Thursday, May 31, 2007


I have become increasingly suspicious of the word "community" - as in LGBT community, Muslim community, Pagan community, being used to describe a group of people with a shared characteristic. It includes the assumption that the community does or even must speak with one voice, and that there are leaders of the community who will be the transmitters of that voice. It includes the assumption that identity is discrete - you are either Pagan or Christian but can't be both, for example. It is also divisive, setting one community against another. Similar ideas were expressed on Radio 4's Thought for the Day [Listen] [Read] this morning, which I found interesting, and thought "I'm glad it's not just me that's noticed this". Surely we are all part of the community of sentient beings, ultimately?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

shit happens

Just got this via email - I've seen it before (about 20 years ago when these things were shared via photocopiers rather than email) but this is the updated version, including Wicca and Discordianism. The weird thing is, we were talking about this on Friday, and it arrived in email today from a different friend. Synchronicity.... or just weird shit.

shit happens
according to various religions and spiritual philosophies:

  • TAOISM: Shit happens.
  • CONFUCIANISM: Confucius say, "Shit happens".
  • ZEN: (What is the sound of shit happening?)
  • JESUITISM: If shit happens when nobody is watching, is it really shit?
  • ISLAM: Shit happens if it is the will of Allah.
  • COMMUNISM. Equal shit happens to all people.
  • CATHOLICISM: Shit happens because you are bad.
  • PSYCHOANALYSIS: Shit happens because of your toilet training.
  • SCIENTOLOGY: Shit happens if you're on our shit list.
  • ZOROASTRIANISM: Bad shit happens, and good shit happens.
  • UNITARIANISM: Maybe shit happens. Let's have coffee and donuts.
  • RIGHT-WING PROTESTANTISM: Let this shit happen to someone else.
  • JUDAISM: Why does shit always happen to US?
  • REFORM JUDAISM: Got any Kaopectate?
  • MYSTICISM: What weird shit!
  • AGNOSTICISM: What is this shit?
  • ATHEISM: I don't believe this shit!
  • NIHILISM: Who needs this shit?
  • AZTEC: Cut out this shit!
  • QUAKER: Let's not fight over this shit.
  • FORTEANISM: No shit??
  • 12-STEP: I am powerless to cut the shit.
  • VOODOO: Hey, that shit looks just like you!
  • NEWAGE: Visualize shit not happening.
  • DEISM: Shit just happens.
  • EXISTENTIALISM: Shit doesn't happen; shit is.
  • SECULAR HUMANISM: Shit evolves.
  • CHRISTIAN SCIENCE: Shit is in your mind.
  • BUDDHISM: Shit happens, but pay no mind.
  • SHINTOISM: Shit is everywhere.
  • HINDUISM: This shit has happened before.
  • WICCA: Mix this shit together and make it happen!
  • HASIDISM: Shit never happens the same way twice.
  • THEOSOPHY: You don't know half of the shit that happens.
  • DIANETICS: Your mother gave you shit before your were born.
  • SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST: No shit on Saturdays.
  • JEHOVAH's WITNESSES: No shit happens until Armageddon.
  • MOONIES: Only happy shit really happens.
  • HOPI: Corn fertilizer happens.
  • BAHA'I: It's all the same shit.
  • STOICISM: This shit is good for me.
  • OBJECTIVISM: Our shit is good for you.
  • EST: If my shit bothers you, that's your fault.
  • REAGANISM: Don't move; the shit will trickle down.
  • FASCISM: Shit makes the trains run on time.
  • CARGO CULT: A barge will come and take all the shit away.
  • EMACS: Hold down Control-Meta-Shit.
  • DISCORDIANISM: Some funny shit happened to me today.
  • RASTAFARIANISM: Let's smoke this shit.
  • CHARISMATIC: This is not shit and it doesn't smell bad.
  • MASONIC: Shit happens, but we can't discuss it during Lodge.
  • RED CROSS: Shit happens - send money.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cheshire Crossing 3

Cheshire Crossing Issue 3 by Sephalon is now posted and available for your reading pleasure. Very amusing.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


9th May: Kazimierz, Krakow

My mum & I flew from Bristol to Krakow on 9th May. The airport is named after the previous pope, as he was Bishop of Krakow. We got the train into Krakow from the airport (I bought our tickets using my Polish phrasebook) and walked to our hotel from the station, via the green belt that surrounds the city centre. The walls were slighted in the 18th century by the Austrians, and they planted trees instead. This green belt is called the Planty (plurals in Polish seem to be formed by adding a -y). After we had settled in, we went to explore the old Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. We had beetroot soup (delicious) and challah (bread) in the Café Alef. It seemed strange to be eating challah on a weekday. The café was very atmospheric, with a vaulted ceiling and lots of pictures of Jewish life on the walls. We booked a table there for the evening and discovered that there was going to be a klezmer band on as well. I love klezmer, so was very pleased about this. We then went to the Old Synagogue, which has an excellent museum of Jewish life. Several times tears started welling up, as we were very aware that the Jewish community in Kazimierz was almost wiped out (there were 17 000 before the war and only 2000 survived; as many Jews left for Israel, there are only about 100 Jews in Krakow now). In the museum were beautiful scrool-holders for the Book of Esther, used for the feast of Purim; mezuzot; Ark screens; pointers for reading the Torah; Hanukah candles; spice-boxes for the end of the Sabbath (Havdalah); a ketubah; and an amazing pair of paper-cuttings. There was also a really poignant series of photos of Jewish life in Kazimierz in the early years of the 20th century. It was particularly heartbreaking seeing the photos of the children; they were probably all wiped out. We then wandered around the Jewish quarter, looking at the other synagogues, and saw the Augustine monastery and the Lateran church; also a big baroque church of St Stanisław in the monastery precinct. The Polish Gothic style is very tall. A lot of the churches have Baroque interiors. We walked a little way along by the River Vistula and back through Kazimierz. We walked all round the old Jewish cemetery before finding the entrance, which is through a synagogue with a small courtyard inside the gate. It was closing, but we looked through the gate at the old gravestones, and read the plaques in the entrance courtyard. One of these was put there by a Holocaust survivor who was the only member of his family to survive. I read it and burst into tears. It was very sad. It's difficult to take on board thousands or millions of deaths, but when you find one specific story, it really brings it home to you. Then you somehow have to multiply that story by millions to understand the utter awfulness of the Holocaust - while still holding onto the feeling that this one story made you feel. We also saw a couple of groups of Jewish men having a guided tour around the area (they were wearing kippot).

I made a few notes back at the hotel to try to capture the sense of loss, of absence of the vanished Jewish life. It wasn't like they'd never been there; they had lived full rich lives and then been cruelly eliminated.

Echoes of Jewish life,
the glimpse of the Shabbat candles,
light snuffed out,
only glimmers of silver and gold,
old photos and paintings of Rabbis,
Purim plays and dreams of Israel,
Seder and Passover.

A whole culture wiped out. We must not let this happen again.

We went to the Café Alef for dinner. I had beef knedlach (dumplings) in dill sauce; my mum had carp. The meal was accompanied by sauerkraut salad (delicious), and for dessert we had Purim cake (kind of toffee and walnut pie) and charoset. The klezmer band were excellent; they set the feet tapping, opened all the right chakras, pulled at the heartstrings. There was a double bassist, a violinist and an accordionist. We bought the CD; they are called The Saints. They did a couple of tunes that I know (Araber Tanz was one) but the rest was new to me. As we came out of the café, we saw Venus shining very brightly over the rooftops.

10th May - Stare Miasto (Old Town), Krakow

We got the tram along Starowisłna (I bought the tickets using my trusty phrasebook again). We walked to the central square and saw the statue of Adam Mickiewicz (Poland's national poet) and the Sukiennice. We heard the hejnal, the trumpet call from the tower of St Mary's. This custom allegedly originated when the Tartars besieged the city; a trumpeter tried to warn the town, but they shot him in the throat with an arrow, silencing him. Another trumpeter replaced him after a short pause; so there is always a pause in the music to commemorate him. Very poignant. There is also a little tiny church in the main square, set at an angle to the rest of the square; when the Austrians occupied Poland in the 19th century, they took over St Mary's, and its local congregation had services in Polish in this tiny church. The tower of St Mary's church is amazing. We went in the Sukiennice, where there were lots of stalls selling amber, carved wooden boxes (bought one for N), and so on. Then walked down Ul. Jana (John Street) to the Czartoryczi Museum and round the corner to the gate of Ul. Florianska. Under the gate was a Baroque shrine to the Virgin Mary. On the other side were some folk musicians in traditional Gorale costume. Then we walked to the Stanisław Wyspiański Museum, and saw paintings, furniture and sketches in the Młoda Polska style (the Polish version of Art Nouveau). Most of them were by him (he was a very prolific chap) or by his friend Józef Mehoffer. We saw the preliminary sketches for the windows and polychrome wall paintings in the Franciscan church. Then we went and had cherry crepes and a strawberry, banana and blackcurrant smoothie in a café. Then we walked down past the Old Theatre (also in Młoda Polska style) and down to Collegium Maius of Jagiellonian University. It was beautiful (we didn't go round the museum, because our legs hurt after the previous museum). There was a medieval cloistered courtyard, with a well in the middle. Then we went to the church of St Francis of Assisi and saw the fabulous polychrome interior (by Wyspiański). There were lilies, and dandelions, and abstract patterns and stars, and a wonderful flamey sunburst effect around the arch where the transept crosses the nave. Then we had a late lunch in a small café opposite the German embassy (it was called the Grill Café, and the food was delicious). We had Bigos and potato cakes with gulash and sauerkraut. We returned via the main square ands walked about in the Planty for a bit. Very tired; walked back to the hotel. We went to the Ariel for dinner; also full of paintings of vanished Jewish life and culture. I had chicken stuffed with spinach amd drenched in mustard sauce; my mum had chicken in plum sauce.

11th May - Zakopane

We had enormous difficulty finding the main Krakow bus station. We eventually found it by asking for directions; it is accessed via a tunnel underneath the new shopping centre near the railway station (its location is marked incorrectly in both the Rough Guide and the Insight Guide - maybe it's moved since they were compiled). It also has two storeys, and the bus to Zakopane is on the top one. We found it about five minutes before it was due to leave. The bus journey was lovely, as the road wound through increasingly hilly countryside. Got a text from Nick telling me the BNP event had been cancelled - Yay! Power to the people! We saw lots of strip fields. About halfway to Zakopane, we started to be able to see the Tatra Mountains in the distance. We arrived in Zakopane at about midday, and got a bit lost - though we crossed the lovely meadow in the middle of town, so it was worth it. Then we heard a bloke with a Scots accent, and asked for directions (he was down from Warsaw for a couple of days, as he and his daughter were visting their former Polish exchange student - she gave us directions). We then had lunch in a charming restaurant called Karcma Zapiecek - if you go to Zakopane, eat there, as the food, decor and service were all lovely. My mum had black pudding with potato and sauerkraut, and I had meat dumplings; I've eaten something very similar in The Crown in Marshfield; I wonder if they have a Polish chef). After lunch we walked down the main street, through the market, and took the funicular up Gubałówka Hill. Some nice people made room for us on the seat by the window, so we could see the track receding behind us as we whizzed up the hill. There was a fantastic view of the Tatra Mountains from the top, and there was a topographical picture so you could identify them - the highest is 2610 m. We walked along the top of the hill admiring the view - very uplifting apart from the numerous stalls selling tourist tat. On one stall they had a real live lamb; it seemed a bit hot but was very cute. The view of the Tatras was framed by a row of pine trees. There was also a dear little wooden chapel with a carved interior. We went back down in the funicular and there was a Dominican nun on board. We bought some souvenirs in the market at the bottom. We tried to go to the folklore museum but it was shut. We then found another wooden church, with an even more ornate interior, and some 19th century wooden houses. We were really tired by this time, and decided to head back to the bus station, where we caught the 4.40 back to Krakow. We got a last glimpse of the Tatras from the bus on the way back - floating snow-streaked peaks. When we got back we walked down Ul. Florianska to the main square (and saw the inscription on Pod Roża about the tortoise and the ant), then had our dinner in the Grill Café. It was very atmospheric with the lamps lit in the gathering dusk.

12th May - Wawel Castle, Krakow

The castle is very impressive. We went in the Royal Treasury and Armoury and saw amazing horse trappings and shields, and the gifts of a sultan to a Polish king at the signing of a peace accord; all studded with turquoise. A lot of the royal treasure was looted during the Austrian occupation. There was some 12th century jewellery and a gold chalice and paten. There was armour and swords - enormous two-handers - and guns and crossbows. Then we went round the State Rooms, which were very impressive, with gold rosettes in carved wooden ceilings, leather wall-coverings, and old furniture, including a 17th-c English bed. In one of the rooms was an ensemble playing medieval music (a tune that we have on CD at home). Then we went round the cathedral and saw the royal tombs of the Jagiellonian kings. The interior was very Baroque and quite sombre. There were also some Młoda Polska windows by Mehoffer, and the tomb of Queen Jadwiga (canonised by John Paul II in 1997). There seemed to be a lot of power coming from her tomb. We sat on a wall by the the old chapel ruins to have lunch (we bought a picnic in a shop on the way). There were lovely flowerbeds there. There was also a music shop set into the castle wall, and we bought some Polish Renaissance and medieval music. Afterwards we went in the Royal Apartments, mostly restored in the 1920s, as there was a disastrous fire in the 18th century, and then the whole section was used as a barracks during the Austrian occupation. After we left the castle we walked up Ul. Kanonicza to the Dominican church of Sts Peter and Paul, then had icecreams - yum. Then we went back to the hotel for a rest, and later caught the tram into town and went to the Grill Café again (the food really is excellent there, and not very expensive). We heard the hejnal again from the café, and after the meal, we walked to the main square again to hear the 8pm one. We saw a little boy busking with an accordion, and a teddy bear holding his money pot. There was also a Goralese busker with a very impressive beard. We stood in the Plac Mariacki to hear the 8pm hejnal, and could see the trumpet sticking out of the window. Afterwards the man waved his hand out of the window, and then brandished the trumpet before closing the window. A fitting finale to our Krakow experience.

Friday, May 18, 2007

my muse

I took the "The Nine Muses" quiz on

My muse is...

Calliope is the patron goddess of epic poetry. She is often depicted holding a writing tablet and wearing a golden crown, for she is the oldest of the muses and their leader. Her name means "The Fair Voiced," but Calliope inspires eloquence in writing. Read more...

Who is your muse?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

does he take sugar?

My friend Ocean blogged about a music video which includes ASL (American Sign Language) - oh how nice, you might think, except that not all the lyrics were translated into ASL - so it was clearly just there for decoration, not for communication. This is just another form of cultural appropriation. The video is now up on YouTube, so Ocean posted a comment there as well, and was immediately jumped on by a load of New Agey fluff-bunnies, saying that she was just bitching and should be grateful that the video included ASL, and how could she criticise it when it was about peace and love?

Ocean's posts:
Here are the lyrics of the song as I imagine they would appear to someone who was only reading the signing and not hearing the lyrics…

I am not a signer or a Deaf person and the sound had disappeared on my PC when I looked at the video, so all I got was some mouth and hand movements…

I always get annoyed when I see TV programmes where foreign languages have been mistranslated by the person doing the captioning, so I can understand the annoyance of Deaf people here.

For example, I once heard a voice-over of a German couple who were relating how they had found the Ice Man (the remains of a Bronze-Age man found frozen in the Alps). The woman said that she said to her husband “Das ist ein Mensch” (that is a person); this was translated as “That is a corpse” which is just plain wrong, and I felt was disrespectful to the woman’s utterance. This might seem “small stuff” but it’s a sign of a general disrespect (either towards Germans or towards language in general). I submit that this desire to "help" the Deaf community without consulting them is a sign of a generally patronising attitude (even if it only seems like “small stuff”). It’s like the whole “Does he take sugar?” attitude.

Read this poem if you don’t know what the “Does he take sugar?” attitude is.

I also think the video is schmaltzy, sentimental, manipulative and exploitative of small children. Just because it's about praying for peace and love does not make it sacrosanct and immune from criticism. Wake up New-Age fluff-bunnies and stop treating Deaf people and culture as a commodity.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

har har har

So although Nick Griffin came to Bath after all, he had an audience of 4 people (one of whom must have been Danny Lake) plus 14 protesters and 13 police officers.

All of which just goes to show what massive protest can do. Hurrah! I am now back to being extremely chuffed.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hooray... sort of

Well, we prevented the BNP meeting happening on campus, which is good, but now it appears that the meeting is going ahead at a secret location elsewhere in Bath. And because this has happened at such short notice, there will be no protest at the new meeting venue. Unless anyone can find out where it is.

The point is, you can't have a rational debate with the BNP - they are not rational, however much they try to make themselves look respectable ands reasonable. They are still homophobic and racist fascists. End of story.

Friday, May 04, 2007

feeling safe at work?

I am extremely disappointed that my employer has decided to allow the BNP leader to speak on campus. I do not think it is a freedom of speech issue, but a freedom from harassment issue. There are a large number of people from diverse backgrounds at this university (including LGBT people, black and Asian people, and people from various religious backgrounds) who will feel less safe here because of this event going ahead.

As a bisexual Pagan and a Liberal Democrat and a union branch secretary, I don't feel particularly safe.

More information about why the BNP should be stopped:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

apologise for slavery

I think the government should apologise for slavery, and set up a national day of remembrance for it. This country is still enjoying the benefits of the revenue from slavery, and African countries and people are still affected by the legacy of colonialism and slavery, so it's not as if it was too long ago to be worried about. Imagine if Germany hadn't apologised for the Holocaust - there'd be an outcry.

I also like the idea that the proposed memorial day commemorates the activities of Toussaint L'Ouverture.

If you agree, you can sign a petition asking the government to apologise.

stop climate chaos

This week, the official UN body on climate science announced that humankind can avert a climate catastrophe -- but only if politicians change course, and fast. Avaaz has set up a tool allowing anyone in the world to send their national leaders a personal message on this issue.

The scientific report will be meaningless if it's not backed up by a global outcry. Send a message to world leaders now. is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. Its aim is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people -- and not just political elites and unaccountable corporations -- shape global decisions. members are taking action for a more just and peaceful world and a vision of globalisation with a human face. Avaaz means "voice" or "song" in a variety of Asian, Middle Eastern and European languages. There are already 1 million people from 189 countries in the community, and previous petitions from Avaaz have already brought about significant change.