Monday, January 07, 2008

[martin scriblerus] here's an example for you

The joke is on Madeley because that is precisely the type we're looking for - the unclubbable free spirit. That's why it's not a club, Richard. You're entangled now, my boy. :)

By the way, do you like the right aligned text? No?

[christmas] yo! it's our holiday today

It's Christmas today and I say to you all - Merry Christmas!!!!

Hope the day brings you everything you deserve and/or hope for. Hope that from this moment on we can put all stress and pressures behind us and go into 2008 with an upward looking mood.

How's this for coincidence?

You know what I've been doing the whole weekend since 03:00 Saturday morning with the departure form Blogpower - I've been answering e-mails, keeping up the blog, trying to do my RL work on Saturday and so on. You know, I never even noticed that Christmas had arrived today.

Phone call just came from my mate with Christmas wishes. What???!!! Oh my goodness, I'd completely forgotten. He was not impressed. So I explained the events of the last 60 hours.

"Well, have you phoned ****** [my girlfriend] ?" he aked. "She can't get you."

'Oh, b---er." I knew I had to phone not only her but her mother and grandmother and I'd been invited for family lunch. Oh woe is me! So, first cab off the rank was the most beautiful girl in the world. Lot's of words, I love you, darling and so on. Then I said I had to phone her mother and grandmother.

She handed the phone across and it was her grandmother. Then the phone was handed to her mother. Though they weren't impressed with my memory lapse and I didn't even try to explain the blogosphere, at least I'd phoned. Well, I know it doesn't look good.

Her grandmother promptly invited me over and let me tell you - this lady can cook and how!

They are at this moment driving back through the forest from a resort town and she was [GF] describing the leaves and the snow and the atmosphere and I can feel it right now.

So, with a cup of coffee here now in my flat, with you out there reading, with matters having been set straight in the last post and in RL, dreaming of the forest and with one last day before going back to work, I'm now touching wood [or knocking on wood, as they say over here].

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

[disputes] it's the silly season

Earlier in the match

Have you noticed how many disputes there have been recently? I don't mean the international State v State type but the smaller type of niggling dispute. Tiberius Gracchus puts it this way:

The 90s and 00s have been the years of vitriol. Whether its Anne Coulter accusing Democrats of 'treason' or its Michael Moore accusing George Bush of being a Saudi puppet, whether its the mad bloggers of the right rounding on appeasers or its the mad bloggers of the left rounding on chickenhawks, its open season on the internet and in the newspapers.

The Croydonian writes:

Abstracted from an article about a spat twixt the Netherlands and Aruba, involving debt, sovereignty and a hotel: "A Freedom Party MP recently called Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles "a den of thieves" and suggested putting the six islands up for sale on the internet".

Then what about the India v Australia furore?

India's tour of Australia last night erupted when touring captain Anil Kumble attacked Australia's sportsmanship, Indian team management demanded the umpires be stood down for their incompetence, and Ricky Ponting reacted with fury when his integrity was questioned.

With tensions already high as Harbhajan Singh's racism hearing began at the SCG, Kumble was unable to contain his anger at his post-match press conference.

Kumble simmered as he delivered a line reminiscent of Bill Woodfull's famous Bodyline statement. "I think only one team was playing within the spirit of the game," Kumble said, causing the Indian media contingent to break into applause.

The bad blood between the two sides spilled over after the Australians snatched a 122-run victory with eight minutes left in the Test.

Something in the air or in the water, do you think?

Later in the match

Sunday, January 06, 2008

[nice guys] sunday evening thought

Nice guy, no? Actually, this photo was taken minutes after he was found guilty of the mass murder of women with two other men.

The nice guys only seem to finish last, but really that is because they are the last ones standing. They last the distance, bad boys don't. And besides I like nice guys, that's not the issue. Nice guys with Bob Geldof syndrome who cry at Grey's Anatomy? They don't quite float my boat. [Oestrebunny]

This research here suggests that opinion is split, with 56% of women agreeing nice guys finish last but that women might see the nice guy as a "keeper" and the bad boy for the fling.

My thinking, therefore, is that if she does take a "keeper", then unless her moral principles are strong or she loves him, the nice guy will usually end up being cheated on. If she does love him, the question folows: "For how long?"

So either way, the nice guy is living on borrowed time, unless he can convince her he's a bad boy. :)

Bad boy, yes? He's a policeman called out to assist a battered woman. Here he holds a torch while the lady policeman attends to the woman.

[late for the sky] still we continue on

Jackson Browne had his detractors. Some thought his songs a little twee, the pathos overdone. Some thought much of his material music to slit your wrists by, a little like Leonard Cohen [different genre of course]. Some thought he became too much the journeyman muso. Some thought he was wonderful.

I met the man, with his girlfriend of the time, Daryl Hannah [Splash], sometime after the suicide of his wife. He seemed a nice guy.

This song I particularly liked - Late for the Sky:

Now the words had all been spoken
And somehow the feeling still wasn't right

And still we continued on through the night

Tracing our steps from the beginning

Until they vanished into the air

Trying to understand how our lives has led us there

Looking hard into your eyes

There was nobody I'd ever known

Such an empty surprise to feel so alone

Now for me some words come easy

But I know that they don't mean that much

Compared with the things that are said in a lover's touch

You never knew what I loved in you

I dont know what you loved in me

Maybe the picture of somebody you were hoping I might be

Awake again I can't pretend and I know I'm alone

And close to the end of the feeling we've known

How long have I been sleeping

How long have I been drifting alone through the night

How long have I been dreaming I could make it right
If I closed my eyes and tried with all my might
To be the one you need.

[martin scriblerus] first scribblings

The Logo

This is but a rough and everything can change. I'd like to see a parchment edge but don't have the tools. Copyright is not an issue with this logo but it was with the previous one.

Which do you like better - the pale or the bold version? Maybe you like neither.

Running this logo in your sidebar indicates you are one of the Martin Scriblerus Alliance [the name can be changed later].

The idea

The logo, such as it finally becomes when we can get a designer onto it, is to symbolize top blogging in no specific area. To sport the logo is a comment on quality. As there are no rules and it is not a club, then there are no prescribed limits to numbers. There is no specific home site but rather the discussion is shared round. This can alter as members see fit.

Criteria for invitation

Invitation is through the joint opinion of all members who care to comment. Anyone can put up a blog for inclusion, often repeatedly but this is subject to scrutiny by the alliance and to acceptance of the logo by the blogger.

You would have an established blog which is a main blog, you write excellently and enjoy fairly universal admiration for your blog in a cross-section of most corners of the blogosphere, you are also admired and respected as the person behind the blog.

On top of this, you have a point of view and a purpose to your blog of an elevated nature but not for recruiting of any nature - you persuade through your arguments. You're for the freedom of the blogosphere and committed to improving your blog all the while.

Your primary purpose on the blog is to write rather than to use any method possible to up your traffic. The writing is consistent and a broad cross section of readers come to your blog more or less regularly.

You haven't been subject to continued criticism from various quarters as to the ethical conduct of your blog - quite the opposite in fact.

You're known for caring for fellow bloggers. Apart from that, you can be as cantankerous, anti-social, individualistic and "unclubbable" as your heart desires.

Current state of affairs

We're up an running and gathering the first 10 members who'll form a "steering alliance" [there are 5 already], after which others will be invited jointly. Very small beginnings and steady and careful as she goes. Absolutely no hurry.

[obama] assassinated?

Why not?

[lionheart] your thoughts on this

Please give this five minutes of your time and tell me what you think. Read nothing into my attitude - it's neutral.

[rise of the yahoo] the new bestiality

Ruthie wrote this over in Minnesota:
She's eighteen. She has a slim little body, dark, wavy hair and brown eyes that positively glow with smug self-awareness and nascent sexuality. She drinks too much. She wants to be a model. She's slept with several of her co-workers.

She alternates dizzily between childish giddiness and a sort of stoic, pursed-lips silence (her interpretation of the model "pout" she sees on TV). She doesn't yet know if she wants to be outgoing and fun or aloof and superior.

If you ask her what she likes to do, she'll say "shop," or "drink." If you ask her what she wants to study, she'll look at you blankly. Then she'll giggle. "Fashion design!" she'll say. "If I don't make it as a model first."

K is really a very ugly girl. She's rude and self-absorbed, she drinks while she works, and she turns on a horrible false friendliness for customers that makes my teeth hurt. She comes to work hungover and complains bitterly about the unfairness of her life (even after her father bought her a brand-new car), the cold outside, and her customers— just before switching on a painted-on smile as she walks out the kitchen door.
... which was, interestingly, almost a carbon copy of a conversation we were having over here in Russia. Now is that coincidence or what? Our context was different but the issues are identical.

A young Muslim lady who visits me was talking about her youngish [25] sister who incidentally, also visits me and did so later yesterday. The issue was the dumbing down of education and the surgical extraction of any sort of moral code. Interesting that a Muslim and a Christian could discuss this together.

There is a generation now in whom many of the elements of previous generations are all still there - making the same errors, thinking and doing the same things, kicking against authority and so on but with some added elements - really gross ignorance, vacuousness if you like.

The education system has begun to break down here as it has in the west and whereas before even the street sweeper could quote you Pushkin, today they seriously know nothing. I quantified that with general knowledge tests. Now for me to make such a statement detracts from it because of my own age but when Ruthie wrote what she did above and when my 35 year old friend also said it, then I felt it might have something to it.

There's one key indicator over here - a girl's tummy. No girl - and I really mean that - ten years back would have been seen dead on the street with a flabby tummy. Now, with fifteen year olds, it's common to see flab hanging over the ripped hipster jeans and packaged in with it all are multiple piercing, tattoos everywhere, cheap costume jewellery and a vacuous, defiant expression. Many are pregnant.

Out of all this, I extract three points - the vacuously gross ignorance, the soul bereft of any moral framework or goal in life and the sordid lifestyle. You only have to get into the lifestyle of the blogger I left Blogpower over and it's dire and bestial, that world [which he stays above at blog level].

The language is coarse, the concerns are limited to external things of no real consequence, even to them in the long run, they're so easily bored and there is not a parent to be seen - no family context. They are resisting any kind of education and educating themselves in their own neo-bestiality, fuelled by advertising, dance lyrics and dark computer games.

Against that are the girls and guys at university. When I made a comment actually praising young people - most of these uni folk are go-getters, speaking four languages and with goals for the future, one group stopped me, said I was wrong and began a tirade about young people generally today, saying largely what is written above. That's why Ruthie's post meant so much. These girls are a bit younger than Ruthie - 20 and yet they were saying roughly the same thing and it has to make a person feel encouraged.

Over here there is a well known reaction to any disaster - кто виноват и что делять? Who is to blame and what to do? So who is to blame for the children's current sorry state?

Well look at it logically. The children for a start who are resisting education and continuously opting for the soft variant. So who allows it? Parents who throw up their hands and ask what they can do - it's just society. Schools which are not teaching properly. Example - I know a teacher who is so ignorant of any general world knowledge and yet she can quote every feminist author on how oppressed women are.

Now in the case of the schools, which are hierarchical in nature, the heads of departments must bear the blame but they themselves are so brainwashed in the new ignorance that they allow this guff to go on. I know this is so because my second cousin dragged me round to a few of these things when he was 19 and they really were dire.

Nothing wrong with a bit of mindless drinking but this was sex in church grounds, urinating anywhere and no concept of certain decencies. I'm desperately trying to steer clear of prudishness here and just say there are some things the people I know, who can be pretty wild, would still draw the line at. Some of you know the song: "I knew she was a lady 'cause she moved the dishes first."

So no, I don't mean a bit of excess in your own sphere but a sort of cultural ignorance, an ignorance of what people have achieved before you. It really is the ignorance which gets to me. How did these people get so ignorant in the first place?

My Muslim woman friend had her own view yesterday. She said it was no accident, that it was very much an organized thing, all of it - from the dumbing down through to the drugs, porn and so on. Regulars know that's one of my themes but I was shocked to hear it come from a person so divergent from my background.

I then asked her who then was behind it, who was this organization? She said, "Money. Just that, money." Asked to explain, she said that with no moral framework in the kids' heads, they are swayed this way and that and fall for anything bright and interesting, like babies do. Her own 12 year old is into Russian computer games and she said she looked at some of the crass names of characters and blanched.

I never asked her why she allowed these games but if I had, she might have answered that if he didn't play them at home he'd play them at a friend's. True but what if all parents acted in the same way and restricted things just a bit, added the concept to the children's minds of delayed gratification and having to work for what you get? What if the children were given a moral framework which society had largely agreed on? We used to have one.

I don't mean high church or sharia law but something emanating from parents, educators, everyone? Doesn't anyone see that these mindless kids are groping around in the dark, looking for meaning in life and finding readily available pap in its place and in the palaces of glitz where they spend their days? I asked the 25 year old sister where she was going after me. She said to the Riviera.

This is a shopping complex and I asked her why there and not at, say, Koltso? She said that this one looked out over the river and you had nature while you shopped whereas the other was just a shopping orgy. So nature does intrude into the mindset after all. She's only a little afflicted with the disease then.

I just think the whole thing is so sad out there now.

And anyone, anyone at all, who tries to pull the plug on this inexorable, zombie-like procession towards the low-life is turned on, marginalized and vilified. This process has its fail safes as well.

So I ask my lady friend who's behind the money and that's where her Muslimness and my Christianity diverge. Because in our faith, there is very much an answer, a quite simple answer to that question I asked her.

We can blog about the political machine, we can blog about the new feudalism, we can blog about the follies of pollies but this blogger thinks we have a greater danger to confront - the rise of the yahoo.

[trapped in a lift] what would you do if

Two cleaning women were trapped inside a broken lift for two days with only two cough drops and six aspirin to sustain them. After the doors closed, the women discovered they were stuck on the first floor of the two-storey building.

There was no response from an emergency call alarm and the women could not pry open the doors, said Ms Bartoszewicz, 25. Neither had a mobile phone and the building was not due to open until after Christmas.

The women tried to sleep on their coats and used a corner of the lift as a bathroom. On Christmas Eve, an employee went to work. Ms Borowski said she heard him talking on his mobile phone. The women yelled and he heard them. Fire crews freed the women an hour later.

Russian domestic lifts are pretty safe and undergo periodic maintenance and with not a lot of money about, still residents of housing blocks pay, every few years, for a new lift . However, the electrics can and do stop and you're suddenly trapped.

Picture this - a man has just nipped down to the shop downstairs for milk and bread. He returns, uses the electronic button to get into the foyer of the house and pushes the lift button, stands back and observes the light above the door - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ... ping.

The door slowly slides open [and why do they always do this so slowly - is it an exaggerated attempt to portray gravitas and solidity?] and at that moment there is the buzz from the outer door and some girl comes through, clattering towards the lift. The man pushes Hold Lift Open and she skittles into the four person lift, also clutching packets.

Nods to him, he asks which floor and presses it, then steps back and they pretend to ignore each other as the hushpower door closes. Suddenly he pulls out his bloodred axe - no, that's a different tale ...

A little desultory conversation ensues [love both those words] and he glances over again and compliments her on her new jacket. Then the lift dies. Just dies. Her shoulders sag because:

1. she's been through this before, as she eventually explains, many times;

2. she's in there with a middle-aged man.

He calls the emergency woman below and there's no luck. She's obviously gone shopping. He glances up and around the lift for the first time, noting the elegant decor of brown wooden panels and a rickety roof which has possibilities. At least it is allowing in a finger of light producing a dull glow in the lift.

She's withdrawn into herself so he starts to cheerfully tell her about his last lift entrapment in all its gruesome detail, just to cheer her up, like. It doesn't appear to cheer her up and she reaches into a packet and pulls out a snickers bar. He, on the other hand, has done his three day shopping and has a smorgasbord in those packets. He pulls out a meat and veg pasty and starts munching and she glances over enviously.

He reaches in and pulls out the little packet with the three pasties and offers her one - urges her now. She takes one and offers the end of her snickers bar in return. He gracefully declines then tries the Emergency Woman again - still no luck.

They begin to discuss possibilities of escape and he reflects on his attire - he's in tie and good trousers for work and she's in the latest fashion jeans and snazzy jacket but at least her jeans are already ripped and the unworthy thought crosses his mind that he'll send her up through a panel in the roof.

He's damned if he's going to sacrifice those trousers for an idea and she, surprisingly, has chimed in with this thought and agrees - one's wardrobe is more important in this situation. So ... time to think this one out. There's sufficient food until tomorrow for both of them but the problem is going to be the bathroom [American sensitivities here].

And now she has to go to that particular room and actuals murmurs so. He reflects on his packets - if he repacked his food - well.

"How long?" he asks her and she understands what he's referring to - the time she has left before she really has to "go"? Some time, it seems. Now it occurs to both to use her mobile phone but no luck. He tries the Emergency Woman again but no luck. It's becoming apparent she's waiting for him to play the superhero but if he does, it will have to be sans trousers and jacket.

Still, that's an option because they must be near his floor now and he can nip back there and put some old clothes on. Problem will be leaving her in there alone. Actually, to be honest, he's worrying about leaving her in there alone with his packets of food. He discusses the plan with her and she's relieved but just before he disrobes, he tries the Emergency Woman one more time.

Eureka! She'll send an engineer. Where from? They'll have to phone him. Twenty minutes. The girl looks at him and he surmises, "An hour." She nods and indicates she has to "go". He starts to rearrange the packets and puts three plastic packets inside each other and hands them to her, then turns to the corner like a naughty schoolboy.

He tries not to listen but begins to hear sounds below on the first floor but it's people deciding the lift is not working and they'll go round the back to the stairs. Now if one of them at least were to get out at either of the floors they're between, well - it has possibilities.

She's now done and highly embarrassed and he has a strange sort of feeling inside but one thing for sure - they now must get out of there with the presence of ... that ... in the corner. The vigil begins with both squatting down, backs to the wall until the sound of the Emergency Woman and two men above.

Conversation ensues and all is well. Eventually the door above the lift is prized open, someone drops onto the roof and this now opens. Superhero now offers his hands and shoulder for her to climb onto and as she's young, she makes the lst athletic little climb up, assisted by the guy above. Packets are now passed up as well.

Now it's his turn and this is going to take some strength on both their parts. There go the trousers. He scrambles through the gap finally and the trousers are still OK but marked. She's disappeared by now. He dusts himself off, picks up the remaining packets and goes home.

Next day they find themselves in the lift again together and that's a special little moment.

How Do Americans Vote? Other Musings too

Thanks, Matt but I somehow think you'll get to a computer over there:

I remember long before embarking on this major that I used to debate a friend of mine. I said to him, "Most Americans vote based on one issue alone." He would lob obscenities at me, claiming I knew not what I said. Little did I know how right I was!

Last summer I took my first 400 level class and learned just how Americans vote. Philip Converse, who is considered by many in my field to have written the work on public polling did research on this subject. His definitive work is entitled The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics. Rather than bore you all to death with the work, much of which I don't understand (public polling isn't my specific area, btw), I will briefly summarize what he said.

Converse conducted research in 1956 on how elites and ordinary citizens vote. Briefly, he found out that 11.5% were ideologues or near-ideologues (meaning these are the people who think in terms of liberal or conservative). The majority of Americans, 42%, vote on what is known as group interest. This usually falls to one issue: immigration, Iraq, etc. 24% of Americans vote based on nature of the times, the issue that is in vogue (terrorism, right now); this isn't necessarily the group interest issue. Finally, 22.5% of Americans vote on no issue content: Obama's hair cut looking better than Romney's or some thing of the like.

Now, I will have to go out on a limb here and trust what my professor told me. She told me recent research had been carried out to see if Converse's findings hold true, considering they're a little over fifty years old. They do.

I just turned on the debates about an hour ago, catching the Republicans debating about immigration. A common theme I heard among the candidates was that we can not remove twelve million illegal aliens from our country. Personally speaking, I've heard the number is much greater (through various estimates) than twelve million (specifically that twelve million illegals reside in California alone by one estimate). Above all else, it distresses me that all of the candidates who said it is impossible to remove these illegals from this country. They lied to everyone watching that debate. IT HAS BEEN DONE BEFORE. DO NOT LIE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!!!!

One more thing, I won't be contributing here much longer (on a regular basis). Where am I going? A clue lies in the video below:

Friday, January 04, 2008

[fragmentation] strength of the sphere

How's this, from a U.S. Anonymous, as a rationale of the blogosphere?

There is a freedom in this technology, and yes that freedom is under drastic attack from centralised powers that wish only to control. Thus control is anathema to me. The strength of the 'sphere is in its fragmentation. If I don't like a place, I don't go there. Places open up, places close down. Thats the strength of the 'sphere.

It is indeed. Have a lovely night.

[townie ant] the fragrance of the city

Ares Den Dig meeting minutes 010208: The Townie Ant

Gibberish? Now, imagine the blogger has been at a meeting in the city for a length of time and the result of his frame of mind is in the pic he produced. Now, reflect on the fact that this is a blog, so for what purpose? To engage who in deep discussion on the meaning of life?

Now, in that light, the post appears brilliant to me, after which he drops this in to his next, concerning Harrison Ford kicking a Russian off his plane and Bill Bixby making his umpteenth return to the action:

Ms. Manners has emphasised that manners are the glue that hold society together. We turn the other cheek when we can, lest we stoop to vulgarian levels of behaviour. But what do we consider ‘crossing the line?’ When someone’s actions threaten the safety and well-being of others. That, and seeing this raving bloke marching towards the cockpit.

I think if I ever found myself in that position, my mind might work along similar lines. Perhaps Sean should take a look.

[new hampshire] more important than ever

Having read the the American pieces and then the Dizzy piece, the question comes down to whether the Lizard Queen can be the "Comeback Kid" in New Hampshire.

They're similar in that they both polarize voters but different in that he was perceived as young and she as old and as a woman. Before anyone writes off the Lizard Queen, it's also worth noting that a caucus is not a primary - a primary is more direct. Plus she's east coast.

With the exception of Gary Hart in 1984 and some others, NH has been pretty good at picking eventual nomination winners. Detractors of NH point to the uneven sample not reflecting the national split and yet it has the record to back it.

All eyes on New Hampshire. Too close to call.

[martin scriblerus] a fine tradition

Martin Scriblerus was the name given by Pope, Swift and others to a fictional writer of satire in the 18th Century.

Emerging from the particular literary coffee house they were members of, the joke was that anyone in the group could publish a satire and use the moniker Martin Scriblerus.

From this was born the Scriblerus Club and though it was never formal and never really a club, it became associated with fine writing and with a sense of humour. It seems, even today, a fine idea for a group of modern writers, e.g. bloggers.

The idea is completely different to what people feared in the first post on ethics below. In fact, it would be a freewheeling "brand name", as the 18th Century variant was intended to be. All would be equal, there'd be no rules or admins and it would be a collective only insofar as, to be in it, that would signify that you were a quality blogger.

The ethics question would just come naturally with the territory, rather than from any regulations or rules - in fact, in the manner Tony Sharp indicated.

The idea is to create a brand name synonymous with quality and in no way to "
hand out Civility Enforced code of conduct badges to good little blogging boys and girls." That would never come into it as it would just be a collective of freewheelin' bloggers doing their own thing to the best of their ability but happy to be associated with the name.

Just as it was with Pope and Swift.

Who would decide such a thing? All members plus the readership's opinion on each blogger. It possibly wouldn't require a special site and paraphernalia and might act more like the Barbarians or I Zingari or like the current Britblog. The Baa Baa's code, by the way, is:

Membership is by invitation and the only qualifications considered when issuing an invitation are that the player's rugby is of a high enough standard and secondly that he should behave himself on and off the field.

It might be a nice combination of Brits, Americans, Canadians and others of a range of persuasions - the only criterion being good blogging.

The danger, of course, is that it could become seen as a club of high-noses and that would be nauseating to fellow bloggers but that could be solved by the simple expedient that caring for the blogosphere might be one criterion and a certain outwardlookingness as another. There's no reason members couldn't be in any other group they like.

Possibly it should have a self-destruct button too to prevent it becoming monolithic.

The question of swearbloggers comes into it. It was raised in the posts below. Speaking purely personally, I can't see the problem when it's for artistic effect but when it's just gratuitous, then it's an issue for some.

For example, in the Touch 'n Go song about Harlem, the girl who's just been mugged of her last $50 says, "F--k you." I'd suggest it was necessary in that context, especially as the whole thing's tongue in cheek. But there's a young conservative girl blogger who drops swearwords anywhere in lieu of good blogging, in an effort to impress as some sort of hard-girl, e.g. "What's that coming over the hill? Oh it's a big f--k off grey cloud."

Bloggers who come into the swearblogger category include DK, Mr. Eugenides, Reactionary Snob and Longrider among others. Clearly top bloggers who know how to provoke and there's nothing wrong with a bit of provocation now and then [I'd never do it, of course :)].

Anyway, the whole thing's just an idea only at this stage.

[ethical blogging] poetic justice

Clearly, the intent behind yesterday's post on ethics was not made clear enough and that was because I failed to give the background and therefore the real thrust of the post. So let me present this as a melodrama.

First, the motley cast of characters:

The Councillor - actually a soon to be councillor come the next elections. An excellent man and blogger who is very popular.

The Quiet Blogger - another popular personality whose blog many find to their taste and who has occasional, well constant really, outbursts at the government.

The Rattlesnake - likes to get inside and bite people.

The Initiator - otherwise known as T-1000 who "never, ever stops"; he likes to start things and is popular with many but his cavalier manner puts others off. His support is ebbing away.

The Ornery - an excellent blogger and good man who often misinterprets things and yet raises excellent points along the way.

The Deceiver - otherwise known as the Messiah, his blog is his God and he uses it to further his nefarious aims.

Goodheart - a great lady blogger who rises to authority and is under the spell of the Deceiver.


Long ago, a group of people gradually gathered together at the instigation of the Initiator and were concerned with the blogosphere. Out of this an ethos was born which simply reflected what Cllr Tony Sharp [not the one in the story] wisely said:

Surely any blogger worth their salt should be posting in a way that is ethical and moderating comments that offer nothing but abuse.

Ah yes, Tony but that doesn't take into account the snakes in the grass who put themselves onto others. No blogger is an island, after all. The story unfolds:

The Rattlesnake decided to publish a series of "Testimonials" which were ascerbic and often inaccurate portrayals, in a scurrilous manner, of some other bloggers, including The Councillor and the Quiet Blogger.

These latter were understandably upset and the Initiator and colleagues promised to look into this but didn't because pressing matters pressed and the truth was - it didn't directly affect them, may they be forgiven for this. Here is the first principle of wrongdoing:

We fail to act in support of other bloggers when it doesn't directly affect us or when we ourselves have other more pressing matters on our hands.

At the same time, fine words were being written about mutual support and ethics and the like and most people nodded on with approval. The injured parties, however, suffered on in silence.

Then, into this, came the Deceiver, who'd somehow got into the picture and he started his Messianic mission to allegedly [for legal purposes] use his blog and fellow bloggers to produce sexual acolytes and a culture of Pleasure Dome which, as many said, was his own business.

Except that first one then other victims contacted the Initiator who then did some exploring.

The Ornery now came into the picture, rightly claiming that it was all well and fine having noble and lofty aims if we never utilize them. He walked away from his fellow bloggers. Meanwhile, the Initiator felt it was time to expose the Deceiver who can cast magic spells, especially on women but in doing so, the former didn't count on the assiduous pull of the Deceiver. Only the victims knew the real truth which was shown in e-mails written to them by the Deceiver.

The Initiator saw a clear ethical breach here - it was as clear as day in the e-mails and in the blog itself. He jumped onto this issue but it was misinterpreted as a personal feud and the unethical nature of the Deceiver and his extraordinary capacity to convince others that black was white proved too much. The reason he does this so well is that he deceives himself as well and sees himself as a Knight in Shining Armour.

To illustrate how ethical he actually was, the Deceiver published a complete e-mail he'd been sent by the Initiator and the Initiator called for action on this, just as the Councillor and Quiet Blogger had before him. However, most saw this as just an error - hell, anyone can make an error, right? Kiss and make up.

However, a few astute bloggers saw it more for what it was - a rare lapse revealing true colours and they explored themselves and came to the same conclusion as the Initiator - the Deceiver was unethical. But not being privy to all his e-mails which the Initiator refused to release to his ultimate cost, they could not conclude further.

Seven people rallied to the call altogether but alas, most bloggers were away at the time and missed the show. The stated purpose of the Deceiver - to destroy the Initiator, the only obstacle in his path as he saw it - had been cleverly timed for two days before Christmas.

There were now two issues. The first was the issue of the Deceiver, which was clearly now a lost cause. The second issue was far more serious for the blogosphere:

When the chips are down, bloggers will not support ethical standards because either they're involved at the time in their own projects or else don't have all the data to judge.

If they did, then the Deceiver and the Rattlesnake would have been either drummed out of the blogosphere or would at least have been severely censured.

So, a much chastened Initiator now realized how personal ethics and how mutual support of fellow bloggers in a just cause are of vital importance. It's the old story of the Wolf and the Sheep - the Wolf can pick off the Sheep one by one because the Sheep fail to support one another, except in the proximity of sheer numbers.

The main reason bloggers will not support ethical standards and censure rogue bloggers is the great fear, which even the Initiator shares in full measure, that The Man is trying to remove the freedom of the blogosphere. Most will sign petitions but won't actually rally to support individual instances of quiet, underhanded attacks by the Man, who is cynically clever and knows that people are essentially self-interested.

Of course, occasionally an important person is thus attacked and then the sphere will rally, e.g. over the Usmanov affair. But generally The Man is more subtle than that. Now, while this battle between The Man and The Sphere is going on in one corner, Wolves are happily roaming around The Sphere picking off individual Sheep and no one comes to the rescue - you see, the Wolf wasn't personally attacking them so why buy trouble?

To wind this tale up, it was finally brought home with a jolt to the Initiator that ethical blogging is just a catchphrase when it applies to anything other than our own blog. No one will truly support censure of unethical behaviour against a fellow blogger, such as scurrilous "Testimonials" or the publishing of another man's e-mail.

The Initiator is now both chastened and less idealistic about ethics than before and that's a sadness. Also a sadness is that he has to walk away from the object of his heart for the past year and once again, a bit like in a divorce, go it alone.

Why must he? Well, he can't very well remain, pretending all is well when he's invested so much into the issue of ethics to the point where one of his close friends writes to say he's being a prat and whilst the Deceiver still roams around freely doing his thing.

Did I say alone earlier? Well, not quite alone.

There are a few people who support ethical blogging in real, actual terms - in terms of supporting fellow bloggers under the hammer and while the Initiator's personal position disintegrates and his health deteriorates, he knows that there are indeed certain very good hearts out there and he gives thanks that such people still exist in these increasingly Look After Number One days.

Epilogue [pretend it was a tele-drama]

The Initiator feels he has to now give back to others in some other way, to get off his butt and help and support fellow bloggers, not with fine words of a general nature but from inside himself and the only weapons are the posts on our blogs.

That's what he meant about Ethical Blogging - not regulation of the sphere or prescriptive rules, as The Ornery assumed in his customary but lovable misinterpretation [the Initiator actually hates regulation of the sphere] but instead:

Personal ethics and mutual support at the time when it is needed is vital for our mutual protection in these days when our blogging freedom is increasingly being threatened.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

[ethical bloggers] the increasing necessity in the sphere

Pride in one's blog must have some basis

Somewhere a line has to be drawn in the sand.

There's been a bit of a discussion in recent times about ethics in blogging - what's acceptable and what's not. Of course we're not referring to political views as such, fisking or how risque one's language is but more to the ethical basis underlying someone's blog.

There are blogs like, say, Dizzy or Croydonian whose views you might attack and who might be accused of bias this way or that but what you can't attack is their ethical desire to check basic facts, to back up their statements and to be more middle of the road in outlook. Wat Tyler is a case in point here.

I mean they don't use their blog as a front for holocaust deniers or to recruit girls to some apocalyptic nirvana a la Jim Jones or to push anorexia, push porn or promote shaitan - they're solid, not off their brain and by no means boring.

They're not sordid, foul-mouthed bloggers who write in anatomical detail of their last sexual encounter although the occasional F word might be used for emphasis.

They don't steal other people's photos or fail to attribute quotes. They remain inexorably ladies and gentlemen in their most scathing attacks.

An ethical blogger

Then we come down, not just to ethical underpinning but to sheer good writing as well. Some blogs are, quite simply, excellent reads. Not all the time but mostly. Plus they're consistent in output, varied enough and tweak the layout and format from time to time - not all the time, mind. One gets the feeling each time one visits that the author always wishes to improve.

They have some personal ethics - for example they'd not "out" a fellow blogger they disagree with nor publish a private e-mail on a public mailing list in order to win an argument, expecting the matter would be just glossed over by a vaccilating admin.

Every blogging association on the web would like to contain just such bloggers who command respect - such as Pajamas Media and the like. But there's also a place for a small, select group for whom ethics is the underpinning plus the simple ability to write.

This group would be known for it's jealously guarded logo and the need to perform and perform well to remain a member, just as the players in any premier league club. The group name needs to stand for something in the sphere - a long process and one where the sphere needs to begrudgingly [at first] accord it respect and finally the name becomes synonymous with quality.

Another ethical blogger

They can be small bloggers whose improvement has been quite marked and looks like it will continue - blogs like Sicily Scene, for example or established objects of respect like the Political Umpire.

Such a group of bloggers would form only by invitation, there'd be a most democratic process because any such blogger would be, by definition, a highly independent thinker and therefore virtually "unclubbable". The problem is that the setting up of such a group presupposes that the initiators see themselves as acceptable for membership in the first place [Groucho Marx Catch 22].

The inexorable push by authority to regulate and vet blogposts is gathering momentum and is only fuelled by low quality blogs with low quality ethics. Authorities need only point to such blogs and say, "See, he's a member of your group." You'd be tainted by the same stigma and so it's vital that when the push comes from above, you can hold your head up high and say, "Well I'm a member of Ethical Bloggers".

Some group has to set the standard.

A number of bloggers have been thinking along these lines in the light of recent events and have expressed a desire to set up some sort of association or cooperative which we could temporarily refer to as Ethical Bloggers, as a working title. Such an association would take up any ethical issue raised and stand by its ethos; it would quietly act on breaches instead of turning the messenger into the villain and trying to sweep the issue under the carpet.

Would the greatest blogger in the UK be admitted?

But more importantly, issues would be hardly likely to arise in the first place because of the stringent entry requirements. Like anything of value, such a thing would take some setting up and would not be easy - nothing of any quality does come easily.

[queues] and the problem of the chicken

The really wonderful thing about walking the half mile home from the market along hard-packed snow paths is that the chicken you're carrying in your hands because the woman didn't have any packets today, is going to freeze up in the minus 12, thereby saving you the job at home.

Wonderful day.

One of my clients dropped me at the phone company office to pay an overdue bill they'd never given me and had then sent the computerized voice to intimidate me that if I didn't pay up by yesterday they'd cut me off - but the office was closed.

Their "pyeryeriv" or lunch break is 12-13 but just to fool us this month, they'd made it into 13-14 and of course, I'd been dropped there at 13:05. This necessitated the aforementioned walk home but as it went past the post office, I thought oh well, might as well pay that.
Good thing I did go in then because they'd also changed their 13-14 break to 14-15 and there were arguments with the cashier serving the line I was in.

Interesting study in human nature over here.

There are most certainly queues and the usual thing is to ask: "Kto poslyedni?" or "Who's last?" then join the queue in turn.
There is another tradition that if you've once joined the queue and looked the person behind you in the eyes, then you can go somewhere else in the room and sit down until your turn comes.

This means that if you walk into the post office with a half frozen chicken and there's a queue of, say, twelve people [remarkably small], then it is, in fact, thirty six people from assorted points in the room.
Into this comes the type who tries it on. The most brazen simply walk straight to the cashier, muscle into a gap two places back in the queue and act as if nothing's happened. These are usually but not always men.

Then there is the woman who comes straight to the window, gives an apologetic quick glance at the queue, asks an innocuous question, then another, whilst the cashier is in the process of serving the current customer and with the cashier not answering her, she mutters: "Nu, ladno," which roughly translates as:

"Well, I asked a reasonable question but if you don't want to answer because you're just a rude post office worker, then all the people I've just queue jumped will join me in my general disdain for you."

The queue now shuffles one place closer and this woman softly slips into a parallel sort of joining the queue. On being told by the cashier to get to the bloody back of the queue like everyone else has had to, she steps away with an apologetic look, then when the cashier looks down, she rejoins the queue again.

This is where a kalashnikov would come in handy.

Or the other type who simply comes up to the window, stands beside the person being served and starts her business with the cashier, irrespective of the person at the window being served. Can't help thinking what would happen to such a person in Britain but here she gets away with it and this is one of the more galling things.

The other thought crossing the mind is whether or not to waste a perfectly good, almost re-thawed chicken by flinging it at the woman's face. Anyway, my turn comes and then it's time to walk back down to the telephone company office again, where the whole queue business repeats itself once more.

Then comes the walk home again.

The bright side, of course, is the exercise and the rich tapestry of human nature one observes every time one steps outside the door of one's flat.

[he says she says] the road to marital breakup

Ross and Robyn Brundrett are a married couple [could you guess that from the names?] and they wrote a column in the Sunday Herald some time ago, called "He says, She says".

The concept was good - take an issue and give the husband's and wife's perspective on it but the problem was that things got a little too willing. Below are their reactions to the time he had nasal surgery [sorry - I've searched but can't find it on the net].

First, his side of the issue:

"Oh, you poor thing". That's what my No. I daughter said. And workmates. Even strangers in the lift. Just about everyone. Except my wife. When I get sick, she has all the bedside charm of Maggie Thatcher. Someone remarked that it must have been painful. "No, no," she insisted, "childbirth is painful".

It's not as if she is a cruel or hard person, quite the opposite. She is the first to offer an ailing friend or relative some comfort. If one of our kids is sick she is Florence Nightingale, Put when I go down in a screaming heap, well I go down alone.

If she goes down though, it's a different matter:

I'm not saying we [men] are more caring, I'm just saying we are smart enough to realise that the quicker they are up and running the better for everybody. So we care for them as best we can - anything to get them off our couches as quickly as possible.

She says that when men are sick, women suffer the most. Men are wimps when it comes to any form of sickness:

He had a 24-hour bug the other day. Well it is a 24-hour bug in men, In women we have to get over it in 24 minutes. True! We don't have the luxury of lazing in bed for an entire day, pathetically whimpering for a drink, begging for something to eat, pleading for a form guide to read. For us, staying in bed when we are sick is not worth the effort.

So excuse me if I am not too patient when he is the patient. I am sympathetic, to a point, but I quickly tire of the moaning and groaning and that is just to get him out of bed. The sympathy in his fellow men, it was nothing short of amazing ... and when they heard that he had undergone this lifesaving surgery on his own - well the blokes were shocked.

The women understood that I did not know he was going to have such a deep incision, that the children had to be picked up, dinner prepared, ironing done, floor cleaned, house painted, so I could not be with him in his hour of need.

I have one lady who comes to me and she is balancing a working career, an academic career, a dissertation for a doctorate, two children, one supportive husband and a young sister in her 20s who demands constant attention. In our hour together, the phone must ring at least eight times, wanting some issue solved.

I have enormous admiration for mothers and their toughness whilst maintaining their femininity and have had some good role models. So sorry - I shall not jump on the male bandwagon. I think the guy above must have given her some cause for the vehemence of her words and probably, as she said in another part of the article, milked the debilitation for what it was worth.

However, her reaction is unbelievable. How does she hope to hold onto her marriage with an "I'm the only martyr round here" attitude and that level of intolerance?

What we have here is the fundamental danger between husbands and wives. The wife married him because she felt he would be strong for her, would love and support her and so on. And so he should do - I have little time for weak men.

On the other hand, every human being needs softness in return, even a husband, especially as he married her partly for this aspect of their relationship.

As for him, perhaps he should pull his weight a bit more and not give her the ammunition to be able to say "ironing done, floor cleaned, house painted".

It's hard to know what to do. They're both so entrenched that it's the children who will suffer and each parent would blame the other. When will men and women accept that they are different species and have entirely incompatible aspects to their viewpoints, their mental sets?

And it only takes one side to start the rot.

The vultures will swoop and claim that this supports the modern notion of perpetual and damaging promiscuity in lieu of marriage but that's rubbish. Father, mother and children have been and always will be the only sustainable variant but the two sexes really must step back and take stock of all aspects of how they get on and where they're trying to go.

A first step might be to live within their means, remove the financial yoke of credit debt and to hell with their detractors for doing that. A man and a woman with mutual affection and a common goal for "us" can work near miracles together if they'll be tolerant of each other and the load is split pretty well 50/50.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

[paris] will it ever be the same again

On the grounds that I have France on my mind and given that I'm currently working on my French novel, this is not so much a post but more an excuse to use some photos.

So to the issue itself yesterday:
Les fumeurs plutôt disciplinés dès hier - c'est aujourd'hui que commencent les contrôles mais, dès hier, de nombreux cafés et restaurants respectaient l'interdiction.
That clear? Well let me put it slightly differently:
The extension of France's smoking ban to bars, discotheques, restaurants, hotels, casinos and cafes on January 1 marks a momentous cultural shift in a country where thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir once held court while clutching cigarettes in Left Bank cafes.

For smokers, this is the most distressing part of a phased smoking ban that began last February in workplaces, schools, airports, hospitals and other "closed and covered" public places like train stations.

But many bartenders and restaurant staffers are looking forward to breathing easier and to clothes that don't stink of seeped-in odours from the clouds of smoke where they work.

Just about anywhere indoors will be off-limits for smoking, except homes, hotel rooms, and sealed smoking chambers at establishments that decide to provide them.

We're getting into a very grey area here. In the light of the Devil's Kitchen piece on pornography below, there are issues here of freedom v respect for others - the classic liberal dilemma.

Upfront, I'm no fan of smoking. Not only did my father die from it but he gave respiratory problems to both my mother and myself and if there's too much smoke, I'm out of there. It's not a moral question at all - I'd love to be sitting in there with DK and lots of other bloggers having a drink and a chatter and yes - maybe even the occasional fag.

It's just that the health won't allow too much of it. Plus one more thing - this craze for over-regulating every last aspect of human behaviour is pure 1984, pure PC and it opens the floodgates to massive state oppression, which is basically what all libertarians and other right thinking people are trying to oppose.

In the end, surely there is a difference between pornography, which most certainly has a slow seeping impact on attitudes to women, especially if the material has been freely available to children from an early age, along with the vicious dice and slice mumbo jumbo games on the one hand - and having a ciggy with a beer at a pub?

As for Paris itself - I think it would be a tragic loss to regulate people out of this form of relaxation, especially when dining al fresco.

[back] in a manner of speaking

First tentative steps getting back into blogging but it will be hit tomorrow through to Saturday with a ridiculous schedule for a holiday period and then comes Christmas on January 7th, which is the one we observe over here. Then Old New Year on the 13th, then work proper until the next round of madness mid-February.

Health? Still not great but that's not a topic I'll open up on, largely 'cause I'm in denial just now. You know the sort of thing - you try to ask: "Well hi, how are you?" and they answer:

"Better thanks. Glad you asked because the rhumbitis is playing up something awful and the pain right down my left diode is acting up when the full moon is in conjunction with Venus. So pleased you're interested in al my medical problems. Tell you what, would you like to look through the medical files if you've nothing better to do?"

Thanks to Colin Campbell, Matt [no blog] and the Devil's Kitchen for the guest posts - very welcome, I assure you.

Thanks also to Dave J, Beaman, Welshcakes, Liz, Dick Madeley, Dave Cole, Jane Jill, Oestrebunny, JMB, Grendel, Matt Sinclair, Moggy, Sean Jeating, of Omnium, Ubermouth, Swearing Mother, Mopsa, Verlin Martin, Tiberius Gracchus, Sally in Norfolk, Englisc Fyrd and Cityunslicker for the best wishes here.

Thanks also to the captain of the ship Ian Grey, Ellee Seymour, Sackerson, Mutley, Andrew Allison, Steve Green, Bag and Bob G.

Thanks also to those, pre-Christmas, who dropped by and left best wishes and to those inadvertently omitted above or who are elsewhere and sent seasonal wishes in spirit. To all of you, I say compliments of the season and hope the break is/was good.

So, what have we come back to in the New Year? This was the front page, the lead articles, at the Melbourne Age today:

Shot man clings to life

MIKI PERKINS 4:44pm | Cop fires three shots after failing to subdue "menacing man" with pepper spray.

Boyfriend 'runs over' his girlfriend

YUKO NARUSHIMA 3:05pm | Victim's family breaks down as accused hit-run driver faces court.

Girl's drowning a tragic warning

JANE HOLROYD 3:40pm | Death of girl, 11, at crowded beach stark water safety reminder, authorities say.

Woman finds father hacked to death

JORDAN BAKER 4:12pm | Woman discovers body of father after his murder, possibly with tomahawk.

Man remanded over daughter's murder

GEORGINA ROBINSON 9:55am | Unemployed funeral director charged with murder, rape of daughter, 10.

Really nice stuff for holiday reading with the kids home, don't you think? They say that's what people are interested in. Really? I'd rather read of Sarko's latest dalliance or of how well sales of my book are going. Incidentally, I wonder who Sarko's bonking these few days. Is she satisfied?

How was Christmas/New Year? Unexpected hours of kisses, cuddles and intellectual conversation [in patches] always work wonders for the Higham - better than any medicines.

Hope you're having a lovely time with no axe murders in your neighbourhood just now. Unless you're planning a few yourself, that is.