Monday, April 19, 2010

Three activist links for Monday 19 April 2010

Big Gay Flashmob

Activists take the battle for equality to Conservative head office. Just tremendously cheering and rather effective too, if the media presence evident on this film is anything to go by.

Brilliant website where you can borrow and lend stuff in your area

Birmingham Friends of the Earth keep the pressure up on Birmingham International Airport

Lovely to see this sort of coverage in local news blog The Stirrer.

Who'd like an activist choir for Birmingham?

This is a totally awesome idea which has come from two different directions.

I recently saw What Would Jesus Buy, the docufilm about anti-overconsumption activist Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping, which had this great faux-evangelist choir backing Billy.

Then, I got a flyer about a new project in Stafford coming out of the Transition movement there - a Greenshoots choir for people who enjoy singing and want to make a difference. And I quote:

"We want to share and learn songs that inspire and uplift. These will include songs from around the world with positive messages of peace, love and freedom

If you are interested [..] email"

So, who'd be up for something like this in Birmingham? I'm at best an indifferent singer but I love the actual activity of singing. So, c'mon singers; musicians; arrangers - what do you think?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fellow Euro-city hoppers sought for summer

We interrupt this service for a more personal request: would anyone be interested in doing some Euro-tourism in July or Autumn?

Two places I saw a little of in 2009 that I'm keen to revisit in 2010:

a) Brussels (and Belgium) more generally
b) Copenhagen (and maybe a few other places in Scandanavia besides)

So if anyone fancies an extended city break (by train, naturally), then just drop me a line.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Adding magical elements to an Enlightenment world

I thought I'd set the ball rolling with some posts about world creation and I'd welcome your thoughts on any of the below. I don't want to create a perfectly imagined world - I'd rather be writing a novel with my limited time, frankly - but thinking about how the world works will at least give me a springboard for filling in the many blanks.

First up - magic. I've been giving some thought to how magic might work in this alternative Regency literary universe and come up with a few ideas.

Post-Enlightenment 'civilised magic' is compelled to recognise the limits set by eighteenth-century rationalism (Hume, the Encyclopedists etc) and Newtonian physics. This means that it focuses on magic which:

a) Affects human states - suggestions, illusions and hypnosis, physical and mental enhancement.

b) Protects the 'rational' universe against the incursions of irrational forces such as ghosts and other fantastic creatures - banishments, exorcisms etc.

So, in level 1 D&D terms, that would mean that Sleep, Phantasmal Force and Detect Magic would still be viable, even if Magic Missile (which requires creation ex nihilo) would not be.

The more in conformity with physical laws the magic is, the less likely it is to cause problems for the practitioner.

In addition, there would also have to be strict legal or cultural prohibitions on the use of magic to control the minds of others.

Affects which while in theory not out of bounds - true invisibility as opposed to misdirection, delayed ageing, physical transmutation, reanimation (the headless chicken effect) - require a lot of energy, complex rituals or other appropriate McGuffins. Hence the need for magicians to work together.

Being able to do anything outside these limits involves finding loopholes in the eighteenth century understanding of the way the universe works, but they only work once. Hence the increasing unreliability of alchemy, traditional magics etc. down the years.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the paradigm barrier, other creatures (of form to be determined) in turn seek loopholes to find their way into the physical universe from which they've been barred by logic.

At the moment, I'm envisaging magecraft as a hereditary gift rather than a learnable trait, one which may have been bred into certain aristocratic lines but contains a good deal of randomness in terms of where and in whom it turns up (eugenics is so dull and takes me to some politically uncomfortable places).

So, any reflections? I acknowledge something of a debt to Mage: The Awakening here in my thinking, but hopefully not an overwhelming one.

To my mind, the three big unanswered questions are how magic then intersects with class, gender and religion in this universe.

Will 'civilised' magic have moved towards greater professionalization and openness to middle class applicant? Do tensions result?

Is magic a permissable profession for women?

What's the position of the Established Church, Catholicism and Dissent towards magic?

More on these issues to follow in later posts as I turn towards the society I'm writing about.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Magpiemoth starts writing

I've said to a few people that I'd use my convalesence this week to refocus on my writing again. And I have - but not in the way I expected.
A quick recap: last November for National Novel Writing Month I bashed out 20,000 words of a first draft about geeks on campus. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't suck as hard as I thought it might. Even if I didn't make the 50K word target, that was something.
So I thought I'd revisit the work and the topic in 2010. What I've found, however, is that I don't want to write anything too overtly autobiographical right now - I can always come back to this at a later date.
No, I want to write something fun! Something playful! So it's back to the idea from the previous year's abortive NaNoWriMo attempt - Regency fantasy. Tolkien meets Jane Austen with side orders of Georgette Heyer and Ann Radcliffe.
The plan is that I'll start writing in May and provide a chapter a month to anyone who signs up with Just Giving to donate to Friends of the Earth (any amount is fine - it's the donation and the resulting guilt trip for me that counts)
I'll also provide ongoing freebies via this blog - world creation notes, short stories, vignettes, maybe even artwork - who knows?
So, watch this space over the course of April as we begin to fill in the blanks.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Peckham Library’s 10 years of Environmentally Destructive Waste

Press-release from Southwark Eco-Angels, taking action on energy wastage in my old stamping ground of Peckham. Possibly an action which could be imitated in other areas? And I like the fact it's a Friends of the Earth-Greenpeace co-production!

Leading light Donnachadh McCarthy's own eco-auditing website is here, if you'd like a closer look.

Giant Cheque Burning Protest –

Peckham Library’s 10 years of Environmentally Destructive Waste

Saturday 10th April 2.30pm

On Saturday 10th April, Britain’s first public protest against council energy wastage will take place outside the Peckham Library.

A giant cheque written on behalf of Southwark Council-Tax Payers to Peckham Library for £100,000 representing the money estimated to have been wasted on energy in the ten years since the Library opened, will be formally burned to represent Southwark Council’s record on wastage over the last 10 years.

This year represents the tenth anniversary for the iconic Will Allsop designed Library.

It is also exactly a year since the Peckham Library was exposed in the press for scandalously wasteful energy practices.

So what happened following the press scandal? Did Southwark councillors or librarians take immediate action to stop the waste of council tax, energy and CO2?

Sadly nothing whatsoever was done. Indeed, according to a Freedom of Information request carried out last month on behalf of Eco-Angels Southwark, the energy bill has rocketed another 25%.

In 2009/10 this one Library consumed £42,000 of taxpayers’ money to heat and light it, up from £32,000 in 2008/9.

When Eco-Angels Southwark visited the Library last week they found:

· Despite it being 8C outside on a cold spring day, 18 windows were open in the centrally heated building.

· The temperature in the main library was a sweltering 23.3C. The CIBSE recommended temperature is 19C. Every one degree above 19C, costs an extra 10% in energy and money. Thus heating the library to 23.3C, wastes a whopping 43.3% of the heating bill.

· Lighting was on in all the naturally lit areas of the library.

· The floodlights outside the library remain on 24 hours a day.

· Halogen Lamps which are the most wasteful bulbs possible remain in use at the reception.

From these facts, it is clear that the library is wasting at least a third of its energy consumption. Therefore over £10,000 a year in today’s terms has been wasted every year the library has been open. This adds up to more than £100,000.

As this waste has gone on under Labour, Lib Dem and Tory administrations in Southwark, all three party leaders and local MPs have been invited to witness the Giant Cheque Burning outside the library on Saturday, as well as members of the general public.

Eco-Angels Southwark spokesperson Donnachadh McCarthy said “Southwark’s libraries are scandalously wasting tax-payers money and helping to destroy our children’s future by this senseless environmental destruction.
Libraries should be leading our children by example. Our libraries should be carbon angels not carbon vandals. We need our libraries to be carbon negative now!”

Note: Eco Angels Southwark is being organised by a group of local members of Greenpeace Southwark and Friends of the Earth Southwark.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Best (only?) comic about the Venerable Bede ever!

What better way to start off my new blog than with this Bede comic, courtesy of John Allison, author of the mighty Bad Machinery and Scary Go Round. Howay!