Tuesday, December 26, 2006

mumming 2006

On Christmas Eve, we went mumming in Lacock, Wiltshire with the Ragged Heroes mummers. Here's the photos. I was Dick the Horse as usual - I frightened lots of ladies with my big green skull. I can assure you however, that a horse's skull weighs a ton.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and cheese reconciled.

Hark The Herald Angels Sing
from the Christmas Song Generator.

How oft at Christmas-tide the sight
Of green cheese gives us delight.

O Christmas Tree
from the Christmas Song Generator.

mile-high mice

Mass mouse escape on Saudi plane
More than 100 passengers on a Saudi plane were left panic-stricken by the unexpected appearance of furry fellow flyers - dozens of mice.
Not exactly the Heart of Gold, but proof (if it were ever needed) that mice are actually pan-dimensional beings. They find their way into your luggage and then try to hijack the plane!

Friday, December 15, 2006

webdev team

Our team photo just before the Christmas meal.

Oops, I ended up standing in front of Mead's head. Either that or he is hiding behind me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


The Ultimate Spam Hoax - competition

I challenge all the readers of Nemeton to come up with the stupidest and most outrageous hoax email - but of course we will not be sending them to anyone, because that is just totally and utterly dumb.

Here's my effort (post yours in the comments):
Your car is vulnerable. A new species of computer virus called RustWorm has migrated into car computer systems and mutated into nanobots and spread into the superstructure of the car. It is specially designed to unlock all your doors and make the car vulnerable to thieves. Especially if you have central locking. After that it will break your car down into its component parts and take them away to Seattle for Microsoft to turn into computer parts and complete their plan for world domination. But don't worry, because Microsoft will give you $10 if you forward this email to Bill Gates!!!

The only possible solution is to take your car immediately to a wrecker's yard and have it crushed. Forward this email to everyone in the world! (Well, okay, everyone in the world with a car.) You'll be glad you did, because only by sending this email to the whole world can we overcome the threat of RustWorm!!!!

Of course, in order to prevent anyone actually using these to spam people, they must be wildly improbable.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Shockingly, the youth of today seem to have no idea who Quentin Crisp was. Even the gay youth of today. Ooh, they don't know they're born. And they evidently don't speak crisperanto. Surely the wittiest and most charming man since Oscar Wilde. A friend of mine called him on the phone in New York once, and Mr Crisp invited him for tea. Apparently Sting's song An Englishman in New York is about him, as well.


"Christian" arsonist burns down church for not adhering to Bible teachings

This is scary - if there are "Christians" (however disturbed) prepared to burn down other Christians' buildings for not adhering to the teachings of the Bible, then it's not long before they get onto book-burning, shortly followed by people... oh, somehow I recognise a pattern here....

On the other hand, I am awed at the forgiveness offered by the people whose church got burnt down - well it's obvious which ones are the real Christians.

Let's hope this sort of thing doesn't catch on, but maybe the Christians will sit up and take notice of the scary fundies, now that the fundies are attacking the moderates....

(Spotted by Alfreda.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006


How good is your geography? I scored 48. Hmm, I really should find out where some of the African and South American countries are... er, and which Balkan republic is which.


We went to see The Prestige last night, and I must say it lived up to expectations - fine writing, acting and directing. Some elements of it were rather disturbing: the idea that various birds and other creatures have to die in large numbers for the magician to perform his art; the sadistic titillation of audiences watching an attractive young lady escape from drowning (or not, as the case may be); and the final scene was the most disturbing of all (though I can't mention it as it would give the plot away). The flashback scenes were a bit confusing sometimes, but the plot was very cleverly constructed to give plenty of shocks and surprises. It was great to see such a talent-laden cast - Michael Caine, David Bowie, Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, et al. It's also good to see a science-fictional theme transposed into a late-19th century setting, and good that the ideas of Tesla were given an airing. I just hope that the cat in Tesla's experiment was done with CGI (but don't worry, it survived).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

wedding bells

Gay marriage is now legal in South Africa - the first African country to legalise it, in spite of opposition from Christians there. Great news, well done South Africa!

Gay marriage around the world

Meanwhile, there are still many countries where homosexuality is illegal, unfortunately, and many where LGBT people are persecuted (even if it is not technically illegal).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Sci-fi is dead, long live SF - maybe. Interesting article on Wired daring to suggest that the reason Hollywood sci-fi movies aren't very popular is because they are basically space opera and not real SF. Wouldn't it be great if there were faithful film adaptations of Ursula Le Guin, or Liz Williams, or Karen Traviss, or Ken Macleod, or Alastair Reynolds, or a host of other talented writers of genuine SF? It's very encouraging that The Prestige was made into a film (which I must get around to seeing before it disappears from cinemas), but there are so many more SF novels that would make excellent films, if it weren't for the problem of the Two Cultures. One of the essays in Speculations on Speculation points out that many people simply don't have enough scientific knowledge to understand basic concepts like planets and asteroid belts orbiting stars, and these people simply don't get SF.

Monday, November 27, 2006

novel graphics

Cheshire Crossing issue 2 is out and includes visits to Oz, Wonderland and Neverland, with a cool battle between the Wicked Witch of the West and Mary Poppins. Very amusing pastiche of these imaginary worlds, and a continuation of the send-up of psychiatric institutions.

Friday, November 24, 2006

mooning around

I am The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

state terror

Student tasered for failing to produce ID - a student at UCLA was tasered by police (they have campus police???) for failing to produce identification. Whether or not he should have complied with the request for ID (it was a routine check because it was late at night, but he thought he had been singled out because of his Middle eastern appearance), the officers certainly used excessive force, as he had gone limp and laid down, which was not presenting a physical threat to the police.

In order to get into our campus library, your student card is automatically scanned at the door; you don't need police officers to go round checking IDs, even if it is late at night. It's fair enough requiring ID to access specific resources like libraries, but you should require it of everyone, not selected individuals.

There's also a video of the incident available from YouTube.

Monday, November 20, 2006

geek heaven

Babylon 5Babylon 5: The Lost Tales
It will be a direct to dvd collection of 20 minutes stories set in the b5 universe that will feature the prominent characters.
These stories will expand on the characters that were previously established. The only character he mentioned would not be covered would be G'Kar since he believes no one should ever voice G'Kar except for Andreas Katsulas, who passed away earlier this year.
Apparently there will also be a new TV series:
JMS speaks: Little mini-movies or an anthology show set in the Babylon 5 universe. I pick a character and develop an hour-long story around that character. Stories that I wanted to tell during the B5 series but never had the chance to develop. They said, Okay. I said I wanted complete creative control. Do not change my words that I write, and I want that in writing. They said, Okay. And I want to direct. They said, Okay.
Great Maker! More B5! I never thought this would happen. And JMS to be given full creative control. Marvellous. One of the reasons B% was so brilliant, apart from the writing, was the way it subverted ideas of TV sci-fi as a military affair, foregrounded religion and culture, and generally championed diversity as a good thing.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

the eleventh hour

Oops, I totally failed to notice what day it is today until now, though perhaps one should question the imposition of a day of mourning when the negotiators postponed the declaration of the peace until the symbolic moment of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and people were still getting killed right up until the last few minutes of the war. Wilfred Owen, for instance, was killed on 4 November 1918. News of his death reached his mother just as the town's church bells were ringing to announce the peace. Canadian George Lawrence Price is traditionally regarded as the last soldier killed in the Great War: he was shot by a German sniper and died at 10:58. So, in keeping 11 November as the day of remembrance, we are commemorating the fact that some idiot killed a considerable number of men (on both sides) who might otherwise have survived this tragic and pointless conflict.
The armistice was signed at 5.05 in the morning and the message was sent out from Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig's headquarters at 6.50. It read: 'Hostilities will cease at 11.00 hours today, November 11th. Troops will stand fast on the line reached'. (ThisIsBradford.co.uk)
Allied Powers:
Military dead:
Military wounded: 12,831,000
Military missing: 4,121,000
Central Powers:
Military dead:
Military wounded: 8,388,000
Military missing: 3,629,000
(from Wikipedia)
And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead --
Never knew there was worse things than dying.

For I'll go no more "Waltzing Matilda,"
All around the green bush far and free --
To hump tents and pegs, a man needs both legs,
No more "Waltzing Matilda" for me.

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve, to mourn and to pity.

-- from The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, by Eric Bogle

a field of poppies

pavement poems...

I was just looking for my favourite Ginsberg poem (A strange new cottage in Berkeley) on the web, when I found that it is engraved on a pavement somewhere in Berkeley, along with poems by other poets associated with Berkeley (including, I am glad to say, the Ohlone, the local Native Americans). Here's another article about it, and a photo of the panels in situ. This reminded me of Joe's post the other day with evocative photos of Glasgow and Edinburgh, including one of a poem written on the pavement. As he says, it is "these tiny presents that suddenly make life magical". I also used to enjoy the poems on the London Underground (in the slots normally reserved for adverts); it's a pity they stopped doing those, though someone kindly bought me the book for Yule one year. Poetry awakens something in us, perhaps because it is the unification of two modes of consciousness, the linguistic and the metaphorical and rhythmic. It is good to encounter poetry in unexpected places. I recall once I was in a subway near Waterloo station when I saw a beautiful piece of poetry being painted on the wall in elegant calligraphic letters - I noted down the name of the author, but never got round to following it up, and now I can't remember who it's by. Is it still there? Has anyone seen it?


I laughed. A lot. Apparently George W Bush is the AntiChrist, and his grandpa was the Great Beast. (How come poor old Crowley gets the blame for everything?)
And here, you thought the AntiChrist would be brighter. (Joseph Cannon)
Maybe the Antichrist is in fact a whole dynasty....

Eek, I just skim-read the website where these calculations came from. It really is a dynasty! According to this website, Bush is related to the Emperor Nero, Herod the Great, and other nasties. That explains why he's so dumb, then - it's all the inbreeding of his ancestors.

Seriously though, I don't think you need spurious genealogy or the apocalyptic and hallucinogen-inspired ramblings of St John to explain the current state of affairs in the USA. It's just the usual imperialist and capitalist agenda; not hard to explain. But this sort of thing certainly makes for entertaining reading.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Last week we went to see Mine by Xavier Leret at the Bristol Old Vic (he's posted some extracts from the forthcoming film on his blog). The dialogue was mostly very realistic (as far as I could tell, never having been stuck in a minefield in the middle of the night with two psychopaths) and the moral dubiousness of journalists' desire for a "story" was brought out by the unfolding plot. The way in which the context of the locals' lives was brought out by the story about Huso and the brandy was very good, as well. Nick was at college with Xavier.

This week we went to see the play of The Marriage of Figaro (original by Beaumarchais, translation and adaptation by Ranjit Bolt). Bolt's version was set in Moghul India and performed by Tara Arts in a style influenced by Bhavai theatre. It was very high energy and very enjoyable, with great costumes, music and dialogue. I sat next to Ranjit Bolt in a theatre in Cambridge once (around 1991 or 1992), and we got chatting (this is before he was famous, but he was just about to hit the big-time). Very nice chap.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Change your sex with a doctor's note
Under the rule being considered by the city’s [New York's] Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent. - New York Times
Gender and sex are not the same things. There is far too much conflation of sex and gender in the West (and I think this may be one reason why gender reassignment surgery is generally considered to be the solution to having physical characteristics which don't "match" your gender identity - though I wouldn't deny someone that surgery if they really felt it to be necessary).

I prefer the idea that gender is fluid, and is a performance. In fact, many supposed sexual characteristics are socially constructed as well - boys are encouraged to develop their muscles, girls are not, for example).

In many societies, you can be a man who lives like a woman, a woman who lives like a man, or just a gender-blender (consider hijras in India, the berdache, two-spirit etc.)

I am a computer (mainly web) geek, so I work with a majority of male colleagues. Sometimes I am "one of the lads" and sometimes I perform a more female role. Everyone performs a gender role all the time, even when they aren't aware of it (do you sit with your legs open or closed? do you fart? belch? swear? go to the loo with your friends? wear make-up?)

Read the excellent Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett if you don't believe that gender is a performance, and is different from sexual characteristics.

Gender shouldn't be on documents anyway - it's obviously going to be awkward when showing your documents to officials if your apparent gender doesn't match what it says on the paper.

My article Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Paganisms explores these issues further in the context of Paganisms.

Monday, October 30, 2006

we're all Basques

Apparently Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings only represent about 5% of the British population anywhere in the British Isles; the highest concentration of Anglo-Saxons is in Norfolk, where it's about 15%. The rest of us are in fact related to the Basques; both Britons and Basques are largely descended from the first hunter-gatherers to settle in the area after the ice retreated, who would have spoken a language rather like Basque. And, even weirder, we may have been speaking a Germanic dialect before the arrival of the Romans, and they reckon modern English is directly descended from this language. That is weird. The only thing I don't understand is, when did we change from a Basque-type language to the Germanic fore-runner of English? Presumably as a result of cultural interchange with the Belgae. Well, in response to people who are fiercely "Celtic" and accuse the English of being Saxon interlopers, I've always said that I am a pre-Celtic indigene, and that the Celts were invaders too. But, as always, the picture is far more complex than was previously thought, and there were not waves of invasions and massacres. The new understanding of all this is supported by genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA and the male Y chromosome, and by the classical writers (Tacitus, Herodotus etc).

Eup lagunak. Kaixo aspaldiko! Zer Moduz?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

surreal art

I just got a phonecall from Philip Bouchard, whose Surreal Spaces exhibition I went to last year in the Victoria Art Gallery, to inform me that his new website is up and running - he says it's not quite finished but I like the design anyway, and besides the paintings are the most important bit - and that he will have some prints on sale at the Atrium Gallery in the Podium Centre in Bath in November.

Do take a look at his pictures, they are really wonderful. This one looks a bit like a baroque Tardis; I also love the way he puts real buildings in surreal landscapes. The tone and colour of some of the works puts me in mind of Claude Lorrain, especially this one of St Pancras Station in a classical landscape - ah, apparently it is inspired by Lorrain, though I spotted that without reading the caption. I really like the way he plays with space, and the hyperreality of his style, which he uses to create illusory worlds.

democracy under threat

From the SaveParliament campaign:
Remember the Abolition of Parliament Bill? The one back in the spring, which could have been used to end democracy as we know it?

It is still at large, and making its way through Parliament. Thanks to you, it is much less dangerous than it was. But it is still quite dangerous.

Yesterday the House of Lords voted to make the Bill safer. And lost. By just 13 votes. At first we growled and shouted in frustration! But then we realised that there's another chance. There'll be a final vote this Thursday.

And you can help.

We'd like you to write to a Member of the House of Lords. Here's how to do it. It'll only take you a moment, and this time we know it really can make a difference.

1. Go to http://www.writetothem.com/lords

2. Click "Random Lord" near the bottom of the page.

3. If you get a Labour peer, then click the back button and press "Random Lord" again. No point writing to Government peers on this one. Liberal Democrat, Crossbench, Bishops etc. are all fine.

4. Write a letter making the following points in your own words:

The Third Reading (that's the last one in the House of Lords) of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is this coming Thursday, 2nd November.

Explain to the Lord how important Parliament is to hold the Government's power in balance, and how you would not like to see this Bill passed in a form which would weaken Parliament.

In the first clause of the Bill, there is a section which says that the purpose of the Bill is to "reduce burdens". Unfortunately, all it says that the Minister must consider whether the change in law he wants to make reduces burdens. This is better than the original Bill at the start of the year, but it is still not good enough.

Say that you would like the phrase "he considers" to be removed from the Bill, so that any law changed under it must be considered burden-reducing by any reasonable person. Rather than by a possibly unreasonable Minister.

(you can skip the last two points if it seems too complicated to explain; the next one is the key one)

Ask the Lord to attend Parliament on Thursday, and vote for any opposition amendments which remove the phrase "he considers", or otherwise make the Bill safer.

Ask your Lord to vote against passing the Third Reading of the Bill if the phrase "he considers" is not removed.

And thank them!

5. Send the letter. You're done.
There were just 13 votes in it yesterday. We really can win this one. Thanks to your help!

Please write to your Lord now.

Francis Irving
Campaigns Director
Save Parliament


I kind of like the idea of writing to your Lord - it sounds vaguely feudal....

Thursday, October 26, 2006

wish me luck

DATE: Tuesday, 31st October 2006
TIME: 1.15 - 3.05pm (NB actual talk is 1 hour)
VENUE: 8W 2.5, University of Bath

SPEAKER: Yvonne Aburrow

TITLE: 'Gender, Sexuality and Contemporary Paganisms'
SUMMARY: The paper looks at how issues around gender and sexuality are viewed in contemporary Paganisms. The feminist and gay liberation movements have had significant interaction with contemporary Paganisms, and the image of the witch has been reclaimed by both feminists and Pagans who want to explore the aspects of gender identity that were previously marginalised and suppressed.


Friday, October 20, 2006

green sky and stories

Just finished watching the video of Neverwhere (still brilliant after all these years) and then watched the interview with Neil Gaiman. One of the things he said was that he was taking a journalist on a tour of one of the sets and the journalist was very weirded out by the whole thing and said it was like an acid trip he had had once, whereupon Neil Gaiman pointed out that it was like that in his head all the time. I have always thought that the inside of Mr Gaiman's head must be a very strange place to live; whilst I like to visit Gaiman-world on a regular basis, I'm not sure I'd like to live there permanently. (Though if it was a choice between the inside of Mr Gaiman's head and the inside of Mr Vandermeer's head, I'd choose Mr Gaiman every time. Ambergris is not nice.) Don't get me wrong, I love Neil Gaiman's writing, I think it's genius-level.

The second thing that struck me was that Neil Gaiman said that as a child, people repeatedly told him to stop making things up. Apart from the fact that it is deeply deeply wrong to tell any child not to make things up (a friend of mine stopped writing stories because a teacher told her that you couldn't ascribe emotions to the sky; and I was quite traumatised by being told that the sky is never green, when I had noticed it being green), it is certainly even more deeply wrong to tell people like Neil Gaiman not to make things up. The world would be a much poorer and duller place if it was not enriched by his stories. I would have gone on believing that Snow White was nice if it wasn't for Snow, Glass, Apples. And his view of how deities work (as in American Gods) is very inspiring and interesting for many polytheists. (Ditto some of Mr Pratchett's theories.) What if Neil Gaiman had thought, 'oh yeah, they're right, I'll stop making things up', and just became an accountant? It would have been a tragedy, for both him and the world. His head would have exploded with all that pent-up creativity. He made light of the whole thing, but it could have been a disaster.
Alice and the caterpillar
The sky is green at sunset, as there is a spectrum from red to violet as the sun descends over the horizon... into the underworld. I have also seen the sky a deep olive green immediately before a massive freak hailstorm with hailstones the size of eyeballs. And you can have skies with emotion - if it was good enough for Balzac, Flaubert et al, it was good enough for my friend. But even if the sky was never green and never looked emotional, that shouldn't stop people writing about it. There's an excellent story by AS Byatt where the sky turns green, and the eldest princess is sent off to find out why, and she gets distracted in her quest, because, well, she knows she is the eldest and therefore doomed to fail (because it's always the youngest sibling that finally completes the quest), so she wanders off to live with a nice wise woman, and decides that she actually quite likes the new colour of the sky, so everyone will just have to learn to live with it.

So please don't ever stop making things up, Mr Gaiman, or anyone else with a rich and strange imagination. Pass the cheese and bring on the nightmares...


I've just been alerted to this nonsense by Synesis: new legislation is supposed to extend gay rights to not being discriminated against in the areas of hospitality, healthcare and adoption, among other things. However, the Cabinet is now split over what to do about homophobic religious organisations who do not want to offer their services to gay and lesbian people.

There is no excuse for homophobia in any context - if you take the fact that being gay is completely natural and the fact that according to monotheist theology, their god created everything including gays, then clearly he must have made them gay, so it's completely illogical (not to mention immoral) to say that gayness is wrong.

And people wonder why I say that Christianity is dangerous. Not necessarily Christians - some of them have transcended this nonsense and embraced an inclusive ethic - but Christianity as it is taught in the Bible.

You can't enact a piece of legislation and then allow a huge swathe of the population to ignore it. Although, as Synesis points out, gay people probably wouldn't want to spend their money with homophobic organisations anyway. But, as happened to a gay couple last year who booked a room in a guesthouse and then when they turned up, the owner turned them away, you might not know it was homophobic till you got there. And then you'd be left standing in the rain with nowhere to go.

If, after reading this, you still don't understand why I think Christianity is dangerous, read this as well.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

gay animals

Sparky the Gay Dog
The Oslo Natural History Museum has put on an exhibition of photos of lesbian, gay and bisexual animals. I saw a programme on Channel 4 about this a few years ago - apparently there are thousands of hours of footage of gay animals which never make it into the natural history documentaries in case it upsets the poor little viewers' delicate sensibilities.

So what if the motivation behind the exhibition is political? People need to be made aware that it's natural to be gay. Some evil bastard in the southern states of the USA beat his dog to death for being gay, so it's a matter of preventing homophobic cruelty to animals as much as preventing homophobia against people.

I know a couple who have a lesbian cat. I also remember the documentary on the BBC where David Attenborough claimed that a female dolphin was "buzzing" another female dolphin to see if she was pregnant, when it was obviously done to give pleasure.

Online exhibition of gay animal photos

groovy cats

Record store cats - very cute

This is quite possibly the maddest cat thing there has been since Viking Kittens.

I also like Wildlife Wilf. But the little black kitty in the paper bag is the cutest. Aww.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

a day in the life

Today, I got up at 7.00, had a shower, ate Quaker Oats Granola with goats' milk for breakfast, had a cup of black tea with goats' milk (I have candidiasis, so have to avoid cow's milk, among other things) and had a discussion with my husband about interfaith and Pagan spirituality compared with Buddhism (we went to a talk on Buddhism last night). Our two cats came in and had their Science Plan. Harry wanted to be sat with while he ate as usual; he is a rescue cat and very emotional; it took him three years to learn how to purr. Bean went straight to the bed to lie on her favourite blanket.

I drove to work via Beach and Lansdown to avoid the traffic (the scenery is lovely that way, especially now the trees are turning gold). Got into work about quarter to nine. Spent the day working through some of the tasks my boss gave me yesterday; coming up with a unified design for our web applications; emailed the marketing department to see if they'd like to produce a design for our site; looked at ways of producing rounded corners using CSS; and investigated the possibility of creating an XSLT to render RSS feeds nicely. Had a big lunch (veggie burger and chips - burger was some sort of horrid soya protein, won't be eating that again) because I won't be home till nine tonight, as I am attending my MA course at Bath Spa University, on Contemporary Religions and Spiritualities (currently doing a Research Methods module).

I am working on a Pagan theologies wiki, and received permission to put up three more questionnaire responses today. I collected the data two years ago, but it was for a book, so I want to be sure that people are happy with me using it on a website instead.

Left work at 3.30 so as to drive to Bath Spa to register for an Athens account, as I was told (by a security person) that I needed to speak to a librarian; it turned out I just needed a green sheet of instructions, then I coulddo it myself in the computer room. Not best pleased. Still, I am in the computer room now (PCs are quite slow and I couldn't get Firefox) and had a play on Athens, and then checked my Bath Spa webmail and found a link about this History Matters mass blog thing, which is why I am writing this post.

When I get home I will have a chicken korma ready meal that I left in the fridge to defrost.

desert thoughts

Rantings of an Arabian Woman by Mystique
My Prayer by Mystique

Really heartfelt poetry from Mystique, whose blog was featured on the BBC.

The "rantings" seem very reasonable to me, but then I am fortunate enough to live in a society where my every move is not controlled by men.

I love the prayer poem, it's very pagan.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

jihad in space

My MA tutor sent me an interesting article on Beliefnet about Battlestar Galactica and religion. I haven't been watching the new series, but it sounds as if it could be interesting, as I love SF and am fascinated by religion. I might have to wait till it comes out on DVD now, though, as I'd never catch up with the plot if I started watching it now.

Interesting that the author of the original show was a Mormon, and drew heavily on his beliefs for the storylines. What is it with SF and religion? The current writer/director is not a Mormon, but religion is still a prominent theme on the show, and humans are polytheists (hurrah!) One of the benefits of examining religious conflict in the context of SF is that you can give your fictional religions different names from religions that exist now, which reduces the likelihood of offending people - although quite a few people have identified the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica with both fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians. To which I have to say, if you're ugly, don't look in the mirror.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

green light

Cheap and efficient solar power has now become much more available thanks to the Grätzel cell, according to Technology Review. Manufacture of the cells (which are much more efficient and cheaper to produce than the traditional silicon cells) has begun. Also it is possible to integrate the cells into buildimng materials and windows, obviating the need for special additional structures.

Monday, October 09, 2006


1. A book I have read more than once

Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin (and lots of other books, but I keep coming back to this one for the way it portrays a whole world and culture).

2. A book I would want on a desert island

Aarrgghh, only allowed one? Tricky. If I can only have one, it would probably be a large blank book with an inexhaustible supply of paper and pens, so I could finally write that novel. But I'd also like the Tao Te Ching. One would need something profound to get one through the experience.

3. A book that made me laugh

Watching the English by Kate Fox. Hilarious - and an incisive observation of what makes the English tick. Recommended reading for all non-English people, especially Scots (though it will of course justify your feelings of superiority).

4. A book that made me cry

Crikey, I'm always crying at books. Recently, though, I read the sequels to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr, and those made me cry a lot - mainly at the utter drabness of 1940s Britain, and the difficulties experienced by the main character's beloved Papa and the other refugees, but also because of the way she evokes the little details of oppression, of lives wasted, whole communities destroyed.

5. A book I wish I had written

Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker - I got to the end and almost started reading it again from the beginning, I loved it so much. It also made me cry.

6. A book I wish had never been written

The Story of O. It's all wrong - tone, atmosphere, politics, everything. Though whether one should wish that a book had never been written, I am not sure. But I certainly wish I hadn't read it.

7. A book I am currently reading

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (alongside a couple of other things for my course) - I've only just started it, though. I was interested because a colleague recommended it to me, and it is about first contact and cultural misunderstandings - two fascinating topics. Oddly, it's not in classic SF style, it reads more like a thriller so far.

8. A book I have been meaning to read

Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It's about clones and ethics, and what constitutes humanity.

9. A book that changed my life

Indirectly, the works of Foucault - I went to a lecture about Foucault and that changed my life. All the doubts and niggles I had been feeling about psychology suddenly fell into place, or came into focus - Foucault had explained it all.

I don't normally do these memes, but this is a good one, and something I can respond to. Found it on foucaultonacid.

Friday, October 06, 2006

limbo bimbos

Theological doctrine of limbo is... in limbo
The current review of limbo began in 2004, when Pope John Paul II asked the commission to come up with "a more coherent and enlightened way" of describing the fate of such innocent babes.
Why don't they just admit that babies who die get reincarnated? (OK, so that creates an even bigger theological difficulty, because of the Catholic doctrine of the unity of body and soul, but if they really want to make people happy....)

Apparently the review of the doctrine of limbo is part of a "wider re-examination of the notion of salvation that has been taking place within the Church" - crikey, now that would be interesting, if the Catholics suddenly became Universalists. Unlikely, though.


reading late at night,
tears crystallise into grit -
pearls will form later.

(haiku by Yvonne Aburrow)

Monday, October 02, 2006


If I Was Born in 2893...
My Name Would Be: Umoro Iara
And I Would Be: A Demi-God

If You Were Born in 2893

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Stothert & Pitt works (Newark Foundry)
Stop The Bulldozer: "Bath and North East Somerset council are sponsoring a scheme to replace all the existing buildings with a pair of six storey glass and concrete constructions; a replacement campus for Bath Spa University and the Dyson Engineering School."
The architect who designed this building went on to design the parliament buidlings in Canada, and this is the only example of his work in the Bath area. Surely the new use that is planned for the site could incorporate the existing building, and not demolish it? The designs for the new buildings are utterly boring and trivial, with no distinguishing features whatsoever. Bath is a World Heritage Site and does not need any more crappy modern buildings ruining its character.

Monday, September 25, 2006

the squid lives

Parsnip found that looks like Cthulhu

A Bedfordshire woman's home has become a shrine for latter-day worshippers of the Lovecraftian horror Cthulhu, after the tentacly one manifested in her garden in the form of a parsnip, writes our correspondent, H A Wilcox.

total perspective vortex

View of Earth from SaturnYou Are Here → | Metro.co.uk
A photo of Earth taken by the Cassini probe from Saturn's orbit reveals just how big space really is. There's a tiny tiny speck in a vast expanse of black, with Saturn's rings in the foreground. Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Men shake their bellies | Reuters.co.uk - Amazing dancing. So there you go, men, don't replace that beer-belly with a six-pack, just paint a tiger or lion face on it and shake it all about. Very cool.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

out of context

BBC News: The Pope's speech

The whole furore over the Pope's speech has been blown out of all proportion, just because a short soundbite was taken out of context. This is what is so irresponsible about news - it takes a tiny bit of something out of context and then relays it around the world just to wind everyone up.

I can honestly say that I am a completely neutral observer (not being a Catholic at all), but taken in context, there's nothing to be offended about. I'm not a fan of "God's Rottweiler", particularly, but I intensely dislike being misled by the media.

This is what he actually said:
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read... of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.

In the seventh conversation...the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. ... he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.
  1. The Pope distances himself from Manuel II by prefacing the quote with the phrase "with a startling brusqueness" and following with "after having expressed himself so forcefully".
  2. Manuel II was talking in the sense of comparative religion, saying that the main difference between his religion (Orthodox Christianity, which didn't do forcible conversions as far as I know) and Islam was that Muhammad had only brought violence (in addition to stuff that other religions had already invented). Clearly they hadn't really got the hang of interfaith dialogue in those days.
  3. The Pope is quoting this in support of his argument that faith and reason need to go hand in hand; not as part of an attempt to persuade people that Islam is bad.
  4. He is specifically talking about Islam because he wants to make the point that the Muslim view of God (in the 14th century at any rate) was that God transcends our categories, even rationality; whereas the Byzantine view was that not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. He then reflects on the question of whether the Greek view is universally true, or just an opinion.
My own criticism of the above would be that the Pope should also have mentioned the forced conversions of Muslims and Jews in Spain in the fifteenth century, and indeed the Crusades, which were also heinous (and could also have been used to bolster his argument that faith and reason should go hand in hand), but apart from that, it is clear that the Pope himself was not saying that Islam is evil and inhuman (and I'm pretty sure Manuel II Paleologus wasn't actually saying that either). Here's the whole speech if you want even more context.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


A joke heard by my team leader at a wedding:

As the inflatable teacher in the inflatable school said to the inflatable boy who brought a drawing pin into the school:

"You've let yourself, down, you've let me down, and you've let the whole school down."

Monday, September 04, 2006

folk wisdom

A colleague sent me this very amusing page: Making Light: Folksongs Are Your Friends, all about the wisdom inherent in folksongs, as we were discussing various folksongs, and I quoted a friend of mine who always says that English folksongs are about rebellion and raunchiness, Irish folksongs are about famine and disaster, and Scottish folksongs are about incest and murder (preferably both in the same song). Nevertheless, it's surprising how much of the wisdom in folk songs is still relevant, especially "A fellow who's a massively accomplished flirt hasn't been spending his time sitting around waiting for his One True Love to come along. Furthermore, odds are poor that you'll turn out to be his One True Love who will reform him."

life in colour

Over the weekend we watched two movies (one directed by Steven Soderbergh, the other produced by him): Sex Lies and Videotape (1989) and Pleasantville (1998). As a result of watching these, I can only conclude that life in the USA is irremediably drab and conformist. (This is confirmed by the fact that teenagers have to wear beige to school in order not to appear like someone who will go mad with a gun.)

Sex Lies and Videotape is about the strange empty lives of small-town Americans - the lawyer character (a former frat boy) gets quite aerated about the fact that the other main male character, Graham, wears a black shirt - apparently this is very weird in hicksville. There were definitely parallels between the themes of the two films.

Pleasantville was a very good film. The effects were stunning - the way the monotone world starts breaking out in colour, first as a sort of overlaid Technicolor, and then as real colours, as people start changing and having emotions. The story was very effective, particularly the scary book-burning and window-smashing scene, reminiscent of Kristallnacht; and the sign in the window saying "NO COLOREDS", reminiscent of segregation in the 1950s. And all of it an oblique comment on Bush's vision (and that of the Christian right) of what America should be like. The character development of the two main characters was interesting too.

We have also realised that our cat, Bean, is an escapee from Pleasantville. She is grey and white and always happy. She rarely thinks about anything - clearly the perfect citizen of Pleasantville.

Soderbergh's next film, Jennifer Government, looks to be exploring some of the same ideas, only this time, it's set in a future where the corporations run everything. (Hey, wait a minute, that's the present, isn't it?) I think I can see a theme developing here.

In fact there are quite a few people drawing these parallels between the current situation in America and past and future totalitarian scenarios. V for Vendetta, Babylon 5, Equilibrium, Gattaca, The Truman Show, etc.

Live your life in colour - don't let the greyness (or the beigeness) engulf you.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Brilliant post on CatBlog - Sunday thoughts
The problem is not Christianity.
The problem is Fundamentalism.

It doesn't matter what religious (or political, or philosophical) belief you hold - if you claim that your belief is The Only Truth and that all those who disagree are not just Wrong, but Evil... then you are part of the problem.

It doesn't matter if you are on the Right or the Left, if you are Christian, Moslem, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Scientific Materialist Atheist or something you made up for yourself... if your belief is True and all others False, then you are part of the problem.

If you can genuinely talk with those who believe differently to you and compare notes on the Universe - and actually listen to and learn from the points on which you differ - then you are not part of the problem.

If you are willing to change your beliefs on the basis of life experience or finding wisdom from the minds of others, then you are not part of the problem.

If you hold compassion for all people, regardless of how much they do not resemble you, you are not part of the problem.

Yes, that includes compassion for the Fundamentalists.

For all that their attitudes scare and horrify us, they are humans too - with the same potential for change and growth. It is hard to reach them through the armour of their hardened belief and their fear and hatred of the Different - but that should never stop us trying.

To see them as a single Enemy is to fall into the same trap they are in.
I couldn't have put it better. Hooray for the rainbow of possibilities and the multiplicity of truths!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Just been to Amanda and Sandra's wedding, it was lovely. It was the first civil partnership ceremony we had been to, and we were thrilled to be invited. The tears started welling up at the beginning of the vows, and then when Amanda started, I really got going. I never cry at straight weddings, but I find same-sex ones very moving (mostly because it wasn't allowed till recently) - even the ones where I just saw some photos on the web brought tears to my eyes. The ceremony was very nice (it was the first one that the celebrant had done apparently) and the reception was lovely - the pub where they had it, the Blue Bowl, had really pushed the boat out, and it looked splendid. The food was fab too, and the cake was brilliant; it had a little icing model of Amanda and Sandra on top. Cute! And all the people at the wedding were really nice. Someone managed to get them a "Mrs & Mrs" card, and there was a love-spoon too (well, a wooden spoon with lavender ribbons on it).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

tall trees, warm fires

Fortunately my upbringing (despite the Exclusive Brethren trying to make it severely uncool) had a number of intimations of things to come:
  • my parents always had a Christmas tree; this was forbidden by the Brethren killjoys, on the grounds of it being Pagan, so my mum told me not to tell anyone at the meeting. I said "What's Pagan?" and my mum told me it was where in ancient times, people would go up to the top of hills and light bonfires to make sure the sun came back after the shortest day. I thought that sounded really great.
  • there's this bit in the Acts of the Apostles where the silversmiths get annoyed with Paul and start shouting "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians" - I liked the sound of her too.
  • one day I asked my dad if animals had souls; he said they did, even though doctrine says not.
All of which reminds me of a rather nice Pagan chant:
Tall trees, warm fires
Strong winds, deep waters
I feel it in my body
I feel it in my soul
And another thing, there were legends about Aleister Crowley among the Peebs - deliciously scary tales for a dark winter's night....

woolly thinking

Excellent post from Joe about weapons of mass literature - after all books are so obviously a dangerous terrorist weapon.

My personal theory about why books have been included in the ban on hand-luggage being taken onto planes is either that the person who decided on the ban is a total idiot who doesn't read and doesn't think other people do; or that they are in the pay of the purveyors of headphones for the in-flight movie.

Either way, the fact that someone has come up with the nifty idea of printing literature onto scarves reminds me of the days of samizdat literature. Though of course, in the hands of a Thuggee extremist, a scarf was a dangerous weapon too...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


You scored as Batman, the Dark Knight. As the Dark Knight of Gotham, Batman is a vigilante who deals out his own brand of justice to the criminals and corrupt of the city. He follows his own code and is often misunderstood. He has few friends or allies, but finds comfort in his cause.

Batman, the Dark Knight -- 83%
El Zorro -- 79%
Captain Jack Sparrow -- 79%
James Bond, Agent 007 -- 79%
Neo, the "One" -- 79%
Lara Croft -- 71%
Maximus -- 71%
Indiana Jones -- 67%
William Wallace -- 67%
The Amazing Spider-Man -- 63%

Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com

Hmm, I'd rather be Zorro, but Batman is OK.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Don't be fooled by the cranky exterior of the Exclusive Brethren. They're the religious equivalent of Vogons.

I know because I was brought up in them till the age of 9. For those who don't know me, no, this does not make me sad and repressed. (Aleister Crowley was brought up in the Exclusive Brethren also - it's why he was so vehemently anti-Christian and outrageously hedonistic).

The Exclusive Brethren prevent their members from watching TV, listening to the radio, using mobile phones and computers, using contraception, eating with non-believers (this includes other Christians), going to pubs, having pets, and talking to members of their family who have been thrown out for committing any of these offences. They make their women wear headscarves and don't allow them to cut their hair (you can spot them very easily, they're the exhausted-looking ones with the bovine expressions and umpteen kids in tow). And the Gods help you if you were discovered to be gay. Two women who lived together (dunno if they were lesbians or not) were excluded on suspicion of being lesbians. Pets were banned sometime in the mid-sixties; this resulted in a number of people gassing their budgies (this was still the time when gas ovens used coal gas).

As a result of the behaviour of this delightful organisation, I didn't see either of my sets of grandparents for the last 20 years of their lives (they were forbidden to talk to us); and my aunt's husband intercepted all my mum's letters to her mum (when her mum was dying) and didn't give them to her. I only found out that my other grandmother had died because someone who worked in the Register (of births, marriages, and deaths) told me.

They stick rigidly to everything it says in the Bible (you can find sources in the Bible for all the practices listed above). So if you ever hear me being anti-Christian in my remarks, the above will explain why. (I do realise that not all Christians are like this, but they're all referring to the same holy book. I have the deepest respect for many individual Christians, but I have a strong philosophical objection to the basic premises of their religion.)

There's a support site for people who have suffered from the Exclusive Brethren.


The Birdhouse in Doctor Ashen's Soul: Technobabble and Social Engineering 101

What a great way to relieve tedium at work (if you don't have access to the internet). And I love the pseudo-scientific explanation.

Friday, August 11, 2006

V vindicated

Starfisher: Masks - excellent post about V for Vendetta, masks, politics, and psychoanalysis.
Consider the recent political climate and government use of fear prevalent in the UK as well as the US. Is it dangerous to acknowledge that every terrorist is someone else's freedom fighter? If so, where do you draw the line between the two? And at what point should human rights to a fair trial take second place to the 'greater good'? Who actually decides this? Are we all, even now, consenting through our silence to a process which will lead to the denial of basic human rights? Or has that already happened, and are we ignoring it?
All these issues, and the balance of power between the state and the individual, and the nature of identity itself, were raised by both the film and the book of V. And I really enjoyed the imagery in the film - the bit with the fried egg on toast in the frying-pan, and the way the camera gradually panned out from it, and numerous other motifs; especially the roses.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Luther Arkwright film

"Luther Arkwright" Goes To Film (July 20th 2006) - wow that announcement was made on my birthday.

Hope the film is true to the spirit of the books. But I'd really like to see a Luther Arkwright film, I think it'd be great. I actually liked the film of V for Vendetta, but maybe that's because I saw the film and then read the book, not the other way around.


I had a really weird dream this morning. I dreamt that I was in Pakistan, and that there had been some enormous natural disaster (flood or famine or drought), and that I had volunteered to drive a bus-load of people to somewhere out if the disaster zone. I dreamt that I drove 78 miles without stopping, and then went into an empty house and slept for ages. That's weird, I've never before gone to sleep and then woken up in a dream. Nick and a friend, Adrian, were with me. Then we got up, wandered around the village (vivid images of dry brown fields with a dusty lane and an irrigation ditch lined with green bushes), and then came to a house with a lot of books in the porch. We knocked on the inner door, and an elderly local couple came downstairs and welcomed us in and offered us lovely food. From their balcony was a splendid view of rocky coastline and blue water. I don't know what that was all about, but it was very vivid.

DNA petition

Protect innocent people's DNA - sign the petition At the moment the police can retain DNA samples on their database indefinitely, even if the owner of the DNA is innocent of any crime. There are now around 140,000 people on the National DNA database who have never been charged with a criminal offence. Nearly 25,000 of them are children. A quarter of the records are from members of minority ethnic groups whilst they only make up under one in ten of the overall population; looks like racial discrimination.

Monday, August 07, 2006

live your dreams

When did we forget our dreams? - a repudiation of the axiom that bloggers should be careful what they write, in case future employers might see it. I can only concur - if "future employers" have no sense of humour and a narrow, crabbed and conformist attitude to life, then I don't want to work for them.

Don't dream it, be it!

ceasefire now!

Ceasefire Campaign: CeaseFire Now Petition It's not much, but it's the least we can do to sign this petition. It's so sad that Lebanon was just rebuilding after so many years of bloodshed and destruction, and now it's in an even worse state than it was before. And they can't get aid to the people, because the bridges have been bombed.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Was off in Scotland for a week last week, which was very pleasant. Went walking in the Pentland Hills and in the area of Carlops, visited Rosslyn Chapel, and met up with the Silvereel and Joe Gordon. It was fabulous to meet them at last, and we had an excellent chat about literature and all manner of things.

Also met up with various other friends, which was a lot of fun.

I had been to Rosslyn Chapel before (in around 1997 or 1998), but it's always enjoyable, and it was quite fun to compare the reality with the film version. Also explored further around the castle this time.

On the way up to Scotland, we visited Little Moreton Hall, and stayed over in Lancaster, where I caught up with another old friend; Mayburgh Henge and King Arthur's Round Table. On the way back, we visited Brough Castle and Boscobel. I had always wanted to visit Boscobel, and I wasn't disappointed. It was very moving to see the priest hole where Charles II hid for 9 hours, and the site of the famous oak tree. I am not a royalist in general, but I am a Jacobite.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Hilarious: Cats That Look Like Hitler!: aww poor pussy cats, they can't help having a little black smudge under their noses. There's even one somewhere on the site that looked like Charlie Chaplin.

I once met a cat that looked like a vicar - he was black with a little white smudge on his neck where the dog-collar would be. He was called The Creech as I recall.

Monday, July 10, 2006

ID cards doomed

ID cards doomed, say officials - Times Online

Ha. Ha. Ha. The organisation charged with implementing ID cards thinks the whole think is a complete disaster (especially given the performance of previous government IT projects). But we should not relax our vigilance - just because something is completely stupid and utterly unfeasible, doesn't mean the government won't try to do it. Look at the mess in Iraq.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

red boots

Red boots and mirrors and stars...

Cheshire Crossing - an online graphic novel. Excellent. Three classic heroines meet scary reality...

(Spotted by Cavalorn


'What will your obituary say?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Spotted on dr-madraykin

Friday, June 30, 2006

let them go

BBC News: World: Americas: Drawn-out endgame for Guantanamo?

Thank goodness for the Supreme Court (we could do with one of those in Britain). Presidents always try to scupper the independence of the Supreme Court by loading it with conservatives, but they inexplicably become liberal once they have security of tenure. The Court has ruled that the military commissions which were to try Guantanamo Bay detainees are illegal. And in 2004, they ruled that the detainees could bring habeas corpus suits against the US government. But the process is still taking too damn long; if the remaining detainees are not freed soon, more of them are going to crack under the insanity of the place and the way they are treated. A few of them may actually have been terrorists, but it looks as if the US army just rounded up a few random people around the Pakistan / Afghanistan border to make it look as if they were doing something in the aftermath of 9/11.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Goring and Stowe

Goring and Stowe photos - at the weekend, we went to visit some friends in Goring. On Saturday, we walked along the Thames and visited a lovely meadow.

On Sunday, they took us to Stowe, a mad landscape garden which inspired a lot of other landscape gardens (including West Wycombe, where Francis Dashwood took the micky out of Stowe).

Had lots of good coversation, marvellous food, and was introduced to Alan Moore's Promethea (Book 1).

Corfu photos

My Corfu photos are now on Flickr. As I took around 300 photos it was difficult to decide which ones to upload, but I think these are the best.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

last stand of the Bushmen

Appeal from the Bushmen of the Kalahari
This is our home, the home of our ancestors, which we have inherited from our forefathers. Our ancestors have not told us to move on. This is our ancestral land. Now we are not allowed to hunt and gather food, which we do in order to live. They have prevented us from doing this, therefore how can we survive? This is our way. This is our culture. We survive off this land that feeds us. The government have stolen our goats and banned our way of life. The government lie, they do not tell the truth, we do not choose to move, we choose to stay and live on our land. - Letter from the Bushmen of the Kalahari

If you want to take action, you can write to the Botswana government or the UK government to protest. Also visit Survival's How you can help page.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

still afloat

Geiko photo-journal

It is really interesting to see that the floating world is still afloat, despite the many changes in Japanese society. Being a geiko is such an amazing art (it's a total thing, everything they do is artistic, even opening doors) that it would be sad if it was lost. Though, if they want it to survive, they need to make some changes, according to Mineko Iwasaki.

Also this photo-journals corrects some of the misconceptions put about by the film, Memoirs of a Geisha.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

roll up!

Hurrah! People are actually going to pay money to hear us talk and Nick and I are now officially university lecturers.
10,000 Years in One Mile: the Archaeology and History of Brean Down
N Hanks MA
Course explores the rich archaeology of this Somerset headland including Bronze Age barrows, a Roman temple, a Napoleonic fort and World War Two special weapons features. Students meet in the classroom for the Saturday and attend a fieldtrip to Brean Down on Sunday (students will have to make their own way there).

A weekend course from 10.00 am to 3.30 pm on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 October 2006
Department of Archaeology, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol
Fee £40 4 credits at level 0

B06J076OH An Anthropological Perspective on Contemporary Paganisms

Y Aburrow BSc PGCE
This course explores the development of contemporary Paganisms over the last 50 years, examining historical antecedents and social movements. Topics covered include: historical perspectives; misperceptions; theologies; ethics; Wicca; Druidry; Heathens and Reconstructionists; Science and Paganisms.

10 meetings weekly on Wednesdays from 7.15 to 8.45 pm starting 11 October 2006
Lecture Room MA 1/2, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol
Fee £70 10 credits at level 0

Sunday, June 11, 2006

don't attack Iran

Bush refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons to attack Iran

This is absolutely insane. Bush wants to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons, so he is prepared to use nuclear weapons to stop them. If that happens, it will kick off full-scale war between the Muslim world and the West. It is really really frightening.

I don't know if it will do any good, but we have to make our voices heard. Go to the Our World Our Say website to take action.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I am the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker). Wild, eccentric, wacky!

4th Doctor


1st Doctor


9th Doctor


3rd doctor


10th Doctor


5th Doctor


What Doctor Who character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Found on rssefuirosu


My Corfu diary. Corfu was very beautiful, a green jewel dividing the Ionian and the Adriatic seas. If you go there, be sure to obtain the excellent Rough Guide to Corfu by Nick Edwards; Hilary Whitton Paipeti's book about the places associated with Lawrence and Gerald Durrell; Prospero's Cell (Lawrence Durrell); My Family and Other Animals; Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods (Gerald Durrell).

glowing spheres

Which Lovecraftian Horror Are You?

You are Yog-Sothoth: The Key and the Gate.
You live in the space between realities, and whe you are released you drain life from the world. You appear as a mile long collection of glowing spheres.

Take this quiz!

Now that is a cool meme. Thank goodness my result wasn't George Bush, which was one possible outcome. The other day I was in Forbidden Planet, and they had a very amusing cute Cthulhu on sale - surely a contradiction in terms made manifest if ever I saw one. They also have a plush velour Alien, which is a bit bizarre, though it really cannot be described as cuddly.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

the g-word

Liberal Democrats : BBC ruling on use of 'gay' extremely concerning - Williams.
Liberal Democrat Higher and Further Education Spokesperson, Stephen Williams MP, has written to BBC Chairman Michael Grade following a ruling from the BBC Governors Complaints Committee that Radio1 DJ Chris Moyles could use the term 'gay' to mean 'rubbish' or 'lame' because it is commonplace amongst young people.
I am worried by this too, as I thought the BBC was supposed to be a leader and not a follower in the matter of ethics, and because it is condoning homophobic language. (And apparently disabled-ist language as well.)

It used to drive me nuts when I was teaching and kids would say stuff like "this computer is gay" - and I can just imagine them saying "But I heard it on Radio 1" if they get told off for saying it. How will teachers be able to stop homophobia in schools if homophobic language is endorsed by the BBC?

remote viewing

Apparently, when it comes to psychic abilities, I have an unusually strong talent in the area of Remote Viewing, according to this ESP test.
This means you have an uncanny ability to travel great distances with your mind, to virtually any location, and actually get a true glimpse at what is located there. The best conditions for traveling space with your mind, or remotely viewing another location, are silence and a calm state of mind. Even without these conditions, you managed to show considerable talent in this area, which is called remote viewing.
How embarrassing, as I am rather sceptical about remote viewing, since it has generally proven rather unreliable.

praise the lord and pass the ammo

Make your own church sign

Here's my effort:

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Real Church Signs - hilarious. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

poetic spam

This is the most poetic spam I have ever received. I have no idea what its purpose is, but it is an improvement on the usual adverts for improbable sexual enhancements... Ah actually the gif file attached to it turned out to be that sort of thing, but it was almost forgiveable, considering the following:

My theory of evolution is that Darwin was adopted

Hearty reception,

addressing them all. Going along the narrow path to a little uncut meadow covered on one side with thick clumps of brilliant heart's-ease among which stood up here and there tall, dark green tufts of hellebore, Levin settled his guests in the dense, cool shade of the young aspens on a bench and some stumps purposely put there for visitors to the bee house who might be afraid of the bees, and he went off himself to the hut to get bread, cucumbers, and fresh honey, to regale them with. Trying to make his movements as deliberate as possible, and listening to the bees that buzzed more and more frequently past him, he walked along the little path to the hut. In the very entry one bee hummed angrily, caught in his beard, but he carefully extricated it. Going into the shady outer room, he took down from the wall his veil, that hung on a peg, and putting it on, and thrusting his hands into his pockets, he went into the fenced-in bee-garden, where there stood in the midst of a closely mown space in regular rows, fastened with bast on posts, all the hives he knew so well, the old stocks, each with its own history, and along the fences the younger swarms hived that year. In front of the openings of the hives, it made his eyes giddy to watch the bees and drones whirling round and round about the same spot, while among them the working bees flew in and out with

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

change of plan

I've decided, I'm going to use my LJ to post about Pagan stuff, and this blog to post about other stuff. It was getting to be too much of an effort to write my LJ in German - but if you liked it, I have archived the posts at my blog archive, alongside my old blog from 2003-4.

You can also see Pagan and related posts from Nemeton by visiting my del.icio.us account, under the tags Pagan and religion.

Posts on Vogelbeere will be classified using the tagging system on LJ.

The main reason for this is that most of my Pagan friends are on LJ, and they are the ones most likely to want to read and comment on posts about Pagan stuff. However, blogger users will also be able to comment.

Friday, June 02, 2006

honoured strangers

I will be writing about my adventures in Corfu shortly (when I can find something to say that hasn't already been said beautifully by either Lawrence Durrell or Gerald Durrell), but for now, a short rant about the courtesies demanded of visitors to other countries.

Is it just me that feels that it is only courtesy to learn a few words of the local language before visiting another country? It appears that I am alone in this view, judging by the ecstatic reaction of one taverna owner to me asking for my food in Greek (I read the words off the Greek bit of the menu and added the word paracalo - please). As Nick Edwards says in the Rough Guide to Corfu, the utterance of even a few words of Greek elevates you from the status of tourista (grockle) to the status of xenia (guest, foreigner, honoured stranger).

When I went to Prague, I learnt how to say please, thank you, good morning, good afternoon, good night, etc in Czech. I also know these basic phrases in Italian, Greek, and Welsh (and I speak French, German and a bit of Spanish). It is is only polite, and doesn't take that much effort to learn (unless you are dyslexic). And there are lots of websites where you can find this sort of information, some of which have short sound files demonstrating the pronunciation. So there really is no excuse.

Here's my contribution to international relations.

Friday, May 12, 2006


I went to see The Forgiveness Project exhibition on Monday and found it very moving. It made me think, if these people can forgive the enormous hurt done to them, then we can forgive the everyday hurts and slights. Forgiveness is not a cop-out - it doesn't diminish the enormity of the crime, but it starts the process of healing. If we seek revenge, it just perpetuates the cycle of violence; if we can forgive, it starts a process of reconciliation, and perhaps prevents other people suffering the same fate. It can't be easy to forgive - I'm full of admiration for people who have had horrible things done to them and can still bring themselves to forgive the people who did it to them. I don't know how I would react in such circumstances, but I hope I would try to create something out of my suffering.

I highly recommend this exhibition - if it comes anywhere near you, see it. If it doesn't, take a look at the stories on the website.
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger. (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

play nice

How to stop flame wars with a single phrase - apparently, if you remind posters on forums, blogs and mailing lists that "everybody needs a hug", it deflates the tensions that give rise to flame postings. Though you'd probably need to change the reminder every so often, it's a great idea.

(Spotted on Joel's Reddit.)

Iraq atrocities

One Excellent Reason Not to Join the Military: You May be Ordered to Kill Civilians (by Paul Rockwell, published on Saturday, April 29, 2006 by CommonDreams.org)
"One particular incident really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. We fired some warning shots, but the car did not slow down. So we lit 'em up. Well, this particular vehicle we didn't destroy completely, and one gentleman on the ground looked up at me and said, 'Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything wrong.' That hit me like a ton of bricks."
I don't know whether to feel despair or hope in response to this article. Despair because so many innocent civilians are being tortured and killed in Iraq, and I don't know what I can do about it, apart from continuing to talk about why the war is wrong; hope because some soldiers have retained their humanity sufficiently to resist killing civilians, to leave the military, and to protest about what is happening.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

creationism goes bananas

Why the banana is perfectly formed for the human hand. (Spotted by Catvincent) But surely the angler fish and celery are proof that in fact the devil is the lord of creation?

stop homophobia

Liberal Democrats launch campaign against homophobic bullying

This is a very necessary campaign - there is no tolerance, understanding or acceptance of gays and lesbians among many pupils. Whilst it might be argued that all bullying should be tackled, previous anti-bullying campaigns have apparently ignored the issue of homophobia, so I think that a specific focus on this issue is a good idea. When I was teaching, pupils would often say things like "this computer is gay". When I told them off, they said they said it because they weren't allowed to say it was shit. So I told them I'd rather they said the computer was shit than that it was gay. They thought it was pretty cool to be allowed to say "shit" in my classroom, and lo and behold, the incidence of using the word gay as an insult dropped right off. They were also forbidden to use the words "pikey" and "witch" as insults; but "f**k" and "shit" were permitted. Body parts were out though.