[tantum eruditi sunt liberi]

Only the educated are free? Hrm...not according to my cat.



Congratulations to my best friend living in Cambridge, Ontario. Jo-Ann (and hubby Adam) has recently had a baby girl (Alexa) and ooh, isn't she cute?


[selsey on the south coast]

The combination of writer's block and the sun's rays streaming through the kitchen (read: study!) conviced me that today would be a wonderful day to get out. After yesterday's tramping around London, I'm ready for some fresh sea air. We debated - should we check out the infamous Bognor Regis or perhaps join the crowds in Brighton. After much mulling over the well worn map Eureka!: we'll explore Selsey. Now, on the map it looked like it would be a pretty picturesque town. Well, if you fancy screaming parents (never mind the kids), pooping dogs (with no owners in sight), and boardwalks paved with super sticky gum - then this IS the place for you! Ha. Agreeing that the 1.5 hour drive down meant that we really should give the place a chance we were determined to ignore our less pleasant surroundings in favour of the delightful ones; namely the sea. We schlepped over shingles (and bits of wood and diapers!) but eventually (after an hour and a bit) discovered a peaceful corner. We basked in the then setting sun and dipped our toes in gelid water. We even contemplated purloining some seaweed thanks to our memories of the Japanese meal the night before but decided that it might have come into contact with the diapers and/or dogs. If you're up for an amble away from the "main" bit of the beach then you'll be in luck and discover scenes striking enough to turn anyone into a photographer or poet.


[visiting areas close to home = unexpected surprises]

I'm pondering the unexpected impact routine places can evoke; namely my jaunt into London today. We walked about the city, wary of using public transport, and found London had another feel. Not the dingy suffocation of the deep tube stations or the gusto of the bus driver who has happily discovered the brake pedal. Instead, we ambled though tree-shielded lanes and enjoyed resting in the deck chairs dotted about High Park. As we strolled along, oblivious to others trying to squeeze past, we were awoken from our easy chatting by the sight of an image opposite Westminster. I'm including it for your persual:

Talk about wake-up call!!! The prices in London (and surrounding areas) are absolutely crazy now. They want 93=95pence a litre! That's about 45-50 pounds to fill out tiny 1.4 rover. Geez! What about all the people driving 4x4 and gas-guzzling sedans....

Besides this wake-up call we enjoyed a lovely day in London. We managed to hit Portobello road market (no, I did not spot Kate Moss) and I found some really funky silver napkin rings. I know - I'm awfully *wild*. After out riotous excursion we met with friends for a lovely Japanese meal (note: bento boxes rule!) followed by Japanese tea (a sweet and milky experience).

Pretty painted houses on Portobello RoadJess and Steve with Shuyi and Wen enjoying Japanese tea.


[nerd, geek, or dork?]

Pure Nerd
66 % Nerd, 30% Geek, 4% Dork

For The Record: A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia. A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one. A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions. You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd. The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful. Congratulations!

The test tracked 3 variables. How I compared to other people my age and gender:

The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test


[fuzzy logic]

"We - you/I - are neither open nor closed. We never separate simply...Between our lips, yours and mine, several
voices, several ways of speaking resound endlessly, back and forth. One is never
separable from the other. You/I: we are always several at once...One cannot be
distinguished from the other; which does not mean that they are indistinct."
Luce Irigaray,This Sex Which is Not One, 209.

Lastnight I watched the first installment, "Kill Me if You Can," of a new BBC series entitled Psycho. A very interesting story developed concerning two teenage boys, a chatroom, and their imagination. John, image from www.channel4.com
In short, the younger boy John, a 14 year old, created fictitious characters designed to appeal solely to one person in particular, Mark, a 16 year old boy who also frequented the chatroom. The narrator of the series was at pains to remind viewers that these were "normal" boys doing "ordinary" things. Some examples of such mundane activities for the boys were watching the local footie team with his dad (the older boy didn't have a dad), doing well in school, having friends, and not missing school. But it was obvious, well at least to viewers, that both boys were lonely and uneasy with life and both sought affirmation (of themselves and, to a certain extent, of their lives) in another arena: an internet chatroom.
As the boys became more comfortable with themselves and the online environment they became "consumed" with the chatroom. Both boys would be in the chatroom for 12 hours a day - before school and throughout the night. [One question: where were the parents?] Eventually the Mark made friends with "Rachel", a female teenager also in the chatroom. Shortly after meeting Rachel, the Mark became very "close" with her and told parents and friends he had a girlfriend. In the chatroom Rachel introduced Mark to the John; before Rachel introduced them, they had not spoken. Soon afterwards another "character" appeared calling himself Kevin and proclaiming himself a stalker of the worst kind. A few days later Kevin logged in and told Mark that he had kidnapped Rachel and would kill her unless he masterbated with his webcam on for the chatroom (and Kevin) to see. Mark apparently thought this was the way to "save" Rachel and performed the request. Kevin signed in later and said he had released Rachel. Rachel then promised to meet Mark and thank him for saving her. A week or so later Kevin logged in claiming he had raped Rachel and then murdered her. Mark was distressed upon hearing this news but made no effort to tell his mum, friends, or police. [Now, is this really the action of a "ordinary" boy?] As a result of the loss of Rachel, he quickly became firm friends with John. The would chat all the time online and met in real life (RL).Janet Dobinson, Spymistress. Image from www.channel4.com Soon Mark was approached by Janet Dobinson "spymistress." She wanted to recruit Mark to come work with her for the Secret Service. But, (there's always a but!) the boy first had to prove his worth, for a fee of course. The tasks that Janet set for him began simply and grew to acts of a sexual nature - Mark would have to perform certain acts on the younger boy. [A "normal" person might wonder why one earth would a spymistress use a teenagers chatroom? Why would she ask someone to perform sexual acts on another teenage boy? etc...] Finally, having passed all these tests, Mark was promised £300,000 and sex with Janet the spymistress if he murdered the younger boy. Mark was promised that as soon as he completed the act, Janet would appear and exhonerate him, pay him, and have sex with him. All of this was in the interest of national security. In case something went wrong, Janet told him of an escape code: "6969"!! [c'mon! what a code?!] Anyway, Mark took the younger one out Mark. Image from www.channel4.comfor the day, as friends do. He bought a kitchen knife - for his mum - and then, at the end of the day, took John down an alley-way being sure to side-step all the cctv cameras he'd been warned about. He stabbed John. Mark then rang police thinking Janet the spymistress would appear as promised. She didn't. Ten days after being in police custody, Mark finally explained that he'd been recruited for the Secret Service. The police thought it was a joke until they took a look at Mark's hard drive. Lines and lines of conversations between the 16 year old and Janet appeared. The police then began a search for Janet. After extensive examination, experts discovered a typing mistake that appeared in all of Janet's communiction and then in "Rachel's" and "Kevin's" and...in John's. All these characters spelt "maybe" as "MYBYE". Ooops. John was found out. As he was recovering in hospital police slowly pieced together what had happened. John had written a story aimed directly at the older boy. He wrote the story so well, the older boy believed it. Both boys were not given jail sentences but are not allowed to go near chatrooms and cannot use the internet unsupervised. But I have a question, if you're a parent, would you not check to see what your kid was up to? I mean with the risk of peadophilia and bullying wouldn't you want to be sure she or he was safe? Wouldn't you keep track of her or his buddy list? And put the computer in a high-traffic area (like kitchen/living room) to prevent late-night usage? I wonder about these parents and how "normal" they really were?
Of course, hearing of situations like this causes people to distrust technology, evoking an either/or mentality. That is what the quote at the top of this post refers to. People can't, like Aristotle, take away the "middle". Aristotle called it the "law of the excluded middle." Life is much more complex with copious grey areas. This is where fuzzy logic comes in. Answers are not either true or false but a bit of each. Fuzzy Logic (as I understand it!) modifies the rules for membership to sets of information. Thus elements don't belong soley to one set but can belong partly to different sets. Example, A is both a letter and a sound. This kind of thinking allows for flexibility which is important for difference and change as Irigaray so succinctly says.


[save the what?!]

Walking down the highstreet today in central London meant not only dodging the myriad of black umbrellas, each jostling to poke out my eye, but also side-stepping the spotty kids canvassing for donatations to help "save" something or someone. Although a poor student I always buy the Big Issue from whoever asks. Today I bought three which, after reading, I gave to some people on the train. I came home wondering about "saving." A google search revealed websites asking for help to save the children, dolphins, rainforest, manatee, san francisco bay, elephants, sheriff, world (i.e. fill with "victim" of your choice). Now, I'm all for helping whoever I can (I volunteered to teach English and computing to people who couldn't afford lessons and I volunteer-taught children experiencing disorders on the autistic-spectrum), but, imagine my surprise when I came across a site called "save the males: exposing feminism and the new world order." I (mistakenly?!) thought saving had to do with helping people who couldn't exactly help themselves? Maybe even something on the verge of extinction or erosion (like the wild bovine, passenger pigeon, or tiger). Instead, Makow rationalises, men face a certain kind of extinction. They fear the loss of their "independant" and "powerful" lives thanks to "feminists." For example if a "normal" "heterosexual male" "shoves his wife" he is just exibiting "natural heterosexual tendencies. Makow goes on to say that this kind of man risks
"jail, legal bills, and the loss of family, house and job if they so much as argue with a woman." (I myself haven't heard of any court-cases where women prosecuted -and won-) Apparently, for Makow, even though in the movies (because THEY are just like REAL life?!!!) "male and female superheroes routinely slug it out," in real life "ordinary men" can be held on assault charges. I think that's right. If a woman abused a man, she too could face charges. But here Makow isn't interested in equality, of any kind, slugging or not. The real point, for Makow, of charging men with assault is to "emasculate men and persecute heterosexuals." Makow's favorite turn of phrase: "sexism is heterosexuality." Wow. In this day and age there are people "thinking" (if I can use such a term) like this...even if he has a ph.d (as EVERY single page of his reminds us). What must his (victimised?) wife think. Well, she agrees with Makow (of course). In Makow's eyes she is a "traditional woman." Apparently this kind of wife, the best kind, notes Makow, is fine with a man who says things like "I do not sacrifice any freedom for love. I am in charge. My wife is comfortable with that. I am twice as free as when I was single." Hrm. A traditional wife also must also agree with Makow in that "A woman needs a man to love her. The notion that she should be "independent" and career oriented is absurd. As if fighting traffic, or pounding a mail route is superior to staying home and caring for her loved ones. As if obeying a boss is superior to obeying the man she chose to love and marry." In an effort to prove his theories, Makow develops an equation. He calls it "the passive female principle." Apparently women are like the earth. Thus:

The earth receives sunshine, water
and seed and produces life. A woman receives a man's love and seed and after a
period of gestation, she performs the miracle of giving birth to a human
Carrying and nurturing the young is the essence of female psychology.
The denial of this reveals the Illuminists' desire to override nature and
control all human life.
Being a wife and mother is what makes a woman tick.
She needs to be intensely needed and loved by her husband and children.
These roles are passive by nature. They involve a great deal of adaptation.
But they also require a different sort of activity. A wife responds to her
husband's needs and a mother responds to her child's.
A woman is not going
to be loved permanently just for her appearance, which is transitory, or for her
accomplishments. Love is not like that. We love the people who sacrifice
themselves for us. That proves they love us.

So, women are just like the earth - does that mean (among other reasons) women should fear extinction? I wonder how Makow knows this. Has he conducted sufficient experiments, does he have access to countless empirical data, has he referenced key sociological texts? No.

What does this mean for feminists or lesbians, both who "ruin" the "structure of marriage" for Makow? Well, both feminists and lesbians make it "impossible" for a man to "own" them. ("Own," I know you can't believe this either!) They both subvert the "heterosexuality" of the marriage contract. Has Makow not been reading/watching/listening to recent news on lifting the bans on gay marriage? (cnn, cbc, bbc). Apparently 10% of the world's population (it might be more now) is gay and it's not like anyone would actively choose to be assaulted, victimised, oppressed on what must surely be a daily basis? Well, for Makow it is all a choice which is especially why "feminists," and he isn't talking about "women receiving equal opportunity (in fact, they often receive preferential treatment.) I am talking about a bogus gender ideology that the financial elite is using to destabilize and depopulate society." Great, so I consider myself a feminist (I'm certainly pro equal rights) that means I'll get preferential treatment....erm, where, when, how? Not according to surveys which state that actually "independent women" or "lesbians" earn 14% less than "visibly straight" women. Hrm.

Makow's tirade which stretches the seams of his website seems to come down to one thing. Is it that he "hates" women, or possibly had a "bad" relationship with his mother, or is he a closet homosexual? Hrm. He explains that it all has to do with being a good Christian: "Male-female love is the closest most of us come to knowing ourselves as God." And women who don't support "male-female" love where men "in sex as in life are in control" are dubbed "Lucifer worshippers." An example of such a woman, Makow points out, is none other than condoleeza rice. Just look at the photo he has of her:
Makow insists that "the world is literally run by Satan-worshipers." Apparently, in order to "rule the world," these "Satan-worshipers" take away "our" (that's what Makow says) belief in God. Hrm. So people who aren't Christians are safe from take-over? He doesn't say. But, feminism re-enters the discussion here. Feminism "thwarts" Christianity (independent women, gay women - all the same thing for Makow) and tries to usurp "man's" power. As Makow (or is it Wacko) climbs to his editorial climax he adds anything and everything into his theory. It's now not only independant women or feminists who thrwart Makow's plans, but also Jews. Supposedly Jews are part of this "new world order" because of their "rejection of Christ."

What can one say to this? Certainly words fill my mind but nothing eloquent. Well, when people say women (and any other "minority") have equal rights and we don't need fierce political involvment anymore or any continued push for equality, we can say that's not true. As long as there are people like Makow who believe intricate and fantasised versions of reality, there will be a need for people (men AND women) to assist the oppressed and the victimised.

The real troubles in this world tend to settle on the misalignment between men and women - that's my opinion, my humble opinion, as I long ago learned to say. But how we do love to brush these injustices aside. Our want is to put up with things, with the notion that men behave in one manner, and women in another. Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries


[afternoon tea with professor andré brink]

At the end of April (2005) I helped a fellow ph.d student organise her conference on south african lit. Since my mum had kept in touch with her uni. prof. (Professor André Brink) I was able to e-mail him and he very kindly agreed to give a plenary talk at the conference. Later, we went for lunch which was really GREAT as I was able to ask him all sorts of questions (i.e. mini interview!). Poor guy, probably just wanted to enjoy our pub lunch and take a break from the onslaught of queries. I guess it didn't scare him off as he's back in London this week and doesn't mind meeting up. He came for interviews relating to his latest opus: Praying Mantis.

Taking time out from his myriad interviews and meetings, we met at S
ommerset House's River Cafe for a chat. While the conversation flowed from travel to research to memories, we ordered our cream tea. ah, the wonderful river terrace cafe at sommerset houseWow. It the most lavish display. Finely dressed waiters brought silver trays brimming with triangles of seeded bread stuffed with tasty delights like egg and mayonaise, tuna and dill, roast meats, hams, chutneys, cucumber. Then there was the cake. The most moist to-die-for coffee cake with an exceedingly light and fluffly chocolate icing. The scones were bursting with currants and velutinous with lashing of clotted cream spread atop strawberry jam. The backdrop to this feast was a ferry-filled thames. What an inspiring afternoon. To complete the sumptuous occassion, Prof. Brink very generously gave me a signed copy of his dernier cri. I'll enjoy immersing myself in it during these next few weeks.

My thanks go out to Professor Brink.


[does interaction kill immersion?]

woke up. couldn't sleep. nightmares. again.
thought i'd do a search for narrative and hypertext. hrm. google's discoveries are growing - people are writing more and more about this topic. out of pure randomness with eyes drooping from lack of sleep I arbitrarily clicked on "
Beyond Usability and Design: The Narrative Web" by Mark Bernstein. Ok. So this article might be considered a little old by digital media/hypertext people - 2001 - but the ideas are interesting.

"We see narrative everywhere. It’s a primitive urge, a way to tie cause to effect, to convert the complexity of our experience to a story that makes sense."

Hrm. Bernstein seems to be taking a very traditional (a.k.a. Aristotelian) view of narrative. For Aristotle drama needs a beginning, middle, and an end, and these seperate parts operate together as a cause and effect chain. For Aristotle (and seemingly for Bernstein) this is emblematic of the way the world operates.

Further along Bernstein begins to draw a parallel between "our need for stories" and websites which should not only
"ensnare" readers but allow them to "experience" the "narratives." Hrm. For Bernstein websites which ask readers to fill out surveys, answer questions, in short: websites which call for a certain amount of interaction, increase the distance between website and reader. Reading this I can only think again of Aristotle and his mimesis...especially when Bernstein goes on to explain that web designers/blog writers et al. should SHOW and not TELL. "Don't declare: do." While I also believe that doing makes an impact - take for instance kinesthetic learners who can do maths thanks to all those building blocks and counting of buttons - but what might this mean for electronic literature? Does interaction really spell the death of immersion? Perhaps a new kind of reader is blossoming out there in the ether. A reader who not only clicks and scrolls her way through a story but also merges with the story; each click signifying a step further into the narrative? Like Deena Larsen's Anna who likes "the feel of words against her skin." Perhaps this brings a new "duality" to reading? Reading the narrative WHILE reading the signs - simultaneously.

[helsinki 3am]

here I am enjoying the snow in helsinki. i've been digging around in my pics, tidying up images for my website, images for teaching+powerpoint presentations, photos, etc...and I came across this one from a great time in Finland. I'd love to go back! Today's goal: search ryanair!

[la vita e un viaggio]

my vasto!
La vita e un viaggo; dentro di me e nel mondo intorno di me.
L'estate, per me, significa pensieri, immagini a colori, vivere sotto l'ombrellone al riparo del sole bolente vicino al mare sereno e cristallino. Ma, qui a Farnborough, anche se c'e' il sole manca un'aria d'estata, no so come esprimerlo. Qui, non riesco a sentire il proprio profumo. L'aria d'estate dovra avere il sapore del caldo sui bracci, un vento che scivola sulla pelle. Le notte devono essere piene di ricordi ricchi e lontani, l'alba deve cresce con un bel fresco spruzzato con l'aroma di erba appena tagliata...che sogno.

Ehbeh. Anche se manca l'aria dell'estate italiane qui c'e' qualcos'altro. Qui ho altri diversi immagini e pensieri. In fatti, sabato abbiamo deciso di trascorrere la giornata al Isle of Wight. Cosi ci siamo alzati con l'alba fresca e siamo parti nella macchina con l'intenzione di visitare i posti popolari. Allora siamo arrivati con il traghetto verso le undici. Abbiamo deciso di trovare un posto splendido per quel prototipo "hobby" degli inglesi - lo picnic! Non siamo stati delusi. Tra le scogliere e sabbia d'orato c'era un posto al sole. Un piccolo picnic e' diventato un grande occasione con panini fine (posh), bicchieri di spumante, uva, mele, aqua, biscotti, in tanto una profussione di enogastronomia. Dopo questa pausa di tre ore c'era ancora tempo per eseguire il giro del'isola. Abbiamo visto i puntini - pezzetti di scogliere sotterato nel mare - spiaggie bellissime, un modellino di un villagio. Anzi, abbiamo avuto una giornata copioso - gli suoni dei gabbiani, aria salata, e un vento galleggianto.

the needles at isle of wight
Dunque, la maggia d'estate e' dappertutto - devo (dovresti?) solo guardare la bellezza che ho intorno e poi sorridere sinceramente e abbondantemente.


[a rose by any other name?]

"...once you have created an object of the variety called 'room' it can become anything simply by virtue of the way you name and describe it" (Sue Thomas, Hello World, 212). Hrm...this got me thinking. Even in virtual worlds language seems to be the "supreme" power? We can create anything via the language we choose to employ. Suggests to me Juliet who also recognises the power of language and no longer wishes to be a Capulet...much to think about here vis-a-vis women, language, and virtual environments/fiction.

Any thoughts?



ah. today we explored Hampshire's largest Farmer's market which happens to be in gothic Winchester. After enjoying a free breakfast of tasty treats like chive and mustard cheese, british trout, cress, hog roast, clotted-cream ice-cream...we hoped to work it off by having an amble through the town. the best bit was discovering Jane Austen's house and thatched roofs and the winding river. Glorious sunshine too.


[isle of wight]

a friend from Norwich came down for a visit this weekend. as we want to do a load of touristy things before we move up to busy Leicester we thought Isle of Wight sounded fine...and it was. Really lovely scenery. We had a wonderful picnic of the beach - three hours of chatting on topics such as education, travel, health, racism, sexism, quality of life...



I'm feeling hungry and so I'm roasting an organic chicken with lemon, rosemary, and garlic. AND I'm making Maureen's (the Canadian Maureen!) famous Greek potatoes. Smashing.


[home sweet home]

Right. Back home in Farnborough. After arriving back from Toronto we went up to Leicester to collect our kitty who'd been enjoying the month with her grandparents. They're great kitty-sitters! Isabella enjoyed the outdoors and has developed a passion for frog-hunting.Now, back to work. Dreaming of my proposal for Sue and completing my article on hypertext "beginnings."


[devil's punchbowl hike]

It's Steve's turn to choose what we're doing for our "day out." Harrumph! Silly me. His choice meant whisking me off to the wilds of Devil's Punchbowl for a 10.5km hike! Uphill and rocky. Can you say dead legs?! There were wonderful views though and it was a lovely way to enjoy the sun; we were out from noon until 7:30. We even had a very romantic sausage sarnie! As a treat, on the way home we stopped at a village pub for a very welcome ice-cold Guinness. (ok, calm down you traditionalists who like your Guinness warm!)



I'm feeling bored and lethargic but curious. Doing laundry.