Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Haul

A picture of the Creative Zen Touch

Well, I can’t give you photos of the best present of the day, because we didn’t venture out — but there was rather a lot of snow here on Christmas Day. As we sat, eating and drinking, over a laden table, the snow whirled fluffily through the air outside the big window, and when we reached the pudding, (raspberry crème brulée) we toasted the raspberry canes which were shivering in the frozen soil.

And then, the next morning, it was all gone! Not a trace of snow anywhere! Grr. Hopefully, though, more snow should arrive before the end of winter, since this was an early fall. Anyway, I thought I’d make a slow start to posting by telling you What I Got For Christmas in links.

Snow, Winter, Lost Worlds, World Press Photo, Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old, The Story of Wine. And I partly bought myself a Zen Touch mp3 player from Creative. To a creative mind, these things are all inspirations of one kind or another. And for technophobes: the value of the mp3 player isn’t gadgetlike or as a toy to me: it means I can listen to Bach instead of traffic or screaming children. (If you play, by the way, that Bach link contains sheet music in PDF format - excellent resource.) And while traffic–noise has its place, most of the time I’d really rather not.

Footnote: although presents are certainly one good part of Christmas, I’m actually happier that my big bro and his wife and kids are here for a few days’ stay. They haven’t been here for about ten years, and the kids have never been. It’s a cosy, companionable, homely time…

Another footnote: don’t think for a second that I’ll be posting regularly until the festive season is over. There are more important things to do than blog. For example, right now, I have to feel virtuous by doing a workout so that I can then feel justified in being a pig and gobbling at least 3 mince pies and a mountain of rum butter all in one go.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

White Christmas!

Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t blog unless something earth–shattering happened, but it has. We have a white Christmas! Yay! Great big fluffy flakes, snowlight shining silvery inside a warm house, and the sounds outside muffled by this white winter muffler. And when I stepped outside the door this morning, the first bird to settle on the lawn in front of me and poke for food was — a robin.

Yup, definitely Christmas. :o)

Merry Christmas, everyone

First of all, here’s hoping that whoever you are, wherever you are in the world — and even whether or not you celebrate Christmas, you’ll have a relaxing and restorative few days and the spirit of the time will give you a calm smile!

I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting for the last few days: work, shopping for and preparing food have hitherto made surfing and blogging impossible. Eating vast amounts of food and entering into all the right spirits and wines will make surfing more enjoyable and blogging too much of a hassle over the next few days, so I’ll see you all again around midweek, unless anything earth–shattering happens. Have a good one, people.

And if Santa comes down your chimney, make the filthy old bastard wipe up afterwards!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Lincoln: great thighs!

The latest gay scandal to hit America: Abraham Lincoln was gay. Or maybe he wasn’t, because gay didn’t exist then. Or something. *grin* — And, this is exciting for me anyway — the respected BoingBoing showcases an organ as one of its most recent ‘wonderful things’. Bravissimo, BoingBoing!


It all began a few days ago. Men rushed, yelling, through the streets. Shops were looted. Little old ladies were violently knocked to the ground and stamped on by the throng. Younger women were sexually assaulted. Families, faced with a violated daughter, felt anger but accepted that there was nothing they could do — all the courts and police stations were closed. Mountains of food had been prepared and eaten; the week was marked by permanent hangover.

That was a description of the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, celebrated there between the 17th and (perhaps) 25th of December. Jolly historians like to refer to it smilingly, forgetting for a moment that the period of wondrously frightening excess in food, drink, sex and violence ended apruptly — with the death, by mob, of the ‘Lord of Misrule’, an enemy of the Roman state who was selected, deliberately, for a week–long life of excess and a horrible death. A symbol of the destruction of evil forces.

Weirdly, our Yuletide customs like eating gingerbread men also grew from Saturnalia — eating a human figure?! Ugh! Christian leaders had to let pagans keep their gingerbread men and their Saturnalia because the idea of being a Christian would have been unbearable without them! And lo, the Christian leaders then (rather desperately) decided that, since there was nothing even remotely Christian about Saturnalia, they’d better arbitrarily decide to celebrate Jesus’ birth on its last day. And then follow up immediately with their own twelve–day–long religious feast to balance things out a bit. Aww. Sweet. Ickle baby Jesus! Coochee–coo!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004



‘It’s a sorry day for (democracy/the country/the economy/freedom of speech) when…’

When what?

When honest, hardworking, downtrodden satirico–cultural news–sheet publishers are driven to hand you a Sorry edition of their paper on the streets of your city. It’s a sorry day when they have chosen to exclaim, brightly, “Sorry!” before you even know what they’re trying to give you!

I’m very sorry to report that The Vacuum, an excellent offbeat ‘penny dreadful’ (which doesn’t cost you a penny!) has been embroiled in a funding row by none other than Belfast City Council. I read about the first rumblings of this fiasco months back, and didn’t blog about it then. (Sorry.) The shock, when it emerged that ‘God’ and ‘Satan’ issues had been printed, with lewd pictures! The mortification, as I now learn that the news has made it over the water!

Councillors (yes, City ones, not Church ones!!) were calling it filth, and other encouraging names, and accusing it of promoting devil worshipping.

Basically, what has now happened is that our pedantic, prehistoric, preachy, prurient, patrician Protectors in the City Hall (which looks so warm and welcoming under the Christmas lights, by the way) have decided, in sequence, that:

  • they think it’s offensive but shouldn’t do much about it because of the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • they will change their minds on that, and ignore their Principal Solicitor’s advice instead;
  • they will withhold all future funding unless Factotum, the V’s publisher, “provides an apology for any offence which may have been caused to Members of the Council and the citizens of the City by previous publications and provides an assurance that future publications will meet such criteria as may be established by the Council”;
  • it won’t withhold future funding after all, and won’t seek to impose limits on what the V may or may not print, as long as the V issues “an apology or some expression of regret”.

  • The good of the people of Belfast is clearly at stake here — if The Vacuum doesn’t apologise, it might have to be printed on only a couple of sheets of newsprint in future, instead of a couple more. Belfast would suffer.

    Determined not to deprive Belfast’s upstanding citizens of a good laugh, the publishers have decided to take action! And so, today, on the streets of a wonderful city which I am temporarily sorry to call my own, The Vacuum said sorry in style. And it published a — frankly — sorry edition to commiserate.

    Monday, December 13, 2004

    Get your bits out

    a picture of a priapic vase

    And ward off the evil eye! At least, that’s what the Romans, those superstitious fools, thought your cock did for you - kept you safe. As long as it was actually in phallus form - I think the picture above gives you a pretty good idea about what a phallus is. ;o)

    The ancient Greeks even had a god called Priapus — his name giving rise to the term priapism. His erect penis was taller than his entire body. He was a protector of livestock (baa). Apparently his prodigiously large member ensured superb fertility. But why, you ask, am I mentioning all this?

    Well, in medicine, there’s a discipline called urology which deals with all the medical stuff behind your urinary matters. And there’s a European Association of Urology, believe it or not. And that Association had a Historical Committee (why?!) and its Chairman, Johan Mattelaer MD, has written a very interesting paper about the phallus in art and culture.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that we all go around with erections all the time. Occasionally, it’s pleasant of course. But aside from the danger and discomfort a continuous erection would cause, gay men mostly act far too much like that’s all that’s going on in their lives anyway, and although I’m sure they could give very many fucks, I’d want to be more creative.

    Talking of creation, did you know that the Ancient Egyptian creation myths include these lovely stories?

    …the god Atum appeared on the Primordial Mound out of the void of Nu. As the first “thing” in the midst of nothingness, Atum relieved his loneliness by masturbating. His ejaculation resulted in the appearance of the first god and goddess, Shu and Tefnut, who became the parents of all other elements of the world. An alternate version indicates that the god Ptah, architect of the universe, maintains cosmic order through continual masturbation.

    Are you shocked by that? If so, remember that you’re certainly not the first: the Victorians were so fascinated by sexual matters partly because their social mores didn’t allow them to be discussed, and so scared of sexual matters (wide–ranging link on nudity and sexuality in general) that, in the British Museum in London, some of the racier scenes on Greek vases were turned to the wall where they couldn’t be seen.

    [Disturbingly, when I wandered into the kitchen mid–post, my dad was talking on the phone and said “…and they recommend superlube as the absolute best”. Erm. Fitting.]

    Saturday, December 11, 2004

    If I dug a hole…

    A picture of a map

    …where would I end up? It’s often said to kids in the UK that if they were to go into their back garden with a spade, an extra lifetime and an absurdly thick asbestos suit, they would end up tunnelling to Australia. In fact, we would end up in the sea southwest of New Zealand and this map shows why.

    While we’re on the subject, it’s also a mistake to assume that Greenland is as big as Africa, or that Europe is as big, either. The relative areas of continents are distorted (excellent link) on a variety of earth maps, along with distance, direction, accuracy of outline — and all because it’s impossible to ever accurately map a globe on a flat surface.

    Or is it?

    Personally, I can’t wait for the day when electronic encyclopedias and atlases offer ultra–ultra–high resolution zoomable globes instead of flat projections. [All this is from MetaFilter, but they left out a map of the ocean floor.]

    Tuesday, December 07, 2004

    Boy Butter

    Try squeezing some into your tight agenda today!
    Eyal Feldman, CEO, B.B.I. Inc.

    I saw this and just had to — apologies to Boy Butter (tm) for featuring their trademark, but I couldn’t not, really! *grin*

    “Boy Butter is a revolutionary multi-purpose lubricant, which maximizes the pleasure of sexuality in all its forms and provides guaranteed good times. Preferred by Boys, Girls, Men, Women, Gays, Lesbians, Heterosexuals, Fetishists, Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims alike.”

    Well, there we are then. Furthermore, their President, Eyal Feldman, says he’s not only the President of the company but also its lead researcher. *grin*

    Apparently it cleans up really well too — so no more agonising over whether to shower immediately or lie beside your partner and choose tissues, toilet roll or towel. This could be to lube what the iPod is to mp3 players, mes amis. ;o)

    Sunday, December 05, 2004


    A picture of a weeping Frenchman in Paris

    We’re too close to see whether this man is also clapping his hands, but the woman next to him is crying also, and clapping her hands at the same time. These are Parisians as the Nazi troops march through their city for the first time.

    Just looking at the faces and imagining what it must have felt like, you don’t have to be French or patriotic to appreciate this — which is why I put it here. The library of photos it comes from is fantastic. Via Incoming Signals.

    Saturday, December 04, 2004

    Titanic, June 2003

    If you want to see what the wreck of Titanic, built in dock in Belfast in 1912 — and sunk by collision with an iceberg later that year — looked like last year, go here — photography from the wreck. (I got thie link from alt.history.ocean-liners.titanic) There are more Titanic photos here, here and here.

    And, since I thought it’d be interesting to give the Titanic sinking some historical context, take a look at how the sinking fits into wider history.

    Friday, December 03, 2004

    “Teh gay”, bad words, Micro$oft, and nice pictures

    A photo taken from a model aeroplane

    Censorship has always been all the rage: as long as there is a surfeit of liberty — intellectual, sexual, cultural, you name it — there’s always a movement which disagrees and says, firmly and didactically, that it’s BAD. And this week is the week where we all get to look forward to the 2,004th birthday of Jesus and get hot under the collar about intolerance.

    (Actually, tolerance isn’t that hot either, but moving on…) Utah. Let us wander thither, and note the quite laughably prudish case of a teenager whose principal told him that to take his boyfriend to the prom, he’d have to get a note from his parents first. Aside from the issue of forcing him to come out to his parents to do so (if he hadn’t already) I think you get the idea of how shitty that was.

    Sex education in American schools, with its new emphasis on Federal funding for solely those syllabi which only list the failure rates of contraception, is just as dangerous and twisted. You can’t contract HIV through sweat, or get pregnant from a bit of pussy–rubbing, but this is what these kids are to be taught if the Bush administration gets its way.

    Even blogging isn’t safe from the monolithic censor, as Microsoft’s new online blogging software comes with a built–in engine which prevents you from using words like ‘anal’ or ‘Lolita’ — “Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov” is an unacceptable blog title but “Dick, Balls, Boobies, Goddammit” is. Heh. Stoopid.

    Film gets it in the neck (erm…) next, with a film about Kinsey being the next target of America’s religious right. Kinsey liked blowing Americans (’ sexual lids off), you see.

    And why all this? Well, according to people who aren’t liberal, being liberal about sex is a very threatening thing because it emphasises us as sexual, and therefore physical, beings — part of a species, not really touched by the divine. Sex is very bad PR for humanity in these people’s eyes. And suicide is very bad PR for the famous MIT and NYU in America. Universities’ corporate arms are scared that parents will sue. So one of them has decided that if you’re feeling suicidal for any reason, you can’t continue to study there. A vicious example of how important money is, to the utter slap–in–the–face exclusion of a rich and rewarding life.

    Luckily, there’s plenty of reward on hand — or on plane — if you’re a radio–controlled model aircraft enthusiast and a photographer: you can take really wonderful pictures!

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004


    Get your (cyberspace) National Gallery Advent Calendar here. — Via MetaFilter, where there are a few more.

    I love times like this. *beams happily* In fact, thinking about it, when I was a kid and it was Advent, I used to enjoy calendars which didn't have chocolates but did have atmospheric little drawings of seasonal scenes. Some things don’t change.

    Advent, for me, is a month like a year — a year of ever more atmospheric, promising months. You don’t have to be a christian to find the magic in a season which promises good food and wine shared with family and friends.