors

Sunday, November 06, 2005

surreal spaces

Today we went into Bath and caught the last day of an exhibition of works by Philip Bouchard entitled Surreal Spaces, and also met the artist, which was nice. His works are wonderfully surreal and beautifully executed, placing familiar buildings in imaginary landscapes reminiscent of Claude Lorrain. One of his sketches reminded me of the work of Paul Delvaux, and another of a painting called Rivières Tièdes by Ithell Colquhoun (though he wasn't familiar with her work), and there were occasional references to other surrealists as well.

haiku schmaiku...

100 great books in haiku

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Snow-drops hang like tears.
Shy, sweet, saintly Beth has died.
One down, three to go.

These are really funny, I wish I had thought of that. I mean, I thought scifaiku was a pretty neat idea, but this is hysterically funny.

Also available: Haikus for Jews, which includes such gems as:

Is one Nobel Prize
so much to ask from a child
after all I've done?

Friday, November 04, 2005

people of the book

Guardian: Christian group may seek ban on Qur'an: "[The] director [of Christian Voice], Stephen Green, said the organisation would consider taking out prosecutions against shops selling the Islamic holy book. He told the Guardian: 'If the Qur'an is not hate speech, I don't know what is. We will report staff who sell it. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that unbelievers must be killed.'"

Yes it does. Exodus 18:22, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Leviticus 20:13 "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death" and numerous other examples. Okay so it's not advocating killing unbelievers, but it is advocating killing gays and witches, which is just as bad. And there were numerous occasions in the Old Testament where people were killed for being pagans. Hey, does that mean that we can get the Bible banned for inciting religious hatred? Now that would be amusing.


The Guardian: Why is Bell's Blair wearing Major's pants?

A splendid article explaining why Steve Bell used to draw his caricature of John Major with Y-fronts, and why the mantle of the pants has now been passed on to Tony Blair. As the article concludes, everything Blair touches is just pants.

Oh, those heady days back in 1997, when we thought we were going to get a government that would champion justice, peace, and equality, and when Steve Bell was drawing Blair with a thong. What were we thinking of? How could we have been so naïve?


I just did 1km on the cross trainer in the gym, 6.5km on the bike machine, and 1.5km on the rowing machine. Only burnt around 300 calories though. Hopefully it will improve my muscle-tone. Only problem is, I'm hungry now...

madness takes its toll

Guardian: Steve Bell on ID cards
28.06.05: Charles Clarke's ID card
17.06.05: Tony Blair being biometrically scanned
12.11.03: Blair shows Bush his ID card
04.07.02: Suspicious foreign geezer

latest Firefox stats

BBC News: Technology: Firefox fanbase reaches new high

This is good news for web standards. Though since Firefox is completely fabulous, I can't understand why more people are not using it - unless they are just too clueless to download it or something.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

paint it blog

I see a weblog and I want to write a post
No diary anymore I want it all online
I see a keyboard and my fingers start to twitch
I have to turn my head until my geekness goes

I see a landscape and I want to post on Flickr
My love-life goes online just a little quicker
Than you can say Blogspot or Livejournal or Wordpress.
Obsessive-compulsive, it just happens ev'ry day

I look inside myself and see my heart has blogged
I see my inner self and it is all online
Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts
It's not easy facin' up when your whole world is blogs

No more will I refrain from telling all my secrets
I could not foresee this thing happening to me

If I blog hard enough with all my might and main
My friends on LJ will always know my name

I see a weblog and I want to write a post
No diary anymore I want it all online
I see a keyboard and my fingers start to twitch
I have to turn my head until my geekness goes

Hmm, hmm, hmm,...

I wanna blog it, blog it, blog it, blog
Blog my life, blog my soul
I wanna see the sun blogged in the sky
I wanna see it all written in my blog, blog, blog, blog

(with apologies to the Rolling Stones)
Listen to Paint it Black tune

Lib Dems say no to ID

The Liberal Democrats have stepped up their campaign against ID cards by launching a petition and there's also a page with 10 reasons why they're a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Went to darkjewelz' birthday party last night, it was brilliant. Met lots of lovely people. Got chatting to catvincent, ranging over topics such as esoterica, science fiction, and house cleansing ceremonies. If you see a man wearing a Ranger brooch at a party, always go up to him and say "You're a Ranger" - you never know what might happen.

The incriminating evidence...