Mac or PC?

You are a PC

You’re practical, thrifty, and able to do almost anything.Appearances and trends aren’t important to you. You just like to get the job done.

Are You a Mac or a PC?

Damn it! It’s done it to me again. I know I’m not a PC; sure, I have a beard and like Star Wars, but I’m a big supporter of open source software, despise Vista, won’t touch IE or Outlook, use Open Office and listen to Leo Laporte. I am so a Mac at heart, I just can’t afford one yet! But these damn quizzes never agree. Seriously, the last one I took was for PC or Mac and I got Linux! It wasn’t even mentioned as an option! It’s a conspiracy, I know it is… 😛

Stand up for what you believe in

Today is Blogging Against Abuse Day. It’s an initiative created by BlogCatalog asking bloggers on Thursday, September 27th to write about putting an end to an abuse they feel passionately about. The goal is to try to form the largest group of bloggers to write about an important cause on the same day, and by doing so to raise awareness to help prevent abusive situations. If you’d like to join us, please do; it’s a wonderful initiative and worthy of your support.

I feel strongly about condemning all forms of abuse; physical, emotional and psychological abuse is about power, holding power over another life, denying someone the freedom to be all they can be. It’s a cycle that is difficult to break; some people spend their entire lives as victims, enabling the abuse, while others grow into the behaviour and inflict it on other people. I believe we should condemn abuse wherever we see it; if we turn a blind eye, how are we really any different?

There are two causes though I feel very strongly about. The first is animal abuse. I can’t describe how awful I feel when I hear a story about an animal which has been killed or maimed by humans, or when I hear about something like mulesing, or see abandoned pets crowding RSPCA shelters. One of the worst experiences I’ve ever had was five years ago when eight kittens were left abandoned outside our apartment. At first we didn’t know they were abandoned (there were lots of stray cats in our area), so we left a cardboard box and some milk for them. A couple of hours later we heard mewling. An eight-year-old boy had destroyed the box and was kicking and kicking them again and again and again. We scared him off but three of the kittens had broken legs and bruised faces; one couldn’t move at all, was just whimpering. We took them to the local vet and two had to be put down. It was just a despicable, cruel act against defenceless victims; I don’t believe in evil, not in the biblical sense, but I shudder to think of what that boy might be like in 10 years time. I’ll always speak out against animal abuse; I hope to adopt a pet at some stage in the next year myself and when I do, I’ll be adopting one from my local shelter. It just seems like a simple thing to do, a small way to make a difference.

The other cause I wanted to mention is abuse of freedom. I believe everybody has the right to be free, the right to choose the life they want to live; perhaps that makes me naive but it’s what I believe, what I feel every day. You can just look at what’s happening in Burma right now to know how important it is. The raids are terrible and should be condemned by every leader in the world; likewise the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is a disgrace. On a day when we’re talking about abuse, I can’t let the violence go by without saying something against it. And the same goes for Zimbabwe, Sudan, Congo, Tibet and countless other countries and republics where their people are not truly free or live with violence, and it’s why I feel strongly about censorship in Turkey, China, Pakistan and Thailand as well. It’s what Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Freedom is like life. You cannot be given life in installments. You cannot be given breath but no body, nor a heart but no blood vessels. Freedom is one thing — you have it all or you are not free.

So that’s what I have to say. I think this is a wonderful initiative and I’m proud to be part of it. Alone our voices fade into the background, but perhaps together a group of committed people can be heard. We might not change the world but hopefully we’ll do some good.

So I wonder what abuses you’re against? Write something and let us know. 😉

Beauty is timeless


Photos from BigFoto.com

Beauty is timeless:
It lies far beneath the skin
Where no one can see

The years pass you by:
Time is but an illusion
I still remember

Dream by the river:
I am turning into you
A life not well lived

Tears of ice and cold
Falling from heaven like snow–
Warm while you hold me

A heart long broken
Aching more strongly with time–
You have had your fun

Darkness in the sky:
Owls hunt mice in the shadows
The circle of life

Red-headed woman
Beautiful in candlelight–
A dream slips away

Licenced under a Creative Commons Licence

Love and marriage


Cartoon from Make4Fun.com

Just been reading this story out of Germany from a few days ago, where a German politician has proposed limiting marital vows to seven years. Supposedly it’s to make marriage more accommodating and would avoid the seven-year-itch, but as you can imagine it’s garnering all kinds of criticism from conservative and family groups.

At first it struck me as a publicity stunt, but the more I think about it the more it seems like quite a gutsy suggestion. There’s no doubt that the way we look at marriage has changed in recent years; with 34 per cent of marriages in Australia and 50 per cent in the US ending in divorce, fewer people are placing an emphasis on marriage. I wouldn’t say I agree with Gabriele Pauli, but it’s making people think and talk about marriage, and that’s a good thing.

My main problem with the idea is that it could give the impression that commitment is something to be treated lightly; if you think you’re only committing to a person for a given period of time, can you truly invest yourself in that person? And what happens if you agree to a seven year licence and find you don’t want to renew it, but have children in those seven years; you don’t have a messy divorce, but emotionally is it really any different to the scenarios we have now?

I think a lot of the problems we have with commitment stem from this perfect ideal we set for our partners that they can never live up to. You hear this idea of “The One” pop up in movies and TV and real life; a person has to look a certain way, be a certain height. They have to match this idea we have in our heads before we’ll even consider them as a partner. But that doesn’t mean they’re the most compatible person for us; once the early attraction wears off, we find ourselves in a relationship that isn’t sustainable. It’s this idea that we have to be swept off our feet, our heart has to stop and we feel light-headed and in luuurve. Sorry, that’s not love – that’s a myocardial infarction. We’re dooming our relationships to fail before they start.

But I suppose it’s understandable we’d want to be cautious as well; we’ve seen our parents, siblings, friends go through the pain of a separation or a bad break-up; we want to be sure the person meets our standards so we won’t make the same mistakes. And maybe that’s why this idea isn’t such a bad one. It’s not romantic but if two partners know the prospect of a messy divorce doesn’t apply but still have the option of a lifelong partnership, I can see that leading into an increase in marriages and a change in how we look at our prospective partners. It also wouldn’t be replacing traditional marriage as such, just offering another option, so I don’t think it would devalue marriage as much as some are suggesting.

It’s probably ironic that Gabriele Pauli is a two-time divorcee, but you could say that’s given her the inspiration as well. I’m torn on it myself, but I am glad something different is being suggested. I’m part of the generation that’s somewhat jaded with marriage; I’ve only ever considered myself to be in love once and to be honest, I don’t see myself getting married. I don’t define myself by who I’m with; if it happens, great, but I’m not looking for it. And I know there a lot of other people who feel the same way I do. What’s happening is that we’re defining what marriage means in the 21st century, to a generation faced with debt and climate change. I think it’s good that conversation has started.

Anyway, I wonder what you think? Is the idea of lasting love a thing of the past? Leave me a comment and let me know. 😉

Podcast of the Week: At The Movies

Podcast of the Week (25/9/07)
At The Movies
Rating:

At The Movies with Sandra Bahbah features the latest movie reviews and the top 5 in box office each week. Distributed through freedigitalcontent.com, it takes a fun and distinctly Australian look at what’s on in cinemas right now.

One of the best features of At The Movies is its length; with each episode being around 4 minutes and featuring one review, it’s perfect to listen to when you’re on your way to work or have a few spare minutes. Sandra Bahbah’s reviews don’t suffer for the length, though; they’re detailed and informative, without spoiling the best parts of the movie. Bahbah also has a good voice for podcasting; it’s pleasant and her tone doesn’t jar, unlike others.

One thing I’d love to see are more reviews of smaller films, but with one review a week it’s understandable that bigger releases are featured first. At The Movies is a fun and informative podcast; definitely recommended for Australian movie lovers and anyone looking for a different perspective on the latest films. You can subscribe through iTunes or listen to the stream at freedigitalcontent.com.

5 famous misquotes from literature

I love quotes, particularly ones which have entered the English language; but what I love even more are misquotes. You learn a lot about history and language, and it’s fun finding out where they’ve come from. I did a post before on famous movie misquotes, so these are some of my favourites from literature.

5) “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”
William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar).

Actual quote: The quote from Shakespeare’s play is correct, but it’s often incorrectly attributed to Julius Caesar; it’s Mark Antony who says it, delivering his eulogy after Caesar’s assassination by Brutus and the conspirators.

4) “I must go down to the sea again.”
John Masefield (Sea Fever).
Actual quote: The original version of Sea Fever read “I must down to the seas again” but in later editions was changed to either “go” or “sea” or both.

3) “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
William Congreve (The Mourning Bride).
Actual quote: The quote comes from the closing line of Act III: “Heav’n has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d/Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.” The first line of Act I is also often misquoted: “Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast” (not beast).

2) “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner).
Actual quote: The line from Coleridge’s poem should read “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” It is also apparently one of the most plagiarised lines, in one competition alone featuring in more than 200 submissions.

1) “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes).
Actual quote: Although Holmes often used “elementary“, the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” doesn’t appear in any of Conan Doyle’s stories; the closest is an exchange in The Adventure Of The Crooked Man: “Excellent!” I cried “Elementary.” said he. Its first appearance is at the end of the 1929 film, The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

An update on WordPress and Turkey

WP Letter

It was my birthday yesterday. I don’t like my birthday much; it just feels like a reminder of another year gone and what I’ve got to look forward to for another year. Still, it was nice to spend a few hours with my family, and I’m putting some money together with savings to get a new camera.

I had one interesting surprise, though. I received a reply from the Turkish Embassy about the WordPress ban. I wasn’t expecting one at all (I thought they would just ignore it) and while it’s a carefully worded reply, there are a couple of interesting things in it. I’ve uploaded the letter to Flickr if anyone wants to have a look and I’ll quote a few sections below.

This was the first thing I noticed:

“However, after consulting with the telecommunication services provider Türk Telekom, it has been established that technically it is impossible just to ban several blogs hosted by ‘wordpress.com domain’. Therefore, the ban had to be applied to the whole site.”

I’m almost positive that’s wrong. Technically impossible? It should be a simple matter for Türk Telekom and other ISPs to distinguish between WordPress and individual blogs; if they mean people would just open new blogs, they can just add them to the list as they find them. Blocking access to 1.3 million blogs to stop just a handful is just crazy. And it’s not stopping people from seeing them anyway – they can just go to Wordprexy.

This was the second thing:

“We would also like to inform you that, those bloggers who have directly been affected by the ban placed on ‘WordPress.com’ can apply to Turkish courts in order to revoke the decision of 17 August 2007.”

At first I thought they meant just Turkish bloggers but it seems they mean all bloggers affected, which is good; they know the ban impacts people from all over the world. It seems that my letter has already been forwarded on so there’s not much point doing another, but I wonder if there might be a case for making a joint statement from users of WordPress to coincide with the November 1 court sitting? It might carry more weight coming from a large number of people and it could even be co-ordinated with MidEast Youth’s petition.

So that’s the letter. I was surprised to get a reply at all and I think it was a reasonable response, if a cautious one. It’s ironic, though, that it came the same week that Iran blocked access to Google and Gmail. What a world we live in.

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Let’s talk about sex

I’m not enjoying writing at the moment. I don’t know if I’d call it writer’s block but I can’t work out where to go with Shards at the moment. It’s been a year since I finished the first draft and I’m still doing rewrites. The main stumbling block’s been getting my head around some of the themes, but recently there’s been another problem. The direction of the story has changed a lot and it’s causing a conflict for me with two of the characters.

They were going to be my star-crossed lovers, to borrow Shakespeare’s phrase, but in rewriting it their story has become less of the focus. Now I’m not sure where to go with it. The romance is still there but it’s not as important; I could cut it out, but the story would still lose something. Or I could keep going with it, but I’m worried it might seem exploitative… like the only reason it’s there is to follow formula.

Maybe I’m making too much of it, but I don’t want it to be one of those books where the dynamic just doesn’t feel right… particularly the sex. We’ve all read those books which seem hollow or have sex for sex’s sake; if you’ve read I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe you’ll know what I mean, and I still don’t know what Robert J. Sawyer was trying to do in Humans (a human and a neanderthal, WTF?). Writing sex scenes always makes me uncomfortable but the challenge is finding an aspect in the scene that affects the greater story… without the preceding scenes here, I’m not sure I can.

Anyway, while I’m working that out, it’s brought up an interesting topic. We’re a highly sexualised society, but we still rarely seem at ease with our sexuality. We watch sexy movies, read juicy novels, but do we talk about sex itself? Perhaps amongst our closest friends, but beyond that it’s usually awkward and behind closed doors; likewise we’re still uncomfortable with public displays of affection. It’s strange that sex can be seen as such a commercial entity, yet still remain something of a taboo as well. So when does marketing sex go too far? When does it become gratuitous?

I’m not sure myself. I was trying to think earlier of books/writers I’ve read that have used good sex scenes and I can’t think of many. Maybe Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Bear’s Darwin’s Radio… Bret Easton Ellis and Neil Gaiman for giving scenes an interesting dynamic. And of course DH Lawrence. But overall I don’t think many writers write sex scenes that well or realistically. Most scenes seem to be either lyrical and wafty or anatomical and overly detailed. I know Laurel K. Hamilton’s are dull and don’t interest me much; in a vampire novel, that’s not a good thing. There’s even an award for it – The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

A lot of sex scenes seem distant and it’s strange really that they’re presented in such a detached way; sex is such a natural part of our lives, you’d think writers would want to explore it in a more satisfactory and natural way. But maybe a realistic sex scene is almost impossible to write because it’s something words can’t adequately describe; it destroys the illusion, the feeling. A sex scene can be funny, awkward, escapist, but can it be interesting if it’s made to seem too real? Perhaps not; then it just becomes voyeurism.

I’m not sure I’d agree that writers include sex scenes purely for saleability or formula, though; I’m sure some do, but I’d hope that most still consider it a part of the story and the development of the characters. For that matter, I’m yet to see evidence that you need to have sex in a book for it to be marketable; for any books that don’t sell, it probably has more to do with plot and pace than whether or not the characters shagged on page 180.

There’s been a lot of fuss made over David Duchovny’s new series Californication recently and that sort of plays into this as well. Californication is an adult sex comedy, something of a throw-back to the ’70s movies like Shampoo, and it’s been garnering criticism for its content; one columnist went so far as to call network executives pornographers, while some conservative groups are calling for a boycott of sponsors who advertise during episodes. Personally I find the controversy bizarre. Certainly Californication is not to everyone’s taste, but I don’t see what the networks have done wrong; over here it’s on at an adult-only time and each episode has an M/MA rating. It’s not for children and no-one’s suggesting it is; it’s probably not even appropriate for some adults. But we’re a democracy, aren’t we? If you don’t like a show, turn it off – seems like the ultimate form of free choice to me. What I’ve seen of Californication is actually quite interesting; yes, there’s sex and drugs and nudity, but beneath it is a story about a lost man trying to get his family back. The writing’s sharp and at least it’s something other than reality TV for a change.

Californication definitely markets itself on its adult content, but I don’t think it crosses the line in to exploiting it. This website, though, has to cross that line. It’s for a German company that has created a new cosmetic fragrance for men called Vulva Original. It’s marketed as “the erotic, intimate scent of an irresistible woman… a beguiling vaginal scent”. Um, what? This has to be the most bizarre product I have ever heard of. Just who would be interested in a product like that? And for the love of God, why? It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so gross.

But it’s an example of how an entire industry has evolved around our fascination with sex. Some of it is part of a healthy sexual appetite, but then you get something like this or the rise in pornography; you could argue that it doesn’t hurt anyone but look at Maddison Gabriel being named the face of Gold Coast Fashion Week – she’s just twelve. It sexualises her to adults and surely must be going to mess with her head later on. But it creates publicity and so it’s achieved everything the organisers wanted.

And that brings us back to this idea of marketing sex. As a culture we’re fascinated by sex, so it’s inevitable that that fascination would be exploited. The simple truth is sex sells and companies, writers, directors, musicians use it for marketability. The real question is how far is too far? Something like Californication is pushing the boundaries; I think something like Vulva Original has gone way past them.

For writers, though, I think it’s fairly simple: if you aim for the characters and story to change though the scene, you’ve done your job. And I guess that’s what I’m trying to do with Shards… so I’ll probably keep those scenes. Now I’ll just have to go back and finish it! 😉

What type of writer should you be?

You Should Be A Poet

You craft words well, in creative and unexpected ways.
And you have a great talent for evoking beautiful imagery…
Or describing the most intense heartbreak ever.
You’re already naturally a poet, even if you’ve never written a poem.

What Type of Writer Should You Be?

Another fun quiz over at Blogthings. I must admit, I was expecting more of an SF or slipstream response… but ah well, who am I to argue? I’m a poet as well. 😉