Audience participation

Audience participation&Pop culture&Seasonal&Self24 Dec 2005 06:55 pm

Here’s something to while away those long Saturnalia minutes between carb fixes. I’ve shamelessly stolen the link from Mark of Fear & Loafing in England, who is a TS Eliot / Ted Bundy / Samuel L Jackson hybrid.

What am I on about? This. It’s MyHeritage, a site which offers photo facial recognition (still in beta) that can tell you which celebrities you most resemble, based on physical genetic similarities. You upload a photo of yourself and the software compares the attributes of your face to the celebrities in its database. Then it tells you who you look like, on a percentage basis.

I’m loving it, because it’s just told me I look like a whole host of gorgeous women, none of whom I particularly resemble. Actually there are a couple in there who are broadly along the right lines, in the loosest sense, but the others…?! I’ll gleefully take the compliment, but blimey. Let’s just say none of us are long-lost twins. If you know me in real life, judge for yourself, and try not to choke on your mulled wine. Here we go.

Gwyneth sobs
Gwyneth didn’t take the news well

Foxy is:

72% Beyonce Knowles
72% Halle Berry
71% Preity Zinta
71% Drew Barrymore
70% Vivien Leigh
70% Asia Argento
69% Britney Spears
68% Hillary Clinton
68% Daniel Cohn Bendit (who?)
68% Gwyneth Paltrow

Funnily enough, I have never in my life been compared to any of them. (Perhaps because I look nothing like them.) Ah well. I’m obviously too bootylicious for ya babe. I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.

Who do you look like?

Beyonce roars
“I look like goddamn WHO?! Is this some kind of JOKE? Get outta my way!”

Audience participation&Self09 Dec 2005 01:03 am

Observant readers may have noticed there is a new avatar in the sidebar. It has a fox tail and everything. What larks. Thanks to the lovely Aravis for telling me where I could find it.

Who? What? Why? I’ve ranted on enough about politics this week, so today’s post will be an Ask The Audience session. Please offer your responses on any questions you feel drawn to. Much obliged.

(1) Can you recommend me a good general level book about early-ish British history (any period from the year dot to medieval, ideally a basic overview of a large chunk of it)?

(2) Does anyone have a digital camcorder? What would you say are the absolute minimum specifications needed for it to be worth having? (We’re talking the lowest end of the price range here, so don’t trouble yourself if you’ve got some swanky 3 grand affair with built-in lazer guns and espresso dispenser.)

(3) Can someone explain the concept behind RSS feeds to me in a way that doesn’t make me go “Oh RIGHT… I see” and then forget 20 seconds later?

Your time starts… NOW!

Audience participation&Self02 Dec 2005 11:17 am

X marks the spot The vote is now closed and the results are in. The winning option will pop up here later today.

Tell you what though, this democracy’s a right hassle, isn’t it? I can see why Saudi Arabia don’t bother with it.

(Arf… back later)

Audience participation&Self30 Nov 2005 02:16 pm

Unmasked Thank you to everyone who added their personal image of me to the post Hide and seek below. According to you, my beloved co-bloggers, I am a mutant hybrid of man, woman, horse, fox, cybergoth rock hack, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Lord Lucan and transparent gas.

As you may have guessed, not all of these can be correct.

But that doesn’t matter. If you haven’t already added your description to the post below, comments are still open. Please jump right in. Let your imagination run riot. The comments will be closed only after you’ve answered your second and final question.

Speaking of which, here it is.

Fox paw print FOX QUESTION TWO:

Of the following options, which ONE would you choose:

(a) Two paragraphs of factual information about me.


(b) A photograph of me.

Think carefully. The most popular option of the two will be yours this week.

So take your pick. Which one do you want most?

Please vote by commenting below, or by email. Explain your reasoning, or be impulsive and random. It’s entirely up to you.

EDIT: Comments on both posts now closed. Results soon.

Audience participation&Self27 Nov 2005 05:20 pm

Fox mask You know what? I feel like a change.

As you may have noticed, this blog is written by an anonymous entity. I’ve told you my age – in fact, my exact birthday – but very little else.

One year ago, I did a poll on the first Urban Fox blog asking, purely out of interest, whether readers got the impression I was male or female from the writing on the blog. To my astonishment, the poll showed that opinion on this point was split more or less 50/50.

I was shocked by this, and also delighted. It has long been my view that you cannot possibly tell someone’s sex, race or religion from their writing, particularly not when they are withholding other personal information which may give clues. Having argued this point at length in Real Life with people of wildly varying political opinions, it was a thrill to be partially vindicated.

In fact, a big chunk of the joy of writing this blog has been generated by seeing how people relate to me, based on their thoughts or assumptions. I know a few readers who seem sure they know my sex, my race and so on. Best of all, many of them have conflicting views. For me, as a faceless writer, this has been fascinating. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed it.

But… the novelty is wearing off now. I’ve had my fun and I think it’s time to move forward.

So I’m going to give you a few more specifics.

Before I do that, I have two things to ask of you. Here is the first.


What is your mental image of me? Please describe it, including sex, physical appearance and sexuality (if you have a view).

Comment below or email me if you prefer.

You have until Wednesday 30 November to give me your descriptions. Humour me; it may be the last time I can enjoy my own mystery.

On Wednesday, your second question will appear – which will probably be much less taxing – and we shall proceed from there.

(Incidentally, perhaps anyone who has not yet registered as a Foxblog user (click here) and who still wishes to join our coterie of secret agents might sign up now. I have no insider content to offer you at this moment, but I plan to create some from the New Year onwards. The offer is totally free and without obligation. No salesmen will call. Send no money now! [etc])

EDIT: NEARLY FOUR YEARS LATER… I plan to write about the experience of slipping out from behind the Fox mask, as this whole thing was deeply fascinating.

What’s also strange is that this remains the most popular post on the site. Apparently people come here all the time to look for fox fancy dress costumes, fox Halloween costumes, fox masks, fox outfits, fox dressing up boxes, you name it. It’s all very strange. The only reference to fox costumes in the post is the fox mask photo itself. To all who come looking for foxy party clothes or costumes: I’m so sorry. Hope you found what you were looking for in the end. – Urban Fox

Activism&Audience participation&Burma&Human rights&South Asia03 Jun 2005 12:07 pm

If you have a spare birthday card – or notelet, or postcard, or can knock one up yourself – please consider sending it to Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. For more information on Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burma campaign, please have a quick look here.

My card cost 68p to post and the card itself was 50p, so not a large investment. But it’s important that the world is seen to be watching Aung San Suu Kyi, and this might be a good way to do that. Little tactical actions like this are sometimes the most useful.

I’ll cut and paste the original campaign request, rather than paraphrase the whole thing. Here’s why I’m asking:


Action Request – please forward to friends and colleagues.

On Sunday 19th June is the 60th Birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma’s democracy movement. On that day she will have spent a total of 9 years and 238 days in detention. Armed soldiers behind a barricade of barbed wire turn away any visitors. The regime has also cut her phone line, so no-one can call to wish her happy birthday.

The brutal generals who rule Burma have already made one attempt on her life, attacking a convoy she was travelling in on May 30th 2003. Up to 100 of her supporters were beaten to death in the attack. Aung San Suu Kyi’s car managed to speed away, but she was later arrested.

The regime are doing everything they can to isolate Aung San Suu Kyi.
They want the world to forget about her. They fear her popularity. She is the main threat to their continuing rule, and there are growing fears for her safety.

Please send a birthday card to Aung San Suu Kyi. Although the card is
likely to be intercepted by the regime, thousands of cards arriving will send a powerful message to the regime. If they know the world is watching, it will make it less likely that they will take action against Aung San Suu Kyi, as they will fear the international reaction. Your card will help keep her safe from further attacks.

Send your card to:

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
54 University Avenue
Bahan 11201
Myanmar (Burma)

Please forward this message to friends and colleagues.

This action is part of a global campaign to free Aung San Suu Kyi. For more information visit:”>Burma Campaign.

To stay in touch with the campaign, join our email network. Send a blank email to”

Arts&Audience participation&Writing16 Apr 2005 12:00 pm

Ladies and gents, your personalised book recommendations (see Readers’ lives) are ready.

Remember, you’re very welcome to recommend me a book right back. In fact, I’d love it if you did. Thanks to all those who have already recommended titles, whether to me or to everyone generally. They’re all great choices.

While selecting a book for each blogger, I’ve tried to avoid both the eyewateringly obvious and the sort of books you’ve talked about in your blogs. If you’ve written about your love of sci-fi, say, I’ve assumed you already have all the sci-fi you need and have tried to think of a more tangential option.

Mostly I’ve chosen novels, because a long list of factual books would have all the allure of a school reading list. Yawn-o-rama. However, there are a couple of exceptions.

If you’ve already read the title I suggest for you, I’ll award myself a shiny silver star for ninja-level perception. (Privately, I will give myself a slap for inability to think laterally.)

Cover shots are included, but there are probably 200 different editions all across the globe. So don’t judge your book by its…

I’ll just get on with it, shall I?

1. Radiohumper
Human Croquet – Kate Atkinson

You asked for something British with foxes in it. This book’s poetic, magical and beautifully written, as are all Kate Atkinson’s books. I think any one of them would be a good choice for you, but this one in particular. (OK, there aren’t any foxes in it. But it is British. Stick with me here.)

2. Ibrahim
Metamorphoses – Ovid

Not just because it’s from the olden days. It’s epic, adventurous, noble and heroic, all of which may be your cup of tea.

3. Swiss Toni
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë

Anne is the best Brontë. Fact! Unfortunately, she’s always been overshadowed by melodramatic weakling Emily and gobby sulker Charlotte. This book is ace on toast. I’m not sure you have any interest in Victorian novels, Swiss, so it’s a long shot, but I still think you’d romp through this one.

4. Lord Bargain
White Noise – Don DeLillo

This book’s funny, wry and entertaining. If you look it up on Amazon, ignore all the poppycock written in the customer review section. It’s not “tough going” or “difficult” and you don’t need an understanding of postmodern literary concepts to read it. What are these people on about?

Anyway, I’ve broken with convention completely here, because I’ve decided to offer you a second option in case you’re put off the first one by the detractors’ twitterings. It is:

The Stars’ Tennis Balls – Stephen Fry

This book gave me a bad dream the night I finished it. But it’s great.

5. Francesca
Immortality – Milan Kundera

I love this book. I bet you $900,000 that you will too. The fact that I don’t have $900,000 to cover the bet just goes to show how sure I am.

6. Hedgewitch
The Dice Man – Luke Rhinehart

A cult classic. But Hedgewitch, beware of trying to emulate the Dice Man’s actions while you’re reading it. No good can come of this.

7. Andy
Life of Pi – Yann Martel

This book is weird and brilliant. You think you know where it’s going, then it charges off in the opposite direction. Ideal for most people, but especially Andy. I think you’d like its understated humour and its unexpected twists. Frankly, who wouldn’t?

8. Ka
If I Told You Once – Judy Budnitz

Warning: the dark fairytale landscape of this book may haunt you for days after finishing it. An exquisite gem, perfect for Ka.

9. Chunky Munky
London Fields – Martin Amis

It is big and it is clever. It’s also compulsory reading for all Londoners. Hey, I don’t make the rules.

10. Mark
Manners – Robert Newman

There’s a sense of creeping urban decay in this book which I think would appeal to you, Mark. Not just that, but the incisive rendering of the main character and his psychological journey throughout the story also strike me as your sort of thing. An excellent book from an underrated writer.

11. Hun (aka odd child)
The Mistress of Spices – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A wild spirit unleashed in Oakland, just like the Hun herself. This is another beautifully written book with a magical twinkle in its eye.

12. OLS
Wise Children – Angela Carter

Sparkling, stylish, witty novel with hidden depths WLTM Aussie lawyer for cosy nights on the couch. No time wasters.

13. Jim
Vapor – Amanda Filipacchi

This book came to mind immediately for you, Jim, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s partly hilarious and partly sweet. The oblique humour in it may appeal to you. It may not. If it does, her other book Nude Men will almost certainly suit you too (not as titillating as it sounds, but a strange, funny read).

14. Jenni (who also appears here)
The Map of Love – Ahdaf Soueif

International politics, Egyptian history and a love story, all wrapped up into one. You can almost feel the scorching Sahara underfoot when you’re reading it. It’s a delight.

15. True Blue Liberal
The Age of Consent – George Monbiot

TBL, you are one of only two recipients of a non-fiction recommendation. This book is Monbiot’s “manifesto for a new world order”. I thought its visionary political ideas and optimism might appeal. One to fill your head with possibilities.

16. Diogenes
After The Empire – Emanuel Todd

Gerry didn’t respond to my entreaty to join us, but he’s getting a recommendation anyway because I think he’ll love this book. The author predicted the self-destruction of the Soviet Union back in 1975, when the rest of the world saw no signs of its power crumbling. Here, he turns his attentions to America and predicts the way in which the American empire will draw to a close, arguing that this process is already underway. Compelling and surprising.

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

The best novel ever written. I ain’t even joking witcha. Buy. Read. Love.

OK people, that’s me done. Hope you like your choices. Let me know what you think of the selections and, if you decide to read your book, what you thought of it.

Happy reading!

Arts&Audience participation&Writing14 Apr 2005 01:08 pm

I’ve buried the concept for this post right down in the comments section of the post below, which was silly. If you don’t fancy exhuming it, here it is again. It’s a proposed book recommendation post. You’re welcome to start one on your own blogs too.

The meme is of course the sign of a dead blog, so I don’t know what my attempt to start one says about mine. Nevertheless, let’s have a crack at it.

Here’s how it works: if you want me to recommend you a book, based solely on my limited knowledge of you as a blogger, then please comment below. Once I have a few names – or once I realise it’s an unworkably odd idea and abandon it, whichever is sooner – I’ll put up a new post containing one recommendation for each volunteer.

If you want to participate in this ‘project’ – which seems a laughably lofty word for a coffee-break diversion I just invented on the spur of the moment – then feel free to do the same. Call for volunteers and then recommend them something. If you tell me you’re doing it, I’ll drop in for my 1-book prescription from Doctor You too.

We can then have the pleasure of recommending each other one title to sit in our Amazon wishlists for 6 months before being deleted. What could be more fun?

The only rule is that the recommender must genuinely think the person will enjoy the book. No joke recommendations, e.g. “A Compendium of Mental Illness” for people who are “just kerrr-azy, like totally WACKO”.

Make sense? OK. Then let’s begin.

Want a personal book recommendation in my forthcoming post? Let me know below. Want to recommend other people books? Post a similar request on your blog. Bingo!

UPDATE: List now closed, recommendations on their way…

Audience participation&Self13 Dec 2004 01:32 pm

Thanks to everyone who voted in the recent “Is the urban fox male or female?” poll. Here are the results.

Male = 47.5%
Female = 52.5%

I am therefore androgynous. It’s official!

Audience participation&Self03 Dec 2004 01:49 pm

I don’t normally write personal posts, so this is a first. And possibly a last. Who knows.

The thing is, I don’t offer much personal information at all in this blog. It’s probably not surprising that some people’s comments and blog entries refer to me as “he” and some refer to me as “she”. But it’s interesting to note how different people receive different impressions from the same sources.

So, kind reader, I’d like to address you directly. Do you think I’m male or female?

Would it change your interpretation of this blog if you discovered I was the opposite of whichever you think I am?

It’s not a trick question. It’s not all about me either. I’m curious about whether you believe it’s possible to read someone’s sex from their writing. What do you think? Views welcomed.

There’s a poll in the sidebar, so please cast a vote if you have an opinion. It’s not reality TV, so there’s no premium rate phone number. And no evictions. And it’ll be back to the usual indignant carping afterwards, promise.

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