Zeitgeist

blog1-240808Blog aggregator, amatomu.com does a sterling job of taking the temperature of the South African blogosphere. The tag cloud (see above) on the site shows that even though our sporting nation has not been faring too well in that department, sports still remain uppermost in our minds – coach, tri-nations, olympics and Beijing loom large – while the  words that tag the samurai incident that happened at the Krugersdorp high school on Monday this week, are relatively small.

23-year-old capetonian Pseudonaja, who describes himself as a "Proudly South African Pagan Geek" was a little peeved at some of the reports he read. In a post called Metal is not Evil on his blog The Middle Distance he comes out in defence of the "Devil's music".

''I don't want to be funny, but how does this resemble a black balaclava?''

His first objection is that Krugersdorp councillor Alex Raubenheimer said that the boy "had painted his face black and wore a black balaclava, resembling the drummer of the band Slipknot". Here Pseudonaja has inserted a picture of Jordison to illustrate that the resemblance might be far-fetched.

blog2-240808Satanic Panic
What really gets Pseudonaja going is a statement by community leader Pierre Eksteen in a news24 report that blames "Satanic music" for the attack:

"How can people assume that because a guy listens to metal he's going to go around killing people? Slipknot isn't in any way connected to satanic material. There are bands that are, such as Black Symphony, but as far as I know Slipknot never made a point of being satanic. Here's me, a 23-year-old guy. I've been listening to metal much heavier and scarier than Slipknot for essentially as long as I can remember. And I had trouble hitting people when I started doing kickboxing."

Spencer Eggworth, who claims to be "Pissing the planet off, one person at a time" and calls his blog .eggworth a website, says he took a listen to the demonised band's music when he found some on his "sons' digital music podplayer thingy." He was not particularly impressed (he gives an unrepeatable and graphic description of how he perceives their sound) but sagely blames ineffective parenting, a lack of discipline and a sub-standard education system for the spate of violence in schools.

He further concludes that "if listening to Slipknot or Rammstein or whatever else takes your fancy is cause to commit murder then we must have thousands upon thousands of fans of these somewhat obscure heavy metal bands here in South Africa. We are after all the murder capital of the world, yes?"

Georgia on my mind

blog1-170808Valleywag writer Jackson West had a field day this week when he discovered a news report on Google News which indicated that Georgia, the world's most recent battlezone was located in the southern United States. They have since amended their error, but West has a screenshot of the faulty geography to prove that it was there. The mistake did nothing to allay the fears of Yahoo Answers users Jessica B and Ed M, who both posted the same question – verbatim.

Here are some of the answers they got:blog2-170808

 

 

 

 

blog3-170808Let me guess... You're a McCain supporter, right? Thought so.


blog4-170808Ed, do you live in Georgia in the US ? If so, you need to watch the news more often.


blog5-170808rusia is not invading georegia but Russia is invading Georgia (the country)

blog6-170808Why your own tv channels are so unfair bullshiting your about last actions in Georgia? I watched CNN, BBC and Deutsche Welle - everywhere is bullshit. Georgia has attacked first on 8 of august and georgian troops have killed more than 2000 civil Osetian people!!!!! Russian troops are trying to save civil people, Russia is not invader. Why your army helps georgians killing   civil people,                                equipping with weapon? Why US hates Russia so much? Can somebody tell me.


blog7-170808These are the types of comments that make people think that Americans are stupid!


blog8-170808You think this guy's a McCain supporter!? This kind of sheer ignorance is prime material for none other than the cult of the Lord and Messiah Barack Obama.And really? There's a little pencil eraser next to the box in which I'm typing that tells me when I've misspelled something.Lord, honey....


blog9-170808This question just made my day. A friend of mine made your question his signature on a forum. Go to school, you dumb redneck. Also, he's just copying someone else who posted this same question

Wiki. How?

The web is a great place to find instructions on how to do just about anything. The best resources come in Wiki form, which means that they can be edited by anybody who cares to add their two cents worth. On wikiHow.com you can learn how to Run Up a Wall and Flip, Hack a Coke Machine or Be Photogenic. While wisdom abounds on the proper way to do things, sometimes the best way to learn is by somebody else's mistakes.

How not to update your Facebook Status (via Wired)
1. Rubbing cream on that thing I noticed last weekend. Doesn't seem to be working.
2. Feeling trapped in this male body.
3. Jesus, I'm lonely.
4. Watching The Notebook again.
5. Just came up with a new emoticon for sanguine [:
6. Thinking about maybe talking to someone.

Facebook how-to's on wikiHow include:
1. Update your status every day
2. Socialise! Write on people's walls. Send them virtual drinks and gifts. Poke some of them. Throw stuff like elephants, water bombs, or coconuts at your friends. Send kisses to friends. Comment on people's photo's
3. It is possible to seem too eager and that would make you unpopular
4. If you are in a relationship, don't list yourself as single. This is cruel for those who might be pursuing you.
5. Make sure everything is punctuated correctly.
6. Make sure you are in your Profile Photo. It's Facebook, not you-and-twenty-other-people-on-a-hike-up-mount-everest-book

Finally, wikiHow has a constructive article entitled How to Quit Facebook for those suffering from Facebook Fatigue.a great place to find instructions on how to do just about anything. The best resources come in Wiki form, which means that they can be edited by anybody who cares to add their two cents worth. On wikiHow.com you can learn how to Run Up a Wall and Flip, Hack a Coke Machine or Be Photogenic. While wisdom abounds on the proper way to do things, sometimes the best way to learn is by somebody else's mistakes.

How not to fell a palm tree (from collegehumor)
1. Using a bakkie to pull a tree down might seem like a good idea, but make sure that the car is a safe distance from the tree.
2.  There should be no obstacles (like precast walls) impeding your escape route.

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3.  That palm tree may look like a lightweight. It's not.

According to an article on wikiHow: "Felling trees is very, very dangerous. Only properly trained people should fell trees"

Not a yolk

blog_150309This is a good story for Roberta's
blog. A 43-year-old yoga teacher from
Willoughby, Northamptonshire ( the
report also calls her an animal lover
and mother of three) called Natalie
Wiltshire found this tenpin shaped egg
among those laid by her 20 chickens.
Wiltshire, recalling the story of the
Jesus-shaped cornflake, was tempted
to sell the egg on eBay, but decided to
keep it because her chidren had grown
attached to it. "It really is quite an
extraordinary shape," she says. "All I
need now is another nine pins and a
round one for a bowling ball and we
have the complete set."

Get a blog, Roberta!

I have a friend, by proxy actually since
she has latched onto my husband, who
spends her time entertaining every
individual in her address book with
a steady stream of found objects that
she digs up on the internet. Seems
Roberta (her real name ) has made it
her business (she has a real job as well)
to scour the internet from dawn until
dusk for photographs and amusing
quotations that might excite her captive
email audience.
There is a place for people like Roberta.
They are necessary as a human conduit
and filter for online stuff that people
who actually work during the day
might never get to see. According to
my husband, Relentless Roberta was
already at it at 8.28 this morning.
Admittedly, some of the stuff she sends
is amusing. Yesterday, she sent a list of
quotes in an email with "Is it a crime to
stop and think first?" in the subject line.
Apparently pop star Mariah Carey once
said: "Whenever I watch TV and see
those poor starving kids all over the
world, I can't help but cry I mean I'd
love to be skinny like that, but not with
all those flies and death and stuff" and
Brooke Shields, during an interview
to become spokesperson for a federal
anti-smoking campaign, said "Smoking
kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very
important part of your life."
Whether these famous brick-dropping
people actually uttered these dumb
things is not something that can be
verified online, but there are hundreds
of instances of the same all over the
internet. On Yahoo answers (answers.
yahoo.com) a user called Shauna
has posted them under RETARDEd
QUOTEs..THESES ARE REAL
QUOTES..U LIKEY LIKEY THEM?
Does Roberta want a reply to her
dozens of emails? Probably not, but if
I did reply I might say something like:
"Thanks for the quotes Roberta, they
made me feel a lot less stupid. Now get
a blog."

Plath meets Wolverine

blog010309I am sure I was not the only one who was surprised to see Hugh Jackman, voted 2008's Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine, soft-shoeing it all over the stage as host at this year's Oscar Awards. Jackman, I later learned, is quite well known in musical theatre circles and is particularly loved by the gay fraternity. As if that was not enough to convince me that Mr Jackman has a feminine side, consider this. I was helping my daughter unbundle a terribly serious post-natal depressive poem by Sylvia Plath. In desperation, I looked it up online and chanced upon a gem of a blog called Poem of the Week, authored by none other than Hugh Jackman, wherein, using words like "cryptic" and "haunted", he tries to explain Plath's "Morning Song" and much like I did, admits defeat. According to Jackman, who is my new favourite celebrity, and not only because of his intellectual muscle: "Reading Plath always makes me feel unsettled. Her demons are always scratching at the surface." Jackman quotes Goethe to explain the existence of his blog: "A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful implanted in the human soul.”

Beeb parents scared by disabled presenter

CBeebies, the BBC's children's channel, has a new presenter called Cerrie Burnell. Burnell has caused consternation among some parents. Is Burnell a known sex offender? Does she mutter expletives under her breath during broadcasts? No. Cerrie Burnell is worrying because she has only one arm and this, according to parents of children who view the channel, is cause for concern. There have been complaints that the one-armed  presenter has forced parents to discuss the difficult issue of disability with children before they were ready and reports from others that the sight of her might cause sleep problems. Burnell, who admits that she was upset by the comments says: "It can only be a good thing that parents are using me as a chance to talk about disability with their children. It just goes to show how important it is to have positive disabled role models on CBeebies and television in general."

Funny names

In a not-so-subtle warning to prospective parents thebabywebsite.com scoured telephone books and the web and came up with a list of The Most Unfortunate Names in Britain:

Barb Dwyer     Max Power
Paige Turner    Mary Christmas
Sonny Day    Tim Burr
Teresa Green    Will Power
Anna Sasin    Chris Cross
Doug Hole    Justin Case
Barry Cade    Pearl Button
Hazel Nutt    Ray Gunn
Helen Back    Terry Bull
Jo King        Lee King

and, possibly the worst one of all ... Stan Still.

Adrienne Waldo on why blogging could launch your career

Advertising Age writer Adrienne Waldo attributes a successful freelance career to her professional blog. Here she gives her reasons:
1. A blog gives you something to show along with your CV.
2. It demonstrates your writing ability and serves as a supplemental writing sample.
3. Just the word "blog" looks good on a job application. It implies that you're tech-savvy, well-connected and confident in your own ideas.
4. A good blog gives employers a unique understanding of your thoughts and ideas.
5. Blogging is good networking. Think of other bloggers as allies. Run a search of topics similar to yours, "follow" them and comment on their posts, and the next thing you know, you'll be connected with an engaged network of people in your field.

Found on ffffound.com
blog1-210609blog2-210609

The girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making

fairyland_banner
Young Adult fantasy writer Catherynne M. Valente is posting her latest novel on her website, catherynnemvalente.com, one chapter a week.

Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her father's house, where she washed the same pink and yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog. Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were very large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her, and flew to her window one evening just after her eleventh birthday.

"You seem an ill-tempered and irascible enough child," said the Green Wind. "How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Leopard of Little Breezes, and be delivered to the great sea which borders Fairyland? I am afraid I cannot go in, as Harsh Airs are not allowed, but I should be happy to deposit you upon the Perverse and Perilous Sea."

Dead ... not!

On the 16th of April 2003, CNN became the biggest serial killer of famous people by premature obituary – regrettheerror.com calls it "mass obiticide". The "CNN.com incident" refers to the unearthing (by fark.com) of multiple pre-written draft memorials on the CNN website which could be accessed without a password. Some of the obituaries were modelled on templates for other public figures, many of them on that of the Queen Mother, who had already died. Dick Cheney's obituary, for example, stated that he was the "Queen's consort" and the "UK's favorite grandmother". Fidel Castro, whose obituary was based on that of Ronald Reagan, was described as a lifeguard, an athlete and a movie star. Wikipedia classifies this as "Pressing the wrong button" in its list of possible causes for premature announcement of death. In February this year, Bush the Younger's death was announced on our own eTV's moving banner headline when a technician who was testing the banner accidentally pressed the "broadcast live for transmission" button. The words "Bush is dead" were broadcast for about three seconds.

Read more ...

Your logo makes me barf

blogs1-140609Constructing a logo, is much more complex than some people imagine. You cannot, though some believe it is perfectly reasonable, construct a logo from the  Wordart and Clipart which comes packaged with Microsoft's Word. Yourlogomakesmebarf.com is "a humorous look at what can go wrong when an unskilled person (your neighbor’s brother’s uncle’s friend anyone?!) designs a logo. Good logos require time and involve great forethought. A good logo should be a financial investment but also something that will benefit the long term growth of a company."
Here is one that was voted as favourites by users of the blog. It is so bad that it carries a warning that says "viewer discretion is advised."

Oprah: Yes, my TV show includes crap but my audience will realise it’s crapblog2-140609

The blogosphere was all over Oprah Winfrey after a report in Newsweek last week reported on her insistence on inviting pseudoscientifics like Jenny McCarthy (skeptico.blogs.com calls her a "celebrity idiot") to regale her viewers with "antiscientific medical swill" like McCarthy's story about the Rubella vaccine which she believes gave her son autism. Winfrey has never been popular  with the science fraternity. On thestar.com, Dr. David Gorski writes that Oprah is "the perfect face to put on the problem that we supporters of science-based medicine face"  and says that Oprah uses her influence in aid of "what can only be characterised as dubious medical therapies at best and quackery at worst." Discover magazine is angry with Oprah for firing back with a statement that they say is pure spin: "I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them."

Have a blast at Christmas

Political correctness was not an issue in the 70's, which is why it was perfectly okay for the whole family to give and get weapons as Christmas gifts. Todaysinspiration.blogspot.com has posted a number of ads like this one that would make Sarah Palin proud.

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Twitter words

(from  20 words every Twitterer should know)

Twitter: A social networking and microblogging service
Twitterer: A user of Twitter. Sometimes known as a Tweeter, but never as a Twit.
Tweet: A message sent on Twitter. Also used as a verb; the act of posting to Twitter
Twitterzine: a magazine published through Twitter
Tweet Pushers: content writers for Twitterzines
ReporTwitters: Journalists who publish "reality style" tweets in conjunction with their articles
Twoosh: A full 140 character Tweet (140 is the maximum number of characters allowed)
Twitter Stream: A collection of tweets in chronological order
Dweet: A tweet sent while under the influence of alcohol
Tweetaholism: Use of Twitter to the point of addiction
Twittcrastination: Procrastination brought on by use of Twitter
Mistweet: A tweet which one later regrets
Twitterrhea: The act of sending too many Twitter messages
Tweeple: Twitter people
TweetIn: When a group of Twitterers agree on a time to Twitter
Twitterati: Glamorous A-list twitterers that everybody wants to follow
Twitosphere: The Twitter community
Twitterness: A measure of a Twitterer's contribution to the Twitosphere
Friendapalooza: A scheduled burst of friend-adding on Twitter and other social networks

For more Twitter words try the twitter dictionary at twitonary.com.

Pale blue dot

As an ode to our planet on Earth Day, which was celebrated worldwide on Wednesday this week, Discover Magazine quoted from a 1996 address by celebrity astronomer Carl Sagan. In it, Sagan refers to a photograph taken by Voyager 1 at a distance of 4 billion miles in which Earth is so minute that it can barely be seen.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Dr Carl Sagan, May 11, 1996


Amazon's gay glitch

Amazon was the subject of a violent Twitterstorm this week (it was "hashtagged" #amazonfail)  as news broke of the gargantuan company's apparent refusal to allow users to view the sales rankings and in some cases search for, gay and lesbian-related titles. According to Nielsen Hayden (nielsenhayden.com), in a post called Amazon’s very bad day, all books with even a hint of GLBT content, including children's titles like Heather has two Mommies and Radclyffe Hall's classic The Well of Loneliness, were deemed adult. Hayden blames the debacle entirely on the bigness of the organisation, saying that it was probably a result of miscommunication between departments: "If you don’t think this kind of clusterfark is entirely possible, you probably haven’t worked in a large organisation." Amazon has apologised for what it has called a "glitch", but playwright Larry Kramer, who started a petition against them, doubts that it was a bona fide error: "We have to now keep a more diligent eye on Amazon and how they handle the world’s cultural heritage."

Fiction no more

The Oxford University Press blog (blog.oup.com) has posted a list of nine words that science has borrowed from science fiction.
1. Robotics: Isaac Asimov first named this discipline in his 1941 story Liar. Asimov also coined the name for its related occupation, roboticist, and the adjective robotic.
2. Genetic engineering: The name for this science came from Jack Williamson’s novel Dragon’s Island, which was also published in 1941. From it, science fiction writer Poul Anderson derived the name for the profession of genetic engineer.
3. Arthur C. Clarke gave us "zero-g" to define the state of weightlessness experienced in outer space, in his 1952 novel Islands in the Sky.
4. EE "Doc" Smith coined the term Deep Space in 1938. It refers to the essential emptiness of outer space
5. An ion drive is a type of spaceship engine that creates propulsion by emitting charged particles in the direction opposite to the one in which  you want to travel. It is first mentioned in Jack Williamson's book The Equalizer (1947). The technology has been in use since the 1970's.
6. EE "Doc" Smith's pressure suit (his version was made of fur) maintains a stable pressure around the person wearing it.
7. In 1972, writer Dave Gerrold drew an analogy between biological and computer viruses in his story When Harlie Was One.
8. John Brunner used the word "worm" to refer to the self-replicating computer program in his 1972 book Shockwave Rider.
9. Gas giant: James Blish used this term in his story Solar Plexus to define a large planet, like Jupiter or Neptune, that is composed largely of gas.


Pointers for politicians

John-Paul Flintoff quotes 17 Ideas to Get Angry About on his Times Online blog, Green Central. They come from an article written by Will Sutherland, head of the School for Self-Sufficiency in Ireland and were first published in the Fourth World Review.

In Sutherland's world, people do own land, although the acreage is limited. Land also replaces welfare payouts; a set acreage is granted to each person when they turn 21. Office holders (candidacy is open only to grandparents, since they have experience and a stake in the future) are chosen by lot and leadership is restricted to jurisdiction over a local community of no more than 10,000 people. Elections, held only to depose the least popular, include the option to vote for "none of the above". To become a citizen, one must complete a competency test. Before declaring war, leaders are required to order a referendum and must be prepared to personally kill one of the enemy, in public.

Sutherland comes down hard on big business – trading as a corporation is outlawed. Money lending for profit is made illegal and control of the money supply is restored to the people. The working week is reduced to four days and it is illegal to trade on the weekend.

The scope of education is broadened: parents receive grants to educate their children at home and existing curricula are modified to include compulsory gardening. It becomes a criminal offence not to recycle waste (all waste, including human detritus). Failure to recycle could land you a passage on one of Sutherland's ocean-going square-rigged training ships, his answer to the prison system.

Sutherland's final thrust takes aim at the sporting world. To make football more exciting professional players will only earn for goals scored. He would, however, prefer that soccer be replaced altogether with something more thrilling and dangerous like ice hockey or hurling, an ancient Irish sport traditionally used to solve tribal disputes.

Gullible travels

Picture this. An 18th century Italian explorer miraculously resurfaces three years after he was thought to be lost at sea. Guiseppe Cognomi spends the rest of his life writing about an unknown southern land inhabited by a highly advanced civilisation he calls the Linians, who looked after him in the time he was gone. He is labelled a madman – Antarctica or Terra Australis had been hypothesised since Ptolemy suggested in 1AD that it had to be there in order to balance the northern lands, but was only sighted in 1820 – and his self-published works are disregarded except by a small but loyal following who quietly carry on the tradition of Linian scholarship. Then, in 1966, a certain Norene Z. Byrnes chances upon what is left of his work and spends the rest of her life reconciling Cognomi’s account with modern day science. Today, the Society for Linian Studies is continuing the work she began. The organisation recently  launched an exhibition called The Cognomi Theory of the Antarctic Interior where the public can explore the Linian Sea based on Cognomi's original drawings and learn about notable Linian scholars of the past along the way. A fitting tribute to this, the International Year of the Poles.

Intrigued, I did search for online information about Cognomi and the Linians. Not a sausage. My quest disintegrated into a host of Latinate websites (given that cognomi is Italian for surname). I sincerely hope to be enlightened once the exhibition goes virtual.


A Dickensian Cliffhanger

I first saw this photograph when the US National Museum of Health and Medicine (nmhm.washingtondc.museum) made some of the images in its archive available online a few weeks ago via a Flickr photostream.

It is an ambrotype, a type of photographic exposure created on a sheet of glass, of three children (we later learn that they are called Franklin, Fred and Alice), found in the hands of a dead soldier on the battlefield during the American Civil War. The circumstances under which the picture was found are enough to make one wonder about its provenance and about the nature and life of a man who chose to clutch a picture of his children to his heart while he was dying.  
A series of posts written by film maker Errol Morris, turns it into an epic that unbundles the events leading to the death of this man on a battlefield a few hundred miles from his home and exposes the sordid interventions of a certain Dr. J. Francis Bourns who sold copies of the photograph supposedly to raise money for a home for Civil War orphans. Bourns siphoned much of the money off the trust for himself and in 1877 was charged with embezzling – "mismanagement, waste of property and violation of trust".
Morris began his five part series, called "Whose Father Was He?", after an article that originally appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Oct. 19, 1863, on his New York Times blog, Zoom on Sunday last week. It is riveting. The blogged tale of Union soldier Amos Humiston is masterfully turned into a feast of historical sleuthing as he tracks down the letters and poems that Humiston wrote to his wife and interviews Humiston's descendants. In part four we meet David Humiston Kelley, an academic and expert on archaeoastronomy who is  intimately acquainted with the tale of his great-grandfather. We also meet another great-grandchild, Allan Cox, a retired salesman entrusted with the original letters, who, when Morris interviewed him, was reluctant (on account of a tricky back) to look through his things for the boxes which held them.  
It is astounding that such a wealth of soul food could be disregarded  by someone so closely related to it. Morris quotes snatches of the letters transcribed with the original inaccuracies in spelling by Mark Dunkelman, an historian who has unravelled much of the tale. For Morris, they are landmarks on Humiston's journey from Jamestown, NY, to Gettysburg, PA, where Humiston met his end. One excerpt attests to Humiston's deep devotion to his wife:

January 2, 1863: "If I ever live to get home you will not complain of being lonesome again or of sleeping cold for I will lay as close to you as the bark to a tree."