Friday, April 28, 2006

is it a blog?

When is a blog not a blog? One of the joys of blogging, it seems to me, is the blogroll and the comments. Without these, blogging is a solitary activity, a mere webpage. With them, it is a social activity, one which enables conversation, almost in the manner of a sharing circle. A friend has created an online diary, but it is not really a blog, as it doesn't have any facility to add comments. Nor does it have a blogroll or an index of posts (which is awkward if you wanted to read bits selectively, or link to individual posts). Also I do think that brevity is the soul of wit. (This doesn't necessarily imply short blog posts, but it does imply saying what you have to say succinctly, and editing yourself.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

in a dodder light

I've just finished reading Silent People - Hearing the Call of the Dodder by Yvonne Jerrold. It has some really interesting ideas - plants as ancestors, a hidden species of human, what goes on in the minds of shy, silent awkward people, our relationship with nature. Parts of the book are very successful, especially the main character's flashback to her childhood relationship with the mysterious dodder boy. This part of the book was very lyrical and heartfelt. The book was oddly structured, and the bits dealing with mundane life were less successful. At its best, the book is reminiscent of Mythago Wood and its ilk; but other bits could have done with a sympathetic but firm editor. However, the ideas are really interesting, and don't let the fact that it is self-published put you off (it is not the same as vanity publishing apparently). Overall, the wistful tone and the genuinely original ideas make this book well worth a read. I'm still seeing things in a dodder light...

Friday, April 21, 2006

freedom of conscience

Free Malcolm Kendall-Smith Petition

Malcolm Kendall-Smith is the RAF medical officer who has been court-martialled and jailed for 8 months for refusing to return to Basra to serve in the illegal war on Iraq. I don't know how much good these petitions do, but if you sign it, you will at least let him know that hundreds of people agree with him and support his stance.

Also, as the petition blurb points out, the Nuremberg trials established the principle that saying "I was only obeying orders" is no defence in the case of war crimes. The ruling of the judge on this case undermines that principle. In fact, the manual of RAF law actually states that a serving officer is justified in refusing to obey a command if it is illegal. Having studied the advice of the Attorney-General, Kendall-Smith has (correctly) concluded that the war is illegal, and therefore refused to return to Iraq.

You can also send messages of support to Malcolm via his solicitor: or use the MFAW online comments page, and write to John Reid (Defence Secretary) using their online form.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

pure poetry

Zach Cox's talk at Treadwell's Bookshop - fabulous. Swinburne sounds better read aloud. I love Swinburne anyway. I also agree with most of the points made about poetics. Whilst I write "free" verse, it does contain alliteration, rhythm, symbolism, etc. Just because it does not contain facile rhymes, doesn't mean it's not poetry. But there should be rhythm and alliteration (and there are more meters than iambic bloody pentameter). But gods preserve us from the alexandrine (great in French, doesn't work in English).

Poems that he reads:
The First Chorus from Atalanta in Calydon (Algernon Swinburne)
Hymn to Pan (Aleister Crowley)

the bells

Yesterday we went down to south Somerset and visited Ham Hill, Stoke-sub-Hamdon Priory, and the Treasurer's House in Martock. The people in the Treasurer's House recommended that we visit the church, so we did, and it was very splendid, with Baroque paintings in niches. While we were in there, we met one of the bellringers, and he invited us to their practice. We thought it sounded fun, so we went off to Barrington Court, then went to South Petherton to look for somewhere to eat dinner. The pub in the main part of the village was shut, so we asked a passer-by if he knew a pub that might be open, and there was one on the road to Martock, called the Wheatsheaf, which was very nice and friendly and had excellent food. I think I also sold them the services of my dad to build them a new website. Then we went on to the bellringing, and our new friend took us up into the bell-loft, and they let us have a go with the the end of the rope. It was cool. There was even a very small girl at the ringing practice, standing on two boxes so she could reach. Aww. Also they showed us how the bell-wheels work; that is why you get that unique cascading sound from English bells. It was all a nice example of serendipity - if the people in the Treasurer's house hadn't recommended the church, we might have rushed off to Barrington; we wouldn't have tried to find a pub if we hadn't been going to the bellringing; if the other pub hadn't been shut, we wouldn't have found the Wheatsheaf.

Edit: Photos uploaded to flickr (including belfry ones)

Monday, April 17, 2006


The Llewiccan Rede - very amusing. I particularly like Rule 1. It reminds me of the Philosophers sketch from Monty Python... Rule 1: No Satanists. Rule 2: There is NO rule 2. Rule 3: No Satanists.... etc.

cold water

Went over to visit Sarah the other day, and had a lovely time, particularly when we went to the beach near St Donat's. I went for a swim - it was very very cold, but I definitely felt 100% alive afterwards. Then I fell over on the beach (it is all rocky and I got my foot stuck in a cleft) and the beach very sweetly apologised by allowing me to find the best ammonite on the beach. It was a beautiful day, and very warm in the sun - especially after I'd been in the water. It's amazing what the human body can cope with - I generally find it's almost unbearable the first time you go in, and on the second attempt it feels ever so slightly warmer - for about the first ten seconds. Also the only bits of me that felt massively tingly were hands and nipples - must have been the blood rushing back in - everything else was fine.

Also I think I've achieved a new record this week, as I have done three group rituals this week, all fairly intensive. I've also been doing the Lesser banishing Ritual of the Pentagram a lot recently, having attended Synesis' workshop about it, and it really is rather powerful. Apparently it helps to build up the Body of Light, and it is also part of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. It's interesting that angels are now seen as a very Christian concept, as they apparently originated in Zoroastrianism (see the excellent Miss Garnet's Angel).

I'm currently re-reading Hallucinating Foucault for the third time; it's about the relationship between author and reader. I love it.

I've just finished reading The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, which is this month's SF Reading Group choice. It is a prolonged meditation on the nature of identity, and also a rollicking good read.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

respect rabbits

A recent post by Synesis on the subject of fluffy bunny Pagans got me thinking. Maybe being a fluffy is just an evolutionary stage, like moaning about fundamentalism, or even moaning about fluffies. One day the caterpillar will disappear into a cocoon, and a fully-fledged Pagan will emerge (a bit like Delenn's transformation in Babylon 5 - not that she was ever fluffy).

Also, the phrase "fluffy bunny" is insulting to rabbits. Not only are rabbits sacred to the Moon (a very non-fluffy concept), but also the mothers absorb their own young when food is scarce - also not very fluffy. And rabbits have claws and very powerful hind-legs and amazing shamanic powers (haven't these people read Watership Down?) OK, so rabbits are also quite cute, but it's all a façade to lull you into a false sense of security. As rabbits are one of my favourite animals, I object to their identification with new-agey fluffies.

See, there's nothing fluffy about this rabbit...

watered-down V?

V for Vendetta (film) - political reactions

So, apparently anarchists don't like the film of V for Vendetta because it doesn't propose anything positive to replace the totalitarian regime with; socialists didn't like it because "the people have not played any part in the revolution" - huh? What about the last scene then, when V steps down from his role by dying and it is the people who go to protest and overthrow the regime? At least the LGBT commentators liked it.

Alan Moore didn't like it because "his story had been reduced to debating "current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism". Well maybe the anarchist message was diluted by the fim version, but it makes more sense to bring it up to date and make it look analogous to the current situation. Also David Lloyd (co-creator and illustrator) liked the film.

I think this is one of those situations where the co-creation of artist and audience has been overlooked by the author.

Personally I liked it very much - the imagery was very powerful, the ideas were good, the script was well-written, and the message couldn't be more timely. And if that isn't enough, it encourages people to read the graphic novel anyway.

goodbye democracy

Save Parliament! Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill
Do you like living in a democracy?

Well, enjoy it while you can, because it might not last much longer if the UK government get their way.

The boringly-named Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is in fact a very dangerous piece of legislation. It grants any minister the ability to amend, replace, or repeal existing legislation. The frightening thing is this: they would be able to make major changes to the law without Parliament being able to examine it properly, taking away the ability of Parliament to meaningfully represent the citizens of this country.
This is the scariest legislation I have ever seen. I thought ID cards and the National Identity Register were bad, but that's just peanuts to this. We need to start campaigning - write to your MP, hand out flyers, and link to the Save Parliament website.

Failing that, cheap farmhouses in the north of France suddenly look very attractive indeed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

MA course

The other day I went for an interview for a part-time MA in Contemporary Religions and Spiritualities at Bath Spa University. I got in!!! Yay!!! I am very excited about it.

I plan to study these units:
East meets West: Examining the interaction between 'Eastern' religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism and 'Western' norms and values.
Sex, Gender and Spirituality: Examining the relevance of sex and gender to belief and practice including the women's and men's spirituality movements and issues surrounding homosexuality.
Spiritual Revolution: Examining the rise of New Age and Paganism as well as a variety of New Religious Movements.

It depends on what is available at any particular time, of course, as the whole thing is run on a rolling programme. And you have to do a unit on research methods, but fortunately it's all qualitative. I'm very pleased about that, as I only did quantitative methods for my first degree and I was rubbish at statistics. The dissertation counts as two units (I'll probably do it on Pagan theologies).

It does however mean no reading apart from what's on the course for 2 years (though I shall of course make an exception for SF books for the SF Reading Group). The course tutor is really into SF, so I can see we're going to have some fun (we've already had two in-depth conversations about it, one at the open evening and one at the interview).

Whee!!!! Intellectual stuff! Hurrah.

Monday, April 10, 2006

deeply scary

The Guardian: Kick this legislation out

Crikey, this legislation makes the ID cards bill look positively liberal.

If it becomes law every internet service provider will have to install a black box with a direct link to an MI5 building. That means they can monitor the patterns of all our emails (including who sent them), our visits to chat rooms and every website we click into. All that can be done continuously without a warrant. On production of a warrant, the authorities can force us to surrender any keys, simple or complicated, used to encrypt our emails, so they can read them.

birthday events

a new meme from ias - my LJ friend Isobel looked up her birthday on Wikipedia to see what happened on it. So I did the same. I knew that there was a failed attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944; also the Stonewall riots (not sure which year) and the Apollo landing on the Moon in 1969. But loads of other stuff happened on my birthday. I also knew that 20 July is the feast of St Wilgefortis, who allegedly grew a beard to avoid a particularly persistent suitor (either that or she was crucified upside down, so her hair fell over her face and was mistaken for a beard by her fans). I am particularly pleased that I share my birthday with László Moholy-Nagy and Francesco Petrarch. Cool.

Ahlam photos

Sarah has posted some photos of the Halfouine belly dancing event by Robert. They are really nice and convey the feeling of the evening really well. It was an evening of belly dances representing various different goddesses, all choreographed by Hannah and narrated by Sarah. My favourites were Kali and Baubo, but they were all really beautiful.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

reality checkpoint

We visited Cambridge last week (Tuesday to Thursday) and had a lovely time pottering about all the colleges and chapels and things. I was delighted to discover that someone had renewed the traditional graffito on the lamp-post in the middle of Parker's Piece - it just says "reality checkpoint". This text has appeared on that lamp-post on and off since at least 1990; probably earlier. It's a pretty weird-looking lampost, with intertwined cast-iron fishes and other ornate decorations.

We went in Peterhouse Chapel, which has an atmosphere you could cut with a knife (not unpleasant, but palpable); also paid the obligatory visit to King's College Chapel (Nick hadn't been in it before) which is a monument to the Tudor ego. There is a tiny bit of stained glass in King's Chapel with a representation of a Pagan hero and heroine, which I've always thought was pretty cool.

We also visited the Round Church, built by the Templars, which is how, as a child, I always imagined early Christian architecture to be. It is loosely based on the Holy Sepulchre church in Jerusalem, so maybe I wasn't far off.

While Nick was at his work meeting, I did a bit of shopping in the Libra-Aries bookshop on Mill Road, bought the book of V for Vendetta in Borders, and then went to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which was excellent.

Later on we met up with the people from the Libra-Aries bookshop, and also an old friend of mine who knows loads of stuff about the history of the occult and socialism, so we had a fascinating conversation.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Ostadan's Lore & Letters: Some Thoughts on Ink

I'm so glad to find someone who agrees about the tastelessness of the wedding rings you can get with an adaptation of the "one ring to rule them all..." inscription. I've often thought that these were ghastly; the same goes for the replicas you can get of the ruling ring. If I was to get a particular memento from the Lord of the Rings films it would be one of those lovely ivy-leaf brooches from Lothlórien. I definitely would not want anything that identified me with the Black Land, only that which was associated with the Elves and the good guys.

Any marking such as a wedding ring or tattoo has to be completely personal, otherwise what is the point of having it? If I was going to get myself a tattoo, it would have to be something I wanted to live with for the rest of my life; and as yet I have only come across one thing that I would like as a tattoo, and even there I'm waiting for the right moment and the courage to go through with it. Not to mention a really spiritual tattooist and the money.