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September 03, 2003

My wonderful cult are getting a bit of exposure at the moment and it's all because of Jenny Everywhere. My involvement in the whole enterprise was fairly negligible - I started a thread to try and get people thinking about the possibility of Open Source Comic Book Characters. I didn't notice that a quite a substantial group of rather more engaged and creative people - particularly Steven Wintle - were (unlike me) actually getting off their arses and doing something with it. The result is not only a completely Open Source Comic Book Character that anyone can use in any book owned by any company (or indeed by anyone who wants to self-publish a book with a soon-to-be recognisable character without worrying about rights) but also a series of highly entertaining completed stories:

In the meantime, Jenny has appeared in Exclaim, "Canada's Music Authority" as well as on Boing Boing yesterday. It's all looking very positive. My next hope? That she'll start turning up in cameos in DC and Marvel books - although presumably their legal departments might take a while to get around the concept...

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From Dear Raed a couple of days ago:

While my family is waiting outside something strange happens, one of the soldiers comes out, empties his flask in the garden and start telling the medic to give him his, the medic shoos him away. They all think that the soldier is filling his flask with cold water from the cooler. Later it turns out that he emptied my father’s bottle of Johnny Walker’s into his flask and was probably trying to convince the medic to give him his to empty another bottle. Weird shit.

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August 31, 2003

I have managed to get my hands on an advance copy of Salam Pax, The Baghdad Blog, which is coming out in paperback on September 5th. During the war, I have to confess that I found Dear Raed essentially unreadable. The weight of irrational rhetoric from all directions around the blogosphere had become totally overwhelming - the whipping up of fervent belief (on all sides) was creating this weird hybrid mood of blood-lust, puritanism, evangelism and nationalism. The weblog world was full of hyperbole to the extent that it seemed to me quite plausible that any opinion could have been espoused by someone, and seized upon and used as some kind of flag to stand behind - although, to be fair, it was no more full than the opinion columns of the national and international press. At the time the thought of reading another opinion on the war - and trying to scrabble the truth from the mix of prejudice, vested interest, nationalism, accidental misinformation and context - was a far from compelling proposition...

With the benefit of hindsight, of course, things start to look a little clearer. When the red tide started to recede, the shapes of opinions and reportage of intelligence and integrity seemed to me gradually to emerge. And I think, now the initial hysteria has passed it's become clear that Dear Raed constitutes an abiding - albeit small - artefact of life on the ground during the second war in Iraq.

I have one caveat. I think it's important to remember that - as human beings - we have a tendency to group people into those who are similar to us and those who are not. We find it much easier to identify with people who share some of our cultural baggage, values and preoccupations. Our sensitivity towards Salam's words and our sense of identification when we read his experiences - whether we agree with his politics or not - are as a direct result of the fact that he speaks with a vocabulary and in a sensibility that are immediately comprehensible to Westerners. It's important to remember both that there are many other voices - more representative voices - that perhaps we're either not so willing to hear or comprehend. Perhaps Salam's most important achievement, then, should be that he simply started giving us the tools to help us listen...

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August 30, 2003

By the way - if you looking for Dan Hill's cityofsound weblog, then you should probably start looking at cityofsound.typepad.com instead, since he has - rather unceremoniously - moved. Dan is my boss at BBC Radio & Music Interactive, but can I make it clear that in no way did he force me to write this.

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August 29, 2003

From a highly entertaining article on the Ten Commandments: "It's obviously too much to expect that a Bronze Age demagogue should have remembered to condemn drug abuse, drunken driving, or offenses against gender equality, or to demand prayer in the schools. Still, to have left rape and child abuse and genocide and slavery out of the account is to have been negligent to some degree, even by the lax standards of the time. I wonder what would happen if secularists were now to insist that the verses of the Bible that actually recommend enslavement, mutilation, stoning, and mass murder of civilians be incised on the walls of, say, public libraries? There are many more than 10 commandments in the Old Testament, and I live for the day when Americans are obliged to observe all of them, including the ox-goring and witch-burning ones."

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August 28, 2003

Down the side of the sofa is the blue widget that connects my iBook to my phone. Since Vodafone or Sony Erickson or London's weather or radioactive space emissions interfere so regularly with my ability to send picture messages, this blue widget is the only way I seem to be able to photos off my camera phone. Finding it down the side of the sofa, therefore, has suddenly unlocked my portable image stash.

For my thirty-first birthday, we hired a little chug boat from a place near my parent's village. Rounding a corner we found ourselves looking directly at a wherry:

While I'm wandering around London, I often find myself taking snapshots of interesting bits of signage - bits of typography and design that trigger completely different reactions. It's almost hard to believe that the stark and sombre marks on the Cenotaph were produced by the same frivolous elegant species that produced Art Nouveau. Here are five fragments of London signage:

And then there's the pictures of people - oddly truncated, strangely cameo-shaped - like grunge passport photographs:

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The only other thing that I really really feel is important to say about the Guardian article is that the photo they have decided to use alongside it makes me look - at best - like a total drooling inbred. It's like they popped out into their country garden, got the largest, sweatiest tuber they could find, cut a few random shapes into it, poked it a few times with a ball-point pen and slapped my byline next to it! To compensate (and understanding of course that this in no way undermines my image of being a consumate professional) here are some happy pictures of me looking less gross:

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So there's an article in today's Guardian Online supplement that I wrote about weblog culture. I'm pretty happy with it - I think I managed to say most of what I wanted to say. I'm not sure it'll convince anyone who isn't already convinced, but it might start pushing the debate in a slightly different direction - away from "dumb vs. not dumb" and more towards "well we're stuck with them, what do we do now". I had to edit it down by a couple of hundred words to get in under the word limit, so if I get time I'll stick up a full version at some point in the next few days. In the meantime, here's a quick quote from Second Sight:

A future weblogging culture should be able to find counterpoints to arguments, to identify experts quickly and easily, and it should help good commentary bubble up effectively from new or low-trafficked sites. Mechanisms that help us know who to read, who to trust and who to ignore should be permeating the entire community invisibly and pervasively.

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About this weblog

This site - plasticbag.org - is a weblog by Tom Coates, who works in the fields of social software and personal publishing on the web.
What the hell is this site for?
Who the hell is Tom Coates?

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I've been going through the archives looking for posts with potentially lasting value or utility and categorising them.
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What's on the stereo?

Tom is currently not playing any music. But last time he was listening to music, he was listening to:

"Pink Triangle" by Weezer. This is from the album Pinkerton. I rated this song 5 stars out of a possible 5 and I have listened to it 1 times.

"El Scorcho" by Weezer. This is from the album Pinkerton. I have listened to it 1 times.

"Julia" by The Beatles. This is from the album The Beatles [White Album] (Disc 1). I have listened to it 0 times.


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