25 February 2007


[Image removed because it infringed upon the copyrights of others.]

Sketch by Gary Larson, The prehistory of the Far Side: a 10th anniversary exhibit (Kansas City, Missouri: Andrews and McMeel, 1989), p. 110. ("Look guys... I just can't handle these changes... I'm not sure if it's the rhythm, or the tempo, or if it's just that I'm a cow.")

Time for a break, reader. Thanks for reading, and if you ever commented, double-thanks for that. Toodle-oo.

24 February 2007


I just read a post by a London psychiatrist who is trapped in the weird workings of the UK health system - Dear MTAS - and she's so angry and so eloquent, her emotional outburst made me feel bold. I'll henceforth be spitting for the rest of this post, being sorry only for having needed the permission of a complete stranger's example in order to feel free enough to do so.

A number of things have been going through my head lately, all of them related to online activities, and all of them making me angry.

(a) I've been dithering about whether to end this blog.** A big part of me wants to say "Fuck you!" and then bugger off into the big beyond with just a swishing of drama-queen skirts in my wake. Sometimes I hate you, reader, and that's rather silly considering I don't even know who you are, but also (and quite obviously) it's the ideal situation: you're the ideal punching bag. If I'm angry with the world, I hate you. I see you as being some sort of faceless version of me, though sometimes you make comments and for a short time seem real. In fact, of course, you are real, so I'm wishing you'd make comments more often.

(b) How do I know you're real, though? And how do you know I am? You don't, unless we know each other offline. You don't know that anybody online is real. I had a mini-discussion about this in emails during the week with someone I think of as a friend. Something he said made me feel unsure about him and I questioned his authenticity, but instead of wanting to talk, he diagnosed serious paranoia on my behalf and (I now assume by his silence) buggered off himself.

If he'd given me the chance to explain, this is what I would have said. You do not know that anybody online is real. You can't know. There is no way of knowing. They can post photos of themselves, they can say "I know A, who knows B", they can say "I talked to C on Friday", they can give you stats and memes and whatever the hell else they want to throw online, and all of it, all of it might be bullshit. You don't know. I don't know. Nobody knows. There is no way of knowing. Even in real life you have few ways of knowing that somebody is telling you the truth, though at least in a face-to-face situation you have the benefit of being able to read body language and voice intonation. But online, trust can only be built through words and pictures. Say it or show it. That's all there is. And I'm guessing that most people are honest, but some people are not. How do you tell the difference?

Here we get down to it. You tell the difference by using your own feelings (including those possibly-ridiculous ones that occur by chance as though they're intuition), by asking questions, and by making up your own mind. That's how you tell. It's up to you. And if the other person doesn't like the question, or doesn't want to be questioned at all, they should say that. But keep this in mind: to say there are some questions that shouldn't be asked is to limit friendship. Friends should be able to say whatever they want and know they are safe to do so, even when they're behaving stupidly or wrongly or rudely. If you can't be fully human with a friend, you can't be human at all. Friendship should be the place where you're safe to be yourself - that's what it's about.

My friend thinks that online life (or perhaps just me?) is not worth the hassle. I think he's wrong.

(c) We should assume and believe in the honesty of each other. This doesn't mean that doubts are wrong or offensive, it just means that the fundamental assumption underlying online life should be that the social rules which dictate offline behaviour should also operate online too. When somebody invents a commentor or blogger but then writes as if they have a real offline existence - without informing the reader of their fictional status - they are violating the faith of other people online. We should have faith in each other, we should believe we're all authentic and believable, we should be able to trust each other. And just as religious faith is stronger when built on acceptance of doubt ("I've considered all the possibilities and choose to believe" is a much stronger position than "To question is to be unfaithful") then so is faith in humanity. People who violate this faith and fuck about with fake personas masquerading as real people deserve a kick up their sorry arses.

** I'm not asking your opinion about this, by the way (in case that's what it looks like).

Rock stars: a self-portrait

I was just browsing through photos at The Cloud Appreciation Society and found one called Sunset over The Olgas, Northern Territory, Australia. It's a nice photo (see detail below), but what I like best about it is the copyright notice (which usually shows the name of the photographer):

Photographer unknown: sunset in central Australia, with dramatic clouds over Kata TjutaKata Tjuta is the name given by the traditional landowners, the Anangu, to The Olgas - those big bumpy bits you can see in profile on the horizon.

(The area is part of the Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, and you'll need a permit if you ever want to do any commercial photography, filming, etc.)

18 February 2007


Photo by Deirdre: a snake on the windowsill, INSIDE the window, IN THIS ROOM, reader! IN THIS ROOM! It was tiny, probably less than a metre long and probably even more scared than me, but the principle, reader - the principle! This is MY room! MINE! Am I overreacting? Hell yeah! Am I still shaking, hours later? Yes.
Would you like to guess what we're looking at here, reader? Click on the image for a larger view if you need one, but I knew as soon as I stepped into this room: there was a snake on the windowsill, and it was inside the insect screen (one of the few insect screens on any window in this house that actually has no holes in it). That snake was right here in this room. Bloody hell! Bloody bloody hell!

I was walking in here to close the window because it had just started raining, and thank God it had, because otherwise I wouldn't have walked into this room to close the window, and that snake would now be somewhere in this room without me knowing about it.

It must have come through a hole in the bottom of the window frame (designed to let rainwater out, presumably), or maybe I just hadn't noticed the screen was loose at the side somewhere. It got in. That's the point. A fucking snake - another one - got into this room. My haven. My safe little island. The place I feel okay. Bloody hell.

I got the broom from the next room and hit the insect screen with it, and the screen just flew out (thank God), as did the poor little snake who seemed just as keen as I did for our meeting to end as soon as possible. Then I closed the window and cried. And then I started shaking and cursed my stupid fucking useless life wherein which I have to chase the snakes out of this fucking room and this fucking life on my own. Where is the justice? And why am I such a drama queen? Some things have no answers.

It was probably a harmless tree snake, and if you know different, I don't want to hear it. I'm almost certain it was a tree snake, and this is the third time in about as many weeks that I've seen it, though this is the first and hopefully last time it'll ever be in this room.

And so. The end. Was there any point to this story? No. Is there any point to my existence? No. Is there any point to any fucking thing? No. And yet it goes on. Boo fucking hoo. God, I hate snakes.

Cartoon by Wiley Miller

Cartoon by Wiley Miller. Caption: The meek decide it's time to inherit the earth. Picture: A shepherd reads a magazine while behind his back one sheep stands in front of a big mob and says, 'OK... on the count of three, we turn carnivorous.'
(click for a larger view)

"Non Sequitur", Sydney Morning Herald, 10-11 February 2007, p. 41.