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31 January 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 10 - The God Interviews

This week's Wednesday Website of the Week is a small book, available in printed form or as a download, in which God is interviewed by a cartoon character named Augustine. The Interviews with God started as a comic strip feature on the highly graphic blog Blaugustine, owned by Natalie D'Arbeloff, an artist living in London. I have had the pleasure of meeting Natalie in person, and she is delightful, warm and wise, just the sort of person whose conversations with God you would like to be privy to.

24 January 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 9 - Answerbag.com

Answerbag is a wiki or wiki-like site that often comes up if you do a lot of quirky searches (as I do.) It's free to sign up, and members can post a question on literally any topic in the world, not matter how serious or how frivolous. Other members then scan the questions and, if they know the answer, they answer it. I found Answerbag twice. The first time, I was frustrated by the total lack of leaf wipes in all the shops (having been supplanted by Christmas tat) and was looking for a home-made leaf-wipe formula. The second time I was looking for natural remedies to correct a home hair-colouring experiment gone slightly awry. (I can see you thinking Deborama is really too old for such silliness, and you would be right.) Like most participatory web experiences, Answerbag is growing luxuriously and sprouting widgets, gadgets and special interest groups.

How to calculate your carbon footprint

"When in doubt, ask a penguin."

23 January 2007

The Jade that was ours

Exit Jade Goody, spirited away to a safe house, lest the disciples of British
tolerance tear her limb from limb.

So begins Mary Riddell's comment column in the Observer this past Sunday. As a so-called "race row" developed between a plain, loud, working-class (well, that's being generous, under-class in fact) young woman from Britain and a gorgeous, talented, wealthy and well-brought-up one from India, Britain spent the last seven days like this:
  • Day one - glued to the telly, hoping for a hair-pulling girl on girl catfight

  • Day two - realising that there was maybe some - um - racism at work here

  • Day three - frantically disassociating themselves from such racism

  • Day four - discovering that it wasn't that simple, there was a class dynamic as well; meanwhile busily pouring money into Channel 4's coffers to register their disgust/approval of Jade's bullying tactics

  • Day five - as Jade is evicted, some found sympathy for her, while the tabloids ceased their orgy of asylum-seeker bashing to do some self-righteous racist bashing, without a second's pause to notice the irony

  • Day six - Jade apologises, breaks down, apologises some more, weeps piteously (India for one is not entirely convinced) while the C4 executives cringe under the wrath of media critics and all and sundry proclaim (whew!) the death of the CBB and BB "format"

  • Day seven - we put our feet up and have a nice cup of tea from the Paki shop

Passports, please

Starting today, passports are required of US citizens to enter or re-enter the country via Canada and Mexico. There is a short "cooling off" period before absolute enforcement, and passports are still not required for travel between the US proper and its possessions such as Guam and American Samoa. All part of the plan to combat turrorism.

My family, news from the home front

  • My youngest sister, Denise, has been appointed Dean of Arts and Sciences

  • My daughter Aimee has bought a house in Portland

  • My son Carey has got a dream job: testing computer game software

Hillary RIP

We lost another budgie. One of our young ones who had a damaged wing, and then had also lost her entire tail behind the sofa in a mysterious accident, died under unseen circumstances following an adventurous leap from the cage. We generally let them get out and back in via a long rope ladder throughout most of the day, and with their wings clipped, they can fly short distances, but seem to prefer an exciting plummet from the roof of the cage to the ground, sometimes followed by a little exploration, before climbing back up. But we found little Hillary, who was the tiniest, loudest and cutest of the bunch, expired on the floor, so we don't know if she broke her neck or possibly died of fright due to the dog Desmond's interest in her. We buried her in the back garden near to Sanjay.
We are hoping to get three more, to build our flock back up, as they seem happiest when there are plenty of friends to play with. The cockatiels, Winston and Clementine according to DH (even we chose those names to be androgynous, i.e. Winnie and Clemmie) are doing fine. I am beginning to suspect, though, that Winston is the girl and Clementine should have remained Clement.

21 January 2007

Art Buchwald, Columnist and Humourist

Art Buchwald died 18 January at the age of 81. I remember when his column was one of the first things I would read in the newspaper. I was a schoolgirl/young teen when he was at the height of his popularity, but he aged very well, because since his humour was absurd, sharp and never bitter or cruel, it never really went out of fashion. In fact, click on the link above, and then click on the link for the video feature, to see Art at his most sublime, with his self-made, one sentence, video obituary made especially for the web. Brilliant.

17 January 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 8 - Tilefish

Tilefish is a UK-based highly specialised shopping site - for Scrabble enthusiasts. Countdown fans also patronise (great Countdown word, that) the site.

14 January 2007

Iraq the 51st State (from March 2003)

A good satire and all true. This is from Mathew Engel's column in the Guardian. (NB: as I revisited this piece in my laborious conversion to the new Blogger, I reread the piece - it is chilling how what was satire in 2003 has come to pass - and is not that funny.)

12 January 2007

Robert Anton Wilson - I don't see how to take death seriously

Robert Anton Wilson passed away yesterday, five days after posting these words on his blog (presumably with some assistance, as it says he was paralysed):

Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.

Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.

R A Wilson was the main "founder" of a philosophy he called Discordianism, in his cult novel trilogy Illuminatus.

10 January 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 7 - the Chimp-o-matic

Today's website of the week is available as a template add-on in Blogger, a flash add-on for your MySpace page or a "stuff" to add to your Google homepage. Chimp-o-matic is simply a very unflattering pic of GWB looking especially chimp-like, accompanied by one of his more boneheaded quotes, which changes daily. It has no redeeming social value whatsoever. And as its creator says, if you think GWB walks on water and heals the sick, this probably means that the terrorists have won.

09 January 2007

Our newest birds

Here is a picture of the newest additions to our household. These are two young cockatiels named Winnie and Clemmie. Clemmie is the one in the foregound with the peachy cheeks; she is actually smaller but is standing in front. They join our budgies (but in a different cage for now, although they all get out a lot) : Pearl, Hughie, Holly and Hilary. And of course our little black (now black and grey) dog Desmond.
Winnie and Clemmie came to us as a freebie from my friend Cindy, who runs a parrot rescue centre (not actually restricted to parrots, she also has at least one pigeon!) and she hand-rears birds, does bird-counselling and bird-sitting and all kinds of stuff. She gave us the 'tiels supposedly because they were possibly becoming "feral" after their hand-rearing, so she didn't want to sell them, but really as you can see they are quite tame. We thought it might take a week before they would let us handle them but they were stepping up on our hands and perching on us on the second day.

US Peace delegation protests outside Guantanamo

Why is this not news? OK, so I'll stop being disingenuous. Why is this news being censored? OK, you're right, even that is a naive question. Why are none of the leftist blogs in the US or the UK covering this? Are they not aware? Is there some pernicious angle to the story not apparent to me that makes it OK that there's a virtual news blackout on it in the US and only low-key coverage in the UK? I heard a brief discussion on the BBC (Radio 4) but it was at just past 6 in the morning and not repeated. It's not in the Guardian; it's in only tiny, ultra-liberal US print media. A blog search turned up nothing. A Google News search found a few stories including the one above, but the only "major" papers carrying it were Canadian or Caribbean. What's the deal?

04 January 2007

I hope it IS just me; on the 2007 opening of Congress

I had to turn off Nancy Pelosi and her glibly triumphal speech. I'm sorry, I am not a good Democrat, it is true. (I'm not really a Democrat at all; it's just that they're less evil than the other guys.) I mean, first of all, the Dems as a rule are so self-congratulatory it's nauseating. All they did was win one measly midterm, and that barely by a gnat's crotchet, and to listen to them you would think they had stood on an asteroid and hove the straying earth back into orbit. But the really sad thing to me is the utterly fallen state of oratory skills and public demeanor.
This is how I heard the honourable Ms. Pelosi's speech, once I blanked out the content for the above reasons and others: A laboriously, prissily delivered sound bite, then rapturous applause. A brief interval of silence, basking in the glow. A second laboriously, prissily delivered sound bite, more rapturous applause. A third sound bite, slightly more shrill, and the applause, having barely died down, swells again. A moment to all catch our breaths and savour our righteousness. A very laboriously delivered sound bite that thinks it's a rhetorical master-stroke, followed by delirious applause and a group orgasm.
I can remember a time when the whole speech was delivered in its entirety before anyone would consider whether it was good enough to merit a little polite applause or a respectful standing ovation. The sort of newspeak cliche-fests we now have would not have been considered worthy. From what little of the actual words that leaked through into my aggrieved brain, I think the new Majority Leader's text was mainly feminism and its long-overdue rewards. Now if she actually does anything to advance the cause of women in her new position, I may retract my disgust a little, but I am not holding my breath. Because there was also some very realpolitikal waffle about Iraq in there too.

03 January 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 6 - Beg the Question? Get it right!

Just in time for Wednesday, I was listening to a great programme about words on the radio (Radio 4's Word of Mouth) and amongst some other wonderful stuff about words that have appeared over the horizon this year just past (2006 that is) there was a snippet about the website for a society that I have always dreamed might exist yet never knew it did all along. The group to which I refer is begthequestion.info and their purpose in existence is to get people to stop using the term "begs the question" in a completely incorrect manner. In case you are one of the majority of - oh - at a guess, 99.76% of English-speakers who do this, I will let the experts set you straight, because frankly I am sick of trying:

To beg the question does not mean "to raise the question." (e.g. "It begs
the question, why is he so dumb?") This is a common error of usage made by those
who mistake the word "question" in the phrase to refer to a literal question.
Sadly, the error has grown more and more common with time, such that
even journalists, advertisers, and major mass media entities have fallen prey to
"BTQ Abuse."
While descriptivists and other such laissez-faire linguists are
content to allow the misconception to fall into the vernacular, it cannot be
denied that logic and philosophy stand to lose an important conceptual label
should the meaning of BTQ become diluted to the point that we must constantly
distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous "modern" usage. This
is why we fight.

OK, you ask, in your fog of confusion, what does it mean then? (Because chances are very, very, very high that you have never in your life heard it used correctly, unless you have taken a university-level course in logic or have very well-educated and pedantic parents, or both.) I am not in total agreement with the definition the website (yes, even the passionate are not quite precise enough for me) but the one provided by Wikipedia is quite up to scratch:

Begging the question in logic, also known as circular reasoning and by the Latin name petitio principii, is an informal fallacy found in many attempts at logical arguments. An argument which begs the question is one in which a premise presupposes the conclusion in some way. Such an argument is valid in the sense in which logicians use that term, yet provides no reason at all to believe its conclusion.

I will give my favourite example. In an episode of The Good Life, Margo Leadbetter is asked by Barbara Good why she hates pigs so much. She looks at Barbara in dumfounded astonishment and says "Because they are pigs!"

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