Friday, 29 June 2007

How to say you love someone - properly

In 1917, a 41 year old man named Alf Reed took his Easter leave off from the Featherston military camp, and hiked for five days, covering 193 kilometres through the central North Island, not easy even today.

When he got back to camp he wrote about it, by hand. For 124 pages. It took months.

The manuscript was in different shades of ink, with illuminated capitals and embellished headings. It contained maps and photographs fitted with text. The pages, 15 x 10 cm, were bound in leather. "In and Around Featherston Military Camp And (Mostly) Elsewhere" was the first book produced by Alfred Hamish Reed, who formed what would become Reed Publishing, still one of the most significant players in the New Zealand publishing market.

Only one copy of this book was ever produced. It was given as a gift to his wife Isabel, and she kept it until she died in 1939.

(Source: Heritage New Zealand, Winter 07, "First Edition" by Jack Leigh)

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

"The Gulag of our times"

You may recall a while back the outrage that poured from the right-wing of the Internet over this quote from Amnesty International regarding the US imprisonment of so-called "terrorists" while denying them basic civl rights. That sorta fell flat after it was found that the US was, literally, using parts of the old Gulag system in Eastern Europe to imprison some of these prisoners. Oops.

Perhaps one of the more disgusting bits of the Soviet system was the use of sham court trials. It spoke volumes about the disjunction between their official image and the essential evil of the system - they knew what they were doing was wrong, so they had to paint a veneer of legalistics over the proceedings to hide it from themselves. They didn't even have the nobility to embrace their evil openly (witness the Chinese billing families of executed prisoners for the cost of a bullet); this may be one reason why the system decayed out in a whimper.

Now, consider this summary of the David Hicks' case from Glenn Greenwald:

"So, to recap: we imprison someone for life with no charges, muffle their claims that they were tortured in captivity, agree to let them go after five years provided they sign a statement "stipulating" they were treated properly and vow to remain silent about the mistreatment to which they were subjected, and then send military official parading in public, waving the signed "stipulation" around in the air as proof of the sterling, professional and humane conditions at Guantanamo."

Well done, America - you've slipped past China and have now drawn equal with the Soviet Union when it comes to slapping a tawdry veneer on your actions to hide what you're doing.

Monday, 25 June 2007

I wonder if this was in Il Papa's job description?...

From the New York Times (this link probably won't work unless you subscribe to ProQuest):

Library Repair Causes a Plea to the Pope

Normally a sanctuary of scholarly meditation, the Vatican Library has been the scene of unusually hectic activity lately, as word has spread that it will close in July for a three-year renovation.

Since the Vatican announced the impending shutdown, dozens of scholars have been lining up each day at ever earlier hours to snatch one of the 92 available spots in the manuscript room, where they can pore over archaic texts in forgotten languages. The library staff, traditionally prompt in responding to requests, has been struggling to keep up with the demand.


Petitions addressed to Pope Benedict XVI, the ultimate authority on Vatican matters, are circulating among scholars. Some ask that the manuscript division at least remain accessible to the public during the three-year renovation. Others request that the closing be delayed until 2008 so that scholars will have time to wrap up research and meet publishing or teaching deadlines.

Personally, I'm thinking that they might get it done a lot faster if they simply hire a team of people with rollers to do the ceilings rather than waiting for one guy to finish his fresco, no matter how talented he is, but that's just me...

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Gentlemen - kindly go forth, reproduce and expire.

What the heck? Via the Dark Wraith - am I really that mother-relating tame? There are reproducing Disney movies with this rating, you oral-pleasurers!

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

Update: You have to be excrementing me - Bekitty is PG-13:

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

She may be many things, but "PG-13" is not one that immediately springs to mind.

Now, that's just all kinds of reproducing-upped, right there. I really don't understand why those vee-jay-jays have me down so wrong.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Canticle From The Book Of Bob (Lucia Perillo)

We hired the men to carry the coffin,
we hired a woman to sing in our stead.
We hired a limo, we hired a driver,
we hired each lily to stand with its head

held up and held open while Scripture was read.
We hired a dustpan, we hired a broom
to sweep up the pollen that fell in the room
where we'd hired some air

to draw out the stale chord
from the organ we hired.
And we hired some tears because our own eyes were tired.

The pulpit we hired, we hired the priest
to say a few words about the deceased,

and money changed hands
and the process was brief.
We said, "Body of Christ."
Then we hired our grief.

We hired some young men to carry his coffin,
we hired a woman to sing for his soul -
we hired the limo, we hired the driver,
then we hired the ground and we hired the hole.

(_New Yorker_, Feb 12 2001, recently found while shuffling old papers)

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

A possible explanation for recent US foreign policy...

Back in 1947, there were reports of UFOs - alien grey-headed scum running around various parts of the States molesting cattle and conducting sordid sexual experiments on rural Americans (this was before meth addiction and the Internet, mind you, which led to the adoption of sordid sexual experiments for recreational purposes). All of this supposed alien activity culminated in the Roswell Incident, July 8 1947.

Supposedly, nothing ever came from this.

However, if I told you that George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Condolezza Rice were all born in March 1948, nine months after this period of activity(*), would you start to draw any conclusions...?

Think about it.

* They weren't - but I have to admit, I had to look it up myself. This confirms a conclusion I drew a long time ago, which wingnuts never seem to get, that you should always attempt to verify a factoid before relying on it in a discussion

Friday, 8 June 2007

Computers and feminism

I thought that, in the interests of consciousness raising, it might be worth repeating this comment on my own blog.

On this thread, an insufficiently politically aware commentator made light of a structural gender inequity embedded in binary thinking. Since this paradigm has rendered hegemonic by the male power hierarchy that dominates computer science, it is necessary to explicitly point out the chauvinism here:

The use of “1″s represents a phallocentric privileging of the upright over the inherently feminine “0″. In a typical male valuation embedded at the very heart of biased mathematics, a “1″ is considered to be of infinitely more value than a “0″. This is a form of intellectual fascism made almost transparent by a lack of criticism.

A truly feminist binary system would use nothing but “0″s to make up for decades of domination by male-centered misogynist mathematics. That this hasn’t been implemented yet just goes to show just how entrenched the patriarchy really is.