November 30, 2003

Augustine's Quiz for Bloggers Wondering What to Blog About

Three days ago this blog was seven months old. So, to celebrate its birthday, I devised a quiz for me. But if you take out the words me, my and I and substitute you and your, it becomes a quiz for you.

1. Should I blog about what makes me angry?
2. Or should I blog about what makes me happy and/or sad?
3. Or should I blog about what I do and see and hear in my day-to-day life?
4. Or should I report on what others are doing in their everyday lives?
5. Or should I blog about the Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything?
6. Or should I see if there are Bloggers Anonymous meetings to cure my addiction to blogging?

My Answers to the above Quiz:

1. All I have to do is read a newspaper or turn on the TV and my rage rises like a rocket and keeps on climbing. And there's enough fuel for a daily or even an hourly blogrant. But, I ask myself: am I really a natural-born ranter? Isn't my sputtering rather feeble compared to the inspired apocalyptic rants being posted by some world class ranters? And I must admit that, alas, ranting is not what I'm best at.

2. What makes me happy and/or sad is most often private stuff, raw material which I may or may not transform into something which may or may not be art - gnovels, paintings, whatever. Not regular blogging material, in other words.

3. No. I don't want to blog about my everyday life. Not every day. Maybe just once in a while.

4. No. I'm not a good reporter, not objective enough. Too emotional (see No.1).

5. Hm. Now that's more like it. That makes my little two dimensional brain excited. I'll get back to you on that one.

6. No. I don't need to be cured. I can stop any time I want. This proves I'm not addicted.




PS to No.1
: Browsing recent links at the excellent PLEP I was led to this article. Go there now and read it all. And weep. And rant, if you know how. I am going to light a candle and say a prayer for this hero, dear Father Dear.

Published on Saturday, November 29, 2003 by

The Soldiers At My Front Door by John Dear

" I live in a tiny, remote, impoverished, three block long town in the desert of northeastern New Mexico. Everyone in town--and the whole state--knows that I am against the occupation of Iraq, that I have called for the closing of Los Alamos, and that as a priest, I have been preaching, like the Pope, against the bombing of Baghdad. Last week, it was announced that the local National Guard unit for northeastern New Mexico, based in the nearby Armory, was being deployed to Iraq early next year. I was not surprised when yellow ribbons immediately sprang up after the press conference. But I was surprised the following morning to hear 75 soldiers singing, shouting and screaming as they jogged down Main Street, passed our St. Joseph's church, back and forth around town for an hour. It was 6 a.m., and they woke me up with their war slogans, chants like "Kill! Kill! Kill!" and "Swing your guns from left to right; we can kill those guys all night......"

(you *must* read the rest)


November 26, 2003

To soothe all our fevered brows, anxious and angry minds, probably weary limbs and possibly aching hearts, here are two images of beauty and solace. The first one is of The Madrigirls, friends of ours here in London, who are not only individually and collectively more talented than anyone has a right to be but also drop-dead gorgeous. They are Heloise Pilkington, Alexandra Brown and Siobhan Blake and yes, this is an unashamed plug for them, for their voices, their performances. Yes they sing madrigals, by Monteverdi, William Byrd, Thomas Morley and many more."Part cabaret, part troubadour, part girl band glamour..." but always faithful to the music, its tradition and its spirit. They're planning to make a record soon but if you happen to be in London on December 14th you can come to their Magical Medieval Christmas Bonanza at 6:30 pm in the beautiful setting of St.Mary-on-Paddington Green, W2, followed by eating and drinking and dancing to swinging jazz in a nearby venue. Book tickets at their website where you can also download a few samples of their music.

Swan and its reflectionMy second gift to you today is a picture I took at a pond on Parliament Hill - not Bloggers Parliament but a good venue for it if ever we need one - part of Hampstead Heath, a vast (791 acres) area of semi-wild and wonderful open parkland in North West London. Lose yourself in the perfect number 3 that the swan has so casually drawn with its reflection.


A propos of how life really is in Iraq, read Doc Searls "Are we building or burning bridges?" (and he's not on the anti-war side) quoting Riverbend writing about Difficult Days in Baghdad Burning.

November 22-23, 2003

"Protesters? What protesters?" asks Laura Bush.
( Heading of Guardian article by Audrey Gillan, November 21, 2003)

Photo: The Independent,/Tim Allen/Reuters Nov.21, 2003

Bush effigy toppled Augustine's Eyewitness Report of the London Anti-Bush Demonstration on November 20, 2003


At one point I got stuck in the huge crowd at Trafalgar Square, unable to move, so I asked for a hand to scale a wall leading to street level. A whole flurry of hands appeared and lifted me up and over in an instant - not too hard a task since I am of minimal stature and negligible weight. Nevertheless, this spontaneous and cheerful kindness was typical of this crowd, this day, this place, this demonstration.

And when we began the slow rhythmic countdown:
and the 18ft Bush effigy was pulled down, the roaring cheer that came from all our throats was powerful enough to fly a rocket to the moon. It was not a roar of hatred or revenge but one of solidarity, of fellowship, of concern.

The cynics and the mockers and the doubters can say what they like, but that's what these protests are about: we do care, not just about ourselves but about all other humans on this wounded planet. We don't want to be forced to hate, to kill, to take. What we are symbolically toppling are the lies, the empty words, the blinkered vision, the hypocrisy, the hollow men, like that statue, who rule our world. Not good enough for us. Another world is possible. We can see it - why can't they? We are living in the future, they are in the past, in the eye-for-an-eye world which has made them blind. Don't they know that the fine words "Democracy" "Freedom" "Justice" are like sounding brass in their mouths?

I did take pictures but still have my old fashioned camera so it will be a while before they're processed. Thousands of people in the demo had their digital cameras and camcorders working overtime, and there surely must have been some bloggers among them, so all of you in far-off places starved of unofficial images of London during the latest demo, try a patient search of blogdom. There are some photos at Indymedia Images and Protest at Buckingham Palace here is one of them, of the noise protest on Wednesday in front of Buckingham Palace. I wasn't at that one. Apparently the police got rather over-zealous and there were scuffles. (Dubya and his missus didn't hear a thing).

At the big march, all the policemen I smiled at smiled back at me so sincerely I wished I had brought a big tray of coffee and cakes to offer them.

It was a mild, grey, windy day when I set out from home around 1pm and took a bus to Warren Street - the buses didn't go any further because of the crowds gathering in front of the meeting place, London University. I followed the rucksacks into Gower Street where large numbers of people were milling about, looking bewildered. Many of them started to walk in the wrong direction and I asked a few people why. They said the crowd was already so large that the front of the march was blocked. I saw some students going into the courtyard of the university and decided to follow them. I walked behind a life-size papier maché Dubya puppet who expertly led me through university halls, up and down stairs, and finally out of a door and directly into Torrington Place. Brilliant. Now I was able to join what seemed to be the start of the march but might have been the middle or the tail. We were not actually marching yet. This lasted for nearly an hour but the mood was good-humoured, villagey, you felt you knew everybody and they knew you. Lots of salt & pepper heads, salt heads, and some reallyold one-foot-in-the grave heads, bent over but still believing that another world is possible. I wanted to embrace them all. Conversations were started, dropped, started elsewhere, returned to. Creative homemade placards were noted, admired or puzzled over: "The Lampstands of Revelation Have the Answer: Where Are They?" Huh?
"Since when is Democracy dropped from the sky?" Right on! An enterprising young pop group seized a business opportunity: one of them was jigging to the music and waving their CD while another collected the cash. The tune was catchy, something to do with peace.


A blackbearded man jostles by, shouting into a loudspeaker: "We don't need Parliament! The people are the parliament! We need direct democracy!" I almost ask him if he wants to join Bloggers Parliament but then I think better of it because he's a bit, erm, overwrought.
And finally we're on the move. After a while I can't tell where we are - familiar streets are transformed by the river of people flowing through them. I like to keep changing in midstream, staying for a while under one banner then floating ahead towards another. A few American flags are waving in the breeze, some upside down, some covered in slogans, some torn. A tall thin Texan stands on Westminster Bridge, hiding his head under a brown paper bag, saying he is tired of guilt by association; his message to Bush is "How dare you spill so much blood for the sake of a $1.7bn Halliburton contract?" But a serious, well-dressed American woman stands quietly defiant, holding a small sign close to her chest "I love U George". A lot of people, smiling, take her picture. The irony is not lost: we are the protesting minority, she is part of the acquiescing majority, yet here we are in our thousands and there she stands, alone.

Two or three helicopters have been hovering over the march all afternoon and as we head down Whitehall they seem to be closer. But the hooting and whistling and booing and chanting as we pass Downing Street drowns out the 'copters rattle. As the march slowly approaches our destination, Trafalgar Square, and more papier maché Bushes go dancing by and the standard "Bush, Blair, out out out! " slogans are repeated ad infinitum, I begin to feel that it would have been more appropriate if we had all marched in silence, dressed in black, carrying as many coffins as the number of those who have been killed on "our side" and on "their side" as a direct result of the crusade led by Bush, assisted by Blair, to (as Tony put it) "finish the job". How many coffins would that have been? And who could do the body-count of all the anonymous dead, all those who didn't get and will never get flag-draped coffins, or any coffins at all? The growing pile we are creating of nameless bones now joining the pile of nameless bones created by Saddam. But he is Evil and we are Good so the killing we do is not like the killing he did. After all, there's killing and killing, terror and terror. We say we're sorry for some of the deaths we cause. Evil Ones are never sorry. That's the big difference, right?

When the march crosses Westminster Bridge at dusk, the slate blue sky a perfect backdrop for Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament looming proud above the Thames in all their golden glory, it's easy to forget why we are there.


November 20-21, 2003

Back home from the march I turn on the TV to see the news and there is the horror in Istanbul - another tragedy, another list of dead and wounded and weeping and irreparably damaged hearts and minds, followed immediately by two men in dark suits reading prepared speeches, rehearsed expressions on their bland and famous faces, words about "not giving an inch", "responding to violence with violence" (by the way, these two men are rumoured to be Christians). And I wonder: do they live in a different world from the rest of us?"On the threshold of Eternity' Van Gogh I have just been part of a 100,000 or 200,000 crowd (whichever estimate you believe) of real people, people with real expressions on their old, middle-aged and young faces, with unrehearsed words coming out of their mouths. And all of us were united in this one feeling:
Enough! Another world is possible.

As long as we behave in the same way as the terrorists, there will never be an end to terror. The marching crowd knows this, the millions of people around the world who are with us know this, those who are suffering and will suffer from the escalating violence know this, the wise and far-sighted in high places and low places know this, schoolchildren who walked out of school to take part in the demonstration know this. But those two men behind the microphones, and those who applaud their words, do not know this.

Van Gogh: "Au seuil de l'Eternité" (Kroller-Müller Foundation)


November 19, 2003

Augustine seethesIf you see smoke coming out of this page, that's me in incandescent fury at the unbelievable unforgivable unacceptable incompetence of this company's "service". Yes they finally connected us to Broadband today, a saga in itself which I may relate later after I've cooled off. But at present we can neither send or receive email so be warned, if you wanted to get in touch. (update Nov.25: it's working now but we have a new e-mail address which is showing on Bloggers Parliament and other pages of this website.)
I'm going to go and have a cold shower or maybe hit my head against the wall.


November 18, 2003


Augustine brings solutionsShall I compare thee to wildfire or to a rolling snowball? The wondrous grapevine of the blogosphere is fast spreading the word about us: Roger Eaton led to Flemming and Ming's mention led Doc Searls to give us a great boost and all of this attention, I'm told, is the blogworld equivalent of an Oscar nomination. This is very nice but a bit worrying. Will I remain the same humble, unassuming creature when I'm famous? No, I won't. I'll point out that fame should have been given to me when I asked for it, oh quite a while ago. Now, bah, I can take it or leave it. See, I'm already doing the fake cool thing. Don't believe a word of it - I'm chuffed (that's British for WOW).

This week, this Wednesday, I will be connected to broadband. Maybe. I signed up for the service about two months ago and will not describe the blood, sweat and tears which this particular company required before they would grant me the favour of becoming their customer. Let's just say I hope their ADSL connection is more efficient than their administration.

And on Thursday, I'll be milling in the masses not happy to see George W. Bush Bush in London. To anyone reading this who thinks that protesters are anti-Americans wrapped in tired old slogans, let me say: think again. And again. Yes, there are bound to be some of those in the crowd and no doubt they'll be singled out by some in the media who want you to believe that normal, law-abiding, American-friendly, apple-pie-eating people do not go on demonstrations - only weirdo hippy losers and Commie intellectuals and rabble rousing terrorist-supporters go on demos. Well, think again. Think a lot more.


November 14, 2003

Bloggers Parliament is steadily attracting more members and more attention on the net. We have been mentioned at Ming the Mechanic the Newslog of Flemming Funch, and also at Communities Online and at captsolo info blog. I'm amazed at how this tiny seed of an idea has taken root and is becoming a reality. I hope that N doesn't expect me to take on any secretarial tasks because I will refuse. Do you hear me, Natalie? My fertile imagination cannot be chained to administerial tasks. Here's another fertile imagining regarding spammers, scammers and other pollutants.


From the 419 Fraudsters named below, I have recently received offers of about 50% of the following amounts of money in exchange for details of my bank account and absolute secrecy:

Mr. Wang Qin, Honk (sic) Kong: 25 Million 500 thousand Dollars. Mrs. Alsha Fred, Kuwait: 17 Million Dollars. Dr. Samson Umez, West Africa: 6.1 Million Dollars. Mr.Henry Azikei, Nigeria: 15 Million 500 thousand Dollars. Mr.Kenndy Williams, Dubai: 56 Million 500 thousand Dollars. Mrs. Kate Smith, Lotto Chancellor: 1.5 Million Pounds. Mr. Mac Uchi, Nigeria: 26 Million 400 thousand Dollars. Miss Riana Mane, Abidjan: 10 Million Dollars. Justice Oliver, Benin: unspecified sum but huge. Mr. Salatu Mustapha, Nigeria: 6 Million 800 thousand Dollars. Miss Judith Makoulou Ankoh, Benin: 9 Million Dollars. Mr.Philip Samuel, Dubai: 57 Million Dollars. Mr. John Kelu, Liberia: unspecified millions. Dele Oyawa, Nigeria: 9 Million 500 thousand Dollars. Douglas Sanjor, Nigeria: 15 Million 500 thousand Dollars.

I didn't add up the millions but if any of you are quick on a calculator, work it out - quite a tidy sum, right? So here's the plan: we - and again I'm talking about the whole damn blogosphere - reply to all these offers and say: "Yes, thanks, we'll take the money and happily give you our bank account details but first we need to have proof that the money exists. So we will meet you somewhere and you can show us confirmation."
On the appointed day a huge flashmob of us arrives at the specified location and calmly demands that the Fraudsters hand over the loot they have offered us. Bewildered and trembling, the scammers have no alternative but to comply, given the staggering number of us resolutely confronting them. And we get the dosh.

Now here comes the surprise twist: we use this money for the good of the whole world. As follows:

1. We hire a luxury hotel on a remote and stunning tropical island.
2. We charter a fleet of private jets.
3. We invite Bush, Blair, Sharon, Arafat and their entire entourage to an all-expenses paid holiday which will include a get-together with Osama B.L. and Saddam and their entire entourage.
4. Osama and Saddam hear of this and come out of hiding, unable to resist such an offer.
5. We book a top-notch team of psychotherapists, hypnotists, masseurs and masseuses, motivators and life coaches.
6. Everybody accepts and we fly them out to the island paradise.
7. Once settled in the fabulous surroundings, the guests are gently led by the Motivating Team to a jacuzzi haven: tropical birds, sweet scents, delicious drinks, and the mesmerising voices of the hypnotherapists induce a state of carefree benevolence in all the guests.
8. Hypnotherapeutic jacuzzi sessions are alternated with group therapy, massage, one-to-one psychotherapy and party nights.

This program goes on for an indefinite period of time, during which we and qualified others get on with solving the world's problems and creating peace on earth.


November 8, 2003

LET'S LAUGH SPAM OFF THE NET : Hoisted with their own petard.
Amongst all the trash I have to delete every day before I can read my genuine e-mail, there's a lot of spam offering to rid me of spam if I will purchase their services. And I ask myself: why in heaven's name should I pay for spam-blocking or spam-cleaning when the very existence of spam is a crime? A crime like stalking, mugging, obscene phone-calling, assault, robbery, invasion of privacy, fraud, etc. They spy on us, steal our e-mail addresses, break into our websites, flood our private space with their rubbish. Maybe some spam-control systems work fine and maybe spamming will be declared illegal one day. I discovered SpamCop , a good place to report spammers, and this site tells you how to 'mung' or spam-block your e-mail address so it can't be harvested. But I've had a more fun idea:

What would happen if all of us - and I mean hundreds of thousands of bloggers - started making fun of spammers, using their own spam, their own words, to laugh them off the net? For one thing, Google and all the other search engines would pick up these words from our blogs and that would create chaos among the spammers because nobody would know which was their product and which our jolly japes. I'd like to hear what other people think: could it be a deterrent? I've made an experimental spamcollage, Mixed spamwith special attention to the 419 Fraud gangsters who think I'm an easy touch - they send me offers of billions of dollars every day, each with a new see-through tale, a new alias and a new country of origin - some are even bringing God into their stories. I imagine them sitting around in their ill-gotten villas, competing to see who can come up with the best scam, falling off their chairs laughing as they visualise the suckers who will line up to offer them full access to their bank accounts. Well, bloggers, let's show 'em who has the last laugh, heh heh. Put your creative hats on and start recycling spam in amazing new ways.


November 4, 2003

A page with current Bloggers Parliament members' mini-biographies and photos has been set up and is gradually being filled as people slowly send them in, after considerable nagging by N. She gets rather irritated when I remind her that if one wants to undertake a major project one must expect to both dish out, and endure, some major nagging. Has anything of consequence ever been achieved, I point out, without a lot of nagging? If it's not nagging or being nagged by other people, it's nagging one's self.

So we put on our red Einstein T-shirt Einstein sparks T-shirtand went to the gym. Let me tell you, it takes a lot of self-nagging to achieve this, even though said gym is just round the corner and, had we but discipline enough and time, would be a piece of cake to attend six mornings a week rain or shine, resulting in a glow of well-being emanating from a perfectly toned body. Our gym is not one of those posh fitness temples where slim, beautiful people go to sweat seductively in their designer gear. Ours is a more proletarian establishment where sweat smells sweaty and agonized grunts from massive weight lifters mingles with the pounding noise of, what is it? Muzak for gyms? I said to N that our financial problems would be solved if we could create one of these noises and sell it to the disco industry. You take any random word, preferably BAYBEE, chant it a few hundred times whilst repeatedly thumping any handy hard surface, record it with some techno tweaking, and Bob's your uncle.

The indefatigable Heather, our friend of SoulFood Cafe fame, is in the throes of producing an inspiration-filled Advent calendar and asked us to contribute something.


November 2, 2003

Every so often I'm overcome by a feeling that everything must change. Not so much in the outside world (yes, that too) but in me. Then I start clearing out closets, bookshelves, drawers, putting things in plastic sacks to take to the charity shop. And that's just the externals. I attempt to do the same with whatever seems superfluous in me. Can't count the number of times in my life that I've decided to start from scratch. This is good. And not so good. It's like being in a permanent state of What shall I be when I grow up? No, that's the wrong image. It's not about immaturity. It's that you sense the picture is not quite right so you keep erasing and erasing. You'll know when it's right but you don't know what you know or how to get to that point when you can say yes! that's it! And it keeps on changing. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Here's something from, um, a few years ago.

Augustine talks to apple tree

(fromAugustine & Identity by Natalie d'Arbeloff, 1986. The Augustine Adventures)

That's another thing I haven't got round to doing - putting more of those comics on my Comics page. And the gnovel, the gnovel! Just because you haven't seen any new pages of it for a while doesn't mean I'm not working on it. I am and in fact, yesterday at the Comic Festival in Bloomsbury, I got up on a stage and pitched my gnovel. Like scriptwriters do in Hollywood only this was for comic artists. Twelve of us had only two minutes - two minutes - each to present our ideas, with some ilustrations, to a panel of comics luminaries and an audience. Didn't have time to do more than skim the surface but I got lots of applause and really good responses. So onward gnovelita, they're waiting for you!

Excellent new members have joined and there's a wonderful mention of Bloggers Parliament at Nick's place. And Kiril also gives us the thumbs up at his Sneakeasys joint though he admits he's a Republican. And we are also mentioned at Steve Cayzer's HP Semantic Blogging Demonstrator. And delightful frizzylogic pays us (me & N) the greatest compliment, saying we are two wild and woolly women! What more can one ask?