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'. (
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.