June 2003

Dancing on Monday was rather man heavy but good fun, although I’m still not sure about the tango from the second lesson. CDC Needs Women! Better yet, ones who won’t sacrifice me to the Invisible Pink Unicorn and the Middle Class (Heterosexual) Dating Club which is Her Body on Earth. But that’s just a weird personal preference of mine. I digress.

More Babylon 5 season 2 on Tuesday. They seem to be getting into their stride a bit now: the bit about Londo’s wives was actually funny, and the foreshadowing is coming along nicely. Bode bode bode…

terriem accompanied me to dinner last night. Thanks to Terrie’s educational skills, I now know the proper definitions of “passive-aggressive” and “perineum”, both of which will stand me in good stead in later life. The conversation turned to religion, and why religions generally regard sex as so significant, how religion is used to oppress women, and so on.

<lj-cut text=”Pens and feathers and all other instruments”> I reckoned that sex is seen as so significant because of the (at the time) almost unbreakable link between it and children. Today I got to thinking about societies where sex is viewed as much less significant, and whether I’d want to live in them. Because of disease and pregnancy, it’s usually science fiction where you’ll find them. (It’s possible some existed in isolation in the past before Europeans turned up with their guns, germs and steel, I suppose). I was thinking specifically of the Culture, the civilisation envisaged by Iain Banks. The Culture’s humans are genetically modified: they don’t get pregnant unless they want to, they can change sex, and they enjoy sex more (there was a great interview with Banks where he said that SF was too geeky and so hadn’t come up with some of the obvious things you could do with GM on humans). Sex isn’t meaningless in the Culture, but it doesn’t usually have the weight attached to it which remains, even today, in our culture.

There are hints in the later books that some parts of the Culture itself think that things are getting too easy for the Culture’s inhabitants (who are the mysterious entities who helped in the attempt to blow up the Orbital in Look to Windward?), but I’d like to disagree with Agent Smith and say that we don’t need suffering to give our lives meaning. If a lot of that significance is because of pregnancy and attendant considerations of disease, hunger, power and inheritance, then if it fades away as we progress away from those considerations, that’s all to the good.

That said, there’s some residual unease in me about such an idea. Remnants of evangelicalism, possibly. I’ll be interested to see where Banks takes the Culture in future books, anyway.

Watched 28 Days later with Lise on Saturday. Despite some irritating plot holes, it was worth seeing. One thing that always annoys me about horror films is how stupid the people in them are, on occasion. Attention, people in horror films:

Don’t go alone into dark places where nasties might be (one can be forgiven for this at the start of the film when one doesn’t know the nasties are around, but after that, it’s your own problem).

When you think you’ve won, you still need to pay attention to your surroundings rather than engaging in a tearful group hug (or, in the case of J. Lo in Enough, phoning a friend. Chicks, eh?). Inevitably, one of the nasties isn’t as dead as you’d like (a classic horror or drama staple, that one), or it has a friend around.

Right, glad that’s sorted out.

Also found that The Editing Room has now has a script for The Matrix Reloaded which skewers it mercilessly. At least Austin Powers had the right idea in calling the “M” character Basil Exposition.

Slept late on Sunday, went into town and bought a white shirt so as to appear more like Agent Smith for the Matrix themed bop that evening. Ran out of things to do and entered the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. (Aside: the phrase originates as a parody of St John of the Cross’s “Long Dark Night of the Soul”, an idea also taken up by Jung, who seems to crop up a lot in my LJ of late, thus proving the Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things).

The Matrix themed bop turned out not to be very Matrix themed. Suspect this was down to them telling other MCRs it was, and neglecting to tell the college’s own members. Music started badly, briefly got better and then dissolved into soft rock hell. Still, bopped a bit and enjoyed myself. And so to bed.

I’m a heretic!

The Dante’s Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell – The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Level Score
Purgatory (Repenting Believers) Very Low
Level 1 – Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers) Very High
Level 2 (Lustful) High
Level 3 (Gluttonous) Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious) Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy) Moderate
Level 6 – The City of Dis (Heretics) Very High
Level 7 (Violent) Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers) Low
Level 9 – Cocytus (Treacherous) Low

Take the Dante’s Inferno Hell Test

Feeling exhausted and suffering from the bastard offspring of hayfever and (I think) a mild cold having a party in my sinuses. Because of this and an outbreak of chronic apathy (becoming relaxed later, 15 miles, good), I’ve not made it to London. Have fun, those of you who are there.

Visited the Crown and Punchbowl in Horningsea with my mother on Wednesday. Unlike when I went with terriem, the food was not very good. In particular, my mum’s mashed potatoes tasted bitter. What can you do to potatoes to make them taste bitter?

Thursday was the Madonna tribute thing in St Ives, at which lisekit and terriem did their thing as backing dancers. All good fun. Not sure why Terrie thought I was looking at faux-Madonna’s arse any more than anyone else in there.

GD last night was OK. Too many blokes, but managed to grab some dances with my usual partners. It’ll be odd over the summer with so many people away. Plaza was not admitting people because of the Fair: from my reading of cam.misc, every year the council welcomes a bunch of people who like to smash the place up, just so we can have fairground rides. Damned if I know why. Grad Pad was a useful substitute.

Up late talking to Safi about life, the Universe, and everything. She compared to experience to a girly sleep-over, which I think was intended as a compliment.

I was reading some stuff about Vernor Vinge’s Singularity idea on the web the other day: apparently there are people who’ve dedicated themselves to bringing about the Singularity. Might write something about this then I’m not so tired. Think I’ll have a lie-down now.

Watched Babylon 5 series 2 DVD 1 last night. Sheridan more wooden than I remembered: presumably he gets into it a bit more later. Comic relief bits (like the diet storyline) jarred with the more serious stuff going on, I thought. Also wondered why Londo doesn’t make more of an effort to find out who his new friends are. If he’s that expert in politicking and backstabbing, you’d have thought he might twig that he now owes them some hefty favours. Enough plot hole picking: it was good fun anyway.

Trying to work out who’ll be going to Alice’s on Saturday so I can catch the train with them if possible. Everyone’s a bit vague so far.

There seem to be some frank opinions about a certain young lady among my LJ friends. I believe such matters of honour should be settled in the open, in the manner preferred by gentlemen: I refer, of course, to a three-way mud-wrestling match. My money’s on Lise.

From Crummy via Oblomovka comes a link to Eighties Ending, in which the ending of every 80s film ever is sent up.

Andrew Brown is also linked to by Danny O’Brien. Brown wrote an interesting piece in the Telegraph about the C of E’s attitude to homosexuality. One of my Chrishtunfrends was telling me that she’d heard someone at StAG on Sunday point out that the Bible is more concerned with usury than with homosexuality. If the speaker was one of the leaders in the church, one wonders why they’re backing Reform.

Crummy also links to ep which “perverts the notion of Unix pipes in a way not seen since the unveiling of tee caused riots at the 1913 USENIX.” I wish I could think of this stuff.

The Register has a story about a new Nokia mobile device: a camera which can send pictures via SMS (or MMS, probably) and sound via a voice call. The camera can do motion detection too.

So, will Big Brother soon be watching us? (aside: how many people associate that phrase with bad unreality TV rather than 1984 now, I wonder?)

<lj-cut> I’d like to think not. It’s more like thousands and thousands of Little Brothers. If this thing is priced so that it’s accessible to businesses and homeowners, what you end up with is David Brin’s vision of a Transparent Society. Cameras in the hands of the citizenry are a good thing, since they enable us to watch both agents of government (Rodney King, anyone?) and also people who are up to no good. Brin’s argument is that cheap, mass produced, net connected cameras will be available. Our choice is whether we leave them in the hands of the government or let everyone have them.

This is all part of my grand theory that, what with the government being increasingly rubbish at dealing with social problems, what we’ll end up with is something which Neal Stephenson’s anticipated: burbclaves (we’re already getting there: one of my friends lives in a gated block of flats in London) and phyles (which are sort of tribes or groupings of people with common beliefs: in The Diamond Age there’s a phyle made up of people who follow Victorian social mores, for example). This will all have reached its logical conclusion when there’s a village for people who share a particular outlook on life, with a fence around it and a set of cameras to which all householders have access. Being a bit of a libertarian, I’m not sure this would be a bad thing, although you can’t help wondering what happens to the people who are left outside this arrangement. Anyway, I look forward to being able to point to this journal in 10 years and say “I told you so!”

I won a medal on Battleground God, taking no hits and biting no bullets. This presumably means I’m a logically consistent agnostic, which is a relief, let me tell you.

Had fun yesterday teaching Natalie, a friend of Safi’s to dance, as she’s coming to the CDC Ball on Thursday. My house has a big front room with a wooden floor. We hardly use the room for anything, so it’s almost empty and makes an ideal dance floor. Went through waltz, quickstep, cha-cha, rhumba and jive, with Safi showing her the women’s steps and then me providing a bloke to dance with. It was most fun. Apparently I was a good teacher.

Slightly late to Intermediates. Learned a do-able Paso Doble in the first lesson, which I might mix up with bits from the second to create something which looks good and is possible. Fleckles (sp?) in the Viennese in the second lesson. Can’t do them. Pub afterwards to discuss things beginning with H for Henry’s fancy dress party on Friday.

Utterly exhausted on reaching home, but sleep refused to happen. Feeling somewhat odd today. Ho hum.

Since we’re talking poetry, Thoughts Worth Thinking is a ramshackle collection of poems, quotations and reflections. Though it’s a little tumbledown, with many broken links, it’s still worth a visit.

I suppose I should warn you that some of the poems expressing admiration of the female form are accompanied by some arty nude and semi-nude photos, so you may want to turn images off or something. Or you may not. 🙂 Or you could just not click on the love poems.

I was remembering the song about George Fox which I used to sing in primary school, after lisekit mentioned non-conformists. Turns out it was written by Syndey Carter, who also wrote Lord of the Dance, often maligned by those who like to point out that, in the Holy Scriptures which are our Supreme Authority in all Matters of Faith and Conduct, Jesus never did say “I am the Lord of the Dance”. (Carter does not record what the dance was: I think of it as some swirly variant of ballroom modern).

Fox, of course, was a straight down the line Christian who identified the Light with Christ, although some surfing confirms that modern Quakers don’t all agree with him. Carter seems to give a more universalist picture of Fox than Fox’s writings allow for. Of course, I prefer Carter’s version 🙂

My former self regarded the idea that the light is in everyone as terribly unsound. Now, of all that I believed, what persists is a recognition of the light in people around me, whether they are Christians or not, and a belief that the light will win, in spite of the darkness which closes around it. Given the state of the world, maybe this belief is just as irrational as any religion, but as long as I continue to find light shining from new places, I will believe it.