Strangeness12 Feb 2006 06:12 pm

Haunted house on a hill Reader, I have a question.

Do you believe in the supernatural and/or the paranormal?

I’m not going anywhere with it, just wondering what your views are.

What are your views, dear reader? Have you time to elaborate?

Self&The art of blog08 Feb 2006 10:11 pm

I’ve just imported my ENTIRE old New! Improved! blog, courtesy of my sparkly new WordPress upgrade. Hadn’t realised it was even possible, until I spotted a new tab in the upgraded dashboard and clicked it on a whim.

The process was fully automated and took about 10 minutes in total. Astounding.

I’m so easily impressed by the cleverness of computers.

Old printing press Still reeling from the joy of having all my twitterings in one place, I stupidly decided to go through all the old posts and categorise them for easy administration.

That was 5 hours ago. I’ve just finished.

*seized up*

Not the most productive way to spend an afternoon/evening. Still, it was kind of fun to skim through all the old stuff again. I laughed, I cried, I shrieked… Actually I didn’t do any of those things, but I did mutter things like “Oh Foxy, you pompous old goat” and “How naive of you to think that!” out loud to myself a few times.

How strange it is that people change so swiftly. None of the old entries are older than 16 months of age. Hardly prime nostalgia fodder. Yet so much of it seems strangely old-fashioned and irrelevant.

Then again, some of it was a lot better than most of the nonsense I write now. Heh.

While I’ve got my dazzled-by-technological-wizardry head on, I should probably try and work out why my blogroll doesn’t display in my sidebar. All the code seems to be there, but no list. Hmm. Please don’t take the absence of reciprocal links personally, my peachy brethren. We’ll be all linky-slinky just as soon as I can work out what in the name of Pingu is going on.

OR… I could move away from the computer for only about the 5th time since the morning and leave the chore for another day.

Yeah. That idea’s oddly compelling.

*knees crack melodramatically*

British politics&Europe&Middle East&Religion06 Feb 2006 09:00 pm

Muslim protest against Prophet cartoons Some Muslims have been protesting violently about the publication of some cartoons depicting the Prophet negatively. Embassies have been torched. Property has been destroyed. Threats have been made. Our newspapers are full of words and pictures about it. Our society is outraged.

Belief

Several Muslims have died as a result of the protests. (Not the hundreds that were killed during this year’s Hajj, admittedly, but then some Muslim deaths are more interesting than others.)

Muslim protesters rage not merely against this single act of blasphemy, but against what this act symbolises. They rage against European arrogance, Western governments’ mafia-style looting of Arab lands, media campaigns demonising anyone in a beard or hijab.

Great anger does not necessarily need great provocation. Anger is cumulative. Ills are totted up until their number is too great to bear. Like breakage of the proverbial camel’s back, after a while, a single straw will be enough.

The media is so saturated with this story, it whips the storm to ever greater intensity. More violence, better story. More coverage, more mileage for incensed non-Muslim columnists. More debate. More invented “Sensible Freedom-loving West vs. Archaic Tyrannical East” binary oppositions. More hate bred on each side.

The more the story is prodded, the angrier it gets.

Politics

In Westminster, an unpopular prime minster consults expensive public relations advisers as to how best to break the news of military action in Iran to a jaded public. The scene is replicated in European and American ministerial chambers.

The problem is that the general public do not see Muslims as “other”. The public are unable to perform the emotional detachment necessary to sanction another aggressive campaign. The ‘C2/D/E’ demographic are still open to manipulation without too much trouble, but the broadsheet readers are currently off-message. Their feeble ethical rebellion cannot stop progress, but it makes the job of presenting a benevolent veneer slightly more demanding.

If only a way could be found that would stop the leftists and pacifists from obstructing the path of Western corporate power. If only we could damage the reputation of Islam and those who follow it. If only something could be done to back Muslims into a corner and create the illusion that the wildest extremists speak for all. If only Islam could be portrayed as unreasonable, backward, dangerous, subversive, unpleasant, stupid.

If only followers of Islam could be hanged by the zeal of its most extreme adherents, in a way that would carve a deep chasm between ‘them’ and ‘us’, between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We know their weakness. We know which buttons to press. If only we could find a way to use that knowledge to our advantage.

If the flames of such a campaign could be fanned, it would give us the moral high ground. It would hush the whine of middle class pinko indignation and deflect pundits’ attention to such laughably naive concepts as “free speech” and “science versus religion”. While the dinner party set’s attention and sympathies are diverted elsewhere, we’d have just enough leeway to start our Iran campaign and tidy up the dregs of Iraq and Afghanistan. As a bonus, we’d probably win the “Are Hamas terrorists or freedom fighters?” argument too.

Of course, expensive public relations firms and governments do not need to ask “if only”. They just need to orchestrate an appropriate story and appropriate coverage. It is easy to guide public thought, and these men and women are experts.

Muslim woman praying Communication

For their part, the media will run any story released to them at any angle required, provided it does not conflict with the needs of their advertisers or shareholders.

Fait accompli

… Well, whaddya know. Pure luck and good timing, of course. Perhaps God is an Englishman after all.

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!

Bush/Chimp

(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?

Blee!

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.

CORPORATE MEDIA SEEKS TO MAINTAIN SOCIAL INEQUALITIES TO MAXIMISE OWNERS’ PROFITS

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.

Suitcase

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.

Lily

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?

Chinese.

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.

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