January 2006

American politics31 Jan 2006 07:15 pm

Apparently some American bloke is delivering a speech tonight.

It seems he’s going to talk about how all the countries who decided to stop trading in dollars a few years ago and start trading in Euros instead – aka The Axis Of Evil – are still evil.

In the face of impending US economic collapse once the dollar ceases to be the world’s reserve currency – aka Risks To National Security – he will propose controlling these renegade nations (Iran, North Korea, what’s left of Iraq, what’s left of Afghanistan) by fair means or foul – aka Business As Usual.

It will last 38 minutes, not including breaks for spontaneous applause, heckling or laughter.

There, my American friends. Now you have a concise version before the event, you get to spend your evening doing something more fun than watching da Prez read an autocue. Here to help!


(I know these simian photos are so five minutes ago, but they remain irresistible.)

The art of blog26 Jan 2006 05:52 pm

Magnifying glass To the person who found this blog with the search string “voodoo holidays from a long time ago“: sorry there was no helpful information on the subject for you. There’s clearly a gap in the market that I’m failing to fill. Hope your historical voodoo holiday requirements were satisfied with your next click.

To the person who landed here with the search string “how to make yourself temporarily blind for one hour“: what were you THINKING?


American politics&Asia Pacific&Europe&Human rights25 Jan 2006 09:36 pm

Chinese dog characterGoogle have joined Microsoft and Yahoo in capitulating to the Chinese government. They are offering a censored version of their search engine for use by Chinese citizens.

A lot has been said about this by Westerners of all political persuasions, but what surprises me most is that it surprises anyone. ‘BUSINESS MAKES DECISIONS BASED ON PROFITS RATHER THAN ETHICS‘ is hardly going to trouble the front pages.

What’s more unsettling, and increasing every day, is the volume of articles about how China’s emerging economy will be the ruin of the planet. Sanctimonious articles by supposedly left-leaning writers like this one are everywhere.

Apparently the environment is going to collapse under the strain of the entire world consuming at post-industrialist levels, and it’s all China’s fault for zooming up to Western levels of consumption.

The jawdropping hypocrisy of this viewpoint seems never to be questioned by any editor. China’s speedy adaptation to a Western-esque lifestyle is quite likely to be the last straw, survival-wise. But how can any Westerner argue that the problem is China? Europe, America and Japan rampaged across the planet’s resources long before China and India got anywhere near our rapacious behaviour. Now they are close behind, but the problem is not seen to be Ours or Everyone’s. It’s Them. It’s Their fault. They are worse than Us now, so They should be the ones to cut back.

Year of the Dog The Guardian article says:

The western economic model – the fossil fuel-based, car-centred, throwaway economy – is not going to work for China. If it does not work for China, it will not work for India, which by 2031 is projected to have a population even larger than China’s. Nor will it work for the 3 billion other people in developing countries who are also dreaming the “American dream”.

The implication here must be that our disgustingly wasteful consumerist economic model “works” for us.

As must be obvious to anyone with a basic grasp of arithmetic, it does not. It “works” only to deplete our planet to the point of collapse. The “American dream” – which is not too far ahead of the western European dream when it comes to consumerism – is fundamentally flawed. There is no such thing as endless growth. There are no more Earths to ransack.

So no, rampant capitalism won’t “work” for China or India, any more than it “works” for us. The difference is that China and India will probably never have the ultra-consumerist experience, however short-lived, because we’ve already used up most of the earth’s resources. Surrounded by riches beyond the wildest imagination of most of the world, and aware that the earth cannot even sustain our extravagance for much longer, we now begrudge anyone who might forshorten our reign of luxury.

Chinese lanterns “Sorry mate, we ate the last slice of cake. Hands off the crumbs though, you greedy pigs! Have you no SHAME?”

That’s about the size of it.

So any commentator who claims the earth’s impending destruction is the fault of China and its new-found Western-style materialism cannot be thinking clearly. Or they must be employed by a large corporation that has a vested interest in keeping the global status quo exactly as it is.


No, that one won’t be troubling the front pages either.

British politics&Europe&Human rights23 Jan 2006 07:00 pm

Pregnant Midge doll by Mattel Today, the High Court ruled that Sue Axon’s campaign to ban confidential medical treatment for children under sixteen is unlawful.

Mrs Axon is a mother of five. She wanted the law changed so that girls under sixteen can no longer be given advice, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases or an abortion without their parents being informed. One of her own daughters is due to give birth this March on her seventeenth birthday.

Mrs Axon claims that not being informed of the intimate details of her children’s sexual health appointments “undermined” her as a parent. She believes that if medical professionals respect her child’s privacy and grant him or her the same rights to medical privacy as a legal adult, her own human rights under the European Convention are being violated.

Here’s a direct quote:

“Having endured the trauma of abortion, I brought the case to ensure that medical professionals would not carry out an abortion on one of my daughters without first informing me. I could then discuss such a life-changing event with her and provide the support she would need.”

Hmm. “Having endured the trauma of abortion”. Not exactly a neutral perspective. It doesn’t take Miss Marple to work out that her “support” would come with a very firm agenda.

She also says she wished to change the law so that “our children can be protected from potentially damaging advice offered by professionals who do not know them.”

The very fact that members of the medical profession do not have a personal relationship with their patients means they can be as objective as any person could possibly be. Let’s not delude ourselves: the average age for loss of virginity in Britain is well under the legal age of sixteen. Fourteen is a closer bet. If a child of fourteen or fifteen – or even younger – is having sex, they need access to contraceptive advice, sexual health screening and emergency measures (such as the morning after pill or abortion) if they conclude, after considering all options carefully, that this is what they need.

If they’re old enough to have sex and mature enough to seek proper medical advice, they are old enough to decide who to talk to about it.

If a nurse told a 14 year old boy that they had to call his mother before dishing out his monthly allocation of free condoms, they’d scarcely have time to look up before he pelted out of the door at top speed. Result? Well, if he’s unlucky, perhaps a local flurry of STDs and another teen pregnancy, easily prevented if that embarrassment factor had not been introduced. Any child responsible enough to seek contraceptive advice should be applauded, not humiliated.

If a doctor told a 15 year old girl that her parents had to be involved before she could gain access to abortion advice, she may well attempt to take care of matters herself with a few of the old bottle of gin/hot bath/throw yourself down the stairs type ‘remedies’. Worst still, there may once again appear a market for backstreet abortionists, for girls whose religious or fiercely moral parents would forbid them to undertake the medical procedure of their choice.

Midge and crib I’m sure Mrs Axon would not want to think of any girl taking her chances with a thug and a knitting needle. I’m sure she would prefer to convince herself that a parental right to be told would have no effect on the numbers of children who seek legitimate medical treatment in a responsible, adult way. But I believe she is wrong.

Luckily, so does the High Court. Kids, go and get yourselves kitted up with contraceptives. Get yourselves checked for STDs. Remember you can always talk to someone in confidence if things go wrong. This is your business and yours alone, and it’s going to stay that way. Just as it should.

The real tragedy here is not that Mrs Axon lost her fight, or that she considers her own “human rights” eclipse her child’s right to impartial advice, but what it says about her experience of parent-child relationships. Many children are so emotionally close to one or both parents that they would seek help and advice from them as a first resort. They would trust their parents to do the best for them. They may ask a parent to accompany them to a medical appointment, or ask them for input in the decision making process, without fearing that the parent would seek to impose their own rigid views on them. I can’t help feeling that a parent who demands a new law to allow her to barge uninvited into her children’s bedrooms is clearly not very close to her children at all.

Random life14 Jan 2006 03:37 pm

I’m taking a little blog break, my dears. Take good care of yourselves while I’m gone. Hugs and hair ruffles all round. I’ll drop by and see you all when I’m back. Toodlepippety.


Audience participation&Self12 Jan 2006 07:39 pm

Here are my answers. I’ve been a bit indulgent and answered all your questions, so this is a long post. If it’s too much to process in one chunk, save it for a coffee break or only read your own answers. I don’t mind.

If we ever do this again, let’s stick to 1 question per person, eh? Actually, let’s never do this again. Lawks-a-mercy. My poor typing fingers.


SPINSTERWITCH of Life As I Know It asks:

What was your favourite holiday ever?

I went to Tunisia for 2 weeks and fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful French man. That was quite a good one. But a long time ago now though. I had a great time on the 3 holidays I took with my late grandmother too. She is much missed.

If you could go back and relive any memory that you have (but not change the events), would you? And if so when would you go back to?

I’m a bit anti-nostalgia so it doesn’t appeal greatly. If pushed, I would go back to the evening when I met my closest friend (the Saturday before Halloween in 1992, I recall) for amusement purposes, because I couldn’t stand his silly ways at first and it’d be hilarious to revisit that time and see just how much things have changed. He is now effectively a brother to me.

LEAH of Serendipity asks:

Do you believe in heaven? If so, what do you perceive it to be? What do you hope it to be?

I don’t believe in a literal place called heaven as a reward for good behaviour on earth or as half of a heaven/hell binary opposition, no. I don’t consider myself religious. My philosophy is bespoke, but a bit of Buddhism mixed with the esoteric theories of quantum physics, if you want to put me in a box. My idea of what you may call heaven is peace or a return to unity. This question reminds me of one of my favourite jokes, as told by George Monbiot:

Q: What did the Buddhist monk say when he went to the pizza parlour?
A: Make me one with everything.

If you could say just one sentence to Tony Blair, what would you say?

“You are under arrest; you do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not say something you later rely on in court.”

(OK, I cheated slightly with the semicolon.)

RADIOHUMPER of Unwashed Depressive asks:

If you only had ten minutes to make yourself feel beautiful, and you had to choose one, would you, 1) ‘self love’, 2) do some Pilates or ballet stretches, or 3) put on perfume and lotion?

Self love? Do you mean masturbation? I’d never considered that as part of a beauty regime, but I’ll make a note of the tip. Right. Well, I’m perfumed and lotioned at all times, so I suppose it’d better be the stretches.

On a day when you are already feeling hormonal, (you do have those, I trust), what misused word makes you homicidal?

Oh dear. I can feel an attack of pedantry coming on, namely my standard rant that men have hormones too and are no less or more at the mercy of theirs than women are. But only because you made a point of saying “culturally feminine” in the preamble. Testosterone imbalances could be blamed for plenty of large and small disasters, only we call it “Boys will be boys” or “He thinks with his dick”. I honestly think men and women have equal susceptibility to the chemicals in each of their bloodstreams. However, we haven’t got all day, so I will answer the question in the spirit it’s intended: No, I don’t really have any PMS-related issues. Perhaps the day before the painters arrive, I have slightly less patience and am quicker to get annoyed. But I lack patience at the best of times, so it’s hard to tell. As for sloppy words, misuse of the word “ethnic” (as an adjective describing something of non-Western origin or aesthetics, like “ethnic bracelet”) makes my blood boil, but that’s 365 days a year.

SWISS TONI of Swiss Toni’s Place asks:

What happened in blogoworld in the last 48 hours that sparked this off?

No one thing. Just more than the usual number of “YOU WHAT?!” moments this week.

You have posted a lot less about politics in the last few months. Do you feel different about blogging since you pulled back the curtain and showed us a little about yourself? Do you feel as though anything has changed?

That’s 3 questions in one, you cheeky squirrel. OK. Honestly? I feel there is little appetite for my old-style relentlessly political posts among my current set of readers. I am conscious of not wanting to be a preachy bore, endlessly shouting the same thing at people, and I’ve grown fond of our bloggy circle. As well as this, I have often seen other posts written better and more comprehensively than I have time to do (like here, amongst other places) and am often lazy enough just to let the writers of those posts take care of things. As I’ve mused before, this leaves me in a pickle, because that was the whole point of the blog in the first place, to give me a forum for non-frivolous writing. I’m also aware that I have created a Fox ‘brand’ which is impersonal and superficial. Personal revelations are only interesting to others up to a point; the most private, painful piece of information I ever gave on here met with silence, or wasn’t noticed. One single reader took it in, to my knowledge, because that person (Red) emailed me about it. Essentially, I’m trapped in a place where more information about me as a person is not appropriate, yet the totally impersonal political stuff no longer seems suitable either. The answer may lie in dumping the Fox altogether and starting again, which is possible as I have multiple domains sitting idle. But I can’t be bothered for the time being. Although my podcast may go out from a different domain. I’ll get back to you on that.

Has anything changed since I ‘came out’ as a woman? Yeah, but it’d take more than the space available here to answer properly. I get far fewer flirtatious emails from female readers now, that’s for sure. In general, people seem to respond less warmly than they used to, but it’s hard to pin that on any one cause.

What piece of your own writing are you most proud of? Question applies to blog writing.

God knows. I liked the things I wrote in the first half of the old Fox blog. I have a hierarchy of ‘greatest hits’ – in the sense of the most visited/linked blog posts – but that’s a different question.

Same question as above, only applying to all your writing.

I can’t answer that without giving a load of identifying information. Actually, that’s a smokescreen; right now, I can’t think of anything which makes me punch the air in triumph.

what band do you hold in the most affection? Not necc. the same as asking you who your favourite band are.

Babes in Toyland or Le Tigre. Or A-ha. Or The Smiths. Or The Slits. Or Public Enemy. Or Voodoo Queens. I haven’t included any of my friends’ bands in this list, because that’d skew the answers considerably, but I hope they already know I love them dearly.

guitars or keyboards?

Both, for god’s sake. That’s like asking a person to choose between vitamins and minerals.

hairy or smooth?

Whatever. Each person is different.

toe-may-toe or toe-mar-toe?

I’m British. You can guess.

How has blogging / reading blogs changed you (if it has)?

Aside from making me quite an irritating host/companion (“You ARE going to turn that bloody computer off at some point, I trust?”), it hasn’t changed me on any fundamental level.

What’s your poison?

I don’t smoke or take drugs and I don’t drink very much. When I do, I drink vodka.

SUBURBAN HEN of Suburban Hen House asks:

How have your experiences been with birth control?

It’s never failed me, so no complaints. If you mean how do I feel about my chosen form, it’s fine. The benefits currently outweigh the negatives. It may not always be the case, but it’ll do for now.

ARAVIS of Exploring Aravis asks:

The fox is known to have and spread mange to dogs, yet your coat remains glossy and healthy. How do you address this problem in your daily life? And do you prefer to raid the henhouse, or would you rather have someone leave a freshly killed fowl for you?

I find a balanced diet works wonders for my crowning glory. Best if other people kill my fowl for me, I am squeamish and hypocritical.

LORD BARGAIN of The Bargain Basement asks:

what’s your definition of a brilliant evening?

Good company. Anything else is interchangeable.

how much different would your Real Life friends tell you you are from the Urban Fox we know? And in what ways?

Like I say, I don’t think any reader would claim to “know” me as a person at all. Presumably the difference is that to my Real Life friends, I am a real three dimensional person with a real life, not a text-based entity with a silly name. That’s a pretty major difference.

what’s the best pop record ever made?

Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan.

describe your journey to your most usual/common place of work

Walking, if I can help it. I will happily walk for hours to get somewhere.

what’s the nearest takeaway to your house?


what hangs on your bedroom walls?

Currently nothing apart from a Zen calendar. I’ve been meaning to paint them.

ALECYA of Alecya G’s Plastic Castle asks:

How do you drink tea? Hot or cold? Black or with additives? How often do you drink it?

Hot (i.e. the correct way) with the tiniest possible dash of milk, 3-8 times a day. This reminds me of another joke:

Q: Why do Marxists only drink herbal tea?
A: Because all proper tea is theft.

Favorite candy?

Does chocolate come into the American definition of candy? I don’t like any of what we Brits refer to as sweets.

Do you think every person has one true love, or many possibilities? Is love subjective?

Many possibilities. Everything in human experience is subjective.

Do you have any phobias that make no sense? [i.e. dark, heights, lunchboxes, men with moustaches]

I get a bit wibbly at extreme heights when I’m not enclosed, e.g. top of Eiffel Tower, but I can go up that high if I am boxed in, e.g. not scared to look down vertically from plane window. Fear of unenclosed heights doesn’t really count as totally senseless though, does it?

what was the name of the first blog you visited? Do you still visit?

Honestly can’t remember. Probably a LiveJournal belonging to a random acquaintance. I almost certainly don’t still read it.

What’s your favorite color?

Deep blood red, closely followed by purple.

Which would you rather, assuming you had to choose one – blind, deaf or mute?

I can’t answer questions like that, I would be horrified to lose any faculty. Sorry, that’s not really taking the question as it is meant, I know.

Have you met any of the bloggers on your site, and we just dont know it? Are you willing to identify them?

Earthboundboy is a Real Life friend. None of the other Real Life people who read this leave comments. I have never met anyone I know primarily as a blogger.

EARTHBOUNDBOY of no fixed abode asks:

If you could choose to be re-incarnated as a non-human earth-dweller, would it be
as an actual Fox, or something different?

First of all, you’re cheating the system because you already know me. Ha. Secondly, no, I’d be a lion or a tiger.

Do you do voodoo?

No, but I do do duvets.

WOLFIE of The Two Wolves asks:

Will you post a photo of yourself?

Nothing is certain.

KA of The Grey City Manifesto asks:

Why this change? A few months ago, you were an elusive legend – are you hankering for some reality, dear one?

What an odd question. I have plenty of reality. I don’t live inside the screen. As for the reasons for the change, I can only cite the same thing I always blame when I swap my furniture around, and that is boredom. Plain and simple. Anyway, I doubt learning how I take my tea is going to give anyone any deep insight into the core of my very being.

If you could fix one thing in the world right now – one conflict or suffering, one area, one result – which would it be? “World peace” is not an option – I want specifics.

I would instil the gift of empathy into those who do not have it. If all people could feel the suffering of others, they may think twice about inflicting it. If you’re talking about genuinely achievable ideas, I’d like to see corporations ousted from global power, as they are literally destroying the very ground on which we walk. Laws should be introduced to prevent corporations having the legal protection of individuals while avoiding criminal culpabilities for directors. That’d be step 1.

Another lily

See, we got to end on politics. I’ve gone back to my blog roots. Thanks to everyone for participating. Have a lovely weekend.

Audience participation&Random life&Self11 Jan 2006 10:54 pm

Foxbase Alpha - St Etienne If the last 48 hours in Blogworld have taught me anything, dear reader/co-blogger, it’s that there’s a good chance you and I see the world differently. Very differently.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s put it to the test.

For one night only, ladies and gentleman, you are the hunter and I am your quarry.

You’ve seen Ask Swiss. You’ve seen Ask Bargs. You’ve seen Ask Spins and Ask Mark and Ask Jenni. So it’ll seem terribly derivative and dull when I ask you to join in with the very first ASK FOX. But ask you I must.

Throw me your questions, about anything you like. Is there anything you’ve always wanted to know about your host? Go for it. Any fanciful, flippant or fatuous queries? Cast them this way.

I can’t promise I’ll answer your question, but you never know. (Actually, I probably will. I’m in the mood for a bit of straight talking.)

Questions now, answers later. If you want your question to appear anonymously, email it on a veritaserum-stained postcard to the usual address.

Random life10 Jan 2006 05:55 pm

Imagine for a moment that this blog’s anti-consumerist stance has been temporarily suspended, while its owner takes care of business.

Long Distance Kiss - 80s to the max I have two phone-related questions for those of you who are technophiles, or early adopters, or work in Carphone Whorehouse, or have acquired the knowledge some other strange way.

1. If I wanted to get a new mobile which has internet browsing / email facilities, is this likely to be achieved easily with a normal-ish handset and standard tariff? Or am I likely to need the services of the appallingly advertised 3G? Or, heavens to Betsy, a Blackberry?

2. Are the handset price and call charges likely to cost a lot, i.e. more than the level of technology currently justifies? Or is it now perfectly possible to do this without too much fuss and needless expense? I hear WAP is a bit lame.

Technical people, please assist. I’d be grateful.

Disgusted regulars who were expecting the usual knit-your-own-muesli polemic, please be assured that normal service will resume shortly. Y’all have a nice day now.

Seasonal&Self08 Jan 2006 09:58 pm

Winter road

Right, I’ve had enough of winter now. Spring, please. SPRING. Come on, Spring, it’s your turn. Don’t be shy.

Daylight seems blocked out by an enormous spaceship at all times. There is little noticeable difference between noon and dusk, and the two seem scarcely a moment apart.

Who has patience for this time of year? Who wakes up every day thinking “Ooh, what a beautiful sludgy grey sky. Just the colour of papier mache goo. I feeeeeeel nice, sugar and spice!”

Although I suppose there is a single advantage to cold weather. At least there are no wasps around. (For all my carping, I’m an optimist at heart.)

And on that cheerful note, perhaps I should just buy myself some environmentally- unsound tropical fruit, ignore January’s stony glare and pretend it’s May. Worth a try.


Random life05 Jan 2006 07:08 pm

Still bereft of prose, so have a picture of a puppy instead.

Sandy puppy

Tune in tomorrow to see a basket of Persian kittens with quizzical expressions. Possibly.

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