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31 December 2004

City Pages: Artists of the Year

This is the only end-of-2004 retrospective I will blog, because it's the only one you need. A little Minnesota-centric, but you say that like it's a bad thing.

30 December 2004

Worldwide labour solidarity response to tsunami

LabourStart has a compendium of things being done to assist tsunami sufferers and survivors through trade union and labour organisations. The article also links to stories of some of the economic fallout from the disaster. In the immediate aftermath, you would think that 10,000 people losing jobs because the hotels they worked in were swept away or damaged beyond repair is not a big thing, in the context. But if someone is left homeless immediately by the tsunami, or becomes homeless a month later because they have no income or near-term possibility of getting any, they are still homeless. And economic hardships on such a massive scale will only contribute to the long-term toll from poverty, malnutrition and disease. Another example of the collateral damages - the Norwegian trade union and agency's mine clearance programme had 650 mine clearance workers in Sri Lanka, who are missing, fate unknown.

28 December 2004

Tsunami stories

The American Street has a big digest of tsunami stories and aid donation sites. Some of the stories are from bloggers who live in Southeast Asia.

Words fail me

The tsunami. Possibly 50,000 dead in a few days time. A disaster that cuts across nations, continents even. When things happen on this scale, you wonder why we humans bothered to tote water uphill, plant seeds, invent language, make art. This would probably have happened anyway, and then there would have been fewer people in the affected areas to die, and none of us in the rest of the world would have known about it. It almost makes you want to be an innocent pre-verbal being. Because what can you say or think, with this great big brain of yours? You can't even rage against man's inhumanity, because this is apparently God's inhumanity. I shall read Job, and try once again to understand. Speaking of words, that word "disaster" is interesting. The "dis" is obvious, the "aster" is like in asteroid or astronomy. Well, more like in astrology. The stars are not working, or not working the way we think they ought to. They have thousands of astrologers in India and consult them for marriages, trips, career choices. Indonesia is full of superstitions that govern thought the way TV governs our thoughts here in the developed world. But no one saw this one coming, did they?

23 December 2004

Is this what they meant by teaching the world to sing?

The armed forces of Coca-cola strike again, from CorporateWatch News.com. Protest Coca-cola's violence in India. Send a Free Fax: http://www.indiaresource.org/action/faxcoke.php

The Minister, the Mistress, the Husband and the Pregnancy or Peyton Place, London W1

While I was in temporary retirement, as I said below, strange things were in the news. This, of course, is the other big story in the UK for the past couple of weeks. In fact, much bigger than the fall from grace of the Sikhs, one of Britain's most respected minority communities. For those who live in outer space, or the US, the story thus far:


Do you think I am capable of making stuff like this up?

22 December 2004

The play, the protest, the censorship and the backlash

All kinds of weird things are happening in the news here in Britain and I have not been blogging. I am very bad, and I deserve to have my page hits and my Google rating decline. (And so I have.) Darling Hubby wants me to blog about this. So I am. This is a convoluted story. The easy take on it is that it is the "Sikh version of Satanic Verses". The Sikh community, tellingly, protests that they did not ask for the play to be closed. Fair point - but! They asked for a rewrite, which, no matter how "sensitively" one tries to frame the request, is still censorship, and just as much an anathema to a free-speech advocate or an artist as dishonouring a temple is to the religious. The Sikhs complain they were not being heard, but fact is, they were not listening either. There is a lot of that going around, not just in political and artistic circles. Britons generally, whether they are Anglo-Saxon, Celtic or Asian sub-continentals, tend to think in cliches and reason through their spleens. If you don't believe me, just read the letters column in any "intellectual" daily newspaper. I just shake my head in disgust and wonder if I can live out the rest of my life in this country, many of whose so-called values I refuse to ever accept. There is still much good here, I suppose. But, to paraphrase dear old Prof. Higgins, why can't the British learn to speak? (And to listen and to use their own rules of grammar.)

18 December 2004

My latest excuse to neglect blogging

I am wearing my long-unused amateur cryptanalyst hat and trying to solve this. I have all but three pairs solved, and the connection between the pairs. I have left to go - the remaining six individuals and their connections, the overall connection between the two lists (apart from the obvious one) and of course, and I expect if anything will stop me it will be this, the hidden quotation. Still, I have only been working on it for two days, so that's pretty good.
Update, 22:30 - I have cracked it and sent my solution to GCHQ. Wonder what the prize is?

High Speed Internet to the People

Large telecommunications companies are threatened by the spectre of community networks, and in at least one case, have fought them and won. So no surprise there, really. This story came from Sojourners online magazine and e-mail newsletter.

14 December 2004

More British humour at our expense

This from the BBC Four Tribe on tribe.net.
December 08, 2004 - 06:19 AM

The Americans Ball. Later Arrivals:
We welcome
Cybil Rights & her Irish cousin, Bill O'Rights
Closely followed by
Mr & Mrs Ho, & their daughter, Ida

December 08, 2004 - 06:55 AM

Re: The Americans Ball. Later Arrivals:
Looking replendant we have
Mr & Mrs Vanation & their daughter, Bertha

December 08, 2004 - 07:42 AM

Re: The Americans Ball. Later Arrivals:
Ah! Who's this? Is it not Mr and Mrs Bennet-I-Can't-Believe Theyve-Elected-that-Monkey-Again? Yes it is! And with them is their son, Gordon Bennet-I-Can't-Believe Theyve-Elected-that-Monkey-Again!

12 December 2004

Colour-conscious but White-blind

Thanks, yet again. to tribe.net, i have discovered LiP Magazine and this excellent article about the racialisation of crime reporting and the hypocritical colour-blindness to crimes committed by an overwhelming majority of white perpetrators. This relates to something I have noticed since I was a little girl in the American South in the 1960s, although it sure didn't stop there: in everyday discourse, not just news reporting, white people are "people", white Americans have opinions that are called "American opinions" about black people and their problems, white girls are just girls but black girls are blacks who happen to be young and female. It goes on and on. Read this, it's really good, and whatever your colour it may open your eyes.

11 December 2004

How to blog, from someone on Tribe

OK, so the link doesn't work unless you are a member of Tribe. I sort of figured that. So I will have to post al of what he said. Meanwhile, you could join Tribe, becasue it's a good way to connect with people online:

December 10, 2004 - 08:07 PM
how to blog, tips, whatever
tony pierce said:
1. write every day.
2. if you think youre a good writer, write twice a day.
3. dont be afraid to do anything. infact if youre afraid of something, do it. then do it again. and again.
4. cuss like a sailor.
5. dont tell your mom, your work, your friends, the people you want to date, or the people you want to work for about your blog. if they find out and you'd rather they didnt read it, ask them nicely to grant you your privacy.
6. have comments. dont be upset if no one writes in your comments for a long time. eventually they'll write in there. if people start acting mean in your comments, ask them to stop, they probably will.
7. have an email address clearly displayed on your blog. sometimes people want to tell you that you rock in private.
8. dont worry very much about the design of your blog. image is a fakeout.
9. use Blogger. it's easy, it's free; and because they are owned by Google, your blog will get spidered better, you will show up in more search results, and more people will end up at your blog. besides, all the other blogging software & alternatives pretty much suck.
10. use spellcheck unless youre completely totally keeping it real. but even then you might want to use it if you think you wrote something really good.
11. say exactly what you want to say no matter what it looks like on the screen. then say something else. then keep going. and when youre done, re-read it, and edit it and hit publish and forget about it.
12. link like crazy. link anyone who links you, link your favorites, link your friends. dont be a prude. linking is what seperates bloggers from apes. and especially link if you're trying to prove a point and someone else said it first. it lends credibility even if youre full of shit.
13. if you havent written about sex, religion, and politics in a week youre probably playing it too safe, which means you probably fucked up on #5, in which case start a second blog and keep your big mouth shut about it this time.
14. remember: nobody cares which N*Sync member you are, what State you are, which Party of Five kid you are, or which Weezer song you are. the second you put one of those things on your blog you need to delete your blog and try out for the marching band. similarilly, nobody gives a shit what the weather is like in your town, nobody wants you to change their cursor into a butterfly, nobody wants to vote on whether your blog is hot or not, and nobody gives a rat ass what song youre listening to. write something Real for you, about you, every day.
15. dont be afraid if you think something has been said before. it has. and better. big whoop. say it anyway using your own words as honestly as you can. just let it out.
16. get Site Meter and make it available for everyone to see. if you're embarrassed that not a lot of people are clicking over to your page, dont be embarrassed by the number, be embarrassed that you actually give a crap about hits to your gay blog. it really is just a blog. and hits really dont mean anything. you want Site Meter, though, to see who is linking you so you can thank them and so you can link them back. similarilly, use Technorati, but dont obsess. write.
17. people like pictures. use them. save them to your own server. or use Blogger's free service. if you dont know how to do it, learn. also get a Buzznet account. several things will happen once you start blogging, one of them is you will learn new things. thats a good thing.
18. before you hit Save as Draft or Publish Post, select all and copy your masterpiece. you are using a computer and the internet, shit can happen. no need to lose a good post.
19. push the envelope in what youre writing about and how youre saying it. be more and more honest. get to the root of things. start at the root of things and get deeper. dig. think out loud. keep typing. keep going. eventually you'll find a little treasure chest. every time you blog this can happen if you let it.
20. change your style. mimic people. write beautiful lies. dream in public. kiss and tell. finger and tell. cry scream fight sing fuck and dont be afraid to be funny. the easiest thing to do is whine when you write. dont be lazy. audblog at least once a week.
21. write open letters. make lists. call people out on their bullshit. lead by example. invent and reinvent yourself. start by writing about what happened to you today. for example today i told a hot girl how wonderfully hot she is.
22. when in doubt review something. theres not enough reviews on blogs. review a movie you just saw, a tv show, a cd, a kiss you just got, a restaurant, a hike you just took, anything.
23. constantly write about the town that you live in.
24. out yourself. tell your secrets. you can always delete them later.
25. dont use your real name. dont write about your work unless you dont care about getting fired.
26. dont be afraid to come across as an asswipe. own your asswipeness.
27. nobody likes poems. dont put your poems on your blog. not even if theyre incredible. especially if theyre incredible. odds are theyre not incredible. bad poems are funny sometimes though, so fine, put youd dumb poems on there. whatever.
28. tell us about your friends.
29. dont apologize about not blogging. nobody cares. just start blogging again.
30. read tons of blogs and leave nice comments.

I'm not sure if this link will work for everyone (if it doesn't let me know.) What this guy says is a little bit bossy, but basically true and heartfelt. I have to say, I have violated almost every one of his prescriptions, but I would never delete my blog. Not this one, anyway. I should probably delete some of my neglected minor blogs, but I just can't bring myself to. I think I just basically love to listen to myself talk, and yes, I have had therapy about that.

More great spam titles

"You must transmute to the champion individual for her"
and even better . . .
"Improve your spermatazoon measure & character".

07 December 2004

The sharp end of globalisation

"Behind the Brand Names" is a fact-rich report on conditions in the "export processing zones" in such countries as Haiti, El Salvador and China. The report is sponsored by the ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions), an organisation which is responding to globalisation by trying to revive the old idea of truly international unions. (You need Acrobat Reader to access the PDF file.)

05 December 2004

Doonesbury

Doonesbury has been since the early 1970s and remains today my favourite comic strip of all times. It has gone through some incredibly shallow periods, and there have been times when I have been really irritated at it. But the high points, like today's strip, more than redeem it. What other comic strip has real characters who not only age but also grow (Joanie, Michael, BD, and in this case, Boopsie!)? And at the same time, it has ridiculous cartoon characters who function as a wicked send-up of a famous person (Uncle Duke) or of a phenomenon (JJ). And as if that's not enough, it even has a talking cigarette, a bloviating waffle and a desperately out-of-his-depth centurion helmet who happens to be the President of the United States.

Sensitive Light: A dogs life

A touching little post from a local photoblogger (who, besides living a few scant miles from me, is really very good.)

Soul of a Butterfly

This morning I read a book review for a biography/autobiography of Muhammad Ali from the Times Online Books mailing list. Sometimes, a really good review is almost as good as the book itself. This review was excellent, and is the sort of thing I aspire to in my book reviews. Reviews of books that the reviewer didn't enjoy are rarely good, only when the reviewer is good with corrosive sarcasm and the book is bad enough in a big enough way to deserve it. But a good review of a good book gives you a taste of why that book is so good, gives you a taste of the book itself and gives you a little more besides.

Take love, for example: and the book is all about love. For Ali, it seems essential that he loves vast numbers of people, and is loved back by them. I was there in Atlanta when he lit the Olympic flame, and I felt the oceans of love washing towards him from America and the world. I have been at prize-fights where the very name Ali gets a bigger cheer than either contestant. Ali: the world’s most beloved sportsman; perhaps the world’s most beloved human.
Which is odd when you remember that he spent years as a hate-magnet. Quite deliberately: he modelled his free-wheeling braggart monologues on a wrestler named Gorgeous George, reasoning that the more people who wanted to see his ass whupped, the more tickets he would sell. He was always an actor, an illusionist, a man who adores conjuring tricks. He still does them; though now, as a devout Muslim who will never deceive, he afterwards insists on showing you how it was done.

04 December 2004

Lesbian Minister De-frocked

An openly lesbian Methodist minister was stripped of her credentials in a juried ecclesiastical trial. Although the jury vote was 12 to 1 to convict her of violating Methodist discipline, the vote to expel her from the clergy was only 7 to 6. The liberal congregation in Philadelphia PA where she served for the past five years has offered to employ her as a lay associate. In a similar case earlier this year in Seattle, another lesbian minister in the same denomination was acquitted.

03 December 2004

Blogkeeping and my life again

Tomorrow I am going in to work to supervise an implementation. A really major implementation. It is my first time doing something like this, there are many disadvantages under which we are labouring, and it is always possible that the whole thing (or I) will fall in a heap. This thing looming on the horizon (and it has been postponed twice, which hasn't helped much) is a big reason why I was so stressed before my holiday to America, and got back up to high stress soon after it, and why my blogging has fallen off and my Google rating gone from 6 down to 5. But soon it will all be in the past, for better or worse, and I can get back to the things that matter - books, cooking and the internet. And writing about politics, sex and religion. And maybe taking our poor old neglected dog for a proper walk.
Meanwhile, did you know I have a sort of "greatest hits" column? In the left-hand "menu" of this page there are some links to my favourite old posts, which I think distill the best writing I have done on this blog. Today I added a link to the kitchen blog, That Hash Browns Story. Check it out, you may enjoy it.
A lot of my favourite bloggers have recently gone into semi-retirement or just totally packed it in. I guess I may have to do some more pruning in the blogroll, but in some cases, their old stuff is so good that I'll leave it there as long as the link works, and maybe some passing stranger will discover it.
Update (Sunday): the implementation is in. It took about 8 hours longer than I estimated, for which I was roundly excoriated by client and upper management. But I am philosophical about that. It could have been (and by all rights might well have been) a lot worse.

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